BENNY MOVES TO THE COUNTRY

Farmer Benny

Farmer Benny

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Well folks, we moved to the “sticks.” Who would ever believe that Benny would trade in the sounds of deafening car alarms, gunshots, streets filled with drugs and crime for the sweet sounds of song birds, polite people, corn fields, easy flowing traffic and plush green mountains. Yes folks, we moved to the woods in early July.
The move was great but not uneventful . As usual, there is always a good Benny story to be told.
I hired a local moving company based on my own trust for people and the best price. Benny of course, does not trust anyone and is very much a pro at recognizing trouble before it hits. I hate to say this but he is RIGHT most of the time. Yes, I said it, He’s RIGHT.
A crew of 4 men arrived early on Monday in a Ryder truck that obviously was not large enough to accommodate our belongings. That set Benny off in a tirade, I on the other hand believed they would find a way to make everything fit. Benny grabbed a folding chair and carefully supervised each guys every move. The men were very respectful of our things and were getting the job done in record time. The foreman was a quite man, dressed very shabby, his pants were short, worn and frayed at the bottom with no belt to hold them up. I felt sad for him. The other 3 men were young, strong and fast moving Guatamalians. They spoke mostly Spanish and Benny understood everything they said. They moved on to the garage while Benny joined them sitting on his folding chair in his supervisory role. Almost everything fit. I was willing to leave the rest and return with my car for remaining goods but Benny made a stink. The poor guys were only doing their job to the best of their ability. Benny then told them to follow them up to Hackettstown. Following Benny under normal circumstances can be a nightmare, since he drives like a cop with a purpose and he changes lanes without notice. They were almost at our new home when the truck’s brakes failed at the bottom of the hill in Hackettstown and BOOM they smashed into the back of Benny’s car. Oh my, was this the supervisor’s punishment? The car was almost totaled, he was okay but needed to call the police and fill out a police report. He then told the driver and the 3 workers of his intent and asked them one question, “ are any of you wanted by the law or illegal in this country?” The driver told him he just got out of prison from a drug charge which explained the worn pants and no belt. Then the 3 Guatamalians ran away as fast as they could. Now what !! Our movers are gone, no muscle to move us in. The driver made it to our new home with Benny’s banged up car but no one else. So us old folks started carrying boxes until my son Dave showed up with his friend and within an hour the Guatemalians found their way here on foot. It was a wild and crazy day but we settled in and each day gets better and better.
Benny is making himself known in this neck of the woods. His rough and tough personality, his foul mouth but good heart and generosity is getting a lot of attention. Oh course, he has found many new places to eat and make himself an icon. His first stop every day is the Hackettstown Health Food Store on Main Street where he has a fresh squeezed carrot juice or fruit smoothie, he sometimes helps himself to the vegan buffet if he’s not in the mood for a big Italian Hot Dog. Uzma and Lenore knew right off that Benny likes to be waited on and have a little attention so they serve him just like his Mom did. His other new place is Enzo’s in Budd Lake where he does have that Juicy Italian Hot Dog. It’s a place that feels like home with robust women in full aprons cooking in the back, filling the place with aromas from his childhood. Oh yes and the women at Candy’s Café on Route 57 are waiting on him hand and foot and filling his belly with warm homemade soups and delicious rice pudding. They see him pulling into the parking lot and they scurry to the kitchen to get him something hot, hot food that is. No wonder he’s not hungry when he gets home.
He does come home to eat often but only after a stop at Donaldson’s Farm known for the best corn in New Jersey.He’s addicted to thieir fresh corn and , gigantic Jersey tomatoes, fresh grown garlic and the best peach pie in the world.
He also found a new gym in Ledgewood, he has no choice but to go often or he’d weight 400 lbs.
He also has every opportunity to spend time with our grandson Julius. The only one who can boss him around and tell him NO. He’s playing ball outside, going down slides in the playgrounds and just enjoying being a Papa. He sat in the parking lot of Julius’s Preschool and cried when he saw him on the first day of school. He’s such a Mush. Hackettstown will never be the same since Benny has arrived. I’m sure there will be many stories to tell but next time I will go back to the days in Newark when Benny Abruzzo, Al Spearman and Eddie Jones better known as the ZTEAM conquer crime in Newark with their bold and unconventional heroism.

WHAT’S FOR LUNCH ?

The Z Team, Benny Abruzzo, Al Spearman and Eddie Jones were on a role busting drug offenders almost every day.  They enjoyed their jobs and knew that they were making a dent in cleaning up the streets of Newark.  They worked hard and lived on the edge every day.

They rewarded themselves with the days they could just sit, relax and have lunch together with a few laughs.  Lunch was a big deal, you might find them in some of the best local restaurants in town although a slice of good pizza or a hot dog smothered in onions and potatoes were favorites too.

Lunch was Benny’s favorite time of day.  As a young boy, his mother Katherine would send him to school with a pepper and egg sandwich on 1/2 a loaf of Italian bread in a paper bag oozing with olive oil or sausage and pepper sandwich dripping in oil and running down onto to pants.  He didn’t care, he was envied by everyone in school carrying their boring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

To this day, Benny is still in search of his mother’s authentic homestyle cooking and you can find him any day of the week having lunch at his favorites joints like Top of the Park in Boonton where they serve him some favorites like escarole and beans with a side of juicy meatballs or their signature dish,  cod fish oregano.  He’ll travel to Casa DiNapoli in Union City for Scungilli in a spicy tomato sauce or bacalla salad just like his mother made or to Parsippany’s Reservior Tavern for homemade sausage with potatoes with a cold beer. He’ll travel to Lu Cas in Edison, NJ any day of the week to enjoy the best Seafood Fra Diavolo you’ll ever taste.   It’s no wonder why he’s developed the gout in his retirement years.   His car has never left New Jersey but he manages to go over the allotted mileage every year just going to lunch.

I can’t help myself getting sidetracked with food and Benny’s love for food but back to the Z TEAM and their stories.

Sargent Peter Nevargic from the narcotics squad received a tip that drugs were being sold outside the Federal Building in Newark from a hot dog vendor.  The Z Team was informed to set up surveillance on the vendor.  The vendor had a booming business, selling dogs to many of the employees from the Federal Building and passers by.   The tip was that if you had the code word and an extra $10 you could buy a deck of heroin with your loaded dog.  Eddie went in for the buy, it was easy, he walked away with a loaded hot dog and a deck of heroin on the side.  Al and Benny came in for the bust.  The vendor had over 240 decks of heroin ready to go with your order.

Thank God that job was over quick.  They almost missed lunch.

The hot dog vendor wasn’t the only guy in town selling “lunch with a punch.”  Charley’s University Pizzeria and Restaurant located near the Newark College of Engineering was known for selling marijuana to students and many locals.  The owner of the pizzeria was the supplier of the controlled substance and his business was booming.  Order a slice of pizza, with the special side sauce and an extra $5 and everyone was happy.  After a few days of surveillance and a few slices of  terrible pizza without the special sauce the Z Team made their move and arrested Charley for the sale of drugs, intent to sell and possession of a loaded 38 revolver.

So remember if the business is booming and the food is not so good, it might be a front for elicit activity. ImageImageImageImage

 

THE POWER OF CLEAVAGE

Benny, Al Spearman and Eddie Jones worked together in the narcotics squad for several years along with Sgt. John Arnold.  Al was the undercover guy doing most of the drug buys, Eddie was the driver in the busts, did surveillance and recorded the intake of drugs, Benny was the search & seizure guy although they were all capable of any part of the job.

They were proudly called the Z-TEAM because they did the job from A to Z, never leaving a stone unturned.  They would arrest the small time drug dealer and push forwarded until they caught the main supplier.  There are years of stories to be told about the Z-Team, their efforts and achievement in the capture and arrests of many, many opportune drug dealers.  Those stories will be told in future posts so don’t miss them.

Al Spearman was an Academy Award winning undercover cop.  He could play any role needed in the pursuit of narcotic offenders. Dressing the part, looking the part and putting his life on the line every day while posing as a drug addict in pursuit of drug dealers.  He often provoked Benny for being a recognizable cop and said he would never be able to do a buy undercover.  Benny liking a challenge told Al he could disguise himself enough to make a buy.  Benny was known on the streets amongst the criminals as “Kojak” with his bald head, short pants, white socks, physically fit stature and a cigar hanging out of his mouth.  He had that COP look.

His plan was to use his own vehicle which at this time was a 1100CC Honda Motorcycle and take along his very busty girlfriend for the ride.  He loved his women hot and sexy as long as they enjoyed food as much as he did.  So she hops on the back of his bike with her well-endowed breasts showing lots of cleavage.  A definite show stopper and great distraction for any man.  Benny was wearing a full helmet with dark goggles when he drove up to the informed location of a new bunch of street dealers.   The drug dealers would sell to anyone who came buy, they kept the drugs under benches in empty cigarette packs and small paper bags so they wouldn’t be holding if the police stopped by.

Benny pulled up on his impressive motorcycle with his busty babe on the back of the bike and asked the dealer if he had cocaine for sale.  The guy was seduced by the woman’s voluptuous breasts which caused him not to notice that Benny just could be a cop.  He sold Benny a $10 tin of cocaine.  Benny knowing he had this guy, then told him he had guns to sell and wanted to know if he was interested.  Oh course, drug dealers need guns too.  He was interested so they exchanged contact information to make arrangements for another meet.

The next meeting with the dealer and his supplier came a few weeks later because other cases took priority.  Benny showed up on crutches using them as his new distraction. He gave the dealer some cockamamey story about being in a bad motorcycle accident.  He explained this was why he was eager to get on with the gun deal and hoped he could buy more drugs because their cocaine was the best around.  This was just the set up to buy more drugs from not only the dealer but now the supplier.  He bought another supply of cocaine and had enough evidence to arrest them.  They were arrested for the sale of cocaine and conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws.

Al and Eddie never challenged Benny again.  They continued to do their jobs with the best of their abilities and antics and would continue to remain everlasting friends.

I don’t think any hot young babes will be be hopping on the back of his bike anymore but just maybe a few old broads will go for a short ride and a cheap thrill.

 

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Photo of Benny and Mary Iadonisi (his mother-in-law)  a few years ago.

Character Drawing of Benny & Kathy…in our hay day…

 

 

HOW MANY PULL-UPS ???

In August 1969 Benny was transferred to the Narcotics squad along with 11 other tough guys who would dedicate their lives and careers to the job of cleaning up the streets of Newark.  After bouncing around with different partners, Benny teamed up with Mitch McGuire as a regular partner.  The two were relentless in their pursuit of criminal activity and did whatever it took to get the job done.  The job called for some creative ideas, fast thinking, sharp awareness and their own personal strength to keep going.  The two knew the game of “good cop – bad cop”, and were able to engage a handful of informants.  With informants, you give them a deal too good to refuse and they give you information on criminal activity.  I can’t tell you what those deals where so use your imagination.

It was getting close to the end of their shift on Jan. 21, 1972 when they made the rounds stopping to talk to their informants.  This particular night, one informant told them there was a drug deal going down around 8PM on Elizabeth Ave.  Working late was never an issue with either cop, they were addicted to the job, so they called the captain in order to set up a surveillance team at the address on Elizabeth Ave.  Benny and Mitch reached the address first and scoped out the place.  They knew the apartment with the drugs was on the second floor, moving around to the back of the building, the second floor was easier access because each window had a brick ledge which could be used to maneuver from one apartment window to another.  Benny shimmied from one window to another until he reached the right apartment, he pulled himself up to the open window and saw in clear view a table loaded with drugs ready to be bagged up.  He then walkie-talkied the surveillance team to go in through the front while he covered the back window.  He kept himself pulled up to watch any activity inside.  The cops rang the front door bell, the suspects opened the door not expecting the police. The drugs where in plain view and it was too late to hide them.  The five suspects were arrested for possession of over $25,000 worth of heroin and narcotics paraphernalia. 

A court case was to be assigned but only after a Suppression Hearing which was held by a liberal Judge and liberal Public Defender who never believed the cops and often sided with the criminals.  The hearing was to see if the evidence was gained legally and the actions of the police were believable. 

The smart-ass public defender did not believe that Benny was able to see the drugs from the window because he just couldn’t see how he could have held himself up in a pull-up position for any length of time. So the public defender tried to pull himself up using the judge’s bench with his legs folded.  He could not budge himself one inch so he then challenged Benny to do the same.  So Benny walked up to the Judge’s bench, asked how many pull-ups he wanted him to do and proceeded to do many pull-ups staring the judge in the eyes with each pull-up.  The judge said “Okay, okay,” Officer Abruzzo, you can stop now as the people in the court room chuckled.

The case was eventually brought to trial and the 5 defendants where found guilty of all charges.

This was a case to be celebrated by all the officers involved, Mitch McGuire, Eddie Bimbo, Louis Martins, Joseph Costa,  Alfred Pepe, Angelo D’Onofrio, Bobby Scott, Jack O’Leary and Benny Abruzzo, not just because they locked up these guys but because justice had been served.

 

end of the law.ImageImageImageThat really is Benny hanging on the window ledge..Check out the white socks and the balding head….

UNTIL DEATH DOES US PART

After less than a year of romance, we were married on a Thursday night at my kitchen table the same night that Benny moved out of Newark and into my house in Denville. My brother David and my son Dave were our witnesses, they thought we were nuts but I know both of them were happy to have Benny as part of our family. He placed a Dunhill cigar band on my finger as his symbol of love and commitment.   Benny was moving out of his comfort zone to a whole new territory,  a house on a lake, green grass, tall evergreens, a neighborhood raccoon,  squawking geese flying over head in the early morning, a very quite dead end street and moths covering the front door at night which all scared the pants off him.  He truly missed the comfort of car alarms going off all night, fire engines screaming through the street, an occasional gunshot, cockroaches on the elevator door of his building, no sunlight in his studio apartment and the constant threat of violence. I was sure he would love Denville and never want to return to Newark.  Well I was wrong, he went to Newark everyday to check on things. 

 Little did I know what I was in for.  Not only did I become his wife, I became his new partner in the pursuit of criminals.  Three nights after we were unconventionally wed, I was on my first unplanned criminal chase in Newark.  It was the night before Halloween, “mischief night”, we both witnessed a group of young teens knock a guy off his bicycle, beat him and run away with his bike.  OMG, there we go, Benny turns the car around in the middle of Bloomfield Ave. in Newark and turns onto Parker St. and drives like a bat out of hell to catch them, the street was narrow and lined with cars on both sides so he couldn’t drive fast enough, so he said to me, take the wheel I’m going to chase them on foot.  Holy crap, I felt like a cowboy with a lasso ready to lasso up the bad guys only I’m driving. Wow, the adrenaline rush was exhilarating. I must be as crazy Benny.  Whew, in seconds he caught the guy with the bike by the shirt, he grabbed the bike and the crooks got away fast as the speed of light.  We went back to the scene of the robbery to return the bike to  guy who was noticeably hurt and now being attended by others with an ambulance on the way. 

Another night in Newark, we just left visiting his Aunt Millie in the Forest Hills section and witness an attempted car jacking.  Benny jumped out of the car, held in gun over the top of the car and yelled, “POLICE”…They ran as fast as they could and I found myself intoxicated with the excitement.  I was getting a little worried about my shear delight in these pursuits. 

We still went to Branch Brook park for our runs because it was a nice 2 mile run without much interference until the day when I finally caught up with Benny handcuffing a guy to a tree.  He had witnessed him stealing a radio out of a parked car.  Not wanting to interrupt his run, he left him handcuffed until he completed his run, then called the cops to come and get him. 

A few months later, we were driving home when I saw my old contractor who owed me $200 for over 6 months, he was not returning my calls to repay the deposit I gave him to replace a window.  Well we saw him tooting along on Diamond Springs Rd., I pointed him out to Benny then he passed him furiously and abruptly pull sideways in front of him.  I don’t know what he said to the guy but he was at my front door the next day with the $200 bucks.

I must say, I am enjoying the power that comes with this role as a cop’s wife and pursuer of the bad guys.  I probably would have liked being a cop myself.  A least I get to carry his handcuffs in my handbag when we get dressed up.  I just have to be sure I am quick to react when the situation calls for the cuffs.ImageImage