By Matt Goldstein
Towards the end of the roaring 20’s, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, the real life Nucky Thompson, was the political and criminal boss of Atlantic City N.J., and set the social standard for nightlife with booze, gambling, showgirls and infamous wild parties. Steeped in cash from his corrupt and non corrupt business ventures, Johnson lived in a hotel suite, wore flashy suits, big jewelry and rode around in a limousine.
All of the criminal and political activities of Johnson’s life came to a pinnacle when Nucky decided to host the National Summit, or the Atlantic City Conference, a meeting of the most powerful mob bosses and criminal leaders in the country. Nucky Johnson, Al Capone, Charlie Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Harry Rosen, Johnny Torrio, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Albert Anastasia, Gaetano Tommy Luchese, Frank Nitty, Waxey Wexler, Max Boo Boo Hoff, Santo Trafficante and others.
Johnson hosted parties for days leading up to the meeting, treating the guests to lavish and over the top debauchery. The only hitch in the festivities was a near fist fight between and Capone and Nucky when a WASP only hotel refused Capone’s entry. No fault of Johnson’s, Nucky saved the day with more lavish partying and gifts.
According to the NY Post, after the partying had finally stopped, Nucky brought everyone out to the boardwalk, and set them up in Atlantic City’s famous rolling chairs. The mobsters rode to the end of the Boardwalk, then walked onto the beach. At the water’s edge, pants rolled up their shins, the most powerful mobsters in the world discussed territory. It was the birth of the first nationwide criminal syndicate.
The pinnacle of Nucky Johnson’s empire and perhaps the pinnacle of the American mob, the Atlantic City conference was an apex of organized crime. The dream did not last long as the stock market crash was only months later. Then, in 1933, prohibition was repealed and Atlantic City was hit hard. The illegal speak easies, gambling parlors and prostitution that drove the cities economy were devastated.
The biggest problem for Johnson came when he tangled over a girl with newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst. Friends with President Roosevelt, Hearst had the president sick a team of FBI agents on Johnson and they finally got him. Tax evasion! Nucky was banking more than a half a million a year but only claimed about 35k on his taxes. It was impossible to hide all of his money from the government so Nucky was forced to serve time. Sentenced to 10 years but only serving 4, Nucky was a different man when he emerged from prison, never attempting to regain his reigns of power. Nucky stayed in Atlantic City for years but died in a nursing home in 1968 at the age of 85.
Source: NY Post, LA Times