One thing about being 71 years of age is that you have gathered an incredible list of memories.  Every now and then some current events cause flashbacks, which you hadn’t thought about for years.  In this case I hadn’t given this much thought in 43 years…POPE PAUL VI visited America for the first time ever…where else?  New York City…..Yankee Stadium, the same Yankee Stadium at which the present Pope will say Mass today.

Back in 1965 bodyguarning the Pope was one of those police assignments which stick out; almost as much as the Beatles bodyguarding assignment. The Pope’s visit back in 1965 stands out for another reason; it showed how sick pathological gamblers really are.

Our office, the Bureau of Special Services, had the Pope’s bodyguarding assignment from the moment he got off the plane at what is now called Kennedy Airport, to the moment he got back on that same plane after the Mass at Yankee stadium.

It was a nightmare; especially for me, who had to compulsively feed my addiction, while having the responsibility of being part of the team of detectives responsible for the safety of the Holy Father himself.  I was low man on the totum pole; the rookie in the office, in my mid-wenties.  The very first step in the assignment was getting the Pope from the airport into NYC.  That consisted of a convoy of more freakin’ police cars, marked and un-marked, and helicopters than I thought the police department owned 

I had this logistic problem to solve.  I just had to get some bets in at Aquaduct Race track, without skipping a beat in my bodyguarding assignment.  It just so happened that the trip from the airport goes along the Vanwick Expressway….only a half mile from the race track.  I was riding solo in an unmarked car, at the very end of the convoy. I lucked out. The way those convoys work is that the rincipal vehicle  (in which the  Pope was riding) stays in the fast lane and the rest of the convoy rides with two wheels in the fast lane, and the other two wheels in the middle lane; to be in a position to intervene with any vehicle which may try to get to the lead vehicles, including the Pope’s. Riding dead last in the convoy…I saw my chance at a exit ramp.  I shot up the ramp, made a quick left turn on to Queen’s streets, headed right to the race track. With lights flashing and siren wailing, I raced at 80mph to the parking lot of Aquaduct Racetrack. I knew where my friend the security guard was stationed. I gave him my list of horses which I wanted to bet on and gave him my betting money (which was the proceeds of a bad check, which I had cashed the not before). I jumped back in the car, retraced my route, hit the expressway and caught up the convoy just before we hit the tunnel to the city…luckily alathugh in the fast lane the convoys go slow and caustiously, otherwise I never would have caught them. My “missing in action” was not detected.

After a couple of ceremonies here and there throughout the day, we went to the scheduled Mass at Yankee Stadium. The day had been beautiful…but, as if God wanted to punish me for deserting His Pope to bet horses, the weather turned bitterly cold…and I mean bitterly.
Any one who ever attended a N. Y. Giant football game in the winter knows what the Yankee Stadium winds are like. All the cops on duty, detectives and uniformed cops, were running around buying up longjohns from local Jewish merchants in that section of the south bronx. The merchants were charging cops $25 for longjohns, (three times the regular price). I understand that the regular 44th precinct cops got even with those merchants later that week. But for now, at least all the cops were relatively warm…with one exception…ME. Remember, I gave all my longjohn money to a racetrack security guard to bet for me.

I was frozen solid, teeth chattering, shaking…I mean freezing. I was stationed at the end of a first row aisle, surveying the crowd for strange movements or whatever else might constitute a breach in security. People were beginning to stare at me because of how I was shaking and looking around. A uniform cop came over to me, and I had to show my shield to prove I was one of the good guys.

As the Mass ended, we assumed our regular walking bodyguarding mode. I grabbed the evening version of the Daily News as we passed a newstand just before we got in the cars for the trip back to the airport to deliver Il PAPA back to Rome. The race results showed showed that I lost, again.

We got to the airport where our morning, noon, and nigth assignment was about to end. At the airport the Pope gave each detective in group detail a special blessing and a beautiful blessed gold Papal Holy Medal. Important recognition gesture, right? A real keepsake from an historic event, right? I couldn’t care less. All I cared about was the fact that I had lost all my money again. Then it hit me…..”Roosevelt Harness race track was still running, and I had time to make the last three races”.
Ah, hell, I have no money….but, yes, I did have a gold medal. I immediately offered it to one of my partners for $20. Twenty bucks wasn’t all that much…but it got me 4 or 5 bets the track.
I lost there too of course. I had to flash my badge at a gas station to get gas, and sulked all the way home. Do I emember the Pope’s visit back in 1965…you BET, I do. You can BET I’ll never forget it. It is a meaningful reminder of how a mental disorder causes one to take many twisted turns while in the throes of an addiction. I just hope there is not some detective working at Yankee Stadium tonight waiting for the Mass to end, so he can get to some race track after dropping off the Pope at the airport. I pity that guy, whoever he may be…he won’t relish his memory of being that close to a Pope.



  1. Phillip Bannowsky Says:

    Sorry, Gerry, if this comes into the wrong slot, but I am asking if you will post this. thanks.
    For Immediate Release
    April 20, 2008

    Contacts Phillip Bannowsky, 302-731-2622 (h); 302-981-9941 (m)
    Rev. Robert W. Andrews 302-292-1406

    Getting it Wrong:
    The United States in Colombia
    Featuring Adam Isacson
    Investigator for the Center for International Policy
    Sponsored by the Phoenix Community in Delaware, Inc.
    Sunday, May 4, 2008, 7:00 p.m.
    New Ark United Church of Christ Wells Hall, 300 E. Main Street, Newark, Delaware
    $5 donation requested. Coffee and dessert will be served

    Newark, April 20, 2008—With the Colombia-US Free Trade Agreement hanging in the balance, Colombia has re-entered the national conversation. Adam Isacson, just back from Colombia on behalf of the Washington-based Center for International Policy, will report on his findings in a Phoenix Community forum Sunday, May 4 at 7 PM.

    Mr. Isacson will tell the story of how Colombia came to its current crisis of violence and social injustice, the role that the United States has played, the current challenges, and how we can help Colombia turn the tide and achieve peace with justice and prosperity.

    Colombia has become the largest recipient of military aid outside the Middle East. According to Mr. Isacson, “[w]hile the Bush administration has sought to portray its Colombia policy as a success, gains have been modest and in some areas—like the drug war and the search for peace—ground has been lost.”

    A proposed Colombia-US Free Trade Agreement has stalled in congress, partly as a result of increased scrutiny since presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was forced to demote chief campaign strategist Mark Penn for promoting the trade pact while Clinton was opposing it on the campaign trail. With over 2000 trade unionists murdered in recent years, ties to Colombia could damage Clinton’s standing with labor.

    Colombia has also been in the news since its armed forces crossed into Ecuador in March to kill Colombian guerillas said to be engaged in diplomatic discussions with Ecuador, Venezuela, and France for the release of hostages.

    The forum will take place at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 4, 2008, at the New Ark United Church of Christ Wells Hall, 300 E. Main Street in Newark. Coffee and dessert will be served and a $5 donation is requested.

    The Phoenix Community in Delaware, Inc. is an ecumenical ministry with a global perspective since 1954.

  2. Gerry Fulcher Says:

    Sure; happy to help you. Hope the message gets to as many people as you want it to. People dedicated to important issues, HAVE to have them exposed any way they can.
    Good Luck

  3. lucy mcmanis Says:

    Columbia has the 2nd largest US Embassy, Iraq is first. Columbia is under the influence of the US government, CIA and the drug trade. The “War on Drugs”. like the “WAR on Terror”, are slogans and myths created to “invade these nations” so the the US government can have large military bases and presence in the hemisphere.

    Other South American nations are fighting the attempted globalization,
    Imperialistic american mutli nationals who steal their resources, kill their people create chas and and unrest…..and own the government.

    Disasterous, Death. Destruction and nothing to do with Democracy.

  4. Little Birdie... Says:

    Dude! the Pope is back in Rome….can you find it in your heart to write something now?

  5. headphones wireless Says:

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  6. airport shuttle rome Says:

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