Like Nucky Johnson, Whitey Bulger's story is too outrageous to be true, but it is, so it's appropriate that chief Boardwalk Empire scriptwriter Terry Winter is set to write the story.
Matt Damon & Ben Affleck Team For Whitey Bulger Biopic By ‘Boardwalk
Empire’ Writer Terence Winter
Casey Affleck To Co-Star
Granted, they’ve got some competition for this one, but you can bet Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have taken the lead on getting a biopic on famed Boston mobster Whitey Bulger onto the big screen.
Earlier this year Bulger—on the FBI’s top ten Most Wanted list for the past few decades—burst onto the headlines after he was finally arrested after years in hiding in California. The head of the notorious Boston outfit the Winter Hill gang, Bulger ruled with an iron fist, stacking up 21 bodies in addition to numerous other charges including racketeering.
The great irony here of course, is that Bulger was at one time an informant for the FBI and his agent/handler John J. Connolly had initially tipped him off that the feds were closing in.
It’s a great story, so no surprise that with not even six months since Bulger was put behind bars, there are three projects in development: producer Graham King has something brewing based on the rights purchased from the Winter Hill Gang’s chief enforcer, John Martorano; “Twilight” actorPeter Facinelli is producing an adaptation of Edward MacKenzie and Phyllis Karas’ book, “Street Soldier: My Life as an Enforcer For Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob” and writer Russell Gerwitz (“Inside Man”) is penning the thriller “Black Mass” for “Black Swan” producer Brian Oliver.
But it’s Damon and Affleck who will certainly have the heat now and of course, being Beantown boys themselves, it’s a no brainer that the pair would have an interest in doing a movie about the man.
“We’re doing a Whitey Bulger movie,” Damon told GQ. “Warner’s got it for us.” Updated:Deadline says Casey Affleck will have a supporting role alongside Damon.
WB has been a haven for both Damon and Affleck in recent years. Damon has made nine movies at the studio in the last decade, while Affleck is their newest directorial golden boy, helming “The Town” and currently “Argo” for them, as well as recently jumping to the front of queue of the gestating adaptation of Stephen King‘s “The Stand.” And if you need even more reason to get excited, “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire” scribe Terence Winter is writing the screenplay. The plan is for Damon to star and Affleck to direct, but the project is still in early stages and the former isn’t quite sure who he would even play at this point.
“If it’s a straight biopic, we’ll do it over a period of time. But it’s always a question of what part of the story do you tell, and biopics are always a little cumbersome,” Damon said. “So do we find another way in? We’re still figuring it out.” So why even bother getting the word out early?
It’s a power play of sorts, as Damon is well aware of the other projects in development and he hopes quite simply they’ll fade to the background once they hear of this studio backed production with heavyweight talent already on board.
“There are a couple of competing movies and I don’t think it’s been announced yet that we’re doing it,” Damon said. “But the sooner it’s announced the better, just because everyone else will back off, hopefully. I’m really excited about it.”
Of course, both Damon and Affleck are pretty much busy until at least late 2012. Affleck is shooting “Argo” and Damon will be lensing his directorial debut (also set up at WB) next year in addition to starring in Steven Soderbergh‘s “Behind The Candelabra.” The duo also have the New York Yankees wife swap pic “The Trade” knocking about, but Damon acknowledges that while they still want to do it, the recent legal hassles have slowed down development.
So add this to pile of stuff Damon and Affleck may do, but don’t expect it anytime soon. But it’s an exciting prospect nonetheless, and a big screen tale with enormous potential. And while we doubt it will slow any of those other competing versions down, Hollywood is no stranger to telling the same story a few different ways.
Kevin Jagernauth posted to Actors, Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Film Studios,Warner Bros at 1:18 pm on October 24, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (2)
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Nucky Johnson, in his later years. After getting out of prison, Nucky couldn't resume his leadership of Atlantic City because his protege "Hap" Farley had taken over. Nucky was now just an ordinary citizen who walked the boardwalk and around the town that he once owned.
Nucky often patronized Babette's, one of the most popular nightclubs and gambling joints in Atlantic City during its heyday.
Babette's had a bar shaped like a ship and catered to a high class guests who often dressed in their finest. Guests could also find some action at Babette's backroom card tables.
Babette's was owned by Daniel Stebbins and was initially called the Golden Inn, however he changed its name to Babette's after he married Blanche Babbett, a showgirl.
BABETTE’S - 2221 Pacific Avenue
Babette’s, the place in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire where most of the serious partying takes place, was one of the most stylish clubs in Atlantic City’s heyday, and located at 2221 Pacific near Mississippi Avenue.
Nelson Johnson, in The Boardwalk Empire (Plexus Publishing, NJ, 2002), only mentions Babette’s once: “Those nightclubs/casinos, which flourished under Nucky’s regime were the 500 Club, Paradise Club, Club Harlem, (Grace’s) Little Belmont, the Bath and Turf Club, the Cliquot Club, and Babette’s, which was one of the most chic gambling casinos of that era, attracting patrons from around the country.” He quotes a former patron as saying, “Only the very best people went to Babette’s. They had the best steaks and mixed drinks in town, and great entertainment.”
Babette’s was owned by Dan Stebbins and his wife Blanche Babette, a showgirl who became a wealthy and prominent member of Atlantic City society.
In The Last Good Time (Three Rivers, 2003) Jonathan Van Meter wrote about the federal investigation of flagrant gambling in Atlantic City: “From their initial undercover investigation, which lasted months, they (Bureau of Internal Revenue) determined that there were approximately twenty-five horse race-betting rooms and gambling casinos in Atlantic City employing more than five hundred to seven hundred people, and they were raking in about $8 million a year.”
“The report went on to distinguish the ‘horse-rooms’ from the ‘gambling casinos.’ The casinos were generally connected to nightclubs which acted as ‘feeders’ for the gambling rooms. For example, the Paradise Club, the Club Harlem, Babette’s, Grace’s Little Belmont, the Bath & Turf Club, the Clicquot Club, were all typical nightclubs with bar, restaurant and cabaret entertainment, but in the back of each was a gambling room containing all forms of games, such as roulette wheels, craps tables, poker, black-jack games, ‘bird cage,’ and in most instances, horse-race betting as well. The nightclubs were well known and widely advertised establishments which employed high-price orchestras and Broadway or Hollywood stars as entertainers.”
Babette’s may have been the scene of Nucky Johnson’s downfall when began a personal feud with newspaper baron William Randolph Hurst. According to Jonathan Van Meter, “Back in 1921, on the evening after that first Inter-City Beauty Contest, Nucky Johnson inadvertently planted the seeds of his own destruction. He had arranged for showgirls from Follies Bergere, George White’s Scandals, and Earl Carrol’s Vanities to parade down the Boardwalk. He also paid for a fancy costume for the ‘Girl in the Red Velvet Swing,’ Evelyn Nesbit, to wear in the parade, but she got drunk on gin and fell off her float, right into a pile of horse dung. Nucky kicked her out of Atlantic City that very day.”
“Later that night he invited the girls – minus Nesbit – back to a party at his suite at the Ritz to entertain visiting dignitaries and local bigwigs,” says Van Meter but, “There are several versions of what happens next, but they all end the same. Nucky Johnson insulted actress Marion Davies, who was the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, by calling her a ‘tramp’ among other ‘vicious’ things. Some versions of the story have it that it happened at the Ritz, where Marion was in a suite just down the hall, having a party of her own that same night. Other versions maintain that Hearst was with Davis in Atlantic City and that words were exchanged among the three of them at Babette’s Yacht Bar, one of Nucky’s favorite hangouts famous for its ship-shaped bar.”
As Van Meter explains, “In any event, Nucky had made a powerful and vindictive enemy out of someone who under any other circumstances would have been happy to be his crony. Nucky later said of Hearst and Davis, ‘He’s a windbag who a dumb broad has played for a sucker.’ Hearst was not the kind of man you wanted to upset, as he was not above using his newspapers to destroy perceived enemies. At Hearst’s behest, the New York Evening Journal began a campaign against Johnson that reached a crescendo in 1929, shortly after the underworld conference.”
It was Hurst who manufactured the bogus composite photo of Nucky Johnson walking down the Atlantic City boardwalk with Al Capone and Meyer Lansky. While all three men were in town and me together, the photo was made by putting two or three unrelated photos together to make it appear they were walking together.
And it was the continuing newspaper reports of the gambling and vice in Atlantic City that forced the federal and state governments to crack down on such illegal activities.
Later on, when the 500 Club was raided, among those arrested in the backroom gambling den was a mobster said to have botched an attempt to kill Barbette’s owner Dan Stebbins.
NEXT UP: LIVE AT THE FIVE - Atlantic City's 500 Club.
Walter Edge, a minor character in the Boardwalk Empire, was a real person, founding publisher of the Press of Atlantic City, Governor and Senator, Edge was a powerful person who alternated in his association with Nucky Johnson.
The 1929 Atlantic City Convention of Organized Crime – Bill Kelly
Published in Boardwalk Journal (2010)
Atlantic City has been known as a convention town for a long time, but the most significant convention the city has ever hosted didn’t meet at Convention Hall or even conventionally, and certainly didn’t abide by Roberts Rules of Order.
The May, 1929 meeting of organized crime bosses in Atlantic City was probably the most significant ever held, not only because of it’s effect on the future development of the town, but because of the national impact the decisions made there had on society, not only then, but over time, up to and including today.
At the time Atlantic City was considered “wide open,” a place where gangsters could go to make private, if sometimes illegal investments and for sit-down mob meetings, as were a few other cities – Miami, Las Vegas and Old Havana. Atlantic City was run however, by one man – Enoch “Nuckey” Johnson , the local political boss who ran the town as his private domain. Like “Commodore” Lou Kinley had before him. Nuckey got a percentage of practically every business in Atlantic City, especially illegal businesses, and as it was during Prohibition, the most lucrative business at the time was the importation of smuggled liquor.
Lonnie Zwillman of North Jersey controlled most of the bootleg market once the cases of booze from the Caribbean and Canada were transferred at sea from mother ship transports to small Chirs Craft speedboats. Once brought ashore the booze was put on waiting trucks to be transported the goods throughout the rest of the country. It was later estimated, by the Kefauver Committee that Zwillman’s outfit had a 65% market share of all illegal booze in North America.
But there were also illegal casinos in Atlantic City at the time, all operating openly and open to the public. And Big Time confidence men like Charlie Gondorff (of The Sting fame) were allowed to run Big Store Con games, as long as long as they only hit on transients and didn’t take any local citizens for Marks.
Booze, casino gambling, the boardwalk and beach, it didn’t even seem like there was a Depression going on. Things appeared quite normal on May 12th, 1929 when newlyweds Meyer and Anna Citron Lansky checked into one of the city’s finer boardwalk hotels. They were assigned the Honeymoon Penthouse with it’s panoramic view of the ocean and boardwalk.
Which hotel they checked into is not recorded for history, but you can be sure it was one owned by Jewish businessmen, as all the first class hotels at the time were owned by Jews or Quakers, and each served a different clientele. That’s a fact that came into play the very next day when Alphonese “Scarface” Capone stepped off a train and took a cab to one of the city’s classier hotels. Although he entered town unnoticed, and he signed into the hotel under an assumed name, his cover would soon be blown, the city of Atlantic City would be shaken upside down and the nation would rattle with the aftereffects for decades.
Snickering to his lieutenants as he signed the fictitious name to the register, Capone got a smile from Frank Nitti, Murry Humphries, Jake Guzik and Frank Rioi, but the joke quickly turned sour when the somewhat naive and strictly formal desk clerk looked at the name and politely informed Capone that, “I’m sorry sir, but this hotel does not serve those of your persuasion. My I suggest you try the hotel just down the street.”
This was Atlantic City, New Jersey, probably the only place in America where “Scarface” Al Capone could mingle with the masses and go unrecognized. He did however, have a friend in his old pal Nuckey Johnson. Capone had been Johnson’s gracious host two years earlier when Nuckey went to Chicago and was supplied with ringside seats to the Jack Dempsy-Gene Tunney heavyweight fight – the famous battle of the “long count’ bout.
Now Capone was in Atlantic City to meet with Meyer Lansky and other mob bosses. They came to Atlantic City because Nuckey Johnson controlled the town and they were assured they wouldn’t be subjected to the police hassles the Sicilian Mafia guys were subjected to in Cleveland a few weeks earlier.
Although Nuckey Johnson couldn’t protect Capone from some ethnic embarrassment, he did have such tight control over all facets of the city’s operations that, unless they robbed a bank or made a scene, known gangsters from out of town didn’t have to worry about being picked up for questioning by the police. Capone made a scene.
Told by a hotel clerk that he couldn’t check in because he signed his name under a wrong ethnic persuasion, Capone’s famous temper flared, and after a burst of obscenities and the trashing of some lobby furniture, Nuckey Johnson quickly learned that Al Capone was in town. Moving quickly to meet him, Capone and his entourage were heading south on Pacific Avenue when they were intercepted by Johnson’s convoy of dull, black limos heading the other way. They met in the middle of the street, blocked traffic for a few minutes as Capone emerged from his cab, cigar in hand, and gave Nuckey an obscenity laced public verbal lashing, letting off steam from the hotel desk incident.
Once appeased by Johnson, always the gracious host, they hugged and patted each other on the back and adjourned to the back of Nuckey’s limo. After seeing that Capone and his people had proper accommodations at the right hotel, Johnson and Capone were later seen taking in the tourists sights together and strolling down the world famous boardwalk.
Johnson and Capone then had dinner in the Italian “Ducktown” neighborhood, not far from the recently completed Convention Hall – the new auditorium which was then the largest of its kind in the world, with the biggest stage and the largest pipe organ as well. While it established Atlantic City as a major convention town on the East Coast, it’s facilities were not to be used by the guys who started checking in behind Lansky and Capone.
From Cleveland came Al “the Owl” Polizzi, one of the Sicilians hassled by cops at the earlier regional sit-down a few weeks earlier. Also from Cleveland was Moe Dalitz of the Mayfield Road Gang and his bootleg companions, Morris Kleinman, Sam Tucker and Louis Rothkopft. Other gangsters who have been identified as having attended the Atlantic City meeting include Charles “King” Solomon from Boston, Joe Bernstein from Detroit, and Joe Lanza from Kansas City, all of whom came with their henchmen in tow.
From North Jersey there was Abner “Longie” Zwillman, who controlled most of the New Jersey bootleg shipments. Philadelphia was well represented by Harry “Nig Rosen” Stromberg, Max “Boo Boo” Huff, Sam Lezar and Charles Schwarts. By far, the biggest delegation came down from New York, and consisted of Frank Costello, Author “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Joe Adonis, Salvadore “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky.
Anne Citron Lansky got angry the next morning when she read in the morning newspaper that Al Capone was in town, and knew that it had to more than just a coincidence. Her new husband couldn’t even go on his honeymoon without having business to take care of.
Born Maier Suchowljansky in Grodno, Poland in 1902, young Meyer came to the United States in 1911 with his mother, sister and younger, but bigger brother Jake. Like so many other arrivals, his birthdate was noted by immigration officials as July 4th, and he took quickly to the American dream.
Later telling Israeli journalists Uri Dan that he took to gambling early, relating an incident that occurred when he was a young boy walking down Delancy Street in Manhatten on an errand for his mother. Coming across a sidewalk craps game he quickly lost his mother’s nickel, an event that had a profound affect on his life. “What troubled me more than anything else,” Lansky said, “was that I had been a loser, and that night….I swore to myself that one day I would be a winner.”
Going back to the sidewalk craps game young Lansky watched and studied the gamblers intently, and learned when to place his bet with a sure winner. “Then I began to notice,” he said, “that the men who actually ran the dice games were only pawns…of other well dressed and prosperous men,” who he also noticed seemed to be all Italians who in turn were “servant” who were “collecting the money for somebody bigger. So it must be a very big business, gambling with nickels and dimes on the sidewalks of the Lower East Side.”
After graduating from Public School #34 in 1917, Lansky worked as an auto mechanic, and first came to the attention of the police when he was arrested for fighting with Charles Luciana and Benjamen Siegel. That was the first time he was known to have officially used the name Lansky, and after the judge listened to their story, he decided that the boys had “bugs in their heads,” which temporarily gave Lansky the nickname “Meyer the Bug,” but Siegel could never shake the name “Bugsy.”
The three boys became fast friends and developed business associations, while Luciana rose in the ranks of the Italian Mafia allied under Joe “the Boss” Masseria. They were perennially at war with another New York gang run by Salvatore Maranzano, whose henchmen picked up Luciano and took him for a ride to Statin Island where they shot him a number of times and left for dead. Luciano miraculously survived, earning him the nickname “Lucky” Luciano.
Lansky, Siegel and Luciano formed a life-long alliance with each other and established themselves on the Lower East Side as a competent and efficient guns-for-hire entrepreneurs that became known as “The Bugs and Meyer Mob,” which also included Joseph “Doc” Stacher, Joe Adonis, Abner “Longie” Zwillmen and Arthur “Dutch Schultz” Flegenheimer. They either escorted Zwillmen’s bootleg liquor or they hijacked any competitors who tried to muscle in on their rackets in their territory.
Philadelphia gangster “Waxy” Gordon was especially upset at the Bug and Meyer Mob for hijacking some of his truck shipments and, as with the Capone-Moran feud in Chicago, there was tension between gangs. Since Capone actually controlled only certain sections of Chicago, other Chicago gangsters also came in to the Atlantic City meeting, including Joe “Polock” Saltis and Frank “Machine Gun” McEarlane, complete with violin cases under their arms.
Other than Capone, these were mostly new names and faces in the underworld of 1929, but before long they would make their mark and become household names. The old-guard “Mustache Petes” who ran the big city rackets for the previous few decades, referred to these new, young gangsters as “The Young Turks,” but they in turn, were considered too old fashioned, narrow-minded and set in their ways to mingle with the gangsters of other nationalities and neighborhoods. The “Petes” were not even invited to this meeting.
To some, Luciano was thought to represent the New York capo de capi Guseppi “Joe the Boss” Masseria, but in retrospect, Luciano had Masseria murdered and replaced him after the protracted war that was wagged between Masseria and the other New York rackets boss Salvadore Maranzano. Masseria and Maranzano were from the Old Order and were on the way out, and The Young Turks knew it.
One member of the old school who was invited and did attend the Atlantic City conclave was John Torrio, who was born in Naples and was one of the first immigrants to leave the notorious “Five Points” section of Brooklyn to go to Chicago, where he ran his uncle’s whorehouse. After killing his uncle and setting up his own numbers racket, Torrio brought in Al Capone from the old neighborhood to be his enforcer.
Torrio, who didn’t drink or smoke, was Capone’s mentor and one of the oldest and wisest of the delegates at the Atlantic City convention. He would play a significant role by making key policy decisions concerning the promotion of other vices, most notably gambling.
While there would be other, more notorious meetings of mobsters – Havana, 1946, the 1957 Apalachin, New York meeting that was broken up by local police, a New York restaurant sit down that was also busted by the cops, the 1929 meeting in Atlantic City was most significant because it established a new policy of inter-city-gang cooperation on a nationwide basis.
It was not a question of who was at Atlantic City, but who was not there. Besides the Mustache Petes from the Old Order of things, Bugs Moran was the most notable big name absentee. He was left back in Chicago to lick his wounds and regroup his forces after the disastrous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
As the most blatant gangland mass murder in history, the massacre called attention to the mobsters and put pressure on them from the public, the press, politicians and the police. It became the most influential factor in persuading the factional mob leaders of the necessity for a meeting to hash things out. Rather than let the situation get completely out of hand and reach a level of violence that would force the authorities to take action, the gangsters decided to sit down at the same table for the first time, discuss their mutual problems and arrange for an agreeable solution like normal businessmen.
Although most of the published sources place the main gathering of gangsters at the President Hotel on the Boardwalk, the large number of delegates made it necessary for them to meet in smaller caucus to discuss the topics on the agenda. Pushed along the boardwalk in wicker-rolling chairs, they didn’t talk in front of the push cart operators, but at the end of the boardwalk, like other tourists in from the big city, they took off their shoes and socks, rolled up the cuffs of their pants and waded in the shallow surf like any normal day-tripper. With their conversations muffled by the sounds of the surf breaking, the mobsters plotted strategy and began the long term planning that would control organized crime activities for the next fifty years.
Since minutes of the meetings were not transcribed for posterity, legend has it that the order of business was basically two fold. For one, they had to agree on an amiable solution to the conflicts that erupted into mob warfare, primarily geographic turf battles. Secondly, since by then it was obvious that Prohibition would not last forever, they had to get involved in legitimate businesses as well as devise an alternative source of illegal income once Prohibition ended.
As for mob warfare, since such violence hurt everyone’s business, they decided to end such conflicts by adhering strictly to the territorial spheres of influence, with each gang controlling particular rackets in each area. They also agreed to work together in setting prices, sharing warehouse space and coordinating the wholesale distribution of liquor.
The Atlantic City accords were a radical departure from pervious mob practices because they also agreed to form an executive committee to oversee and arbitrate all disputes, denote the degree of punishment to all violators and to set policy for the governing of all future illegal operations.
The creation of the Board of Directors of the National Syndicate of Organized Crime was as big as the founding of the United Nations. Although it’s very existence would be kept hidden from the public for decades, and spy novelist Ian Fleming would ridicule them with his fictional Special Executive for Counter-Intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion – SPECTRE, it would become generally known as “The Commission.”
As for the second item on the agenda, they decided to explore gambling as a replacement for the lucrative illegal liquor profits after prohibition. With the repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933, gambling became the main preoccupation of the local mobs until 1946, when, after the Havana meeting, the French Connection became the primary source of the drugs and narcotics that would become the Syndicate’s primary source of revenue other than gambling.
The Federal Bureau of Narcotics concluded, from information provided from undercover informants, that the Atlantic City convention established the basis for the Syndicate that carved the nation into specific territories, developed a system of kangaroo courts that provided the gangsters with their own quasi-judicial system, and protected the hierarchy of the local mafia families.
Arrangements were also made to invest in a multi-million dollar slush fund to bribe law enforcement officials, ensure the election of certain politicians, hire the best attorneys and pay for the educational development of promising young men who could serve their interests in the future.
The hallmark of the meeting in Atlantic City was the centralizing of particular powers with an executive committee, like the board of directors of a blue chip industry, an exceptional and extraordinary concept that was not immediately acceptable to many of the ethnic oriented gangsters like Massaria and Marrassano, who were dinosaurs that had to go the way of the buffalo.
The dissentions of the still primarily ethnically Italian gangsters was overcome in a power-play move when Lansky nominated the Mafia’s own Johnny Torrio as Chairman of the Board, a motion that quickly won the endorsement of most of the mobsters present. Torrio was also the only one who could take care of Capone, whose violent ways were causing problems for all of them.
With the Commission in charge, Torrio at the helm and business completed, the final item on the agenda was Capone, and what to do with him. While the Chicago rackets were combined, and Capone was the nominal boss, he had to take a vacation, or he was going to be thrown to the wolves. He was given the option of dieing right then, or taking a sabbatical from the business for a while. The newspapers had all reported that Capone was in town and one of the William Randolph Hurst newspapers even ran a faked composite photograph of Capone, Knucky Johnson and Meyer Lansky walking down the boardwalk, all of which had the pubic clamoring for Capone to be busted for something.
Although they put an APB – All Points Bulletin out for the man who was seen all over town – throwing chairs in a hotel lobby, screaming obscenities on Pacific Avenue, having dinner in Ducktown, riding in a wicker-walker and strolling down the boardwalk with Johnson, suddenly, Capone couldn’t be found anywhere.
According to local legend, when the heat was turned on, Capone slipped out of Atlantic City and retreated to a local private country club, either the Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield or Seaview in Absecon, where he played bad golf and good cards until the heat was off a few days later.
On May 16, 1929, a week after Lansky’s wedding, Capone showed up at the train station but missed the train by minutes. With a police motorcycle escort to the edge of town, Capone’s entourage drove to Philadelphia, where he again just missed a train to Chicago. Going to a movie on Market Street with his bodyguard Frank Rio, Capone emerged from the theater to be confronted by Philadelphia Police Detective James “Shooey” Malone.
Malone flashed his badge, they talked quietly for a moment and Capone calmly volunteered his .38 caliber revolver and was promptly arrested by Malone. Rio momentarily balked, but Capone smiled and urged him to surrender his weapon too.
Philadelphia’s Director of Public Safety Major Lemel B. Schoefield accepted praise for the arrest of the nation’s number one crime czar, though it later became apparent that Det. Malone had met Capone the year before at Hialeah racetrack in Florida, and Capone had arranged for his own arrest. Besides taking the heat off the rest of the Syndicate, in the secure hands of the law he also acquired sanctuary from a vengeful Bugs Moran.
In the custody of the Philadelphia authorities, Capone was forthcoming about the Atlantic City Sit Down, emphasizing the decision to end mob warfare. “I told them,” Capone said, reciting a line from one of Lansky’s lectures, “there is enough business to make us all rich, and it’s time to stop the killing and look on our own business as other men look on theirs.”
When asked about the purpose of the meeting, Capone said, “It is with the idea of making peace among the gangsters that I spent the week in Atlantic City and got the word of each leader that there will be no more shooting.”
But Capone also told them he, “…had to hide from the rest of the racketeers,” who weren’t at the meeting. They had a vendetta against him. It seems that there comes a point in every gangster’s career when, despite all the power and money they have accumulated, life is suddenly vulnerable to one professional contract killer. John Torrio thought that prison was the safest place, Sam Giancana, who would later take over the Chicago mob, fled to Mexico and South America, Joe Bonnano had himself kidnapped. Capone chose jail.
Philadelphia Criminal Court Judge John E. Wash sentenced Capone harshly for such a petty crime of being a suspicious person and carrying a concealed deadly weapon, the maximum of one year at Holmesburg Penitentiary. After a short stint there however, Capone was transferred to the more relaxed confines of Eastern Pen, where he served out the duration of his sentence under the lenient warden Herbert B. Smith, who furnished Capone’s cell with lamps, a library, radio console and lounge chair and gave him access to his private office telephone.
With Capone in jail, the Syndicate began the process of getting rid of the old Mustache Petes and preparing to engage in Big Time gambling activities on a very large scale.
In Hoboken, New Jersey, Lansky’s new father-in-law permitted him to use his Molaska Inc. as a front for a number of his illegal businesses, one of which was the largest distillery in the state. Molaska took its name from molasses chips, a necessary ingredient for the making of rum, which became more profitable than smuggling it.
Molaska rum business took Lansky to Cuba, where he met with Sgt. Fugencio Batista, the strong-arm coup leader who twice took over the reins of Cuba. The first time he was in power Lansky made a deal with Batista to allow him to open a legal casino in Cuba, much like the illegal casinos he operated in Florida, New York and New Jersey. In order for the Syndicate to control casinos in Havana, it was arranged for casinos to operate in hotels with 500 rooms or more, and since the Syndicate controlled Hotel National was the only hotel in Havana with 500 rooms, the Lansky mob owned the only casino in Cuba.
The second Havana hotel to qualify for a casino was owned by Santo Traficante, who hired Atlantic City native John Martino to run his electronics and security operations.
Two weeks before Castro came to power Lansky and the Syndicate sold the National Hotel-Casino to Mike McLaney and Carroll Rosenbloom, both of whom would loose their shirts in the deal. While Mike McLaney’s brother William owned the land near New Orleans where anti-Castro Cuban commandos trained – and reportedly the Magazine Street house where Lee Harvey Oswald lived, Lyndon Baines Johnson would be Rossenbloom’s houseguest in Atlantic City during the 1964 Democratic National Convention.
In 1976 New Jersey law allowed for legal casinos in Atlantic City hotels that had 500 rooms or more, – the Havana model, with only one hotel in the entire city that qualified – Resorts International, a Lansky-Syndicate controlled company. The second and third Atlantic City casinos – Bally and Caesars, were also Syndicate controlled companies, following the policies, delineating the strategies and continuing the traditions laid out at the 1929 Convention.
The federal government did not officially recognize the existence of the syndicate until May 1, 1951 when Estes Kefauver, Chairman of the Senate Crim Investigating Committee, visited Atlantic City, New Orleans, Chicago and New York before determining and reporting that, “a nationwide crime syndicate does exist in the United States,…and behind the local mobs which make up the national crime syndicate is a shadowy, international criminal organization known as the Mafia.”
Even after that, the FBI refused to place a priority on the Mafia or organized crime until years later, when local police broke up a major mob meeting in upstate New York.
The records of Kefauver’s investigation were then promptly and routinely locked away for 50 years as “Congressional Records,” which are exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests.
In 1998, the Assassination Records Review Board refused to release the records of the Kefauver Committee investigation by declaring them “assassination records” because they claimed they were not related to or considered relevant to the assassination of President Kennedy, even though the second chief counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) believes that the President may have been the victim of a mob hit.
The Kefauver Committee records were scheduled for release in 2001, but are being systematically released after being reviewed by request.
While this blog is concerned primarily with the real Boardwalk Empire it is also compared with the HBO version that's on TV, so in that vein here's Hilary Rothing's explanation of what's happening on the screen.
BOARDWALK EMPIRE 2.02 'Ourselves Alone'
Nucky finds himself on the outs with his own brother, as the Commodore readies a new regime.
By Hilary Rothing
October 04, 2011
Episode Title: 'Ourselves Alone'
Writer: Howard Korder
Director: David Petrarca
Previously on "Boardwalk Empire":
Van Alden staged a raid at a restaurant while celebrating his wedding anniversary with his wife. Nucky did damage control after the KKK ambushed Chalky at his warehouse. The Commodore pushed Jimmy to break away from his mentor. Meanwhile, Nucky was cuffed for fixing the Atlantic City mayoral election.
Margaret Schroeder (Kelly Macdonald) confronts her maids when she hears them whispering about the news of Nucky's arrest. Meanwhile, Nucky's lawyer bails him out, causing cellmate, Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) to bristle. In New York City, Jimmy (Michael Pitt) makes an offer to Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbard) to undercut Nucky's distribution deal. Rothstein says he'll give it thought and promises not to let word get out of Jimmy's bold move. Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza) invites a hesitant Jimmy to a poker game and a meeting with Mayer Lansky.
Nucky's lawyer tells him that the State has two confidential witnesses who are willing to testify against him in the election fraud case. Margaret poses as a poor woman to get past the Deputy Attorney General at Nucky's office and make off with his ledger and cash. The Commodore (Dabney Coleman) rallies Eli, Damian Flemming and Jim Neary in an effort to take Nucky down. Flemming later voices his concerns to Neary over betraying Nucky.
Chalky gets a visit from his wife in jail. When a fellow prisoner continues to antagonize him, Chalky uses his influence over the other men in the cell to come to his defense. Nucky confronts Mayor Edward Bader about a leak in the election fraud scheme. Bader denies any knowledge of it.
Margaret gets a visit from a Sinn Fein representative, Owen Slater, looking to case Nucky's home before his boss arrives for a meeting. He flirts with Margaret, who is taken off guard by the young man. Later, his boss insults Margaret for forgetting where she is from and is gruff with Nucky, who makes a donation to the cause, regardless.
Jimmy meets with Mayer Lansky (Anatol Yusef) and learns that he and Lucky are thinking of getting into the heroin trade. Later, two of the mobsters he took money from in the poker game try to rob him but Jimmy kills both men.
Damian Flemming attempts to warn Nucky about the Commodore's plans just as Eli (Shea Whigham) calls to issue a threat. Nucky makes him one last offer to confess his betrayal and make things right but Eli only makes a quip about taking power and hangs up on his brother. Meanwhile, the Commodore introduces Jimmy to a group of older men he claims run Atlantic CIty.
Later that night, Margaret returns Nucky's ledger and money to him and suggests he burn the book, instead committing all records to memory. He agrees and she tosses it into the fire.
The times, they are a changin'. That was certainly the theme in 'Ourselves Alone.' That and the realization that valued ally of mobsters of various ethnic persuasions and fringe political organizations, Nucky Thompson, is suddenly short on friends, himself. Meanwhile, his brother Eli and the man he considered a son, Jimmy are preparing to wage war with the Commodore in command.
I've been grumbling about "Boardwalk Empire's" pacing since last season, thus I was pleasantly surprised with the uncharacteristically brisk pace of this second season. There was quite a bit of movement on several fronts. Jimmy made a ballsy move in reaching out to Arnold Rothstein and Lucky Luciano. The Commodore readied his men to take down Nucky and we met a new troublemaker on the scene, Sinn Fein associate, Owen Slater, who seems to have Irish eyes for Margaret. All interesting developments as we make our way down the boardwalk and deeper into season two.
Speaking of Margaret Schroeder, she continues to struggle with her upstairs/downstairs identity crisis. In the opening moments of the hour, it was hard to remember the timid shop girl who waited on a hateful and demanding Lucy Danzinger. Yet she was quick to remind one of her maids that she, too, was once a pauper. And then there was Margaret's visit to Nucky's office, dressed in one of her maid's cheap coats. Despite how easily she slipped into the role she once occupied at a lesser station in life, Margaret knows there's no going back. Not even to her hometown of Kerry, Ireland, as we saw when she supped with the Sinn Fien representative. Indeed, it appears Margaret's turned a corner, conning her way past a Deputy Attorney General and advising Nucky on how best to keep his secrets safe.
Another player on the boardwalk, Chalky White, also flexed some muscle this week, without lifting a finger. Chalky's sphere of influence was made clear when he threatened to shut down AC by calling for a massive strike. But there's nothing quite as convincing as a good ole' jail cell beating to hammer the point home. The more Nucky marginalizes Chalky, the more his power is made obvious.
Sadly, Van Alden and his ongoing moral meltdown were not on the agenda, this week, as well as Richard Harrow's take on "One Hour Photo" with the Darmody family. Instead, we spent more time with Jimmy, who's quiet discontent and constant brooding can get a bit tiresome. Like Steve Buscemi, I fear Michael Pitt is doing the best he can with a character who is thinly written. I was, however, tickled to see more of the Commodore and his taxidermy trophy room.
With his enemies, "dear brother" Eli included, now joined in the common cause of taking Nucky down, "Boardwalk Empire" hangs onto my interest. I'm still not enamored with the character of Enuch "Nucky" Thompson but I'm invested in just about every other thug, gangster, disfigured war vet, long suffering wife and mentally unstable Prohibition Agent this show has to offer. That's certainly enough to keep me in AC for another season.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.
What we're looking for in Boardwalk Empire season 2
Michael looks back at the first season of Boardwalk Empire, and comes up with some things that the show needs to do in its second run.
Published on Oct 6, 2011
This article contains spoilers for Boardwalk Empire season 1.
Time doesn’t half fly these days. It doesn’t feel all that long since Sky Atlantic burst onto our EPGs in the UK, promising a feast of high quality US television. The opening course seemed rather delicious, a new Prohibition-era drama from the creative minds behind The Sopranos, Goodfellas and The Departed. Best of all, we no longer had to endure several spoiler-dodging months waiting for it to make its way over the pond. We’re still on fast forward, it’s early October, and we’re already settling down for the second season.
In many ways, the shortness of the gap makes sense. So much of the first season of Boardwalk Empire felt like things were being set up for later, that it may come to feel like one long season with a mid-term break for the summer. This does, however, give some hope that the second season will see things ramp up considerably. There are many opportunities to do so.
Of the show’s many characters, Jimmy Darmody was the one with whom we were most likely to identify. A young man, embittered by his wartime experiences and sense that his talents are being overlooked, seemed set for a challenging journey to acceptance. However, he spent a good deal of the season exiled in Chicago. Sure, he was learning his ‘trade’, and coming to terms with his limitations, but it felt like he was kept away from the main story arc, only returning as the season drew to a close
Meanwhile, the Commodore, one of the show’s most intriguing characters, was barely in it.
Now there is always something to be said for economy, and there was a certain difficulty with a disgruntled housemaid and some arsenic, but there was an overriding sense that we have yet to see him for the power he plainly is. However, the newly formed alliance between him, Jimmy and Eli Thompson looks set to kick things off nicely.
Nucky Thompson may feel that things are looking up, what with the election dealt with and with Arnold Rothstein on the back foot, but in actuality, his problems are just beginning.
Talking of problems, Lucy Danziger, possibly the nakedest character in television history, has certainly got some interesting times ahead of her. Her condition will cause nothing but trouble for resident oddball, Nelson Van Alden, and he has very tricky path to negotiate. That said, it is unfortunate that the show’s female characters seem destined to remain defined by their relationships with men. Aside from Lucy, we have Angela Darmody, finding it difficult to handle her own desires while negotiating her relationship with Jimmy. These are good characters. They can do more on their own.
But what of Margaret Schroeder? The journey from battered wife to companion of Nucky Thompson was a little circuitous, and there has been a tendency to see her as all too willing to become a ‘kept woman’. But as the series has gone on, she’s shown more of a stronger, wilful side that means that the audience, like Nucky, have probably underestimated her. In Margaret, delicately portrayed by Kelly MacDonald, we have a character from which we can genuinely expect some surprises.
This will require some improvements. The show also seemed at times to lack the confidence in economic storytelling that has been HBO’s hallmark. Take Jimmy’s wartime experiences. In the very first episode, he showed his capacity for violence, which he explained by saying, 'yeah, I seen some things [in France]'. That would have been enough, we could have learned more by his actions as the story progressed, but the writers couldn’t avoid giving him an 'impassioned' speech to Nucky in justification.
One of the themes I would like to see explored is the problem of what to do with a generation of demobbed angry young men, scarred by their experiences in war. This is a large theme (and one that resonates today) but could nevertheless be told through the actions and choices of the characters without resorting to tearful exposition. They can do better; they managed it superbly with the fascinating man-made monster Richard Harrow.
Van Alden’s obvious religious mania was another piece of unnecessarily heavy storytelling. There should be enough material to show Prohibition as an ill thought out disaster without making the government’s man such an obvious loon. In fact, the opportunities for a rich and engaging story are so abundant; we could simply let the era do the talking.
The 1920s are a very interesting decade to explore. Not only can we watch notorious characters like Rothstein, Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky make their journeys into infamy, but we can also see America dance blindly through the decade leading to the Wall Street Crash and the Depression.
For those of us still coming to terms with the aftermath of the credit boom, it makes for instructive viewing. The setting of Boardwalk Empire also gives it the opportunity to fill a gap in the retelling of the American century that was being told through television. A dramatic arc can be traced from Deadwood (mid-1870s) through to Mad Men (1960s) and onto The Wire (2000s). The addition of a show about the 1920s helps to create a pattern in which the state of America has been examined at intervals of around forty or so years.
The makers of Boardwalk Empire have the task of showing America’s faltering steps into socio-political maturity and sophistication. Done properly, it stands to be awesome. Let’s hope that the second season sees them do just this. The beginning hasn’t finished yet.
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David Spatz, former entertainment columnist for the Press of Atlantic City and now the Courier Post, is an Atlantic City native whose family owned hotels in town. He is walking on the million dollar fake boardwalk set in New York.
The New York Times recently published a story on what's left of Nucky's AC
Atlantic City’s fading boardwalk empire
By Jonah Flicker
Atlantic City is a town of contradictions and illusions. There is the get-rich-quick allure of the casinos, whose shimmering veneers obscure a slowly decaying undercoat of cigarette smoke and lost pay checks. And the iconic boardwalk stretches for miles, bordered by fast food restaurants, amusement park attractions, and tchotchke shops on one side, the sparkling ocean on the other.
HBO's hit series Boardwalk Empire, entering its second season this September, has reincarnated a nostalgic vision of Atlantic City, replete with gangsters, molls, speakeasies and poker joints. But the truth is that very little of the old-school den of vice and pleasure remains. Atlantic Avenue, the city's main drag, has been reduced from a thriving artery that pumps cars toward glitz and glamour to a haven for pawn shops, check cashers, and outlet stores. Donald Trump and his ilk have razed classic hotels, casinos and bars and over the past few years, tourism has declined.
“You used to see traffic stretching all the way down Atlantic Avenue,” said a bartender at the vintage dive Culmone's (2437 Atlantic Ave, 609-348-5170), while serving a smattering of mid-day customers nursing their drinks. “You don't see that anymore.” The bar, which opened in the late 1950s, has seen better days, but it is a friendly spot away from the hubbub of the boardwalk.
At the city's north end, climb the 228 steps of the Absecon Lighthouse, the tallest in New Jersey and more than 150 years old, for a stunning view of this mini metropolis. Sandy flats lie to the east, west and south, with empty lots jutting up against halted new construction, gambling mainstays and the crumbling inner city. To the north lies Brigantine Beach, just across a narrow waterway full of boats. Farther to the south lies the more affluent community of Margate, once known as South Atlantic City, and home to some of the historical remnants of the city's storied past. Here visitors can find a taste of the Atlantic City that once was.
Lucy the Elephant towers over the beach in Margate, six stories tall and gleaming in the sunshine. The giant pachyderm was constructed in 1881 by James V Lafferty. Among other things, Lucy served as a pre-Prohibition tavern, before being established as a National Historic Landmark in the 1970s. Currently there are two restaurants in Lucy's shadow, Bella Luna and Lucy's Beach Grille, and festivals and fairs are occasionally held underneath her wooden belly. Today, Lucy is open to the public and visitors are allowed to climb to the top where they enjoy a view of the Atlantic Ocean.
Marven Gardens, located on the border of Margate and Ventnor City, is an interesting and affluent neighbourhood of historic houses with architecture dating back to the 1920s and '30s. It is bordered by four avenues: Brunswick, Fredericksburg, Ventnor and Winchester. The Marvin Gardens property of the Monopoly board game was named after the area but misspelled, which Parker Brothers officially apologized for in 1995. Marven Gardens is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Head north into Atlantic City proper and the experience is quite different from the almost bucolic feel of Margate and Marven Gardens. The boardwalk is the obvious draw, a tourist attraction stretching about four miles along the coast with a diverse mass of humanity -- rich and poor, young and old, black and white, families and miscreants -- tromping up and down the wooden slats.
On my recent visit a one-armed man shouted nonsense at the top of his lungs and lurched past tourists who were looking for a bite to eat. Over on the side of the boardwalk, a street preacher foretold the end of days while teenage girls in bikinis and boys on bikes flirted and laughed. A Hare Krishna festival's enthusiastic practitioners pushed a float by an outdoor discotheque with house music pumping. Dichotomies and illusions abound.
The Steel Pier, located across from Trump Taj Mahal, opened in 1898 and has been a centre of Atlantic City entertainment ever since. Once home to circus performers and the Miss America Pageant, the Pier is now a modernamusement park of rides and attractions, including the thrilling Rocket that slingshots riders 225 feet into the air, and a variety of fried foods. Boardwalk Hall, formerly known as Convention Hall, is another unofficial historic landmark along the boardwalk.
Built in 1929, it has hosted sporting events and concerts throughout the years, including the first indoor college football game in 1930 and indoor helicopter flight in 1970. It was overhauled in 1998 and is now a modern facility for concerts and boxing matches.
Many casinos and hotels line the Boardwalk, including the Tropicana,Atlantic City Hilton and Showboat Atlantic City. All of these offer a huge array of accommodations, restaurants and gambling options, but none retain much of the old Atlantic City flavour. Much like Las Vegas, this is a fully modernized version of the past (though Atlantic City is more like the area a few blocks off the Vegas Strip). For those who prefer to stay in a non-gambling hotel on the Boardwalk, the Chelsea does its best to capture a 1950s retro vibe with modern trimmings. On a summer weekend, rooms are not cheap, starting at $450 a night for double occupancy. On Saturday nights, the Chelsea turns into something of a party hotel, with festivities taking place at the fifth floor outdoor pool area until the wee hours of the morning. Guests do not have to pay the $20 entrance fee, but the party is more Jersey Shore than Boardwalk Empire, with guys and girls in their early twenties drinking and grinding to throbbing techno music. The hotel has an upscale steakhouse called Chelsea Prime and a good casual diner, Teplitzky's, open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and after-hours drinks.
Although Atlantic City has been thoroughly modernized, sacrificing much of its vibrant, edgy character in the process, it is still possible to seek out some scattered ghosts of the past. A block or two off the boardwalk on St James Place sits the darkened interior of the Irish Pub. It opened in 1972, but the pub has the vintage feel of the speakeasy the space once held. The dimly lit bar is a perfect spot to get away from the heat and commotion of the boardwalk, throw back a pint and check out the memorabilia lining the walls. The menu consists of typical pub grub with a few Irish specialties like corned beef thrown in for good measure.
For a more elegant dining experience, and a real taste of historic Atlantic City, the Knife & Fork Inn is the place. Since 1912 this distinct building located a few blocks off the boardwalk has famously played host to politicians, entertainers and their cronies. According to its website, during Prohibition the Knife & Fork flouted federal law while the real-life “Nucky” Thompson held court at its bar. Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope were said to be regulars in their heyday as well. The restaurant underwent a major renovation in 2005 and there are now three floors of different dining rooms, an enormous wine selection and a comforting menu of surf and turf featuring their famous dish, lobster Thermidor. The owners also operate Dock's Oyster House, another classic Atlantic City bar and restaurant that dates back to 1897.
So what is the truth behind Atlantic City's illusions? Is this a city destined for rejuvenation or further deterioration? For its businesses and residents, things may be getting better.
According to a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, tourism has been on the upswing this year, thanks in part to the early and sustained summer heat blanketing the Eastern seaboard. The success of Boardwalk Empire has also inspired new visitors, and casinos and restaurants are capitalizing on this by offering special dining and lodging promotions. But for the most part, vintage Atlantic City is a memory, a ghost.