The Purple Gang

It was 1960. I was in a theater in downtown Buffalo. I don’t remember the movie I’d gone to see, but I remember the preview for The Purple Gang. It was a movie about Detroit gangsters. (Gangsters, like pirates and Nazis, are always box office gold.) Having never missed an episode of TV’s The Untouchables, I was familiar with gangland lore, including Cement Overshoes, in which the feet of the victim were placed in a bucket of quick-drying concrete; when it hardened, the wearer was taken to a lake or a river and tossed in, having known all along what was coming. Cruel and scary.

But back to the preview: The Purple Gang was shown to be really scary because of instead of Cement Overshoes, they fitted their enemies with the Cement Overcoat: wet concrete poured all the way up to the victim’s collar and tie. Seeing this on the big screen, we gasped and shrank into our theater seats.

This boyhood moment was brought to mind recently when I slipped into bed under a weighted blanket. Said to provide “warm and gentle pressure, the feeling of being held,” these blankets are a popular new sleep aid. For me, however, the sensation instantly screamed Cement Overcoat.

The blanket was quickly shipped back to Amazon, from whom I ordered a DVD of The Purple Gang. I’m going to confront my fears, just not at bedtime.

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