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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jack wasn't nimble nor quick

Around 1:00am eighty-five years ago today a Detroit patrolman was making the rounds when he came across a blood spattered car in the alley behind Euclid Avenue. Hanging out of the auto across the running aboard was racketeer and "police character" Jack Isenberg. And yes it was Jack's blood which had spattered the car. The result of somebody placing a gun inches from his temple and pulling the trigger twice. Why would somebody want to kill Jack? The cops had a couple of reason, maybe it was revenge for the killing of another guy or maybe it was a couple of his own boys who took him out because as it turns out Jack was going to go on trial for a robbery and, well, just maybe his accomplices were afraid of what he was going to say.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

LONdon After Midnight

We here at the DGIS studio would like to remember another DGIC (dead guy in cape) that left us in August. On this date in 1930 Lon Chaney Sr. the man of a thousand faces, like the man of a thousand voices, kept perfectly still. Old timers will tell you that it was his make-up that killed him. His autopsy report however will say it was throat cancer.

Chaney was a big proponent of prison reform, feeling that the institutions of his day did not rehabilitate criminals they only made them mean, bitter, angry and prone to be repeat offenders.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Devil Went Down to Saratoga Springs

"I'll bet this semi-precious stone, against your soul that I'm better at Yahtzee than you."
"I say old man, I'll take that bet and you're gonna regret cuz I'm the best thats ever been"

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The not-so-St.Valentine's Day massacre

On this date in 1931 New York had their very own version of the St. Valentines Day Massacre when three men were kidnapped from a dance club, driven to a remote area, lined up against a wall and mowed down with machine guns. Wow! A mini-massacre. How come we never heard of that before. Well, cause it didn’t really happen that way, but the editors of the daily rags thought it sounded good and, really when you think about it, why bother with facts. However, when only one of the victims died it was learned that .38’s were used and not machine guns so the public was un-impressed and the story was quickly forgotten.

How the non-massacre really went down - Anthony Ferrara stepped out of a Brooklyn Dance along with his friends Angelo Ciurrani and Murray Leonardi. He was immediately jumped by two men and dragged to a sedan and tossed into the rear tonneau where gang leader Barney Wolfson and two others waited.

Wolfson informed his two henchman, let's call them Stan & Ollie, that they grabbed the wrong guy, it was Ciurrani that he wanted not Ferrara. You see, Wolfson lead a gang of desperadoes that did some robbin’ and supposedly some killin’ and Ciurrani was a former member of the Wolfson mob who had “failed to connect” on a couple of jobs and to make matters worse was now bad mouthing Wolfson. So, with pistols drawn the two men went back and got Ciurrani and Leonardi (who for some reason stayed put???) and forced them into the car at gun point. They didn't even want Leonardi either but since he and Ferrara were there and dead men tell no yarns…

The three amigos were taken to a lumberyard in a secluded part of Brooklyn and lined up against the wall. Unfortunately for Ferrara, Wolfson an ex-marine with much gun experience, stood behind him while Ciurrani and Leonardi had average gun-toting schmoes (we'll assume Stan & Ollie; you'll see why) behind them. The signal was given and the triggers pulled. Ferrara dropped with a bullet in the head while Ciurrani and Leonardi’s would be executioners missed completely (see) and the duo made a run for it. However, Wolfson, (the guy who could shoot) managed to bring both down with two shots a piece before they got far.

The killers drove away while Ciurrani and Leonardi, both still alive, began to crawl to safety. Luckily for the wounded men the night watchman from the slaughterhouse across the street heard the shooting and called the authorities who arrived in minutes. Although unconscious when the ambulance arrived, Ciurrani came to in the hospital and told the police what happened.

Epilogue: Five days later police got a tip that a group of gangsters were holing up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.  With upwards of thirty officers armed with shotguns, riot guns and tear gas the authorities surrounded the building. Three detectives made their way to the second story apartment and, hearing voices inside, knocked on the door. No one responded to the knock so the detectives proceeded to blow the lock off the door with a shotgun.

Inside they found seven members of the gang, one, Harry Liebowitz, on the floor screaming over a superficial wound. The others, including Wolfson, were all found hidden around the apartment and gave up without a fight. In addition to a number of robberies and two murders, the police tried to blame the lumber yard shooting on them and after nineteen hours of "questioning" the gang admitted to the shooting.

Twenty-four year old Ferrara, although killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, was a member of the underworld. He had a record dating back to 1922 when he was arrested as a juvenile delinquent. He was arrested again on November 27, 1929 for assault and robbery but discharged only to be arrested a month later with Leonardi for robbery for which both young men were sent to Elmira.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Did the Butler do it?

Shortly before 4:00am on this day back in 1930 Detroit police received a call about a shootout taking place on Brooklyn Avenue and Grand River Ave.. By time they got there the shooting was over and lying in the street was bootlegger and possessor of a criminal record William Butler. Nearby was a bullet riddled coupe containing "fifteen sacks of whiskey and two five gallon tins of alcohol". It seems that men in a truck forced the coupe to the curb and attempted to help themselves to  the cache of hooch but the occupants of the coupe weren't in a sharing mood, hence the fireworks. Which side was Butler on? Good question. If anyone has a Ouija board let us know. What is known is that in the end the coppers ended up with the goods.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Big trouble in Little Italy

 Joseph Cigna and Anthony Justiano were standing on a corner in New York City's Little Italy on this date back in 1931. Eight other guys were chatting it up with the duo when four other guys walked up and pulled out some pistols.

Cigna and Justiano apparently knew they were the targets because the both of them immediately fled. The gunmen followed letting loose with a barrage of gunfire. One of the duo almost made it into a tenement but dropped dead at the door while the other pitched forward on the sidewalk. Autopsies proved the gunmen to be competent marksmen. Cigna was hit by eight bullets and Justiano ten.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Truth is stranger than fiction

August sixteenth marks the passing of two of the Twentieth Century's most iconic DGIC (Dead Guys in Capes ) and we here at the DGIS Institute would like to take a moment to remember these two great performers.  As most people know Elvis died on this date thirty-seven years ago but what most people don’t realize is that twenty one years before that the world lost its original caped icon; Bela Lugosi. That’s right Dracula himself passed on August 16, 1956.

The similarities between the two stars doesn’t end there either. You thought that the Lincoln–Kennedy coincidences were eerie just examine these facts:

1- Bela Lugosi was the king of horror until he was usurped by a Brit. One William Henry Pratt, better known as Boris Karloff who starred in Frankenstein. Elvis was the king of rock until usurped by four Brits*, those lads from Liverpool , The Beatles.
2- Bela died in 1956. Elvis’s career was born in 1956.
3- Bela was born in Hungary and in his last years Elvis was always hungry
4- They both wore capes.
5- Bela played a carny in Murders in the Rue Morgue, Elvis played a carny in Roustabout.
6- Both have two vowels in their first name
7- Both had sex with Marilyn Monroe in the White house
8- Bela drove a Presley and Elvis drove a Lugosi
9- Bela shot heroin. Elvis shot tvs
10- Bela made “the Black Cat”. Elvis was a Black Belt

You can’t make this Dead Guys in Suits copyrighted material up folks. Just try to sleep tonight knowing what you now know.

* BTW, shave and a hair cut? That's two Brits.