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The rise & fall of a Boomer Outlaw 

Eddie Dodson's journey from smalltown boy to LA personality to world record bank robber

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Ford and Dodson hit it off, and the two friends dove headfirst -- and nose first -- into LA's raucous party scene. "It was the 70s and 80s in Hollywood, and there was a lot of drugs, especially cocaine," says Ford, who is working on a book about Dodson. "There was also a flood of Persian heroin in LA during the 80s. So coming in the wake of all that nerve-rattling cocaine was this nerve-soothing heroin. A certain percentage of people got involved with both. Ed was one of them."

For over a decade, Dodson lived the high life, both literally and figuratively. Eventually, the drugs started to take their toll and his friends, loved ones and business all suffered.

By 1983, he was so strung out on drugs he started robbing banks to support his habit. Over the next nine months he robbed 64 banks (the most single-handed bank heists in the recorded history of the world), including six banks on a single day -- November 29, 1983. Dodson mostly robbed banks in affluent areas, used only an unloaded starter pistol, and was known for his soft-spoken, courteous and friendly manner. Dodson's old LA friends would later say they couldn't believe the emaciated, sickly looking figure shown on the banks' surveillance tapes was the once vibrant and fashionable antique shop owner. The law finally caught up with Dodson in 1984, and he was arrested at the Farmer's Daughter Motel in Hollywood.

"It was hard to believe," says Ford. "Everyone knew he was using drugs, but the idea that he could pull off all these bank robberies seemed impossible. He was having trouble getting his store open, how could he rob six banks in one day?"

Dodson was sentenced to 15 years, and served a little over 10. When he was released, his old friend Jack Nicholson hired him as a "caretaker" for his mountain retreat in Santa Monica.

"It was a beautiful hideaway home with hundreds of white rose bushes, a spa, tennis court and swimming pool," Ford says. "Ed lived there and worked as the housesitter. Jack was basically just taking care of him."

But Dodson couldn't stay clean. On several occasions, Ford helped get him into rehab, but it never lasted. Ford says Nicholson finally had enough, and two weeks before Dodson's parole was over, Nicholson told him he had to go.

A month later, in 1999, he started robbing banks again, eight in all. He was arrested again, and this time was looking at 120 years in prison. Around that time, he was also diagnosed with Hepatitis-C. Partly because the court thought he didn't have long to live, Dodson got only 46 months, although he had six additional months tacked on for drug use. He was released in October 2002.

After spending nearly 14 of his 54 years in prison, Dodson died February 21 at UCLA Medical Center.

"Ed was very charming, flamboyant and irresistibly engaging," says Ford. "He had a wonderful quality to make people feel like they were the center of the universe when he was talking to them, all the while making him the focus of attention. He was the perfect salesman. But he was also somewhat exasperating. He very much wanted to be in control of things. Sometimes we have to let life bring us what it brings us. He didn't have a lot of faith. I think that was his downfall."

Dodson's funeral in Shelby on February 26 was a small, somber affair. Most of his immediate family had passed away, and he had long ago lost touch with his friends in the Carolinas. Many newspapers, including the Shelby Star, ran an Associated Press blurb about his passing, calling the NC native and Hollywood shopowner one of the most prolific bank robbers of the last century.

"To us he's family, he's ours," says Wilson, Dodson's cousin in South Carolina. "We really don't want to capitalize on his notoriety. It's heartbreaking. When we heard he was involved in drugs and robbing banks we didn't believe it. We loved him. It's just sad that drugs can do you that way."

"He was raised in a loving home," says Bass, Dodson's cousin in Statesville. "Nobody could understand why he did the things he did. But someone introduced him to cocaine and heroin, and I think that's why he got into trouble. I loved Eddie; I'm not ashamed of him. He's my own blood kin. I wish he hadn't done the things he did, but who am I to judge?"

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