A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Man Uptown: A Jazz-Age Autopsy

Much has been written about the criminal mastermind Arnold Rothstein, his fondness for subdued but well-made clothing, as well as his penchant for educating his underworld acolytes in matters pertaining to the cloth, among other things. Here, then, is a description of the Great Brain's attire at the time of the shooting that took place at the Park Central Hotel in midtown, which ultimately proved fatal for Rothstein. The notes are from the autopsy of Dr. Charles Norris, first chief medical examiner of New York City at the time of Rothstein's death in 1927, and were reprinted in Nick Tosches excellent piece on Rothstein, "A Jazz Age Autopsy," which appeared in the May 2005 edition of Vanity Fair. You can find the full article here.


High tan shoes, marked Robert Whyte, 38 West 45th Street, New York.

Fancy multicolored tie. Label: F. Georges, Boulevard Des Capucines, Paris, France.

Blue Garters. Lisle socks with white feet.

Turned down blue Lane 15 1/2 collar, laundry mark 2633 (covered with dry vomitus).

Blue coat with red pinstripes. Label: Wm. Wallach, New York. (With vomitus on the collar and shoulders.) There is a single hole just below the front edge of the lower pocket. No flares. Trousers of the same material. On the right side, upper portion, there is also a hole which passes through the label of the tailor attached to the pocket: Wm. Wallach, New York, New York Custom Tailor. Arnold Rothstein, 10/29/27.

Silk shirt. Label: Harry Beck, Custom Shirt Manufacturer. With the initials A.R. and a hole in a corresponding position.

Rothstein, of course, knew the game and took his chances like everyone else. Nevertheless, there is something sad about a dandy who has had his new suit damaged beyond repair after acquiring it from the tailor less than a month ago.


Friday, April 17, 2015

Catching a Glimpse of Old New York - The New York Polyclinic Hospital


A few people have asked recently why I haven't been posting much of anything for the last few months. The truth of the matter is, I've been working on a historical fiction novel that's been taking up most of my spare time. I'm hoping to have it completed in the fall, but its still very much a work in progress so we'll see how it goes. As many of you can probably guess, it has quite a bit to do with racketeers in and around East Harlem and the Bronx, but more on that later.

 While in the course of doing research about some of the events that took place around the city back then, its interesting to take a walk sometimes to see if some of the buildings or other landmarks are still in existence, which isn't often the case in New York City. One building that I was surprised to find still around is the old New York Polyclinic Hospital. Located at 50th street between 8th and 9th Avenues, the building houses loft apartments now. However, in 1935, Madison Square Garden was on the south side of 50th street and the hospital was just a few blocks west of the north end of Times Square and and a stone's throw from Damon Runyon's Broadway.

So it was that on the night of October 23, 1935, Marty Krompier was brought over to the Polyclinic with gun shot wounds to both shoulders, the stomach, and the crotch area. Of course, that was the night that Arthur Flegenheimer, also known as the Dutchman, and three of his associates were shot and left for dead across the river at the Palace Chophouse in Newark. About an hour after that massacre, Marty the wolf was sitting down to his regular haircut and a shave at the Hollywood barber shop (located in a subway arcade near Times Square), when a couple of guys walked in and tried to put Marty on the spot.


When asked about all the commotion later on, Marty played coy with the cops but at that time he was keeping an eye on the Dutchman's interests in the Big Town (Schultz having been declared persona non grata by Mayor LaGuardia after his acquittal upstate on tax evasion charges). Krompier had recently been promoted to the position by the recent disappearance of one Abraham "Bo" Weinberg, the celebrated gunman and former right hand man to Schultz who had apparently become too close for comfort with one Charles "Lucky" Luciano (Weinberg's cozy relations with Luciano went way back, perhaps all the way back to 1931 when he was allegedly one of the gunmen that went into the New York Central Building above Times Square and put an end to Salvatore Maranzano). So they put the kimono on Bo and that was the last anyone ever heard of him. Krompier took the promotion in stride until that night at the Chophouse, when the Schultz organization went belly up.

Fortunately for Krompier, he actually survived the shooting that night, thanks in large part to the Doctors on call at Polyclinic, who worked tirelessly in an around-the-clock effort to save him.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Word on Wilfred the Tailor

I often receive queries regarding opinions on decent tailors here in New York City, and so this seemed like a good time to perhaps write a few words about my alterations tailor. I have been frequenting Wilfred's for some years now for work on suit jackets and pants, odd trousers, dress shirts, and blazers, overcoats, and just about anything else one might need to bring to a tailor at one time or another. Here, then, are my thoughts and impressions on Wilfred's, based on my own experiences over the last few years.

When I began visiting Wilfred at 23rd street (they have since moved to 30th and 6th), I generally worked with whichever tailor happened to be at the front desk when I popped in. In those instances, the attention to detail varied somewhat, which tended to stretch out the time from when I brought an item in to when it was actually completed. Since I'm usually pretty easy-going when it comes to this sort of thing, a two-week turnaround time wasn't really much of an issue for me. In the end, the clothing was done the way I wanted it, so I had no real complaints.

More recently, I began dealing directly with Wilfred because I found that he had a better understanding of how I wanted my clothes to fit, which seemed to eliminate a lot of the back and forth that had occurred previously. As with any tailor, our relationship has only improved over time. He literally knows how I will like a pair of flannel trousers to fit, at this point. Interestingly, I have also developed a better sense of his personal preferences, which I think is important because if these things are not discussed in advance, you are likely to end up with the "house" style or something more in line with the tailor's idea of how he might wear a jacket or pants. Of course, these are simply preferences but at this point mine are well-known, which makes things much easier. At this point, I know that Wilfred prefers a fairly tapered leg with more of a cuff than I would prefer. I have tinkered with that look at times, but I generally prefer a straighter leg with a cuff at about 1 3/4 inches at most. Everyone at Wilfred's knows my preferences for the most part, so while there is still a dialogue regarding how to approach a specific alteration, there is significantly less time wasted with suggestions that I will not be interested in pursuing.

As for the actual work that's been done, there's almost to much to mention here item-by-item. Off the top of my head, I've had shirt sleeves shortened, suit sleeves shortened from the cuff, suit sleeves with working button holes shortened from the shoulder, working button holes created on a jacket, trouser pleats removed to create a flat front, the crotch of the trousers shortened, trousers taken in at the thighs. I even had another jacket re-weaved by someone that Wilfred recommended - the moth hall was gone and the fabric looked seamless when I got it back. Of these alterations, I would describe the re-cutting of the trousers (a pair of pants from a navy Oxxford suit) as a complicated piece of work that I was ultimately very pleased with. The re-working of the shoulder was done on an odd Navy Borrelli jacket that I like to wear casually. This was also done quite well, in my opinion, and I was pleased with how it turned out.

One other piece of work that I was very pleased with, and which I think deserves special mention, was the shortening of a Dunhill Bespoke double-breasted (which, in the interest of full disclosure should be pointed out was not made for me originally) from the shoulder, something which I had never heard of before. Because of the placement of the 6x2 button configuration, shortening from the bottom would have ruined the proportions of the suit (a lovely, classic grey pinstriped flannel). Wilfred suggested shortening from the shoulder and at the same time shortening the sleeves from the shoulder due to the working buttonholes while also reducing the shoulder opening and the width of the sleeves (mainly between the shoulder and the elbow). Finally, the jacket was taken in at the sides to create a more tapered silhouette. Quite a bit of work, but as I received the suit gratis from a friend, I thought it was worth the expense to finally have a classic DB for the colder weather months. As I said, I was blown away by the results, and hope to post some pictures of the Dunhill (and the shoulder work on the navy jackets) this weekend.

All in all, I would definitely recommend Wilfred's Tailoring for "basic" alteration work. If you're a bit finicky when it comes to your clothes, I would suggest that you get a sense of what Wilfred would recommend beforehand. If what he suggests is in line with your sensibilities, then great. If not, don't hesitate to make your preferences clear. This way, I think you'll be satisfied with the work. I would also recommend him for more complicated work, based on my experience, although be prepared for more back and forth, and more "fittings" before the work is finalized. On average, I would say that work is done within a week (the turnaround can probably be faster, although I've never asked) and in some cases, if I didn't like the look of something, another few days were necessary to get it just right. The Dunhill DB probably took longer (perhaps three weeks) but the suit jacket was essentially re-cut so there was significantly more trying on to ensure the fit was good.

One final word when frequenting Wilfred's: the man to know is Rob at the front desk. He really makes the place run smoothly and efficiently. Quite literally, Rob is the man.