Get To Know A Gangster. Waxey Gordon.

In 1888, a child named Irving Wexler was born to Polish Jewish immigrant parents on the Lower East Side. Eight years later, young Irving fell in with a bad crowd of boys and learned quickly there was a living to be made picking pockets of the unsuspecting. Thus our boychick earned the street name “Waxey,” because he was able to remove a mark’s wallet “as though it were coated with wax.” Undoubtedly this life of crime seemed a way out of crushing poverty, and so the boy thief grew into a Golem-sized criminal.LES
Described by police as “gruff, powerful and thickset,” he had a particular talent for what the Jewish neighbors called “schlamming,” which roughly translates as beating the shit out of someone. Of course, picking pockets and schlamming folks was strictly small-time stuff and before long, Waxey was on to bigger and better. The tipping point in his burgeoning career came one day in 1919 when his schlamming skills were noticed by the elegantly dressed criminal genius and Kingpin of the Jewish mob, Arnold Rothstein. Rothstein saw an up-and-comer in Waxey and put him to work as a rum-runner during the first years of Prohibition.waxey gordon, new york city, gangsterTurns out that Waxey had a serious aptitude for rum-running. Before long, he was running all of Rothstein’s bootlegging on the East Coast from Rothstein’s casino in the Tenderloin section of Manhattan. He was reportedly earning an estimated $2 million a year (in 1920’s greenbacks) and began buying handfuls of breweries and distilleries as well as owning several downtown speakeasies. Waxey was a striver at heart and around this time started to exhibit nouveau-riche criminal tendencies: riding black stretch limousines all over town, living in prominent and lavish Manhattan hotel suites and building himself mansions in New York and the Jersey shore. In the police lineup below, that’s Waxey on the left (henchmen on the right.) Sharp dresser.New-York-City-Police-Department-photograph-of-Waxie-Gordon-Hymie-Pincus-and-Albert-ArontAnd it had to have been really good living for a while, but as they often do in these tales, things began to unravel. When his mentor Rothstein was shot and mortally wounded during a “business meeting” at the Park Central Hotel at Seventh Avenue near 55th Street, serious infighting broke out in the crew. Although Waxey had formed a partnership with former Rothstein employees Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, Waxey constantly fought with Lansky over bootlegging and gambling interests and soon a brutal gang war began between the two. Bodies started to turn up in unlikely places. There was probably a lot of schlamming to go around.crime sceneUltimately Lansky and Luciano went turncoat to get Waxey out of the picture for good, supplying United States Attorney Thomas E. Dewey with information leading to Waxey’s conviction on charges of tax evasion in 1933.waxey gordon, new york city, gangsterAnd so Waxey served his time. When he got out, he found his gang long since disbanded. Ignored by his former political connections, he was reported to remark to a journalist, “Waxey Gordon is dead. Meet Irving Wexler, salesman.” What kind of salesman, you ask? Pharmaceuticals, of course. He was capo in a high-level West Coast narcotics operation, but in 1951, Waxey pulled a chump’s move and was arrested for selling heroin to an undercover police officer. (Isn’t the first rule that you ask someone, “Are you a cop?”) The 62-year-old career gangster reportedly offered the detective all his money, women, and power in exchange for his release. When the detective refused, he jokingly pleaded and begged with the detective to kill him instead of arresting him for “peddling junk.” Waxey was later convicted, and due to his extensive criminal record was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment in Alcatraz.Waxey mugshotThe judge at sentencing called Waxey a “malignant cancer” on society and had this to say to him… and as he died behind bars, it became his epitaph:

You have demonstrated repeatedly that there is no crime or racket to which you would not resort in order to make a dollar. Your latest and most dastardly offense is typical of your hostility, and it should bring down the curtain on your parasitical and lawless life.

Waxey Gordon! Now there’s an original gangster for you.

About the Author |
We earn our living selling New York City. The next day is never like the last. The last is never ordinary. We witness all sorts. We listen to the City’s noise. We devour its phenomenal food. On the Real is our documentary. It is your pack of unfiltered New York 100s.

Get To Know A Gangster. Giuseppe Morello.

Historically speaking, New York City has certainly enjoyed its share of colorful criminal characters. Gambino. Castellano. Gotti. Luciano. These are Big Bosses that you know by name. But what about Giuseppe Morello? You ought to know him, because he was the most powerful Boss in the early days of the New York City Mafia. We’re talking capo di tutti capi. So look smart and listen up.Giuseppe Morello, 1902Born in Corleone, Sicily in 1867, the Morello family eventually settled in what was then called Italian Harlem, around East 107th Street. Young Giuseppe was an enterprising sort, a charismatic leader, and in the early 1890’s he established a gang known as the Morello Mob (also sometimes referred to as the 107th Street Gang). In 1903, Giuseppe’s sister Salvatrice married the Sicilan Mafia Boss in Little Italy, a rough customer known as Ignazio “The Wolf” Lupo. And with that matrimonial union, one of the earliest and most powerful families of organized crime in New York City was born.mulberry guysMorello was infamous for having a one-fingered deformed right hand, and was known in the underworld as “The Clutch Hand,” sometimes “The Old Fox,” but also went by “Piddu” or Peter. But I’m pretty sure no one ever called him “Clutch Hand” to his face, as everyone was scared shitless of this man. And rightly so: he built his empire based on the merciless ordering of death sentences against everyone and anyone who dared oppose him. His horrible brother-in-law (“The Wolf,” remember?) was his main enforcer, and was responsible for more than sixty murders in a 10 year period. That’s a whole lot of bodies to hide, what’s a button man to do? Well, the Morello family would frequently employ the notorious “barrel murder system.” This system consisted of dumping dismembered corpses into large wood barrels, which would then be thrown into the sea, left on a random city street corner, abandoned in a back alley or shipped to nonexistent addresses in another city. That’s one way to keep your employees and customers in line.NYC Crime Scene, 1907And speaking of customers, let’s talk about the Family business. They mostly stuck to the basics: extortion, loan sharking, Italian lottery, robbery and counterfeiting. But Morello was an innovative mobster; he was the first one to make a practice of making dirty money clean. He would run the illegally earned money through legal businesses (such as stores or restaurants) that were owned by the family, making them the first crime family to organize this kind of money laundering. They also introduced revolutionary ways of extorting small amounts of money every week from business owners in exchange for “protection”, as opposed to the theft of large amounts which might bankrupt them. There you go! He not only invented money laundering, he invented “protection.” So now you see how any so-called modern mobster truly owes a real debt of gratitude to Clutch Hand. And you know what they say about paying your debts to a gangster.

About the Author |
We earn our living selling New York City. The next day is never like the last. The last is never ordinary. We witness all sorts. We listen to the City’s noise. We devour its phenomenal food. On the Real is our documentary. It is your pack of unfiltered New York 100s.