Reader Views Book of the Year Finalists were posted in late February, and Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber was in the top 3 as a finalist in the True Crime category Book of the Year! Although we didn’t win, we did get an Honorable Mention, and it was an honor to be mentioned in this category. Societal Issues was the category True Crime was lumped in, so we were up against all kinds of fantastic books from independent presses around the country. So we are stoked to get 3rd, and we get to run a finalist award ribbon on the cover for the life of the book! Check it…
This was a story that Les wrote to my wife and I several years ago. Somehow I missed putting this story in the book. I remembered the details, and I remembered the timeframe, I remembered it all except to add it to the book. So here is the raw and unedited lost story of the Ibiza Run.
Judy and I had just done about 30 months sailing around the Caribbean at the end of 1983 and had to go back to the keys to work on the bottom of the boat and buy stuff. When we got back Judy called home to check in. The news was not good. The FBI had been to her parent’s house, and her folks had been seriously interrogated. They asked her to return, so we put her on a plane home. I was broke by then, and the boat yard wanted their money for the repairs.
One night I was sitting in a bar on the other side of the canal where the boat yard was and down to my last $20. I was hoping Judy would get her butt back so I could settle up and move on. There was this tourist sitting at the bar beside me, and we started to talk. I ended up pointing to my boat sitting on the hard across the canal, and he asked me where a boat like that could go. I told him, “Anywhere that there is 7’ of water.” He told me that he had always wanted to go to Spain; some island named Ibiza. I had never heard of it, but I told him that for $200/day I would take him there! I needed some dollars, and I didn’t give a shit where Ibiza was.
This guy was now buying the beers, and after the bar closed we ended up on my boat for another round and both got really loaded. That night he gave me $3,000, and we were going to Spain in the morning! In the morning, before he woke up, I paid my bill, borrowed a car and headed for the store. When I got back the boat was in the water, and he hadn’t even woken up. I loaded all the groceries and 37 cases of beer aboard, moved over to the fuel dock and was filling up, and he woke up. He came up to the cockpit wondering what was happening. I told him we were going to Spain! He shook his head and said, “All right. Let me go check out of the motel and turn in my car.” Come to find out he owned a bunch of putt-putt golf courses in Tennessee, and his wife had caught him with his secretary and threw him out! He had bucks though. I didn’t know if this guy would make it past the breakwater, but the yard bill was paid. If he didn’t pan out Judy could catch up the next time we were at a phone and airport.
By 2:30pm we had left the coast of Florida behind, and the next morning we entered the Bahamas. The next day we were in Nassau. This guy took to the water like a duck. 38 days later we passed Gibraltar and hooked north 400 miles to the Spanish Riviera, and it turned out Ibiza was a little island paradise. It was a huge tourist spot for the jet set rich. Our troubles started when I tried to check in with immigration, and this guy didn’t have a passport! The guy in charge finally came out of his office to help. Neither of us could speak Spanish, and this head guy was pissed. He told us, “You Goddamn Americans think you can just do anything you want. You have to have a passport to enter Spain. You got to leave, now.” Well, after a little while he cooled down after I explained it was my fault. I had never asked him if he had a passport, and I told him we couldn’t leave right now cause we had motor problems (it is an international rule you can enter a country if you are disabled and need repairs). Plus we were out of beer! He finally smiled and said in Spain we drink wine, that way it makes the ladies more fun and they don’t get fat. He said he was going on a long weekend, and when he returned on Tuesday morning he didn’t want to see our boat in his harbor. He told us to fix our motor, drink some wine and enjoy the bikinis. Cool, this was Friday, so nothing wrong with the motor we went down to get a steak and a beer. We were literally out, all 37 cases!
In Spain they sell their local wine everywhere and cheap. A decent bottle was like a dollar or something like that. We ate and walked around buying some wine here and there, and when we couldn’t carry anymore the next shop said that they delivered – end of that problem. So we wandered in and out of bars and looked all around. All the time this guy named Bill was buying wine. He’d say, “Shit! A whole case for $10, have to have it!” By the time we got back to the boat at the marina (we got a hotel room for the night with long, hot showers and television) the whole damn dock beside our boat was loaded with cases of wine and beer. I mean a lot of cases! There was no way it would all fit in the boat, and the people around us kept asking what we were stocking up for? Bill would say, “Oh, we’re going out to party for the weekend!” This was Saturday afternoon, so we went up to the bar to talk. We made a deal with the bar tender – a party, we would supply the wine if he’d let us use the bar on Sunday. He could sell all the other stuff to make money, and we would have a grand party. It worked well. Word got around that there was a free party going on, and people just kept coming. By Monday afternoon we were wiped out and the party was still going. We loaded up what beer we had and headed to town for some food and to buy more beer (beer was hard to find). Monday night turned into Tuesday afternoon, and Tuesday night we were still there. About 10-11pm the immigration official came, but we were too drunk to go anywhere. He laughed when I explained we bought too much wine to take and had to have a party to drink it up, so he got into the party mood and joined us for the rest of the night. At about 6:30 the next morning someone knocked on the boat. I went up to find the blazing sun light, and it was this head guy from customs in a small boat. He was there to escort us out of the harbor!
36 days, 21 without ever doing anymore than adjusting the sails, we sighted Cuba, and after a couple more we pulled into Key West. The whole trip was close to 90 days. This guy turned out to be a natural sailor, and when we got all settled in he paid me $100 a day to go with him to find a sail boat. He was going to call his kids and just get them to go with him where ever. He did find a boat, and I saw him for a week or so, and his kids came down and they took off. I never saw him again. I went back to trying to get Judy back. I netted about $9,000 after it was all done. That was a good job!
The money didn’t last me long, and again my boat needed some repairs so back up on the hard it went while I was waiting for Judy. I had a botched pot heist that left me broker than broke (you can read about this one in the book page 123 of Wanted) during this stay in Miami, and Judy called saying she had been visited and was being watched by the FBI. They were all over her, and things were very tense. I knew I had to move on, but I needed some quick cash and focused my attention on robbing my next bank!
This was a story (should have been on page 121, paragraph two, of Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber) that didn’t make the cut. My editor wanted me to name the people involved but Les didn’t want to. Les didn’t want anyone to feel bad from this story, so we left the story behind for the blog. See if you can figure out the celebrities involved.
Les says, “We were squeaky clean having gotten rid of all the turtle lotion, shell lamps, Ola the monkey, all of our firearms and all of our weed except the ½ lbs that Judy sealed in a huge wax candle. We were as clean as we had ever been, and we were looking forward to a hard search from the Coast Guard or Customs which didn’t happen. We had been to all the wrong places, and don’t think for a minute that big brother’s satellites aren’t watching cause they are! So Stock Island was a good choice for straight sailors with nothing to hide.
We were in limbo, sort of, still a little spooked with the run-in in Mexico, with the immigration, so we were relaxing as much as we could. We had passed the test of if we were hot on our current ID’s or not, so when I called customs from the marina office, and they told us they were busy and wouldn’t come and gave us a clearance number over phone, I breathed a big sigh of relief.
One Saturday morning a bit of fuss was happening on the pier. Two Herreshoff’s 28’s were tied up with about 4 couples with a little girl in tow. The little girl was a happy, bubbling little lady that was about five or six years old and enjoying all the fuss everyone was making around her. Judy and I just sat in our cockpit and had a front seat to this group that included a couple of Los Angeles movie stars. I can’t name their names, and the reason will become apparent later in the story.
Judy bumped me and said, “They are putting that adult life jacket on that little girl!” What she meant was that putting an adult life jacket on a little person is very bad, and it is probably worse than no life jacket. If the little one were to go in the drink the adult life jacket would slide over her head cause the straps are way too big, and this would keep her little head under the water with her arms probably pinned straight up. Anyway it is a no-no, so I dug in our cockpit seat and got out a little-people life jacket and took it over to the woman who was obviously her mom. I explained the whole jacket-size bit while the others were listening in, and she profoundly thanked me and said they would return it later. The group went off having a great time with their pair of day sailors.
The next day our movie stars were again preparing for a day on the water, but this time it was a loud race that was brewing. Cocktail hour had obviously started some time ago. A problem developed with movie star Number One whose mate was in such poor shape that number one was looking for a mate to run the race with. I have to point out that after watching yesterday’s sail this group had more money than experience sailing. Yesterday was calmer and a bit more laid back, and these boats are very forgiving to sail. Today would be a bit more challenging.
Anyway Number One came over to our boat and asked me if I wanted to go for a sail and beat this other bum! I said sure – any excuse to go sailing. He said, “Good. You’re the captain.” If I remember right the race was around Sand Key light and home again which was about 15 miles each way – A perfect little race.
These boats were very expensive wooden day sailors copied from Mr. Herreshoff’s personal little boat of the 1900’s era. Of course they were new copies with little diesel engines to get you in and out of the marina. The rules of the race seem to change every ten minutes, but we were to motor to the entrance of the marina then on three we would be off. We had a good breeze, and the wind direction was perfect. As soon as someone yelled one, two, three we were off. The owner of my boat said for me to let the motor run a bit longer. I knew this was a grudge match and there were no rules except for the rule that there were no rules. We got the jump, and I pointed out perhaps our exhaust might tip our handicap – “Oh shit, shut it off. We can’t get caught cheating.”
The tack was a perfect port tack to the light that was southeast of us, so now it was back to the cocktails. The boat was doing all it could, and so was the loser back about two-three boat lengths. I think he still had his motor running, and as I pointed this out to number one he swore. We hit the light with the advantage of being a bit up wind, but when we tacked to reverse course Number One lost his grip on the head sail and we floundered in place for what seemed a half hour before we got under way. Our rival took a good lead. Number One was yelling, “They were getting away, fire up the motor! We have got to catch them cause I will never live this down!” The motor helped, and we started to gain on them which was very obvious since we didn’t have this speed coming the other way. The radio was silent though. When we were ahead going the other way Number One was teasing them all the way, and now there was silence. With this speed I pointed out it’s obvious we were cheating. “Shit! Can we catch them without the motor?” We can try – we can sail better than they do although it was a straight shot to the marina. “We’ll tighten our sheets, hike out and see if that makes enough difference!”
Hiking out was hard, especially hiking and drinking. You have to hang over the rail. We were making up some distance, but I was afraid the distance was too short. So the motor, out of pure “win-all” mode came back on. Now we were moving. We were catching slowly but still catching. We saw them looking back, and then the radio comes alive. “Don’t do it!” I yelled as number one reaches for the mic. “They will hear the diesel in the back ground!” I said. “Oh, shit yeah. Let em’ sweat!” Now we were off their port quarter and we were going to go right by, but at that point the engine had to stop or they would see the exhaust for sure.
Number One’s back was killing him, and he gave up hiking for another cocktail round. The engine went silent, and we stopped our gain. We were side by side, and we were sailing.
Down below I heard this satisfying “All right!” and here he came with the boats emergency flare pistol. “One shot into his sails, and we got em!” he said. “How do you fire this thing?” he asked. “You don’t.” I say. “You will have the coast guard or marine patrol on us like white on rice. That’s for emergencies, and we would probably spend the night in the drunk tank.” He replied, “Shit, there’s no one out here.” “There will be if you fire that! Remember, these are wooden boats, and that nylon sail is going to burn and drop on someone.”
Before I could determine what Number One was doing he grabbed the mic and called Number Two to tell him he had just dropped something over the side. It worked like magic. Number Two turned back into the wind and stopped. Number One yelled, “All is fair in love and war, sucker!” We slid past and were at the marina before Number Two could get back into the show.
Coming into the dock us winners were coming back “Top Dog.” I started the little guy and headed for the tee pier where we would tie up. We were putting slowly, and we looked back and Number Two was flying down the channel like he was still racing. I asked Number One to take the bow line forward so someone would tie us up, but with many valiums chased with vodka and beer Number One missed his footing and stepped over the side. In he went ten feet from the dock. I had to throw the little guy in reverse and hope I didn’t run him over. He tried to climb back on board which was all but impossible, and someone on the dock directed him to a ladder on the dock a long way down the pier.
Number Two’s boat glided into its spot at the dock proclaiming he was the winner! Number One came dripping down the dock looking like a drowned rat – he didn’t have much hair anyway, and by then the little local crowd was laughing and cheering and proclaiming a tie with a run-off in the future. Then the bar was open!
The next day Mr. Number One came by to thank us, and he said he had the best sail in a long time. He wished us well. We never saw them again, but I continued to watch his movies. Wondering who it was? What was the first motorcycle movie that was a great hit? I think he was in it.”
I’m calling them visits because they are my auntie and uncle, but for the record they were interviews too!
Over the nine years it took me to write this book I visited Les Rogge three times. Once at the beginning around 2000, the next when the books was really coming together in 2007, and again in 2009 to finalize details, gather quotes and get approvals. The first time I didn’t know his wife, my aunt, Judy, so I didn’t get to visit with her. Over the years of putting the book together I was introduced and developed a relationship with her. The first time I met her was in 2007; we met at the prison to visit Les.
I liked Judy instantly, and watching Les and Judy together was a lot of fun. The first time I met her we visited with Les, and then she took me to her home near the Gulf. She showed me the damage that Hurricane Rita caused to her house, her neighborhood and the extreme damage to the coastal properties that was going on nearly a year old. Nearly a year and people still had blue tarp roofs covering what was left of their homes. I saw homes in the ditches and in the middle of wetlands. Literally these homes were moved, intact, from their foundations hundreds of yards away.
Although Judy’s home wasn’t moved it was badly damaged, and she was in the middle of rebuilding when I visited in 2007. Apparently the state spent most of the recovery money on hurricane Katrina earlier in the year, so the people of the area were left without any help and cleanup was simply ignored.
When I went back to visit in 2009 she was still laying drywall and fixing the roof, herself, and I’m sure she’s not complete with the repairs as we speak. The house that I saw in the ditch had actually moved down the ditch a hundred yards from the hurricane they saw just recently, if you can believe that. A lot of the debris had been cleaned up or had grown over, but the emotional scars were still visible. I went back to the hardest hit areas on the Gulf from Rita, and it still amazed me that these homes and businesses literally had a foundation left, that was it due to the extreme winds, and the foundations were still the only things left beside makeshift new business building and such. I even saw a bank that was now in a mobile home, something Les would have only dreamed of if he were still in business!
I plan on going back to Texas and Louisiana for my fourth visit next year after the book has been released, and maybe I can buy Judy a cup of coffee or two from the royalties from the book! Maybe we’ll even have made enough to upgrade to a medium.
Here are some pictures from my trip:
For my first entry I thought I’d start with something funny.
A few years ago I took out the tape measure, found my age in inches, grabbed up the tape till I hit 73, the life expectancy of the average American male. Then I folded the metal tape on my age inch of 40, and as it demonstrated that I was past the halfway point in my life I decided that a family of four was enough. So my wife and I decided I would get snipped.
My wife talks to my mother, and Mum talks to Les. Les heard that I was planning on getting snipped and that my insurance policy didn’t cover snippings, so I was going to be out of pocket for something that should really pay me. The next week I get this letter in the mail (unedited):
June 19th, 2007 from Les Rogge at USP Beaumont
I was talking to your mom, and she told me after this cute little girl your going to give up sex!!!!!!!
But she said no.. Your going to have a V.C.. And I thought that was a very good idea, and having one done my self, I was going to give you some congratulations.. Then she told me that it costs about 700 dollars, and that was a lot of money to you.. So I thought that having one of these little things my self, which I got for free from the State of Washington. And that I was very observiant (?) I could save you some money on this decision..its a very easy little operation…in fact it should not even be called a operation. Its like body piercing..so heres your advice, straight dope..
First.. put in acopy of “Rambo” part one in the video machine. (Got to get in the mood). Then once your comfortable with a little self mutilation, we can continue. Shelly, should help with this part…she needs to find a crochet needle..and a sharp (really sharp) knife. Next you drop your pants and grab your balls and feel for a clear area, and depress the knife in throught a slit you just made.. There no blood here so relax.
Next is the simple part..Using the crochet needle insert it in your little bag & pull out the only piece of noodle you hook with the needle. Pull it out – theres no pain –(no nerve here)
Have Shelly tie a short length of dental floss around the noodle, tie it tite – you don’t want ‘any leaks’ down the road! Tie a couple good knots – I recommend a Bowlin. Then shove the noodle back in the little slit – strap on a kotex and your done!
You’ll feel like some one kicked you a few days ago!- So take one of your dads pills & smile you saved $700.
All ways at your service
Love Uncle Les
Don’t forget to turn off “Rambo”