Monday, February 25, 2013

Arnold Rothstein

When I was two years old, my bootlegging father, Louis Rosen, was murdered along with my innocent uncle in a turf war with the Mafia. They were ambushed and shot in our driveway as they arrived home from a card game at Taback’s Cigar Store. Although the killer got away, it was well known not only who he was but that he would never be identified. The impact on my family and on my life-- amid the drama of Prohibition and the Great Depression-- has animated my memoir and novels.

            My father was among a Whose Who of Jewish bootleggers, whose histories are varied, interesting and complicated. For example. Arnold Rothstein’s background made him an unlikely “kingpin of the Jewish underworld.” His brother became a rabbi and his father, who served as chairman of the board of New York’s Beth Israel Hospital, was a pious and wealthy businessman known for philanthropy and honesty,

            In Rothstein’s late 20’s he opened a gambling parlor; by 1912, when he was thirty, he was a millionaire. He captured the imagination of his time-- Damon Runyan modeled the character Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls” after Rothstein. And in “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald created a Rothstein-based character, named Meyer Wolfsheim.

            In 1919 Rothstein arranged, through an intermediary, to pay the Chicago White Sox players $80,000 on the condition that they lose to Cincinnati. They did, and Rothstein made a fortune betting against Chicago. In 1921 eight players, led by first- baseman Chick Gandill, were convicted of trying to fix the Series. Rothman, who never met the players and could say that he never approved the intermediary’s scheme, was acquitted.

            He was murdered by a fellow gambler in 1928 at the age of 46 without revealing his assailant’s name. Because of his father, he received an Orthodox Jewish funeral with the renowned rabbi, Leo Jung.

            Next: Meyer Lansky

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Downton Abbey, Season 3 Finale

According to an interview with Julian Fellowes, creator and writer of Downton Abbey, the theme of  the series is about people confronting change whether they like it or not. The show started in 1912, just before the Great War, but in the 1920’s there was an accelerated rate of change. It was actually the end of the Second World War that was the coup de grace for Crawley type people.

Jessica Brown Findlay who played Lady Sybil, and Dan Stevens who played Mathew Crawley wanted to leave after season three, so they had to be killed off—Sybil in childbirth and Mathew in a car crash.

The back story about Robert and Cora is how she came to England as an American heiress and met Robert who married her for her money and then fell in love.

The ending of season 3 has left enough loose ends for season 4 and beyond. Mary, now a young widow, is poised for new love and maybe a comeuppance for her snobbery. Thomas’ revelation that he is gay is another interesting story line. The introduction of  “difficult” Rose, who has left her mean mother and moved in with the Crawleys, provides more potential drama. And what about Lady Edith on the threshold of finding love and becoming (gasp!) a mistress!  But all the characters in Downton Abbey are so richly drawn in their humanity, that as I write, I am in withdrawal.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Season Three, Episode Six

Watching Downton Abbey last night I was reminded of wisdom given in writing workshop I attended namely, that without conflict there is no story. Which may be one of the reasons we’re riveted each and every week.

For example: conflicts between physicians leading to Sybil’s death…between Mathew and Robert about running the estate…….between compassion and bias regarding an ex-prostitute trying to change her life…..between guilt and forgiveness of Sybil’s parents…between the generations as Robert Crowley and Mr. Carson cling stubbornly to changing times……between religions……between names for the baby.

There has to be good news, too. Mr. Bates’ final release from prison. A new baby girl. The promise of Daisy’s release from service into a new and promising future.

Have you ever seen such gorgeous mourning clothes? And those magnificent hats! 

When did ladies stop wearing hats?