Arnold Rothstein

New York’s preeminent underworld figure of the roaring 20s and the years just before was Arnold Rothstein. This man who would later become known as Mr. big was born in Manhattan in 1882. His father was a very successful philanthropic merchant. A. R. Was the model for both Nathan Detroit in Guys And Dolls and Meyer Wolsheim in The Great Gatsby. legend has it that Rothstein fixed the 1919 World Series but biographer Leo Katcher claims otherwise. “Rothstein’s name, his reputation, and his reputed wealth were all used to influence the crooked baseball players. But Rothstein, knowing this, kept apart from the actual fix. He just let it happen.”

 

Mr. big, whose idea of a lovely evening was to walk down Broadway and savor the adulation of others, made millions from bootlegging, drugs and gems. His passion, though, was gambling, and it proved his undoing. In September 1928 he was in a three-day poker game hosted by George “hump” McManus. For some reason, Rothstein, who never smoked or drank, had of late been acting erratically during the game, he lost nonstop, until he was down $322,000. Shockingly, he left without paying up, saying he would come across in a day or two.

 

The next night he announced over dinner at Lindy’s ” I don’t pay off on fixed poker.” Days turned into weeks… The heat was on Hump to get the money. On November 4, Rothstein took a call from McManus, who asked to meet him at the park central hotel. There, Rothstein was shot in the gut. He died two days later. McManus was acquitted.

 

The case was never solved, but is is possible that Lansky and Luciano ordered the murder. With Rothstein gone, they stood to gain as they moved ahead on his idea for a national syndicate. Ironically it was Luciano of Rothstein, “he taught me how to address… How to use knives and forks and things like that at the dinner table, about holding a door open for a girl. If Arnold had lived a little longer, he could’ve made me pretty elegant.”

Posted by The Don | The Don's Blog
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