CHAPTER SIX

The Mayor, the Barber, and the Babysitter

 Dianne and Larry Mongo in the 1980s. Dianne was Coleman Young’s barber, and she was widely regarded as his confidante. She could also pass messages from the mayor to her husband, who had connections in the streets.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Dianne and Larry Mongo in the 1980s. Dianne was Coleman Young’s barber, and she was widely regarded as his confidante. She could also pass messages from the mayor to her husband, who had connections in the streets. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Coleman Young has more underworld connections than you might expect of a big-city mayor. Sometimes those connections come in handy. But when his favorite niece starts dating an infamous drug dealer, Mayor Young must choose between keeping her out of trouble and keeping his hands clean.

LISTEN TO CHAPTER SIX


Coleman Young’s Lounge and Bar-B-Q

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From early on in Young’s tenure as mayor, federal and local authorities frequently investigated him and the people around him. The loan he took out to establish Coleman Young’s Lounge and Bar-B-Q, and his subsequent divestment from the company upon becoming mayor, were examined by the FBI. Photo courtesy of the Detroit Public Library.

Willie Volsan, Mayor Young's brother-in-law, was investigated for allegedly dealing drugs out of Coleman Young’s Lounge and Bar-B-Q. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Willie...is the man behind Young. He calls all the shots and tells Young what to do.
— FBI File

Coleman Young’s relationship with his brother-in-law Willie Volsan brought scrutiny from the FBI. Volsan’s shady dealings often presented problems for the mayor.


 Ike McKinnon was an Internal Affairs sergeant at the Detroit Police Department in the 1970s. He was assigned to investigate allegations that Willie Volsan was dealing drugs out of a restaurant owned by the mayor’s family. But he believed that the investigation was hampered by leaks from the police department.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Ike McKinnon was an Internal Affairs sergeant at the Detroit Police Department in the 1970s. He was assigned to investigate allegations that Willie Volsan was dealing drugs out of a restaurant owned by the mayor’s family. But he believed that the investigation was hampered by leaks from the police department. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

I mean, you don’t do that. You don’t tell the subject of an investigation that he’s being investigated until it’s over.
— Ike McKinnon

Jack’s Barber Lounge

This is the chair that Coleman Young sat in when he got his hair cut at Jack’s Barber Lounge. It is now on display at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy, the popular downtown bar owned by Larry Mongo. Photo by Rob Szypko

People come to me and they knew talking to me was like talking to the mayor.
— Dianne Mongo
 Dianne Mongo was Mayor Coleman Young’s barber at Jack’s Barber Lounge for years. The two grew close, and Dianne eventually became the mayor’s confidante, passing along messages to the streets when needed.  Courtesy of Dianne and Larry Mongo.

Dianne Mongo was Mayor Coleman Young’s barber at Jack’s Barber Lounge for years. The two grew close, and Dianne eventually became the mayor’s confidante, passing along messages to the streets when needed. Courtesy of Dianne and Larry Mongo.

 President Jimmy Carter was close with Mayor Coleman Young, who was an early supporter of Carter’s candidacy. According to Dianne Mongo, the two men occasionally met at Jack’s Barber Lounge to for private conversations.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

President Jimmy Carter was close with Mayor Coleman Young, who was an early supporter of Carter’s candidacy. According to Dianne Mongo, the two men occasionally met at Jack’s Barber Lounge to for private conversations. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

I’ve never been accused of being immoral, but I’ve never been accused of being too moral either.
— Mayor Coleman Young
 When the preacher C.L. Franklin was shot, the police initially had a hard time finding the suspects. So Mayor Coleman Young called on Larry Mongo to ask around in the streets and find out who was responsible.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

When the preacher C.L. Franklin was shot, the police initially had a hard time finding the suspects. So Mayor Coleman Young called on Larry Mongo to ask around in the streets and find out who was responsible. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.


The NIECE

 Cathy Volsan was Mayor Coleman Young’s favorite niece. Her marriage to drug kingpin Johnny Curry was a problem for the Mayor as he tried to fight back against the drug trade in Detroit. So he assigned a police detail to make sure Cathy’s run-ins with the law were kept under wraps.  Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

Cathy Volsan was Mayor Coleman Young’s favorite niece. Her marriage to drug kingpin Johnny Curry was a problem for the Mayor as he tried to fight back against the drug trade in Detroit. So he assigned a police detail to make sure Cathy’s run-ins with the law were kept under wraps. Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press.

She liked that night that life with the drug dealers and the money. And she was the mayor’s niece. So she played on that ticket a lot.
— Sergeant Jimmy Harris
 Johnny Curry and his brother Leo led the Curry Brothers drug organization, which rose to power after the downfall of Young Boys Incorporated. Johnny Curry says that he received inside information from the police and was given preferential treatment because of his marriage to Cathy Volsan.

Johnny Curry and his brother Leo led the Curry Brothers drug organization, which rose to power after the downfall of Young Boys Incorporated. Johnny Curry says that he received inside information from the police and was given preferential treatment because of his marriage to Cathy Volsan.


EPISODE CREDITS

Crimetown is Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier. This season is made in partnership with Gimlet Media and Spotify. It’s produced by John White, Soraya Shockley, Rob Szypko, and Samantha Lee. The senior producer is Drew Nelles. Editing by Zac Stuart-Pontier and Marc Smerling. Fact-checking by Jennifer Blackman. This episode was mixed and sound designed by Robin Shore and Sam Bair. Original music this season composed by Homer Steinweiss. We recorded some original music at Rustbelt Studios in Detroit, in partnership with Detroit Sound Conservancy. Special thanks to Carleton Gholz and Maurice “Pirahnahead” Herd. Additional music by John Kusiak, Kenny Kusiak, Jon Ivans, and additional mixing by Bobby Lord. Our theme song is “Politicians In My Eyes” by Death.



Our credit music this week is “Wacky World” written, produced and performed by Detroit Soul Ambassador Melvin Davis. Archival research by Brennan Rees. Archival footage courtesy of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History and Kirk Cheyfitz. Show art and design by James Cabrera and Elise Harven. Thanks to the Detroit Free Press, Peter Bhatia, Jim Schaeffer, Mary Schroeder, Junfu Han, the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State University, Mary Wallace, Melissa Samson, the Detroit Historical Society, Brendan Roney, Martin Torgler, Vince Wade, Bob Berg, Rashard Cardon, Charlie LeDuff, and everyone who shared their stories with us. Detroit is an amazing place, and we’re honored to tell a small part of its story.