Give Broadway Joe a pass

With apologies to ancient hit “Walk Like an Egyptian,” all the cops aren’t in doughnut shops, apparently. Some, according to published reports, were getting clandestine and illegal haircuts in Joe LaLima’s Broadway Kingston barbershop.

How long this was going on isn’t yet known, probably a month, maybe six weeks. The barber wasn’t all that blatant about it, working out of his living quarters in the back of the shop, but somebody blew the whistle, and before you could say “just a little bit off the top,” Joe was in deep do-do. Violations of the governor’s lockdown orders carry penalties of up to $10,000 a day and jailtime. Ironically, LaLima, in defying a law meant to limit the spread of the virus, came down with the disease himself.

Defiant to a fault, LaLima first claimed he broke the law “to feed my family.” In the next edition, he said he had only worked on “first responders,” cops and firefighters, whom he said he did not charge.

County exec Pat Ryan worried about “public safety” before calling in district attorney Dave Clegg, but not before one of those executives slips the media never talks about. Initial reports from the power tower on the sixth floor of the county office building where all news on the virus emanates said only that a “Broadway barber” had violated regulations and had contracted the virus in doing so. There were four barbershops on Broadway, three innocent of all charges, but painted with the same brush. And the initial blackout left us with an (unidentified) person walking around with Covid-19. Fortunately, the full record was laid out before the public in a few days.

This is by no means to make light of potentially serious public health violations, but personally, I’m pissed at LaLima.  After three months without a barber, I’m looking like a woolly mammoth. (No belly jokes, please). Who knew Broadway Joe was open for business all this time?

As for Clegg’s investigation, let’s just say that when we start locking up barbers, it’s time for serious review.

ON BROADWAY – I don’t know if Joe LaLima had the old Freeman on speed dial, but he would occasionally call with news tips or complaints on the street where he lived and worked.

One time he called me to complain about prostitution on the city’s main thoroughfare.

“It’s really getting out of hand,” he said. “Decent women can’t walk down the street anymore.”

I was all ears.

“A mother brought her young son for a back-to-school haircut the other day,” he said. “She went to her car to get something and some guy solicited her. You should write something about that.”

I did. After confirming LaLima’s perceptions with several other merchants in the area, I went to the cops for comment. We can lock these women up but they’re back on the street the next day, they said.

The public wasn’t having any of that. One of the more impactful suggestions was printing the names of the Johns on prostitution busts.

It had an immediate effect, and it all started with Joe LaLima. Have mercy on him, Dave Clegg.