What to say about a former work colleague who is now a homeless alcoholic?
About a year ago I saw a guy I used to work with back in the early 90's on Main St in downtown Houston. He either flagged me down or I flagged him down and we bagen to talk. First off, I noticed he fit in all too easily with the cadre of drunks and wash-ups that hang out in front of the crackhead dollar and convenience stores that remain in downtown. Next I noticed that although it was mid-afternoon on a weekday, he had a quart of Miller High Life in a brown paper bag in his hand. Now, I've been known to drink out of 40's and such during the middle of the day, even in public on weekdays at times, but this was a little different.
He asked me how I've been and I replied and then asked him the same. He basically responded with something along the lines of, "I don't give a fuck about nothing! Nothing at all!" Anyway, I didn't really know what to say, so I said something like, "Well, Cliff, I guess I can see that, but at least it's a nice day." At that point, I guess he realized that we were no longer on the same page. It is important to note, however, that this was not a belligerent exchange, just an uncomforatble one.
Since then I've seen him twice. Both times have been down on Main, in the same area, and he has called out my name and we've exchanged pleasantries. He hasn't sked me for money or anything like that, and he always does ask me how I'm doing. I ask him the same, and I thnk we're both glad that we are still in contact. However, the way he pasl around with the other sad sacks down there and has whispering conversations with sketchy passers-by lets me know that he is now one of them.
That crowd, I believe, is less into drugs and more into alcohol and petty crime than the guys in my neighborhood. Down in Midtown it's about crack, booze and cigarettes, in that order. In the center of downtown, I believe booze takes first and drugs second. Cliff is and always has had a problem with alcohol.
I am going to give the David Beebe biography of Cliff Jacobs right now since nobody else may ever write one. I say this because I know he has burned bridges and lost the confidence of people who formerly supported him and worked alongside him. All these bridegs, to the best of my knowledge, have been burned due to alcohol abuse or drug use beginning with an alcohol binge.
i met Cliff Jacobs, a handsome, soft spoken muscular but compact black man in late 1991 or mid 1992. I was working on the host staff at Rockefeller's night club on Washington Avenue in Houston at nights during the summers and Christmas breaks off from school at UT in Austin. Cliff came on initially as a member of the host staff (seating customers, helping musicians, taking tickets, etc) around then. He was a full-time boxer, maybe 2-5 years older than myself and was in a small fighter division on the amateur circuit (I don't know which). This man had a way with people. Kind of slick with the girls, to say the least, but genuinely caring for those around him. there were many times I saw Cliff do things for people just for the sake of doing them. He and I had conversations at times where we traded stories back and forth about how rewarding it can be to do something nice just because you're there and you can. I am confident that Cliff still has that part of him inside; I can still see it buried down beneath his alcohol issues.
Cliff never drank a drop on or off work back then. He was a serious fighter who was in a rigorous training program. He had no close family ties I was aware of; I may have seen a relative once or twice ever before or after work. He caught rides and took the bus, at least back then. the Heights Boxing Gym was directly behind the club, so he was nearly always coming off a workout when he got to work. By '93 he was fighting regularly on bills. I remember him telling me that he had to make it over the next couple of years or else the window for being a pro fighter was closed. We talked about potential head injuries and such and he was still upbeat, although I seem to remember his losing some fights and getting hurt a few times.
By 1994 when the club closed and I stopped working on Washington, Cliff had begun to drink socially with the club employees and, I believe, the owners of the boxing gym, an old black guy and some shady other fellows. I noticed immediately that Cliff became a little reckless and lost his smooth side when he drank even a little. It reminded me of people in high school who let their impulses take over when they drink. I didn't really worry about it since I had no idea that drinking would soon become what he did when he wasn't working.
My memories of Cliff become a little hazy in the years between when I was working at Rockefeller's and when I started managing the Satellite Lounge. I was out in the bars a lot, but was on tour with Banana Blender and wasn't around Washington Ave much. I do know this; Cliff's boxing career ended with an injury and he began to be a personal trainer for people. When Rockefeller's re-opend under Brannan Huthnance and Buck McKinney in '96 he was back on the security staff. I was managing next door and Cliff was a fixtture at my bartop after getting off work next door. This is when I noticed tthat he was surely a changed man. Rockefeller's shows always started earlier and ended earlier than Satellite's. Also, we were open every night and they weren't. This would all lead to an eventual half-hearted (meaning I refused to participate) "Showdown" over things like parking, fire codes, club courtesy, etc towards the end of that Rockefeller's regime, which began to flail upon the departure of Buck McKinney in '97. The Rockefeller's crowd would always come next door to our place and since those of us in the trenches basically had the same agenda (make the shows happen, protect patrons and cars, have a good time) we all got along. Cliff was part of that good time. He usually drank more and stayed longer at the bar than the rest. I knew he always had training appointments the next morning, and I think that's what kept him from really tying it on. There were times, though, when he was totally out of control. I can't recall any particular incident, but I vaguely recall a few near-fights and plenty of strange attitude. Friends of mine and his began to refer to him in terms of whether he was drinking or not that day. I think he lost his job at Rockefeller's (they were firing people left and right towards the bitter end- that was when Brannan Huthnance began to look and act more like Howard Hughes than a club manager) but still hung around the block.
I began to distance myself from him, waiting for the day he would hit me up for a job, money or favor and I would have to turn him down. I believe we did discuss a job a few times at his behest, but we were always full at that point and I was also trying to get my current employees as many shifts as possible so they would make some money and stay with me.
I quit the Satellite in 1999. I know Cliff had a car or truck for a while around then, but I think he either wrecked it or got a DWI. Keep in mind, this is a guy who was a personal trainer and was still looking, on the outside, like a milion bucks. He was always dressed well, even though from the day I met him he never had more than a few bucks to his name. He had a few girlfriends and for sure a ton of one night stands, being a smooth talker and a gentle, handsome guy. His alcohol demons had taken over by then, though, and conversations usually ended with him saying something like, "and after that.. some Courvosier!- but a Budweiser for now, please."
I think he may have been the trainer for my one-time girlfriend Crystal Jackson in late 98 and into 99. I know she was still speaking with him regularly and occasionally I would run into him. The Heights Boxing Gym had closed and become a sign company so he was working out in 3rd ward at a famous gym with some of the pro guys. For all I know, he could still be doing that now (I certainly hope so) and may not actually be homeless. However, I have seen his trajectory pointing downward for a while and now he's skirting the bottom. What can I say about that except for writing this short note about the whole thing?
The good news is that writing this has made me realize that I need to ask him questions about training, housing and friends the next time I see him, which should be soon, since I know where to look.
Anyone else that has current information on Cliff Jacobs please let me know. - David