JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Friday, January 30, 2015


I begin by asking why is this day different than all others. That question in Jewish families, is the beginning of the Passover Seder. But if you have Celtic markers on your genomes, it is the beginning of Imm'ulk, the second quarter of the year. The first quarter is of course Sow'en – November through January – followed by Imm'ulk, then Bell'tan – May through July - and Loo'nassa – August through October. For some reason that is not the way they are currently spelled in English, but it is the way the Irish and Welsh pronounced them - approximately. As you might have noticed these is a pagan calendar, the way the ancient Celts marked time, and Imm'ulk was the season the female sheep start to drip milk from their teats. And, no, that is not why one of them is called a 'Yeww”. .
Lactating sheep may seem like a rotten reason to have a holiday, unless you are heavily invested in lamb futures, or, if sheep or goat mike makes up a large part of your children's protein intake. The word Imm'ulk in old Irish means “in the belly”, as in baby lambs, or goat kids. And that brings up the Celtic lady of fertility, Bree-id – again the phonetic spelling. The people of the pre-Christian British Isles, and particularly the center of the Bree-in cult around Kikdare, Ireland, felt the need to invoke a Goddess because the sheep drip seemed to begin about halfway between the Winter Solstice (December 22) and the Spring Equinox (March 21st), and a thousand years ago that seemed a magical and mystical event.  Today we know its just a little nut of coincidence, the product of the Earth's 365 and ¼ day elliptical orbit around the sun and its 23 degree angle of tilt. Change either of those numbers and you get a different coincidence.
In her yearbook – if she had one - Bree-id would have listed her interests as biology, poetry and heavy metal. Believe it or not, that made her a pacifist among the otherwise violent and argumentative Celtic gods, thus her association with fertility. When the Romans arrived they recorded her name as Brighid – which seems to be where the word “bride” came from - again fertility. The Christians faced a harder problem converting the Celts of Scotland, in part because they still had snakes. Their fertility spirit was Cailleach,  a shape shifter, AKA a hag. An ancient Scottish proverb says, “The serpent will come from the hole, On the brown Day of Bride, Though there should be three feet of snow, On the flat surface of the ground.” The Scots would not scan a good poet until Robert Burns in the 18th century.
The Scots told their children that on the first day of Imm'ulk the hag would go out to gather firewood for the rest of the winter. And since she also controlled the weather, if Caileach made the sun shine that day, it meant she was trying to gather lots of wood, which meant winter was going to last another month and a half or so. But if it was cloudy on the first day of Imm'ulk, then Caileach was planning on an early spring and she would not need sunlight for her search. In other words, if the old hag saw her shadow, it would be six more weeks of winter. And if that sounds familiar to you, its because that is the straight line, the set up to a joke retold year after year. Allow me to explain:
The Christians later co-opted the Irish goddess as Saint Brighid, spinning the story that she was the mother of St. Patrick, who drove the snakes out of Ireland. They just made that up of course, and later dropped her as a saint, but then they made up the part about the snakes and Saint Patrick too. But because the Romans recruited both Irish and Scottish Celt's as soldiers and used them on the Rhine River frontier, the blended legends of Brigid and Caileach became embedded in Germany. And because their German ancestors later became coal miners, and because the miners' ancestors later moved to America, drawn by jobs in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, where, for some reason, the Germans were called “Dutchmen”, that is how Irish ewes dripping milk from their teats, and an ugly old Scottish woman scrounging for firewood, combined to produce a local German immigrant festival celebrating the largest rodent in North America – Ground Hog Day.
See, a ground hog is a rodent, but its not a rat. They are much closer to a squirrel in need of weight watchers. And, without the expressive tails. This 4 to 9 pound animal, is actually a marmot. There are marmots living among the rocks and mountains of South Africa, and the Middle East, and central Europe, and along the foothills of the Himalayas. The ones living in North America are actually some of the smallest marmots anywhere, in part because living on flat ground, they are surrounded by foxes, wolves, coyotes, bears and hawks and eagles – all of whom find groundhogs very tasty. On the treeless great plains, they evolved into prairie dogs. And back east, they became groundhogs – grass eaters all. Look at it this way; if God were a rodent, cows would look more like ground hogs.
This plump, furry, generally irritated little beast is known by a number of nom-de-rodents. They sequel when injured and whistle to warn their mates (Ground hogs and Whistle-pigs), and the native Americans called them “wuchak” (woodchucks). They hibernate over winter below the frost line, emerging from their extensive Chateau marmots only in the spring. And since they don't have calendars, they respond to changing temperatures. When their dens warm up, they wake up and go looking for something green to eat. Any brief respite in winter like, say, around the end of January or early February, might draw some of the hungrier ground hogs to look for take out.  If it is an early spring, they get a jump on their fellows at early mating. If not, if its a normal or late spring, they become fuel, keeping hungry predators alive until real spring finally shows up - thus proving that individuality is an adaptation for the survival of the species, just not necessarily the species your in.
As far back as 1841 a local storekeeper in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania named James Morris had noted in his diary, “Last Tuesday, the 2nd... The day on which , according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as weather is to be moderate.” Again, that's the set up. The guy who delivered the punch line we are seeking was a local funny boy, a bachelor with a quick wit and the good German name of Clymer H. Freas. Clymer had been raised by his older brother, and after graduating from a local collage, he got a job working at the Punxsutawney Spirit, the only newspaper the town of Punxsutawney has ever had.
For decades, Punxsutawney,  halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers, had been a local center of the first great American pastime – guns, beer and shooting things. In this case the “things” were ground hogs, and the beer was referred to as “ground hog punch”. And after shooting the whistle pigs, the celebrants then barbecued and ate them. Surprisingly, spending a cold morning killing a large rodent did not catch on with the Pennsylvania womenfolk, but then I suspect they were not invited. But after the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad began regular service into town in 1883, lots of men from Pittsburgh began to journey the ninety miles to tramp through the woods around Punxsutawney, blasting away at the large non-aquatic beavers, while getting blasted themselves. The town, evidently, needed the attraction, since in the language of the Delaware Indians, Puixsutawney actually means “Town of mosquitoes”.
Young Clymer evidently did not participate in these festivities, because in February of 1886, he first mentioned Ground hog Day in the “Spirit” by merely noting, “up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow." However, next year the 22 year old Clymer was invited to his first ground hog soiree at the “hunting lodge” up on Gobbler's Knob, about a mile southeast of town. He had so much fun that two years later he was one of the founding fathers of the Groundhog Club, elected Secretary and poet laureate.
As poet he waxed lyrical about the 1907 GHD; “Promptly at 12:22 O'Clock...a rift was riven in the overhanging clouds and B're Groundhog sallied forth, casting a shadow which shot through a shimmering sheen and sent a shaft of effervescent and effulgent rays...”. Clymer went into more depth describing the speeches given later at the barbecue as “eulogizing the flesh of the only Simon-pure vegetarian on this planet, and each, under the subtle influence of partaken woodchuck and assimilated punch, grew eloquent and combed the earth sea and sky with metaphor and simile, couched in the most beautiful phraseology.” That particular celebration continued past one in the morning. Not a bad punchline.
However the ladies and children must have complained, because in 1909, they held what Clymer described as a “Circumgyratory Pageant of the Astrologers, Horocopists, Magicians, Soothsayers and meteorological Attaches”, also known as a parade. It had floats representing the four seasons and because you would have be drunk to stand outside in the dead of winter, they held it in August, and called it “Old Home Week”. But because there was a lot less drinking, and no groundhogs to justify the thing, it did not catch on.
By now Clymer was editor of the paper, and the groundhog day celebrations and his joke had begun filling hotel rooms and restaurants. It was now a serious matter, and as editor Clymer was expected to be a civic booster. It was around now that the groundhog became the town's official symbol, and Clymer named him “Punxsutawney Phil,  Seer of Seers,  Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire.” They stopped shooting the rodents (officially), and concentrated on the ridicules legend. But they would have to continue without their poet. In the teens, Bachelor Clymer married Miss Moss Rose Wall. And after that, as a man with responsibilities, he decided to put his skills for hyperbole to a job with more financial remuneration than that offered to a newspaperman and poet laureate. He abandoned Puxsutawney and its mid-winter freezing rodent festival, and moved to balmy Florida where he switched to selling swampland around Tampa. He died there in 1942.
But his work was done. The punch line for the joke had been written down, the dirty words removed, the telling civilized so as to render the joke acceptable to women and children. It didn't happen overnight, of course. In 1920, the first year of prohibition, Phil supposedly threatened not to offer another prediction for 60 weeks, unless he was given a drink. He was not, but he went right on predicting. A mere 37% accuracy rate (not much better than sheer chance) has so far failed to kill the joke, but it  now barely elicits a chuckle, but that will not kill it either. Besides, how much chuckle would a woodchuck chuckle, if a woodchuck could chuckle a chuck? That doesn't seem to matter, either.
The little town never had more than 10,000 residents, and after the mines closed, today it has barely 6,000. Still it is held together by a rodent. In the gift shop down at 102 West Mahoning Street, they sell “Gobbler's Knob Hot Chocolate Mix”, which you can drink from your “Amazink Shadow Mug”, featuring a “Punxsy Phil” and his shadow, which disappears when hot water fills the mug You can also buy Punxsy Phil Mardi Gras beads, and "Punxsutawney Phil in a Can." (above). Pull the pop top and a little plush Phil pops out, holding one of two signs predicting 6 more weeks of winter or not. You even buy a bag of Ground Hog Poop - actually its malted milk balls, but the kids love it.
You can head south on Highway 36, turn right on Woodlawn Avenue for about a mile to the crest of the hill, to Gobblers Knob. If you go there any day of the year other than Groundhog day you will likely find it abandoned, a empty stage set. The star resides year round downtown, in Barlay Square, at the memorial library, in his newly labeled Phil's Den, complete with below ground level window viewing. Human beings traveling hundreds, perhaps thousands,  of miles just  to see a marmot sleep is the real joke. And that is funny. Everybody should do it at least once.
Do Ground hogs laugh, I wonder?
- 30 -

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I am amazed there were only 35 attempts to murder Adolf Hitler (above), not counting the entire Second World War, of course. He was in public life for 25 years – 1920 to 1945 - so that works out to less than one (actually 0.777) attempts to shoot, stab, poison or blow him up per year. True, it was not generally known at the time that he was the greatest mass murderer of the 20th Century. But he was a polarizing public figure, a supercilious, narcissistic vulgar vegetarian given to long antisemitic bile filled public tirades. Hitler should have attracted assassins the way the Republican Party draws frat boys. I think the explanation for Hitler's longevity may be the illusions he created to fool others, and the delusions of his would-be assassins, by which they fooled themselves.
Adolf Hitler was just an average man, about 5 foot 8 inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds. There is no accurate record for his weight because Hitler refused to disrobe for physicals. But other than that phobia, little about him was not ordinary. He had a reputation as a great public speaker, but I have doubts about that. The only thing that made him stand out in a crowd was that distinctive “chaplinesque” mustache. It was chosen by Charlie Chaplin for his “Little Tramp”, to stand out in a long shot. And that was probably why Hitler cut his World War One mustache so sharply, too. In fact just about everything Hitler did was for effect and illusion.
Marcel Gerbohay was the definition of delusion. The studious, serious French boy, and a devout Catholic, just another seminary student at Saint-Ilan (above), in the Brittany coastal village of Saint-Briuc. And it was there in 1936 that he was stricken with what his teachers described as a nervous breakdown. Marcel was not sent home, but confined to his dorm room bed for most of the year. After he had physically recovered, he displayed a new malady, a grandiose delusional disorder in which Marcel believed he was actually Dimitri Romanov-Holstein-Gottorpa, a member of the Russian royal family. He shared his delusion with only a few carefully chosen fellow students, who he admitted in his secret “Compagnie du Mystère”.
After trying to seize power by force in the November 1923 Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Adolf Hitler's party failed to secure even a single seat in the May 1924 Reichstag elections. By 1929, the power of Hitler's antisemitic speeches had increased the Nazi share to... less than 3% of the voters – winning just 12 out of some 600 Reichstag seats. Everything changed with the Great Depression. In the September 1930 elections the Nazis won 107 seats, making them the second largest party in the Reichstag. Two years later Adolf Hitler became a German citizen, and in May of 1932 the Nazi share climbed to 230 seats, 37% of the electorate. But that would be Hitler's democratic high water mark. In new elections that November, his party lost 34 seats. Luckily for Hitler, that would be the last free election in Germany for 17 years.
In 1937 Marcel/Demitri's plan to defeat communism and put himself on the Russian throne ran into an obstacle. He decided Adolf Hitler, the most virulent anti-communist in Europe, had betrayed the cause. For that crime, Hitler must die. In July of 1938 Marcel/Dimitri gave the assignment to one of his most ardent acolytes, a 21 year old Swiss landscaping student named Maurice Bavaud (above). 
The chosen assassin left the seminary and returned to his family home in the Swiss lakeside resort town of Neuchetel (above). His return was a financial burden to his family, but Maurice spent his time studying German and reading the book Hitler had written while in jail for the Beer Hall Putsch - “Mein Kampf”. Then in the early hours of 9 October, he stole 600 Swiss francs from his mother, leaving behind a note which read, “I am going to make a life for myself.”.
Adolf Hitler's father, Alois, had been born to the unmarried Maria Schicklgruber in 1837, so he used her last name until he was 39 years old, when he finally petitioned the government to adopt his stepfather Johann's last name - Hiedle. The church recorded it in another form, as “Hitler”. In German both versions mean “small land owner”. In January 1885 Alois married his third wife, Klara Potzl. Their first three children died in infancy. Their fourth child, born when Alois was 52 years old in 1889, was thus Adolf Hitler (above), and not Adolf Shicklgruber. In German Hitler means “wolf”, and Hitler often used the pseudonym “Mr Wolf” when registering in hotels. During World War Two, which he would start, Hitler called his headquarters the “Wolf's Lair”, and he named his favorite German Shepherd “Wolf”. In 1945 Hitler tested the cyanide capsules prepared for his own suicide, on his beloved Wolf.
Maurice Bavaud went first to Berlin, where he discovered Hitler was actually at his Bavarian mountain top retreat above the village of Berchtesgarden (above). Disappointed, Maurice headed for Munich, where he took a bus 2,300 feet up in the Bavarian alps, and on 25 October checked into the budget hotel Stiftskeller. Maurice spent a week pretending to be a fanatical Nazi, trying to gain access to Hitler. Then he encountered a police captain who told him Hitler had just left for Munich, to participate in the annual celebrations of the Putsch. On Halloween, Maurice headed back down the hill to Munich.
Adolf Hitler often described Angela “Geli” Raubal (above), as the only woman he ever loved. In 1929 her mother, Hitler's half sister, allowed the vibrant 19 year old girl to move into an apartment in her 42 year old “Uncle Alf's” Munich suite. The women on Hitler's staff never approved of “Geli”, one saying, “She flirted with everybody; she was not a serious girl.” 
On Friday, 18 September, 1931 as he left for a rally in Nuremburg, Hitler (above right) and Geli (above left) argued loudly over the degree he controlled her life  Around 9:30 the next morning, worried staff knocked down the door to Geli's apartment. She was found wearing a blue night dress, face down on the floor, with a bullet wound from Hitler's Walther pistol through her left lung. She had drown in her own blood and had been dead for several hours. 
Hitler was inconsolable and friends feared he would take his own life. As Chancellor Hitler hung portraits of Geli in his public offices, and for the rest of his life kept her apartment as it was the day he last saw her.
On 9 November, Maurice Bevaud secured front row VIP seating along the parade route by telling officials he was a journalist. His position street side, at the corner of Prälat and Miller Way in Munich, in front of the Church of the Holy Spirit ("Heiliggeistkirche"), meant the Nazi leaders would pass within feet of him. 
As the line of brown shirted officials leading the parade approached, Maurice stood and prepared to draw his pistol. But he was shocked to see Hitler had moved to the opposite side of the street, fifty feet away from him. Worse, the crowd rose to offer the Nazi salute ("Hitlergruss"), preventing Maurice from even seeing his target clearly. 
Still, no one had searched him before allowing him into the restricted seating and even though he spoke bad German, no one had asked to see his credentials. The frustrated Maurice Bevaud caught the next train back to Berchtesgarden.
Beginning at night fall, this night, 9 November, 1938 , the Nazi Party unleashed a 48 hour wave of violence against Jews across Germany and Austria – called the Kristallnacht, or crystal night, because of the tens of thousands of smashed store windows. 
Almost every synagogue in German was damaged or burned down. More than 7,000 Jewish owned shops and department stores were burned or ransacked (but not looted). Even Jewish cemeteries were attacked, tombstones smashed and shattered, crypts opened and bodies thrown onto the ground. Jews were beaten to death in the streets, in full view of the police. 
Another 30,000 Jewish men were arrested (above) and detained in Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen – concentration camps to be infamous in another 7 years . This time most were released over the next three months on the condition that they leave Germany, but over 2,000 died in Nazi custody. And finally, insult to injury, the Jewish community was fined for the cost of cleaning up their assault, one billion Richsmarks.
Maurice Bevaud took a taxi directly from the Berchtesgarden train station to the front gate of Hitler's retreat. He managed to talk his way inside and finally stopped only because Hitler had already left by plane for Berlin (above). The Swiss assassin immediately returned to the capital, where he again plotted to reach Adolf Hitler. But by 12 November, Maurice he had finally used the last of the 600 francs stolen from his mother, and was forced to abandon his quest. 
Maurice stowed away aboard a train, but was caught by a conductor while still carrying the revolver and ammunition, a map of Berchtesgarden and a faked letter of introduction to Hitler. The railway officials handed him over to the Gestapo in the Bavarian university town of Augsburg. They assumed he was part of a larger plot, and tortured him until he confessed..
Adolf Hitler became a vegetarian in 1937, lecturing his Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbles that “meat-eating is harmful to humanity”. His Nazi party created the most stringent anti-vivisection laws in Europe, and stopped all use of animals in medical experimentation. Hitler would even turn his head to avoid watching any scene in a film which depicted the injury or death of an animal. 
Yet, after the 20 July 1944 bomb attack on his life, Hitler ordered the conspirators “must be hanged like cattle”, and had film of them slowly strangling on piano wires suspended from meat hooks, rushed through the developers, so he could view it the same night..
According to a witness “the men dangled and strangled, their belt-less trousers finally dropping...”. Now it was Goebbles who had to look away from the images Berthold von Stauffenberg, eldest brother of the man who planted the bomb, was hanged, revived, hanged again, and again and again, at least four times in all, before finally dieing in front of the cameras. All German officers were ordered to watch the full 2 hour record of the executions, although many turned their backs to the screen and the SS cadets at Berlin's Lichterfelde barracks, training for Hitler's personal bodyguard, walked out during the showing.
Maurice Bevaud was convicted of conspiring to assassinate Hitler on 18 December, 1938, and was sentenced to die in Ploetzensee Prison (above). He was questioned and tortured for another 17 months. In one of last letters to his parents, Maurice had written, “Ah, if I had just kept my service to God, and not left the creator for the creation...then I would not be here...I don't know, whether my last words will be 'damn' or 'God, I put my soul into your hands.. Since my mistake was made from weakness and passion and not from bad, arrogant intention, God (may) give me the victory of goodness and mercy.”
On 14 May, 1941, Maurice Bevaud was led to the execution shed at the rear of the prison, and was beheaded by guillotine (above). The German government charged him 300 Reich Marks for the service.
Marcel Cerbohay went into hiding when Hitler's armies conquered France in June of 1940. Gestapo agents were then dispatched to Saint-Briuc, but the founder of the “Compagnie du Mystère” had fled to Vichy territory. But that December, Marcel slipped home to spend Christmas with his ailing mother, and was captured by the Gestapo on New Years day, 1942. He was questioned and tortured in France for 9 months, before being sent to Ploetzensee Prison, where his deluded brain was separated from his body 9 April, 1943, in the same execution shed where Maurice Bevaud had died two years before.
Adolf Hitler's illusions resulted in the deaths of some 5, 500,000 Germans, Austrians and allies, 20 million Russians, 6 million Poles, 1,500,000 Slavs, 350,000 British empire citizens, 500, 000 Czechs, 500,000 Frenchmen and women, almost 500,000 Americans, 200,000 Dutch, 160,000 Greeks, 88,000 Belgians, 20,000 Bulgarians and 10,000 Norwegians. The delusions of Marcel Gerbohay resulted in just two deaths, that of Maurice Bevaud and his own. And that is the difference between politics and mental illness. One is illusion, and the other is delusion.

- 30 -

Sunday, January 25, 2015


“I'm a lady of the evening. And while youth and beauty last, I never worry who will pay my rent. For a while I'll be in clover, And when easy days are over, I know I'll go the way that all, My predecessors went.”
Our poet, Benita Franklin, was born in Joliet, Illinois in 1891. Her father was a strict disciplinarian, and when the young drama queen rebelled, he dispatched her to the Ladies of Loretto Convent School in nearby Wheaton.  Benita was so miserable there she claimed to have tried to commit suicide, but the nuns labeled her behavior as “insubordinate”. So Benita ran away, looking for an audience who would appreciate her performance.  And being young and beautiful,  she found a way to make her way, working as a chorus girl on the nightclub circuit, and using the name, Vivian Gordon.  In Charleston, South Carolina, in 1912 the 21 year old met a dull accountant named Joseph E.C. Bischoff.  Perhaps it was her need for security, or perhaps she really fell in love,  but within a few months they were married. And in 1913 Benita/Vivian gave birth to a girl,  Benita Frederica.
The new family moved to the Philadelphia suburb of Audubon, New Jersey, and Joseph went to work for the United States Marshal service, as an office manager.  Benita/Vivian was left at home with little Benita Frederica .  But Benita/Vivian's search for drama reasserted itself after Joesph secured a promotion to the D.C. Woman’s Reformatory, in Lorton, Virginia.  The money was good, but Joseph was away from home for weeks at a time.  Eventually Benita/Vivian sought out the attention of Al Marks, a lingerie salesman, from Long Branch, New Jersey.  And in 1923, while the couple was having a dramatic tryst in the seedy Langwell Hotel (above), on West 44th street, just above Manhattan’s Time Square, Vice Patrolman Andrew J. McLaughlin dramatically burst in on them. Under pressure Al Marks confessed he had paid Benita/Vivian for the sex, so she could be charged with prostitution.
Shuffled abruptly through the Brooklyn night court of Magistrate H. Stanley Renaud,   Benita/Vivian came to the realization she had been set up. Of the 219 women the Brooklyn night court convicted of prostitution in 1923,  72% were first time offenders, like Vivian, and one in ten was pregnant – which should have told officials they were not really prostitutes, but inconvenient wives and girlfriends. But judge Renaud never asked such questions.  Benita/Vivian was convicted of prostitution on the statements signed by Al and detective McLaughlin, and even though she was a first time offender (at least in New York City), she was sentenced to three years at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, in Westchester County.  Even before she left Brooklyn , Benita/Vivian was served divorce papers, filed by her husband Joseph, who was seeking custody of Benita Frederica .  That quickly the previous decade of her life was simply wiped out.
“I'm a lady of the evening, With a morning glory's beauty. The payment for my raiment, I get in devious ways. When some big and wealthy brute, Wants to love me 'cause I'm cute, I admit that I submit, Because it pays.”
Bedford Hills had been built by well intentioned do-gooders, who had designed the facility to be communal, and to emphasize reform.  The 3-400 prisoners, each between 16 and  30 years old, some along with their infants and newborns, were housed in two story cottages, each with their own kitchens. Mornings everyone worked on the 300 acre farm, but in the afternoon there were classes in secretarial work and sewing. However, time had converted Bedford Hills into an understaffed prison devoid of much good. Inmates were isolated and allowed only one letter a month. And the last note Benita/Vivian received from her daughter read, “Dear mama. I am very sorry you are sick. I hope you will be better soon. I miss you very much.”  The pressure on her to be dramatic must have been overwhelming, but dramatic prisoners were reclassified as Mentally Defective, and chained to beds in what had once been the infirmary.  Their sentences were now indeterminate, meaning the doctors decided when and if to release them. Under this threat, Benita/Vivian quickly became just another dull inmate. Her father would have been proud.
The woman who came out of Bedford in 1926 had a single goal, to get her daughter back. And a single name, Vivian Gordon (above). She went into the only profession now open to her, and as she noted in her poem, she was good at it. She was still beautiful and looked far younger than her age. Vivian was a "high class" hooker, and quickly branched out to blackmailing her wealthier customers. As the roaring twenties approached their end, Vivian Gordon was often seen at Manhattan speakeasies with Jack “Legs” Diamond, the gangster who ran the New York City.
Vivian “loaned” Jack (above) thousands of dollars, to enlist his help.  On his advice she hired crooked lawyer John Radeloff, to get her conviction overturned.  Radeloff took her money, but all three of his three attempts to nail McLaughlin, failed.  On Radeloff's advice she even hired a dope named Sam “Chowder-head” Harris to kidnap her daughter in New Jersey and bring her to New York, where the judges could be bribed.  All “Chowder-head” managed to do was to terrify the 15 year old Benita. Vivian began to suspect that Radeloff was only interested in sucking her dry.  And then Vivian saw another way to get back at the crooked cop, and get her daughter back..
In August of 1930 State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater disappeared on West 45th street. Press reports about the mob connections of  “the missingest man in New York” were so explosive that New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt was able to pressure Mayor Jimmy Walker to accept an independent and wide ranging investigation of graft in city government.  The man Roosevelt pushed on Walker to lead the committee was above suspicion, retired judge Samuel Seabury.  He was so honest he could barely get elected. Early in February of 1931 Vivian wrote to the committee (below), saying she had “some information in connection with a 'frame up' by a police officer and others which . . . will be of great aid to your committee.” 
Lead counsel Irving Cooper met with Vivian at committee offices at 80 Center Street, on Friday, 20 February,  1931.  He was impressed, and thought Vivian would make a good witness, beautiful and articulate.  She was an intimate of Jack Diamond's.  Her story was filled with the names of her male customers,  from Mayor Jimmy Walker to dozens of judges and city officals who were  "on the  take".  But Cooper wanted more.  He asked Vivian to come back with corroboration, paperwork, photos and letters, the kind of thing she used in her blackmail. And Vivian agreed to return with “the goods”.
Shortly after eleven on the night of Wednesday,  25 February, 1931,  Vivian Gordon (above) was seen leaving her three room apartment at 156 East 37th Street in Manhattan. She was wearing a black evening dress with white lace trim and a matching handbag, which was covered by an ankle-length mink coat and topped off with a black straw hat. On her left wrist she wore a platinum watch and on her right hand a two caret diamond ring.  Vivian Gordon got into a waiting Cadillac and disappeared into the night.
Nine hours later on Thursday morning an oil company employee on his way to work spotted her body in a ditch (above) beside a lonely section of the Mosholu Parkway, adjacent to the golf course in the Bronx's Van Courtland Park 
 Vivian (above) had been beaten about the head, but the cause of death was the clothesline knotted about her throat.  Her hat and one of her sued shoes were found not far away. Her coat, her watch and her pocketbook were all missing.
The New York papers lit up like the Fourth of July. A beautiful prostitute, a witness for the Seabury Commission, had been murdered just six months after Judge Crater had gone missing. And it turned out Vivian and Crater knew many of the same people, including Jack "Legs" Diamond and Mayor Jimmy Walker. All of that made her murder front page news, even in the papers out in the sticks (above).. The reporters noted the autopsy of the “Queen of the Courtesans” (as they now called her) revealed that about one Thursday morning Vivian had eaten sauerkraut, raisins and some egg whites – a “working girl's” dinner, heavy on the protein.  And over the course of the evening Vivian had consumed five or six stiff drinks. But that was as far as the facts could take them.  Still having a paper to fill, the reporters switch to speculation.
The cops searched Vivian's apartment (above) for the corroboration she had promised the Seabury Committee. They reported finding no little black book, or photos, or hotel receipts or love letters, not even any business cards. They may have found them, they just didn't report them. What they did find and report was $50,000 in cash and Vivian Gordon's dramatic diary.  In it she railed against Detective McLaughlin, her ex-husband and all the men who had cheated her. There were also the names of 200 of New York's rich and dishonest. The most telling passage in her diary was when she dramatically called her own lawyer, John Radeloff,  “the only man I fear...who, if he wanted, could get (Chowder-head) Cohen and a couple of his henchmen to do away with me.”
Those with something to hide waited for the story to fade. But just six days later, at about 4:30 pm on Tuesday 3 March, 1931, 16 year old Benita Frederica was discovered by her stepmother, near death on the kitchen floor. The previous weekend, members of Benita's prep school hockey team had refused to practice with the daughter of the now infamous Vivian Gordon. The newspapers turned that into the headline, “Squeeler's Daughter Unable to Face Schoolmates.” According to her own diary, that was why Benita had turned on the gas. She died a few hours later in a Camden hospital. The story, which had been hot the week before, was white hot now. A Daily News editorial screamed, “The rope that jerked tight about Vivian Gordon's neck to keep her from talking, is about to jerk the lid off a sizzling pot of scandals, frame ups, charges and counter-charges in New York's city government.”
The Seabury investigation focused on Detective McLaughlin. He had an iron clad alibi, being aboard the Cunard liner S.S. California, on a six-day cruise to Bermuda.  He was 800 miles out in the Atlantic on the night Vivian was murdered.  But investigators also discovered that over the last three years the $60 a week detective had managed to accumulate $35,800 in savings.  Andrew McLaughlin would be indited, and although not convicted,  he was through as a New York City cop.
The local cops meanwhile zeroed in on Vivian's diaries, which showed she was no madam. The diary said attorney John Radeloff had been her pimp, while his brother Joe had been her boyfriend and partner in a stock scam, funded by Vivian's various skills.  But the year before Vivian had turned on Joe, testifying against him in front of a grand jury.  For some reason, the records of that grand jury had disappeared, but reporters suspected hard feelings remained between Vivian and Joe.  Reporters also discovered that Vivian had been the owner of record for gambling houses in Queens and Brooklyn. Were they actually owned by Jack Diamond and other mobsters?  Or maybe even Mayor Walker? .Vivian Gordon it seemed, had been the Donald Trump of the roaring twenties underworld.  And just when it seemed the publicity would bring down the whole rotten structure of New York city politics, the cops came up with a trio of the usual suspects who shut down all other investigations.
Harry Stein was a small time crook and occasional partner in Vivian's scams. He had also once been accused of strangling a woman. But the primary justification for his arrest was that he sold Vivian's mink coat and ring the day after her murder, or so the police said. A few days after his arrest, his tailor Sam Greenhauser was indicted. And for a topper, the cops arrested the small time hood Harry Schlitten. In exchange for immunity, he confessed to driving the Ford coupe (above) in which Vivian had been beaten and strangled, or so said the cops.
But Stein and Greenhauser had alibi's. And the front seat of the coupe looked too small to fit more than two people, which meant the killer would have to drive and strangle Vivian at the same time. There was no back seat in that car. And that did not even consider the effort to beat Vivian's head in. How could you do that to the person sitting beside you, with a escape right behind them?   The trial began on 18 June,  1931, just 16 weeks after Vivian's murder, and it ended two weeks later, on July 1st .  After just three hours of deliberation, the jury declared all the defendants “not guilty”.  And that was that.  
Nobody would ever be convicted of Vivian's brutal murder. As corrupt mayor Jimmy Walker (above) would observe, when he returned from his California vacation, “There were more frames than there were pictures”. But the ultimate judgment on Vivian, may have been delivered by Polly Adler, the most infamous "Vice Entrepreneuse" in New York City. Vivian Gordon, the infamous madam said, was “just another woman out to feather her nest quickly.”
“I'm a lady of the evening, Just like Cleopatra was. The Queen of Sheba also played my game. Though by inches I am dying, There's not any use in crying. I stay and play 'cause I'm that way, A moth that loves the flame.”
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