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The Devil Went Down to Milwaukee -- Looking for a Strad to Steal...

You know how each year at the Oscars they show the guys that counted the ballots walking up the red carpet with the suitcases? I seem to recall a time when those suitcases were actually handcuffed to their wrists.

In movies we get the occasional scene with somebody carrying a suitcase that’s cuffed to their person…only to have the bad guy chop off their arm and carry the loot away. Perhaps it’s a more elaborately written scene where somebody in the future has a laser gun that’s pointed right at the cuffs from 800 yards away, and just as metal is broken and the case drops, a guy shining shoes nearby runs and grabs it, jumping into a waiting van.

All those thoughts have come into my head when I’m carrying one of my more valuable signed pieces around. For example, my signed Beatles record, I carried with me when I had tickets to a George Martin tribute in Los Angeles. He refused to sign it for me when I asked (before the event and after). I even pleaded with his son to no avail.

I’ve carried around other valuable pieces with me, but I don’t remember them being valuable enough that I actually wondered what would happen if I got mugged or carjacked with the item on me. And that leads me to this story.

Last week there was a concert with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. They ended with a dramatic finale – “Quartet for the End of Time.”

Violinist Frank Almond whipped out his Stradivarius, which was made in 1715, and he used that for the number. Now, you don’t have to know anything about musical instruments to know that the Stradivarius is worth big bucks. One estimate put this instrument at $6 million.

After the gig, Almond was walking to his car at the Wisconsin Lutheran College auditorium, when a person used a stun gun on him. They grabbed the historic violin and jumped into a minivan that was waiting.

Edward Flynn, the Milwaukee Art Museum Police Chief, said “This is an extraordinary art theft. It is just as extraordinary as if some master criminal crept into the Milwaukee Art Museum and stole several of its most valuable pieces.”

That’s an accurate analogy, which leads me to ask – why was he carrying this thing without an escort? I’m guessing if an art gallery was shipping a Van Gogh and Picasso in a van, there would be insurance, armed guards, the whole nine yards. At the very least, a security guard that worked the venue could’ve walked you to your car.

In 2008, the Stradivarius was placed on “permanent loan” to Almond by an anonymous arts patron (who is probably kicking himself right about now).

My favorite part of the story was the statement the Milwaukee Art Museum issued. They said they’d be implementing future measures to ensure the safety of musicians and their instruments.

Uh, I’m guessing that’s not necessary. Nobody is lying in wait for the tuba player. And the flute that woman is carrying isn’t made of solid gold (and it wasn’t the one used in American Pie).

Almond is recovering, and won’t be able to perform the weekend shows he had scheduled.

I’m guessing just as the cops shouldn’t have a hard time tracking down where Philip Seymour Hoffman got his smack (checking phone records, security cameras, etc)…it shouldn’t be hard to find out WHO knew this guy was bringing that violin and had time to prepare such a daring robbery.

There’s currently a $100,000 reward offered for any tips.

Views: 163

Tags: George Martin, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Oscars, The Beatles, stolen Stradivarius

Comment by J.Seah on February 4, 2014 at 11:21am

Wow!!! Sounds like a movie script!!!! My favorite violin movie is "The Red Violin"

Comment by Tony Varvel on February 4, 2014 at 11:25am

holy crap crazy article josh!!

Comment by Dan Gregory on February 4, 2014 at 3:07pm

Definitely a market for it. Here is one from the UK that got stolen from a cafe and then recovered:

Comment by J.Seah on February 5, 2014 at 3:02pm
Comment by Dan Gregory on February 6, 2014 at 3:46pm
Comment by Josh Board on February 6, 2014 at 4:56pm

Thanks for posting that update, Dan. Interesting stuff.

J.Seah...I LOVE The Red Violin. It was amazing. Another, more recent movie, with a great violin scene -- Thin Ice (Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear). Rent it. Trust me on this. One of my favorite movies the year it came out (and I'm a movie critic...I see every movie that's released)


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