Meyer Lansky

Meyer Lansky

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Maier Suchowljansky (Meyer Lansky), the son of Jewish parents, was born in Grodno, Russia (now in Poland) on 4th July, 1902. The family moved to the United States in 1911 and the settled in New York. After leaving school he became an apprentice toolmaker.

In 1920 Lansky met Bugsy Siegel and Lucky Luciano. The three young men became involved in crime and by the 1920s Lansky had his own gang and was involved in bootlegging and the protection racket.

Lansky also worked for New York's leading crime boss, Joe Masseria. In 1931 Lansky joined with other gang members, Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel and Albert Anastasia, in the killing of Masseria.

In 1936 Lansky established gambling operations in Florida, New Orleans and Cuba. He was also the major investor in the Flamingo Hotel and Casino started by Bugsy Siegel in Las Vagas. He arranged Siegel's execution in June, 1947 when he became convinced that his partner was fiddling the books.

By the 1960s Lansky was involved in drug smuggling, pornography, prostitution and extortion. He had also invested heavily in legal businesses such as hotels and golf-courses. It was estimated at the time that his total holdings were worth $300,000,000.

In 1970 plans were made to arrest Lansky on suspicion of income-tax evasion. When Lansky heard the news he fled to Israel. He was eventually arrested and returned to the United States but in 1973 he was acquitted of income-tax evasion. Other charges were abandoned because of Lansky's poor health. Meyer Lansky died of lung cancer in Miami Beach, Florida, on 15th May, 1983. It has been estimated that when he died Lansky was worth over $400 million.

Mafia has long history in South Florida and still active

Ever since the ruthless Chicago mobster Al Capone bought a mansion on Miami's Palm Island in 1928, South Florida has been a destination for organized crime figures who want to relax and do a little business.

The rackets have evolved over the years — loan-sharking, extortion and gambling have largely given way to stock scams, money laundering and white-collar fraud — and the Italians and Jews of yore have been joined by rival contingents from Russia, Israel and South America.

But the culture of greed and violence has remained a constant.

Mobsters generally prefer to keep a low profile here, but La Costa Nostra — "this thing of ours" — is once more in the headlines, this time connected with Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein.

Upon his return from Morocco last November, Rothstein reportedly went to work for the FBI, even as agents were dismantling his $1.2 billion investment fraud.

Roberto Settineri, the alleged Sicilian mobster whom Rothstein is credited with bringing down this month, appears to have the same short fuse and propensity for violence, according to a Miami Beach police report, that has marked mob behavior for a century.

As Settineri lunched at Soprano Cafe on Lincoln Road in January, he got into a heated argument with a security guard, stood up, and pulled back his leather jacket to reveal a black semi-automatic pistol.

"I will put this gun in your f------ mouth now. I know where you live. I'll go to your f------ house and kill you and your family," Settineri told the guard, according to his arrest report.

The pending aggravated assault charge against Settineri, 41, is the least of his concerns. Federal prosecutors allege he was a key intermediary between a crime family in Sicily and the Gambino crime family in New York City.

Settineri and two of his reported associates — security firm operators Daniel Dromerhauser, of Miami, and Enrique Ros, of Pembroke Pines — were indicted March 10 on federal charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice for reportedly shredding two boxes of documents at Rothstein's request and laundering $79,000 for him.

The Mafia's traditions in South Florida date to the 1930s gambling heydays in Broward, when Meyer Lansky and his associates came south to claim a piece of the action in dozens of "carpet joints" — classy casinos that operated around Hallandale under the beneficial eye of a crooked sheriff.

"It goes back to the 1920s and Al Capone. Capone had a house on Palm Island … and that was his alibi for the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre," said Richard Mangan, a 24-year Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

"Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Hallandale was Las Vegas Southeast," said Mangan, who now teaches a class called "Organized Crime and the Business of Drugs" at Florida Atlantic University's School of Criminology. "Clubs like La Boheme were operating. A made [formally inducted] mob member named Anthony "Tony" Plates would set up shop in the Diplomat Hotel during the winters, plying politicians with booze and hookers."

The gambling generated so much cash that the gangsters suppressed their violent natures.

"The Mafia had an understanding that there would be no killings in Broward County because it was such a lucrative business," said Robert Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University Law School and a gambling-law expert.

By the early 1950s, government scrutiny forced the mobsters out of their illegal casinos but not the county. They still had their hands in local dog and horse tracks and jai lai frontons, as well as in shakedown schemes. They expanded their gambling ventures to Cuba under the tutelage of Lansky, who lived for years in a canal home in Sunny Isles, a popular mob neighborhood.

"Many of the mob people — Chicago, New Orleans, New York — would come down here because they owned casinos in Havana, and [Cuban leader Fulgencio] Batista was more than happy to take bribes," Mangan said.

Hundreds of them made Broward their second or retirement home.

New York's five organized crime consortiums — the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Colombo and Lucchese families — have always considered Florida to be "open," with no one family claiming exclusive rights to operate in the Sunshine State.

"This is open territory for anyone with the mob for whatever they want to do," said Nick Navarro, a 30-year law enforcement official who was Broward's sheriff from 1984 to 1993. "It's a beautiful part of the country and this is where they like to come down."

With the dramatic expansion of air conditioning in the 1950s and cheap jet flights, Florida had a commercial building boom over the next decades, drawing more mobsters.

"The Mafia has long been involved in the rigging of construction contracts," Jarvis said.

By 1968, a state crime commission concluded, "South Florida, especially Dade and Broward counties, has become a haven for many known Mafia figures and associates, though their activities know no local boundaries within the state."

In more recent years, "The Teflon Don," Gambino boss John Gotti, maintained a residence in Fort Lauderdale. So did Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, the brutal head of a Mafia family operating in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

Underbosses, consiglieres and soldiers from all the families are well represented, from Palm Beach Gardens to the Keys.

They still get involved in gambling, loan sharking, strip clubs, prostitution, drug dealing and extortion, but have gravitated toward more sophisticated crimes — such as stock and Medicare fraud — that don't carry the same risks.

They have faced increased competition from Israeli organized crime and Russian mobsters.

"The biggest change has been the Russian mafia," Mangan said. "The Russians started moving in after the fall of communism. They primarily set up in South Beach. They started opening banks in Antigua and Aruba."

Federal prosecutors roll out indictments against the Italian Mafia every year, charging everything from murder to money laundering, but younger Mafiosi come up the ranks to fill the voids left by the prison sentences and old-age deaths of top family members.

"It's a funny thing — it's always said that the Mafia has been destroyed and all the old chieftains are dead or in jail but every time you turn around, there is a story about the Mafia," Jarvis said.

"To the extent that the Mafia exists anywhere, it would have its hand in South Florida because it still has all the attributes that made it so attractive in the 1930s — warm weather, a lot of wealth, a lot of opportunity. Why wouldn't the Mafia be here? Everyone else wants to be in South Florida."

EXCLUSIVE: Meyer Lansky's daughter tells of Frank Sinatra, mob 'uncles' and movie-star romances: tell-all book

As a child, Sandra grew up in a sprawling apartment in the Beresford on Central Park West, with a terrace so big it served as a skating rink. She wanted for nothing but friends. As the daughter of a powerful gangster, playmates were hard to come by. But daddy would take her with him to Broadway shows where the ushers knew his name and supper clubs like Dinty Moore's on 46th St., where he'd meet up with her many mobster "uncles."

Then came her years as a "Mob Deb," as Nicholas Pileggi puts it in the introduction to "Daughter of the King," written with William Stadiem. She had her own table at glamor spots like El Morocco. At 15, she married a man who appeared to be a playboy but turned out to be a "gay fortune hunter."

As a gay divorcee, she dated movie stars in the wild years fueled by a drug addiction that followed. Sandra was falling fast but life got good again when she met the dashing, handsome Gabby Harnett. She really thought he was the one — until he pulled out his badge. Sandra ran to daddy with her tale of the FBI agent who wanted her to inform on him. When it came to his little girl, Meyer Lansky always made things come out right.

One night, when I was 10 or 11, Frank Sinatra came over to our table (at the Riviera supper club in New Jersey) after his set to say hello to Daddy and to meet little me with my bottle of ginger ale in a chilled champagne bucket. How grown-up I felt, out with Daddy, on the town, in a nightclub. Wow! I had never seen anyone so nervous as Frank, particularly a star who had all the teenagers in New York screaming for him. But Frank was more fidgety in Daddy's presence than any bobby-soxer would have been in his. He was so anxious that when he reached over to shake my hand, he knocked over the champagne bucket of ice right into my lap. He nearly died.

Maybe he was worrying about dying for getting me all wet. Maybe Daddy had given him one of his looks. Frank got on his knees, grabbed a bunch of napkins and frantically tried to dry me off. The only relief came when I started laughing and said that he was tickling me. The twinkle returned to Daddy's eyes. I rarely saw him laugh. The twinkle was as good as it got, but it was good enough for Frank to breathe easier. He gave me a big hug, as if I had saved his life by forgiving him, like getting a thumbs up from a Roman emperor.

In early October of 1951, Daddy took me to dinner with Uncle Willie (Moretti, underboss of the Genovese family) where they talked about Havana. "If Florida goes down, there's always Havana," Uncle Willie said. Daddy was quiet, thoughtful and a little sad. Uncle Willie liked to reminisce about old times. "Remember our first convention in Atlantic City, Meyer?" he asked Daddy. "Me and you and Charlie Lucky and Waxey G. and Nig Rosen and King Solomon. All yids and wops, yids and wops. And your bride, what a honeymoon." Willie turned to me. "He took your beautiful mother on her honeymoon with (gangster) Dutch Schultz. Is that any way to treat a lady?"

Daddy was growing very uncomfortable. "Willie, you talk too much," he said and asked for the check.

The next day at Calhoun, where I went to high school, during outdoor play period in the early afternoon, one of the school janitors was reading a newspaper. On the cover was Uncle Willie. I wanted to brag to my classmates that I had had dinner with him just last night. Then I saw the other half of the paper. "Dead!" it read. "Mob Boss Exterminated in N.J." There was a photo of a man on the tile floor of a bar, a pool of blood around his head. There was a café sign above the body: "Chicken in the Rough. $1.50."

I ran to the bathroom and threw up.

I had never seen anything like Dean Martin's masculinity. We made love six times in a night that wouldn't stop. I counted. He wasn't a big man, just about five foot nine, but he was strong, a boxer from a steel town, and he made me feel that he was ravenously grateful for a woman's softness after being locked in the blast furnaces all day. His image as a heavy drinker was for the press. With me he wanted to be fully conscious and savor every moment. Between rounds of lust, we'd split a Coke.

The next day Dean called me at home and told me what a wonderful night he had and how he couldn't wait to see me again.

About a week before we saw each other again, Dean's wife, Jeannie, gave birth to their daughter Gina. I read about it in the fan magazines. I didn't mention it, and neither did Dean. That was our unspoken pact: no families, no strings.

I didn't dare let Daddy know of my affair. Dean asked me to travel with him to Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco, to go with him on the road, to be his girl. But not his wife. That would have been the rub for Daddy. I never thought of him as vindictive, but he was over-protective. He would have felt Dean was using me. That I was using Dean would not have occurred to old-fashioned Daddy. Where misbehavior was concerned, Daddy had a policy of zero tolerance.

I was living the glamorous life of the madcap Manhattan heiress/gay divorcee. I would still see Dean Martin from time to time, meeting him for a secret rendezvous in Chicago or Boston. Dick Shawn would call when he was in the city. There were plenty of other stars, Jeff Chandler, David Janssen, Hugh O'Brien — Wyatt Earp himself. I met a lot of these men at Danny's Hide-Away. It was the smallest restaurant in New York with the biggest celebrity clientele. I was also a regular at 21, El Morocco and the Harwyn Club. With all my craziness, I was lucky never to be robbed or kidnapped.

I avoided the Copacabana. That was Frank Costello's club and master gossip John Miller was guaranteed to convey my every excess to Daddy. But one of the captains there had borrowed $700 from me, and months later, he still hadn't paid me back. I was profligate, but welching on debts in my family was considered bad form. So one night I arranged to meet Uncle Augie Carfano (a Luciano family gangster) at the club, to get him to use his charms on the captain to collect the marker.

I got to the Copa fifteen minutes later than our scheduled appointment only to find Uncle Augie gone. I was upset that I had been stood up. What's fifteen minutes when a girl like me could be hours late? I was even more upset the next morning when they found the bodies of Uncle Augie and his date that night, ex-beauty queen Janice Drake, shot to death in his Cadillac in Queens. Janice was the wife of comedian Allan Drake, whose faltering nightclub career Augie had bolstered the way Uncle Willie Moretti had bolstered that of Frank Sinatra. Drake may have traded his wife to Augie as a career move. Those things were known to happen. And so were murders, in the long mean season of bloodshed that had kicked off with the failed Frank Costello hit. Outsiders, and even insiders like me, may have thought the Copa the most glamorous club in America. These clubs were fun, but they weren't worth dying for.

I thought I was falling in love, madly in love, with Gabby Hartnett (whose real name was Edward). He was tall, athletic, dapper. We had a number of dates, altar boy dates, that always ended with a handshake. No smoking, the rare cocktail or glass of wine. I'm sure I ran my mouth. Gabby listened so sympathetically.

Then one afternoon, the doorman rang and said Gabby was downstairs. With another man. Could they come up? If Gabby looked like Gary Cooper, his friend looked like Wally Cox. I offered to bring out some appetizers. That's when the nerd flashed his badge. Reluctantly, Gabby pulled out his. "I'm so sorry," he apologized. "Procedure."

10 Intriguing Facts About Gambling Legend Meyer Lansky

Meyer Lansky, né Maier Suchowljansky (1902-1983), just may be the U.S. icon of 20th century gambling, illegal and legal.

After being instrumental in creating the National Crime Syndicate , an amalgam of Italian-American Mafia and Jewish-American Mobsters, he worked his way up to its top position of chairman. His role, self-chosen, was facilitating the development, overseeing the finances and managing the skimming distributions of the syndicate’s many casinos around the world. He did so with only an eighth grade education.

Nicknamed “The Genius” and “The Mob’s Accountant,” Lansky was a visionary, planner, strategist, problem solver and long game player, as described in his biographies.

As for his personal life, briefly, he emigrated at age 9 with his family from Grodno, Poland (now in Belarus) to the States and lived in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in New York. In adulthood, he was married twice and had three children. Lansky admired French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (another man of short stature and determination), most appreciated the poem “Desiderata” and loved the color blue (his wardrobe staple).

Here are 10 interesting tidbits about Meyer Lansky, the businessman:

One of Lansky’s illegal gambling operations was here

1) Lansky’s primary career goals after the National Crime Syndicate formation were to develop a foundation for future operations, become indispensable to the conglomerate’s Mobster members by making them money through gambling and in doing so, keep a low profile and stay mysterious. Once accomplished, which was the case by the 1950s, he pursued further expanding his gambling empire globally.

“Wealth was not the objective, for of that he had more than enough, nor were the trappings of power,” author Hank Messick wrote about Lansky. “It was the exercise of power that Lansky enjoyed to study others, to profit by their mistakes was his technique.”

2) The gambling enterprises under Lansky’s purview included ones he owned solely, some he co-owned in partnerships and others in which he held points, or from which he received a percentage of the skim.

He was involved with gambling clubs and dog race tracks in the U.S. states of Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, New York, Nevada, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama along with Cuba, England, the Bahamas, Haiti and Lebanon. In his later years, he was working on developing casinos in Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Bogota, Hawaii, and the French Riviera.

Due to his auto repair and modification skills, Lansky was called the master of the Model T

3) Along with gambling, Lansky was involved in numerous businesses during his lifetime. They included the tool and die, auto repair and modification, murder for hire, bootlegging, narcotics and coin-operated machines businesses.

“No matter where you went, the Mob had its finger in the pie,” a Mobster wrote about the National Crime Syndicate’s growing portfolio of enterprises, “and usually it was Meyer Lansky’s finger,” as recounted by the authors of The Money and The Power.

Author Albert Fried wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America that Lansky “more than anyone else grasped the emergent possibilities of gangster-capitalism.”

4) Lansky schemed and facilitated the prison release (a pardon by New York Governor Tom Dewey in this case) for Mafia head, Charles “Lucky” Luciano , in 1946 by helping create and fostering a means by which Luciano could contribute meaningfully to the World War II effort. The opportunity was through Operation Underworld, in which Mobsters (under imprisoned Luciano’s direction with Lansky as the go-between) controlled and prevented mayhem at New York’s ports.

5) Lansky secretly turned against and even orchestrated the fall of some fellow National Crime Syndicate members when it suited his purpose, often to eliminate potential competition. It’s well known that he approved the murder of his childhood friend and fellow gangster, Benjamin “Bugsy” Seigel, but Lansky also greenlighted hits on Abner “Longie” Zwillman, another longtime friend and associate, as well as Luciano loyalist, New York Mafioso Joe Adonis (born Giuseppe Antonio Doto).

In another example, Lansky betrayed longtime associate, Louis Lepke (né Buchalter). Four months before Lepke was indicted by a federal grand jury for narcotics smuggling, he went into hiding. Wanting Lepke captured and convicted, Lansky brought about his surrender, through a mediary of course, on the false promise of getting the deal of not being prosecuted by New York state. (Lepke later was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years in prison, after which he was convicted of extortion and sentenced to 30 years to life.)

6) Lansky allegedly blackmailed J. Edgar Hoover in the 1930s with incriminating sex photos he somehow had obtained of the FBI director and his top deputy Clyde Tolson.

“The pictures were said to hold at bay this most formidable of potential adversaries,” wrote authors Sally Denton and Roger Morris.

7) Despite 60 years in the underworld, having committed various crimes and having been arrested many times, Lansky beat six murder charges and only spent 3 months, 16 days behind bars, between May and July 1953.

8) Lansky’s best friend, confidant and ally was Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo, a high-ranking capo in New York’s Genovese crime family.

“Alo and Lansky hit it off from the start,” John William Tuohy wrote. “Both were small men, 5𔃽″, and only a year apart in their ages. They were both basically shy men who had crawled out of the almost unbelievable poverty of the New York slums. They were book loving, low profile, chain smokers without much to say to those they didn’t know. Over the years, Alo had grown to represent Lansky’s muscle, a perpetual reminder to the outside world that the reasonable and business-like Lansky was protected by the Mafia.”

9) Lansky purchased a resort in the Florida Keys in 1951 for U.S. Mobsters to go, hide and recreate during the Kefauver Committee’s hearings. The Plantation Key Yacht Harbor was located ideally, close enough to yet far enough away from the mainland.

10) Lansky moved to Israel in 1970 to spend the rest of his years there, but the country rejected and expelled him. Instead, he returned to and resumed life in Miami Beach, Florida, where he eventually passed away in his sleep at age 80 on January 15, 1983 from lung cancer. His net worth at the time was said to have been $57,000 versus its peak in the late 1960s of $300 million.

“I wouldn’t have lived my life any other way,” Lansky told the authors of Meyer Lansky: Mogul of the Mob in 1978. “It was in my blood, my character. Environment certainly had something to do with it, but basically my own personality determined my fate. … I have nothing on my conscience. I would not change anything.”

So A Nazi Walks Into An Iron Bar: the Meyer Lansky Story

I’m starting a series here where I talk about history, because geeks love history. I’m going to focus on stories I think anarchists will like. Here’s one:

“The Nazi scumbags were meeting one night on the second floor. Nat Arno and I went upstairs and threw stink bombs into the room where the creeps were. As they came out of the room, running from the horrible odor of the stink bombs and running down the steps to go into the street to escape, our boys were waiting with bats and iron bars. It was like running a gauntlet. Our boys were lined up on both sides and we started hitting, aiming for their heads or any other part of their bodies, with our bats and irons. The Nazis were screaming blue murder. This was one of the most happy moments of my life.”

That was Max “Puddy” Hinkes, of Newark, New Jersey, and today we’re going to be talking about Jewish gangsters who fucked up Nazis.

Gangsters, especially those from the first half of the twentieth century, occupy a really interesting place in the mythology of the United States. People tend to idolize them as Robin Hood types, even when they weren’t (Pretty Boy Floyd, I’ll write about you later), and tend to revere the stories of double-crossing, brutality and corruption in a way that is frankly a little weird. On the one hand, these gangsters present a typical capitalist ideal of rags to riches. On the other, their stories have the added benefit of allowing their hero, such as he is, to retain a working-class sensibility, since gangsters were rarely allowed into the elite social circles into which other equally violent but more lawful self-made robber barons could gain access. But gangsters especially seem to become figures of historical pride to people now generally construed as white, with various once-marginalized European ancestral origins. I once worked at a museum dedicated to gangsters. Irish, Italian, and Jewish Americans would all seek out stories of the Irish, Italian, and Jewish gangsters of the 1920s, all vehemently insisting that the people from whom they form their sense of cultural identity were the most shady, the most brutal, and the most criminal of all. There’s a lot going on there about the way whiteness leads people to seek their cultural identities in odd places the way whiteness excuses and lends respectability to behavior that would otherwise be seen as abhorrent and the way history can become myth.

There’s a lot going on there about the way whiteness leads people to seek their cultural identities in odd places the way whiteness excuses and lends respectability to behavior that would otherwise be seen as abhorrent and the way history can become myth.

Of course, as a Jew, I am here to tell you why the Jewish gangsters were, in fact, the most badass motherfuckers in organized crime during the first half of the twentieth century. And I feel like I have the facts on my side here, because holy shit did they whale on some Nazis.

Let me tell you about a guy named Meyer Lansky. You might have heard of him. He’s definitely not the most famous gangster of the Prohibition era, probably because unlike Al Capone, he wasn’t a sadistic horrorshow and didn’t engage in a concerted campaign of self-promotion. Meyer Lansky was a sensible guy. He was trying to make a very, very, obscenely good living, and he was trying to stay out of jail. He was not trying to be famous. That hasn’t stopped fictionalized versions of him from showing up all over the place, but these versions rarely focus on my absolute favorite thing about him, the aforementioned Nazi-beating.

Meyer Lansky made it big during Prohibition, along with his best friend, Charlie “Lucky” Luciano. Their friendship was a big deal at the time Jewish organized crime and Italian organized crime did not usually get along. But Meyer and Lucky got along so well that their friend and fellow gangster Bugsy Siegel described them as more like lovers than friends, before hastily clarifying that he didn’t mean that in a gay way, and I have seen at least one historian go out of his way to state for the record that his is definitely not saying Meyer Lansky and Charlie Luciano ever had sex. Which, I mean, come on, has there ever been a more obvious way of saying “these two guys definitely had sex”? Do I have any real evidence for this? No. Do I ship it? Hell yes.

Meyer and Lucky would later go on to be extremely big deals, with Lucky founding one of the Five Families, and Meyer founding a group called Murder, Inc (Depending on who you ask, Meyer Lansky is an American hero either in spite of or possibly because of this innovative hybrid of homicide and corporations). He would also end up corruptly controlling most of Cuba, and later Las Vegas. He was a capitalist, a colonialist, and also a Zionist, also, as advertised, he made a business of killing people. He was a guy who got rich off being an exploitative dick, just like pretty much every other rich guy.

But then there are Meyer Lansky’s extra-curricular activities, and for that, we’re going to need to step back for a second away from the world of lovable Irish, Italian, and Jewish crime organizations, to talk about the less-familiar world of the more-or-less lawful but fucking gross ethnic association called the German American Bund.

The German American Bund was formed in 1936 to promote the causes of Nazi Germany in the United States. It was open to Americans of German descent, provided they could prove they had no black or Jewish ancestry. These guys were openly Nazis, like, not even the kind who think they can hide behind fake irony and shitty frog memes. Their flag was a swastika shooting out of an iron cross. So: fuck these guys entirely. They claimed they wanted to “liberate America from the Jews.” The general membership were fond of accusing FDR of being secretly Jewish, and referring to the New Deal as the “Jew Deal” because fascists are terrible at jokes. Their leader was fond of embezzling from the organization. (They dissolved shortly after Pearl Harbor, when being openly a Nazi temporarily went out of style in the US, and everyone tried to pretend there hadn’t been a 25,000 member organization of Americans dedicated to helping Hitler win.)

The German-American Bund had a lot of meetings in areas with high immigrant (read: Jewish) populations. One of those places was New York City. Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia affirmed that Nazis were allowed to meet, and were entitled to police protection, but he made sure the cops guarding their meetings were mostly black or Jewish. So that was… passive aggressive. But then there was another local political figure: Judge Nathan D. Perlman.

Judge Perlman, who was — no shit — Jewish, did not care for Nazis. This led him to reach out to one of the most powerful Jewish guys around: Meyer Lansky. Judge Perlman, as you might expect, hadn’t done Meyer any favors in the past. He had for example helped to end Prohibition, the repeal of which, while generally extremely popular, wasn’t great for the Meyer Lanskys of the world, who had been making bank off illegal booze. But when Perlman met with Meyer after the rise of the German American Bund, they ended up getting along pretty well. Perlman was like “I want you to disrupt meetings of Nazis” and Meyer was like “excellent, on it,” and Perlman was like “hang on I’m not finished” and Meyer was like “sorry” and Perlman was like “I will pay you and give you legal assistance, should anyone get arrested. The only condition is, don’t kill anyone.” With what I can only imagine to be the world’s greatest eye roll, Meyer said “Ugh fine, I won’t kill anyone. Also, I don’t want your money.”

Now, I need you to be picturing this correctly. Meyer Lansky, for all the power he had amassed, was 5’ 4”. He had a reputation as being a pretty decent guy. I once talked to an elderly New Yorker who assured me that Meyer Lansky would push him around in a pram while his mother was running numbers, and there’s a book about him and other Jewish mobsters that is literally called But He Was Good to His Mother.

Nevertheless, when this unassuming little Jewish dude and his homies went to work on these Nazis, they did so with efficiency, brutality, and an almost surgical precision (so as to stay within the “no dead Nazis” rule set forth by Judge Perlman). He and his fellow Jewish gangsters would show up at Bund rallies and just fuck everyone up, leaving behind broken arms, legs, ribs, skulls, faces and teeth, but no corpses. In one case, they sent in infiltrators ahead of time, who positioned themselves around the hall, and on a signal, rushed towards the stage to attack the speaker, while from outside, more gangsters pushed past the guards on the doors, while yet more gangsters climbed up the fire escapes and burst in through the windows. Chaos, and fucked up Nazis, inevitably ensued. Since they were trying to not kill anyone, they wouldn’t use guns, but they used pretty much every other weapon you associate with mobsters of the 1920s and 30s.

These attacks went on for over a year. Journalist Walter Winchell would praise the attacks from the air, and pass on information to Meyer about where and when the Nazis would be meeting. Life got pretty dangerous for Nazis in New York City.

Can you just imagine Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel training young antifa in the early 30s? I love it. I’m picturing a lot of newsboy caps and comments like “no no not like that, my bubbe (ofblessedmemory) punches better than that, you grip the brass knuckles like this.”

In the meantime, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel also TRAINED other people to fight Nazis, which, come on, can you just imagine Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel training young antifa in the early 30s? I love it. I’m picturing a lot of newsboy caps and comments like “no no not like that, my bubbe (ofblessedmemory) punches better than that, you grip the brass knuckles like this.”

This also seems like a good time to mention that Lucky Luciano, Meyer’s definitely-not-boyfriend-I-don’t-know-why-you-would-think-that, offered to send some of his guys to help with this, but Meyer told him, “thanks, but no, this needs to be a Jewish fight.”

Here’s Meyer’s description of one of these events:

“We got there that evening and found several hundred people dressed in brown shirts. The stage was decorated with a swastika and pictures of Hitler. The speaker started ranting. There were only about fifteen of us, but we went into action.
We attacked them in the hall and threw some of them out the windows. There were fistfights all over the place. Most of the Nazis panicked and ran out. We chased them and beat them up, and some of them were out of action for months. Yes, it was violence. We wanted to teach them a lesson. We wanted to show them that Jews would not always sit back and accept insults.”

That right there is a folk hero. A flawed, terrible, and yet in many ways incredibly likeable guy, who used his power to fight fascism in the streets. And throw it out the window.

Meyer Lansky wasn’t the only Jew who took blunt instruments to Nazis during these times, and there are stories about Jewish gangsters all over America taking on the Bund specifically and anti-Semitism generally. The Jewish mob of Newark, New Jersey, as well as those in cities across the Midwest did similar good work. But Meyer Lansky’s story strikes me as special the refusal to take cash for doing the job he wanted to do anyway, the refusal of non-Jewish assistance in the fight, and the scale of the attacks he launched, are all the stuff of legend.

He also used the mob’s corrupt control of the waterfront to help the Allies stave off Nazi attacks, but that’s a story for another time.

Spoiled by mobsters, Meyer Lansky's daughter recalls family men, not killers

The daughter sits on the front porch of a little bungalow in Seminole Heights, her new home since her husband died a few months ago down south. She misses him, but she's making do.

At 76, she has her health, and friends. And her son, Gary. And she has the memories.

Like the time Frank Sinatra came over to say hello to her father and spilled a champagne bucket of ice in her lap and looked as though he had made a fatal mistake. Or the time her father took her to the Majestic Theatre to see Carousel, the hottest ticket on Broadway, and he bought all the seats in front of them so their view was unimpeded. Or the time she went ice skating on the terrace of her family's 19th-floor apartment at the Beresford at 211 Central Park West. Or the time, later, when she made love to Dean Martin six times in one night.

Central to them all — her charmed childhood, the company she kept, her astonishing life — was her father, Meyer Lansky.

If that doesn't ring a bell, pull up a seat on the porch and let Sandra Lansky ring it for you.

She always assumed her father was a jukebox salesman because he had shown her a showroom full of Wurlitzers at his office at Emby Distributing Company near Times Square.

And his group of friends, the men with whom he broke bread most often at Dinty Moore's on West 46th Street, were all her uncles. Family.

There was Uncle Frank Costello, and Uncle Abe Zwillman, the kings of New York and New Jersey. There was Uncle Joe Adonis, and Uncle Willie Moretti. There were her father's closest associates, men with whom he'd bonded as a boy: Uncle Benny and Uncle Charlie.

The FBI knew these men as "Bugsy" Siegel and "Lucky" Luciano. And they said her uncles formed the mafia, what the papers called the National Crime Syndicate, and later Murder Incorporated.

In the seat of honor at Dinty Moore's was Meyer Lansky, a stoic, well-dressed Jew, husband and father of two boys and a little girl upon whom he doted. When it was time to talk business, Sandra could see it in her father's face. She'd take her cue and go pal around with the hat-check girl, who gave her candies and let her sort mink stoles and topcoats.

Lansky was the architect of the mob, the brains, the little man in the middle, at home with both the Jews and Italians. He'd had a tough upbringing on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He teamed up with Siegel in his teens, forming the Bugs and Meyer Mob. The mob ran bootlegging operations and gambling rings and the cops would eventually start investigating them for racketeering, theft, extortion, even murder. The Bugs and Meyer Mob, the Feds believed, helped "Lucky" Luciano take control of New York by offing mob kings Joe Masseria, who was found with an ace of spades in his lifeless hand, and Salvatore Maranzano, the "boss of the bosses."

For all the tales of bloodshed and bootlegging in the press linked to her father and uncles, Sandra Lansky has a hundred more about how much they loved her.

They hugged her. Kissed her. Cut her steak.

"They spoiled me rotten," she said.

For the mascot of the mob, ignorance was bliss. The men she knew were not in the business of murder. They were in business. Casinos and night clubs. Tailored suits and penthouse suites. Vacations in Miami Beach and Vegas.

The rubouts and warfare of their youths seemed to be in the past, Sandra said. They found opportunity in America, and as a way of saying thanks, Sandra said, they helped their new country win World War II.

She remembers the day Lansky took her to view the French luxury liner Normandie, which had been sabotaged and was burning on the West Side docks. Then the two went to Dinty Moore's, where Lansky met with Uncle Joe — Joseph Lanza, head of the seafood workers' union and one of the most powerful men on the waterfront — to cook up a patriotic plan to secure the docks and root out traitors who might destroy other ships. All in return for freeing Luciano, who had been sent to prison on prostitution charges.

Sandra's first hint that her father was a made man came when she was 13. She stopped at the news stand and saw her father's picture on a magazine. She secreted it home and read that her father and uncles were the most powerful criminals in the world.

There was no mention of the money the mob raised for orphans or the work they did during WW II. These guys were evil, nothing more.

"But they did a lot of good," said the daughter.

"These guys came to this country with nothing — little education and no opportunity," said her son, Gary Rapoport, sitting nearby. "The boatloads that had come prior to them would beat them up on a daily basis and belittle them. So they just tried to stick together and make money any way they could."

"At the end of the war, he was given a copy of the signing of the surrender, from the Navy department," Sandra Lansky said. "He was very proud of that."

But the momentum had shifted. Sandra watched the Kefauver hearings in 1951 on television, saw her uncles nervously testifying before the Tennessee senator and crusader against organized crime. She worried that the Feds would be coming for her father.

"Don't believe any of this stuff," she recalls her mother saying. "It's all lies."

Meyer Lansky, the man in the middle, was never called to testify. His daughter says she knows why.

Lansky met privately with Kefauver. He knew something few others did. Connections in Hot Springs, Ark., gave Lansky log books from the race track that showed Kefauver had a gambling problem and had run up debt, she said.

"He went in there and pulled out of his pocket an IOU," Sandra said. "Kefauver was a big gambler. And that was that."

Even so, Meyer Lanksy had become a household name. But the man who didn't like being recognized still did business at Dinty Moore's. Sandra recalls one of those meetings in 1951. Her father was talking business with Uncle Willie Moretti when Moretti made an offensive comment.

"Willie, you talk too much," Meyer Lansky said. Then he called for the check.

The next day at school, Sandra recalls, she saw one of the janitors reading the newspaper. There was Uncle Willie in a pool of blood on the floor at Joe's Elbow Room in New Jersey.

"Mob Boss Exterminated in N.J." the headline read.

Moretti was the second uncle she had lost to bullets. A few years before, someone had gunned down her Uncle Benny "Bugsy" Siegel in Beverly Hills. He was accused of squandering mob money building The Flamingo in Vegas.

Sandra Lansky bottled her curiosity. Meyer Lansky had his daughter trained. Never complain, never explain. And never ask to be explained to.

One of the few times she recalls her father explaining his business was in 1953, before he went to jail on gambling charges in upstate New York. He had opted to do a few months time to avoid trial.

"He said to me that he had two choices," Sandra said. "He could walk down one road or the other road. But my brother" — Buddy — "was handicapped and he had no choice which road to take."

Lansky moved to Florida upon his release. Life didn't get easier for the daughter of the mob. The government had cranked up its investigations as the mob's casino ambitions grew. The FBI was watching his gambling operations in Vegas and South Florida and Havana, Cuba, where Cuban President Gen. Fulgencio Batista, had rolled out the welcome mat. Lansky invested big in Cuba. That cost him two years later, when the Cuban revolution brought Fidel Castro to power. Revolutionaries smashed slot machines and shuttered casinos.

Meanwhile, Sandra's uncles were falling. Someone rubbed out Albert Anastasia in the barbershop of the Park Sheraton Hotel. Then her Uncle Abe Zwillman was said to have hanged himself in his basement in West Orange.

Soon Sandra, who had given birth to a son, Gary, got caught up in the mess. She befriended a man who turned out to be an FBI spy. She fearfully told her father, who brainstormed a way to use the daughter's new relationship to keep the FBI off his trail. Sandra began feeding the man bad information.

She'd been betrayed, but she was a Lansky, and Lansky blood was thick.

"I got my vendetta," she said.

In 1964, Sandra married Vince Lombardo, a mobster, who promised her father he'd get out and stay out as long as he was with Sandra.

The FBI tightened its noose on Meyer Lansky. Agents tracked his every move and overheard him boast that organized crime was "bigger than U.S. Steel." That line that would be repeated by Hyman Roth, a character based on Lansky in The Godfather.

Lansky sought asylum in Israel, but was forced back to Miami. When the plane touched down in November 1972, he was arrested on charges of tax evasion, conspiracy and skimming casino profits. But nothing stuck.

Lansky was celebrated in Miami, his daughter said, even if the papers called him Public Enemy No. 1. She remembers getting letters addressed to the "Mayor of Miami Beach."

Meyer Lansky died on Jan. 15, 1983, after fighting lung cancer. Forbes had estimated his wealth at $300 million, but there was very little money in the will. His family still wonders where it went.

Lansky was buried in Mt. Nebo Cemetery in Miami. His daughter visited often, until she relocated to Tampa. Her only connection to Tampa, she said, was "Santo," meaning Santo Trafficante Jr., one of the last of the old-time bosses.

She said her father never betrayed remorse.

"Why should he have remorse for anything?"

After years refusing to talk about her upbringing, the writers Nick Pileggi and Norah Ephron convinced her to tell her story and matched her up with a writer. Daughter of the King: Growing up in Gangland, was published earlier this year. She doesn't love the book. She wanted it to go deeper into the good side of the mob, to tell an American story that brought balance to the Lansky legacy. There's more to the story.

She still mourns her father.

"I adore my dad," she said. "I wish he was here right now."

"It's hard for her to get past his death," Gary said. "But our life moves on."

Bugsy Siegel, organized crime leader, is killed

Benjamin 𠇋ugsy” Siegel, the man who brought organized crime to the West Coast, is shot and killed at his mistress Virginia Hill’s home in Beverly Hills, California. Siegel had been talking to his associate Allen Smiley when three bullets were fired through the window and into his head, killing him instantly.

Siegel’s childhood had been pretty similar to that of other organized crime leaders: Growing up with little money in Brooklyn, he managed to establish himself as a teenage thug. With his pal Meyer Lansky, Siegel terrorized local peddlers and collected protection money. Before long, they had a business that included bootlegging and gambling all over New York City.

By the late 1930s, Siegel had become one of the major players of a highly powerful crime syndicate, which gave him $500,000 to set up a Los Angeles franchise. Bugsy threw himself into the Hollywood scene, making friends with some of the biggest names of the time�ry Grant, Clark Gable, and Jean Harlow. His all-night parties at his Beverly Hills mansion became the hot spot in town. He also started up a solid gambling and narcotics operation to keep his old friends back east happy. Just before World War II began, Siegel traveled to Italy to sell explosives to Mussolini, but the deal fizzled when tests of the explosives did too.

In 1945, Siegel had a brilliant idea. Just hours away from Los Angeles sat the sleepy desert town of Las Vegas, Nevada. It had nothing going for it except for a compliant local government and legal gambling. Siegel decided to build the Flamingo Hotel in the middle of the desert with $6,000,000, a chunk of which came from the New York syndicate.

The Flamingo wasn’t immediately profitable and Siegel ended up in an argument with Lucky Luciano over paying back the money used to build it. Around the same time that Siegel was killed in Beverly Hills, Luciano’s men walked into the Flamingo and announced that they were now in charge. Even Siegel probably never imagined the astounding growth and success of Las Vegas in the subsequent years.

Hoodlums in the ’hood: Where mobsters lived in South Florida

Florida has something of a reputation for grifters, fraudsters and assorted other crooks, so it’s no surprise that organized crime has a long and sordid history in the state. Alleged members of La Cosa Nostra have lived and played here for the past century.

Reader Matt Dillon wanted to know more of those details. As part of our Sound Off South Florida project, in which we answer reader-submitted questions about life in South Florida, Dillon wrote in to ask, “I know lots of mobsters lived in Fort Lauderdale back in the day. Where did they live?”

Truth is, back in the day, Fort Lauderdale was not exactly mob city. Most of the action was a little further south. We’ll begin at the beginning, with perhaps the most infamous mobster of all time in this list that, while exhaustive, is far from a complete account of every shady mafiosi to live in our sunny state.


Al “Scarface” Capone (we’ll be including ridiculous mobster nicknames whenever possible) purchased his Miami Beach mansion at 93 Palm Ave. on Palm Island in 1928. Unfortunately for Capone, he didn’t have much time to enjoy the island home, as he went to prison for tax evasion in 1932, served seven years while his brain melted from syphilis, and then spent his remaining eight years at the mansion where, by the time he died in 1947, doctors said he had the mental capacity of a 12-year-old.

But the mansion did give Capone a useful alibi for the most violent day of his career. On the morning of Feb. 14, 1929, he had an appointment with Dade County Attorney Robert Taylor to discuss his business dealings in South Florida.

“I am a gambler, play racehorses,” he told the county attorney according to “Organized Crime in Miami,” a 2016 book by mob researcher Avi Bash. Later that morning, in Chicago, seven men from a rival gang of Capone’s were put up against a wall by four men, two of them dressed in police uniforms, and turned into Swiss cheese with a pair of Thompson submachine guns.

Capone’s mansion is now owned by Emanuela Verlicchi Marazzi, the widow of Filippo Marazzi, who was president of the Italian ceramic tile company Marazzi Group. The house went on sale in 2018 after major renovations. It was listed for $14.9 million. Capone paid $40,000, then kicked in another $200,000 for upgrades.

The hangout: On its website, Cap’s Place, the oldest restaurant in Broward County, touts many of the famous people who have eaten there. World leaders like Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The obscenely wealthy, including Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. Pop culture icons like George Harrison and Mariah Carey. Also, Al Capone and Meyer Lansky. Back when Cap Knight first opened the place in the 1920s, it was a combination bar, restaurant and gambling house known as Club Unique. Gambling was illegal then, but so what? It was the 1920s — so was alcohol. Knight conducted his own rum-running missions to Bimini, returning with liquor to stock the bar in his restaurant. To this day, Cap’s Place, located at 2980 N.E. 31st Ave. in Lighthouse Point, has a speakeasy feel. Diners should know that there is no parking. Instead, a ferry shuttles patrons between the restaurant on Cap’s Island to the dock at 2765 N.E. 28th Court.


Capone’s mansion may be the larger-than-life example of mobsters living in South Florida, but in terms of numbers, Hollywood may take the title. Back in the 1930s and 1940s, Hallandale Beach was filled with casinos — “carpet joints,” they called them. Broward County Sheriff Walter Clark, who held his position through most of the two decades despite being thrown out of office by Florida’s governor in both 1939 and 1950, turned a blind eye to the gambling dens. But while their business was in Hallandale, the mobsters lived in Hollywood.

“They raised and had families here, so they kept that somewhat clear of their doings and the clubs were in Hallandale,” said Hollywood historian Joan Mickelson. “[Vincent] Alo used the Hollywood Yacht Club as a meeting place, and they got together and played cards or something, but that wasn’t a major place.”

Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” Alo was one of several gangsters that operated the casinos. His places included the Colonial Inn and the Barn, according to Mickelson. Alo lived in the 1200 block of Monroe Street in Hollywood. Alo operated the places in conjunction with Meyer and Jacob Lansky. (Meyer’s last home in South Florida was on the second floor of the Imperial House, a condominium that still stands at 5255 Collins Ave. in Miami. His brother Jake lived in the 1100 block of Harrison Street in Hollywood.)

But as pointed out by Mickelson, who wrote the book “A Guide to Historic Hollywood” and volunteers at the Hollywood Historical Society, Alo and Lansky were not the first to open casinos in Hallandale Beach. That honor belonged to Julian “Potatoes” Kaufman.

According to his 1939 obituary in the Chicago Tribune, Kaufman had been a lieutenant in the gang of Dean O’Banion — the same gang that lost seven members in the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

“On the run from Capone, he came down here and realized that Hallandale didn’t much care what you did,” Mickelson said.

Kaufman opened the Plantation casino, and the others swiftly followed. Kaufman lived in the 1200 block of Tyler Street, in a home recently bought by antiques dealer Guy Bush. He had heard only rumors about the home’s shady past.

“I heard Al Capone used to come and play cards in the house in the ’20s and ’30s,” Bush said. “And I’ve been told somebody was shot and killed on the front steps.”

Just down the street from Bush’s home on Tyler Street was the home of Benjamin Eisen, who kept books for the Lansky brothers and also served as chief financial officer of Gulfstream racetrack.

Although Kaufman died of a heart attack in 1939, the good times rolled on for the Lanskys and Alo until Sheriff Clark was dragged before a Senate committee holding hearings on organized crime. When he told the committee he had no knowledge of gambling in Broward County, the audience broke out in laughter. In 1950, Clark was removed from office for the second and final time. Although Lansky and Alo continued to live in South Florida, they turned their attention elsewhere, to Cuba and Las Vegas.

The hangouts: Every carpet joint in Hallandale Beach. Along with the Plantation, the Barn and the Colonial Inn, there was the Club Greenacres, the Club Boheme, the Farm and a number of others, none of them still standing.


That wasn’t the end of mobsters in South Florida, though after gambling went away, many came here for the same reason a lot of people do — retirement.

Gerardo “Jerry” Catena, a reputed underboss of the Genovese crime family, retired to the 2100 block of Cocoanut Road in Boca Raton after he got out of a five-year jail stint in 1975. He died in 2000.

Anthony “Tumac” Accetturo lived on the 5100 block of Jackson Street in Hollywood until fleeing a contract put out on his life by the boss of his Lucchese crime family. His house is currently owned by the Marianists, a Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers, property records show.

The reputed head of the Philadelphia mob, Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo moved to Fort Lauderdale part-time in the 1980s, until the FBI met him at the Newark airport when he flew there from Fort Lauderdale. He spent the rest of his life in prison. His house was in the 3100 block of Northeast 47th Street.

Along with the retirees, the mob also conducted business in South Florida through the latter half of the 20th century, even if the golden days of the carpet joints had long gone.

Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano served as point man in South Florida for the Genovese crime family. He lived at two houses on Palm Drive in Hallandale Beach from 1974 until his arrest in 1978. He died in prison 11 years later, serving a life sentence for murder and racketeering charges.

One murder that Provenzano may have gotten away with: Jimmy Hoffa. On July 30, 1975, former Teamsters union boss Hoffa was supposed to meet Provenzano and Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone, a member of Detroit’s Mafia family, at a restaurant near Detroit. Instead, Hoffa was never seen again.

Along with Provenzano and Catena, another member of the Genovese family, Michael “Trigger Mike" Coppola, lived in the 4400 block of Alton Road in Miami Beach from 1950 to his death in 1966, except for a few years in prison over that time for tax evasion, according to mob researcher Thom Jones.

The hangouts: In Miami-Dade, you had The Forge. First opened in the 1920s, it came into its own after a major overhaul in the 1960s and became the high-end restaurant we know today, located at 432 W 41st St. in Miami Beach. It had a reputation as a mob hangout in the years immediately after its remodel, according to the New York Times, especially on Wednesday nights. On June 30, 1977, Meyer Lansky’s stepson, Richard Schwartz, shot and killed the son of a Genovese family soldier at the Forge’s bar. While awaiting trial in October of the same year, Schwartz was himself killed by a single shotgun blast to the chest while sitting in his Cadillac in Bay Harbor Islands. The killer was never found.

In Broward County, the hangout not just for local mobsters but for organized crime figures across the country was Joe Sonken’s Gold Coast Restaurant, located along the beach where GG’s Waterfront stands today at 606 N. Ocean Drive in Hollywood. The FBI believed the restaurant served as a neutral meeting place for members of every Mafia family. Agents opened at least three investigations into Sonken and his restaurant over 20 years, attempted to bug the place, and took thousands of photographs of it, but Sonken was never indicted and died in 1990.


Finally, we come to contemporary times, and Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino.

Like Scarfo, Merlino is the alleged head of the Philly mob. He got out of prison in 2011 after a decade-long stint, maintained that he was retiring and moved to Boca Raton. He bought a house on the 600 block of Northeast Fourth Street in September 2018, but was sentenced to two years in prison just a month later on an illegal gambling charge.

Like so many before him, Merlino was brought low by associates who had flipped and informed authorities of his actions. But unlike his predecessors, Merlino put a very contemporary spin on his woes. As he was led from the courthouse in handcuffs, he told reporters, “President Trump is right — they’ve got to outlaw the flippers.”

The hangout: Merlino’s, of course, though it’s now known as Frank and Dino’s, located at 39 SE First Ave. in Boca Raton. When Merlino got out of prison and moved to Boca Raton in 2011, he maintained he had gone straight. He said he worked as maitre d’ at the restaurant bearing his name, and was emphatically not an owner of the place, at least not on paper.

The Sun Sentinel’s food critic at the time gave the place three stars out of four. It closed in 2016 after Merlino’s latest legal woes.

An earlier version of this story misidentified the Dade County Attorney who talked with Al Capone on Feb. 14, 1929. His name was Robert Taylor.

Meyer Lansky’s New York: A Guide

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of guiding Meyer Lansky II, the grandson of notorious 20th century mobster Meyer Lansky, around his ancestral stomping ground on The Lower East Side. The tour was covered by The Wall Street Journal (read the article here).

I knew Meyer II for a few years and really wanted to give him a memorable experience something that he couldn’t find in the many books, articles, movies and television shows produced about his family. So I scoured hundreds of sources that I’ve collected over the years to chronicle an accurate timeline of his grandfather’s footsteps. Below is some of the research I presented to him.

Born in 1902 as Meier Suchowlański in what is now Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire), young Meyer Lansky and his Polish-Jewish family immigrated to America about 1909 — only, not to the Lower East Side, as many books claim — but to Brooklyn, New York.

According to the FBI, the Suchowlański’s first known address in America is 240 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY, where they resided between 1909 and 1912. The family is then recorded living at 33 Chester Street for a short time in 1912, before soon moving to 894 Rockaway Avenue for about two years between 1912 and 1914. During that time, Meyer Lansky attended school at P.S. 84, formally located on Osborn and Watkins Streets (1911-1912), and then P.S. 165, located at 76 Lott Avenue (1912-1914).

It wasn’t until 1914 that 12-year old Meyer Lansky and his family migrated to The Lower East Side of Manhattan, where their first known address was a third floor apartment at 546 Grand Street, in which they stayed until 1917 before moving a few buildings east, to the fourth floor of 552 Grand Street. He attended PS 34 on Sheriff and Broome Street between 1914 and 1917. (The school closed in 1928.)

By 1920, the family took up residence at 6 Columbia Street. By this time, 19-year old Meyer Lansky had befriended other teenage neighborhood toughs such as Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel (who lived at 36 Columbia Street) and Charlie “Lucky” Luciano (who lived at 265 East 10th Street) — a story which has been told countless times with varying degrees of accuracy.

#1: 546 Grand Street, #2: 552 Grand Street, #3:6 Columbia Street, #4: 36 Columbia Street, #5: 504-520 Grand Street.

546-556 Grand Street c.1920. These buildings no longer exist.

Columbia at Broome Street. Where Meyer Lansky lived in 1920. These buildings no longer exist.

Meyer’s father, Max Lansky, and family, attended the historic Bialystoker Synagogue at 7 Willett Street, as did the family of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — who has a memorial plaque on the wall.

What many people do not know is that Meyer Lansky, who is often cited as an architect of modern organized crime, was a skilled machinist, applying his trade at various companies as a young man.

Meyer Lansky’s first job as a young boy was at the D. & L. Tool Company, formerly on Centre Street just north of Canal Street. His second place of employment was at the massive R. & Hoe Company, which took up an entire block at 504-520 Grand Street — just a couple of blocks from Meyer’s home. Finally, he worked at Richard Mirror Works, which Lansky himself once reminisced was “Somewhere on Greene Street” (though I can’t find any addresses for it).

R. Hoe Tool Company, 504-520 Grand Street, between Columbia and former Sheriff Streets. These building no longer exist.

Sometime by the late nineteen-teens or early nineteen-twenties, Lansky and Siegel opened up a shop (supposedly financed by Arnold Rothstein), which the pair eventually used to traffic alcohol during Prohibition. Many references say the garage was located “On Cannon Street” just “a few yards south of the police station on Delancey Street.”

The only problem is that there was never a police station on Delancey at Cannon Street. If the shop was indeed on the same block as a police station, it would have been the old 7th Precinct on Delancey and Clinton Streets. (This is what happens when “experts” write books with no firsthand knowledge of the subject matter.)

By the 1930s, Meyer Lansky had moved out of The Lower East Side ghetto, used many aliases, took up several NYC residences over the years and was involved in a number of legitimate local businesses. Below is a list:

Meyer Lansky Aliases:

  • Meyer The Bug
  • Bugsy Meyer
  • The Bug
  • Little Meyer
  • Myer Lazansky
  • Morris Lieberman
  • Meyer Suchowltansky
  • Jonny Eggs
  • The Little Guy

Meyer Lansky residences:

  • NE corner of 99th Street and Broadway (1934-1936)
  • 411 West End Avenue (1942)
  • 211 Central Park West, Apt 19J (1943)
  • 40 Central Park South, apt 14C
  • 30 Central Park South
  • Essex House, 160 Central Park South
  • 911 Central Park West, Apartment 9G (1952)
  • 36 E. 36th Street, Penthouse D (1954 – 1957)
  • St. Moritz Hotel, 50 Central Park South (1957)

Meyer Lansky businesses:

  • Lansky Food Corporation, Jersey City, NJ
  • (1934-1940) “Krieg, Spector and Citron,” which had three locations: 500 Broad Street, Newark, NJ 727 Monroe Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 8 Concourse East, Jersey City
  • (1947) Vice president of “Emby Distributing Company,” 525 West Forty-Third Street
  • (1943) “Manhattan Simplex Distributing Company,” 525 West 43rd Street
  • (1942) “Panuth Real Estate Corporation”
  • (1942) “Rosepot Real Estate Corporation”

He also owned a 25% stake in property at:

  • 922 Lexington Avenue
  • Lexington and 73rd Street
  • Madison Avenue and 73rd Street

Some of the places Meyer Lansky frequented:

  • Dinty Moore’s Restaurant, 216 W. 46th Street
  • Billy Gwon’s Chinese Restaurant, 128 W. 52nd Street
  • Forum Restaurant, 57 W. 48th Street
  • Stouffer’s Restaurant, 666 Fifth Avenue
  • Italian Pavilion Restaurant, 24 W. 55th Street
  • Savoy Plaza Hotel Barber Shop, Fifth Avenue and 58th Street
  • The office of Moses (Moe) Polakoff, (Lansky’s attorney), 475 5th Avenue

I do a seasonal Mafia walking tour, for anyone interested in organized crime on the Lower East Side.

Eric is a 4th generation Lower East Sider, professional NYC history author, movie & TV consultant & personality, founder of Lower East Side History Project.

Meyer Lansky - History

Playland Speedway History

PLEASE NOTE: Some of these images are HUGE!! They may take a LONG time to load with a dial-up connection.

Playland Speedway was originally a dog track. The dog track was started by none other than infamous gangland czar Meyer Lansky, who in 1941, spent $50,000 building the Council Bluffs dog track and grandstand. The Dodge Park Kennel Club was it's name. He ran dog racing in 1941, 42 and 43, until the mayor shut it down.

The facility sat idle until it became a dirt track in 1947. The name was Frontier Park back then. In 1948 an amusement park and midway were added, including a 3/4 mile long roller coaster! The track was now called "Playland Bowl". In 1949, it was called "Playland Park Stadium". Whatever the name, some of the finest Midget Racing in America took place here involving some of the best racers in America. "Organized" stockcar racing began in 1950. The track was paved for the 1954 season.

In 1956 the NASCAR Short Track Championship Race was held in C.B. The entry and time trial sheet is on this site. I was going to add it to the history page, but it deserves it's own page! If you didn't know about this race, wait till you see who was there! Thanks Lee Ackerman of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame for the sheet.

Sixty acres of the park were condemned by the state to build the I-480 bridge in 1964-66. The 3/4 mile long wooden coaster was demolished. The bulk of the major rides were sold at auction. Some would later go to Frontier City in Oklahoma City, a park the Sluskys owned. It is still there.

When the track reopened in 1966, rides included the Wild Mouse, bumper cars, Tilt-A-Whirl and of course the usual midway games. It was a great place to go as a kid.

The "Bronco" class was introduced in 1967. The season started with 12 broncos and it ended with 60! Per Abe Slusky, Playland Speedway's biggest year, based on car count and attendance was 1968.

Many people don't know that the Slusky's bought an amusement park in 1969. Run by Howard Slusky, it was called Frontier City and is still in operation in Oklahoma City. The Slusky's sold the park in 1980 or 81 to Tierco (now Premier/Six Flags).

I was a California Marine when the track was closed in October 1977.

Many famous local racers graced the racing surface of Playland Speedway during it’s history. Tiny Lund, Bud Burdick, Glen Robey (8-ball), Elvin “Junior” Heiman (66), Dick Gappa (77), “Wild Bill” Martin, Dave Chase (31), Paul Zdan (10), Frank "the Flying Dutchman" Vandoorn (30), Larry Brown(16) , Bob Matson (71), Larry Jiskra (70), Sonny Miller (109), Ron Tilley (56), Russ Dilley (22), Ron Hoden (65), John Beaman, Frank Prideaux (67), Mel Sorensen (93), Bob Jura (72), John Ernest (73), Jerry Boyd (52), Ron Wolfe “the Asphalt Animal”(76), Chris Hoeppner (84), Bob Rollins (80), Claude “Sonny” Brown (67) and of course my personal hero, my Dad, Al Franks (89) who wasn't famous at all. You'll find many names on this site.

These photos and articles were taken from the Nonpareil and World Herald papers and placed in a scrapbook provided by Bob Matson.

Click on text links or pictures for articles:

Roller Coaster Database info on the old park.

From Larry Osborn: Dan.. here are 2 pictures I found that shows Playland in 1952. That was the year of the big Missouri River flood. Thought you might think it was interesting. first picture and second picture.

Playland resumes racing after construction.

Playland re-opens as a race track only facility

History of Playland with Lee Barron's comments

Historical article on dog track beginnings

May 1,2003 article about Playland, published in the Council Bluffs Business Journal. Written and sent to me by Richard Warner. Thanks Richard!

Historical articles and items from Frank Vandoorn.

1971 Playland Programs from Larry Osborn

1972 Articles from Larry Osborn- The STRIKE YEAR!

Note from Dan: Roy Robertson mentioned in this article is my uncle.

Watch the video: Мейер Лански - один газетчик начал против меня кампанию интервью