Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rudolph "Rudy" Plappert Nazi Submariner

Rudolph "Rudy" Plappert Nazi Submariner
Rudy Plappert – German Submariner – Built Dolphin Motel in Strathmere

By William Kelly
(Originally published in the Atlantic City Sun newspaper, May, 1981)

From the moment he first saw the soft white sands of Whale Beach in Strathmere, Rudolph Plappert knew he wanted to live there.

His first visit was during the lazy, expectant, early days of World War II. The beach, the salt air, the fresh fish, were all special things to a man at war.

And Plappert’s perspective was unique because his first view of Cape May’s coast was though the periscope of his submarine.

As a German U-boat officer assigned to patrol America’s east coast waterway, Plappert helped keep Allied cargo and war ships pinned into the harbors. In the early days of the war, the battle of the Atlantic was fierce, with U-Boats taking their toll and recording their victories in the amount of tonnage sunk.

But the tides of war changed, and the silent and swift U-Boats became vulnerable. Like the Africa Corps and the Luftewaffa before them, the wolfpacks became lone wolves. With the aid of radar, and the ultra secret code breakers, the hunter became the hunted, and the seawolves became hot, sweaty deathboxs.

For one last time the periscope broke the water’s surface off Sea Isle City. Plappert threw open the iron hatch and took a breath of fresh air. He climbed the bridge, and while other men scampered around the deck he scanned the horizon with binoculars.

A small fishing boat that bobbed up and down with swells drifted closer. The fishermen waved, and as they drew closer, one of them threw a bag of fresh lobsters onto the deck of the sub. Plappert waved, smiled and yelled a polite, “danka.” Although the Italian-American fishermen didn’t understand his German pledge, Plappert also promised that he would one day return.

Rudolph “Ruddy” Plappert arrived in Sea Isle City in 1958 with his wife Englebert. He purchased some beachfront property near the end of the island in Strathmere and built the Dolphin Motel on the beach. The storm of ’62 wiped them out temporarily, and they rebuilt the motel across the street from the beach where it stands today.

“Rudy,” as he became known to the townspeople, was a man about town. A very well-liked, easy going gentleman, who was involved in civic affairs, Rudy lived out his life in an unobtrusive manner.

Than a small newspaper item mentioned that a former U-Boat commander who had patrolled the Jersey coast was living in Sea Isle. Ann and Charles Manolou, who purchased the Dolphin Motel from Rudy in 1976, began to receive phone calls from inquisitive reporters, including one from the National Enquirer. They all wanted to know about Rudy.

Today (1981), Charles is getting the Dolphin ready for the summer season, planting bushes by the driveway and doing the yearly repair work. “There’s not much to go on,” he said. “Rudy died of a heart attack shortly after we purchased the place and his wife is now living in Florida.”

“He was a very tall, broad shouldered fellow. A very husky strong man, who loved sailing his catamaran off the beach. Both him and his wife were quiet people who shunned publicity, but he was well known in town, and used to stop in Braca’s CafĂ© occasionally for a drink.”

Down at Braca’s Kim Giberson is also preparing for the oncoming season, loading up his stockroom. Although his Uncle Lou Braca knew Rudy better, Kim remembered the tall man who drank at the bar and talked in a deep and distinct German accent.

“He even looked German,” Kim said, “and used to run his two doberman pincher dogs along the beach.”

The bar is different now that when Plappert haunted the place. The giant mirror is still on the wall, but it doesn’t reflect the old seedy, shot and beer joint it used to. Kim cleaned up the place, and made it a refined restaurant.

Plappert would sit at the bar with a few of his friends, including Mayor Dominic Raffa and Commissioner Bill Kehner. Raffa, who was recently reelected to office, recalls Rudy drinking vodka on the rocks, but only infrequently did he tell about his war-time escapades.

“He said he liked the pretty beaches, and decided during the war that this is where he wanted to live,” recalled Raffa.

Kim recalls that besides the view, Plappert liked the people.

“When he surfaced off shore, he’d occasionally come across some rum runners and fishermen who’d wave at him like the fighter pilots of World War I. Near the end of the war some of the fishermen even gave him lobsters as a token of friendship. I think that’s really why he came back here,” he said.

Plappert’s gone now but the things that attracted him to the small seaside village are still there – the salt air, the sandy beach, the fresh fish and the friendly people, some of whom will always remember the U-Boat officer, their one-time enemy who became their neighbor and friend.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Weedman Busted (again) and Shut Down By Feds

PW Exclusive: DEA Takes Down N.J. Weedman's California Pot Operation
By Michael Alan Goldberg

Posted Dec. 23, 2011


The long, strange saga of Ed "NJ Weedman" Forchion—marijuana folk hero and New Jersey weed activist-turned-California weed capitalist—has taken a turn for the worse.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, Forchion was driving in Los Angeles on his way to sign a lease for a second location for his Liberty Bell Temple—the popular Hollywood Boulevard pot dispensary he's operated for more than three years—when he was pulled over by an LAPD squad car. Within a few moments, agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency joined in on the stop. Forchion was put in handcuffs and informed that the DEA was commencing a raid of the Liberty Bell Temple—as well as Forchion's apartment and his marijuana grow operation, located inside a nondescript Los Angeles warehouse—on suspicion of violating federal drug laws.

While California law allows medicinal marijuana dispensaries and related growing facilities (and Forchion was licensed by the state to operate such facilities), federal laws that prohibit such operations supercede state law, and the Obama administration has initiated a crackdown on medical marijuana facilities in California this year.

Federal authorities seized all of the marijuana, money, computers, phones, security cameras and paperwork at the Liberty Bell Temple and dismantled the entire shop; turned his apartment upside down and took more computers, cameras, phones, videotapes and paperwork; and removed 600 marijuana plants from Forchion's grow facility, in the process smashing lights and other grow equipment and seizing four dogs belonging to Forchion and sending them to the pound. The feds also froze his bank accounts. Forchion was detained for about five hours and then released without being charged.

"They told me I was lucky I didn't have 1,000 plants or I would've gotten an automatic federal charge, and I'd probably be sitting in jail for two years waiting for trial," says Forchion, calling PW on his girlfriend's phone from his trashed apartment, where he returned yesterday after "going off the grid" for a week following the raid.

Still, Forchion believes it's "just a matter of time" before he's arrested on federal charges. According to DEA marijuana trafficking penalties, a first-time offender convicted of possessing 1,000 plants is hit with a mandatory sentence of no less than 10 years in prison; a conviction on possession of 100 to 999 plants means a minimum of five years.
Forchion says that his whole marijuana operation—in which he says he'd invested more than $300,000 over the past three years—has gone up in smoke, and that as of last night he was down to his last 10 bucks after splurging on a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's yesterday morning.

"I came here from Jersey [four years ago] with 500 bucks in my pocket and a promise from my mom that if I failed, she'd buy a plane ticket to come back," says Forchion, whose weed-fueled exploits over the last 15 years—as detailed in a PW cover story in October—earned him the title of "Superhero of the Potheads."

"I feel like I was doing really well," he sighs.

Last night, he was trying to come up with the $500 necessary to get his four dogs out of the pound. His long-running website, NJWeedman.com, had been down since the raid, replaced by a message from his service provider saying the site was “suspended," but it was back up as of yesterday afternoon—Forchion didn't know if the DEA had something to do with that. Meanwhile, he says, the 17 people he employed at the Liberty Bell Temple and grow site are now out of work—"right before Christmas, too"—but that none were detained because he called the shop as he was being pulled over to warn them of the impending raid, and everyone immediately evacuated the premises.

Forchion says that DEA officers who detained him last week told him they'd had him under surveillance since early November. According to the federal search warrant obtained by PW, DEA agents received a tip in August from a confidential informant about the whereabouts of Forchion's grow operation, which Forchion insists he's kept a secret from everyone except his closest business associates.

"Someone ratted on me," says Forchion. "I guess I have a hater amongst my people or something."

But Forchion believes he—and not the many hundreds of medical marijuana operations that continue to operate freely in Los Angeles—was specifically targeted for the raid because authorities in New Jersey "sicced the government on me." According to the warrant, Burlington County Assistant District Attorney Michael Luciano—who's prosecuting Forchion on a marijuana possession with intent to distribute charge in a trial slated for April—had multiple conversations with the DEA in September and November discussing the N.J. case against Forchion. Luciano also told the DEA that Forchion may be facing additional charges for mailing small vials of marijuana to Luciano, Gov. Chris Christie and more than a dozen other N.J. officials between April and September of this year. Forchion says it was a stunt aimed at encouraging the recipients to "chill out" over weed laws.

Forchion claims DEA agents told him the raid was politically motivated. "They didn't hide it," says Forchion. "[A DEA agent] said that I apparently pissed off New Jersey state officials and they called the Justice Department. He said, 'You should just shut down, you should close down, that's what the politicians want, they want you to shut up. Are you going to shut up?' There was no secret to it."

Neither the DEA nor Luciano's office responded to phone calls seeking comment.
"It's the whole squeaky wheel thing—I guess I was too squeaky," says Forchion, who says he has no regrets about mailing weed to the governor and others. "I know what I'm gonna hear: 'Well, what did you expect?' And to be honest with you, that may have played a little role in this," he laughs.

"I did kind of push the line, and I got some pushback," he continues. "But I'm still the Weedman, you know? I mean, without trying to sound goofy, I do feel like I'm the Martin Luther King of marijuana."

Potential federal charges aside, Forchion's also concerned that he's so broke at the moment that he won't be able to afford a plane ticket back to New Jersey for a mandatory Jan. 3 pre-trial hearing for his April court date—if he misses that, he fears, a warrant for his arrest could be issued. "I'm sure Luciano is gonna think, 'This is great—he doesn't have the money to fly back and forth,'" says Forchion. "He knows this was a big disruption in my life."

And beyond the immediate mess he's in, Forchion has no idea what he's going to do moving forward. "The way my life was last week is over. I'm the Weedman. I never wanted to be called the Weedless Man, and right now that's what I appear to be. I can't go back to New Jersey. What am I gonna do, go back to driving a truck? Nobody's gonna hire me, and I don't have money to get my own truck back on the road."

"After what happened [last week] I thought, should I quietly disappear?" he continues. "And then I thought, no. I have some people going, 'You gonna open back up?' I want to, but I don't know. I've been shut down and knocked off my high horse. There's gonna be people who are like, 'You idiot, you did it to yourself.' But either way, I'm still gonna have my day in Burlington County court [in April] and I'm gonna win, and if the government comes after me I'm gonna beat them, too. I still want to be the Roe v. Wade of marijuana legalization. I do feel that that's my destiny."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

South Jersey Soul Singer Howard Tate RIP

Soul singer Howard Tate dies in Burlington City apartment at 72


TRENTON — Soul singer Howard Tate has died in his Burlington City apartment a decade after a career resurrection that followed years of tragedy and obscurity.

A spokesman for the Burlington County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tate died of natural causes Friday at age 72.

The son of a Baptist preacher, Tate was born in Macon, Ga., and grew up in Philadelphia singing gospel songs. In 2004, in a feature story published by the Burlington County Times, he was living in a home along the Rancocas Creek in Southampton.

In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Tate had three top 20 R&B hits, including “Get It While You Can,” written by his longtime producer, Jerry Ragovoy, and made more famous by Janis Joplin.
But his own album sales suffered, and Tate claimed that he received almost no royalties from his music.

“I’d go out on the road and come back home to my wife, who would say, ‘You’re on the charts, you’re working 300 days a year, how come there’s no money?’ “ he recalled in the 2004 article.
Depressed and frustrated, Tate left the music scene, vowing to never return.

In the late 1970s, Tate’s daughter died in a fire, his marriage ended and, to ease the pain, he turned to alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. He wound up homeless, living on the streets of Philadelphia for about 10 years. Ragovoy believed he had died.

“I’ve been hit in the mouth with a brick, been on the scene with knives and guns,” Tate remembered. “I could have lost my life out there.”

In 1994, Tate said he found God and created a church to help the homeless and drug-addicted. He made his musical comeback after a fellow musician saw him in a grocery store in 2001.

His 2003 release, “Rediscovered,” again with Ragovoy producing, was nominated for a Grammy for best contemporary blues album. His last work of new material was “Blue Day” in 2008.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rare White Dolphin

White Dolphin photographed off coast of South America

Unlike the white deer of the Jersey Pines, the dolphin is an albino.

Biologists find albino among Brazil dolphins


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian biologists have found an extremely rare example of an albino dolphin among an endangered species that lives off the southern coast of South America.

The research group, based at Univille university in Santa Catarina, said Thursday that it was the first recorded instance of an albino in the pontoporia blainvillei species, a very shy type of dolphin that rarely jumps out of the water. It's known in Brazil as Toninha and in Argentina and Uruguay as the La Plata or Franciscana dolphin.

Camilla Meirelles Sartori, the lead biologist of Project Toninhas, said she first saw the white calf with pinkish fins at the end of October. Her group photographed him in early November.
"We were surprised, shocked," Sartori said. "It's very small, and the color is really different. We didn't know what it was at first."

Sartori said the baby was with an adult, probably its mother. The young live on their mother's milk until they are six months old and remain dependent on the adult until they're a year old.

The species is endangered. Its dolphins have long, thin snouts and get easily tangled in fishing nets. They can drown or die of stress if not quickly released, Sartori said.

Since Herman Melville created the albino whale Moby Dick in 1851, rare albino marine mammals have held a special fascination.

Albinism is the lack of melanin pigments in the body, giving an individual very light or white skin and hair. Little is known about the genetic predisposition in dolphins because it's so unusual.

Sartori said the rarity of the baby spotted by her group only highlights the need to preserve the Bay of Babitonga in the southern Brazil state of Santa Catarina, where this population of endangered dolphins lives.

"Albino animals generally have fewer chances of survival because they have greater chances of being caught by predators," Sartori said. "Here, in this bay, they don't have natural predators.

But there is a lot of environmental degradation from two ports, industrial and residential sewage, tourism. This is an another argument for its protection."