The Bullies of Montauk
I’ll have to use the cop-out Hollywood uses when a true story has to be embellished to make it more exciting, or in my case not having all the facts: So what I’m about to tell you is ‘inspired’ by a true story as I only have the general facts, and can’t name names, or the precise times these incidences happened, only that they did happen. I Wonder what a New Yorker fact checker would say to that?
The protagonist for this true tale passed away, unfortunately, in June of this year . His daughter lives in East Hampton. He has a brother who lives there as well and probably has a lot to do more with this story that he’s getting credit for.
For many in Montauk, Raymond Warme was a hero. But before I tell you the story he reluctantly told me, I’d like you to know more about him.
He was the son of a Swedish father and an Irish mother. Raymond and I grew up together in the 1950s in a tough South Bronx neighborhood. Both of us had Irish mothers who were best friends. We entered each others’ apartments without any formalities like knocking on the door.
When we weren’t in each other’s homes, we would shout conversations from our windows which faced an adjoining back alley. Sometimes we could only see each other between flapping clothes on the wash lines.
Raymond left home at fifteen. I remember the day as if it were yesterday. He had few clothes, but he did have a tool box. He moved in with a super’s family, two brothers, who were very good at fixing things. He was very mild-mannered and one would not think if he hit you, you would probably go down. However, nobody picked on him for good reason in our neighborhood.
An example of how tough Raymond was, was recently told to me by his younger brother, Mickey.
In the 1950s, Raymond and two of his younger brothers were placed in a foster facility in Spanish Harlem because of his mother’s illness. Two kids jumped his brother Mickey. Raymond saw this and defended his brother, when a supervisor saw the beating Raymond was giving the two punks that jumped his brother, he decided to jump in—against Raymond. One can only guess why a supervisor would do this unless he was a racist. There were few white kids in the facility with the exception of Raymond and his two brothers.
After flooring the supervisor, Raymond crawled past the front desk, and returned to the Bronx. He lived on the roof of his building for weeks, fed by neighbors, and my mother. No warrant was ever issued for him. Strong evidence, I believe, that the supervisor knew he had done something he shouldn’t have done and never wanted the incidence reported.
Raymond began full-time employment right after Junior High School. He soon became skilled at sheet-rock installation which I know nothing about, and held a union card.
When I saw him recently, the first time since my mother’s funeral in 1974, I was curious why his brother, Richie, told my sister that if we wanted to locate Raymond–he was now retired—just ask anyone in Montauk as he was not in the telephone book (He used his daughter’s address in East Hampton as an address.)
In any case I managed to locate him, but was curious why all I had to do was mention his name, and a local would know who he was. I asked him and he told me.
But not before some persistence on my part.
In the early 1970s Raymond’s industry took a beating. He had a wife and four daughters to support and was looking to find work. A contractor had seen his work and asked him to come to Montauk to help build (or renovate, not sure) the Montauk Yacht Club. He didn’t want to do it but his brother Richie, who was painting then, convinced him to do it. After all, both would have work was the argument.
Like many small towns, it’s not hard to imagine that Montauk had a couple of bullies who intimidated the locals. Some may have been boat captains, local tradesmen, or contractors who were used to seeing things go their way. Bullies both inside the drinking establishments and out.
For a city person to get a prime contract at the Montauk Yacht Club was very upsetting to this mean bunch. Well, like they were used to doing, they would intimidate the two city slickers and drive them out of town was apparently the plan.
Raymond after his first day on the job (or second or third) went to one of the local bars. If this isn’t Alan Ladd asking for a soda pop in a bar full of thugs in that classic movie Shane I don’t know what is?
He wasn’t in the bar long when one of the local bullies intentionally tried to pick a fight with him in front of a number of drinkers who were fearful of this bully. The town tough and Raymond went outside to settle matters. Most observers suspecting that the city boy would be put in his place, since the local bully had a stellar reputation for winning fights.
Raymond floored him. Knocked the wise-ass bastard out flat. The bar crowd, I suspect, was astonished.
After that encounter cars began to beep their horns when they saw Raymond, happy that someone had kicked the ass of a town bully. There would be more incidences, however, bullies can’t take no for an answer, but they could not bring Raymond down. In fact suffered greatly from Raymond’s deadly punching power. They finally gave up and knew the guy from the city was here to stay, and it was wise to keep to themselves from now on.
Raymond’s sheet rock business in Montauk never faulted after wiping up the streets with these town bullies.
In fact, in time, he was asked to run for Mayor, but declined. He was also partners for many years in the ownership of the Bridgehampton Deli. He was too modest to tell me that the celebrities who frequented the deli loved him for his straight-forward un-groupie manner, particularly Paul Newman and Lauren Bacall.
I asked him to name names of the bullies he brought down, but he said one or two of them were still alive and he didn’t want to embarrass them.
Of course, they were now former bullies of Montauk.