Clayton’s Corner: Mickey the Pope and Drugs on the Lower East Side

Posted on: March 11th, 2020 at 5:05 am by

For this Clayton’s Corner, documentarian Clayton Patterson exhumed more 1980s drug-related photos from his archives on the Lower East Side.

Overdosing Man passed out in the doorway of 159 Essex Street. It was an all-too common occurrence to see an addict overdosed in the doorway.

Mickey “The Pope” Cesar Mickey was an eccentric character. In the 1970s, he started selling pot in Amsterdam, where the popular drug was hash. Marijuana was not popular. Mickey serviced all the hot clubs at the time, and is often recognized as one of the main people who popularized weed “above-ground” in Amsterdam.

A set of unfortunate circumstances unfolded, and he got shot and deported. In 1979, Mickey moved to the Lower East Side and opened his first business on 1st Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets.

Another point of recognition for the “Pope of Pot” was how he built the delivery service into a full fledged delivery business. His place was a like bookie joint – six people manning the phones. Call in and there would be like ten bike messengers to fill street orders.

Eventually, he moved his drug operation to Avenue B between 10th and 11th Streets. With his volume of sales, the money was flowing. The area was a hardcore heroin sales spot.

A couple of members of a local crew called the Hit Men tried to extort him. It was not going to happen. He got shot five times and survived. Came back on the block. Mickey was a large gay man, and had no fear. Back in business.

Mickey with the profits from sales supported many local artisrts. He was a Fagin-like character in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, and had a whole crew of young men that he looked after.

No Drug Sales Bodegas were a common location to buy cocaine. SO common that a store like this would try and keep drug customers away by clearly stating they do not sell drugs.

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