Location: 870 7th Ave., The Park Central Hotel
Doubled over with blood trickling down his leg and his hand pressed over his bloodied groin, Arnold Rothstein, kingpin of the New York underworld made famous again by Boardwalk Empire, groped his way through the carpeted hallways of the Park Central Hotel before collapsing in front of the service entrance.
Arnold Rothstein The Brain of Broadway
Known variously as the Brain of Broadway, the Wolf and the Big Bankroll, Rothstein was the grease that made Broadway go. A tight lipped introvert who loved silence as much as he loved his bankroll, a two inch thick stack of hundreds, Rothstein was a pool shark, a card shark, a bootlegger and a multi-millionaire who mentored a legion of hoodlums, like Frank Costello, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and Legs Diamond.
The Wolf produced Broadway shows and owned hotels and drove a Rolls Royce, but now he was nothing more than another sucker bleeding to death on 55th Street with a .38 caliber slug drilled through his crotch. The New York Times would call it “the Crime of The Century.”
As the ambulance rushed Rothstein to the Stuyvesant Polyclinic, the police began ticking through the list of suspects and quickly realized; the real question was who didn’t want Arnold dead.
The Mother of All Card Games: Rothstein’s Bad Day
The Brain’s troubles started on September 27th at a floating five card stud game hosted at 161 West 54th Street in Jimmie Meehan’s home in the Congress Apartments. The $500 anty high-stakes game was organized by George “Hump” McManus, a mobbed-up goon, with one brother in the clergy and another on the force. But unfortunately for Rothstein, the fix was in.
Golf hustling and poker playing legend, Titanic Thompson had setup the game and was planning to take Rothstein for a ride. The play was fast and furious. 13 hours later the Brain of Broadway emerged from 161 West 54th bleary eyed and $350,000 dollars poorer.
He had no intention of paying his I.O.Us. As far as he was concerned, he had been swindled.
And How Rothstein Squawked
According to the game’s host, Jimmy Meehan:
He was not a good looser. He always wanted to win…he would clean up a million or maybe two million and say goodnight boys and blow. But, oh boy, when they took him over the jumps, how he squawked.
As the game’s organizer, McManus was responsible for the payment of the dough. After a month non-payment, the Hump holed up in room 349 of the Park Central Hotel with a small posse of gorillas.
He phoned Lindy’s Delicatessen, Rothstein’s official headquarters, demanding that the Brain come to the hotel at once. Damon Runyon reportedly overheard Rothstein bark:
McManus wants me over at the Park Central. This won’t take long.
The Hump’s Revenge
It would be impossible to know what really happened in room 349 that night, but a gun went off blowing a hole through Rothstein’s spleen and bladder. The Hump split town, and New Yorkers would wake up to the Crime of the Century.
Click to read part two of The Death of Arnold Rothstein.