"He must have done something. They don't kill you for nothing." - Chicago Gangster Ted Newberry. Rubbed out January 7, 1933

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't blame Reles it was 'cuz Strauss was cheap

Yesterday marked the 75th Anniversary of one of New York City's most important gangland executions. The murder of Alexander "Red" Alpert. Even though his death barely made the news in 1933 it would prove to be one of the most significant in New York history because “Red's” was the slaying that started the whole Murder Inc. investigation in 1940, which resulted in the downfall of the Brownsville and Ocean Hill Combination, not mention the deaths of most of the major players.
By the age of nineteen “Red” was already a seasoned hoodlum with a number of arrests but no convictions. He was known as a cop hater and his disdain for the officers of the law was so great, the authors of Murder Inc. tell us, that he wouldn’t even wear a blue suit.
His end came after he pulled off a jewel heist and had a collection of gems worth probably upwards of $10,000. Not having the connections to move the merchandise himself "Red" went to Brownsville and paid a visit to Harry “Pittsburgh Phil” Strauss. “Red” showed the Murder Inc. executioner his jewels and told Strauss he could have them at the bargain rate of $3000. Strauss in turn offered only $700. Alpert in no polite terms told Strauss what he could do with his offer and went on his way.
Strauss sent two guys to bring “Red” back but Alpert was wise and managed to elude them. Still wanting the gems Strauss had Abe Reles and Buggsy Goldstein pay the youthful crook a visit. The two killers told Alpert that Strauss wanted the jewels and he wanted them for the $700 he originally offered but the stubborned “Red” told Reles and Goldstein they could go to hell with Strauss. This of course sealed his fate and the contract was given to Walter Sage, whom Alpert knew and had no reason to fear. The next day Sage met “Red” at the latter's house and the two men walked off together. After they had gone about a block Sage drew a gun and killed the young hoodlum.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jack "Legs" Diamond

Greetings all. One of the nice benefits of my research has been corresponding with the descendants of some of the guys I've written about. Normally any communications take place after the book or article has been written but I'm trying to reverse the trend. I am currently writing a bio of Legs Diamond and would love to hear from anybody who was related directly, in-directly, not at all but your grandpa, grandma, mom or dad, great aunt or uncle etc. knew him or his cohorts. If you have any sort of connection to Legs Diamond, no matter how tenuous (Grandpa said that Legs bought ice cream for all the kiddies in Cairo NY...), and would be willing to chat with me please contact me: dgis1931@yahoo.com

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Since man can't live on gangsters alone

I started a new blog celebrating the discovery of cool historic stuff. Stop by and be sure to tell me that I sent you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Say it ain't so Joe,

Today marks the 79th anniversary of the passing of "Baby" Joe Flanagan. The youngest of the "Four Fierce Flanagan's " , Joe was the second brother to die by the gun. Brother Tom preceded him by seven years.
It was Sunday when Joe was eliminated from the underworld and it was a churchgoer who found him. As he was leaving his apartment he saw Joe lying in the hallway and thought he was sleeping off a drunk. When the man returned after the services the “drunk” was still there so the man took a closer look and realized that the “drunk” was in fact quite dead. For more on Baby Joe and the other three fierce Flanagans check out Bad Seeds in the Big Apple.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An interrogation with Rick "Mad Dog" Mattix

Not long ago we here at the DGIS studio were pleasantly surprised when gangster author and criminal historian Rick Mattix stopped by the studio. Rick is the co-author of The Complete Public Enemy Almanac as well as the founder and editor of the On the Spot Journal. Since Rick is interested in both early law enforcement as well as the criminals I thought it would be fun to interview him in true early 20th century New York Detective fashion. To that end Rick was escorted into a sound proof room with a solitary light bulb. Fifteen minutes later I entered with a couple of brutes. Following is a transcription of the actually tape.

Dead Guys In Suits: Well, well, well. Look what the cat dragged in.

Rick Mattix: Yer getting’ nothin’ from me, copper. Get that light outta my face! I’m no rat.

DGIS: Ok Mattix, make it easy on yourself. When did you get into 1920’s and 1930’s gangsters and what attracted you to the subject?…come on quit stalling….fine that’s the way you wanna play it.

SFX – fists connecting with flesh.

Rick Mattix: OW! -- WHAT THE -- ? O.K., I'll spill it. Enuff of the rough stuff, already. Ever since I was a little tyke, I've had a historical bent. Always fascinated with the likes of Napoleon, Davy Crockett, Battle of New Orleans, etc. Somehow got even more bent, only in the direction of historical crime.

Part of this I attribute to a near-fatal overdose of the old Untouchables TV series with Robert Stack, when I was ten or so -- those old cars and guys shooting from the runningboards with Tommyguns are evocative images at that age. And I was always hearing stories from my mother, Mom, and my father, Dad, about John Dillinger. What a clever sumbitch he was, always evading the cops and when they did catch him breaking outta jail with a wooden gun. "Smartest bank robber since Jesse James," they say and they could only trap cuz some tramp girlfriend put on a red dress and spotted him for the cops, who shot him coming out've a Chicago movie house. At this point Mom would pontificate that obviously CRIME DOES NOT PAY. Dad would insist that the country would be better off today if we had more Dillingers instead of street punks holding up gas stations. He insisted that John had done good for the country by getting the money outta the banks and back into circulation during Hard Times…

DGIS- Hate to interrupt but just realized we haven’t hit you in awhile, boys…

SFX- Smack, punch, crash

DGIS- Please continue.

RM- Course in 1967, the movie Bonnie and Clyde came out. My parents remembered them too tho my first thought when they dragged me to a theater to see it was "Who the f--k are Bonnie and Clyde anyhow?" Not being from Texas I'd never heard of 'em but gathered from my parents' talk that much of the story took place in our home state of Iowa at about the same time as Dillinger and guessed they must be local legends.

The film, historically inaccurate as it turned out to be, was great entertainment for a teenager and a flood of sensational detective magazines appearing on the newsstands afterward confirmed for me that B&C had once been as well known as Capone, Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, Legs Diamond, and a horde of others whose names at least were already familiar to me thru late-nite TV showings of old gangster movies. I started collecting and reading books to learn the truth.

DGIS- Hear that boys? We got ourselves a reader. Well see if you can read this.

SFX- Punch, slap, crunch

DGIS – Ok, get on with it.

RM- In later years, between making a mundane honest living, I started spending my vacations visiting the sites of old robberies, shootouts, etc., and doing serious research which eventually led me to the late Joe Pinkston at the old Dillinger Museum in Nashville, Indiana. I passed some of my findings on to Joe, he shared his many years of research with me and also put me in touch with a crazy sumbitch in Chicago named Bill Helmer, who worked for Playboy and spent his free time running down Dillinger, Capone, and Barker-Karpis Gang addresses in his neighborhood. Helmer I already knew by reputation as the author of the definitive classic history of the Tommygun and as founding member of the John Dillinger Died For You Society. We shared our findings and Bill put me in touch with other lunatic gang researchers around the country.

DGIS – Yeah, well let me introduce you to another crazy sumbitch. Rubberhose, please say hello to Mr. Mattix’s kidneys.

SFX – Fwaap, fwaaap, fwaaap

DGIS- Anymore about this Helmer guy?

RM – Bound by a similarly warped sense of humor, and common interests in horror films, hillbilly music, firearms, sex and violence, plus a common passion for learning the truth behind the gangster legends of old, a Helmer-Mattix literary partnership was inevitable. Hence, The Complete Public Enemy Almanac.

DGIS: Good now we’re getting somewhere. It seems that in the past ten years or so this subject has really exploded with numerous new books on various gangsters as well as legions of people who are fascinated by the era and the hoodlums themselves. What do you think accounts for the new wave of interest?....Well?...Fine, boys.

SFX – a sap slapping a skull

RM: OWWW! #^$@$*@/+=&@#!!! Cut it out. Lemme alone. I'll talk already!I think there's always been an interest. Publishers have just been slow to catch on. The release of FBI files in the 1980s I think rekindled a lot of spark in folks like us. I know it did me. It made it possible to confirm or deny a lot of the old legends we'd grown up with. And small presses and vanity publishers made writing suddenly accessible to many. A lot of the "Old West" buffs are also into gangsters and I think they provided some of the drive there too, as many of them of them belong to organizations such as NOLA or WOLA or Oklahombres who publish journals that members contribute to. It's always exciting to turn up new details or revise old accounts and writing articles is just a step toward writing a book. Now major publishers are starting to show interest, not just in gangsters but in historical crime generally.

DGIS: That’s better. Here’s a handkerchief clean yourself up.

RM: Gimme a broom handle instead and I'll show you where you can put that hanky!

DGIS: Oh, smart guy eh? Boys.

SFX – Head repeatedly knocked onto table top.

RM: OUCH!!!!!!! Motherf--ker! Enough already, I'll talk!

DGIS: Ok Mattix, I want you to spill everything regarding the On the Spot Journal. C’mon now, I’m tired of playing footsies.

RM: On the Spot Journal is a quarterly mail-order publication. Scholarly yet entertaining, it covers crime and crime control in the early Twentieth Century tho the focus is on the classic gangster era of the 1920s and '30s, a period in which technology, politics, and other factors caused a mushroom growth in both industries.

We don't glorify gangsters. We cover both sides, cops and robbers, as well as non-gangster crimes, prisons, criminology and forensics, capital punishment, the legal system, "yellow journalism" media of the day that elevated common thugs into folk heroes, etc. Our articles are as factual as possible and professionally documented.

Our contributors include both noted crime historians and talented newcomers, even relatives of a few personalities of the day. Each issue also carries a tribute to a fallen law officer whether famous or not. Besides historical articles we also carry news features on things like the Johnny Depp movie Public Enemies, the annual Bonnie & Clyde Fest in Louisiana and so forth, and book reviews.

In some ways it's an extension of The Complete Public Enemy Almanac. Too much happened in the era to ever cover in the pages of any book. Plus, publishers are mainly interested only in the headliners (Capone, Dillinger, B&C), who really comprise only a minute portion of what was happening back then. Some of the most interesting stuff is material that'll never be covered in detail in the books. And with the demise of American detective magazines, we're one of the few regular articles outlets available these days to crime historians.

We've been in business for a couple of years now and have subscribers throughout North America and Europe. Currently, it's a 50 to 60 page journal in stapled magazine format. Some past issues have varied greatly in length and until recently it was spiral bound.You can check us out at here. Tell us you saw this at DGIS or that Pat Downey sent you and we'll knock ten per cent off the subscription price.

DGIS: Ok, I lied, I actually like playing footsies, but if you tell anyone It’ll be just to bad for you. Time for some fun stuff, if you were a Prohibition era gang boss which 20’s-30’s gangsters would be on your dream team and why?

RM: Capone for sure, just for the intimidation value of his name. Legs Diamond, who I understand you're biographing at the moment, always ahead of the law with a knack for making witnesses disappear and a tough guy to kill besides. Dutch Schultz, who rose to power in an incredibly short time, had a great talent for organizing new criminal enterprises or muscling into old ones, and who probably would've saved everyone in NYC a lot of trouble if he had been allowed to knock off Tom Dewey. Gus Winkeler, who seems to have been the brainiest of the St. Valentine's Day hit team. Dean O'Banion, Bugs Moran, and all that fun North Side crowd in Chicago. I'd throw in a few outlaw types too: Alvin Karpis, the brains of the Barker-Karpis combine; Verne Miller, who'd go to any insane length to help out a friend or get revenge; and maybe Barker-Karpis gangster Lawrence DeVol, the epitome of the stone killer. I'd include Dillinger too for name value and because he seemed to get along so well with his partners. He and Karpis could handle the robbery department.

DGIS: Now, before we let you go, is there anything else we should know? Planning on writing any books? Articles? Bad checks?

RM: Only certainty is the last. Just kidding. For now On the Spot keeps me busy. I did intend at one time to do a book on the Barker-Karpis Gang and might yet, either on my own or in collaboration with someone. A couple of authors have suggested teaming with me on this project. It needs to be done but I'm not really much into book writing. I is better as an editor. But that's another thing I've considered is editing an anthology volume, possibly of old detective mag articles. There was a lot of good information in those, along with a lotta bullshit. On the Spot keeps me off the streets and outta mischief tho. Keeps the wife busy too as she's the Creative Editor and Gal Friday.

DGIS: That better be the truth or else. What the hell, give him one for the road.

SFX – Hamfist to stomach

DGIS: Ok, well that was fun. Thanks for stopping by Rick. How’d you like your authentic 1920’s NYPD grilling…Rick?....Rick? Quick turn off the re-

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I ain't talkin', literally

On this date back in 1930 Frank Calibrese and his cohorts were involved in a shooting with rival gangsters and Frank was hit by five shots, one of which smashed into his mouth and cut off his tongue. His partners loaded him into their car and drove him to the house of one of Frank’s distant relatives, Dr. Edward Caselnova. Realizing he couldn't do much for him the doctor brought Frank to the hospital where police questioned him. Since he was missing part of his tongue Frank said, "Dffe msiy wrrfyy don" which translate to "Mind if I write this down." The police concurred that that would probably be the best for all involved. Frank then wrote down his name and address, the location of where he was shot and then died.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pics from a reader

Special thanks to Andy Ferrigno for passing along the following pics and info regarding the previous post.

Stefano Ferrigno and Manfredi Mineo on the spot

For some shots of Stefano Ferrigno's tombstone and some more information on the relationship between him and Mineo check his entry at Findagrave

Andy tells us that the inscription on the tombstone translates to:

“Here lies Stefano Ferrigno. Born May 12, 1900. Died November 5, 1930. The inconsolable wife is settled by everlasting memories.”

Thank you Andy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Joe the Boss loses a couple guys

We know through Joe Valachi that todays entries were definitely victims of the Castellemmares War on the Masseria side. By November of 1930 the Maranzano forces had united with the rebellious Reina gang, now headed by Tom Gagliano and, to solidify their friendship, both groups decided to unite and kill one, Stephen Ferrigno. This was Valachi’s first foray into murder. Not yet a member of the mob, Valachi was on a trial period and was told to rent an apartment in the same Bronx complex that Ferrigno lived in. The neophyte mobster took a second story apartment across the courtyard from Ferrigno's front door so that he could see if Ferrigno came or went. The plan was that when the Masseria lieutenant was spotted the Maranzano men would jump into a car, which was to be driven by Valachi, and shoot him from the street. After about a three week stake out two spotters saw Ferrigno sitting in front of the apartment complex, so with Valachi at the wheel and fellow gangster Buster from Chicago, literally riding shotgun, the death squad pulled around to complete the deed but at the last moment the doorman of the complex waved to Valachi so the murder was called off. With this failed attempt the hit squad returned to the apartment to wait for the next opportunity. The next opportunity came in a few days when a summit was held in Ferrigno’s apartment. The Maranzano men couldn’t believe there eyes as Joe Masseria himself and upwards of twenty of his men (according to the New York Times the meeting only consisted of six men) poured into Ferrigno’s apartment. The prospect of killing Masseria and ending the Castellemmarese War was to great and it was determined that if Joe “the Boss” showed himself he would be killed from Valachi’s apartment. Understandably Valachi was not happy about this prospect since his belongings were all over the place. Lady luck shined on Valachi however and none of the Masseria men exited the apartment that night, so early the next morning the gunmen commandeered the first floor apartment to ambush Masseria when he left. Not until the afternoon did the summit break up and the Masseria men began to exit in groups of two. Not seeing Joe “the Boss” leave, the gunmen decided to fulfill the original contract when they saw Ferrigno exit with a confederate named Alfred (Manfredi) Mineo. As the two gangsters passed the first floor window, Buster From Chicago, Bobby Doyle and another gang member named Nick “Nick the Thief” Capuzzi opened fire with shotguns and cut them down in their tracks, then high tailed it to safety. A search of the apartment turned up two double-barreled shotguns, a single barreled shot gun and the guitar case that was used to carrying them inside.
Stephen Ferrigno was thirty-four years old and went by the alias Sam Ferrara. His record consisted of an arrest on June 6, 1927 for grand larceny and a prior arrest for being a fugitive from justice in another grand larceny case in Newark, New Jersey on February 8, 1927. In both cases he was discharged. Even though he was carrying a gun when he died and silk gloves covered his manicured hands, his family maintained that he was an electrician.
Alfred "Manfredi" Mineo was thirty-six (according to the press his death certificate says 50) and went by the aliases Minelo and Mineo Manfredi. A business card found on him identified him as vice-president of the A.D.L. Holding Corporation of 55 West Forty Second Street. His record showed that on November 19, 1926 he was arrested in Brooklyn for carrying a dangerous weapon but was discharged. Following the murder detectives discovered that Mineo was a bootlegger and that both Mineo and Ferrigno were probably involved in the Brooklyn policy racket where both men had up until recently lived.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Clap for the Dutchman (clap clap)

Here is the Robert Treat hotel (now home to NJN tv) that the Dutchman stayed at located around the corner from the eye sore that used to be the Palace Chop House and will soon be a glorious, state of the art 14 car parking lot.

Here is shot inside of the soon to be parking lot. The metaphysical types will notice an abundance of orbs. The non believers may see some flash.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's a mistake

Went to Newark yesterday to check out the old Palace Chop House where Dutch Schultz and his boys were gunned down before it becomes a parking lot, which appears it could happen anytime as there was a wrecking machine parked right behind it. I can understand that non-gansterologist don't think places like this need to be presererved and the whole "progress" argument, but, from a strictly commercial aspect this is huge mistake. Like a lot of old city's Newark is basically dead. It is teeming with old boarded up buildings and they are trying to revitalize it. Which is why they should have saved this place as opposed to turning it into a 14 car parking lot. I was actually shocked at all the available parking in the area and don't understand the need for 14 more spots.

(Notice parking lot to extreme right)

I didn't realize until my visit how ideally located this building is. It is about a 6-10 minute walk from the train station. Four minutes from the New Jersey Center for Performing Arts and about six minutes from the Prudential center where the Devils play hockey. With some money and a little imagination this building could be restored and no doubt, with the proper marketing become a tourist attraction. Right around the corner is the old Robert Treat hotel where Schultz was staying at the time of his shooting, (now home to New Jersey Television) as well as the new Robert Treat hotel. If this place was refurbished it would be the only bar in the area, (I didn't notice any others in the neighborhood.) I would suspect that with two major entertainment venues, a high dollar hotel, and such close proximity to New York City, an enterprising entrepreneur could have made a killing. I can't believe Newark officials, who want their city to bounce back, could not see the opportunity here. Oh well, they will soon have another parking lot to go with the four I counted within a stone's throw of this building.