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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.

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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.

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Location: 1500 Broadway

Status: Demolished

 

They called themselves the Broadway mob. Members of the gang rubbed shoulders with high society, supplying the most exclusive speakeasies in New York with top-shelf, uncut booze. From their offices at the now demolished Hotel Claridge, located at 1500 Broadway, Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Segal and Frank Costello would go from street gang to the masters of dry New York, making themselves multi-millionaires in the process.

Hotel Claridge, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, 1500 Broadway, Bugsy Segal, Salvatore Maranzano, Joe Masseria, Joe The Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Prohibition, Rum Running, Arnold Rothstein, The Brain of Broadway, Broadway, Stork Club, Silver Slipper, 21 Club, Scotch, Broadway Mob, Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Rector’s, 1500 Broadway, 44th Street, prohibition, Speakeasies,

 

Located in the heart of Times Square, on the east corner of 44th and Broadway, the Claridge Hotel was built in 1910 and according to the 1917 Real United States and Canada Pocket Guide,

 

“ Claridge’s Hotel, formerly Rector’s…was the great theatrical and bohemian after-theater restaurant…”

 

By 1922, Orwell Maximillian Zipkes purchased the hotel, adding a two-story arcade with shops and offices that Lansky, Luciano, Segal and Costello would use to build their empire.

 

Like a league of extraordinary criminals, the gang’s success came from the Broadway Mob’s remarkably diverse hoodlum resumes. Costello was the talker, forging the alliances with Tammany Hall that allowed the mob to steal at will and carry concealed weapons, legally.

 

The psychopathic Bugsy Segal provided the muscle, killing and beating anyone who stood in their way. The bookworm, Lansky, existed as a behind the scenes strategist and human adding machine, making the gangsters wealthy beyond their wildest dreams. Its leader, the oldest member of the gang, was Lucky Luciano, a gangland heavy who oozed reptilian charm.

 

Hotel Claridge, Lucky Luciano, Salvatore Luciana, Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, 1500 Broadway, Bugsy Segal, Salvatore Maranzano, Joe Masseria, Joe The Boss Masseria, Giuseppe Masseria, Prohibition, Rum Running, Arnold Rothstein, The Brain of Broadway, Broadway, Stork Club, Silver Slipper, 21 Club, Scotch, Broadway Mob, Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Rector’s, 1500 Broadway, 44th Street, prohibition, Speakeasies,

In the 1920s, the Hotel Clairidge served as Lucky Luciano’s headquarters.

Lansky’s Law

Guided by Luciano’s charisma and Lansky’s financial acumen, the gang became rumrunners. They heisted furs and stuck-up banks to fund liquor shipments of the purist scotch in town, purchased from the Brain of Broadway, Arnold Rothstein.

 

The small time gangsters’ moxie captured A.R.’s attention, and an internship in crime ensued.

 

Meeting With The Mentor

Rothstein mentored the gang from his booth at Lindy’s, teaching them how to dress, how to speak and how to conduct themselves in high society. According to the Last Testament of Lucky Luciano, Luciano recalled:

 

He [Rothestein] taught me how to dress…how to use knives and forks…about holdin’ a door open for a girl, or helpin’ her sit down…”

 

In exchange for the mentoring, Lansky, Luciano and Costello served as Rothstein’s muscle, protecting his alcohol and narcotics shipments.

 

Purist Booze in Town

They travelled abroad as Rothstein’s purchasing agents, buying direct from distilleries in Scotland, keeping the Stork Club, The Silver Slipper, The 21 Club and the rest of Broadway’s high-end speakeasies swimming in hooch.

 

Pet Gangsters

By the height of prohibition, Pet gangsters were all the rage, and Luciano, Costello, Lansky and Siegel were the coolest mob in town. Suave, wealthy and deadly, they dated Ziegfeld Girls and slept with heiresses, earning them a privileged spot as the darlings of New York high society.

 

Luciano recalled:

 “Within a year, we was buyin’ influence all over Manhattan, from lower Broadway all the way up to Harlem.”

 

Mafia Talent Scouts

But the Broadway Mob had other, less reputable, admirers. A secret criminal society mostly unheard of in America, known as the Mafia, had their eyes on Luciano, the only Sicilian member of the gang.

 

Both the Masseria Crime Family and the Maranzano Crime Family knew that whomever controlled Luciano, controlled the Broadway Mob and their fat bankrolls and political connections. Masseria would eventually win Luciano’s loyalty. He was then upgraded to a floor of suites in the Hotel Pennsylvania, but for the rest of his life in American; however, Luciano maintained an unofficial office at the Hotel Claridge. The hotel was demolished in 1972.

 

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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.

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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.

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