A Hard-Boiled Man
This is notorious 1920s and 30s New York gangster Arthur Flegenheimer, aka “Dutch Schultz.” When his own men decided he was too much of a liability, they order a hit on him and his gang, and shot him in the heart, in the restroom room of a local restaurant. He dragged himself to the nearest table and asked for an ambulance. While he waited for medical help, surrounded by policemen, Schultz remained alive for 22 hours….and spoke the most random, stream-of-consciousness medley of strangeness I have ever read. And luckily for us, they documented the entire thing.
As only a small example, here is a bit of the documented questioning…
- Police: Who shot you?
- Schultz: I don’t know. I didn’t even get a look. I don’t know who can have done it. Anybody. Kindly take my shoes off. (He was told that they were off.) No. There is a handcuff on them. The Baron says these things. I know what I am doing here with my collection of papers. It isn’t worth a nickel to two guys like you or me but to a collector it is worth a fortune. It is priceless. I am going to turn it over to… Turn you back to me, please Henry. I am so sick now. The police are getting many complaints. Look out. I want that G-note. Look out for Jimmy Valentine for he is an old pal of mine. Come on, come on, Jim. Ok, ok, I am all through. Can’t do another thing. Look out mamma, look out for her. You can’t beat him. Police, mamma, Helen, mother, please take me out. I will settle the indictment. Come on, open the soap duckets. The chimney sweeps. Talk to the sword. Shut up, you got a big mouth! Please help me up, Henry. Max, come over here. French-Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone.
Annnnnd, that’s only the very LAST words he said.
So, for some reason, I was fascinated by his lunatic rantings. As are many people, apparently. Dustin Hoffman played him in Billy Bathgate, Tim Roth played him in Hoodlum. William S. Burroughs wrote a novel about his last words. And not that I’d like to glorify mobsters, but I think that lifestyle is so…unusual. I won’t wax philosophic about peoples’ fascination (myself included) with movies like Scarface and Goodfellas and shows like The Sopranos. I’m not so much fascinated in glorifying grisly gangsters. But my interest in gangster movies–It’s sort of a guilty pleasure.
And I DO find insanity a bit fascinating! And the fact that it was documented is even more impressive…
So, this is my portrait of Dutch Schultz, for what it’s worth. Because nobody’d be afraid of a gangster named “Arthur Flegenheimer.”