Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Boardwalk Empire & My Jewish Connection to the Mob (Part II)

Written by: Dave Goodman

Hard picture huh?  Not really, but the majesty of photo booth on a macbook does wonders for my cigar smoking prowess.  In January 2009 I became wildly fascinated with cigars, which coincided with a work mission to Havana, Cuba.  Big coincidence, I know.  

Two years back I also developed great interest in the dealings of the Jewish mob, and, how I may not have explored the world of Jewish communal work had it not been for the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro in the 1950's.

Meyer Lansky being brought in by FBI in 70's
I dabbled around the topic in 2009, growing a profound interest in a man name Meyer Lansky, who basically took over the New York Jewish mafia after the death of Arnold Rothstein in 1928.  Lansky was doing a ton of 'business' in hotels and casinos in Miami, Las Vegas and ultimately, Havana, Cuba, which became a booming market for tourism, and more importantly, a hotbed for illegal activity that could not be controlled by the FBI.  

Portrayed as the fictitious character and Jewish Mobster in the Godfather Part II, Hyman Roth, who does business with Michael Corleone; Meyer Lansky inspired one of the best mob film storyline's in our time.  

Hyman Roth (Lansky) & Michael Corleone in Miami
scheming in Godfather Part II

So you are probably asking yourself, what the hell does Meyer Lansky or Hyman Roth or Havana have to do with Dave Goodman?  To tell you the truth, not so much.  But ever since Boardwalk Empire premiered this year, and Meir Lansky made his start under Arnold Rothstein in NYC, it resurrected my interest in the Jewish players in the mob game.

My family business record is squeaky clean (I thought).  However, aside from my Papa's twin-brothers who were both thrown in the slammer for mob-related activity back in the glory days, my Papa was doing quite well in the Hotel business.

That is, until his twin-bros met this man named Meyer Lansky who convinced them to be investors in the Havana Riviera Hotel in Cuba.  This was the very same hotel and casino resort that was envisioned in Godfather II.  Great Success! Well, not so much.  On paper it looked like a fool-proof plan.  The newest and best hotel in Cuba; backed by lots of North American money in the 50's to hit the booming tourist destination of Havana;  the first hotel with central air conditioning!  In the first year of operations, it was THE destination to hit. 

Frank Sinatra, Ginger Rogers, Eva Rodriguez, Joe Lewis and Rocky Marciano were some of the who's who that frequented the Riviera.  Did I mention the central air conditioning?  

Here's a photo of my Grammy and Papa in their prime clubbing and casino days. Ahhh yes, times were good in the 50's, and future Dave Goodman was on his way to becoming a part-owner in the Riviera until tragedy struck (Capitalist Cuba that is).  Guerilla fighters of Castro's Communist movement closed in on Bautista's government and took over Havana in 1958.  

Castro and Crew outside the Riviera taking over shop in 1958
The dream of Jewish mob control in the city was lost and Lansky and almost all of his assets that were sunk into the Riviera mega project was finished.  More importantly, my new found dream (in 2009) to become a hotel heir ala Paris Hilton was also lost.

That did not stop me from smoking a Cohiba on the lobby floor of the Riviera thinking of what could have been in January 2009 (I may or may not have been crying).  Very mobster of me huh?  Perhaps I was not cut out for the Jewish mob.

The BAC Crew in the Hotel Riviera Lobby after a few Mojhitos and Rum & Cokes
This is my gorgeous grandmother, Evie Smith,
shown here on the diving board of the Hotel Riviera Pool in the 50's.
Below, is her grandson on the very same diving board some 50 odd years later.
The dream lives on!


  1. I like it Goodman. Nice post. I find particularly awesome the tags you've given it - Fidel Castro, Meyer Lansky, Michael Corleone, and of course, David Goodman.

    My family's in the casino business as well, and my stepfather is pretty encyclopedic 'bout it. He's got some great books on the subject - if you want some recommends I can hook you up.

  2. Josh - big time - would love to do a little more research into it since I was too young to discuss with my papa before he passed years ago. We'll talk at ball...