their exotic names: names like the Singapore Sling, Screw Driver, the
Alamagoozlum, the Angel’s Kiss, the Hanky Panky, the Harvey
Wallbanger, Sex On The Beach, the Monkey Gland, the Brass Monkey, the
Margarita, the Japalac, the Lion’s Tail, and many, many more? Who
makes up these names, where are they invented, why, and how do you
make them? These questions will be answered in “What’s Your
Poison?” by exploring the incidents, people, and places that
prompted the creation of these exotic concoctions.
The Jack Rose
A Bald Gambler, A Corrupt Police Detective, A Murdered Casino Owner, And A Dash of Applejack
New York City, July 16, 1912, it’s a hot steamy afternoon. Four men wait under the awning of the Hotel Metropole located at 147 West 43rd Street. The hotel is a five story brick building on the corner close to Times Square. A sign above and to the side of the canopy over the entrance tells visitors they’ve arrived at the famous Metropole, the first hotel in New York City with running water in every room, home to gambler Nicky Arnstein, Fanny Brice’s lover and ultimate second husband, Bat Masterson, ex-western lawman, now New York City sports’ writer, and Herman Rosenthal, bookmaker and illegal casino owner.
The four men milling about outside the hotel are not out of place on the busy street. They’re wearing summer weight suits suitable for the weather. Jacob, Whitey Lewis, Seidenschner wears his usual cloth flat-cap, while Francisco Cirofici, aka Dago Frank, Harry Horowitz, aka Gyp the Blood, and Lefty Louie Rosenberg, all wear straw boater’s, a popular male fashion statement of the time.
These men are all members of the Lennox Avenue Gang led by Harry Horowitz and controlled by Zelig Harry Lefkowitz, aka Jack Zelig, head of the Eastman Gang. The Lennox Avenue group could be considered the prototype of the more famous criminal gang known as Murder Incorporated.
As Herman Rosenthal exits the front door of the Metropole the four men surround him, draw their guns and fire. Gambler Herman Rosenthal is shot dead in broad daylight on a crowded New York street. As Rosenthal lies bleeding on the pavement the four men scramble to the waiting car provided by Baldy Jack Rose, the man who hired them to murder Rosenthal on orders from crooked NYPD Lieutenant Charles Becker.
Baldy Jack Rose was born Jacob Rosenzweig in Poland in 1876. His family immigrated to America and at the age of four Rosenzweig was stricken with typhoid leaving him with alopecia universalis, a condition causing all his hair to fall out. Cruel classmates teased Jacob giving him the nickname Baldy, an apparent prerequisite for a life of crime as all the gangsters in this tale seem to have colourful monikers, and Baldy Jack Rose seemed appropriately fitting for a hairless young criminal.
Baldy spent his early years in Connecticut where he grew up to be a gambler, boxing promoter, and founder of a minor league baseball team, The Rosebuds, not the toughest sounding name for a sports team owned by the man that became embroiled in one of America’s most infamous murders. If not for being overshadowed by Lucky Luciano’s bloody rise to power, the Rosenthal murder might be regarded as New York City’s most infamous gangland murder.
After moving to New York City, Rose opened an illegal casino called The Rosebud. It wasn’t long before it became an underworld hangout, especially favored by the Eastman Gang headed by Selig Harry Lefkowitz, and its offshoot the Lennox Avenue Gang led by Harry, Gyp The Blood, Horowitz.
Unfortunately for Baldy, NYPD Lieutenant Charles Becker and his Gambling Squad eventually raided The Rosebud. Becker used the opportunity to extort a weekly twenty-five percent protection levy from Baldy, amounting to a substantial ten thousand dollar a month payout; a payment that Baldy Jack Rose chalked up to the cost of doing business in New York City.
If that wasn’t bad enough Becker demanded Baldy collect payments from the other illegal gambling casinos he was shaking down. One of these casinos was run by Herman Rosenthal, a man less inclined to pay Becker what he demanded. Rosenthal went so far as to complain to District Attorney Charles S. Whitman, an odd thing to do for a man that ran an illegal gambling club, but never the less that is what he did, in writing, signing an affidavit that was published in the New York World newspaper. A couple of days after Rosenthal’s meeting with Whitman, Rosenthal was gunned down in front of the Hotel Metropole.
The hit was messy, witnessed by numerous passersby. Baldy figured it was only a matter of time before he would be caught so instead he went to the police and admitted his involvement in hiring Selig’s Lenox Avenue boys as well as arranging for the get-away car on orders from NYPD Lieutenant Charles Becker. Jacob Seidenschner, Francisco Cirofici, Harry Horowitz, Lefty Louie Rosenberg, and Charles Becker were all arrested, convicted, and ultimately electrocuted at Sing Sing Correctional Facility based on the testimony of Baldy Jack Rose. Zelig Harry Lefkowitz, aka, Jack Zelig, The Big Yid, leader of the Eastman Gang and the Lenox Avenue boys also cut a deal but was gunned down on October 5th, 1912 the day before he was supposed to testify in court.
Baldy Jack Rose managed to escape gangland retribution and went on to earn a thousand dollars a week lecturing about the evils of gambling on vaudeville stages and in church basements. He even appeared in a few motion pictures. He retired to Connecticut where he farmed for a while, eventually moving back to New York City where he died October 4th, 1947.
Thus ends the tale of Baldy Jack Rose – well almost – this is a book about cocktails after all, and so it is said the Jack Rose Cocktail is named after the infamous Baldy Jack Rose. Now you may never have heard of the Jack Rose cocktail as it has fallen out of favor in recent years, but there was a time when it was considered one of the six basic cocktails as cited in David Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (1948). Like most cocktail names the legend behind the name is disputed. Some say the Jack Rose is really named after the rose color provided by the Applejack used in making the drink, but that is hardly as interesting as the tale of the alopecia plagued gambler. And who’s to say that both explanations aren’t true.
One final word on Baldy Jack Rose: there are those that suggest Charles Becker was innocent of involvement in the Rosenthal murder and that he was setup by Rose and his associates, probably payback for Becker’s extortion racket. The truth as is often the case is lost to history.
harsh, but the fact is, most gambling venues are designed to
guarantee you lose. It doesn’t matter if it’s horseracing,
lotteries, casinos, or the annual state fair. As soon as you plunk
down your dollar you’re a loser. Those milk bottles at the bottom
of the pyramid you’re trying to knock down are filled with lead,
and that basketball net that looks so close you can’t miss, is
actually oval not round, and barely big enough for a ball to pass
get lucky. It’s a kick, a lark: an afternoon’s entertainment.
They know when to walk away… others don’t… some can’t. For
them it’s a drug, a search for an unattainable high. Deep down they
don’t even want to win. It’s sad. It’s pathetic is what it is.
there’s a game of chance. They’ll bet on horses, dogs, camels’…
even killer roosters. It’s nuts I know, but their addicts, they’ll
bet on people, and that’s the worst bet of all. Gambling is for
suckers; that’s why gamblers don’t gamble, they fix the game, and
even then, it doesn’t always work.
you want to believe. I was a jockey, it was my job, but I made my
living as a fixer. You want to know what really goes on behind the
scenes. You want to know what horse racing is really all about. Then
come a little closer, cause I got a story for you.
Life is messy. It’s neither a journey nor a path, instead people plod, meander, or lurch from one defining incident to another. The fact that our lives are superficially remembered with glib Kodak moments only hides the ugly truth. Life is chaotic, and no one’s life was more chaotic than Ronny Kleinberg’s. It would be unfair to try and cram Ronny’s wide-ranging experiences into a nice neat package with a clear-cut beginning, middle, and end. And so I start in the middle, because that’s as good a place to start as any.
has written twelve hybrid graphic novels (including “The Method,”
“The Comeuppance,” “The Coffin Corner,” and “Grist For The
Mill”), thirteen children’s books (including “Two Dragons Named
Shoe,” “The Town That Didn’t Speak,” “The Bad Puppeteer,”
“The Criminal McBride,” and “Mr. Bumbershoot, The Umbrella
Man”), three marketing books, and several novels and biographies
including “The Fixer” and “Organized Crime Queens.”
with accompanying storyboard panels to give the reader an enhanced
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