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A Desert Death: the Road Show Comes to an End

BAD COMPANY. Drugs, Hollywood and the Cotton Club Murder. First of four parts.

July 11, 1990|STEVE WICK | Steve Wick is a bureau chief with Newsday and spent three years researching "Bad Company." A member of Newsday's 1984 Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting team, he lives on Long Island, N.Y., with his wife and three children.

In 1980, Radin's name began popping up in the New York tabloids' gossip pages. Sometimes the papers would print his picture, too--a smiling fat man in an expensive suit, ducking into Studio 54. He was practically a fixture at the club, where he would spend the night snorting cocaine in a private room and talking about his deals. Radin always had grand schemes. He was going to finance a Broadway show, buy a circus in Florida, bring back old-time theatrical musicals. An abundance of ideas was his trademark.

Until the weekend of April 11, 1980, however, the name Roy Alexander Radin had not made any headlines. The event that launched him into tabloid history began innocently enough on Friday afternoon, when a young, beautiful model and sometime actress named Melonie Haller walked into Ferrara's, a busy Southampton pharmacy. She was with a date, a management consultant from New Jersey named Robert McKeage, and they were on their way to Ocean Castle. In a few minutes, she bought Topol toothpaste, Nivea skin cream, cologne, hair coloring, tampons--and three dog chains.

The couple were to be Radin's dinner guests. Their visit had been arranged by a friend of Haller's who had told her that Radin might be able to help her. Up until then, her career had included modeling assignments, including a photo spread in Playboy, and several episodes on the television show "Welcome Back, Kotter."

That night, McKeage tried to woo Melonie and another woman house guest into bed with him. He showed the women his impressive drug collection--cocaine, Quaaludes, amyl nitrite, and mescaline. After midnight, McKeage and Melonie dressed up in skimpy leather outfits and Nazi caps and marched into Radin's bedroom, where they began whipping each other. Both were wearing dog collars and chains.

Early Saturday morning, Melonie went back to Radin's bedroom to show him her portfolio, which contained her photo spread in Playboy. Radin did not wish to speak with her, however, and at his direction, Melonie was taken downstairs to her bedroom, where she began fighting with McKeage. At some later point, Melonie again went into Radin's bedroom, and in a wild thrashing about, broke the lens on his video camera, which was set up on a tripod and pointed directly at his bed.

The house guests spent most of Saturday sleeping. Late that night, as if enough had not happened in the house, Mickey DeVinko, a moody and often depressed man, swallowed a bottle full of sleeping pills. He was rushed to Southampton Hospital, where his stomach was pumped. To his dismay, when Radin returned from the hospital at dawn Sunday morning, he found Melonie screaming hysterically and running around the house. She was cut and bruised and appeared hopelessly disoriented. Radin ordered her out of Ocean Castle.

Shortly before 8 a.m., one of Radin's employees, Ray Wounters, was summoned to take Melonie to the train station. He found her in the foyer, stumbling and staggering around and mumbling incoherently.

Wounters went and got McKeage, who, upon seeing Melonie, threw her to the floor and kicked her in the ribs, face and chest. Wounters stopped McKeage when he threatened to smash Melonie's skull with a porcelain dog. Wounters picked her up, put her in the car, and McKeage drove her to the station, where she was dumped on a citybound train.

That morning, just before 9 a.m., a railroad conductor found Melonie slumped over a seat. She was taken to a hospital, and a Suffolk County police detective, Lee Roman, was summoned. He found her in the emergency room, her long blond hair pushed straight back out of her face, which was bruised and discolored. One eye was partially shut from a swollen eyelid. There was a line of blood on her lower lip.

"I was beaten," Melonie mumbled to Roman, her voice quickly dropping off. "They dumped me on the train like I was baggage." She began to cry. "They beat me and kicked me."

Before noon on Monday, reports that a model who had posed for Playboy had been beaten up in Southampton were all over the airwaves, and reporters began descending on Ocean Castle. Inside, at his desk, Radin told one of his assistants that he could not believe this was happening to him. A publicity hound at heart, Radin instructed his staff to record all the radio and television news and clip all the newspapers.

Later in the day, Roman and his partner, Detective Bob Heller, took another statement from Melonie, who now added that she had been raped at Ocean Castle. She also mentioned seeing a gun in Radin's bedroom, as well as large amounts of cocaine. In the course of describing the sexual attack, Melonie said the video camera had been on the entire time, and that she had broken it in the struggle.

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