Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Arnold Rothstein, Dark Genius of the Mob

What's in a Name?

Arnold Rothstein
Arnold Rothstein

Known by many names — A. R., Mr. Big, The Fixer, The Big Bankroll, The Man Uptown, and The Brain — Arnold Rothstein seemed more myth than man. He was the inspiration for Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, and Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls. He was rumored to be the mastermind of the "Black Sox" scandal, the fixing of the 1919 World Series. Arnold Rothstein was gambling, and Arnold Rothstein was money. He was Mr. Broadway and had his own booth at Lindy's restaurant in Manhattan where he held court.

Donald Henderson Clarke was one of a few newspapermen that Rothstein was friends with. Within months of Rothstein's death, Clarke wrote In the Reign of Rothstein, a memoir of the reporter's friendship with such luminaries of the day as William J. Fallon, Nicky Arnstein, Fanny Brice, Gertrude Vanderbilt, Peggy Hopkins Joyce and Rothstein himself. Below are some of the personal observations Clarke revealed about Rothstein:

  • He never smoked tobacco or drank alcohol
  • His voice was mild and pleasing; his mannerisms graceful; his grammar was not perfect...And his wit was amazing
  • When he first appeared in the news, Rothstein was a slim, young man of 26, with dark hair, a complexion remarkable for its smooth pallor — as if it never had to worry about razors — white, skillful hands, and amazingly vital, sparkling, dark brown eyes
  • The Rothstein eyes were features above all others that those who met him recalled most faithfully — those laughing, brilliant, restless eyes glowing in the pale but expressive face
  • He prided himself inordinately on his ability to read character
  • In gambling, those who lost to him insisted that it was not skill, but good luck that won for Arnold Rothstein

Clarke went on to say, "And contrary to common belief, the underworld is inhabited exclusively by human beings. My picture of Rothstein physically is simply of a quiet, medium-sized man, inconspicuously dressed, in this restaurant or that, in this courtroom or that, or strolling on a sidewalk with a friend, frequently reaching down to snap the garter on his sock, his ready laughter revealing those white, even, artificial teeth, hardly whiter than his pallid skin, which was like a woman's."

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