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Tag Archives: flash Cast

A New York Minute (17)

14 Mar

March 14, 2011

Before the New York Minute begins I’d like to take some time to jump on the bandwagon and begin my own serialized pulp drama. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Hollywood Russell in The Case of the Virtuous Vixen.

Chapter One.

Hollywood Russell entered the room. His steely eyes twitched to the left, then the right.

To be continued.

And now, your New York Minute.

Hollywood may be the movie capital of the world, but New York might be Hollywood’s favorite city.

In 1908 The Thieving Hand was shot in Flatbush Brooklyn, and the upcoming Avengers will be set in New York, though mostly filmed elsewhere. In the years between Hollywood has taken us to New York’s past in Gangs of New York, New York’s future in Escape from New York, and gave Charlton Heston the New York surprise of his life in Planet of the Apes. New York’s trains have been hijacked in The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, chased in The French Connection, helped a gang escape to Coney Island in The Warriors, and crashed in Die Hard with a Vengeance

Yes, Hollywood has made its fair share of New York films and more than its share of fair to mediocre at best New York films. And that brings me to The Bowery Boys. During the 1940’s and 1950’s Hollywood cranked out dozens of B-movies featuring a rotating cast of juvenile delinquents from New York. Since these films were comedies these youthful offenders, led by the increasingly not-so-youthful Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey, never smoked dope or ripped off a liquor store. The Bowery Boys were more likely to get mixed up with Nazi spies, spend a night in a haunted house, accidentally break up a crooked boxing syndicate, or somehow help the police track down a foreign princess. They were also known at various times as the East Side Kids, the Dead End Kids and, early in their history, The Little Tough Guys. People usually only change their names that often to avoid creditors. In at least two quote unquote memorable films they met Bela Lugosi, demonstrating in just which direction his career was moving.

Of course, any student of history will tell that history lies, and any student of the movies will tell you that Hollywood lies with every agent’s breath, so it is a sad fact that the real Bowery Boys were nothing like the bunch of clumsy nincompoops featured onscreen. 

The Bowery Boys were an anti-Catholic, anti-Irish gang based north of the Five Points section of Manhattan in the mid-19th century. This was a time of great Irish immigration. They gang was based in the Bowery section of New York, hence their name. It was said that the gang was so strong and even popular during its time that many of the smaller or weaker gangs in Bowery followed their lead. One of their main rivals was a gang called The Dead Rabbits. I don’t know about you, but I think The Dead Rabbits is a lousy name for a gang. But I would never say it to their faces.

The Bowery Boys were young men who frequented the saloons and brothels of the Bowery and dressed in black stovepipe hats, red shirts, black flared trousers, high-heeled boots and black vests, with slick hair. I mention this because they were generally well-dressed and most of them even had respectable jobs. One famous member of the Bowery Boys was William Poole, also known as Bill the Butcher. As far as I know, none of them were named Satch, Slip, or Glimpy. It took Hollywood to come up with those brilliant monikers for The Bowery Boys films. Their most famous leader was known only as Mose the Fireboy, and some research suggests that he may have simply been a tall tale or urban legend. Ballads and songs were sung of him in the Bowery and his name was a common battle cry among the Bowery Boys throughout their existence. He was supposedly eight feet tall and had the strength of ten men. It was sort of like if Paul Bunyan joined the Crips.

At this point I would like to mention that I never saw and refuse to see Gangs of New York, despite how good I hear it is. But I digress.

Some odd facts popped up while researching The Bowery Boys. For example, they ran their own local fire department. They were fiercely patriotic and were actually allied with the Metropolitan Police Department. This makes sense when you realize that New York had two competing police departments. The Metropolitan Police Department had a feud with the Municipal Police. Over the course of two days in 1857, fighting between the two police departments, The Bowery Boys, The Dead Rabbits, and several smaller gangs left eight people dead,. That was only the official number. Unofficially the body count may have been much higher.

The gang was cruel and violent. During the New York Draft Riots of 1863, the Bowery Boys took part in much of the looting while fighting with rival gangs. The brawling was so bad that the military was called in to stop it.

Eventually infighting and other disputes caused the gang to splinter and weaken and they eventually disappeared into history, with only their name carried on in such films as Spook Busters and Dig that Uranium. Sigh. History may forget you, but it takes Hollywood to insult you.

This has been your New York Minute.

An audio version of this legend recently appeared (or is about to!) in the amazing FlashPulp website. Check them out for awesomeness and goodies!

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A New York Minute (10)

9 Jan

January 9, 2012

This is your New York Minute.

One thing I love is local history, and my part of New York has more than its share.

On September 3rd 1609, explorer Henry Hudson, who had set sail from Europe six months before, reached the New World and found himself in what is now called Lower Gravesend Bay, just off the shore of Brooklyn and anchored by the small piece of land that the later Dutch settlers would call Coney Island. It was here that he was attacked and driven off by unfriendly Native Americans. Even back then Brooklyn was a tough place. He quickly continued up the bay, passing through the present day location of the Verrazano Bridge and up the river that bears his name, the Hudson.

The name of his ship? The Half Moon.

Flash forward to 1927. The Half Moon Hotel was built right on the boardwalk in Coney Island, close to where Hudson’s crewman John Coleman was killed with an arrow through the neck. In fact, I can just about see that spot from my roof.

This is my part of town.

The Half Moon was a luxurious, 14 story behemoth just next to the amusement parks. Coney Island back then was still a playground for the wealthy, though the Great Depression was about to change things a bit.

The Half Moon Hotel achieved a degree of infamy in 1941. New York City had for decades been in the grip of organized crime. Murder Inc. was a vicious organization of mafia groups that was led by Albert Anastasia, who later became the boss of the Gambino crime family. One member of Murder Inc., a thug named Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, was caught by the police and was facing certain execution for a slew of gangland murders. Rather than sit in the electric chair he turned informant- or rat, depending on your point of view,  and gave information that put a half dozen infamous gangsters in the death house. This didn’t sit too well with Albert Anastasia, who was next in the government’s sights.

Kid Twist was to be the sole witness in Anastasia’s trial on November 12th. The government put him up in the Half Moon Hotel under the perhaps not-so-watchful eyes of six police detectives. There are some interesting theories about what happened next, but in the early morning hours of November 12th, 1941, Kid Twist Reles was forcefully escorted out of a sixth floor window and died on the ground below.

On the other hand, Albert Anastasia slept very well that night.

The Half Moon Hotel eventually became a hospital and later a home for the aged and sat on its imposing perch until 1996, when it was torn down shortly before it could be landmarked.

Henry Hudson, Kid Twist Reles, Coney Island, and The Half Moon Hotel still endure with a cinematic legacy. Murder Inc, starring one of my favorite actors Peter Falk as Kid Twist, opened in theaters in 1960. And yes, you can get it on Netflix.

The final word to the Kid Twist affair is best quoted from a popular saying of the time, “not all canaries can fly.”

This has been your New York Minute.

 

 

An audio version of this legend recently appeared in the amazing FlashPulp website. Check them out for awesomeness and goodies!

 

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