Rothstein_ The Life, Times, And Murder Of The Criminal Genius

David Pietrusza

Part 24

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HERBERT BAYARD SWOPE became executive editor of the New York World. A man of immense political influence, he later served as a New York State Racing Commissioner, a consultant to a Secretary of War, and on the American Atomic Energy Delegation to the United Nations. Ghostwriting for Bernard Baruch, he coined the phrase "cold war."

His belief in Lieutenant Charles Becker's guilt never waned, but memories of friendship with Arnold Rothstein grew conveniently dimmer. Suffering from pneumonia and heart disease, he died on June 20, 1958. In 1979 Swope was elected to the Croquet Foundation of America Hall of Fame. In 1999 the NYU School of Journalism named two of Swope's pieces (his 1912 writing on NYC police corruption and a 1921 series, "The Klan Exposed") as two of the one hundred best examples of twentieth-century American journalism.

MONT TENNES, the Chicago gambling king who knew so much, so early about the Black Sox, was, in February 1921, indicted for conspiring to promote gambling-but beat the wrap. In 1927 Tennes, weary of compet.i.tion from Al Capone, retired permanently from gambling and the race-wire service. He died of a heart attack in August 1941.

CIRO "THE ARTICHOKE KING" TERRANOVA eventually lost power to rising mobsters Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. In April 1931 Terranova drove the getaway car in the murder of New York City Mafia head Joseph Ma.s.seria, but when Ma.s.seria's emerged from the slaying, they found that the trembling Terranova could barely start the car. His loss of nerve cost him the respect of his fellow mobsters, and in 1935 Luciano stripped Terranova of what little control he retained over the burgeoning Harlem numbers racket. Normally demotion meant death, but Luciano guessed correctly that Terranova lacked the guts to fight back. In December 1935, Mayor La Guardia drove Terranova out of the New York City artichoke market, cutting off his last source of income, and declaring him persona non grata in the city. If New York City police discovered him within the city limits they would arrest him for vagrancy. By 1937 Terranova lost even his Pelham Manor home. He died penniless at age forty-eight at East 19th Street's Columbus Hospital in February 1938.

t.i.tANIC THOMPSON, an active partic.i.p.ant at the famed Rothstein- McMa.n.u.s-Raymond poker game, continued career high-stakes gambling, golfing, and conning. At age sixty-two Tucson police sought his arrest for promoting a teenage prost.i.tution ring. He died in 1978 in a Fort Worth nursing home. In 1999 golfer Gary McCord and producer Ron Shelton were reportedly planning a film based on his life.

GENE TUNNEY retired from the ring in 1928, married a millionaire's daughter, and prospered in the world of business. In 1970 his son, John V. Tunney, became a United States Senator from California (some say Robert Redford's character in The Candidate was based on young Tunney). The ex-heavyweight champion died at age eighty-one in Greenwich, Connecticut on November 7, 1978.

LEWIS J. VALENTINE, demoted in the wake of A. R.'s slaying, was appointed police commissioner by Fiorello LaGuardia in September 1934. He remained commissioner, battling gambling and Tammany, until September 1945. Valentine died at age sixty-four in New York on December 16, 1946.

MAGISTRATE ALBERT VITALE, after resigning in disgrace from the bench, wasted no time in aiding the criminal element overtly, appearing in court on October 6, 1931 to defend Dutch Schultz's notorious former henchman Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll. Vitale confined himself to practicing criminal law in the Bronx. The closest he again came to public office was as exalted ruler of Lodge 871 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He died at Mount Vernon Hospital at age sixty-two on September 8, 1949.

MAYOR JAMES J. WALKER married his mistress, Betty Compton. La Guardia appointed Walker as impartial arbitrator for the garment industry at $20,000 per year. Compton and Walker divorced in March 1941, and the Mayor of the Jazz Age returned to the Church. "While it is true-too awfully true-that many acts of my life were in direct denial of the faith in which I believed," he confessed to a Communion breakfast, "I can say truthfully that never once did I try to convince myself or others that my acts were anything but what they were. Never once did I attempt to moralize or rationalize.... The glamour of other days I have found to be worthless tinsel, and all the allure of the world just so much seduction and deception."

He died at age sixty-five on November 18, 1946.

FATS WALLER'S career developed nicely after Rothstein's death, branching out into radio and motion pictures. Returning from Hollywood, where he filmed Stormy Weather with Lena Horne, he contracted pneumonia. He died at age thirty-nine on December 15, 1942.

THOMAS "FATS" WALSH, A. R.'s erstwhile bodyguard, was shot following a card game on March 6, 1929 at Miami's Biltmore Hotel.

JOSEPH A. WARREN, the police commissioner fired for failing to solve A. R.'s murder, was already in poor health when Jimmy Walker pushed him out the door. The strain of his old friend's betrayal aggravated Warren's condition, and he sought treatment in a Connecticut sanitarium. He died from a paralytic stroke in August 1930 at age forty-seven. Walker appointed his widow to a $4,000-a-year position with the sanitation commission.

DR. JOHN B. WATSON, to whom A. R. referred Carolyn Rothstein in 1927, wrote The Psychological Care of the Infant and Child the following year. It remained the bible of child-care books until supplanted by Dr. Spock. Growing alcoholism aggravated his family relationships. His son William committed suicide after Watson violently questioned his decision to also enter psychology. Granddaughter, actress Marlette Hartley, blamed her alcohol and psychological problems on him. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1958, after ordering his unpublished papers burned.

CHARLES WEEGHMAN, the first to link A. R. to the 1919 World Series fix, never recovered financially from losing his Chicago restaurant chain. In 1927, Weeghman's old baseball colleagues, Jacob Ruppert, Harry Frazee, and Harry Sinclair, bankrolled his modest bar and grill at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue. It failed, as did two other Manhattan restaurants he opened. Weeghman returned to Chicago and died of a stroke at age sixty-four on November 1, 1938.

Bo WEINBERG, the mobster who took George McMa.n.u.s into hiding, continued as Dutch Schultz's right-hand man. On September 31, 1931 he was one of four men posing as police who gunned down Mafia Boss of Bosses Salvatore Maranzano at his Park Avenue offices. In February 1932, Weinberg orchestrated the fatal machine-gunning of Schultz rival Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll in a West 23rd Street pharmacy phone booth. In 1936 the Dutchman discovered Weinberg plotting with his adversaries, Lucky Luciano and Newark mob boss Abner "Longy" Zwillman. Schultz murdered Weinberg, encased his body in cement and dumped him in the East River.

WILLIAM WELLMAN, onetime "boy manager" of Madison Square Garden and manager of A. R.'s disastrous Middle Village, Queens real estate holdings, barely survived his boss. He died of what the New York Times termed a "throat affection" at New York's Knickerbocker Hospital on April 7, 1931.

Rothstein and Wellman's housing development eventually caused other deaths-and profits. In December 1934, a group of youngsters were sledding on ice that had formed on the site's excavations. The ice broke and two brothers (aged nine and twelve) died. The next year New York City obtained 74 of its 127 acres in return for $334,000 in back taxes, planning to turn the area into parkland. It turned out that the entire development had been an elaborate hoax. A. R. had constructed what Mayor LaGuardia would later term "fake houses" on the site, structures built without even foundations. The idea was to sell the land to the city, but as vastly more expensive, "improved" property. "Armed guards and dogs kept investigators out but we finally got photographs and exposed the whole thing," said LaGuardia. Presumably, the dogs were not actually armed.

Rothstein and Wellman had actually been sitting on a legitimate fortune. Later that year, New York City started extracting peat moss on the grounds, eventually earning $500,000 from its sale.

GOVERNOR CHARLES S. WHITMAN'S governorship witnessed a few modest accomplishments: expansion of the barge ca.n.a.l, completion of the Catskill Aqueduct, establishment of the State Police (then known as the State Constabulary), compulsory physical and military training in New York's schools, and coordination of the state's war efforts-but nothing ever overtook his involvement with the Becker-Rosenthal case.

In 1916 he won reelection against judge Samuel Seabury. Seabury counted on support from former President Theodore Roosevelt, who had once told Seabury, "The truth is not in Whitman," but T. R. double-crossed him. In 1918 Whitman (now on the Republican and Prohibition tickets) narrowly (987,438 votes to 975,200) lost to Tom Foley protege President of the Board of Aldermen Alfred E. Smith.

When Fiorello La Guardia captured City Hall in 1933, Whitman and Seabury were among La Guardia's inner circle. He died at age seventy-eight at his University Club quarters on March 29, 1947.

In 1992 his granddaughter-in-law, Christine Todd Whitman, was elected Governor of New Jersey. She served as head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, under President George W. Bush, in 2001-3.

DAVID ZELSER, the Des Moines gambler who posed as Curly Bennett, in 1923 opened a cigar store back in Des Moines, a city Ban Johnson was soon to charge was at the heart of nationwide gambling. He died in 1945 at age sixty-eight.

CARL T. ZORK, Abe Attell's henchman during the World Series fix, dropped dead in a downtown St. Louis tailor shop on January 17, 1947. He was sixty-eight.


Chapter 1: "I've Been Shot".

1 insurance policy: Rothstein, p. 252.

1 list of companies: NY Sun, 10 November 1928, p. 3; NY Times, 9 November 9 1928, p. 27.

2 "To understand it ... a thousand enemies.": NY Times, 10 Nov., 1928, p. 19.

2 "with a pa.s.sion ... he stood alone.": Ferber, p. 195.

3 Lindy's. In August 1921 immigrant Leo Lindemann opened Lindy's as a simple deli. Only after Al Jolson urged him to install seats did he convert Lindy's into a restaurant. "Because [Arnold Rothstein] spent so much time in Lindy's, many people thought Rothstein owned the restaurant," noted Ed Weiner in The Damon Runyon Story, "Even the newspapers reported that Lindy's was the property of the slain gambler. Naturally, Leo Lindeman ... was distressed at the printed misstatements and threatened to sue the papers for libel. He asked Damon [Runyon] for advice. For over a week, in every story he wrote on the murder, Runyon printed the names of the actual owners of the restaurant, and offered conclusive proof that Rothstein was in no way affiliated with Lindy's, except as a paying customer. Ironically, the so-called bad publicity the restaurant received as a result of the Rothstein shooting made Lindy's a Broadway inst.i.tution with a national reputation."

3 "Mr. Rothstein comes ... little black book.": Clark, p. 182; Katcher, p. 3.

3 "n.o.body knows ... hold of all of it.": Bloom, pp. 184, 207-09; Salwen, p. 230; Hoyt, p. 171; Clark, p. 86.

4 "if you have ... making money.": NY Sun, 5 November 1928, p. 29; Clarke, p. 302; Chafetz, p. 424.

5 betting, drugs: NY Sun, 3 December 1928, p. 20; Katcher, pp. 327-08.

6 "Arnold was very ... only for him.": Clarke, p. 284; Katcher, p. 6; Brooks, p. 10.

7 "Place ... Circle 3317.": NY Eve. Post, 5 November 1928, p. 8; NY Sun, 17 November 1928, p. 5; NY Times, 4 December 1929, p. 24; Katcher, pp. 3-4; Hoyt, p. 213. Scher thought the call came at 10:45, but he was clearly incorrect.

7 "Tell A. R.... with him.": Bloom, pp. 206-08; Clarke, p. 285; Rothstein, p. 250.

7 "There are phone calls . . . who listens?": Katcher, p. 3.

7 "I'm going ... half-hour.": Rothstein, p. 250.

8 "Rothstein ... waiting for his cheese.": Fowler (The Great Mouthpiece), p. 206.

8 Meehan's apartment: Rothstein's Time Square world was geographically very compact. The Congress Apartments are just two blocks south of the Park Central. The 15-story brick apartment house, its once-gleaming marble lobby still remarkably intact, is almost untouched save for seven decades of grime. Recently its mezzanine housed a talent agency for go-go girls, a far cry from the site's previous use, Grace Reformed Dutch Church.

8 $10/hour: Albany Times-Union, 10 November 1928, p. 2; Betts, p. 235.

9 Nate Raymond: NY Daily World, 6 November 1928, p. 16; NY Sun, 6 November 1928, p. 1; NY Eve. Post, 11 November 1928, p. 2; NY Times, 8 November 1928, p. 31; NY Times, 6 November 1928, p. 2; Blackie Sherrod, "The Days of t.i.tanic Hustles," Dallas Morning News, 4 November 1999; Davis, p. 227; Ginsburg, pp. 261, 268, 271; Fried, pp. 2-5; Chafetz, p. 425.

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10 "The sky ... limit.": NY Sun, 6 November 1928, p. 1 10 Total of losses: Albany Times-Union, 6 November 1928, pp. 1, 4; NY Daily News, 9 August 1940, page unknown; Katcher, pp. 319-22; Crouse, pp. 143-44; Betts, pp. 131-32.

19 Gangs and gang members: Asbury (Gangs of New York), pa.s.sim. Sullivan was as Irish as he sounded. Smith was actually a Solomon.

19 Price list: Asbury (Gangs of New York), pp. 228, 331; Rockaway, p. 102. This matter-of-fact listing of crimes for hire was nothing new. In the 1880s Piker Ryan advertised prices: "punching $5; both eyes blacked $4; nose and jaw broke $10; jacked out (knocked out with a blackjack); $15; ear chewed off, $15; leg or arm broke, $19; shot in leg, $25; stab, $25; doing the big job [murder], $100 and up."

20 "I likes to ..." . . . ... my knucks off.": Fried, pp. 25-43; Sante, pp. 197-235; Rockaway, pp. 87-105; Cohen (Tough Jews), pp. 41-46; Morris (Incredible New York), pp. 281-83; Connable and Silberfarb, pp. 224-45; Logan, pp. 69, 73; Rockaway, pp. 93-105; Root (The Life and Bad Times of Charlie Becker), pp. 43-44; Harlow, pp. 501-06. Not all early-twentieth century New York gangs were Irish or Jewish. Paul Kelly (nee Paulo Antonio Vaccarelli) oversaw one of the city's earliest Italian gangs, allying himself politically with Tammany's Big Tim Sullivan. Perhaps in grat.i.tude, State Senator Sullivan sponsored the nation's first Columbus Day holiday.

20 East Side criminals. Fried, pp. 25-28.

20 "Almost any child ..." ... "King of the Vice Trust": ibid. pp. 7-19. Not just the cadets were Jewish; so were many of the girls. A 1908-9 Magistrates Court survey of New York City prost.i.tutes revealed that of 581 foreign-born prost.i.tutes arraigned, 225 were Jewish.

21 Stuss was the Jewish version of the then-popular card game of faro. In faro, cards are drawn from a dealing box and matched against an enameled set of the thirteen ranks of the spade suit. Stuss differs from faro in that cards are dealt from a pack held facedown by a dealer and not from a dealing box. Faro, one of the oldest of gambling card games (it was played in the court of Louis XIV), had virtually disappeared by 1925.

22 "Not only ... crime everywhere.": Cohen (Tough Jews), p. 52.

Chapter 3: "Everyone Gambled".

23 "Gambling itself ... more its sale.": Alexander (Jazz Age Jews), pp. 24-25.

24 Theft of watch: Rothstein, pp. 19-20; Katcher, p. 20.

25 "Is there any ... almost nothing else?": Kohout, p. 27.

25 "The percentage . . . any player has.": Among the West 40s more colorful operators was old-time major league umpire Honest John Kelly, so named for once refusing a $10,000 bribe. Kelly moved from baseball to saloon-keeping and officiating at boxing matches. Kelly smelled a rat. Tammany leader Big Tim Sullivan had $13,000 on "Sailor Tom" Sharkey and warned Kelly to proceed. Kelly cancelled the fight anyway, and Sullivan ordered Honest John's West 41st Street gambling house raided and ransacked by New York's Finest. Despite such interruptions, Kelly operated his West 41st Street establishment until 1912 when a particularly violent police raid forced relocation to 156 W. 44th Street, an establishment christened the Vendome Club. There Kelly remained until 1922, the last of the old crowd, so revered that in his last four years of operation a uniformed policeman guarded his front door around the clock. When Honest John finally retired, he sold the property to the local Republican organization. (Asbury, Sucker's Progress, pp. 428-29, 432-34; Sante, p. 174; Lansche, pp. 40-41, 138, 144; Ivor-Campbell, p. 89) 27 "It is the finest ... their incipiency.": Asbury (Sucker's Progress), pp. 419-67; Chafetz, pp. 310-12; Davis, pp. 207-20; Sante, pp. 171-14; Morris (Incredible New York), pp. 259-72; Burns and Sanders, p. 203; Wolfe, pp. 247-48, 201, 207; Bloom, pp. 293-95; Jackson, p. 545. When the 5,300-seat Hippodrome opened in 1905, its owners proclaimed it the world's largest theater. It featured not only a huge stage but two circus rings and a good-sized water tank for aquatic extravaganzas. Its immensity proved a handicap, it was too large for patrons to view theatrical productions comfortably, and leaving it increasingly dependent on circuses and the like. It closed in 1939.

28 "Get the h.e.l.l ..." ... "... So-and-So, didn't you?": Rothstein, p. 21; Sunny Smith's eventually became a saloon operated by heavyweight "Sailor Tom" Sharkey (see Chapter 6).

28 "I knew my ... I couldn't beat.": Clarke, p. 305.

29 Leaves home: Crouse, p. 135. Financier Jim Fisk was shot to death on the Broadway Central's grand staircase in 1872. Baseball's National League was founded there on February 2, 1876. The Broadway Central eventually degenerated into a welfare hotel. It collapsed in 1973, killing four persons and injuring nineteen.

29 Early gambling, cheating: Clarke, p. 17.

29 "Right away he ... a lot from him.": ibid. p. 296.

30 Meeting celebrities: ibid. p. 296. Among Rothstein's earliest Broadway haunts was Gentleman Jim Corbett's cafe, where he rubbed elbows with such stage people as now-forgotten vaudevillian Sam Bernard, (1863-1927) one of the premier vaudeville and stage comedians of his day. English-born, he reversed the usual pattern of anglicizing names, his original surname being Barnett. He enjoyed a brief film career in the 1910s.

30 Birth of Times Square: Taylor, pp. 305, 326; Laas, pp. 42-71; Wolfe, pp. 246-58; Eliot, pp. 75-79; 2.html.

30 Hammerstein's Victoria: Bloom, pp. 389-90; Hynd, pp. 101-2; Clarke, pp. 14-15; Katcher, pp. 22-24. The Victoria presented an incongruous mix of cla.s.s and vulgarity. It might offer a play by Tolstoy or a performance by Eleanora Duse. But it also presented "performances" by scandal-plagued Evelyn Nesbit, heavyweight champ Jack Johnson, or the atrocious Cherry Sisters; various jugglers; a man with a seven-foot-long beard; whistling monkeys; Siamese twins-and worse. On the theater's rooftop, the Venetian Terrace Garden featured the city's first singing waiters, milkmaids, and live barnyard animals. "The ducks are even more blase than last year," noted the New York Dramatic Mirror, "but the chickens are most condescending and communicative."

Note: Leo Katcher implies that A. R. dropped out of Boys High School in 1898 to hang out in such places as the Victoria. However, the Victoria did not open until March 1899.

32 "I guess . . . on his side.": Katcher, p. 20. "It was always the biggest, toughest boys whom he treated [to favors]," brother Edgar recalled of Arnold's school days.

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