Hotdog continued to ignore the lessons of his own history. His was one of the Wah Ching vehicles seen in the vicinity of Gene Fong's assassination in April 1974. His was one of the cars used in the Lincoln Louie kidnap and murder in May 1974, and it was he who held down the 15-year-old Lincoln by a hank of hair while Johnson Wong repeatedly shot the helpless boy. It was that same automobile Tim Simmons recognized behind the "safe" house in Milpitas where Lincoln was tortured.
Hotdog's crime career spiraled to greater heights as the 1970's progressed. He achieved celebrity status in Chinatown and unquestioned stardom in the gangs. Even the police were impressed. A gangster's association with Hotdog suggested some importance yet to be revealed.
It was known that somewhere along the way, Michael "Hotdog" Louie had, in the footsteps of Joe Fong, broken away from the Wah Ching. It was thought, but not confirmed, that--like another boy named John Louie (no relation, but also a former Wah Ching)--Hotdog was in the process of forming his own gang.
In reality, splintered factions were always regrouping around charismatic, potential leaders who shifted like sand within the Chinese youth gangs. The same thing took place in the criminal Triad societies of Hong Kong, to which San Francisco's gangs were culturally, if not directly, related. One of the largest, the 14K Triad, had fragmented its 24,000 members into at least 23 known sub-groups, and probably into many more than that.
Among the quandaries always confronting San Francisco's police in their investigations of Chinese youth gang affairs were two especially baffling ones--the position an individual member might occupy in the gang's command structure at a given moment, and the position an individual gang might occupy in the hierarchy of groups both inside and outside Chinatown.
After the formation of the Gang Task Force in late 1977, Daniel Foley, a patrolman newly assigned to that squad, made some notes that pinpointed this preoccupation. In them, reference was made to James Chang, who, it was said, once ate an enormous amount of cookies at a party and was forever afterward dubbed Dai Ben, or "Big Cookie," a name which also attached itself to his adherents.
According to the notes: "Approximately one month ago James Chang and several Dai Ben were observed in Japantown Pool Hall. We also started seeing the James Chang group more often at the arcade on Jones Street. That was before the Joe Boys hung out there.
"On October 21st, four Dai Ben members went to Marina High School in search of Wah Ching. Craig Yu, a member of the John Louie group, took shots at them. Unconfirmed information suggested that another member, Harry Lee, had a sawed off shotgun. Also on that date, in the late evening hours, Larry Wong and I interviewed James Chang at the arcade on Jones. Numerous Big Cookies were with him. He informed us he did not associate with the Joe Boys. He was upset that his group was referred to as 'the Cookies.' He said his name was James Chang, not Big Cookie or Dai Ben.
"For the past couple of weeks, Dai Ben members have not been hanging around Japantown as much, but have more often been observed at the Jones Street arcade.
"On October 29th, a meeting took place between Michael Louie and James Chang.
"During the past two months, a lot of Joe Boys have been arrested or are out of town hiding out, so there've been many activities involving the Wah Ching, such as conflict between them and the Dai Ben, which we believe will continue and will become very serious.
"After discussing it with other members of the unit, it appeared that Michael Louie was trying to start his own group. Up to that point, he'd been associating with some Wah Ching and some Hop Sing Boys, but was close to very few people.
"With many Joe Boys hiding out or in jail, James Chang may feel this is the right time to make his move and become a strong or leading group inside or outside Chinatown. By joining forces with Michael Louie he could have an inside-Chinatown, as well as a strong outside-Chinatown, group that could stand up to the Joe Boys or the Wah Ching.
"I feel that the Dai Ben should be watched closely and, whenever possible, its members should be identified. The Dai Ben are probably the most prominent people hanging around Chinatown and also outside Chinatown right now."
Foley did not consider it necessary to elaborate in his report on the meeting between Michael "Hotdog" Louie and James "Dai Ben" Chang. Hotdog was known as a moving force. It behooved James to make peace with him and even to unite with him, if possible. His Dai Ben group was striving for a place in the Chinatown sun--or in its shadows.
But Hotdog was already there. He had a helluva reputation and had been involved in all kinds of things. He never challenged people or seemed to judge. Hotdog, like any fact of life, simply was. He would stand at a distance and let others approach him. A look was all it took to silently voice his approbation or his disapproval. He was shrewd. He made no crazy moves. If he intended to go after people, he went after them and meant business. No false threats. Everybody knew it, and that was the way anybody who really wanted to get him had to go after him.
In June 1976, Hotdog was paroled from the California Youth Authority to Santa Rosa, a small city famed as the home of horticulturist Luther Burbank. The quiet California settlement lay some 50-odd miles north of San Francisco.
Hotdog got a menial job up there, on less than survival pay. Forbidden to him were his beloved streets of San Francisco's Chinatown. Unfazed by legal technicalities, Hotdog started making sneaky jaunts back to The City.
Two striking events were to take place as a result.
On September 24, 1976, the youthful gangster--now leaving his teens and on the verge of entering his 20's--partied with gang associates at the Jade Palace. A combination restaurant and bar, with a dance band, the Jade Palace was situated on the garish "strip" of pseudo sin and sex in the vicinity of the Broadway and Columbus intersection. Referred to as "North Beach" (a slight misnomer as that term designated the entire Italian district north of Chinatown), it was here that "topless" queen Carol Doda danced at the Condor Nightclub on the corner. Broadway exhibited a carnival-like atmosphere of barkers touting the fleshy wares to be found inside an endless variety of boîtes. Their audience comprised mostly tourists gawking at the suggestive posters outside.
Hotdog, legally under age, sat tippling at the bar. Seeing three gunmen burst through the doors, he fled his stool and headed for a stairway. The gunmen fired only at a table occupied by Wah Ching, a likely place for Hotdog to have been seated. Flying for cover in all directions were, among others, Joe Ho Young, Mario Lee and Raymond "Softhead" Kwan. "Softhead" had earned his nickname, an example of the reverse humor so beloved by the English and the Chinese, in earlier Wah Ching days shortly after a Chung Ching Yee, or Joe Boy, shot him in the head, and the doctors had to implant a steel plate in his cranium.
One gunman picked up on the powerful little body skittering up the stairs, took off after him in leaps and bounds, and shot Hotdog in both legs. The wounds were little more than superficial and would heal quickly. Softhead also was wounded. Doctors told him that he would probably be paralyzed for the rest of his life. He later proved them partially wrong by being able to walk on crutches. Two other boys were shot, as well, neither suffering serious injury. Both were Wah Ching members from the Los Angeles branch of the gang.
No stranger to irony, Hotdog had recognized his shooter as he fell wounded on the stairs. It was a boy with whom he had played basketball in high school--now an up-and-coming member of the Joe Boys. Compounding this was the fact that the gunman had been present at recent peace talks between the two gangs--right there in the Jade Palace--over which Hotdog had presided as a representative of the Wah Ching. No sooner had that meeting been adjourned than someone took a shot at Hotdog as he walked to his car. He had made no police report, considering it foolhardy to call any more official attention to himself than necessary.
Neither had Hotdog made a report on another incident which took place a month before his being wounded at the Jade Palace. On that occasion, too, his association with "jade"--in a name or as the stone itself--had brought him to grief, although he may never have thought of it that way himself.