Saturday, 17 May 2014

Horace "Big Mac" McKenna

Big Mac was a larger than life character who was involved in running a string of successful strip clubs in Los Angeles, from the latter part of the 70`s until his demise in a burst of machine gun fire, in 1989.  Horace McKenna, a native of New Orleans, stood 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighed around twenty stone - nearly 300 pounds, and had spent some years as a member of CHP - California Highway Patrol, working with his much smaller partner Michael Woods.  He was an avid bodybuilder, and not somebody you would have forgotten very easily.  He was busted over some charges with a few others and spent a couple of years inside.  Upon his release, he decided to open up a strip club - as a cop he would have been familiar with these joints - but his record would have prevented him getting a licence.  So he turned to his old CHP buddy, Mike Woods, and persuaded him to come in with him.  McKenna was basically the muscle and could easily sort out any trouble in the club - The Jet Strip - with Woods handling the management and books.  The club was a runaway success, so they opened a string of clubs throughout the Los Angeles County area, which brought untold wealth.

    The difference between the two was vast.  Mckenna, big, mean, in your face, the life and soul of the party, buying a lush spread in the Brea area, where he kept exotic animals, and Woods, quiet & unassuming, enjoyed staying with his family, and stayed mainly in the background.  For more than a decade, life could not get better, but as is the case, cracks started appearing in the relationship between the two.  McKenna indulged in Cocaine, which, let's face it, changes your personality.  Woods had hired a guy who had arrived from England, Dave Amos, who was in his early twenties, beefy, and was hired as a bouncer.  He became friendly with one of the dancers that had been seeing Big Mac, and Big Mac did not like it all.  There were heated moments between them, so Amos hired a man to watch his back, John Sheriden.  He befriended him after Sheriden frequented the bar.  He was a chronic drug abuser.  There was talk of an investigation into the financial affairs of Woods & McKenna, which resulted in them blaming the other for skimming from the clubs.  Big Mac lived very lavishly.  A claim was made that Big Mac threatened to rape the daughters of Woods, another that he struck Woods after an argument.  Things were about to explode.

    In the early hours of March 9th 1989, McKenna was being taken by limousine to his home by driver Bob Berg.  As he got out to operate the gates, a blast from a machine gun ripped into McKenna, who was sat in the back.  He was struck by 20 rounds.  He was 46 years old.  Hundreds attended his funeral.  Cops could not get anywhere with their investigation and it ran cold for nearly a decade.  In 1997, 26 year veteran of the force, Rick Morton decided to give the case another go but he too, ran into a wall of silence.  Then unexpectedly, a couple of years later, John Sheriden walked into the station and confessed to the killing.  He claimed that he had turned over a new leaf, found religion and was haunted by what Bob Berg had told him were McKenna`s last words "Tell my mum I love her!"

    He laid out the whole story that he was hired by Amos to kill McKenna but took a couple of months to decide to do it.  He wore a wire which helped snare Amos, so he in turn, wore a wire to ensnare Woods.  He was duly arrested.  Amos & Sheriden agreed to testify and received 20 years each for manslaughter, whereas Woods was convicted and sentenced to 25 to life.  Opinions on forums vary greatly about McKenna.  Some say he was a great friend, a generous man who would help anybody, whilst others have said he was a nasty bully that intimidated people all around.  Best thing to say is "You Decide!"