10 Things You May Not Know About the Real “American Gangster” Frank Lucas

On November 2nd, 2007, Universal Studios will release to the public, “American Gangster”, a film based on the life of notorious Harlem drug lord, Frank Lucas. Starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the lead roles, this film also features an ensemble cast of supporting actors. This movie, while focusing on Lucas’ extensive drug trade operation, will also highlight some fairly drastic differences in the work ethics of both Richie Roberts ( the detective responsible for bringing Lucas down)-and the American Gangster himself.

Frank Lucas’ story is both a fascinating and frightening one. Despite the fact that directors and screenplay writers do much research to ensure the authenticity of the characters and situations, there are simply some details that films happen to overlook. Keeping that in mind, here are some things that you may not know about the legendary Frank Lucas…

#1 – “The Cadaver Connection”

Frank Lucas, was most known for his cunning way of transporting illegal drugs into the country. In the coffins of deceased Vietnam servicemen returning to the United States, Lucas hid hundreds of kilos of heroin. He outfitted the coffins with a false bottom, packed the heroin so that it did not slide around during transport, and made certain to only transport the drugs in the coffins of larger men (so as not to arouse suspicion).

#2 – The Million Dollar Man

It is estimated that Frank Lucas earned up to $1 million dollars per day selling heroin on the streets of Harlem. He was known to sell the drugs on the streets himself.

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#3 – The Ultimate Escape Artist

Despite being sentenced to 70 years in prison in 1975 for his drug trafficking efforts, Lucas only served 6 years before being released as a condition of his aiding police in convicting over 100 additional drug lords. (He was later arrested again a short time later for drug trafficking.)

#4 – Reading, Writing, Arithmetic…

Frank Lucas began his life of crime shortly after witnessing the murder of his 12 year-old cousin Obadiah by the Ku Klux Klan for looking at a white woman in North Carolina. When he came to New York in the 1940’s, he was actually illiterate and used his wits to outsmart others in order to survive.

#5 – Heir to the Throne

Lucas took over for famous gangster “Bumpy Johnson” (Ellsworth Raymond Johnson) after Johnson was killed in 1968. Bumpy’s” character has been portrayed by actor Laurence Fishburne in two different movies (“The Cotton Club” and “Hoodlum”)

#6 – “Nellybelle”

Frank Lucas was the ultimate gangster, owning many different luxurious cars including a Corvette Sting Ray, and even a Rolls Royce. However, when spying, Lucas relied on a dilapidated old Chevrolet that he named “Nellybelle.” Additionally, he often disguised himself with sunglasses and a false beard.

#7 – Blue Magic

During the early 1970’s there were several different “brands” of drugs that one could buy on the street. Lucas’ “brand” was called Blue Magic, which always sold out quickly because it was at least 97 percent pure heroin, unlike the product of other dealers.

#8 – Friend to the Champ

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Frank Lucas was a very close friend of famous heavyweight boxer, Joe Louis (also called the “Brown Bomber”)-once even paying off a $50,000 tax lien for his buddy. Upon the death of Louis, Lucas is said to have weeped uncontrollably on the phone.

#9 – The Henry Kissinger Operation

Lucas admits that he once smuggled 125 kilos of heroin on the plane of Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger, by paying $100,000 in bribes and coordinating with a flight cook that he knew.

#10 – Dipping into the Cookie Jar

After being arrested in a raid in 1975, Lucas claims that the police stole between $9 and $10 million dollars, as opposed to the $585,000 that officials claim they found at his residence in Teaneck, New Jersey. He claims he has even passed a federally administered lie detector test to this effect.