Before you get to the article…
On February 23, 2018, my book on the Mau Maus and Sand Street Angels, who were two Brooklyn youth gangs from the 1950s, has been completed. It took 15 years of research and writing to complete Brooklyn Rumble: Mau Maus, Sand Street Angels, and the End of an Era. This book is roughly 6″x9″ and has 370 pages and includes a look at the characters in the Mau Maus and the details of a gang killing that happened in February 1959 in front of the iconic Brooklyn Paramount Theater (now Long Island University). If you want to buy a copy, click here and this link will take you to an online ordering page.
The other day I received an email from the grand daughter of “Beebop,” President of the Roman Lords in Brownsville, Brooklyn, after reading the page I did about the memoir excerpt of Efraim Ruiz of the Roman Lords. In her email she had a picture of her grandfather. This page is devoted to the little bit I know of him along with the picture which I was given permission to share with readers.
Beebop was about 5 feet, ten inches tall, thin, yet strong. He had “heart,” and wasn’t afraid of the sight of blood. Having heart meant someone who didn’t show fear. It was a coveted characteristic of any gang member. Beebop certainly had to have lots of it to be the President of the gang. Beebop never backed down from anyone and he was a natural leader that the rest of the members looked up to. Every gang had a member like this and Beebop filled his role well.
The Roman Lords used all manner of weapons, such as zip guns, pipes, garrison belts, bats and fists. Others used blades; some members got their “kicks” from seeing a rival gang member bleeding after being stabbed or slashes. Beebop was a “blade man.”
The following is a description from a freshly initiated member of the Roman Lords describing how as leader, Beebop rallied his troops to fight against an enemy gang called the Liberty Boys. You can see how Beebop works up his boys into a seething rage in order to get them into a place where they will show no fear and be willing to shoot or stab anybody in their way:
“Some of you know we’re going after the Liberty Boys. They been talking real big about comin’ to get us. We’ll get the jump on ’em. I don’t like what they did to Nina the other day. That dude Archie got fresh with her.” Beebop went on about some other so-called rumours of what the Liberty Boys said and did. I was to learn later that a part of the “reasons why we got to bust their heads in” were partly true but mostly contrived. It was all a part of the gang leader’s role to “psyche” up his members. We had many such “psyche sessions” during the course of my gang activity. The president’s lecture was all some guys needed to build up their anger and emotions to get ready to rumble. Others needed wine, whiskey, beer or pot to boost them up and give them courage. For some it was courage they did not possess.”
Toughness, not surprisingly, was a requirement of any leader in a gang. But to be someone like the President, a certain amount of smarts had to accompany that. Knowing how to manage and lead boys who were often very disturbed themselves, required intelligence. Not only in managing the boys, but also in giving instructions during a fight, and knowing an element of strategy in order to keep the gang safe (even in fights) and produce maximum violence (if needed). When it came time for the Roman Lords to go down on the Liberty Boys at their hang out on the corner of Liberty Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue, Beebop’s instructions give a glimpse into the planning involved – especially in dodging any police presence:
“I want you to leave here walking in groups of six, three in the front and three about two feet behind. No one breathe a word. We gotta play this cool, like nothing is gonna happen. Like we’re gonna go play pool or somethin’. And we got to spread out so we don’t look like an army marchin’ off to war — even though that’s exactly what we’re gonna be doin’. And you dudes better listen to your captain when I give the signal to make war. You hear me?”
The fight was a vicious one. Shots were fired, garrison belts were in full action, people were being hurt and the Roman Lords had the upper hand. They had a full element of surprise and in the rumble, some of them were laughing and screaming in their anger and euphoria on beating the Liberty Lords. Some of the Liberty Lords ran into their clubhouse, seeking refuge. But Beebop ordered his boys to go in and grab one of the Liberty Boys. They did so and shoved him out the door . He tried to escape, but one of the Roman Lords tackled him and they all stomped him as he lay on the street, kicking his face, ribs and back while he moaned in pain.
The fight started as soon as it finished with the arrival of police. The Roman Lords split up to make their escape, and so they could fight another day. Beebop had done his job in inspiring the boys to go into a different neighborhood and attack an enemy gang. The rest of the Roman Lords affirmed his leadership; his position of President of the gang was firm.
Beebop is no longer alive, but if anybody knew him either through the neighborhood or as a fellow member of the gang, please feel free to email me at [email protected]