Gangster Of Love – Part I (The Players)

Felix Walls Detroit Kingpin
[dropcap]F [/dropcap]eodies “The Yellow Man” Shipp was a gangster of love, a charismatic, smooth-talking wheeler dealer that hustled his way into millions of dollars of illegal revenue and into the hearts of a slew of prominent, high-profile women on his way to the top of the Detroit underworld.

His story is one of sex, drugs, glitz, glamour and murder in the Motor City.

It’s too bad Feodies (FEE-OH-DIS) himself isn’t around to reflect on his legacy with us. He was brutally killed more than 20 years ago in one of the most bizarre and complex murder mysteries in Detroit history.

Starting his criminal career running a vast array of scams on the city’s Eastside, Shipp, nicknamed Yellow Man because of his light skin tone and perpetually sunny demeanor, was busted for HUD fraud in the late 1970s and sent away to a federal prison in Indiana, where he would meet and eventually become cellmates with another Eastsider, convicted heroin-peddler, Felix “The Cat” Walls.

“Good ole Yellow Man was a real first-class scam artist, always on the make” said retired FBI agent Mike Carone of Shipp. “He had a knack for talking men out of their money and girls out of their pants. Felix on the other hand was more of your hardened gangster.”

Unlike the diminutive and slim Shipp, Walls was tall, chiseled, and quite physically imposing. Although opposite in outward appearance, they were very similar in mindset and background and hit it off immediately. Felix taught Feodies how to be a drug kingpin. Shipp proved a prized pupil.

“They worked well as a tandem, benefitted from each other’s strengths,” Carone said.

Upon their release from behind bars, they returned to Detroit and went into the narcotics business together, co-managing a multi-million dollar a year heroin, cocaine and marijuana distribution network that spanned most of the 1980s and into the early 1990s.

Via their links to the Italian mafia, Shipp and Walls met longtime rumored Detroit mob associate Bernard “Bernie the Jew” Schrott and according to court records and FBI documents, they hired him to launder their drug money, reputedly a gangland specialty of Schrott’s dating back decades.

Court documents assert the trio became co-owners of a large amount of real estate and opened up trucking, storage facility and furniture businesses under a wide variety of shell companies supposedly created by Schrott. When Bernie the Jew was trying to get a deal done to buy a casino in the Bahamas, according to Walls in an interview with The Metro Times in 2000, Schrott cut him and Feodies in for 10 percent of stock each.

Schrott himself has always denied any illegal business relationship with the pair and has said that he only knew Feodies Shipp “socially”, referring to him as something of a “court jester” and “someone who is buying champagne for everybody in a restaurant one night and the next night he doesn’t have two pennies to rub together.”

Of Walls, he said “Felix was a flake, I barely knew him. I walked away from doing business with him because I thought he was flakey.”

Romancing the beautiful, high-powered and politically-connected, Feodies had a way with the ladies, as they say. He was married twice to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter (once before he went to prison and another time afterwards) and at the end of his life to Lydia Mallett, the sister of Michigan State Supreme Court Justice Conrad Mallett.

Well known to show off, peacock around town, before he reached the heights of street fame and wealth, once he skyrocketed to the top of the Motor City drug trade, Feodies took being flashy to a whole other level. Wearing the trendiest clothes, always draped in expensive jewelry and driving a luxury automobile, he was a staple on the area’s social scene, dining at posh eateries like the Rattlesnake Club and the London Chop House and getting VIP treatment at trendy night spots like Taboo and Joey’s on Jefferson (located in the same building as an old Purple Gang speakeasy ran by “Dapper Joe” Burnstein).

Walls, also notoriously flamboyant and known as a big-spender, was often right by Shipp’s side when doing the town.