Subtitle: PURPLE GANG TO MUSICMAN
Story by: Sammy Kaplan and Ron Cobert
Treatment Writer: Ron Cobert WGA2 # 2219427
Genre: BIOPIC MUSIC DRAMA
Logline: Danceland is based on an authentic American music-bio-drama that delves into the profound journey of a talented musician torn between the clutches of the notorious Purple Gang and the pursuit of his true passion. Set against the backdrop of prohibition-era Detroit, this compelling tale explores the transformative power of music as our protagonist must navigate dangerous alliances, personal sacrifices, and forbidden love to break free from the grips of crime and carve a path toward a music industry career.
Episode 1: Origins of a Music Man
The story opens in the vibrant and indulgent atmosphere of 1970s Los Angeles, where Sammy Kaplan, a charismatic and enterprising man, thrives in the glamorous world of the music industry. Surrounded by parties and the allure of success, Sammy lives a fast-paced and exhilarating life.
As the sun sets over the Hollywood Hills, casting a warm glow over the palm-lined streets, Sammy emerges from his sleek sports car and steps into the pulsating heartbeat of Los Angeles. The air crackles with anticipation and the promise of possibility. He adjusts his tailored suit and straightens his collar, exuding confidence as he walks toward the entrance of a trendy nightclub.
Inside, the club throbs with an intoxicating mix of disco beats and live performances. The dance floor is a symphony of moving bodies, their silhouettes illuminated by vibrant strobe lights. Sammy easily navigates through the crowd, greeted by nods and smiles from familiar faces. He is a man in his element, the music industry his playground.
As he mingles with musicians, producers, and industry insiders, Sammy’s infectious energy draws people to him like moths to a flame. His charm and business acumen make him a sought-after figure, a bridge between talent and opportunity. He engages in animated conversations, exchanging ideas and exploring collaborations. The air is thick with the scent of possibility as dreams are born and careers take flight.
Surrounded by the glitz and glamour, Sammy is a magnet for attention. He effortlessly moves between conversations, his words laced with enthusiasm and ambition. He catches snippets of gossip about rising stars and industry trends, always staying one step ahead of the curve. In this vibrant atmosphere, Sammy thrives, fueled by the electrifying energy of the city and his unwavering passion for music.
Episode 2: Origins of a Music Man
One day, amidst the city’s glittering lights and pulsating beats, Sammy’s father, Moshe Kaplan, reveals a side of himself that Sammy never knew existed. Moshe, a man of few words and a mysterious past, calls Sammy to his side and shares his hidden history with the notorious Detroit Purple Gang. As Sammy listens, a veil is lifted, and he discovers a darker, more intriguing side to his father he only suspected. Moshe’s life as a notorious gang member captivates Sammy’s imagination, weaving a complex tapestry of his family’s history. My dad? This frail old man? He was always a tough guy. It made sense.
And then, Moshe unveils a hidden treasure chest of music recordings in a moment of profound significance. Moshe recorded a collection in Detroit from 1948 to 1951 under Danceland Records. The mere sight of the collection sends shivers down Sammy’s spine, realizing the significance of this newfound treasure trove. Sammy gazes at the dusty old records, feeling the weight of history in his hands. He recognizes that these recordings are not just music but are crucial to unlocking the past, connecting him to a time long before he was born. The hidden gems within these recordings hold the stories and voices of forgotten artists, waiting to be rediscovered and celebrated.
With each record carefully placed on the turntable, Sammy begins to immerse himself in a sonic journey. The melodies transport him back to an era filled with raw emotions, untapped creativity, and the pulse of a city on the cusp of change. As the music plays, Sammy feels a deep connection to the musicians who poured their souls into these recordings, breathing life into each note. The hidden collection of Danceland Records becomes more than just a treasure chest. It is a testament to a bygone era’s resilience, passion, and artistic spirit. It represents the untold stories of talented individuals whose voices were muted by time, waiting for someone like Sammy to rediscover their legacy.
As Sammy listened to the mesmerizing melodies emanating from the hidden collection of Danceland Records, a profound connection began to form between the music and the untold stories of his father, Moshe Kaplan. Intrigued by the enigmatic nature of the recordings, Sammy’s curiosity was focused, prompting his father to open up about his life, starting from the 1920s as a member of the notorious Purple Gang.
Episode 3: The Wheelman
Moshe begins to share the tale of his youth, transporting Sammy back in time through vivid flashbacks. The narrative unfolded, revealing a struggling Moshe and his brother, Izi, desperately searching for insulin to save their diabetic mother. Necessity drove them to break into a pharmacy protected by the formidable Purple Gang, fully aware of the risks they were taking.
However, fate had a different plan in store.
Instead of the expected retribution, the Purple Gang recognized the determination and resourcefulness displayed by the brothers during the daring break-in. They saw an opportunity in their youth and skills –and offered them a chance to work off their debt.
Sammy and Izi became drivers –Wheelmen for the gang, transporting contraband and ensuring swift escapes from the clutches of the law. But it was Moshe who became renowned as an exceptional wheelman with his remarkable ability to navigate the dangerous streets of Detroit. He knew when to break –mostly never.
“Call Moshe,” the guys used to say when they needed a driver, a testament to his unmatched skills behind the wheel.
As the Prohibition era peaked, the Purple Gang’s influence swelled with its partnership with the infamous Al Capone. With its proximity to Canada and abundant supply of fine Canadian whisky, Detroit became a critical player in the bootlegging trade. The Purples harnessed this advantage, controlling Detroit’s underworld with an iron grip. Their dominion extended to gambling, horse races, sporting events, liquor sales, and the drug trade.
The empire they built boasted a staggering network of over 25,000 illegal speakeasies, generating $300 million annually—a fortune equivalent to over $4 billion in today’s economy.
Sammy immersed himself in a world where necessity, survival, and power collided. He glimpsed the opulence and vast wealth that came with the association with the Purple Gang. However, he was not blind to the shadows lurking beneath the surface—the violence, rivalries, and the constant threat of danger that permeated their lives.
Episode 4: Life Was Good
Life was good for Moshe –but dangerous. He was getting married and had a family he planned. He started looking for a way out. Music became the target. Moshe gets married. Then he has a kid.
They enjoyed the luxuries that came with their success—fine clothes, vacations in South Haven, a beautiful city house, and top-of-the-line cars. The extra cash was stashed away in the floorboard, their safe savings bundle.
Sammy didn’t attend Bishop High School (Detroit) like his father, where students included African Americans and members of the Russian Jewish Purple Gang –a criminal outfit. Sammy went to Brady, a prestigious school where he felt a sense of respect due to his father’s reputation. However, he also sensed that he was treated differently from the other kids, his father’s influence granting him a certain status.
Cars and music, and Sammy’s father was not one to shy away from expressing his opinions. As a kid, Sammy remembers a few high-speed chases on the streets of Detroit, rolling around in the back seat, laughing as the 1938 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Sedan raced along, with his father passionately voicing his thoughts at whoever was in his way.
Moshe had a deep understanding of cars. He took pride in making them faster and more secure, equipped with bullet-proof glass, rear deflecting flaps, tire shields, firing gun holes, and removable doors. The seats even folded down to accommodate a large safe. Moshe’s cars were like works of art: the Chevrolet Master Deluxe, Ford Model 18 V8, Cadillac V12 Town Sedan, 33 Town Sedan, or Mercedes Benz 260D. They embodied the essence of the gangster era, and Moshe’s reputation as the Purple Gang’s wheelman only added to their mystique.
Episode 5: The Love of Music
The RCA Victor record player filled the air with the sounds of Rosemary Clooney, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, the Dorsey Brothers, and Glenn Miller. The melodies of saxophones, trumpets, trombones, pianos, bass, drums, and guitars brought life to their home. Alongside his criminal activities, Moshe discovers the vibrant music scene in the Black and Tan clubs, where talented black artists perform for mixed audiences.
Sammy observed the joy music brought to his father’s life, from the struggles of youth to the seductive allure of the criminal underworld, the weight of necessity and the resonance of choices made in dire circumstances, and how the love of music transcended his father to make a change in his life to find a different career opportunity. From Black Bottom to Hastings and St. Antoine, then north to Paradise Valley, one of the places Sammy remembers was walking into Flame. Sammy remembers walking into a black club as a kid and feeling the heat of everyone staring at him, everyone respecting who his dad was. Moshe had his connections and respect.
Moshe’s love for music overshadows his involvement with the gang, and he sees an opportunity to distance himself from the dangerous elements. He forms closer friendships with music talent on stage, including music greats like John Lee Hooker, Rose Nelson, Tony Blues Lewis, Candy Johnson, The Goldtones, and more. Moshe started using the Wilcox in 1948. This opens a world of possibilities for him. This device allowed him to record sound on a thin, magnetized wire, and he soon realized that he could use it to capture the raw energy and soul of the music he loved. Armed with this newfound technology, Moshe embarked on a journey to document the emerging sounds of the time. Moshe continued to record the likes of Jerry O, Mitch Ryder, The Sea Shells, The Soulmates, Tom & Jerry O, Roy Cohen, Tom Moers, Barbara Lewis, Jimmy Fallon, Gerald Alston, Joe Farrell, and Richard “Popcorn” Wylie, the famous Funk Brothers, including James Jamison, Bennie Benjamin, Robert White, Eddie Bongo Brown, and Jack Ashford.
Episode 6: The Changing Tides
In the turbulent era of the 1960s, Detroit experienced a profound transformation. Once thriving and bustling with industrial prosperity, the city began to crumble under the weight of racial tensions that simmered beneath the surface. The Kaplans, a white Jewish family, were caught amid this changing tide, facing increasing danger as they worked closely with the African-American community.
Sammy Kaplan had an unwavering determination and a fearless spirit. He was deeply passionate about music and genuinely loved the black recording artists he worked with. Sammy defied the social norms of the time, embracing a spirit of inclusivity and equality. In a powerful display of unity, he would often be seen riding around Detroit in his red convertible Cadillac, with white and black musicians sitting side by side.
The risks of Sammy’s endeavors were not lost on the Kaplan family. The riots and escalating tensions in Detroit created an atmosphere of uncertainty and danger, prompting them to seek a safer and more promising future. Eventually, they decided to leave Detroit behind and relocate to Los Angeles.
The changing tides that once threatened the Kaplans in Detroit had carried them to a place of newfound opportunity and growth. Their relocation to Los Angeles provided a safer environment and allowed them to contribute to the flourishing music industry and the city’s cultural fabric.
In a symbol of unity and defiance, now cruised through the palm-lined streets of Los Angeles. White and black artists continued to sit side by side, celebrating their shared love for music and defying the lingering prejudices of society. Sammy thrives, building his own music company, Lovelane Music. He has become an industry player, working with established and emerging artists.
As the Kaplans settled into their new surroundings, Sammy immersed himself in the vibrant music scene of Los Angeles. The City of Angels offered him a fresh start and many opportunities to pursue his dreams. It reflects the changing tides of a nation undergoing a turbulent transformation, where individuals like Sammy Kaplan played an integral role in bridging divides and shaping a more inclusive and harmonious future.