Big-Nose Frankie was five years older than the rest of us which meant: 1-we never called him Big-Nose to his face, and: 2-whenever we had a party we went to him to buy the gin because we were not allowed inside the Acker, Merrill & Condit liquor store on Broadway. Big Nose would buy London Gentleman, pour it into Beefeater bottles, charge us the extra seven dollars per bottle, and then dilute it with water. But he never diluted it so much you couldn’t detect that distinctive London-Gentleman-benzene flavor.
We didn’t complain about the seven dollars per bottle or that he invited himself to all our parties “in case we needed to send out for another bottle.” What we didn’t like was the way he hit on our girlfriends, sometimes successfully, but there was nothing we could do. He was six three, a good athlete and five years older than we were.
He hung out at the Sterling Bowling Alley on 85th and Broadway either hustling guys by bowling them for money or just standing by the cash register, waiting for the next mark to come along. He claimed to be the Assistant Manager but was really a private assistant to Angelo, the manager, a small chubby man of sixty, who gave Frankie whatever money he asked for whenever he asked for it. Angelo wasn’t married, had no family and lived alone somewhere near the East River. Frankie would listen to Angelo talk about things, take Angelo’s car, drive up to 102nd and Second Ave to buy pizza, and ask people to quiet down when they created a disturbance—in other words a kind of unofficial bodyguard and honorary stepson.
When the alley closed for the night Angelo would go down to the Sterling Bar, drink rye and ginger ale and buy Frankie beers. Or, unless they’d already sent up to the China Inn on Broadway near 87th for takeout pork fried rice drenched in soy and sweet and sour sauce the way Frankie liked it, Angelo would take him into the Sterling Cafeteria and buy him the roast beef platter with a couple of extra slices thrown in by Lockup Bill the Carver. Anything Frankie wanted, Angelo gave him. We could never figure it out.