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

David Pietrusza

Part 12

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As suddenly as the tide had risen against the gamblers, it subsided. Nothing more was heard of indicting Rothstein. In fact, the state's entire case was collapsing. As the trial began, judge Friend dropped charges against Ben and Louis Levi. On July 27 he announced that even if Weaver, Felsch, and Zork were convicted, he would grant them new trials "as so little evidence" existed against them. Now only David Zelser and the remaining six Black Sox remained in jeopardy.

Buried among such news were a.s.sistant State's Attorney John Tyrrell's comments regarding A. R.'s direct involvement with Attell, Zelser, and company. "It will be remembered," Tyrrell noted as he interrogated Zelser, who had conveniently forgotten that he and Attell (along with the Levi brothers) had shared the same room at the Hotel Sinton, "that this sample room he [Zelser] registered for is the one Attell kept his money in cases and hidden under the mattresses of his bed. It is the same place where the gamblers hatched their conspiracies and to which Rothstein had a private wire from New York."

"Rothstein had a private wire from New York ... "

In an era when people thought twice-and then twice againabout the expense of placing a single long-distance call, this was news indeed. That A. R. paid for a private wire to Attell and Zelser reveals that Attell and Zelser were not acting alone. They weren't pretending to have Arnold's backing; they had it all the way.

Thus Attell knew that he could safely stiff the players. Working as the left hand of Rothstein, he knew the players were getting enough money from Arnold's right hand-Nat Evans and Sport Sullivan-to keep them on the hook. And Evans and Sullivan knew they could toy with the Black Sox for the same reason-or if they didn't quite know why, A. R. would simply tell them not to worry about it.

Attell's working for A. R. ties up yet another loose end-one making no sense if Attell were operating behind Rothstein's back and, if not jeopardizing his "good name," jeopardizing his activities with Sullivan. That loose end is this: A. R. spent a lot of time and money shielding Attell from prosecution, hiding him in Montreal, having Fallon concoct his audacious "two Attells" scheme. If Attell had acted on his own, there would be no reason to shield him, no reason to buy The Little Champ's silence.

But, in fact, there was every reason in the world.

Rothstein's name surfaced again in the trial's closing moments. Carl Zork's other counsel, A. Morgan Frumberg, asked repeatedly why Rothstein or Sport Sullivan or "Rachael Brown" or Hal Chase ever went to trial. "Arnold Rothstein came here to Chicago during the Grand jury investigation and immediately went to Alfred Austrian, the White Sox attorney," Frumberg pointed out. "What bowing and must have taken place when 'Arnold the Just,' the millionaire gambler entered the sanctum of 'Alfred the Great.' By his own testimony, Mr. Austrian admits conducting this financier to the jury and of bringing him back unindicted.

"Why was this man never indicted? Why were Brown, Sullivan, Attell, and Chase allowed to escape? Why were these underpaid ballplayers, these penny-ante gamblers from Des Moines and St. Louis, who bet a few nickels perhaps on the world series, brought here to be goats in this case?

"Ask the powers of baseball, ask Ban Johnson, who pulled the strings in this case? Who saved Arnold Rothstein?"

Judge Hugo Friend's instructions to the jury made each defendant breathe easier: "The state must prove that it was the intent of the ball players that have been charged with conspiracy through the throwing of the World Series to defraud the public and others, not merely to throw games."

Well, how could anyone prove what was in the mind of Shoeless Joe Jackson or Happy Felsch? The jury returned two hours and fortyseven minutes later, acquitting everyone-the Black Sox, Zelser/Ben- nett, Carl Zork. Everyone. Eddie Cicotte hugged jury foreman William Barry. His teammates lifted other jurors upon their shoulders. Judge Friend beamed. When Friend's bailiffs noticed his reaction, they abandoned any impartiality, "whistling and cheering" with the players. The camaraderie didn't end there. Defendants and jurymen found themselves celebrating at a nearby Italian restaurant. It was just a coincidence, of course, that both groups found themselves in adjoining rooms, separated by a folding part.i.tion, in the same establishment. Soon, doors opened, part.i.tions folded back, and jurors and defendants rejoiced together.

In 1961 a newspaper columnist asked Abe Attell if the Series could be fixed again. "Not a chance," the Little Champ responded, "that kind of cheating died when they buried Arnold Rothstein."

CHAPTER 13 * "The Chic Thing to Have Good Whiskey"

THE TIMES WERE CHANGING and had been for quite a while.

A. R.'s early world, the twilight of Victorianism, appeared respectable, straight-laced, prim, proper. In reality it was wide-open, tolerating, and indeed reveling in prost.i.tution, gambling, gluttony, and drunkenness. The Gilded Age. Fin de siecle. The Gay Nineties. Nouveau-riche business tyc.o.o.ns. The mauve decadence of seven-percent solutions, Oscar Wilde, and Aubrey Beardsley.

Inevitably, reaction came. Progressive Era reformers did indeed accomplish everything the textbooks credit them with: battling bigcity bosses, regulating rapacious monopolies, restricting child labor, taking the first halting steps toward worker safety and consumer health. That was but part of their agenda. They also targeted what we gingerly call "private morality," but what they dared call "vice."

In Manhattan, the crackdown started with prost.i.tution. In February 1892, the Reverend Charles H. Parkhurst, minister of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, delivered a sermon that shocked his congregation, alleging ties between brothels, police, and Tammany itself ("that lying, perjured, rum-soaked, libidinous lot"). Summoned by a grand jury to prove his allegations, he suddenly realized he possessed no actual evidence-and was laughed out of the room. To gather this evidence, he then conducted an elaborate personal undercover investigation of the city's underworld: the worst wh.o.r.ehouses, its most dangerous saloons. Soon he had proof, and the city listened. Eventually, even Tammany listened. When in 1902, prim, churchgoing Charles F. Murphy succeeded venal Richard Croker as head of the machine, Murphy ended its reliance on white-slave trade payoffs. Prost.i.tution didn't end. It just moved from ornate brothels to hotel rooms and street corners. But its heyday was past.

The process repeated itself with gambling. In New York State, a series of laws crippled the racetracks; by 1911, they had been shuttered. The real blow fell to Manhattan's gambling industry with Beansy Rosenthal's murder. Again, as with prost.i.tution and the tracks, the ornate, wide-open gambling houses shut down, replaced with floating games of chance.

Which left the saloon. The inst.i.tution possessed its benefits, serving as a community focal point and a welcoming post for immigrants, but it harbored society's worst elements: gamblers,, thugs, ward politicians, petty-and often not so petty-criminals. Temperance and prohibitionist sentiment simmered nationally for decades, but never gained much ground. Then, just before World War I, the prohibition movement accelerated, augmented not just by the spirit of the times, but by an efficient political infrastructure. Older antialcohol groups such as the Women's Christian Temperance Union found themselves joined by the aggressive new Anti-Saloon League, an organization that combined gra.s.sroots fervor, a powerful publishing program, and hardball lobbying and politicking. Liquor interests dug in their heels, refusing to acknowledge their sins, to cleanse the corner saloon. In short order, they lost everything. In January 1920, the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Const.i.tution banned the "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" within the national borders. Prohibition was here to stayfor thirteen years.

The Eighteenth Amendment did not create organized criminal gangs, crooked cops, or venal politicians, but it provided them with fantastically lucrative opportunities-as it did for Arnold Rothstein. Some say A. R. was once again merely a Big Bankroll, who by mag nitude of nerve and cash attracted opportunities like a magnet, adding his own special skills to the process, but reactive nonetheless.

They are wrong.

Most biographical treatments provide the following story. As Prohibition began, two low-level hoodlums, Waxey Gordon (ne Irving Wexler) and Big Maxey Greenberg, needed Arnold to fund their purchase of a supply of Canadian liquor. Gordon, basically a Lower East Side thug, was a former pickpocket, Benny Fein strong-arm man, and dope peddler of little charm and less education. Maxey Greenberg hailed from St. Louis, where he worked for William "Jellyroll" Egan's "Egan's Rats," primarily a union-busting outfit. In 1917 Greenberg had received ten years for grand larceny, but in 1919 Egan employed his political connections to weasel a presidential pardon for Greenberg. Maxey, however, soon departed for Detroit, conveniently located across the river from Windsor, Ontario and Canada's virtually limitless amounts of high-quality liquor. Greenberg needed $175,000 to start his rum-running network. Neither he nor his new friend Waxey Gordon possessed $175,000.

Waxey had worked for Rothstein in labor racketeering. In October 1919, Gordon arranged a meeting with A. R. on a Central Park bench. Gordon and Greenberg knew Rothstein's interest rates would be steep, but also knew of no one else who could bankroll their operation.

A. R. certainly had the money, his fortune recently augmented from fixing a World Series. He also had a counterproposal. He demanded every piece of property Greenberg owned as collateral and further insisted that Maxey write a ma.s.sive life insurance policy on himself with A. R.'s firm. That was just the beginning. A. R. would become senior partner in their enterprise-and, above all, he didn't want anything routed through greedy Canadian middlemen. The booze would be purchased outright in Great Britain, and shipped directly to the States. A. R. hated middlemen; they only skimmed away his profits.

Possessing no alternative, Greenberg and Gordon agreed. Rothstein had planned everything. He even had his own purchasing agent, Harry Mather, a Lower East Side native now lying low in England to avoid bucket-shop charges. Mather bought 20,000 cases of scotch and hired a freighter to ship them across the Atlantic.

Off the eastern Long Island coast, a small flotilla of speedboats sped the booze to sh.o.r.e. A waiting convoy of trucks (guarded by Legs Diamond and his brother Eddie) hauled it to the city. Such operations required the acquiescence of Coast Guardsmen, state troopers, and Suffolk and Na.s.sau County Police. Yet all transpired flawlessly, returning fabulous profits to the new partnership.

Ten shipments arrived uneventfully. The Coast Guard prepared to intercept the eleventh. Aware of their plan, Rothstein ordered the ship to Cuba, where he still sold his cargo profitably. But the experience (and the potential loss of a ma.s.sive investment) unnerved him.

The above is all true-except for abandoning rum-running and losing his nerve. A. R. never really left the business. He merely surrendered daily oversight of the operation. He still drew sizable profits from the trade. Before Greenberg and Gordon ever dared think of approaching A. R., Rothstein had already developed the entire scenario in his own mind-and a.s.sembled a smart, tough team of young hoodlums to implement it, men who would change the world of organized crime forever.

Eighteen-year-old Meyer Lansky (born Maier Suchowljansky in Grodno, Poland) was a young man on the way up, a petty Lower East Side gambler who graduated quickly to labor racketeering. The 5'5" Lansky-"Little Man"-and Rothstein first met in Brooklyn, in either 1919 or 1920, at the bar mitzvah of the son of a mutual friend. Rothstein invited Lansky to dine with him in Manhattan. The opportunity made Lansky nervous. He was little more than an unexperienced punk. A. R. was the biggest man in town. If Meyer knew what Arnold had in mind for him, he would have been even more nervous.

Indeed, Rothstein liked what he saw in Lansky, but he must have heard a great deal about the "Little Man" before that meeting. He also had to know about Lansky's budding organization. Otherwise, Arnold would never have proposed what he did: that Meyer Lansky and his a.s.sociates, Lucky Luciano (Charlie Lucania), Ben "Bugsy" Siegel, Dutch Schultz (Arthur Flegenheimer), Abner "Longie" Zwillman, Charley Adonis, Vito Genovese, Carlo Gambino, and Albert Anastasia, would a.s.sist him in a.s.sembling the biggest liquorsmuggling ring in the history of the world.

Lansky's group was what A. R. needed: young, smart, flexible. Older gang leaders, the "Moustache Petes" like Joe Ma.s.seria and Salvatore Maranzano, were too set in their ways. The Italians wouldn't work with the Jews. The Jews distrusted the Italians. The Sicilians shunned the Neapolitans. But these kids-and they were kidslooked beyond nationalities to the talent inside, just like Arnold. If a dollar could be made, they'd make it, and they were young enough to be molded in A. R.'s own image.

"We sat talking for six hours," Lansky remembered decades later. "It was a big surprise to me, Rothstein told me quite frankly that he picked me because I was ambitious and 'hungry.'

"But I felt I had nothing to lose. He knew I was working with Charlie Lucania-as he was still known-and that we could call upon our friends, the mixture of Jews and Italians who were loyal to us."

Rothstein liked Lansky and took time to explain how they would collaborate not only in the short term, but in the years to come, and how if his gang was smart it could make more money than they could ever dream of: There's going to be a growing demand for good whiskey in the United States. And when I say good whiskey that is exactly what I mean. I'm not talking about the rotgut rubbish your Italian friends are busy making in their chamber pots right now on the Lower East Side. That's O.K. for the poor creatures who don't know any better.

I'm talking about the best Scotch whiskey from Britain. There's a fortune to be made from importing the stuff into the United States. I don't mean just the odd dozen cases or partial shipment now and then. Prohibition is going to last a long time and then one day it'll be abandoned. But it's going to be with us for quite a while, that's for sure. I can see that more and more people are going to ignore the law, and they're going to pay anything you ask to get their hands on good-quality liquor. I know what I'm talking about, because as you know I mix with society people who have money. It's going to be the chic thing to have good whiskey when you have guests. The rich will vie with one another to be lavish with the Scotch. That's where our opportunity is-to provide them with all the liquor they can possibly pa.s.s on to their guests or guzzle themselves. And we can make a fortune meeting this need.

I want to set up a sound business for importing and distributing Scotch. It is illegal, of course, and will require running risks, but I don't think you mind that. I have the contacts to buy the stuff. I know the Scottish distillers and they know me. I've played poker with them. I've taken a lot of money from them. We're very good friends and there's no problem there. Would you like to discuss this with your Italian friends and let me know? But we have to move quickly. Other people are going to get on the bandwagon....

I will travel to London and Edinburgh and other major European cities and see the Scotch distillers. I'll lay out hard cash and ask them to deliver their top-quality whiskey to us. We'll have crews we can trust and ships to bring it across the Atlantic. The total cargo will be the Scotch I will buy from the distillers. We'll avoid running risks by unloading the cargo at sea and taking delivery outside the American three-mile limit. We'll have to hire or buy a fleet of small fast speedboats and that type of thing, so the cargo can he distributed at night to special places we'll set up on the coast. Either they can let us have the whiskey on the ocean that way, or we can take delivery from one of the nearby Caribbean islands-Cuba may be a good place. It will be your job to smuggle the Scotch into the United States and then distribute it.

A. R.'s exposition as to the why of rum-running required no profound insights. His view of how revealed the mind of a shrewd busi nessman, attuned to branding, customer satisfaction, and long-term profitability: But first I want to lay down an important principle, and this is something I want to be very clear about: We must maintain a reputation for having only the very best whiskey. There are two ways of making money out of this, as I see it. There's the quick and rather stupid way-we could get cheap rotgut whiskey or open the cases and bottles we import, dilute it, and mix it with the cheap stuff being produced over here. We could certainly make very high profits for a while that way. But we would simply get a reputation like your pal Ma.s.seria as being merchants of cheap, disgusting booze which might even kill people. We'd have only the lowest kind of clientele. I want to go for the society people, because that's where the big money is.

Rothstein's formula began working like a charm, bringing immense riches not only to himself, but to Lansky and his coterie of young hoodlums. The basic ideas of the venture paralleled of running at any first-cla.s.s gambling house: The business is lucrative enough without having to cheat, so don't. Treat customers with respect and they will return. Comport yourself with cla.s.s and you attract clients with cla.s.s-and the more cla.s.s they possess, the more money they have. And the more money they arrive with, the more money you will depart with.

Rothstein certainly enjoyed such profitable company, but just as at Jack's, he also took pleasure in the relatively cultured and amusing. Sam Bloom, of Chicago's 20th Ward, was a member of Al Capone's outfit specializing in running booze from the Bahamas to Charleston, South Carolina. Eventually, he appeared in Manhattan, attempting to develop relations with New York mob interests. Bloom, a relatively cultured and well-read fellow (at least by mob standards), hit it off reasonably well with A. R. When he found a wealthy Scotsman ripe for fleecing, Bloom secured Rothstein's cooperation, and the two Americans staged a fixed high-stakes poker game, at first, letting the Scot win a few hands, but eventually taking him for $50,000 apiece. Afterward, Bloom took time to commiserate with his victim (you never know, after all, when you might need a sucker again), learning that he owned the majority of the distillery producing King's Ransom Scotch. King's Ransom was decent stuff, twelve-year-old full-bodied whiskey, the brand of hooch Bloom could safely dilute with cheaper stuff.

Bloom thought this an excellent opportunity to secure exclusive American importing rights to King's Ransom and approached Rothstein, Lansky, and Luciano with the idea. They weren't interested in adulterating any merchandise, but they were looking ahead, intrigued by the opportunity for exclusive rights to King's Ransom even after Prohibition. They agreed to advance a $100,000 deposit for their new partnership.

The Scotsman agreed. After all, $100,000 was what he had just lost. And to show what a gentleman he was, Bloom insisted that he receive no receipt in return. This relationship would be strictly one of honor.

And so it went. A. R. and Bloom even allowed their new partner to win back a wee bit more of his money in card games, and for a while boatloads of aged Scotch traveled safely from Glasgow to Lansky's agents: Enoch "Nucky" Johnson in Atlantic City and Charles "King" Solomon in Boston. Then-one night-a huge shipment disappeared near Boston.

Solomon knew who did it. And who tipped off the culprits: Samuel Bloom. Solomon even provided Lansky with Bloom's motive: heavy gambling debts, especially to A. R. Lansky phoned Rothstein and learned the recently impecunious Bloom had just paid Rothstein a $100,000 debt. Bloom ended up in the East River, in the proverbial cement overcoat. His Scottish friend often asked about him,. but received only discreetly vague responses.

Another unsavory character Rothstein met through rum-running was Jack "Legs" Diamond. Originally from Philadelphia, Diamond had been a member of the West Side's Hudson Dusters gang, compiling an impressive arrest record before being drafted into the army in World War I. Diamond liked killing people, but evidently not for the government, as he had gone AWOL and spent a year in Leavenworth. On his release, Legs and his tubercular brother Eddie went to work for Rothstein, often, but not exclusively, as bodyguards. The Diamonds, along with Eugene Moran, formed the nucleus of guards protecting A. R.'s smuggled whiskey from Montauk Point to Manhattan. Guarding booze was lucrative-stealing it even more so. The Diamonds went into business for themselves, relieving independent rumrunners and bootleggers of their merchandise-and selling it to Rothstein, who resold it to other operators.

A noteworthy Lansky a.s.sociate was a rising young Sicilian-born drug peddler and strong-arm man named Lucky Luciano (ne Salvatore Lucania). Before the Roaring Twenties were very old, Luciano would establish himself as overlord of New York's still-thriving network of pimps and, making a fortune selling them protection, and still more money from the liquor and drug trade.

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Luciano was nowhere near as intelligent as Lansky. (Few mobsters, few people, were.) He not only sought guidance from Rothstein on business matters, but solicited advice on such basic etiquette as "how to behave when I meet broads."

Others claimed it was more than pertinency. "Have you any idea who might have been behind all these happenings?" a.s.sistant Corporation Counsel Russell L. Tarbox asked Officer Stearne. Stearne didn't hesitant: "Everybody figured that Arnold Rothstein had something to do with it."

That didn't amuse Kahn. "What everybody figures too often is something n.o.body knows," he snapped. "Strike the last question and answer from the record." Kahn recommended that judge Levy grant the injunction.

The Park View case served as prologue to an emerging political donnybrook. Tammany boss Charles E Murphy died in April 1924, and Governor Alfred E. Smith seized the opportunity to cajole Tammany into dumping his old enemy, the dull and dull-witted Mayor John F. "Red Mike" Hylan. Unfortunately, the best candidate the organization could recruit to challenge the inc.u.mbent was glib, brilliant-but morally flawed-State Senate Minority Leader James J. Walker, known not only for efforts to legalize boxing and Sunday baseball in the state and for his songwriting ("Will You Love Me in December as You Do in May?")-but also for his laziness, woman izing, and high living. Hylan wouldn't go quietly, however, and faced Walker in a primary. At first "Red Mike" stepped gingerly around the Rothstein issue, claiming he was waging "a campaign against the underworld element" masterminded by a nefarious unnamed "Pool Room King." Eventually he got around to naming names. Campaigning at Queens P.S. 93, the wooden Hylan abandoned his usual prepared texts to accuse new Tammany leader George W. Olvany of colluding both with transit interests (Red Mike's bete noire) "and Arnold Rothstein, the big gambler."

Olvany denied all: "Now that Mayor Hylan has stated that my alleged pool room king and big gambler advisor is Arnold Rothstein ... I want to state that I do not know Arnold Rothstein .... that I have never met [him], that I have never had breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper with [him], and that I would not know [Rothstein] if I saw [him] on the street."

Al Smith ridiculed (but didn't actually deny) Hylan's charges, pointing out that it wasn't Rothstein who nominated Walker at Tammany Hall, but rather, Daniel E. Finn, a member of the mayor's own cabinet. "The Mayor either does not know a gambler when he sees one or he does not know who made that nominating speech."

Meanwhile Hylan grew obsessed with A. R.'s influence. "Too many policemen are friends of Rothstein," he informed a press conference, oblivious to the fact that he, not Walker, oversaw the NYPD. "Too many public officials are also his friends. That explains why places with which he is reported to be connected seem able to operate without molestation."

The public didn't care. Walker was the type of good-time, wisecracking mayor that 1920s New York demanded. He won the primary by 100,000 votes, carrying even Hylan's home borough of Brooklyn. Even before the votes were in, judge Levy felt safe enough to do A. R.'s bidding. Sanctimoniously sniffing "there is something rotten in Denmark," Levy, nonetheless, issued a permanent injunction shielding the Park View Athletic Club. Rothstein had won again. Rothstein always won.

CHAPTER 14 * "The Man to See Was Arnold Rothstein"

MANHATTAN IS AN ISLAND of neighborhoods, little worlds with a separate look and feel of their own, and Arnold Rothstein knew how to make money in each. Times Square. The Upper West Side. The Lower East Side. Wall Street. Fourteenth Street. Harlem.

The Garment District.

There was much to buy and sell in the Garment District. Protection. Suits. Coats. Dresses. Furs. Cops. Judges. And Arnold Rothstein excelled at merchandising the latter two commodities, excelled at bringing together New Yorkers of much influence and little conscience.

The garment industry was decades old, but still seemed new and unformed, waiting for organization and order. Compet.i.tion was fierce, and management battled for every advantage. Garment shops battled each other for orders and customers. Management battled labor, and labor battled itself.

Industry working conditions were often abysmal. Factories were filthy, unhealthy, unsafe. Wives and mothers often worked at home, sewing garments and earning as little as four or five cents per hour. Women working in factories were frequently charged for the needles and lockers they used, the electricity their machines ran on, the very chairs they sat on-all at a profit to the owners. The advent of the "task" system, known today as "piecework," only aggravated alreadyfrayed labor-management relations.

In the years before World War I, labor "peace" ended. In November 1909, 20,000 female shirtwaist workers, in the "Uprising of the 20,000," went on strike in New York. Aided by sympathetic society women, they obtained some modest concessions, including free supplies, better sanitary conditions, a fifty-two-hour week. Then, in July 1910, 60,000 male cloakmakers followed their lead. On March 25, 1911, a fire at Greenwich Village's Triangle Shirtwaist Company (one of the firms whose labor policies triggered the "Uprising of 20,000") took the lives of 146 workers trapped in its unsafe Washington Square factory. The tragedy triggered national outrage and led to the pa.s.sage of three dozen state labor laws. New unions, such as the Fur Workers National Union and the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America sprang into existence.

Violence accompanied change. It wasn't mere freelance, spontaneous violence. Garment-industry labor and management hired gangsters like Monk Eastman, Jack Zelig, Kid Twist, Pincus "Pinchy" Paul, and "Joe the Greaser" Rosenzweig to threaten, beat or, if necessary, kill their opposition. Ideology obsessed the Lower East Side, as arguments raged in every coffee house and tenement on the merits of socialism, anarchism, Zionism, or any number of isms and subisms. But most labor goons were practical and nonpartisan. Whoever paid, they worked for. Whoever didn't, they blackjacked. Not surprisingly, Arnold Rothstein was present at the very creation of garmenttrade mob influence.

In 1914 police arrested Benjamin "Dopey Benny" Fein, a Big Jack Zelig protege now employing his muscle for organized labor, on extortion charges. Fein's union employers turned to Rothstein for bail. A. R. told them to let Fein rot. Rothstein had his reasons. He had his own thugs who could replace Benny. And he could please his friends in Mayor John Purroy Mitch.e.l.l's new administration by sacrificing this prounion hoodlum.

The union obeyed A. R.'s bidding, though Fein had been loyal to labor. ("My heart lay with the workers.") In 1912 one garment industry boss offered Fein $15,000 to work management's side of a strike, cracking labor heads. "He put fifteen $1,000 bills in front of me," Fein recalled, "and I said to him, 'No, sir, I won't take it.' I said ... 'I don't double cross my friends.' "

But Fein was also expensive. He demanded $12 per day for himself (his chief rival, "Joe the Greaser" Rosenzweig, received just $8) and $7.50 for each of his men. He also insisted on insurance for any on-the-job accidents. Unionists, who desired such benefits for themselves, proved less than enthusiastic about protecting their own "employees."

Benny remained in the Tombs for months. In February 1915 he finally had enough. Now suspicious that the unions had not only connived in his continuing incarceration, but in entrapping him in the first place, Fein cut a deal with Manhattan District Attorney Charles Albert Perkins (Charles Whitman's handpicked successor) to provide information about the violent methods his union patrons employed. Perkins summoned A. R. for questioning about financing these labor thugs-and let him go. A. R. got away, but Perkins indicted eleven hoodlums (including a number of "strong arm women" employed by Fein to terrorize female workers) along with twenty-three officials of the United Hebrew Trades. Rothstein-who would not provide bail for Fein-now provided bail for all.

Unionists accused the new district attorney of partic.i.p.ating in a gigantic "capitalist cla.s.s" effort to "crush labor and its organizations." When Perkins brought the first seven unionists to trial, defense attorney Morris Hillquit turned their plight into a crusade for social justice. All won acquittal. Before the hapless Perkins could try the rest of the accused, he was defeated in the November 1915 elections. His successor, Edward Swann-elected with strong needle-trade union support-abandoned the remaining indictments.

The entire episode proved messier than Rothstein envisioned, but still he emerged profitably. Fein abandoned labor racketeering (going into garment manufacturing), and A. R. began inserting his own men into the vacuum left by Fein's network. A. R. wasn't about to lead these new troops into battle personally. That wasn't his style-and he had more interesting activities, anyway. He placed "Little Augie" Orgen, formerly Fein's henchman, in charge of labor racketeering. Orgen shared little of Benny's old working-cla.s.s sympathies, strong arming alternately for labor and management-sometimes even during the same strike.

Orgen (and by extension Rothstein) was also an equal-opportunity employer. Previous city gangs had been largely ethnic-all Irish, Jewish, or Italian. Orgen employed fellow Jews such as Louis "Lepke" Buchalter and Jacob "Gurrah" Shapiro, but also Irish (the Diamond brothers, Legs and Eddie), and Italians (Lucky Luciano) as his goons. More impressive than the polyglot nature of his workforce, however, was its sheer viciousness, resolve, and talent.

Most thugs involved in strong-arming labor or management, saw themselves as just that: thugs. But not A. R. He maintained an air of detached respectability in even the most nefarious enterprises. In 1922, he raised this skill to its apogee. The arbitration movement was gaining a certain vogue in America, and, if Rothstein had been anything in his career, he had been an arbitrator. So when he noticed an organization called the Arbitration Society of America taking shape, he saw it might contain a rather large niche for himself.

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