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The Wire

Ziggy Sobotka

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Chester Karol "Ziggy" Sobotka, played by actor James Ransone, is an impulsive and often reckless young checker at the docks with a desire to prove himself and a respected father to live up to.

BiographyEdit

Ziggy is Frank Sobotka's son and Nick's cousin. Ziggy was ostensibly a dock worker in his father's stevedores union but he was also involved in other criminal activity. Like most of the port workers Ziggy frequented Delores' bar and his drunken antics were a source of amusement to the customers. He was known for publicly exposing himself. His work on the docks was often poor and his father would regularly fire him and then reinstate him. Ziggy received little work because of a his lack of seniority compared to other union members.

Ziggy had been dealing drugs supplied by "White" Mike McArdle for some time. He sold them at street level using an East side dealer known as Frog. Ziggy had trouble intimidating Frog and often came up short with the money from his packages: Frog would keep the money and tell Ziggy he had been robbed. Eventually White Mike refused to supply Ziggy with further drugs because he knew that he was not a sound investment.

Ziggy often tried to convince his more streetwise cousin Nick into joining him in his drug dealing enterprise but Nick refused. When Ziggy suggested that they steal a container of digital cameras from the docks, Nick was more accepting. They worked alongside their friend Johnny "Fifty" Spamanto, a checker, to move the container through the port. Ziggy and Nick visited George "Double G" Glekas, a front man for an international smuggling operation that the Sobotka family had been working with, to offer him the container. Ziggy's research about the street value of the cameras allowed Nick to negotiate a better deal with Glekas. Ziggy upset Glekas by taking his photo with one of the cameras during the meeting and Glekas angrily snatched it from Ziggy and smashed it on the floor.

Ziggy also accompanied Nick to a meeting to discuss Frank's smuggling of containers through the docks. Ziggy's chatter embarrassed Nick and he vowed not to take him again. The Greeks asked Nick to obtain shipments of chemicals through his work at the port. Unsure what the chemicals would be used for Nick was reluctant to get involved. Ziggy used his share of the money from the stolen cameras to buy a expensive new leather coat and Nick chastised him for flashing his new found wealth.

Ziggy turned to a drug dealer named Cheese for a fresh supply. Cheese was a lieutenant in "Proposition" Joe Stewart's network of drug dealers. Ziggy continued to use Frog (who continued to cheat Ziggy) and again came up short on his profits, finding himself unable to pay Cheese back. Cheese was more brutal than White Mike and delivered a swift beating to Ziggy and stole his prized car (a vintage 1970s Camaro which Ziggy called "Princess"). Cheese threatened to kill Ziggy if he was not able to pay by the end of the week. Nick and La La, a friend from the union, visited Cheese on Ziggy's behalf hoping to bargain the value of the car that Cheese had taken against Ziggy's debt. They found that Cheese had burned the car and was now asking for more money but willing to give Ziggy a little more time. Ziggy was distraught when he heard this news.

Nick went to the Greeks to ask for help with the problem. He found that they were the suppliers of Proposition Joe's entire operation and were able to negotiate with him directly. Nick attended a sit-down with Joe on Ziggy's behalf. Because of their association with the Greeks Joe agreed to waive Ziggy's debt and give him compensation for the car.

Ziggy helped Nick to research the chemical the Greeks were looking for and found that they were used in the processing of cocaine. Reassured with this knowledge, Nick decided to go ahead and steal them as asked. After Nick and Ziggy delivered the chemicals they were offered payment in either narcotics or cash. Knowing the street value of the narcotics was greater, Ziggy pushed for drugs. Nick opted to receive half in cash and half in heroin. Nick kept Ziggy out of dealing with the drugs due to his previous ineptness. Nick took them to Frog himself. He faithfully delivered a share of the profits to Ziggy each week. Ziggy's pride was hurt by Nick sidelining him and his inability to match his cousin's success. Ziggy dramatically refused his share of the money, tossing it onto the street from Nick's newly purchased truck (bought with his share of the drug profits).

Ziggy had a long-running feud with a dock worker named Maui. Maui took issue with Ziggy stealing from the docks and confronted him. Ziggy responded by replacing Maui's computer desktop image with pictures of his genitalia. In retaliation Maui faked a paternity lawsuit against Ziggy, which drove him to a drinking binge. Nick realized that the letter Ziggy had received from a law firm was false and identified Maui as the culprit. Urged on by La La and other stevedores Ziggy attacked Maui while working at the docks. He was easily overcome by his much larger opponent, and as a result of the fight, Ziggy was forced to endure another indignity; Maui used a fork lift truck to strand Ziggy on top of a stack of containers. Ziggy purchased a pet duck and bought it a diamond necklace. He took it to Delores' bar pretending it was a seeing eye fowl. He was compelled to provide the duck with saucers of liquor, claiming that it "Could drink like a stevedore." The duck died at the bar, driving Ziggy into another depressive episode. When Nick approached Ziggy outside the bar Ziggy attacked his cousin. Following this event Frank found his son wandering the docks alone. The two discussed Ziggy's childhood, especially Ziggy's memories of his life, which centered around the docks.

Ziggy began smuggling cars stolen from a fenced-in storage lot on the docks with Johnny Fifty. He offered to supply them to Glekas, who reluctantly agreed to participate. Ziggy faked the theft of their cars to look like an outside job by cutting a hole in the port fence, and making a track across a grassy area. Rather than using these constructions he drove the cars through the front of the port. When Ziggy delivered the cars Glekas refused to pay him the agreed sum and Ziggy flew into a rage. Glekas beat Ziggy and threw him out of his warehouse. This was the last indignity Ziggy could endure; he took a gun from his car and shot Glekas, killing him and wounding a younger man working in the store. Horrified at his own actions Ziggy was unable to drive away and broke down in tears while waiting for the police to arrive.

He was picked up by Sergeant Landsman of the homicide unit and gave a full confession to the murders. Frank visited Ziggy in prison and apologised for not doing more to help his son. Ziggy told Frank that the union had always come before him, harkening back towards the memories they had shared on the docks. Ziggy was convicted of the murders and was last seen serving out his sentence.[1]

Character significanceEdit

The actor who portrays Ziggy, James Ransone, is a Baltimore native and has described the character as representative of the difficulties people face just trying to get by in Baltimore. The character's creators have deemed him "the angry prince of goofs."[2]

In an online interview [3] [4] David Simon stated that Ziggy is loosely based on a real stevedore named Pinkie Bannion whose antics have become a local legend around the docks. According to Simon "The late, diminutive Bannion had a drinking duck with a diamond choker, exposed himself routinely and was once goaded to assault another dockworker three times his size, then tossed atop a container."

ReferencesEdit

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