Smoking a Joint with “The Killer”… or Not?
It was 1966. I had just graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit school with a degree in Mathematics. It was my first year without football in 12 years, and I was looking forward to a job befitting the first College Grad ever in my family. I was fortunate enough to land a job at Joe Bathey’s Club (on Wyoming Ave. in Detroit)… as my charismatic Brother, Michigan Marty’s, junior Bouncer. One night in June of 1966, “The Killer,” Jerry Lee Lewis, and his entourage showed up at Joe Bathey’s. After marrying his 13-year-old, first cousin, The Killer took a nose dive on the American music charts. He was happy to have a gig, any gig, and his one night stand to a limited audience at Joe Bathey’s Saloon in Detroit was a good as any.
The Killer took forever to come out of his basement dressing room. As the crowd reached fever pitch chanting: “Jerry Lee”, “Jerry Lee”, “Jerry Lee”, Michigan Marty and I had a few cocktails and anxiously awaited the The Killer’s arrival from down below. After an inordinate delay (at least for non-musicians), the owner, Hymie Greenblat (his son Sheldon now a lawyer in the Detroit area), sent brother Marty and me down to get The Killer’s ass upstairs to start pounding on the piano, sing some songs and finish up by setting the piano on fire. When Marty and I got downstairs, Marty told The Killer to get his ass in gear. The Killer and his groupies were smoking a “joint,” and invited Marty and me to partake. Marty’s immediate response to the Killer: “Jerry Lee… you are on my turf and in my town, and it’s me who does the inviting… not you, so let’s get on with the show.” Marty trudged upstairs with a crestfallen Killer behind him… and me and the groupies bringing up the rear.
Forty one years later, in 2007, when Michigan Marty had about six months to live, I asked him if he had any regrets, or anything he wished he would have done differently in life. Marty’s immediate response: “Brother Fred… I wished I would have smoked a joint with Jerry Lee Lewis, but I let me ‘ego’ get in the way.” The lesson for all of us, courtesy of the Great Man, Michigan Marty Lahti… If anyone offers you a joint, don’t die unfulfilled. “Smoke” the “joint”… because you never know, until history leaves its imprint, what great celebrity you might be getting high with. Go Marty. Go Killer, and a long, respectful salute to the “lost youth” of all us sons and daughters of Greatest Generation Detroiters.
Jerry Lee Lewis, “The Killer”
Michigan Marty Lahti
Bouncer in Training
Downtown Freddie from Detroit, Michigan Marty’s Younger Brother
By Frederick W. Lauck
I remember when Marty called me a few weeks before he died and told me it had been a great run and he thanked me for being a good friend and told me he would be gone soon, such a class act
Sorry, but I don’t recall your name. How did you know Marty ???
An excerpt from my third book, The Fightin’ Irish of Detroit.
FIGHTIN’ IN THE STREETS
IRISH MOXIE (A FAMILY AFFAIR)
Moxie… the force of character, courage, determination or nerve
BROTHER MARTY MOXIE
My older (half) brother, Marty Lahti, was a legendary Detroit bar bouncer who, in the course of his “peace making” duties at various saloons, bopped many a man to a “fare thee well”… after which they woke up from the “land of nod” with a newfound respect for Marty “K.O.” Lahti’s punching power. Marty’s father, Harold Lahti, was a tall, handsome and hard-drinking Finlander who was out of brother Marty’s life for the most part. So, brother Marty was raised by the crackling dis- cipline and vagaries of our hard-nosed, Irish mother and, at other times, by his much more permissive and doting Finnish grandmother.
If there was ever a man with a “Fightin’ Irish” moxie, it was Brother Marty. In fact, Brother Marty was “moxie on steroids”… long before anyone even used “steroids.” He was a fearless man who lived colorfully and charismatically in the land of “partisans and foes”… “one fist of iron and the other of steel; if the right one don’t get you, the left one will” (Sixteen Tons by Troubadour, Tennessee Ernie Ford). Brother Marty shared that same “oppositional nature” that our Irish mother had for the cops, for bullies and for “establishment figures” in general.
Brother Marty dropped out of Cooley High School in Detroit in the 9th grade. Therefore, except for some AAU amateur boxing in his teens, Marty was never engaged in any organized sports. But, he was athletic. His favorite athletic “participation” sport was slugging it out with the cops on the streets of Detroit… a sport that didn’t earn Marty a varsity letter or a college scholarship, but did land him in Jackson Prison on Cooper Street, in Jackson, Michigan on a couple occasions for a couple of short stays during the 1960s. During one such stay of “incarcera- tion,” Brother Marty fought for the Heavyweight Championship of the “Joint”… fighting against Detroiter, Alvin “Blue” Lewis. “Blue” later got an “early out” on a Murder Two conviction and fought “The Champ,” Muhammad Ali, at Croke Park in Dublin, Ireland on July 19, 1972, for the Heavyweight Championship of the World… a “slugfest” with the Champ eventually retaining his championship belt in the 11th round. See Dave Hannigan’s fine book, The Big Fight… which mentions brother Marty and his prison championship fight with Alvin “Blue” Lewis.
When brother Marty was released from Jackson Prison at age 25, he went on to an illustrious career as Metro Detroit’s Bar Bouncer extraordinaire. In September 1979, at age 43 (sponsored by restaurant Impresario, Tom Fertney, and corner man, Ducky Dietz, a former pro- fessional fighter from Detroit in the Rocky Marciano stable of fighters), brother Marty fought in Al Dore’s first “Tough Man” Contest at the Pontiac Silverdome… finishing fifth among 75 “much younger” tough man combatants.
Brother Marty parlayed that “twilight of his career,” Tough Man success into a memorable appearance on Phil Donahue’s nationally syn- dicated show, “The Phil Donahue Show.”
Phil Donahue loved brother Marty. Marty was ferociously “good copy”… good looking and growling on cue. Marty finished up his illustrious career and his life’s journey as a journeyman “rigger” and later a journeyman iron worker… the celebrated, charismatic tough guy who was always the “man behind the scenes” at Detroit’s annual, Cobo Hall Auto Show… the man everyone wanted to be around, just so they could say they were a “friend of Marty Lahti.” “Hanging out” with my older brother Marty was like living every day in the world of, “what’s going to jump off next”???… as each unpredictable “day in the life of ” brother Marty unfolded in some colorful and overly dramatic way until the big man, with his heart still filled with Irish moxie and courage, passed away at age 71 on July 25, 2007… from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke from his days as a bar bouncer.
“When it comes your time to die
Be not like those whose hearts
Are filled with the fear of death,
So that when their time comes,
They weep and pray for a little more time
To live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
(Anonymous Native American poem)
God bless the “Big Man”… brother Marty Lahti, the brother of all “Moxie.”
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