1. Johnny Martorano was now hanging out in a new joint. Basin Street was history. His new place was a small bar on Columbus Avenue in the South End, Duffy’s Tavern. It was a temporary headquarters, because next door his brother Jimmy was constructing a new club with Howie Winter that they had named Chandler’s. Buildings on Columbus Avenue cost next to nothing in 1972, because the South End was still mostly slums, its property values depressed by both the nearby public-housing projects and the rooming houses that attracted alcoholics slowly drinking their way to the bottom – the Pine Street Inn, the last resort of homeless winos in Boston.
2. But no matter how fast Martorano made, or stole, money, he was falling further and further behind, even though Chandler’s had become an immediate success as soon as it opened. Jimmy Martorano and Howie Winter had been right – there were enough affluent white people in the South End now to support a decent club.
Eventually they shut down Duffy’s Tavern. Then they rented the old Duffy’s space to Joe Mcdonald, one of Howie Winter’s partners in Somerville. Joe Mac, as he was known, set up his son-in-law in a new liquor store. As for Chandler’s itself, it quickly became the place where both Howie and Johnny conducted a lot of their business. For their Boston associates, it was a more convenient location than the garage on Winter Hill that served as Howie’s hometown headquarters. And the ambience was a lot more upscale than it had ever been at Duffy’s Tavern.
3. Chandler’s became a hot spot, mentioned in the city’s gossip columns. When the 1973 gangster movie The Friends of Eddie Coyle was being filmed in Boston, actor Robert Mitchum hung out there nightly, along with his driver from Local 25, Fat Harry Johnson. As someone who’d done time himself almost thirty years earlier on a trumped-up marijuana charge in Hollywood, Mitchum fit in well with the Chandler’s crew.
Also in the cast, both in the movie and at Chandler’s, was Bobo Petricone, Buddy McLean’s old pal who’d moved to Hollywood, changed his name to Alex Rocco, and become an actor. With his role in The Godfather behind him, Bobo was now back in his hometown, playing a bank-robbing gangster who bought guns from Mitchum’s title character.
Mitchum was a John Wayne type, a two-fisted drinking cowboy. Howie and I are having dinner with him one night in Chandler’s and some cops come in and serve both of us with subpoenas for the grand jury. Howie is real embarrassed, and he apologizes to Mitchum, and Mitchum just laughs and says, “I’m just glad they didn’t serve me.”
Another guy from the movie who was in Chandler’s all the time was Peter Yates, the director. You know that scene at the end of the movie when they take Mitchum to the Bruins game and get him drunk, and then Peter Boyle shoots him in the head from the backseat? Before they shot it, Yates asked Howie for his ... insight, I guess you’d say. Scene turned out pretty well, don’t you think? Very realistic.