Mob bosses come in all shapes and sizes. Some are brilliant. Some are just plain dumb. Almost all are homicidal maniacs. But only one was a certified lunatic, and his name was Dutch Schultz.
Schultz was born Arthur Flegenheimer to German/Jewish parents in 1902 in the Bronx. His father abandoned the family at an early age, and young Flegenheimer took assorted jobs, including one at the Schultz Trucking Company. But despite his legitimate work at the trucking company, young Flegenheimer took up with a gang of crooks, who during Prohibition, did a little illegal importing of hooch from Canada to New York City on the side.
When he was pinched for the first time by the cops, Flegenheimer gave his name as Dutch Schultz, which was the name of the son of the boss of the Schultz Trucking Company. Later the headline-happy Schultz would tell the press that he changed his name to Dutch Schultz because it fit in the newspaper headlines better than Arthur Flegenheimer. “If I had kept the name of Flegenheimer, nobody would have ever heard of me.”
Schultz quit the trucking business and decided he could make a mint off the Harlem numbers rackets, where it was reported that the locals bet a staggering $35,000 a day. Schultz set up a gang that included crazed killer Bo Weinberg, mathematical genius Otto “Abbadabba” Berman and Lulu Rosenkrantz, who could kill with the best of them too. Schultz and his crew invited the black gangsters, who ran the numbers show in Harlem, to a meeting. When the black gangsters arrived, Schultz put a 45 caliber pistol on the table and informed them, “I’m now your partner.” And that cemented the deal.
Yet Schultz was not happy with just making a ton of cash off the numbers in Harlem. He wanted to make ten tons of cash, or maybe even more. So he enlisted the genius mind of Abbadabba Berman to rig the Harlem numbers game so that he could achieve his goal. The “Harlem Age” newspaper, instead of using the New York Clearing House Reports for its daily three-digit number, instead used Cincinnati’s Coney Island Race track to post the winning numbers. The only problem was that Schultz owned that particular race track. So all Berman had to do, was go over the thousands of slips bet that particular day, and before the seventh race at the track, he knew which numbers Schultz did not want to win. Then one phone call to the race track, and like magic, the final numbers were altered for Schultz’ monetary benefit.
Schultz had one simple rule that helped propel him to the top. If someone stole a dime of his cash, that person would soon disappear. His long-time lawyer J. Richard “Dixie” Davis, who was Schultz’ conduit to the crooked politicians who protected Schultz’ flank, once said, “You can insult Arthur’s girl. Spit in his face. Push him around — and he’ll laugh. But don’t steal a dollar from his accounts. If you do, you’re dead.”
Two such men, who were deposited into the hereafter by Schultz, were Vincent “Mad Dog” Cole, who was ventilated by a dozen bullets in a New York City phone booth, and Jack “Legs” Diamond. After Schultz’ men pumped several bullets into Diamond’s head in an upstate hotel, Schultz said, “Just another punk caught with his hands in my pocket.”
The killings of Diamond and Cole propelled Schultz into the big time, and soon he became an equal in a syndicate of gangsters that included Lucky Luciano, Louie Lepke, Meyer Lansky, Albert Anastasia and Joe “Adonis” Doto. While all the rest of the crew were immaculate dressers, Schultz dressed one step above a Bowery bum. Even though he was raking in millions, Schultz never paid more than $35 for a suit and $2 for a shirt. Lucky Luciano once said of Schultz, “Dutch was the cheapest guy I ever knew. The guy had a couple of million bucks and he dressed like a pig.”
As for his insistence on not dressing up to his mob stature, Schultz said, “I think only queers wear silk shirts.”
As time passed, the rest of the syndicate grew weary of Schultz’ erratic ways. One such example of his lunacy, was when Schultz, in order to beat a tax-evasion case in upstate Malone, New York, converted to Catholicism in order to butter up the all-Catholic jury. His scheme worked and he was acquitted on all counts.
Another time, at a syndicate meeting, Schultz became upset over a wise crack Joe Adonis made about Schultz’ chintzy clothes. Schultz, who had a bad case of the flu, grabbed Adonis in a headlock and blew hard into his face. “See you (expletive) star. Now you’ve got the flu too.” Adonis did indeed catch the flu from Schultz, which did not make him and the rest of the syndicate particularly happy.
Schultz’ downfall was his insistence that the syndicate kill New York City Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who was on a mission to crack down on all the mobs, especially Schultz’. Schultz called a meeting of the nine-member syndicate and demanded Dewey’s head on a plate. The other members thought killing Dewey was a horrible idea, because they were convinced if Dewey was offed, an avalanche of criminal investigations would surely fall down on their heads. Schultz’ proposal was voted down 8-1.
Schultz stormed from the meeting, saying, “I still say he ought to be hit. And if nobody else is going to do it, I’m gonna hit him myself. Within 48 hours.”
The other syndicate members, knowing Schultz was not one to bluff, immediately voted unanimously that Schultz was the one who had to go. And quick, before Dewey was dead.
On October 23, 1935, the day following the fateful votes, Schultz, Berman, Lulu Rosenkrantz and Abe Landau sat in the Palace Chop House and Tavern in Newark, New Jersey, ostensibly to discuss how best to do away with Dewey. Schultz was in the bathroom, when Charlie “The Bug” Workman and Mendy Weiss burst through the front door — shooting. Berman, Rosenkrantz and Landau got it first, each being shot several times, before expiring. Then realizing Schultz was not at the table, Workman rushed into the bathroom and plugged Schultz once in the middle of the chest, right above the stomach.
Schultz was rushed to the hospital and lay delirious for two days. His spouted such idiocies as, “Oh Duckie, see we skipped again.” And, “Please mother, crack down on the Chinaman’s friends and Hitler’s commander.” And, “Louie, didn’t I give you my doorbell?”
Schultz’ temperature rose to 106 degrees, and on October 25, he fell into a coma and died. His former pals on the syndicate, overjoyed and a more than little relieved, divided Schultz’ prosperous operations equally amongst themselves.