Friday, March 7, 2008


"A crimp, Gene, is a man who delivers live bodies to ships who need crews."
Jarrod Barkley
'The Big Valley'

I enjoyed 'Kidnapped' when it aired on NBC two years ago, and was glad I could follow the story to its close via Netflix. Jeremy Sisto as Knapp was a great character, and I think he and his partner Turner (Carmen Ejogo) might have worked better in self-contained episodes. Having them teamed up with FBI Agent Latimer King each week wouldn't have been as far-fetched as seeing the Jeffersonian Institute's team of forensic scientists working FBI Agent Seely Booth each week.

But at least they were able to have a self-contained season and brought the Cain Kidnapping to a conclusion.

At any rate, during the run of the series, Agent King told the story of San Francisco's Calico Jim, a Chileno crimp whose customers at his Battery Point bar kept disappearing - kidnapped by Calico Jim's press gang to fill out the rosters of ships. The police went undercover in order to find out how it was happening and each of them were shanghaied into service.

I think the creative team for the show meant for us to think that this was the fate that lay in store for Leopold Cain. However, as it turned out, I think the story was really clueing us in about policemen who aren't always who they appear to be....

As Jim Dale would say, the facts are these:

"Some time during the eighteen-nineties Calico Jim is said to have shanghaied six policemen who were sent, one after another, to arrest him. Soon afterwards he left San Francisco. When his victims returned from their enforced cruise, they pooled their resources, chose one of their number by lot, and sent him to South America to search for the crimp. After several months the policeman came upon Calico Jim in the streets of Callao, Chile, and shot him six times, once for each shanghaied officer."
From a San Francisco History page]

Maybe I shouldn't have said those were "facts". The story of Calico Jim is well-known in San Francisco legend, but there is no record of six policemen being shanghaied and then making that pact.

No one has brought Calico Jim to life in Toobworld. Paul Fix did play the crimp in the movie
universe in "The Flame Of Barbary Coast", however. (Probably the only chance to see John Wayne, Joseph Schildkraut, and William Frawley in the same picture!) About the closest we come to seeing press gangs in action in Toobworld would be in episodes of 'Maverick' ("The Cats Of Paradise") and 'The Big Valley' ("Barbary Red").

But because Agent King told the story of Calico Jim as historical fact, we know he existed in the TV Universe as well.

Toby OB

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