By Matt Goldstein
On HBO’s new series Boardwalk Empire, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, is portrayed by Steve Buscemi as a corrupt Atlantic City treasurer, politician and gangster. Although the real life Enoch “Nucky” Johnson never held political office, Nucky was the most powerful GOP politician in Atlantic City, maybe even all of New Jersey. Nucky was also one of the biggest crime bosses in the country and when prohibition was ratified, Johnson’s grip on power tightened and grew enormously.
Nucky Johnson brought together crime bosses from all over the country to establish a smuggling empire, line his pockets and keep Atlantic City soaked in alcohol during prohibition. The open flaunting of alcohol in Atlantic City during prohibition was a major tourist attraction to the flourishing resort town. According to the NY Post, Atlantic City in the 1920’s made its money off of three things: drinking, gambling and prostitution, all illegal at the time. Nucky openly displayed his town’s prosperity in vice. “I won’t deny it, and I won’t apologize for it. If the majority of the people didn’t want them, they wouldn’t be profitable and they wouldn’t exist. The fact that they do exist proves to me that the people want them,” Nucky stated, according to Nelson Johnson, author of the book “Boardwalk Empire.”
Having criminal partnerships with Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Al Capone, and political partnerships with mayors, governors and senators alike, Nucky Johnson also had the people. Nucky made it a point to go to every funeral of everyone he knew. Nucky also lent out his limousine to poor families for weddings and funerals. Nucky handed large amounts of cash to struggling poor families in white and African American communities alike. “The poor can vote as well as the rich,” Nucky shouted to whoever would listen. The poor also stuffed the ballot boxes better than anybody. The cash gifts to the impoverished paid off in votes and the salaried ballot stuffers solidified Johnson’s political empire. Nucky was surrounded with hand picked political candidates that took orders and made substantial payoffs to their de facto boss.
Johnson wore flashy suits with a red carnation, was driven around in a powder blue limousine, wore large pinky rings, and always had a showgirl on his arm. If Whiskey Goldmine was voting for president, we might have lean republican if Nucky Johnson was running.
Part 2 coming soon…
Source: NY Post, LA Times