Sunday, March 01, 2009

My Town Monday: Detroit-Jimmy Hoffa

Jimmy Hoffa reading.

I only had dinner at the Machus Red Fox restaurant once. In was the early seventies, my parents were visiting from Philly, and it seemed like the kind of place they'd like. Dark walls, a clubby feel. In those days, every restaurant in town served baked potatoes in foil and iceberg lettuce with your steak. Or your piece of frozen fish. Nobody bothered much with vegetables and dessert was almost always cheesecake. The Red Fox didn't disappoint.

A few months later, Jimmy Hoffa disappeared from the same Red Fox. You all know Hoffa's story-teamster leader, jail time, ties to the mob, a target of Bobby Kennedy in the early sixties, a thug.

This is his last story.

On July 30, 1975, Hoffa went to the Red Fox restaurant outside of Detroit, allegedly to meet three men: a Detroit labor leader, a local mobster and a powerful figure from New Jersey. Hoffa arrived around 2:00 pm and waited for half an hour. None of the other men showed up. He called his wife, telling her he'd wait a little longer. At 2:45 Hoffa was seen getting into a car in the parking lot. Several other men were in the car. That was the last time Hoffa was seen--dead or alive. Hoffa was eventually declared legally dead. Theories on his death include

...His body was put in a 55 gallon steel drum and carted to toxic waste dump in NJ.
...His body was taken to NJ, mixed with concrete and rests as part of the New York Giant's football stadium.
...He was buried in a gravel pit in Highland, MI, crushed by an automobile compactor in Hamtramck, MI or buried in a field in Waterford Township, MI
...He was ground up at a meat processing plant and dumped in a Florida swamp or into a fat-rendering plant

No one imagines a normal burial for Hoffa. The scenarios make it seem like a mob hit. Who else would cart a body to New Jersey? Who else has access to the sort of VEHICLES necessary for this sort of demise.

He was declared legally dead in 1982 but his case remains open. Unlike Tony Soprano or Don Corleone, Hoffa's persona could not be successfully glamorized. It was men like Jimmy Hoffa who made the Teamsters and other unions look like a bunch of thugs.

For more My Town Monday contributions, see Travis Erwin right here.


Barrie said...

So, is the Red Fox still there? If yes, I wonder if the menu has changed with the times. What a neat MTM post!

debra said...

I never thought about all the theories about Hoffa's disappearance. You are right that all of the options are complicated and a bit sinister.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It's now another restaurant, one in a chain of Italian restaurants.

Paul D Brazill said...

Mr Hoffa was leech, from what i know, but this is a smashing post.

the walking man said...

Odd...I just watched Danny Devito's "Hoffa" this week end.

While I may characterize Jimmy As a thug too, I would allow that he was a man of his times. Not a Walter Reuther mind you but trucking was a much tougher business back in the '20s.

He did do his part to ensure that Hundreds of thousands of drivers got paid enough to live a middle class life and educate their children.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes he started out with good intentions, much like Coleman Young. Perhaps he needed to be tough and that led him in certain directions. But I think his tactics did much to hurt unionism, something I fervently believe in, in the end. And Bobby Kennedy didn't help, pursuing Hoffa more actively than the real mobsters.

Travis Erwin said...

I've always been fascinated by Hoffa'a disappearance.

Dana King said...

I always wondered why people thought Hoffa wound up in Jersey or Florida when there were so many local places they could have put him. Why truck a dead body halfway across the country when you could bury him under an already dug grave, or have him compacted? (It's not unknown for the mob to bury people in graves dug for someone else. Just make it a little deeper, throw the guy in, cover him up, and let tomorrow's funeral take place as if nothing happened.)

I agree about Hoffa's original intentions, but he wound up as corrupt as anyone, and set unions back years. I often wonder if Kennedy went after him as a way to get to the Chicago mob, since there was no RICO then.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Moving him makes no sense to be either. Michigan has more deserted areas than New Jersey or Florida, I bet. Unless they threw him in the Everglades or the Pineys.

Reb said...

All these theories and no-one thought that the government might have "disappeared" him?

Good post.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And do you suppose their tactics would be different? Maybe not if they wanted it to look like the mob.

the walking man said...

One of the postulates in Devito's movie was that it was highly personal between RFK and Hoffa.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Wow, and here I thought he was dumped in one of the Great Lakes while wearing concrete shoes. ;) Seriously, Patti is right about him giving the Teamsters a bad name and setting back the union cause. My dad was a long-time Teamster and he always defended Hoffa because the guys thought he had their best interests at heart. I don't think it was the Feds. Nixon was president at the time, and he didn't have it in for Hoffa the way the Kennedys did. Just MHO.
Fascinating post.