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Friday, August 29, 2014

The long nap

William Cusick make that Mickey Duffy was considered by some to be the Al Capone of Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. Though he grew up as Bill Cusick of Polish descent, he changed his named to Mickey Duffy because, well, because a lot of non-Irish gangsters did that in the early days. Guess when the Irish cops were handing out beatings they went a little easier on you if they thought you were green. Guess maybe it helped with the corrupt Irish politicians as well. Anyways we're getting off topic. Topic is that on this date in 1931 the Philadelphia beer baron was shot to death in his suite in the Ambassador Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Earlier in the day three men arrived and the foursome, whom witnesses say were in jovial mood, went out for a stroll along the boardwalk. Later they went into Mickey's suite for lunch and at some point in the early afternoon Mickey laid down to take a nap. As he slept his pal(s) shot him to death.

It was assumed that Mickey was done in by his own gang whom were unhappy with his management. Apparently he had to close down a brewery and was also under Federal indictment for shaking down trucking lines that traversed the south Jersey roadways.  Though he had been wounded in a 1927 shooting in Philadelphia, in which his bodyguard had been killed, he felt safe in Atlantic City and didn't have any security.

Oh, for some reason everyone seems to think he was killed on the 30th or 31st, but as Mickey Duffy himself used to say, "You can't believe everything you read on the internet."


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Hooray for Hollywood

unless you're gangsters new to the neighborhood
then three pistols go ka-plooey
killing two mugs from St. Louie
who were there to sell their drugs
R. Whiting, J. Mercer, P. Downey

Yes, it was eighty-one years ago today that St. Louis gangsters Harry Mackley and Frank Keller stopped into a Hollywood eatery for their final supper. Whilst the duo broke bread three guys entered and approached their table. Each man drew a gun and emptied it into Mackley and or Keller. The trio of killers then walked out to a waiting auto and made a successful getaway.

Though both men were originally from St. Louis Harry was known to the police of New York and New Jersey as the result of some nefarious activities. It wasn't Harry's first time in Tinsel Town either, he had been arrested as a suspect in a murder back in 1929.

Both men flew in from St. Louis the week before and checked into one of the city's premier hotels. They also got in touch with a woman who had moved there from Kansas City about three years earlier. It was her car that the men used to drive to the restaurant. Cops traced it back to her and through her they learned that Mackley and Keller also had an apartment in town. They checked it out and found $1000 worth of drugs. That's nearly eighteen grand in today's dollars. So perhaps local drug dealers wanted them out of the way or maybe, as the police believed, the murder was retribution from the 1929 killing. Either way, that's wrap!

 Crimes, like customers who get killed before the check comes, don't pay.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Jack wasn't nimble nor quick

Around 1:00am eighty-five years ago today a Detroit patrolman was making the rounds when he came across a blood spattered car in the alley behind Euclid Avenue. Hanging out of the auto across the running aboard was racketeer and "police character" Jack Isenberg. And yes it was Jack's blood which had spattered the car. The result of somebody placing a gun inches from his temple and pulling the trigger twice. Why would somebody want to kill Jack? The cops had a couple of reason, maybe it was revenge for the killing of another guy or maybe it was a couple of his own boys who took him out because as it turns out Jack was going to go on trial for a robbery and, well, just maybe his accomplices were afraid of what he was going to say.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

LONdon After Midnight

We here at the DGIS studio would like to remember another DGIC (dead guy in cape) that left us in August. On this date in 1930 Lon Chaney Sr. the man of a thousand faces, like the man of a thousand voices, kept perfectly still. Old timers will tell you that it was his make-up that killed him. His autopsy report however will say it was throat cancer.


Chaney was a big proponent of prison reform, feeling that the institutions of his day did not rehabilitate criminals they only made them mean, bitter, angry and prone to be repeat offenders.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Devil Went Down to Saratoga Springs

"I'll bet this semi-precious stone, against your soul that I'm better at Yahtzee than you."
"I say old man, I'll take that bet and you're gonna regret cuz I'm the best thats ever been"

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The not-so-St.Valentine's Day massacre

On this date in 1931 New York had their very own version of the St. Valentines Day Massacre when three men were kidnapped from a dance club, driven to a remote area, lined up against a wall and mowed down with machine guns. Wow! A mini-massacre. How come we never heard of that before. Well, cause it didn’t really happen that way, but the editors of the daily rags thought it sounded good and, really when you think about it, why bother with facts. However, when only one of the victims died it was learned that .38’s were used and not machine guns so the public was un-impressed and the story was quickly forgotten.

How the non-massacre really went down - Anthony Ferrara stepped out of a Brooklyn Dance along with his friends Angelo Ciurrani and Murray Leonardi. He was immediately jumped by two men and dragged to a sedan and tossed into the rear tonneau where gang leader Barney Wolfson and two others waited.

Wolfson informed his two henchman, let's call them Stan & Ollie, that they grabbed the wrong guy, it was Ciurrani that he wanted not Ferrara. You see, Wolfson lead a gang of desperadoes that did some robbin’ and supposedly some killin’ and Ciurrani was a former member of the Wolfson mob who had “failed to connect” on a couple of jobs and to make matters worse was now bad mouthing Wolfson. So, with pistols drawn the two men went back and got Ciurrani and Leonardi (who for some reason stayed put???) and forced them into the car at gun point. They didn't even want Leonardi either but since he and Ferrara were there and dead men tell no yarns…

The three amigos were taken to a lumberyard in a secluded part of Brooklyn and lined up against the wall. Unfortunately for Ferrara, Wolfson an ex-marine with much gun experience, stood behind him while Ciurrani and Leonardi had average gun-toting schmoes (we'll assume Stan & Ollie; you'll see why) behind them. The signal was given and the triggers pulled. Ferrara dropped with a bullet in the head while Ciurrani and Leonardi’s would be executioners missed completely (see) and the duo made a run for it. However, Wolfson, (the guy who could shoot) managed to bring both down with two shots a piece before they got far.

The killers drove away while Ciurrani and Leonardi, both still alive, began to crawl to safety. Luckily for the wounded men the night watchman from the slaughterhouse across the street heard the shooting and called the authorities who arrived in minutes. Although unconscious when the ambulance arrived, Ciurrani came to in the hospital and told the police what happened.

Epilogue: Five days later police got a tip that a group of gangsters were holing up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.  With upwards of thirty officers armed with shotguns, riot guns and tear gas the authorities surrounded the building. Three detectives made their way to the second story apartment and, hearing voices inside, knocked on the door. No one responded to the knock so the detectives proceeded to blow the lock off the door with a shotgun.

Inside they found seven members of the gang, one, Harry Liebowitz, on the floor screaming over a superficial wound. The others, including Wolfson, were all found hidden around the apartment and gave up without a fight. In addition to a number of robberies and two murders, the police tried to blame the lumber yard shooting on them and after nineteen hours of "questioning" the gang admitted to the shooting.

Twenty-four year old Ferrara, although killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, was a member of the underworld. He had a record dating back to 1922 when he was arrested as a juvenile delinquent. He was arrested again on November 27, 1929 for assault and robbery but discharged only to be arrested a month later with Leonardi for robbery for which both young men were sent to Elmira.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Did the Butler do it?

Shortly before 4:00am on this day back in 1930 Detroit police received a call about a shootout taking place on Brooklyn Avenue and Grand River Ave.. By time they got there the shooting was over and lying in the street was bootlegger and possessor of a criminal record William Butler. Nearby was a bullet riddled coupe containing "fifteen sacks of whiskey and two five gallon tins of alcohol". It seems that men in a truck forced the coupe to the curb and attempted to help themselves to  the cache of hooch but the occupants of the coupe weren't in a sharing mood, hence the fireworks. Which side was Butler on? Good question. If anyone has a Ouija board let us know. What is known is that in the end the coppers ended up with the goods.