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American Gangster Meets Mr. Untouchable

I'll have something to say about Ridley Scott's American Gangster when it opens next week (preview: well-made but somewhat familiar). In the meantime, though, you might want to take a look at the conversation New York magazine has up between the film's titular kingpin, Frank Lucas, and his chief competitor in the 70s Harlem heroin trade, Nicky Barnes, himself the subject of the new documentary Mr. Untouchable. The two men, who hadn't spoken in 30 years, discuss everything from the quality of their respective dope to politics (Barnes believes Giuliani would be a "good president"--put that on a bumper sticker!--but Lucas thinks Clinton is inevitable) to the comparative ethics of ratting out other dealers or dirty cops. But my favorite exchange has to be this one:

[New York writer Mark Jacobson]: You guys have said some pretty harsh things about each other over the years. Nick, what’s your biggest bitch with Frank?

[Nick Barnes]: Well, I read he had this multimillion-dollar contract on my life.

You can also read the original Jacobson profile of Lucas that served as the (very loose) basis for American Gangster here.

--Christopher Orr