Rock n Roll Homicide Part One
Starry Night, a nightclub/theater now known as Roseland located at 8 NW Sixth Ave in Portland’s Old Town, opened in December, 1982. The Willamette Week announced the opening of this new music venue, saying there was “not a bad seat in the house.” A week later, announcing a concert by local band Nu Shooz, Willamette Week said, “While Starry Night may be a strategic venue for national acts, with its capacity of 967, at the same time it hopes to be a comfortable performance hall for local bands.”
The man behind Starry Night, Larry Hurwitz, who “turned a rundown church in the heart of Portland’s skid road into the city’s largest, most successful concert hall (PDXS 12/10/98)”, has an obscure history. Very little information is available on him before he opened the Starry Night club in 1982, when he was 27 years old.
Rumors are said to have circulated about Larry, and the source of his money, when he opened the club. Our source for those rumors? Larry himself:
“When I started people said my money came from the Mob on the East Coast. In the mid-80s, people said I was getting money from the bhagwan. Now people suspect Larry’s money comes from cocaine. None of it’s true. I’m so clean, it ain’t funny.”
Larry Hurwitz denied making those statements after they appeared in Willamette Week, but Larry has proved himself to be a liar many times. Whether his money came from the Mob or not, Larry acted like a mobster, over and over. He is anything but “clean.”
In 1983, when a security guard at Starry Night, John Stanley, allegedly stole $3,100 and another $3,000 worth of cocaine from Hurwitz’s office, Larry concocted an elaborate plot to lure Stanley’s parents to Portland and hold them hostage until Stanley returned what he had stolen.
Hurwitz was confronted at the airport by Port Police and questioned about the plot. The Port Police submitted documents to the Portland Police requesting charges of harassment and impersonating police officers against Hurwitz and an accomplice.
The paperwork somehow disappeared between the Portland Police Bureau and the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. No charges were ever brought against Hurwitz or anyone else in that case. Stanley disappeared. He wouldn’t be the only employee of Larry Hurwitz’s to disappear.
The outcome of the “Airport Case” seemed to be part of a pattern for Hurwitz. Rarely was he held accountable for his crimes. Jim Redden, in his excellent series on this case that appeared in PDXS, chronicled cases where Larry Hurwitz got away with crimes:
*The Oregon Liquor Control Commission caught him selling wine and beer without a license, and then gave him a license anyway.
*He stopped filing income tax in 1977. However Hurwitz would eventually be held accountable for this.
*He filed for bankruptcy without disclosing millions of dollars of assets.
A crime Redden didn’t know about at this time, although he probably suspected it, was the bombing of Sav-Mor Grub, a grocery store located at 101 NW Sixth Ave about a block from Starry Night. Sav-Mor Grub was a grocery/convenience store that sold supplies to the derelicts and street people of Old Town.
Until 1986 Sav-Mor Grub had been Club 101, a tavern that appealed to a tough crowd of street people and drug addicts. In 1986 Club 101 lost its liquor license and Sav-Mor Grub was born. The crowd of toughs and street people still gathered on the corner drinking fortified wine. The Oregonian called the corner of NW Sixth and Couch “a festering sore in the eyes of the police and the business community."
On July 22, 1989 an arson fire was extinguished at Sav-Mor Grub, the fire did $125,000 worth of damage. On August 24, 1989 two huge explosions tore through Sav-Mor Grub at 4:26 a.m. The resulting three-alarm fire not only destroyed the grocery store, but also Henry's Resale, Portland Tattoo Shop and Demetri's Grocery, all adjacent.
Arson investigators said the fire was “damn suspicious” and agents from ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms) suspected either an explosive device or an arson that exploded. The Police weren’t sorry to see the businesses go. Neither were other business owners in the area, notably Larry Hurwitz of Starry Night and Al Jasper, who owned Marco Polo Restaurant, just around the corner. The bombing became one more enduring unsolved mystery of Portland.
Hurwitz always believed in going one better. His next crime became the enduring mystery of Portland for more than a decade.
On January 20, 1990 during a concert at Starry Night by John Lee Hooker, promoters of the concert found 180 counterfeit tickets. Police got involved in the case and soon found that the fakes had all been sold through a neighboring club, Day For Night 135 NW Fifth Ave, which was owned by Larry Hurwitz’s father-in-law. Some concert goers with fake tickets said they had bought them from Hurwitz personally.
When questioned by the police, Hurwitz said he knew nothing of the counterfeiting, but suspected one of his employees. On January 23 the story hit the Oregonian. That night Larry Hurwitz summoned his employee Tim Moreau, 21, to his office.
Hurwitz later claimed that he confronted Moreau about the fake tickets and they had an emotional meeting. Finally Moreau admitted the counterfeiting and agreed to turn over the money. Moreau said he would have to lead Larry to where the money was hidden.
According to Hurwitz’s story, Moreau eluded him at a stoplight and drove off into the night. Police later found Moreau’s car parked at the airport, but Moreau could not be proved to have taken any flight. Tim Moreau was never seen again.
Hurwitz blamed the counterfeiting on Moreau and said the case was closed. Larry’s story didn’t quite add up, though, and many questions remained.
Rock n Roll Homicide Part Two: Missing Presumed Dead
Rock n Roll Homicide Part Three: Travels with Larry
Rock b Roll Homicide Part Four: Facing the Music