Thursday, March 20, 2008

Blue Steel Jews

There was a day in these United States when messing with the wrong Jew could get you`messed up so bad that you'd never in this life catch a chance to do it twice. This was the day of such illustrious Jewish gents as Arnold Rothstein, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Mickey Cohen, Seymour "Blue Jaw" Magoon, and Jake "the Jew" Gusik, Isadore "Kid Cann" Blumenfeld and his fellow superbad whoop-ass Jew from Minneapolis, Dave Berman.

There was a parking lot out behind one of the Blumenfeld Brothers nightclubs in downtown Minneapolis, the "Pink Poodle" where parking those baby blue Blumenfeld Cadillacs one summer turned out to be a way for me to save up tuition money for college.

Everybody in town knew who Kid Cann was, how he got sent up in the late fifties to serve a stretch of federal time on a white slavery rap. What all but a few select people didn't know was that the Kid's brother, Harry "Yiddy Bloom" Blumenfeld was still running those downtown Blumenfeld clubs on Hennepin Avenue while Issy was, as they say, 'away'.

Odd thing of it is that no matter how you may search, you can't find it published anywhere, the date of the Kid's release from the . . . can. It was 1959 when he was sent up, and for so little as anyone knew including me, the man was still up the river come the summer of 1966, when I started working in that Blumenfeld lot, which I did not know for any such thing at the time. All I did know is that there was something kind of grand glimmering in the air about those two guys; something they showed you in a glint of blue steel from their eyes, from the way they walked, or dropped the keys to their Cadillacs in your hand.

You could call it 'class'. Or be a punk and call it "rockstar charisma," or then again, don't because there was never anything but jazz and pop standards playing on the radios of those two Cadillacs when they pulled in. Something about the lingering smell of cologne or whatever kind of fancy oil their barbers would rub into their scalps--sure. There was something admirable, so swell about them that you didn't even have to ask who those two were, or if you did it was at risk of being told by whoever was talking, "Well, who the goddam hell do you think they are? Take a better look next time--but not too good, if you know what's good for you.

There was an illegal poker game going at all hours down in the basement of the Poodle, and I used to park the cars of the gamblers. It was funny. There was this one hood who'd come tooling up to my shack one week, all pround and happy and tipping big as he'd come out from behind the wheel of a brand new Mercury convertible. Next week, it would be some old wreck of a '55 Plymouth with one of the bumpers hanging loose, and there he'd be without a shave or even the ghost of a shine on his shoes, or a quarter to flip to my hand.

One morning I grabbed the waste-paper basket off the floor of my little up-right coffin of a parking lot shack to empty it in the cans out behind the Pink Poodle. I opened the gate and was just about to dump when I spied in the garbage something green that didn't look quite like lettuce, but then again in the more vernacular sense, rather did; it was barely visible, just showing a little from under a mess of cigarette and cigar butts, swizzle sticks, napkins and sweeping compound.

I gingerly poked my fingers in to pull that wad of greenbacks out of there, and though I probably should have been honest, should of gone ahead and turned that 200 bucks or so over to those crooks inside the Pink Poodle, somehow the thought of how much closer I'd suddenly come to paying my Fall Quarter tuition, just wouldn't allow me to be jake on that. And so I banked it.

I must admit however that I did come to have second thoughts over it, one late summer's afternoon, after parking the Cadillac belonging to the short, portly, balding guy, who looked to be so much the spitting image of the other more regular Harry "Yiddy Bloom" Blumenfeld guy, which name I'd come to suspect not just quite yet. And when I had eased her into a good spot, I can't say why, something moved me to slide across the seat to get out on the passenger side, and as I did, my elbow somehow happened to catch the button on the glove box, which fell heavily open to reveal in all its snub-nosed blue-steel glory--don't you know what? I slammed the door shut on that and got my buns out of that Caddy quick.

Had I done this on purpose, on the chance that I might get a look at something just like that, to confirm or deny the substance of what was now starting to be my hunch about what was indeed the true news on this guy? You can read all about him and his pal Meyer Lansky with whom he spent the latter years of his life in Miami right here . . .

Or you can turn up pretty much the same dope on these guys here . . ..

And there you will read as follows . . .

Lansky recalled breaking up a Brown Shirt rally in the Yorkville section of Manhattan: "The stage was decorated with a swastika and a picture of Hitler. The speakers started ranting. There were only fifteen of us, but we went into action. We … threw some of them out the windows. . . . Most of the Nazis panicked and ran out. We chased them and beat them up. . . . We wanted to show them that Jews would not always sit back and accept insults."

In Minneapolis, William Dudley Pelley organized a Silver Shirt Legion to "rescue" America from an imaginary Jewish-Communist conspiracy. In Pelley’s own words, just as "Mussolini and his Black Shirts saved Italy and as Hitler and his Brown Shirts saved Germany," he would save America from Jewish communists. Minneapolis gambling czar David Berman confronted Pelley’s Silver Shirts on behalf of the Minneapolis Jewish community.

Berman learned that Silver Shirts were mounting a rally at a nearby Elks’ Lodge. When the Nazi leader called for all the "Jew bastards" in the city to be expelled, or worse, Berman and his associates burst in to the room and started cracking heads. After ten minutes, they had emptied the hall. His suit covered in blood, Berman took the microphone and announced, "This is a warning. Anybody who says anything against Jews gets the same treatment. Only next time it will be worse." After Berman broke up two more rallies, there were no more public Silver Shirt meetings in Minneapolis.
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