My Friend Meyer

Luciano was now at the top, a dandy dresser and well-known sport on Broadway. He looked menacing, thanks to a famous scarring he received in 1929, when knife-wielding kidnappers severed the muscles in his right cheek, leaving him with an evil droop in his right eye. Contrary to popular belief, he didnít get the nickname "Lucky" for this incident, but instead got it for being a whiz at selecting winning horses at various tracks.

Lucky Luciano could not have built a national crime syndicate alone, he needed alliances. What Lucky needed was someone he could trust—someone with brains and guts. He found this and more with his childhood buddy, Meyer Lansky. Meyer was called, with total respect, the "Little Man," and Lucky’s advice to his followers was always "listen to him." An agent of the FBI would say of him with grudging admiration:

lansky.gif (11963 bytes)
Meyer Lansky
"He would have been chairman of the board of General Motors if he’d gone into legitimate business."

Born Maier Suchowljansky, a Jew from Grodno, Poland, he truly had the first and last word in organized crime. Everybody, especially Luciano, listened to Meyer because it paid. If they listened well, he might, for instance, give them a slice of the pre-Castro Cuban action. Lansky cut in Chicago, Detroit, New Jersey, and New York.

When the Trafficantes of Tampa tried to go in big on their own in Cuba, Lansky used his Batista connection to squash the move. Then he gave them a slice, smaller than what many other mafiosi got. That was Lansky’s way. Jack Dragna, the Los Angeles Mafia boss, once tried to use muscle in on Lansky to get a piece of Las Vegas. Lansky talked him in circles and gave him nothing. It was Lansky’s way.

Both Luciano and Lansky independently said that they had planned the formation of a new syndicate as early as 1920, when Luciano was in his early 20s and Lansky was only 18. Lansky and Luciano together survived the crime wars of the 1920s by cunning alliances, eliminating one foe after another, even though they lacked the manpower and firepower of other gangs. When they effected the killings of Masseria and then Maranzano, they stood at the pinnacle of power in the underworld. Even Al Capone realized they were more powerful than he.

Luciano once explained, "I learned a long time before that Meyer Lansky understood the Italian brain almost better than I did…I used to tell Meyer that he may’ve had a Jewish mother, but someplace he must’ve been wet-nursed by a Sicilian." Luciano often said Lansky "could look around corners," or anticipate what would happen next in underworld intrigues, and that "the barrel of his gun was curved," meaning he knew how to keep himself out of the line of fire. Through the years that was Lansky’s way.

Meyer Lansky was a pro at staying out of the limelight. Even during the Kefauver investigation (1950-51) into crime, Lansky was considered so unimportant that he was not even called as a witness to testify. The committee did not even mention him until the final report when they found evidence of a Costello-Adonis-Lansky alliance.

1. Cosa Nostra

2. A Gangster is Born

3. The Long Ride

4. Castellammarese War

5. My Friend Meyer

6. Murder, Inc

7. Living Large

8. Not So Lucky

9. Lucky Factor

10. Bibliography

11. The Author
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