Monday, July 12, 2021

Charles Rammelkamp


I always liked the Joe Mantegna character in Levinson’s Liberty Heights.
That’s exactly how my dad was, a family man.
Only, he didn’t go quietly to federal prison, like in the movie,
but jumped the $80,000 bail, fled to Montreal,
then lived his life out in Tel Aviv.

For years the FBI never had a clue
what became of “The Lord,” as my dad was called,
a slick dresser in his tailor-made suits:
Julius Salsbury cut a real aristocratic figure.
Dad even insisted I wear dresses to school, a little lady.
He ran his gambling operation out of the Oasis Cabaret
on The Block, Baltimore’s red-light district,
even though we lived near the Pimlico racetrack.
Daddy loved the horse races!

The FBI was always locking him up.
I remember visiting him at the Jessup prison
when I was just a child.
But fifteen years behind bars? No way.
He left Baltimore hidden in a horse van,
that August night in 1970,
buried under a pile of hay!
The feds never knew where he went,
figured he might have fled to Cuba.

I visited him every year in Israel,
always looking over my shoulder,
until he died from bone cancer in 1994.
Mom died a only couple of days later,
both our hearts broken.

Clarinda Harriss reads "A Daughter Remembers Her Father":

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Charles confesses: "Recently, fifty years after her father absconded to Israel in 1970, facing fifteen years in a federal penitentiary, his daughter, Rochelle, now just a year or two shy of 70, broke her silence about her father’s flight from the feds and told all to the Baltimore Sun. I hadn’t known Julius Salsbury was the prototype for Nate Kurtzman in Barry Levinson’s Liberty Heights when I had an opportunity to be an extra in a Yom Kippur synagogue scene in 1998."

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore. Two full-length collections were published in 2020, Catastroika, from Apprentice House, and Ugler Lee from Kelsay Books. A poetry chapbook, Mortal Coil, has just been published by Clare Songbirds Publishing.

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