The Death of the Commodore and the Death of Jimmy Darmody
By Matt Goldstein
In HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, season 2 certainly didn’t disappoint in the air of drama, but how do we know the real characters are being portrayed on the screen accurately. From murder and corruption, bootlegging and drug dealing, the historical characters driving the backdrop of the series such as Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, Al Capone, Meyer Lansky and Waxey Gordon certainly leave a lot of speculation with business deals and gangland politics.
Did Meyer Lansky & Lucky Luciano Break Mafia Rules and Deal Heroin?
Absolutely. In fact, it was so profitable that Lansky and Luciano began shying away from alcohol towards the end of prohibition. Because of heroin, Lansky and Luciano went on to become the richest gangsters in the history of the world and most of that money was because of heroin. Drugs’ being against mob rules is merely a myth. Most mafia families shied away from drugs simply because it brought to much heat and marginalized political connections.
Was Jimmy Darmody based on the real life Jimmy Boyd?
No. The real life Jimmy Boyd was just a small time political operative for Nucky Johnson and Boyd never went to Princeton, never served in WWI and never had anything to do with bootlegging. The name Jimmy seems to be the only thing they had in common. Jimmy Boyd lived and worked in politics until 1974 while Boardwalk Empire’s Jimmy Darmody only lived until what seems to be about 1922.
Was Nucky Thompson a cold blooded killer?
Although Boardwalk Empire portrays Nucky Thompson a murderer, executioner and conspirator, there are no actual links to the real life Nucky Johnson killing anyone. While Nucky did business with Capone, Lansky, Rothstein, Luciano and an array of other mobsters, Nucky Johnson might have actually controlled his criminal power in a political fashion.
Did Nucky Thompson & Arnold Rothstein use the most expensive Jewish Laywer from NYC?
Who knows, but they certainly should have. You can’t ever go wrong with a Jew lawyer, they’re very effective.
Did the Commodore Really Conspire against Nucky Thompson?
No. Commodore actually embraced Nucky as the boss of the city when he returned from prison rather than conspire against him. The real life Commodore Khuenle didn’t father any children and died of natural causes in 1934.
Did Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano operate under the protection of Arnold Rothstein?
Absolutely. Not only did Rothstein protect the two prodigies, Arnold Rothstein gave Lansky and Luciano the gangland connections they needed to take over the entire country, including a business relationship with Nucky.
The Most Powerful and Wealthiest Jewish Gangster of All Time!
By Matt Goldstein
Meyer Lansky took the reigns of power during prohibition and was the mastermind behind the National Syndicate, also known as the Commission. The National Syndicate brought together the most powerful crime leaders in the country in which the mob bosses of all the major Italian mafia families worked in partnership to augment a criminal empire of staggering proportions. Up to that point, most mafia families went to battle for territory and the consequences riddled the streets with bodies. The Commission was the first and last major collaboration of organized crime outfits and will most likely never be seen again.
1902 – Maier Suchowljansky A.K.A. Meyer Lansky is born in Grodno Russia.
1914 – Meyer begins getting involved in corner crap games and street gangs.
1918 – Charlie Lucky Luciano tries to shakedown Meyer Lansky and his gang for protection money. Meyer refuses and incites a brawl. Luciano is so impressed with Lansky that he recruits him and the two end up becoming close friends and lifetime business partners.
1918 – Meyer Lansky meets Bugsy Siegel and the two become close friends. Siegel also becomes a high ranking enforcer with Lansky and Luciano.
1919 – Prohibition
1920’s – Lansky, Luciano and Siegel establish a booze smuggling racquet where they specialize in stealing loads and being hired to protect them.
1931 – Meyer and Luciano orchestrate the assassination of mob boss Salvatore Maranzano.
1931 – Meyer orchestrates the National Syndicate with longtime friend and partner, Lucky Luciano as the head.
1930’s – Lansky runs one of the biggest illegal gambling operations in the world.
WWII – Lansky works with the U.S. government to protect the ports in NYC, a possible target of the Nazis. The mob’s control of the dock workers helped provide naval intelligence and national security.
1947 – Bugsy Siegel is murdered after the investment money for the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas goes missing. Lansky tries to stop the murder of Siegel to no avail.
1940’s & 50’s – Lansky and Luciano create a heroin empire even bigger than their prohibition booze smuggling and gambling racquets. The drug dealing is what makes Lansky and Luciano the richest gangsters in history. None of today’s mobsters even come close to their riches without even counting inflation.
1957 – Meyer Lansky opens the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Cuba. It’s the first hotel in Cuba with air conditioning.
1959 – The Fidel Castro communist revolution destroys the mobs stronghold in Cuba and Lansky’s ownership in any and all Cuban assets is dissolved.
1974 – Lansky was acquitted of tax evasion charges
1983 – Meyer Lansky dies of heart failure after living his quiet uneventful golden years in Miami beach.
In HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Al Capone is the young muscle under Johnny Torrio as their attempting to establish territory in Chicago’s bootlegging trade. At the very onset of prohibition, Torrio has boss Jim Colosimo murdered as the Colosimo is apprehensive about the booze trade. Al Capone’s rise to power is as violent as they come. In the HBO drama, Capone is portrayed as brutish, pigheaded and sometimes a little stupid. But to build the biggest bootlegging empire in history, one couldn’t be too naïve to the ways of the world. One of the first nationally recognized gangsters and the most legendary bootleg booze smuggler in history, Al Capone was extremely wealthy and a brutal murderer. At one point in the 1920’s Capone was allegedly pulling in more than $60 million a year off of booze alone and another $40 million in racketeering, prostitution and gambling.
1899 – Alphonse Capone is born in Garden City NY to Gabriel and Teresa.
1914 – Johnny Torrio becomes a mentor to Al Capone.
1917 – Working for mob boss Frankie Yale, Capone was involved in a knife fight and slashed in the face. Hence the name Scarface.
1920 – Frankie Yale sends Al Capone to Chicago because of a rival gang war. Capone becomes the under study of Johnny Torrio.
1923 – Al Capone moves his gang outside of Chicago city limits because of political and police pressure.
1924 – Capone’s brother is killed by police.
1925 – Johnny Torrio steps down and appoints Capone as the boss. Torrio still advises Capone and Capone goes to war with any gang that won’t cooperate.
1926 – Rivals Bugs Moran and Hymie Weiss fail at an assassination attempt on Capone, spraying a hotel eatery with Thompson machine guns and shotguns.
1926 – Capone has Hymie Weiss assassinated in broad daylight on the street with machines guns and shotguns.
1928 – Capone buys a 14 room mansion in Palm Island Florida.
1929 – The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre becomes the most infamous gangland murders in history. On February 14th, Capone’s men disguise themselves as police and enter the Bugs Moran warehouse headquarters. Seven members of the North Side Gang are lined up against the wall and executed.
1929 – Capone is arrested in Philadelphia on weapons charges and jailed in the legendary Eastern State Penitentiary for 9 months.
1929 – Elliot Ness and prohibition agents begin chipping away at the Capone empire by seizing shipments, and shutting down bars and speakeasies. Enormous federal pressure is an after effect of the St Valentine’s massacre.
1931 – Capone is convicted on Tax Evasion charges and sentenced to 11 years.
1939 – Capone is paroled and released from Alcatraz.
1947 – Capone dies from complications of syphilis.
Bugsy: Jewish Gangster, Hitman, Prohibition Bootlegger and Creator of Las Vegas
By Matt Goldstein
Benjamin Bugsy Siegel is being introduced in season 2 of HBO’s prohibition gangster series, Boardwalk Empire. Bugsy was the muscle for Meyer Lansky since they were kids in the streets of New York City. As they grew in power and created a partnership with Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello, Bugsy turned his street muscle into cold blooded killer. Luciano and Lansky were the richest gangsters of all time and Bugsy was the man behind the trigger. Check out the timeline of the legendary gangster, Benjamin Bugsy Siegel.
1906: Benjamin Siegelbaum is born in Brooklyn New York to a Jewish family from the Ukraine.
1910’s: Ben Siegel befriends Al Capone on the streets of Brooklyn.
1918: Ben Siegel and Moe Sideway start a gang in the streets of Brooklyn, stealing, racketeering, extortion and fighting.
1920: Bugsy meets Meyer Lansky and forms a street gang called the Bugs and Meyer gang. The gang was involved in gambling, bootlegging and theft. Lansky makes Bugsy Siegel his number 2. Siegel was a fearless enforcer, never hesitating to muscle anyone that got out of line.
1920: As portrayed on Boardwalk Empire, Joe “the Boss” Masseria finds out that Lansky and Siegal are running a gambling racket in his neighborhood. The consequences are harsh as Masseria’s men raided the game and forced the young thugs to pay tribute.
1920: Siegel responds with force, taking a few men in his gang and putting a full fledged beat down on a couple Masseria lieutenants. As usual, Siegal was fearless. Masseria was the boss of New York and had an army of men.
1920: As portrayed on Boardwalk Empire, Masseria attempts to recruit Luciano, but Lucky holds out and negotiates hard.
1920: Al Capone moves to Chicago to work for Johnny Torrio, and attempting to avoid a murder charge from a nightclub beating. Capone remains close with Siegal and Meyer.
1920: At the behest of Torrio and Capone, Lansky and Siegel have Big Jim Colossimo murdered by Frankie Yale in so Torrio and Capone can begin bootlegging.
1920: Meyer and Siegel actually have legitimate businesses that are doing just as well as their criminal activities.
1921: Meyer and Bugsy join forces with Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello and take protection from Arnold Rothstein.
1921: Bugsy murders the son of an Irish cop who put Luciano in jail. This is the first murder at the behest of Lansky. The street thugs are now full on gangsters.
1920s: Bugsy, Meyer and Luciano work under Joe “The Boss” Masseria and are closely affiliated with Albert Anastasia and Vito Genovese.
1920s: Luciano, Lansky, Siegel, Costello and Capone rise in power to become the richest and most feared gangsters in in the country.
1931: Ben Siegel assassinates Joe “the Boss” Masseria in his own restaurant with Luciano as a dinner guest. Siegel leads the way while Vito Genovese and Albert Anastasia are his accomplices. Lansky, Luciano and Siegel now control New York and much of the country.
1934: Bugsy murders long time friend Bo Wienberg for gangland related business.
1935: Waxey Gordon tries to kill Siegel and Lansky with a bomb. Escaping death, Siegel murders Waxey’s New York Lietenant, Tony Farazzo, in fron of Frazzo’s family. Siegel heads west to California because of the heat brought down from the murder.
1935: Moe Sedway heads west with Bugsy.
1936: Bugsy reunites with childhood friend George Raft who had become a famous movie star. Raft introduces Bugsy to many Hollywod stars.
1939: Bugsy kills longtime friend Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg after Harry threatens to tell the police of all the gangs activities.
1940’s: Bugsy sets up a wire service in which makes the National Syndicate rich with gambling rackets all over the country.
1944: Bugsy has a big vision in turning Las Vegas from a two bit desert town into a gambling mecca in which the mob can make gambling money legitimately. Bugsy begins work on the Flamingo. Bugsy thought Flamingos were good luck.
1946: Lansky figures out Siegel has been stealing money from the mob and Flamingo budget and informs Costello, Luciano, and Genovese. Lansky, although heartbroken, gives the order to kill his childhood friend Benjamin Bugsy Siegel.
1947: Bugsy was at home in Hollywood and gunned down in his living room. Bugsy was hit four times and dead at the age of 42.
1947: That same night, Meyer Lansky’s associates took control of the Flamingo.
Bugsy to Be Introduced in Season 2 of Boardwalk Empire
By Matt Goldstein
Benjamin Bugsy Siegal was the muscle for Meyer Lansky since they were teenagers running the streets of New York City. Just as Luciano and Lansky rose to power, Bugsy rose to power with them. During Prohibition, Siegal ran bootlegging rackets in New York, Atlantic City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and muscled and murdered anyone who stood in the way of Lansky and Luciano. Siegal is also alleged to have close ties with the Commission, the National Syndicate, Murder Inc. and is considered to have invented Las Vegas.
Perhaps long overdue, Bugsy will be introduced in season 2 of Boardwalk Empire and most likely in episode 8. Michael Zegan from ‘Rescue Me’ will be playing the legendary gangland hit man. Zegan’s portrayal is said to be of a “tough, smart, urban kid.” With Lansky, Luciano, Capone and Darmody expected to emerge as major gangsters in Prohibition, the arrival of Bugsy in the HBO drama could set this show on fire. Already the best television show on TV, there are so many directions HBO can go with the series, we just hope it goes on for season after season after season.
HBO’s Boardwalk Empire introduced 2 new prominent prohibition gangsters in season 2, Joe “the Boss” Masseria and Waxey Gordon. Both gangsters were infamous, brutal and champion bootleggers. While Masseria was a Capo in 1922, there was an attempt on his life in the streets of Manhattan. Joe famously evaded the attackers and became known as the “Man who can dodge bullets.” This legend helped Joe become Joe “the Boss” Masseria, arguably the most powerful mom boss in New York during prohibition.
When Masseria is introduced in Boardwalk Empire, Arnold Rothstein is negotiating peace between Masseria and Luciano and Lansky on what is perceived to be a territorial encroachment. However, as Lansky and Luciano grew in power, they worked for Masseria multiple facets of bootlegging, drug dealing, and muscle. Eventually, when Luciano and Lansky were trying to create the commission, Masseria was simply in their way. In 1931, Luciano and Lansky had Masseria killed monopolized their power, paving the way to become the richest gangsters of all time.
Waxey Gordon, a Jewish gangster from Philadelphia, was a bootlegging and gambling associate of Arnold Rothstein, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. Gordon ran Rothstein’s east coast bootlegging operation and aligned himself with the National Syndicate after Rothstein’s death. Arrested for tax evasion in 1933, Gordon was sentenced to 10 years. Upon his release, Waxey moved to the west coast where he became a drug smuggler. Gordon was arrested in 1951 and died in Alcatraz a year later.
Nucky Thompson and Jimmy Darmody lead a cast of Irish hoods in Boardwalk Empire, and although we can’t be sure, the real life Nucky Johnson was most likely not even Irish. Not to mention, Jimmy Darmody actually never existed. Read below about the real life Irish Gangsters of prohibition, with Capone rival Bugs Moran, Road to Perdition’s John Looney, and Hell’s Kitchen’s Owney Madden.
John Patrick Looney
Looney is portrayed by Paul Newman in the Oscar winning film Road to Perdition as the gangster connected to Al Capone’s empire. An underrated movie in and of itself, Newman puts on a classic performance as the iconic Looney. However, in real life, Looney fled the feds on murder, gambling and racketeering charges, eventually being apprehended and sentence to 14 years in prison.
The chief rival of Al Capone, Bugs Moran never cowered in the wake of Capone’s wrath to control Chicago, even after Moran’s men were gunned down in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The most vicious and famous gangland style murders of all time, Capone’s men dresses as police, entered Moran’s headquarters and forced the Moran gang to line the wall, and they were brutally executed. Seven men were killed bringing national attention and forcing the feds to come after Capone in every way possible. As for Moran, he made it his personal mission to destroy Capone, killing as many members Al’s gang as he could, even after Capone was in prison. Moran was a full fledged criminal his entire life, in and out of prison from when he was a kid until his death, making and losing millions of dollars.
Nicknamed the “Killer,” Owney Madden, actually born in England, was the boss of the Westies and Hell’s Kitchen throughout prohibition. A bootlegger and a boxing promoter, Madden is one of the most infamous mobsters of all time. A stone cold killer, but also a well minded businessman, Madden promoted fighters such as heavyweight champions Max Baer and Primo Carnera. As well, Madden owned Harlem’s Cotton Club, literally the hottest club in NYC hosting an array of legendary musicians from Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne and more. Madden retired a rich man in 1935 and opened a hotel in Hot Springs Arkansas, a hideout used by many gangsters including Boardwalk Empire’s Lucky Luciano.
Now in the early part of its 2nd season, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire has been renewed for a 3rd. Over the first three episodes of the 2nd season, the lofty ratings tipped HBO’s hand to continue with the story of Nucky Thompson, Atlantic City, Prohibition, and the rise of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, not to mention Arnold Rothstein. The violent, sexy and historical gangster piece is not only entertaining and educational, it’s simply the best show on television. It’s no surprise that the same network that brought you The Wire, The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm, continues to bring the best television ever seen. The only question now is when will they approve the 4th season, hopefully soon because Boardwalk Empire is our favorite show. See below for all of our Boardwalk Empire related articles.
Former Featherweight World Champion & Atlantic City Crime Boss
By Matt Goldstein
Boardwalk Empire’s Chalky White is the criminal boss of the African American community in Atlantic City. Chalky is loosely based on professional boxer and world champion Albert “Chalky” Wright who also worked for and was great friends with actress Mae West. In Boardwalk Empire, working with Nucky Thompson rather than for him, Chalky rarely let’s a moment go by without letting Nucky and others know his value and power. Played by Michael Kenneth William’s who also played the legendary Omar Little on HBO’s the Wire, Chalky White’s role in the show is expanding in season 2 with illustrating just how powerful Chalky White is. Chalky is the de facto mayor of Atlantic City’s urban poor.
Chalky White Facts & Timeline
Chalky White’s father was lynched, murdered and hung from a tree; a fact that drives Chalky’s mission for recognition, equality and money.
Chalky White is a former boxer from the south with a knockout shot, and most likely made his criminal contacts in the corrupt boxing community controlled by gangsters.
Chalky waters down smuggle liquor for Nucky Thompson and rebottles it 6 times over.
Chalky and his criminal enterprise are under attack and opposing factions use race to marginalize White’s enterprise.
When Chalky doesn’t agree with Nucky’s handling of a KKK leader, Chalky demands more money from Nucky and gets it.
Chalky is a business man, he’s in it for the money.
The real life Chalky White, A.K.A. Albert “Chalky” Wright is considered one of the biggest punchers all time and became featherweight champion of the world in 1941.
In season 2 of Boardwalk Empire, Chalky White will have a much bigger role in the drama, perhaps standing by Nucky as they go to war against The Commodore, Eli Thomson and Jimmy Darmody. How’s about that for a prediction?
In one of the final scenes of Boardwalk Empire’s “21” we see Agent Nelson Van Alden having a quaint dinner with his wife Rose. There is an awkward moment when the maitre d asks the couple if they want any spirits with their dinner with a kind of a wink-wink and a nod. Without Prohibition, it is unimaginable to think that you couldn’t enjoy a nice glass of wine with your dinner and you would be breaking the law by doing so.
Rose Van Alden is shocked at the proposition, but Nelson reassures her that this is OK, that they are in Atlantic City or sin city if you will, and this is typical if not acceptable. There is a brief moment when the viewers perceive that Agent Van Alden has succumbed to the overwhelming societal norms of alcohol consumption in Atlantic City, and has given into a sort of nullification of not enforcing the Volstead act especially in a moment with his wife sitting down having a romantic dinner.
The Restaurant is crowded, there are people all around enjoying spirits, and Agent Nelson witnesses a bus boy carting a crate of champagne into the storage room. In any other place in the world other than Prohibition Era United States, this would be common place. But the viewers are instantly snapped back into reality when Agent Nelson sucker punches the maitre d and has the establishment raided.
That “typical” or “normal” moment we experience everyday in life was turned upside down by the Volstead act. The government raided what any normal person today would consider legitimate activity. Furthermore, this disconnect we witness with the Federal Task Force and the citizens of Atlantic City is strengthened by the notion that the majority of the people aren’t complying with it, they don’t agree with it, nor support Prohibition.
Let’s say that Agent Nelson really decided to purchase a bottle of Champagne for him and his wife that he hasn’t seen in quite some time. The viewers would not have been that surprised. In fact, it seemed kind of normal and kind of where the moment was taking us in that scene. This situation is not what Prohibition intended, a married couple of responsible adults enjoying a fine beverage in an appropriate moment and setting. Rather, it was supposed to prevent the alcohol dependent abusive father beating his wife and kids, or the coal miner in West Virginia drinking a quart of beer to steady his hands for another day of life threatening work.
Smash cut to the “X” Township police officer finding a roach in a college student’s ash tray. The officer weighs in his mind whether or not to enforce the letter of the law versus the paperwork, time spent, and bigger and better fish to fry. He lets the kid off with a warning instead. I’m sure this scenario happens 1000 of times every day. But the question is, can we draw this comparison to Prohibition & the “War on Drugs?”
We can make a pretty good case that there some similarities to Prohibition and the legalization drugs. One of the strongest cases is that notion that the mere outlawing of them creates an underground market which spawns criminal enterprise. Secondly, there is a notion that the criminal justice system is being overwhelmed with “petty” drug offenses, and is diverting our resources from other more serious and violent crimes.
Of course I’m not the first to talk about the de-criminalization of drugs nor do I support legalizing them. In fact I understand that taking drugs is a pretty big deal. So here are some contrasts that are important to note. First, alcoholic beverages are and were ingrained in our society from a traditional standpoint and the consumption of beer and wine have strong cultural and religious historical implications. That’s why it seemed so odd or rather so “normal” that a maitre d offered his patrons a cocktail with their meal.
If the maitre d offered Agent Nelson and his wife a joint or some peyote it would have seemed out of place. There is no typical custom for that behavior, it seems and still is out of place in our society for the most part. (I know the guy reading his “High Times” magazine in Amsterdam disagrees)
Therefore, I don’t think the answer is to decriminalize drugs simply based on the societal norm and tradition aspect. One of the main reasons that Prohibition didn’t work in the first place was because the majority of people didn’t support nor adhere to the Volstead act.
I think the majority of people today understand the dangers and implication of narcotics and inherently support the current laws that criminalize drugs.
So what is the answer? I don’t have one, but what I do know is that the show “Boardwalk Empire” is a brilliant show by merely being set in Prohibition Era United States. Its great execution provokes very interesting and salient discussions about our own society today. Whiskey Goldmine will keep bringing you interesting aspects and angles about the show. I’m going to get me some Canadian Club and sit back. See you next week!