SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the Boardwalk Empire series finale yet, come back later.
Again, I’m not kidding about the spoiler alert thingy. This actual piece opens with the Boardwalk Empire finale ending, so – and Walking Deadheads who figured they’d catch Boardwalk Empire on HBO Go before Rick and the gang come on free on demand – I’m looking at you, get outta here.
Boardwalk Empire rose and fell. The gangster lived on.
I don’t know whether Enoch “Nucky” Thompson actually died at the end of Boardwalk Empire. He was shot. He fell. He’s bleeding, a lot, but people jumped in right away and people have survived worse. Let’s assume he lived, since his real-life counterpart Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, lived until 1968.
Nucky Johnson ran Atlantic City. He went from assistant sheriff to the city’s treasurer. He was part of the Big Seven booze distribution group. He hosted the mob’s Atlantic City Conference in 1929.
The very next year, 1930, William Randolph Hearst went after Atlantic City’s corruption in a series of articles in The New York Evening Journal. Nucky was shacking up with one of Hearst’s favorite showgirls. The articles alerted the feds to Atlantic City’s crime element and they went after Johnson.
Boardwalk Empire’s finale takes place in 1931, a big year in crime. If Nucky lives, the feds will go after him for underreporting his income taxes and nab Johnson’s property in 1933, the same year Prohibition was repealed.
The legalization of booze will force Nucky Johnson to expand his operations. Nucky will be indicted for tax evasion on May 10, 1939 for failure to report about $125,000 in earnings. Why didn’t Johnson report it? Because he made the money running numbers operators during 1935, 1936 and 1937. Johnson was convicted in July 1941, fined $20,000 and sentenced to ten years in federal prison.
Before he goes to jail, directly to jail, without passing Go (Monopoly is based on Atlantic City, after all), Johnson remarried. Like Steve Buscemi’s character, Nucky was married to a woman named Mabel Jeffries, who died of consumption. Nucky married the former Philadelphia showgirl Florence “Flossie” Osbeck on August 1, 1941, after a three-year engagement. Johnson was 58, Flossie was 33.
Ten days later, Johnson checked into Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary on August 11, 1941. He did not bring his German valet, Louis Kessel, with him. Frank S. Farley took over Atlantic City. Johnson was paroled on August 15, 1945, ducked the $20,000 fine by taking a pauper’s oath and lived quietly with his wife lived and his brother in a relative’s house on South Elberon Avenue, Atlantic City.
In spite of pleas, cajoling and persistent rumors, Johnson stayed away from politics after he got out of jail. I guess he didn’t want to consort with the criminal element. Nucky was a sales exec for the Richfield Oil Company. He and his wife also worked for the Renault Winery. In 1952, Nucky put on his red carnation to stump for Farley in Atlantic City’s black section, where Johnson was always welcome.
Johnson died on December 9, 1968 at the Atlantic County Convalescent Home in Northfield, New Jersey.
The Atlantic City Press obit said Johnson “was born to rule: He had flair, flamboyance, was politically amoral and ruthless, and had an eidetic memory for faces and names, and a natural gift of command … [Johnson] had the reputation of being a trencherman, a hard drinker, a Herculean lover, an epicure, a sybaritic fancier of luxuries and all good things in life.”
J. Edgar Hoover really didn’t like Al Capone. Capone was too smart to get busted for anything illegal, but couldn’t cover up the paper trail. Elliot Ness, a reputedly incorruptible FBI Agent, couldn’t get anything on Capone and he was on his ass starting in 1929. That was until Frank J. Wilson checked Capone’s tax returns and popped him for tax evasion in 1931.
Thinking he had a deal in place, Capone pled guilty to Judge James Herbert Wilkerson, but Capone’s lawyers found out that Wilkerson would ignore sentencing recommendation and Capone withdrew the guilty plea and tried to bribe Ness’s agents. Good luck Al. Ness’ guys were so against bribery they were called “The Untouchables.” That’s not to say they were clean, they routed the constitution regularly go get collars. When he couldn’t touch the untouchables, Capone tried to bribe the jury, who were then swapped to another case.
Capone was convicted of tax evasion on October 17. He was sentenced to 11 years, the longest sentence for tax evasion ever given at that time. Capone was fined, his property was taken, the government cleaned out his last can of Who hash, the grinches. The Feds even took his bullet-proof limousine, which President FDR used after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Capone entered Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in May 1932. He had to detox from his drug habit. Capone was transferred to Alcatraz on August 11, 1934. Capone got special privileges in Atlanta, but on Alcatraz he couldn’t even get a haircut. Capone spent the last years in the prison hospital being treated for syphilis. Capone ended his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Island in California. He was paroled on November 16, 1939.
Capone spent his last years on Miami Beach. Syphilis rendered him a veritable simpleton given to paranoid rants. On January 21, 1947, Capone had a stroke. The next day he had a heart attack. Three days later, on January 25, 1947, he died in his home. Al Capone is buried аt Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.
Salvatore, or Charlie “Lucky” Lucania or Luciano, had a lot of names, legal and otherwise. He was also known as Charlie Lucky and Charlie from 14th Street, though he actually lived up the block. Even his aliases were aliases, or is that aliei? Charlie will do fine for a couple of years. He’s going to bring all the Italian families together nationwide. He even gets some of the non-Italians wet their beak, though the inner circle, the Five Families and the national delegates will all be Italian. At one point, because of his planning, the syndicate will be “bigger than U.S. Steel,” one of the largest corporate entity known in the world at that time. U.S. Steel was so big, there was a book published about a year after Kennedy died saying that U.S. Steel killed JFK. There are also books about the mob killing Kennedy. They were that big.
Lucky Luciano will go to jail for pimping. Eunice Carter, who was an assistant D.A. under Tom Dewey, the guy who thought he defeated Truman, would gather up enough evidence to get a major probe into Luciano’s dealings going. Dewey then leaned on some illegal immigrants and ultimately Luciano went up the river on trumped up charges.
Law enforcement at the time was going through growing pains. It was outgrowing the law. Many arrests, convictions and shootings happened in those days without any kind of due process as cops were still getting used to new technologies. The cops were always playing catch up. When John Dillinger bought fast cars, the feds had to buy fast cars. When surveillance equipment was invented, the feds had to use it before the lawyers found out about it. Often suspects died, or were allowed to die, because the necessary paperwork might show foul play if anyone looked too close. Some things don’t change.
Luciano will make a deal to get out of jail, but not for free. First the feds will use Charlie for his contacts on the Brooklyn waterfront, which were busy with work for World War II. After a battleship is set aflame, the government will basically pay protection money. There are rumors that the mob did the job on the battleship. That was, after all, their modus operandi.
When Luciano gets out of prison he’ll be deported. That won’t stop him from running the American mob. He’d do that from Cuba or from Naples. Luciano would also be very instrumental in bringing heroin to America from Turkey. The whole myth perpetuated by The Godfather about the mob steering clear of the white powder was a myth. They all took their cut.
Salvatore Lucania had a heart attack at a Naples Airport in January 1962 when he was on the way to meet with a movie producer who was interested in making a movie of Luciano’s life. Hundreds of people went to Luciano’s funeral in Naples. He was buried in the Lucania family vault at St. John’s Cemetery in Queens, New York.
Meyer Lansky was in and out of trouble since he was a kid, getting arrested for the first time when he was still a teenager. He met Charlie Luciano when he was a teenager. Luciano and his Italian gang was trying to shake down the smaller Jewish kid, but the kid wouldn’t go down. Lucky admired this and brought him into the gang. The two would be friends and partners for the rest of Lucky’s life.
Lansky came up through Arnold Rothstein’s tutelage and we went on to become the “king of illegal casinos.” Lansky set up gaming tables in Miami and Cuba. Lansky gave the go-ahead for Benny Siegel to turn Las Vegas in a gambling mecca.
In 1939, Meyer would tell Louis Lepke Buchalter to lam it on narcotics and murder charges in a meeting with Doc Rosen and Longie Zwillman. Thinking he’d get a deal, Lepke, who started Murder Inc., turned himself in. Lepke was the only mob boss ever to be fried in the electric chair.
During World War II, Meyer Lansky was the go-between when Luciano offered protection to the ports of New York. Luciano was in jail at the time at Great Meadows Prison in Comstock, N.Y., and Naval Intelligence was too smart to be seen with him.
After World War II, Meyer and his brother Jake Lansky opened up the Colonial Inn casino in Miami and then expanded into Saratoga and Hollywood. In 1948, Florida cracked down on gambling and Lansky went in on the Beverly Club just outside New Orleans with Frank Costello and Phil Kastel. Lansky got an ulcer fighting for control over Havana’s Riveriera Hotel against the new peoples’ rule of Fidel Castro.
Lansky would counsel Yankee Slugger Joe DiMaggio on how he might win back Marilyn Monroe after she divorced Arthur Miller. Lansky pranked Frank Sinatra so bad once that the singer paid a priest $50,000 to hide out from Sam Giancana in a church basement. In 1979 the House of Representatives Assassinations Committee linked Meyer Lansky with Jack Ruby when they were checking the facts on The Warren Commission report on the JFK slayings.
Lansky got past the Kefauver Committee on Crime in Oct. 11, 1950, but the feds hounded him. By the early seventies the FBI drove Lansky to seek refuge in Israel. Nixon threatened to stop delivery on Phantom jets unless Prime Minister Golda Meir deported Lansky. The Israeli Supreme Court gave him a travel brochure to Buenos Aires. When Lansky landed in Panama, U.S. officials sent Lansky back to Miami to face charges on skimming from the Flamingo hotel. Lansky didn’t get convicted on the tax evasion charges.
Lansky lived on Miami’s Collins Avenue until he died of a heart attack at the approximate age of 81 on Jan. 15, 1983.
Benjamin Siegel invented Las Vegas. He was also one of the guys who started Murder, Incorporated. Siegel married Whitey Krakower’s sister Esta on January 28, 1929. Whitey was in Murder, Incorporated. Ben and Esta got divorced in 1946. Siegel died in 1947. Benny Siegel hated the nickname “Bugsy” and was known to go off on people if they called him that to his face. He made friends with celebrities and would have married Virginia Hill if got his divorce earlier. Siegel smoked dope and dealt it.
Siegel ratted Waxey Gordon out to the feds because he wasn’t paying his taxes. Waxey hired the Fabrizzo brothers from his jail cell to hit Siegel and Bugsy instead hunted them all down.
Siegel tried to sell weapons to Mussolini in 1938. In 1939, Lepke, who’d taken over Murder, Incorporated, asked Siegel to kill the rat Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg. Two witnesses were killed before the Greenberg case went to trial and Siegel was acquitted.
In 1944, Siegel got busted for bookmaking, but George Raft testified on Siegel’s behalf, probably on a bet, and Siegel slid on that one too. Siegel went west and made Mickey Cohen his number two. Together they got into LA crime family boss Jack Dragna’s gambling operations. Siegel then took over the numbers, set up his drug route and a bookmaking operation that netted half a million a day. Siegel took over the Screen Extras Guild and the Teamsters in LA and put the thumb on Hollywood. Siegel hung out with all the big names: Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Cary Grant. Louis B. Mayer and Jack Warner. Tony Curtis and Frank Sinatra.
Siegel and his former extortion partner Moe Sedway took over the Flamingo Hotel from William R. Wilkerson. They also got a cut from the construction of the Hoover Dam. Lansky turned the whole desert over to Siegel. At first Siegel didn’t want it. He was having too much fun in Hollywood. Lansky convinced Siegel to bring his movie friends and redesign the Flamingo for the syndicate. The Flamingo opened the day after Christmas in 1946. George Raft showed up, no one else did.
Benny Siegel was the mob’s face on the West coast until they messed up that face by shooting out one of his eyes (a Moe Greene special), an old Sicilian message or a very lucky shot. Legend has it that Bugsy was killed because of the cost-overns at the Flamingo Hotel, but Meyer Lansky’s daughter, Sandi, disagreed in her autobiography. She said Siegel was killed because he told Luciano to “go fuck yourself” after Lucky was bitched at him for showing up late at a meeting. The only person who could tell Luciano to fuck himself was Lansky. Luciano ordered Lansky to have Siegel whacked, which he did at Virginia Hill’s house on June 20, 1947.Benjamin Siegel wasn’t actually shot through the eye, by the way. He was shot in the head and his eye popped out of its socket.