THIS IS A STORY BASED ON THE TRUTH. IT FALLS WITHIN THE GENRE OF HISTORICAL FICTION. THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS, THE LOCALE AND MANY OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE HISTORICAL AND FACTUAL. I HAVE TAKEN LIBERTY WITH SOME INCIDENTALS AND THE DIALOGUE, BASING THEM ON THE ERA, THE SITUATION AND THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED.
Par for the coarse; that’s what Vito Genovese thought about the whole Little Augie thing. The way he tried to hide behind a woman in the end…par for the coarse.
And Janice Drake?
He didn’t think a thing about her. She was incidental as opposed to accidental.
Now, if she’d been accidental, there’d be hell to pay. Especially if she was a “nice woman”…a “God fearing woman”, like Donatella, his first wife; God rest her soul. So young and beautiful, she died from tuberculosis because she was such a saint…
It’s true. She took the sacraments of the holy church very seriously. Not only that but she went above and beyond the sacraments; she did good deeds. During the Depression, she volunteered in soup kitchens and homeless shelters where unemployed Italian laborers and their families suffered the often slow death of depravation…that’s what his Donatella did…the mother of his Nancy.
That’s how she got sick.
He wanted to forbid her from her volunteer work, but he feared standing in her way. It was one thing to assist in the commission of sin. It was another thing to obstruct the commission of good.
She contracted mililary tuberculosis, which, under a microscope, appears as hordes of tiny concave millet seeds. It’s like cancer. It can spread from the lungs to other organs until a person is consumed by it, that’s why they call it “consumption”…or they used to call it that…so he gave her the biggest funeral New York had ever seen.
Yes. Even bigger than Frankie Yale’s.
But she wasn’t a nice woman…Janice Drake wasn’t.
She wasn’t like Donatella at all. She was more like his second wife, Anna, who trotted out their dirty laundry for everyone to gawk at…
Her lovers. Men and women.
And she had the nerve to cry to the press about his unfaithfulness.
He felt bad for her kid, though…Janice Drake’s kid…
She had a boy…her and that comic.
Drake was onstage at the Lotus club when he got the word. The front of the house manager came onstage and whispered in his hear.
“There’s a call for you backstage, Drake. It’s urgent.”
And that’s when he felt it, yet, again–a wave of nauseating revulsion that gave way to the briskly crisp, the startlingly clear shiver of fear. He knew, immediately, before he was told.
He chartered a flight to New York and took a taxi straight to the morgue. When the medical examiner pulled down the sheet he vomited on the floor.
The press awaited him as he left the morgue. “I just lost the greatest wife a man ever had,” he said.
If the sentiment fell a little flat, if it seemed too rehearsed, too canned–there were tears in his eyes.
It was pure Allan Drake.
Back in the day, back in the early 60s, Redd Foxx…Sanford and Son…yeah…he played Sanford...he got pretty tight with Allan Drake.
Redd worked this little club in Vegas. And he worked “blue”…he was a dirty comic…underground records…paper bag stuff, like a dirty magazine. Same time Lenny Bruce was doin’ it, Redd Foxx was doin’ it. Hell, he was doin’ before Lenny Bruce.
Redd Foxx got away with it though.
The word was, Redd got a lot of blow from Allan Drake. Cocaine.
That’s where a lot of Redd’s money went. Straight up his nose. And Redd was a big time player. He burned more money than Allan Drake ever made. He was a real talent. A pioneer.
But he lost everything. Even his house…and it wasn’t a mansion or anything…just a nice brick house. Ranch-style.
Eddie Murphy had to pay for his funeral.
To this day, people in the industry don’t like to talk about Allan Drake. That whole episode with his wife…it was scary.
Not a good guy. Sorry.
Things didn’t just dry up and blow away when Little Augie and Janice were killed. They didn’t just dry up and blow away because Drake kept his mouth shut and his head held high. He carried on with dignity.
People felt sorry for him. So he got plenty of work.
He became a journeyman of the small screen where he was a regular guest on The Jackie Gleason Show and a semi regular on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Dean Martin Comedy Hour.
And, yeah, he was on Johnny Carson. Several times.
He showed up as a guest star on series, too, like Cheyanne, Get Smart, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Too Close for Comfort and even snagged a reoccurring role on Sandford and Son as Fred’s brother-in-law, Rodney Victor.
Of course he worked Vegas. He opened for some big timers : Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdink, Tony Martin and Vic Damone.
And then there were his side hustles. He was connected.
All and all, he made a nice living.
His son, Michael, grew up to be a physician.
One time, Drake was doing a show in Vegas and he had a heckler. This guy was giving him a real hard time. He yelled something like, “…don’t worry. I’m not gonna hurt you. I feel sorry for you.”
Drake walked right up to the edge of the stage. It was the 70s and he had some age on him, he was too heavy…but he was a big guy…an ex-boxer. He was wearing those big, thick frame glasses they wore then. So he takes them off and just stares at the guy. Stares at him a good…I don’t know… ten…fifteen seconds. Then he points at the guy and says,
“Don’t feel sorry for me, pal. Don’t you ever feel sorry for me.”
The way he said it. Cold. Quiet. His eyes got real black.
The guy shut up.
So did everybody else. You could have heard a pin drop the rest of the night.
“Allan Drake was just a comic, a funny man and… I’d rather not talk about the rest of it.” Lou Marsh (actor, comic, writer, Miami nightclub mainstay.)
“There was nothing wrong with him. He was sweet. Kind of a hard guy, but sweet and charming.” Saul Turteltaub (writer, television producer, comic)
“I wrote for Allan Drake for quite a few years. I lost track of him. I did understand at one point he was selling cocaine toward the end of his career. A lot of the things that he did were scary, immoral things.” Sol Weinstein (novelist, humorist, sitcom writer, radio talk-show host)