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