Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Prohibition’ Category

Texas Guinan Owney Madden Hotel Harding Club Intime Speakeasey Club Abby

Address: 205 West 54th Street

Status: Standing (now Flute Bar)

 

It was the swingingest speakeasy of the roaring 20s. A partnership born out of the union of the fast talking queen of New York nightlife, Texas Guinan, and the real life Great Gatsby, Owney Madden, the duke Manhattan’s West Side. Their joint was the Club Intime, a lush cabaret dripping with wall-to-wall red velvet and hanging Chinese lanterns, an open secret hidden in the basement of the Hotel Harding on West 54th Street.

 

Owney The Killer Madden

 

The hotel represented the pinnacle of Owney Madden’s rags to riches story. A veritable Horatio Alger tale, Owney came up in the Irish slums of Hell’s Kitchen around the turn of the century. Owney ran with the Gophers, the most vicious mob ever to romp on the West Side. After being shot to pieces in a dancehall, Madden became the Gopher’s king but a murder conviction in 1915 put Owney on ice for the next nine years.

 

Oweny Madden was a gangland rags to riches story. We went from West Side tough to prohibition power broker.

Oweny Madden was a gangland rags to riches story. We went from West Side tough to prohibition power broker.

 

Madden emerged from Sing Sing in 1923 penniless. Prohibition was in full swing and all of the Gophers had gone into bootlegging. His old pal Larry Fay made a fortune operating glitzy speaks and a fleet of white and purple taxi cabs, but Fay had problems, problems that a man of violence like Madden could solve. Waxey Gordon, Dutch Schultz and heavies from the other New York mobs were moving in on the pacifistic money making Fay. Owney became Fay’s partner, protecting their clubs with fists and bullets and bombs.

 

Fay and Madden grew wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. His beer, “Madden’s No. 1 Beer,” which he brewed on West 26th Street, became the gold standard of Jazz Age New York. Flush with cash,  they ran an armada of rum runners, ferrying booze across the ocean that quenched the thrust of their speakeasies including the famed Cotton Club. However, the Hotel Harding and Club Intime would become the crown jewel of Madden’s empire.

 

Owney Madden purchased the Hotel Harding to be the crown jewel of his underworld empire. Legs Diamond and Mae West lived in the hotel above Texas Guinan's speakeasy, Club Intime.

Owney Madden purchased the Hotel Harding to be the crown jewel of his underworld empire. Legs Diamond and Mae West lived in the hotel above Texas Guinan’s speakeasy, Club Intime.

 

Hello Suckers! Texas Guinan

 

Born Mary Louise Cecilia Guinan in Waco, Texas, everyone in New York called her Texas for her oversized persona and trademark greeting, “Hello Suckers!” Guinan could shoot and rope and ride with the skill of Tom Mix. She could belt out a show tune with a belly full of bathtub gin. Texas was larger than life and no one, including gangsters, politicians, or coppers could evade her ascorbic zingers.

 

In her short career, Texas was a vaudevillian, a silent movie star, and  New York City’s greatest prohibition emcee. The gangsters loved her, especially Larry Fay, because she ran the most lucrative clubs in town, taking arrests like a hard nosed hood. Together the duo ran a string of clubs all over Broadway. The El Fay, the 300 Club, and Texas Guinan’s, bouncing from club to club as the authorities raided and padlocked their nightclubs, but eventually Fay and Guinan would come to rest at Madden’s Harding Hotel, with Texas headlining.

 

 

Madden Acquires The Hotel Harding

 

Built in 1903, The twelve floor Hotel Harding stood in an important crossroads situated in the heart of the Times Square speakeasy district. Always a shadowy figure, Madden acquired the Harding using Max and Tilly Landauer as fronts to purchase the hotel. Within months, the swank building was packed with showgirls, actresses, playwrights, gangsters, boxers and associated high-end riff raff. Legs Diamond lived upstairs in the Harding, providing freelance guns for hire for Madden’s mob. The boxer Kid Berg, and Madden’s latest infatuation, an actress named Mae West, also called the Harding home.

 

Owney Madden and Texas Guinan owned the Club Intime located at 205 West 54th Street inside of Madden's posh Hotel Harding. In the 1930's Dutch Schultz acquired the club and renamed it the Club Abby.

Owney Madden and Texas Guinan owned the Club Intime located at 205 West 54th Street inside of Madden’s posh Hotel Harding. In the 1930’s Dutch Schultz acquired the club and renamed it the Club Abby.

 

“So Sweet and So Vicious,” Mae West and Owney Madden

 

Although it’s pure speculation, Owney Madden probably fell in love with Mae West during her 1916 White Rats benefit in Sing Sing. In those days, Madden was nothing more than a small time hood with a chest full of bullets and a hacking, bloody cough. However, Madden and Mae would soon be together again. In 1928 after Madden acquired the Hotel, Mae and her mother were some of his first residents. Texas Guinan and Mae held a seance there in which Ethel Barrymore and Heywood Broun helped conjure the spirits of Rudolph Valentino and Arnold Rothstein.

 

A love affair soon blossomed in the Harding Hotel. Mae affectionately nicknamed madden “her clay pigeon” for all of the bullets in his chest, later saying he was “so sweet and so vicious.” Madden invested in her plays and backed the actress when the cops jailed Mae for her risque show, Sex. The gangster’s connections with Blackwell’s Island warden earned Mae a private cell and silk underwear.  Mae was of course a regular at the Club Intime downstairs.

 

The Hullabaloo of Broadway: Club Intime

 

When Guinan and Madden opened the Club Intime the suckers came by the boatload. Crooked politicians, actors, writers, stock brokers and mobster moguls all fought for the chance to pay an unfathomable $25 cover charge and the right to be zinged by Tex.

 

Texas Guinan's speakeasy, Club Intime, was located beneath 205 West 54th Street. It is now Flute Bar.

Texas Guinan’s speakeasy, Club Intime, was located beneath 205 West 54th Street. It is now Flute Bar.

 

Once inside inside the lush speakeasy, “the suckers” were greeted by Guiana’s troupe of scantily clad fan dancers and the chance to empty their bankrolls on $5 drinks and $35 bottles of erstaz champagne of dubious vintage.

 

 

On the postage stamp sized dance floor, playwrights, Broadway crooners, top shelf gangsters,  and half naked chorus girls danced the night away. Oweny’s childhood best friend, Broadway dancer and future Hollywood actor, George Raft,  could be seen cutting a rug with Legs Diamond and Dutch Schultz. Club Intime was trailblazing cabaret, a sign of the future, a harbinger of the sexual revolution, utterly modern and utterly American. Of course the coppers wanted it closed. In April of 1929, Police Commissioner Grover Whalen raided the club for operating an unlicensed cabaret. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

 

“Texas Guinan’s Club Intime was Evicted from the Hotel Harding, 203 W. 54th Street Yesterday… Kennedy and his assistants piled the pianos, chairs, tables, draperies and other furnishings on the sidewalk…” The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1929

 

The eviction was for show, however, Guinan and Madden simply sold the club to Dutch Schultz and within days the club had morphed into an even more decadent establishment, the Club Abby.

 

Club Abby: Dutch Schultz, Gene Malin and the Pansy Craze

 

Quickly after the demise of Club Intime, the Club Abby sprouted up in its place, this time with another emcee- Gene Malin, Broadway’s first openly gay drag performer.  By the 1930s, Pansy bars were all the rage and gangsters and homosexuals rubbed shoulders in the ultimate sign of social defiance.

 

 

The Abby’s tenure at the Harding hotel was short lived, however, and gunplay would bring about the end of an era.

 

Dutch Schultz Gets Blasted

On January 24, 1931 all hell broke loose in the Club Abby when the Dutch Schultz and Waxey Gordon mobs collided. While waltzing on the dance floor the two gangs began arguing over a female companion. Suddenly, Schultz and Waxey’s lieutenant Charles Chink Sherman exchanged punches on the crowded dance floor. Sherman landed multiple punches, staggering the Dutchman, causing Schultz to ram a broken beer bottle into Sherman’s face.  The Waxey Gordon mob pulled guns and pumped lead into Dutch, but his bulletproof vest saved his hide, leaving him with a shoulder wound.  Because of the wild affray, the police closed the basement speakeasy for good.

Read Full Post »

Mafia, Salvatore Luciana, Giuseppe Morello, Clutch Hand Morello, Johnny Dio, Jimmy Doyle, James Pulmeri, Albert Marinelli, Jimmy Kelly, Giovanni DeSalvio, John Gotti, Lupo The Wolf, Petto the Ox, The Barrel Murder, Black Hand, Joe Petrosino, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Ciro Terranova, Joe Masseria, Crazy Joe Gallo, Salvatore Toto D’Aquila, Aniello Dellacroce, NYPD, 240 Centre Street, 8 Prince Street, 225 Lafayette Street, 129 Mulberry, 91 Elizabeth Street, 385 Broome Street, 164 Mulberry, 247 Mulberry Street, 232 Mulberry Street, Umberto’s Clam House, Ravenite Social Club, Whisky Curb, Bootleggers Curb, Café Roma, Lieutenant Joe Petrosino Square, Italian Squad,

Click To Enlarge in New Window

Little Italy Mafia Walking Tour Map

 

Little more than a 3-block tourist trap, New York’s Little Italy is on the verge of extinction. With Chinatown closing in from the east and SoHo gobbling up its southern real estate, only the section of Mulberry Street between Broom and Canal remain visibly Italian. Gone too is the dreaded presence of the Mafia which was once inextricably woven into the fabric of daily life. This Mafia walking tour will take you back to the days when mobsters, rather than hipsters, ruled the streets of Little Italy.

 

1 Giuseppe “The Clutch Hand” Morello’s Spaghetti Restaurant

Address: 8 Prince Street

Status: Standing

Giuseppe-Morello-8-Prince-Street

Giuseppe Morello’s spaghetti parlor was the scene of the brutal Barrel Murder

 

He was the patriarch of the first America Crime Family. A Sicilian bandit with a deformed right hand, Giuseppe Morello earned his nickname “the Clutch Hand” from his twisted talon. The undisputed boss of Manhattan’s uptown and downtown Italian districts, Morello led a vicious band of old world cutthroats from a spaghetti parlor at 8 Prince Street. Morello’s gang included his half brother Ciro Terranova, the self styled “Artichoke King”, his second in command and brother-in-law Ignazio “Lupo the Wolf” Saietta, his chief enforcer Tomaso Petto the Ox, and a multitude of kinfolk.

 

Murder, robbery and Black Hand extortion, the Mafiosi did it all, but counterfeiting was their art, a passion that would lead to a gristly murder at 8 Prince Street. On April 14, 1903, Benedetto Madonia, one of The Clutch Hand’s counterfeiters, was stabbed to death, stuffed into a barrel and unceremoniously dumped on East 11th Street as a gangland message. However, the message proved to be too strong and both the Secret Service and Joseph Petrosino, a rising star in the NYPD, would be on Morello’s trail, ultimately bringing about his downfall.

 

 

2 Lupo The Wolf’s Import Market

Address: 9 Prince Street

Status: Standing

 

As ferocious as his namesake, Lupo The Wolf was a terrorist long before the word became fashionable. Through violence, bombings, Black Hand letters and murder, he extorted everyone and everything in turn-of-the-century Little Italy. Related by marriage to Clutch Hand Morello, Lupo became head of Downtown Little Italy for the Italian Harlem based Morello. Lupo operated one of many grocery stores he owned from 9 Prince Street.

 

 

3 Barrel Murder Arrest

Address: Bowery and Delancy Street

 

Hoping to smash Morello’s counterfeiting ring and solve the Barrel Murder, the Secret Service and Joe Petrosino pounced on Petto the Ox and Giuseppe Morello on the corner of Bowery and Delancey Street. The Mafiosi were armed to the teeth with daggers and licensed revolvers. Unfortunately, the charges did not stick to Morello, but a pawn ticket for Benedetto Madonia’s watch linked Petto the Ox to the Barrel Murder. The mafia enforcer disappeared while on bail and was never imprisoned for the crime.

 

 

4 Joe Petrosino Square

Kenmare and Spring Street

Status: NYC Park

Joe Petrosino Square

When it came to New York firsts, Lt. Joseph Petrosino could claim many. He was the NYPD’s first Italian speaking officer, the first Italian American on the Force to obtain the rank of lieutenant, and the first, and only, NYPD officer killed on foreign soil. The city built this park on Kenmare and Spring Street to honor him in 1987.

 

To combat the rise of Italian Black Hand crimes, the city formed the Italian squad with Petrosino at its helm. In 1909, Petrosino traveled to Sicily in search of a secret society of criminals infiltrating America and Vito Cascioferro, the powerbroker behind the Morello Crime Family. The trip would be Petrosino’s undoing. Mafia assassins put the Police Lieutenant on the spot, assassinating him on the streets of Palermo. (Click to read more about Joe Petrosino)

 

5 Salvatore Toto D’Aquila’s Home

Address: 91 Elizabeth Street

Status: Standing

 

Toto-D'Aquila

1920s New York Boss of Bosses, Toto D’Aquila’s home.

After Giuseppe Morello’s conviction for counterfeiting in 1909, the Clutch Hand’s remaining brothers retreated to 107th Street in Italian Harlem, allowing Salvatore Toto D’Aquila to become the ruler of Downtown Little Italy, and the Italian Mafia’s boss of bosses in New York. By the time of Prohibition, D’Aquila became quite wealthy despite his lowly tenement home at 91 Elizabeth Street. His encroachments on Giuseppe “Joe” Masseria’s open-air liquor markets on Kenmare, Broom and Grand Streets would erupt into all out war in 1920.

 

 

6 Umberto’s Clam House, the Murder of Crazy Joe Gallo

Address: 129 Mulberry

Status: Moved

http://www.umbertosclamhouse.com/

 

As crazy as they came, Joe Gallo earned a reputation for shaking up the mob. With his Red Hook Brooklyn based brothers, Larry and Albert, Gallo and his gang took on a succession of bosses for control of the Profachi and later Colombo Crime Family.

On April 7, 1972, Gallo, his family and Mafia crew walked into Umberto’s Clam House, a well-known mafia restaurant owned by Matty the Horse Ianniello, to celebrate Gallo’s birthday, a completely insane move. The mob wanted Gallo dead for the slaying of Joseph Colombo at an Italian-American Civil Rights League rally at Columbus Circle.

At 4:30 a.m. four gunmen slipped into Umberto’s back door and violated a mafia ban on brazenly killing gangsters on the streets of little Italy. Bullets slammed into Gallo who limped out and collapsed on the street. Gallo’s gang opened fire on the escaping hitmen. Bullet pockmarks can still be found at Graziano’s funeral home across the street. Gallo’s murder remains unsolved.

 

 

7 Joe The Boss Masseria’s Bootleggers Curb

Address: Kenmare, Broom and Grand Street

 

By some quirk of geography, Giuseppe “Joe” Masseria, a small time hood and recent mafia import, struck prohibition gold. His small gang ran the streets of Kenmare, Broom and Grand in the shadow of NYPD Headquarters. For whatever the reason, these streets became know as the Whisky Curb or Bootleggers Curb, an open air booze market where speakeasies and saloons came to trade bottles of pre-prohibition hooch.

 

A quick hand with a gat and even quicker feet made the portly Masseria’s reputation as a supernatural Mafiosi. Masseria grew incredibly wealthy and Toto D’aquila wanted a cut. Bootleggers Curb soon became shootout central. Dodging bullets and leading shootouts, Masseria led a prohibition gang war against New York’s Boss of Bosses Toto D’Aquila for control of Little Italy.

 

After his release from prison in 1920, Giuseppe “the Clutch Hand” Morello joined forces with Joe Masseria against Toto Aquila. With the help a new recruit named Charley Lucky Luciano and his Jewish Mob friends, Toto Aquilia was bumped off in 1928.

 

 

8 NYPD Headquarters, The Central Office

Address: 240 Centre Street

Status: Landmark (Luxury Condos)

Infamous-New-York-240-Centre-Street-Old-Police-Headquarters

Most mobsters of any consequence have spent at least one overnight in the basement of 240 Centre Street. From 1909 to 1973 this beaux-arts masterpiece served as NYPD Headquarters, the nerve center of the New York Police Department. Click to learn more about Old NYPD Headquarters.

 

 

9 Lucky Luciano Rats

Address: 164 Mulberry

Status: Standing

 

Salvatore Luciana kept his fingers in many pies. Gambling, bootlegging, prostitution and murder for hire all kept him wealthy, but Lucky wanted more. Under the direction of his mentor Arnold Rothstein, Charley Luciano turned to narcotics, and it proved to be a mistake. By 1923, the mobster was the darling of prohibition high society, and the Federal Bureau of Narcotics collared Lucky with a pocket full of dope. In exchange for his freedom, Luciano revealed the location of a trunk of Heroin stashed in the basement of 164 Mulberry Street. The arrest tarnished Lucky’s reputation among Manhattan’s socialites, inspiring him to throw the biggest party of the decade.

 

 

10 Café Roma

385 Broome Street

Status: Open for Business

 

Cafe-Roma

The Westies kidnapped the owner of Cafe Roma, Eli “Joe the Baker” Ziccardi

Back in the 1970s, Eli “Joe the Baker” Ziccardi did more than make cannoli at the Café Roma. The Genovese capo ran the policy games for Fat Tony Salerno from this downtown café, making Zicardi a target for opportunistic gangsters like the Irish Westies. In the 1977 under the orders of Hells Kitchen’s gang lord Mickey Spillane, the Westies put the snatch on Zicardi. Salerno begrudgingly paid the $100,000 ransom to the Irish Mob, but Zicardi was never seen again. Because of the kidnapping and construction projects on the Westside, all out war broke out between the Irish and Italian mobs resulting in Spillane’s murder and the death of three of his lieutenants.

 

11 John DeSalvio Playground or Jimmy Kelly Park

Address: Spring and Mulberry Street

Status: NYC Park

 

An original gangster who predated the coming of the Mafia, Jimmy Kelly knew all of the angles. His real name was Giovanni DeSalvio, but the middleweight boxer changed his name to Kelly to make inroads in the Irish controlled boxing world of turn-of-the-century New York. However, Kelly failed to make it as a pro-boxer and put his knuckles to work at Mike Salter’s Pelham café protecting the club’s singing waiter Irving Berlin (click to read the story). Under Salter’s wing, Kelly took up politics and full time gangsterism. When Salter fled the country for election fraud, Kelly took his place as a Tammany ward heeler running into innumerable gang wars with hunchback mobster Humpty Jackson. Click to read more about Humpty Jackson.

 

11 Johnny Dio and Al Marinelli’s Headquarters

Address: 225 Lafayette

Status: Luxury Condos

225-Layafette

In the 1920s, 225 Lafayette was a hub of Mafia activity.

For much of the history of New York City, the criminals worked for Tammany hall, not the other way around, but with the coming of the Mafia and prohibition that was about to change. Nowhere else in the city was the intertwining of crime and politics more apparent than 225 Lafayette Street. Built in 1909 in the heart of Little Italy to house the East River Savings Bank, 225 quickly evolved into a mafia hub.

 

A close personal friend of Lucky Luciano, Albert Marinelli set up the political headquarters of his Al Marinelli Association at 225 Layafette. With the help of Luciano’s gunmen, Marinelli unseated Tammany’s Irish incumbent to become the first elected Italian-American Distract Leader in the city. Luciano and Marinelli were so chummy that they shared a room at the 1932 Democratic Convention. The politician made a fortune with Luciano, which attracted the attention of Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey.

 

Dewey later accused Marinelli of voter fraud and corruption. Dewy explained:

“He has a luxurious estate surrounded by an iron fence on Lake Ronkonkoma, way out on long island. From his several motorcars he chooses to drive a Lincoln limousine. His Japanese butler, Togo, serves him well.” Thomas Dewey

With the spotlight on him, Marinelli stepped down, making way for John DeSalvio to become the 2nd Assembly District Leader.

 

On another floor of 225 Layafette, Jimmy Doyle Pulmeri and his nephew Johnny Dio Dioguardi set up their Five Boroughs Trucking Service Association, a thinly veiled shakedown scheme. Their strong arm racketeering tactics eventually won control of all Garment Center trucking. Business was brisk. So brisk that Doyle and his partner Dominick Didato shot each other in their offices. Neither man could explain to police why their legally licensed revolvers simultaneously malfunctioned. Didato was found dead days later. After the Castellmarese Mafia war, Dio and Doyle joined the Gaetano Reina and later Lucchese Crime Family. (Click to read more about Jimmy Doyle) Like everything else in NYC, the building has been converted to luxury condos.

 

13 Aniello Dellacroce’s Apartment

Address: 232 Mulberry Street

Status: Standing

 

A stone cold killer and founding member of Murder Inc., Aniello Dellacroce served as Albert Anastasia’s murderous protégée and future Gambino Underboss. Dellacrose maintained a life long address at this tenement at 232 Mulberry Street across the street from his headquarters, The Ravenite.

 

 

14 John Gotti’s Bunker: The Ravenite Social Club:

Address: 247 Mulberry Street

Status: Shoe Store

 

ravenite

John Gotti’s Ravenite Social Club is now a shoe store.

There is no better place to conclude a Mafia walking tour of Little Italy than the Ravenite Social Club at 247 Mulberry. Buried in the heart of historic little Italy, the once bricked up, fortified storefront encapsulated the entire history of the mafia in New York. The club started life as a mob joint in 1926 as the Knights of Alto Social Club. Regular patrons included Lucky Luciano and Albert Anastasia. After Carlo Gambino and Vito Genovese toppled Anastasia, Gambino purchased the building, renamed the club the Ravenite, and installed Dellacroce his underboss.

 

Housed within the wall’s of today’s CYDQOG Shoe Store (the Ravenite’s original floors remain in the store), Dellacroce would take an up-and-coming hoodlum named John Gotti under his wing. After years of underworld dealings, Dellacroce was terminally ill and on trial for being a member of the Mafia Commission.

 

After the death of Dellacroce, John Gotti rubbed out family boss Paul Castalano, took over the Ravenite and installed himself as boss of the Gambino Family. FBI electronics wizards eventually bugged the club and recorded hours of incriminating evidence. Gotti was convicted in 1992 of murder, illegal gambling, bribery, tax evasion and a host of other crimes. Federal Marshals later seized the building and auctioned it off to the highest bidder. Click to read a longer post on the Ravenite Social Club.

Read Full Post »

Lucky Luciano Apartment Waldorf Astoria

Status: Standing

Location: 301 Park Avenue, Suite 39C

 

Sidestepping bullets, one-way rides and innumerable gang wars, he grew to be the master of prohibition era New York. He was vain, narcissistic, and volatile, a textbook sociopath, but he was also fabulously wealthy, an attribute about which most people could not boast during the Great Depression.

 

By the mid-1930s, Salvatore Lucky Luciano wanted to kickback and enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten swindles. He had outgrown his “modest” suite in the Barbizon Plaza overlooking the Lake in Central Park and he wanted something a little nicer.

 

800px-Lucky_Luciano_mugshot_1931

 

The Toniest Address in New York

 

Driven by a massive inferiority complex, Lucky needed something bigger, something better, something swankier. He wanted no less than the toniest address in the whole City of New York. He wanted to live in the Waldorf Astoria Towers.

 

He later reminisced to Richard Hammer and Martin Gosch, authors of The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano:

 “I figured if everybody was gonna call me the boss, I was entitled to live in an apartment that was above Frank’s… the Towers was the best class address in New York.”

According the to Waldorf’s website:

“The Waldorf Towers represents the pinnacle of New York grandeur, with a long-established legacy of providing guests with exceptional privacy and personalized service.”

 

Privacy and personalized service were exactly what Luciano received at the Waldorf. He rented apartment 39C as Mr. Charles Ross and paid his $800 a month rent in hundred dollar bills.

 

Lucky Luciano Apartment, Frank Costello, Longy Zwillman, Meyer Lansky

Lucky Luciano lived in apartment 39c under the alias Charles Ross.

 

The gang lord could count on secrecy in his rooms where he entertained the moguls of the mob such as Longy Zwillman, Tony Bender, Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello. His criminal conspirators could then sneak out of Lucky’s pad and disappear into the city through the hotel’s packed arcade. A parking garage allowed the gangster to park his car and ride a private elevator to his room.

 

Lucky Luciano Waldorf Hotel

 

For kicks, Lucky would give the famed madam Polly Adler a ring and she would dispatch her best call girls. When Lucky felt more domestic, he spent evenings with his showgirl girlfriend, Gay Orlova.

 

Waldorf Int

 

It was a gangland dream come true, but things nearly went south when one of Lucky’s goons showed up at the front desk asking for Charlie Lucky. An outraged clerk stormed up to Luciano’s suite demanding answers.

 

Lucky recalled in The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano:

“…I knew the towers wasn’t gonna throw me out. After all, I was payin’ my rent regular, which was more than they could say about some of the bluebloods that was freeloadin’ there. So I figured it was payoff time.”

 

Greasing the Waldorf’s Wheels

Lucky placed the Astoria’s desk clerk on the payroll, greasing him with $200 a month.The bribes eventually paid off in March of 1936 when detectives from Thomas E. Dewey’s office stormed the lobby looking for the gangster. The clerk tipped off Luciano, and he hopped into his private elevator and roared off in his car.

 

Dewey eventually caught up with Lucky Luciano in Hot Springs Arkansas. He was sentence to 30 to 50 years for operating a massive prostitution ring. Lucky was sent to the frigid Dannemora Prison on the Canadian border where hoped for a day when he could return to linens, massages and private elevators.

 

Luciano would eventually return to the lap of luxury courtesy of the United States Navy.

Read Full Post »

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Location: Union Square, Fourth Ave and 14th Street

Status: Standing

 

‘Twas the morning after Christmas, 1920, when police officers stumbled on the lifeless body of Monk Eastman sprawled out in a gutter just south of the Union Square subway station. One of the toughest mugs in New York City’s history, the Monk had survived half a dozen street wars up and down the Lower East Side, several terms in Sing Sing, and the trenches of WWI.

 

Monk came back from the war a hero and won a full pardon from Governor Alfred E. Smith, but now several weeks later; Eastman was dead.

 

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Monk Eastman died in the gutter of Union Square.

Boozing at the Bluebird Cafe

Christmas evening began like most days for Eastman, with a little prohibition-era binge drinking at the Bluebird Cabaret, No. 62 East 14th Street. Monk and a pack of heavies, including corrupt Prohibition Agent, Jerry Bohan, strolled into the Bluebird, sat at their reserved table and got merry. According to Neil Hanson, author of Monk Eastman, Monk boasted to a showgirl:

 

“Do you know who I am? I’m Monk Eastman, the gang leader who made good…” –Neil Hanson, Monk Eastman

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Monk Eastman had survived turn of the century street wars of the Lower East Side, and the trenches of the First World War, but on the morning after Christmas, 1920; Eastman was found face down in the gutter.

 

The Brain’s Brawn- Arnold Rothstein and Monk Eastman

But the $144 bankroll in his pocket, the fine Witty Brother’s suit and the gold spectacles found on Eastman’s body told another story. Eastman had hired his fearsome reputation out to the highest bidder, and that bidder turned out to be the Brain of Broadway, Arnold Rothstein. Jerome Charyn noted in Gangster and Goldiggers,

 

“It seems the Monk had been bootlegging and selling dope for The Brain. A.R. was never implicated, of course.”—Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers

Prohibition, Monk Eastman, Lower East Side, Prohibition, Gangs of New York, Blue Bird Café, Jerome Charyn, Gangsters and Gold Diggers, Neil Hanson, Jerry Bohan, Prohibition Agent, Blue Bird Café, Union Square Subway Station, Crime, Murder, World War I, WWI, death,

Eastman was once the prince of the Lower East Side, but opium addiction and prison sentences destroyed his kingdom.

 

Monk Eastman a Rat?

Emotions were high at the Bluebird that night. Monk Eastman was running his mouth about quitting crime, making good and becoming an honest citizen, talk that made his bootlegger pals nervous. Little did he know, Eastman’s buddies had put him on the spot, and Bohan was the trigger-man.

When Eastman drunkenly stumbled onto the street, Bohan followed with a .32 caliber pistol in his hand. Just as Eastman crossed 14th street, the crooked Prohibition Agent opened fire into Monk’s back.

An eyewitness described the scene:

“A man was standing over him and as we reached the window we saw him fire four more shots into the man on the sidewalk… the murderer bent over his victim a moment, presumably to make sure he was dead…”

Bohan then hopped into a waiting taxicab and sped off into the night. Several days later, under the pressure of a police manhunt, Bohan walked into the Lee Avenue police station in Brooklyn and confessed to the crime, claiming self defense as his motive. The corrupt Prohibition Agent was sentenced to three to ten years for manslaughter (Click for newspaper story) and Eastman was buried with full military honors in the gangland funeral of the decade.

In Bohan’s version of the crime, the corrupt Prohibition Agent shot Eastman in self-defense.

In Bohan’s version of the crime, the corrupt Prohibition Agent shot Eastman in self-defense.

Read Full Post »

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll

Accused of murdering a fifteen-year-old boy during a drive by shooting, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll (far right) and his mob yucked it up with reporters during the trial.

Location: 312 West 23rd Street

Status: Standing

 

By February of 1932, there wasn’t a soul in New York who didn’t want Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll on a slab in the morgue. The psychopathic egg had blow torched every bridge in gangland, and now Coll had to die

 

Powerful Enemies

 

During Prohibition’s heyday, Coll and his mob amassed a legendary list of underworld adversaries such as Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz and Owney Madden. First to join Coll’s list was the Beer Barron of the Bronx, Dutch Schultz, Coll’s former employer.

 

Paid to protect Dutch’s beer trucks, Coll, suffering from delusions of grandeur, decided to hijack the shipments instead. Schultz responded by putting the blast on Mad Dog’s kid brother and all out war erupted in the spring of 1931.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

Now a Petland Discounts store, 312 West 23rd Street played host to Coll’s brutal machine gun murder.

 

Racketeer Without a Racket

 

Without a racket to fund his war against Dutch, the freelance gangster hatched the incredibly idiotic plan of kidnapping wealthy bootleggers like Big Frenchy DeMange, best friend of Hell’s Kitchen’s resident vice lord and owner of the Cotton Club, Owney Madden, whose nickname just happened to be “Killer.”

 

Coll made a clean sneak from the crime, shaking $50,000 out of Madden, but the Mad Dog wasn’t done by a long shot.

 

On July 28, Coll and his chopper squad loaded their tommy guns, jumped into a sedan and strafed the Helmar Social Club, headquarters of Schultz policy boss, Joey Rao. Machine gun gun bullets cut down five children, killing Michael Vengalli along with two Schultz heavies.

 

The Making of Mad Dog

In response to the brutal crime, New York Mayor Jimmy Walker dubbed Vincent Coll, “Mad Dog,” but Coll wasn’t finished alienating the powerful. In September of 1931, Salvatore Maranzano hired Coll to bump off Lucky Luciano.

 

However, Luciano’s men beat Coll to the punch, arriving a few minutes earlier to dispatch Maranzano. Coll walked away from the scene smiling and with yet another nemesis.

 

Vincent_-Mad_Dog-_Coll

Mad Dog Coll

 

Joseph Bonnano noted in his autobiography, A Man of Honor,

 

“Luciano told me he was forced to strike against Maranzano after learning that Maranzano had hired Vincent Coll to kill Luciano.”—Joseph Bonnano

 

Owney Madden Puts Mad Dog Coll on the Spot

 

With the police hounding him and every mob in New York hunting him, Coll checked into the Cornish Arms Hotel on 23rd Street. On February 8, he walked into the London Chemist drugstore (now Pet Land Discounts) located at 312 West 23rd Street. Waiting for a phone call from Owney Madden to discuss a truce, Coll walked straight into an ambush.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

Gangland put Mad Dog Coll on the spot at 312 West 23rd street at the London Chemists.

Phone Booth Massacre

 

When Coll entered a phone booth and spoke with Madden, the trap was sprung. Outside, a large limousine roared up to the curb, spilling out three gangsters.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street.

The bullet riddled phone booth in which Mad Dog Coll was cut down. (Library of congress )

 

Two of the torpedoes covered the door, while a third drew a Thompson submachine gun from his trench coat, walked up to Coll’s phone booth and sprayed it with lead, killing the psychopathic, twenty three year old Coll instantly. According to the New York Evening Post:

 

“How many shots were fired is not known. Some witnesses said fifteen others said fifty. As the killer backed out of the store, the door of the booth opened slowly and Coll’s body pitched forward, three bullets in the head, three in the chest, one in the abdomen and eight and the arms and legs.”—New York Evening Post, 1932

 

The murder of Vincent Coll remains unsolved.

 

Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, Owney Madden, Mad Dog Coll, Vincent Coll, Salvatore Maranzano, Mayor Jimmy Walker, Harlem Baby Massacre, Michael Vengalli, Joey Rao, Joseph Bonnano, Big Frenchy DeMange, Peter Coll , Petland Discounts, 312 West 23rd Street, london chemists

A New York City police officer standing in front of the drugstore where gangster Vincent Coll was murdered. (Photo Library of Congress.

 

Read Full Post »

Frank Costello, Majestic Apartments, 115 Central Park West

Frank Costello Lived Here at the Majestic Apartments.

Location: 115 Central Park West, The Majestic Apartments

Status: Landmarked 

 

He had a controlling interest in every slot machine from New York to New Orleans. He ran rum, bootlegged scotch, and controlled the appointments of Supreme Court judges and Tammany Hall politicians. He was a kingmaker, the puppeteer who made Manhattan dance, but more than anything else, Frank Costello wanted to be a legitimate businessman; and by the time the Great Depression hit, Uncle Frank, as his mob pals called him, was ready to buy his way into high society.

 

For his bid for legitimacy, he targeted the newly constructed 32 story Majestic Apartments, a twin towered, brick and steel framed art deco masterpiece. Located at 115 Central Park West across the street from the famous Dakota, nothing in the city was more modern and posh than the Majestic.

 

A Majestic View

 

For their home, Costello and his wife, Loretta Geigerman, selected apartment 18F, a nine room, two bedroom, two bathroom, corner apartment facing Central Park, which they rented for $3,900 a month (the apartment recently sold for $5,304,000).

 

The view from Frank Costello's apartment was majestic.

The view from Frank Costello’s apartment was majestic.

 

Because of the building’s unique cantilevered construction, there were no columns to block Costello’s view of the park and the breathtaking full morning sunlight that the mobster rarely tasted during his youth in the slums of East Harlem.

 

Frank Costello lived in apartment 18F in the Majestic Apartments. Vincent "Chin" Gigante attempted to assassinate him in the lobby in 1957.

Frank Costello lived in apartment 18F in the Majestic Apartments. Vincent “Chin” Gigante attempted to assassinate him in the lobby in 1957.

 

Nobody Loses in Frank Costello’s House

 

The couple hired James Mont, the mob’s top interior decorator, to deck the apartment out in mafia glitz. Mont hung a Howard Chandler Christy “Christy Girl” oil painting over the fireplace. Next, he placed a gold plated grand piano in the living room and ringed it with slot machines manufactured by Costello’s True Mint Novelty Company, a firm that reportedly earned the mob mogul $500,000 a day. But the one-armed bandits in Costello’s lavish pad had a unique twist: they were rigged for perpetual jackpots. Costello was known to say to guests such as publisher Generoso Pope Jr. and future New York Mayor Bill O’Dwyer,

 

 What do you think I am, a punk? Nobody loses in my house. 

 

Fred Astaire, Walter Winchell, and Milton Berle

 

Over the years, Costello would integrate himself in the parade of rich and famous neighbors like: the diamond merchant: Jacob Baumgold, shoe magnate: Andrew Geller, Fred Astaire, Milton Berle, Zero Mostel, and his arch rival—newspaper reporter Walter Winchell. Whenever he needed a cup of sugar, Costello could visit his pal Bugsy Siegal downstairs.

From this majestic incubator, Costello’s power would only grow. In 1936, Lucky Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years for compulsory prostitution. A year later Vito Genovese fled to Italy fearing murder charges, leaving Frank Costello boss of the Luciano Crime Family.

 

King of New York

 

For the undisputed king of Manhattan nightlife, Costello was an early riser. Waking at 9:00 am every morning, his daily ritual included a trip to the Waldorf Astoria Barber Shop for a shine, shave, and a manicure followed by lunch at the Madison Hotel. On Thursdays he hit the baths in the subbasement of the Biltmore Hotel for “the works”, sauna, steam room and a massage.

 

Frank Costello Majestic Apartments

 

He saw a psychoanalyst once a week and became a major donor to the Salvation Army, turning over the Copacabana night club for their holiday fundraisers. Wire taps placed on Costello’s home phone by D.A. Frank Hogan recorded New York supreme Court Justice Thomas Aurelio pledging his undying loyalty to the mob boss.

 

The Kefauver Commission

Just as the former bootlegger was ready to climb into the seat of respectability, things began to unravel. In 1951 Senator Estes Kefauver’s travelling committee rolled into town and hauled Costello in front of television cameras, forcing Costello to answer several difficult questions such as if he kept $50,000 in a safe in his apartment. Costello replied,

 

I believe I had a little strongbox… I keep forty-fifty thousand.

 

Refusing to answer anymore questions, the Prime Minister of the Underworld stormed out and was slapped with contempt of court and a 14 month prison sentence. Soon the IRS was on his tail, and INS wanted to revoke his citizenship.

 

The Return of Vito Genovesse

When Costello returned from prison, he had even more problems. Vito Genovese had returned from Italy, gunning for Uncle Frank. On the evening of May 2nd, 1957, Genovese struck. As Costello walked into the Majestic’s zinc and marble lobby, Genovese’s chief bully-boy, Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, pulled a revolver and screamed:

 

This is for you Frank.

 

Just as Gigante fired a single round, Costello spun around, and because of some quirk of physics, geometry, and the hand of God almighty, the bullet grazed Costello’s scalp, riding around the rim of his borsalino hat. The attack left Costello shaken. He quickly sued for peace with Genovese, and retired from the rackets. Costello would live in the Majestic until his death in 1973

 

Majestic Apartments

Read Full Post »

Joe the Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Joe Masseria Umberto Valenti, Lucky Luciano, Charley Luciano, John’s of 12th Street, Salvatore D’Aquila, Toto D’Aquila, 302 East 12th Street , Vito Genovese

Joe Masseria’s Revenge

Location: 302 East 12th Street 

Status: Standing

 

Smarting over the recent attempt on his life, which had left two bullet holes through his hat and another two holes through his coat, Joe Masseria plotted bloody revenge in epic Italian Renaissance fashion.

 

Toto D’Aquila’s Chief Assassin

 

The target of his wrath was Umberto Valenti, a seriously wily character who had blasted those bullet holes through Masseria’s hat and coat. According to the New York Times in 1915, Valenti was:

…alleged to have arranged more shootings than any other man in the city…

 

oe the Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Joe Masseria Umberto Valenti, Lucky Luciano, Charley Luciano, John’s of 12th Street, Salvatore D’Aquila, Toto D’Aquila, 302 East 12th Street , Vito Genovese

In the guise of peace treaty, Joe Masseria lured Umberto Valenti to John’s of 12th Street for his last meal.

 

A former Black Hand extortionist, it was rumored that Valenti had killed over 20 men, a number of whom had been Masseria’s closest advisors. The thirty four year old Valenti was the chief assassin of Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila, the New York Mafia’s supreme ruler, a Mafioso who was locked in vicious mob war with Masseria and his chief strategist Giuseppe “the Clutch Hand” Morello.

 

However, Masseria’s seemingly supernatural bullet dodging powers had given the hard noised, but superstitious, Valenti second thoughts. Second thoughts that had him suing for peace and walking into an ambush in one of New York’s most storied Italian restaurants, John’s of 12th Street, on August 11, 1922, a restaurant that has been used as a set on Boardwalk Empire and the Sopranos.

 

Joe the Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Joe Masseria Umberto Valenti, Lucky Luciano, Charley Luciano, John’s of 12th Street, Salvatore D’Aquila, Toto D’Aquila, 302 East 12th Street , Vito Genovese

1.Umberto Valenti emerges from John’s of 12th Street. Lucky Luciano and another assassin open fire. 2. Valenti draws a revolver and is hit in the chest with a bullet. He staggers to a waiting taxicab and dies. 3. The gunmen shoot two innocent bystanders before disappearing into a tenement.

 

Well Dressed Gunmen: Vito Genovese and Lucky Luciano

 

Whether or not Valenti sampled the chicken parmigiana before being croaked has been lost to the winds of history. However, some time around noon, Valenti and six laughing companions emerged from their luncheon. Walking eastward, smiles turned into frowns. Suddenly, Valenti spooked and bolted towards Second Avenue as two slick, well-dressed gunmen whipped out revolvers and fired. Gangland legend holds that one of the shooters was none other than Charley “Lucky” Luciano, Masseria’s newest protégé (the other shooter was probably Vito Genovese).

 

The candle in John's of 12th Street was lit to celebrate the end of prohibition.

The candle in John’s of 12th Street was lit to celebrate the end of prohibition.

Pandemonium on 12th Street

 

As the shots flew, pandemonium broke loose on 12th Street. Whirling around, the feared assassin drew a revolver just as a bullet flew through his chest.

 

A teenage witness told the New York Times:

It was the coolest thing I ever saw. People were shrieking and running in all directions, and this fellow calmly fired shot after shot. He did not move until he had emptied his weapon. With blood spurting from his clothing, Valenti tried to raise up his pistol but his wounds prevented him from doing so. He made for a waiting taxicab, collapsing on the Northwest corner of 12th Street. (Click to read the original NY Times story)

 

Luciano’s Escape

 

Despite Valenti’s death, the friendly Luciano and his pals weren’t done yet. A crowd formed to block the gunmen’s escape so the mobsters opened fire, hitting a street sweeper and a little girl visiting from New Haven Connecticut. The shots dispersed the crowd, and the hitmen disappeared into a nearby tenement.

 

Should I Bring Pajamas? 

 

Masseria was arrested for the murder.  During his arrest, he supposedly grinned and asked the police:

… whether he would need a nightshirt remarking, that the last time he slept in the station house they forgot to give him a pillow or pajamas.

 

For a job well done, Joe Masseria elevated Luciano to a leadership position at his headquarters in the Hotel Pennsylvania. All murder charges were eventually dropped, and Masseria, on his way to becoming Joe the Boss, set his sights on Valenti’s overlord, Toto De Aquila, New York’s boss of bosses.

 

However, John’s of 12th had another infamous last meal lined up twenty years later. The victim would be Carlo Tresca.

 

Joe the Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Joe Masseria Umberto Valenti, Lucky Luciano, Charley Luciano, John’s of 12th Street

Whether or not Umberto Valenti sampled the chicken parmigiana before being croaked has been lost to the winds of history.

 

Read Full Post »

Joe The Boss Masseria 82 Second Ave.

Here at 82 Second Ave, bullets started to fly at Joe Masseria, blowing this plate glass window to smithereens.

Location: 82 and 80 Second Avenue. 

Status: Standing

Rodded up and nervous as hell, the four chain-smoking mafia gunmen seated in a blue sedan on Second Avenue checked and re-checked their oiled .45 caliber Colt automatics while waiting for their mark, a portly gangster who would one day appear on Boardwalk Empire and be known as the Joe the Boss.

Part revenge and part business, the hit, they hoped, would end a mafia war that had paralyzed a stretch of pavement known as the Curbside Exchange, an open air liquor swap meet that had made Joe Masseria filthy stinking rich.

So rich in fact, that the New York Mafia’s current ruingleader, Salvatore “Toto” D’Aquila, wanted Masseria dead. To achieve his aims, D’Aquilia dispatched his chief assassin, Umberto “the Gin Millionaire” Valenti, to put Masseria on the spot on August 9, 1922.

 

A Barrage of Lead

 

Valenti’s four assassins waited diligently outside of Masseria’s apartment at 80 Second Avenue. At sometime around 2:00PM, Masseria exited his home with a smile on his face and a straw boater cocked on his head, unaware that two shooters had leaped out of a blue sedan with drawn .45 automatics.

Joe The Boss Masseria's Apartment at 80 Second AVe.

The cops later found Joe the Boss Masseria sitting in his apartment, here at 82 Second Avenue, dazed and deafened, with two bullets drilled through his straw hat and a slug blasted through his coat.

Just as Masseria noticed the gunmen, the slugs started flying. The fat gangster sprinted for cover in a shop at 82 Second Avenue but the hail of zipping bullets and shattering glass sent him racing home, but unfortunately for him, the gunmen had him at point blank range.

 

Masseria Dives for Cover

They fired, and the chubby gangster dodged to the left, a bullet creased his coat. The hoods fired again, and Masseria ducked, letting the bullet pass through his hat. Ducking and diving and jukeing and jumping, bullets whizzed past the Mafiosi.

An eye witness described the scene to the New York Times:

Just as he fired the man jumped to one side…Then the man fired again and this time the man being shot at ducked his head forward. Again the man fired and again his target ducked his head down. The third shot made a second hole in my window.

Joe The Boss Masseria Map

1) After completely botching the assassination on the bullet dodging Joe the Boss Masseria, the gunmen jumped into a waiting blue Hudson cruiser and roared off.
2) The getaway car plows though a pack of striking workers before escaping.

 

High Speed Pursuit

 

Completely botching the entire operation, the failed hitmen jumped onto the running boards of their blue Hudson Cruiser and roared down West 5th Street were they ran into even more trouble.

A meeting of striking workers had just ended, spilling a throng of angry socialists into the streets. Pissed off and tired of gangsters, factory owners and capitalist bastards in general, the striking workers erected a human blockade to stop the fleeing Hudson, but D’Aquilia’s gorillas were unfazed.

They attempted to plow their way through the human blockade; and when that failed, they opened fire, pumping bullets indiscriminately into the crowd, hitting six men and a pony.

According to The New York Call newspaper:

The Machine, after rushing through the panic stricken crowd…[was] pursued by 15 taxicabs, trucks, and private automobiles that had been commandeered by the police…

The chase went as far as 32nd Street where the police lost the gunmen, but the nearsighted shooters would eventually get theirs.

Joe the Boss Masseria in his later years.

Joe the Boss Masseria in his later years.

The Man Who Dodged Bullets: Joe The Boss Masseria

 

Joe Masseria emerged from the failed rubout deafened and hatless, but his bullet dodging antics would make him an underworld legend. A week latter he would catch up with his would-be assassin, Umberto Valenti, and finish what The Gin Millionaire had started.  Click to read the story: https://infamousnewyork.com/2013/11/23/joe-masserias-revenge-johns-of-12th-street-a-great-place-for-a-last-meal/

Read Full Post »

Arnold Rothstein Death Site

After being shot at the Park Central Hotel, Arnold Rothstein would die in the Stuyvesant Polyclinic.

Click here to read Part I of The Death of Arnold Rothstein

Location: 135 2nd Avenue, Stuyvesant Polyclinic

Status: Landmarked

 

As he lay dying in a private three-room suite in the Stuyvesant Polyclinic, Arnold Rothstein, the Brain of Broadway, financier of the underworld, writhed in his hospital bed and groaned in delirium as police detectives peppered him with questions.

 

“Who shot you,” they asked and Rothstein snarled:

My mother. You stick to your trade and I’ll stick to mine.

 

A team of five surgeons led by Dr. E.I. Kellog dug the .38 caliber slug from his stomach, and Rothstein’s estranged, law abiding, family drew around the mortally wounded gangster, and waited with the rest of the world. Broadway ground to a standstill. Would Arnold Rothstein finally name names?

 

Rothstein’s Family

With his ex-wife on her knees sobbing and his father Abe “the Just,” a deeply religious, millionaire philanthropist towering over his son’s clammy, feverish body, the family drew together in prayer.

 

After a blood transfusion, house Dr. Alexander O’Hare pressed a stethoscope to Rothstein’s chest and pronounced alleged fixer of the 1918 World Series dead at 10:17AM, November 6, 1928, and hoodlums of Broadway went wild.

 

Stuyvesant Polyclinic

A historic plaque on the landmarked polyclinic today.

 

In the words of the Brooklyn Eagle:

“Rothstein did not keep documents which might tend to incriminate himself. But he kept documents which would tend to incriminate others.”

 

The Big Bankroll Arnold Rothstein

There wasn’t a man of any importance who hadn’t borrowed money from the Big Bankroll. Lucky Luciano, Legs Diamond, Dutch Shultz, NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker, and Frank Costello all had been aided by Rothstein on their crawl to the top, and the vultures raided Rothstein’s posh 5th Avenue apartment and looted his financial documents, stealing the files for the letters C, B, G, M, Mc, and T.

 

Rothstein Death Map

Rothstein would die of a gunshot wound in the Stuyvesant Polyclinic, 135 2nd Ave.

 

The police confiscated the remaining 56,000 pieces of paper left behind in two steel filing cabinets, and began sorting through the avalanche of incriminating papers that would lead to a seizure of two million dollars worth of dope the next day.

Some of the scraps left behind would provide fragmentary evidence that Rothstein had loaned Judge Joseph Force Crater, Tammany Head James Curry, and Mayor Jimmy Walker money.

 

Fiorello LaGuardia Investigates

 

Nearly a year later, Fiorello LaGuardia would also discover that City Magistrate Albert Vitale had repaid Rothstein a Loan for over $19,000. Lottie Pickford, the sister of famous actress Marry Pickford, also appeared in the documents. The names of Bobbie Winthrop, Dorothy King and Louise Lawson, a trio of dead showgirls used as narcotics smugglers, were also unearthed.

An international manhunt for Rothstein’s killers would ensue, resulting in the gangland trial of the century, but George “Hump” McManus, Rothstein’s probable killer, would walk free, and the murder remains unsolved.

With Rothstein dead, the twenties roared a little less loudly.

Read Full Post »

Arnold Rothstein was shot here in 1928.

Location: 870 7th Ave., The Park Central Hotel

Status: Standing

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.

 

Arnold Rothstein

Gangsters called multi-millionaire Arnold Rothstein the Brain of Broadway for his sharp-calculating mind.

 

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.

 

Map of the Death of Arnold Rothstein

Armold Rothstein was shot at the Park Central Hotel after failing to repay card debts for a poker game at 161 West 54th Street.

 

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.

Arnold Rothstein Card Game

The thirteen-hour five card stud game that broke the Big Bankroll was held here at the Congress Apartments, 161 West 54th Street.

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.

Arnold Rothstein

Gangsters called multi-millionaire Arnold Rothstein the Brain of Broadway for his sharp-calculating mind.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: