Frank Lucas may be Hollywoods man of the moment via Denzel Washingtons portrayal of him in the film American Gangster, but the former Harlem drug lord is anything but that, according to the widow of Johnsons mentor Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson.
In her new book Harlem Godfather: The Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson, Mayme Johnson takes aim at Lucas larger than life image as she reveals the true extent of his relationship with the Black mafia boss.
“Frank wasn’t nothing but a flunky, and one that Bumpy never did really trust,” Johnson said. “Bumpy would let Frank drive him around, but you’d better believe that he was never in any important meetings or anything. He would say, you can trust a thief quicker than a liar, because a thief steals money because he needs money, but a liar lies for the hell of it!”
Mayme Johnsons criticism of Lucas comes amid the success of American Gangster.
The film, which chronicles Lucas rise to power as a drug dealer in Harlem during the 1960s and 1970s, took the top spot at the box in its first weekend of release with $43.6 million.
Despite the movies focus on him, Lucas, admits that Bumpy Johnson was his mentor, the person who taught him everything he knew, while he served as Johnsons second-in-command.
In addition, Lucas stated that he and Bumpy Johnson spent Johnsons last moments alive, as he told a magazine writer that the Johnson died in his arms in 1968.
Lucas story conflicts with Mayme Johnsons version, as the 93-year-old woman said that he was nowhere around the night her husband died from a heart attack, while dining at Wells Restaurant on Seventh Avenue in Harlem.
She says Lucas probably thought he could get away with the lie because he figured everyone who was around Bumpy at the time is now dead.
“Junie Byrd’s gone, Nat Pettigrew’s gone, Sonny Chance is gone, and Finley Hoskin’s gone. Frank would never have said any garbage like that if one of them were alive, because he’d know they’d come after him,” said Johnson. “I bet he thought I was gone, too, but I’m not. I’m 93, and I don’t have Alzheimer’s or dementia Frank Lucas is a damn liar and I want the world to know it.”
To help bring Harlem Godfather to the masses, Mayme Johnson enlisted Essence Magazine best-selling author, Karen E. Quinones Miller as a co-author of Harlem Godfather.
For Miller, the project is a labor of love as she worked with Johnson to tell her story.
“This book is so important to me,” said the former Philadelphia Inquirer staff reporter, who met Bumpy Johnson when she was child and credits him for helping realize the value of education.
“Mrs. Johnson is a living treasure. Her memory is so sharp it’s absolutely astounding,” Miller said. “At 93, it is crucial that her story finally be told. She is the missing link to the urban legend that is Bumpy Johnson.”
“I’ve decided to publish the book via my own Oshun Publishing Company,” Miller continued. “If we waited for a mainstream publishing house, the book would not be released until late 2008 or 2009. Mayme Johnson wants to dance the Charleston at the book launch party and I want to make sure that happens!”
In addition to insights about Lucas, Mayme Johnson provides details about her married life to Bumpy Johnson as well as a vivid recollection of Harlem during its heyday.
But its her opinion of Lucas that has garnered the most attention.
In Johnsons eyes, Lucas has pulled the wool over Hollywoods eyes by making himself out to be bigger than he really is.
As a result, the widow is doubtful about what is portrayed in American Gangster.
“That’s why I’m writing this book after all this time,” explained Johnson, who has never spoken about the myths and rumors about Bumpy Johnson until now.
Harlem Godfather: The Rap on My Husband, Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson is scheduled to hit stores in February 2008.
For more information visit www.HarlemGodfather.com.