The Chicago Syndicate: Louis Lepke Buchalter
Showing posts with label Louis Lepke Buchalter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Louis Lepke Buchalter. Show all posts

Thursday, August 24, 2017

On This Day in Crime History in 1939

The leader of "Murder, Incorporated", Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, gave himself up to columnist Walter Winchell. Winchell then turned him over to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

"Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires"

Face it--there seemingly will always be a market for certain books. Just choose to chronicle some facet of the Kennedys, the Nazis or, as Selwyn Raab has opted, the Mafia, and a certain sales threshold is guaranteed. Quality seldom seems an issue. Just serve it up and the buyers will come.

Happily, "Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires" is worth every cent, and for those who haven't gotten into Mafia reading on either the fictional -- as in Mario Puzo-- level or other documentary accounts, this may well be the only book you need to read.

So well written and encompassing is Raab's effort that even at 763 pages, many readers will pine for more. And of course there could be more at some point. As the title suggests, a Mafia resurgence is more than quite possible after the John Gotti era unraveling of the more traditional operations in the 1980s and '90s. The next time, it just might not be so Italian based.

Raab serves up a history of the underworld that is long on coherency and understanding and short on the kind of mind-numbing detail other Mafia historians wander into. He gets right into the notoriously efficient work of Charles (Lucky) Luciano, whose rules of engagement ended a lot of shoot-'em-ups and kept the Mafia pointed at one goal -- ever increasing the amount of money pouring into the organization and individual coffers by corrupting American government and business, not necessarily in that order.

It was Luciano who advocated the organization adopt secretive, low-profile standards for thievery, extortion and other crimes as opposed to the over-the-top "I'm just giving the people what they want" personna that Chicago boss Al Capone advocated. And Raab pulls the thread by luring the reader to all that came after. With a reporter's love of fact and disdain for much of the fictional crap about these dark knights, we follow the organization's operations through its real birth during Prohibition, its World War II profiteering, its '50s heyday as a union corrupter and Las Vegas force and its '80s and '90s stumbling largely attributed to a name now very familiar -- Rudy Giuliani. It was Giuliani's use of RICO (the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act) that did great damage to the Mafia's traditional legal defenses in the 1980s.

While he devotes a few pages to the oft-told stories like the Louis (Lepke) Buchalter case from the '30s and '40s, Raab scores big points for telling modern Mafia tales that are less often told but are just as magnetic as the '30s-era classics. And Raab is a constant critic of the law enforcement and justice system weaknesses for not prosecuting crimes that seemed all too obvious. And back in the beginning of this review, did we mention the Kennedys?

That would propel the reader to the book's Chapter 15, titled "The Ring of Truth." The title comes from the mouth of G. Robert Blakey, an expert on both the John F. Kennedy assassination and the underworld, about utterances from Frank Ragano, a lawyer who had the opportunity to defend Mafia operators Santos Trafficante, Carlos Marcello and Detroit's own labor racketeer, the still missing Jimmy Hoffa.

Trafficante, Ragano said, confirmed that the Mafia had a hand in the drama of Nov. 22, 1963. The simple theory: Robert Kennedy's vigorous prosecution of racketeering had to be stopped and the best way to do that was by icing the man who appointed him to his job. Yes, there was plenty of bad feeling toward JFK himself, but Raab concludes, "Whether or not they had a part in it, the Mafia had triumphed as a big winner after the assassination."

One other reason to admire Raab's work: He does quite a bit of damage to the fictional image of the Mafia that is the result of Puzo's fiction and movies like "Good Fellas," "Casino" and the most current manifestation, "The Sopranos." Raab quotes organized crime boss Howard Abadinsky as saying, "They are displayed having a twisted sense of honor, 'taking no crap from anyone,' with easy access to women and money. Such displays romanticize organized crime and, as an unintended consequence, serve to perpetuate the phenomenon and create alluring myths about the Mafia."

That's something Raab could never be convicted of.

Reviewed by JOHN SMYNTEK

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Las Vegas Mob Museum Covers American Jewish History

In the mid-20th century, a cadre of tough Jews, shedding the bookish bearing of exile, went forth to create a new society in a forbidding desert. Armed to the teeth, they lived outside the law and built their outpost by any means necessary. Against all odds, despite implacable enemies, the desert bloomed.

Think you already know this history? Think again. This is an American tale told by the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, in downtown Las Vegas. Open since February, and already better known as “The Mob Museum,” it is essentially an American Jewish history museum by another name.

The museum tells the story of American organized crime, from its birth in the ethnic slums of established cities like Boston, New York and Chicago to the city the mafia itself begot, the Mojave metropolis of Las Vegas. The institution is the brainchild of Oscar Goodman, the flamboyant Philadelphia-born mafia attorney whose clients included Meyer Lansky, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein. Goodman went on to serve as mayor of Las Vegas from 1999 until 2011.

While the exhibit only breaks the code of omertà about Jewishness at the beginning of its chronological display — noting the Jewish immigration wave alongside the Irish and Italian — as visitors move through the 20th century they see a pantheon of mosaic Murder Inc. veterans, including Moe Dalitz, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway, on a progression from street toughs to casino magnates to pillars of the community. The museum doesn’t pussyfoot around the brutality of Jewish mobsters’ methods; indeed, one 1930s photo shows the brutalized body of a Catskills resort slot machine operator on a gurney after he had been caught skimming profits. But it treats the mafia as an institution of immigrant social mobility, a shortcut to the American Dream.

The presentation makes it hard not to sympathize with Prohibition-era “Boys From Brooklyn” (as the Jewish goodfellas called themselves) as they are hounded by bigoted G-men and hard-drinking hypocrites in Congress. A 1939 FBI “Wanted” poster seeking fugitive Murder Inc. boss Louis Buchalter notes his “Jewish characteristics — nose large… eyes alert and shifty — has habit of passing change from one hand to another.”

Bootlegger Dalitz is celebrated for getting the best of a congressional anti-mafia probe with zingers like, “If you people wouldn’t have drunk it, I wouldn’t have bootlegged it.” And when asked about his illicit moonshine fortune, he said, “Well, I didn’t inherit any money, Senator.”

By the end of the exhibit, having built a world-famous city from scratch with their underworld capital, Sedway is receiving letters from Jewish establishment figures saluting his fundraising efforts for United Jewish Appeal, Dalitz is being presented with the key to the City of Las Vegas and Lansky is living the life of a retired real estate magnate in Miami Beach. Buchalter, for his part, has been sent to the electric chair at Sing Sing (an object that is also part of the collection). But even his death has a Horatio Alger twist: He set the record for the richest man ever executed in America.

The museum’s official slogan is, “There are two sides to every story,” and the feds are given their due. The former special agent in charge of the Las Vegas office of the FBI, Ellen Knowlton, outranks even Goodman on the museum’s board of directors. As in real life, though, it is the glamour of gangster glitter — like Benjamin Siegel’s glitzy watch, labeled “Bugsy’s Bling” — that catches the eye. Beyond a reasonable doubt, the goodfellas steal the show.

Not everyone is thrilled with such laudatory portrayals of the Jewish criminals the museum dubs “the other people who built America.” Jenna Weissman Joselit, Forward columnist, director of the program in Judaic studies at George Washington University and author of “Our Gang : Jewish Crime and the New York Jewish Community, 1900-1940,” (Indiana University Press, 1983) thinks the temptation to glamorize the mob ought to be resisted. Museum curators, she said via email, should “attend to America’s abiding fascination with crime with the same rigor and discernment that’s applied to other cultural and historical phenomena.” But Rich Cohen, author of “Tough Jews : Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams” (Simon & Schuster, 1998), understands the appeal of Jewish mobsters — especially when contrasted with the loathsome, privileged Jewish criminals of today, like Bernard Madoff. “These were people who grew up in certain neighborhoods where [the mob] was one way to get ahead,” Cohen said via telephone from Hollywood, where he’s advising “Magic City,” a new TV drama about 1950s Miami mobsters. “These were very tough guys in a very tough world, in a time when Jews were being beaten up and even killed — and they weren’t taking s–t from anybody.”

Cohen is unperturbed by the museum’s family-friendly marketing efforts, which include offering discounted admission to children as young as 5. “I have little kids, and I try to teach them right from wrong,” Cohen said. “I don’t think there’s a danger of people coming out of a museum and it making them gangsters.”

As a whole, American Jews are probably more conflicted than Cohen about the community’s historic mob ties. When Cohen told his grandmother he was working on a book about Murder Inc., her response bespoke this communal schizophrenia. “A Jew should never be a gangster. It’s a shande,” she told him, using the Yiddish word for “a disgrace.” “But, if a Jew should be a gangster, let him be the best gangster!”

For his part, booster-in-chief Goodman, who bequeathed to the museum his “gelt bag”— a large briefcase in which his clients, wary of having their bank accounts frozen by the Feds, paid him in cash — zealously defends the institution’s unconventional take on the history of his city and his people. “These are our founding fathers,” Goodman said of Meyer, Bugsy and the gang. “We [Las Vegans] come from the mob.”

But even Goodman recalls that when he first proposed the museum a decade ago, he faced some pushback from constituents who complained that it would stereotype a particular ethnic group. “Apparently they meant the Italians,” Goodman offered, with his perennial grin and Borscht Belt timing. “I thought they were talking about the Jews!”

Thanks to Daniel Brook

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hitman: Blood Money - Reviewed

Friends of ours: Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, Richard "The Ice Man" Kuklinski, Gambino Crime Family, Roy DeMeo

How often do you get the chance to sneak up on a balloon-clutching clown, grab him, kill him, take his outfit and put it on, then dump him in his own magic trick trunk and saunter off pretending to be him? Okay, maybe this says a little something about my own personal mental fiefdom, but when I found I had the opportunity to do just this - and so very much more - in Eidos amazing Hitman: Blood Money, by Jove I was as pleased as punch!

Now, where to start with this thoroughly engaging and dare I say awesome game�

I'm a fan of the genre to begin with. Having played through Rockstar's frightening stalk n' slash epic, Manhunt and the Thief and Splinter Cell series' I have developed a genuine passion for such stealth-orientated gameplay. There is something enormously satisfying about thinking and planning your every move, calculating and (hopefully) shrewdly putting into practice your own mapped out directives and above all doing your 'job' as a professional assassin.

This game is what it is. If you are familiar with the previous titles in the Hitman saga you will know that it comprises of a number of missions - all to 'hit' various designated bad guys. There is a storyline, but it's your murderous objectives that hallmark this classic. Blood Money is, of course, more of the same, but with a number of important improvements which I'm sure you'll be delighted to know includes new kill techniques.

So how does this game look and feel?

I class myself as a visual person and therefore if a game's graphics are below par this seriously dilutes the overall experience for me. It's very important that I be able to absorb every detail, down to minutiae. Fortunately Hitman: Blood Money's achievements in this area are nothing short of breathtaking and I struggled to contain my excitement from the very outset, quickly discovering that I could not tear myself away from a particular level until I had completed it so that the next would be revealed. Stunning, panoramic locations made this a journey I could not resist embarking on. Whether it's brightly little jungles or dingy warehouses, the eye for detail is sharp and quite incredible. I knew as soon as I got my first glimpse of the game that it was going to be a thing of beauty.

Right from the word go, the player - as silent protagonist Agent 47 - shows up at a deserted fairground, and is hauled directly along for the hugely atmospheric ride. Being a man who understands the nature of hardcore murder and having been fortunate enough to have books published in the true crime world, I'll take just a moment to discuss the psychopathologies inherent within the game's characters before getting back to the plot.

Though he has dispatched many victims in his time, cue-ball-headed, suited-and-booted Agent 47 is not a serial killer. He does not kill for pleasure, and he does not rape, torture or eat other human beings, which the charming sorts I normally deal with are more inclined to. 47 is an assassin, the best of his breed as a matter of fact, the type of 'guy' (he's not strictly human but I won't give away too much of the story) that undertakes his various assignments with a required cool detachment and abject professionalism. For our ice cold ice man, the soup of the day here is organised crime rather than the dark realm of serial predators. Still, vicious, evil and above all powerful figures wind up on his hit list. Surely the world will be a better place with them removed and there is only one master-assassin that fits the employment description, a hitman competent enough to take out this dangerous kind of trash. And in Blood Money, there is certainly a lot of it.

Fearsome organised criminals are marked for death at the hands of Agent 47 and whereas most of them display signs of 'enjoying' their murderous exploits, our 47 is motivated by another factor, namely - money. As a bonus he gets to dispense his own brand of justice on some very nasty individuals indeed.

Celebrated real-life counterparts; mob hitmen, such as the Chicago Outfit's Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio and Murder Incorporated's Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, took a certain amount of pleasure in their contracts. Richard "The Ice Man" Kuklinski - recently deceased in prison - and his contemporary, the legendary Gambino Crime Family executioner, Roy DeMeo, who are thought to be responsible for some 400 murders between them, lack distinctly the cool dignity of Agent 47. More than a match in sheer ferocity and death toll as these and others of their ilk are, this is not the purpose of Hitman: Blood Money. You are not an organised crime-connected, bloodthirsty killer, who actually enjoys his assignments, but rather a reluctant created entity. One who does this because it is what he knows.

Back to the game, the environments as I say are totally mesmerizing. From garish techno nightclubs straight out of Hell - and Heaven - and winter playgrounds oozing with busty babes, steaming outdoor pools, and stone killers in Santa Claus hats, to a trip to the witness protection haven of suburban U S of A and a New Orleans Mardi Gras to remember, the slick presentation of each scenario will knock you sideways.

The varied ways of dispatching victims is a lot of fun too. Whether it's a simple garrotting, knifing or more creative method of execution, such as a patiently orchestrated poisoning or the careful engineering of a fatal 'accident', the result is always the same. Mission accomplished. Particularly rewarding is the discovery of makeshift weaponry throughout your quests, which can be used to take those who get in your way down - hard. Agent 47 will always find a way to complete his homicidal objectives.

Luring and annihilating his route throughout the game, each of 47's missions involve slaying a 'Mr Big' target. There are a number of ways this can be achieved, from a Gung Ho blood fest of bullets and mayhem to the more subtle, stealthy approach. As this is a game that rewards you for methodical and restrained manoeuvring, being sneaky and quietly efficient are the ingredients to conquering Hitman: Blood Money.

One of my favourite touches are the often amusing newspaper reports that conclude each level, describing the various massacres you have been responsible for in getting at your latest target. These can range from the ghost-like strike of a highly effective phantom killer to the carnage-soaked frenzy of a human butcher. Depending on how you played it, the ultimate goal is in your skill and cunning at executing not only your task but your designated 'whacks', to use the parlance of the top mobsters that Agent 47 is so often sent after.

And the handling is spot on. Fluid controlling and smooth operation is vital in a game such as this, and here again Hitman: Blood Money delivers. It's easy to pick up after a half hour curve and having gotten used to it, you will find yourself most comfortable with the action of shooting, stabbing and stealthy 'up close and personal' moves on your (again, hopefully if you're playing it the way it is intended) unwitting prey.

It's such an experience that when you eventually finish the game you are left wanting much more. A tight, story-driven plot with some truly great characters and awesome villains to take down, make this an instant must for those fans of the genre. Hitman gets in your blood, immerses you in the subterranean world of murder-for-hire and actually charges you up while playing. Who after all would not wish to kill as many evil people as their skills merit and read their own sensational headline at the end of each gore-splattered foray.

Eidos have done it again and I devoutly hope that there are more Hitman offerings in the pipeline. I will never grow tired of assuming the role of Agent 47, the cool, collected killing machine, sent to faraway destinations to carry out the most exhilarating contracts.

I absolutely loved this game. Could you tell?

Thanks to Steve Morris

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