Santiago and the Zip

Turf Squabbles

Cheadle as the Mouse in Devil in a Blue Dress

     Santiago and Timmy the “Zip” were two gun tottin’ quick draw thugs who moved from North Philly. Whenever they went out with us to turf squabbles, there was definitely going to be some gun play involved. Seeing Don Cheadle as the Mouse in the movie Devil in a Blue Dress years later, reminded me of Timmy.

     Frank, the leader of our pack, always discouraged pistols, because of the likelihood of drawing heat upon us. It would be a few years later before the fuzz would catch up with them, which will be detailed in an upcoming chapter. Finding a gun during those days was essentially the same as it is today—all one needed to do is diligently seek out an underworld connection. One main difference though, was the way they’d hold their roscoe before shooting. Then it was held upright, while these days it’s held sideways—a view commonly shown in movies.
     Santiago had migrated from the Bronx before moving to North Philly, then to West Philly. He had made a reputation for capping some dude in the butt, causing him to drop his knife before hoofing it back to his own turf. The dude, who was from down the way, learned real quick not to bring a knife to a gun fight. Moreover, Santiago was an excellent lead singer and harmonizer. He would often brag about having a chance to sing with Frakie Lymon’s Teenagers, before he moved down from New York. In fact, me, my cousin Ric and a couple of others escorted him on the night he picked up his rod from the South Side (South West Philly—south of Market Street). We were careful not to walk together, so as to avoid drawing any heat.

Posse of Fletcher Street urban cowboys on patrol in the North Philadelphia Badlands

     Before Timmy began packing a revolver, he had thrown together a contraption that included an automobile radio antenna for a gun barrel. Then while holding the barrel with pliers, he would strike the firing cap of the 22 caliber bullet with a hammer. He only tried this once, ’cause the thingamajig blew up in his face, which caused him to be tagged the “Zip.”

     There was this one time when I had just escorted some chicks from South Philly that had visited me to the bus stop. Just before they boarded the bus, I spotted some dude from South Philly strolling across the street with two super fine chicks. I became really pissed and envious, because these spring chickens were much finer than the imports I had just been with. The girls were holding onto his arms as he strutted up the street. I mean, who did he think he was? He had some nerve coming onto my turf flashing and flaunting. I was going to teach him a lesson. So without hesitation, I ran over to the dude, uttered a few words, and started swinging. I didn’t even ask him to put up his dukes. The fight ended in a stalemate; however, I’m sure I could have taken him if I hadn’t been juiced up.
     The girls from South Philly saw what had gone down as the bus pulled off, and later called me when they got home. Over the phone one of them said, “Damn. You guys don’t play in West Philly do you?” Of course my ego swelled, while I responded as if I were some notorious gang banger.

The map included shows the streets of West Philly. The red balloon marked “A” shows my parents home at the time. Below are the turf boundaries.

          Note: Photo inset shown with larger map view is in error.

Turf Boundaries

Turf Name Turf Jurisdiction
Tippidy Top Greater than 60th Street
The Top Greater than 52nd Street Less Than 60th Street
Up the Way Greater than 52nd Street Less Than 60th Street
Down the Way Greater than 40th Street Less Than 52nd Street
The Bottom Greater than 33rd Street Less Than 40th Street
Black Bottom North Philadelphia Badlands

4 comments on “Santiago and the Zip

  1. Hey Sonny. Very interesting post. Yeah, Mouse was some bad dude.

    I grew up in a neighborhood where gun play was commonplace. I had my share of guns pointed at me. Glad we both made it out alive.

  2. Sonny Boy says:

    Don Cheadle happens to be a local home boy who abode in Denver-my current residence. My how he has progressed as a Hollywood notable.

  3. I always like this is type of article. Thank you.

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