Art Modell’s ties to bookies and gamblers.

Moldea has written perhaps the most important sports book in the history of the language. — Keith ‘Never Given to Hyperbole’ Olbermann

One item that has been strangely absent from the Modell HOF talk is Modell’s documented relationships with many … how shall we say it?

We’ll just say it:  Modell was connected to many mob guys.

I don’t know why this hasn’t been brought up earlier.  I only stumbled onto the subject by accident.  There are 39 HOF voters and all them are journalists, right?  Not to mention the legions of media types currently asking the same questions over and over again on Media Row in New Orleans this week.

.

.

Why has not this data been discussed in the months since Modell was named a Hall-of-Fame finalist?

Your sports press corps at work.

.

Let’s just agree that sports journalism’s reliance on its subjects as also sources creates a conflicted (parasitic?) (it’s not symbiotic.) relationship that generally precludes real investigative journalism and certainly no muck-raking — effectively cheerleading — which results in the reflexive log-rolling and dulled ‘Question Authority’ impulses that make sports media people unworthy of the title Journalist and wholly un-respected by the readers they purport to serve and we’ll quietly move on from that question.

.

.

While surfing google today (looking for any info on how Modell fell out with Gries), I found an except from Interference:  How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football from Dan Moldea, published in 1989.  The book is long out of print but of course you can a hard copy online.  Chapter 11 was excerpted; here is the link.

Moldea’s book is not Modell-centric.  The excerpt I read begins with Clint Murchison (Cowboys), touches Modell, then moves onto William Clay Ford.  It’s all interesting.  For example, we documented earlier that Modell and Murchison hung out together on Murchison’s private island in the Bahamas, but we haven’t talked much about Murchison’s bankruptcy in the 80s.  Nor have we discussed Murchison’s ties to Carlos Marcello.  But Moldea does in the linked excerpt.

I spoke with Mr. Moldea on the phone.  He was great.  He’s ok with my sharing what I found it here.  So let’s get started.

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 1.49.52 PM

Marden’s Riviera, Ft. Lee, NJ. closed 1953, demolished 1954
Sinatra, Martin-Lewis, Milton Berle, Lena Horne

___
Here’s a review Modell’s known gambling ties.

.

Ben Marden
Casino operator in Havana and Fort Lee, NJ (The Riviera).  In 1931, Marden bought a hotel just north of the NJ anchor of the GW Bridge.  Ft. Lee resident Albert Anatasia was an investor, Meyer Lansky an associate.  Retractable roof to dance under starlight, revolving stage so acts were on continuously, and the neon sign was visible for miles.  Acts included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Martha Rae, Sammy Davis, Jr., Pearl Bailey.

Riviera’s best kept secret was its casino:  “You walked past the restrooms down a non-descript hallway where there was a janitor’s closet. Inside the closet were big floor fans which was normal since there was no air conditioning in those days. When you plugged one of the fans into the socket, the wall opened and there was the casino.”

Mushy Wexler, 1963:  Modell partner in a horse-racing stable.

Mushy Wexler, 1963: Modell partner in a horse-racing stable.

Per Modell interview with ABJ, Marden was a “great friend” of Modell’s.

.

Morris “Mushy” Wexler
Named by Kefauver Committee as a leading hoodlum.  Linked to Moe Dalitz’ Mayfield Road Gang.  Per Eliot Ness, Wexler’s Empire News out of Youngstown was effectively the router for a network of bookies.  Owned the Theatrical Grill.

Modell and Wexler became partners in a horse-racing stable after Modell purchased the Browns.  Modell was one of his most frequent patrons at The Theatrical.

.

.

Counterpoint cited from here:  Retired Cleveland newspaperman Julian Krawcheck, who came to Cleveland the same year the Theatrical opened, said, “Mushy was a racketeer in his early years, but he became a gentleman restaurateur and was really a delightful man.”

csu-night-life_f84df88da6

Short Vincent night life, 1954: The Theatrical is on the right.
(Click to enlarge.)

Wexler’s grandson … recalled, “This was probably the only place in the city of Cleveland where judges and lawyers sat with felons. We had a mixed group of people – every judge, every lawyer, and probably every hoodlum in the city of Cleveland hung out here. And when they were at the Theatrical, they were perfect gentlemen. We never had a problem. Everybody got along just wonderfully.”

.

.

.

.

.

.

Important tangent:  Short Vincent is an example of what sucks about Cleveland.  See bottom of post for what we mean by this.

.

Louis Triscaro
Cleveland Teamsters official and underworld figure.  Per Bernie Parrish in his 1971 biographyThey Call It a Game, Modell paid Triscaro $1,900 to steal a police file investigation of Modell’s background and possible connection with old-time Mafia figures.

Modell has admitted to having been a friend of Triscaro but disputed Parrish’s charge.

Parrish also described Modell as a rabid sports-fan gambler.

.

.

Art was here.

William “Billy” Weinberger
President of Caesar’s Palace, whose hidden owners included Tony Accardo, Sam Giancana, and Vincent Alo. When he died in 1996, the Las Vegas Sun called Weinberger “the dean of casino gaming.”  Weinberger exec Jerome Zarowitz was convicted of attempting to fix 1946 NFL Championship game.

In 1969, Modell married actress Pat Breslin in Weinberger’s Las Vegas home.

.

.

Lou Chesler
Carroll Rosenbloom‘s business and gambling partner.  (Although, per SI, ‘… few people know exactly what [Rosenbloom] does for a living.’)

Lou Chesler: Racetrack betting and Florida land entrepreneur.

1960 Fortune magazine described him as “… a flamboyant Toronto financier ….  He had made a fortune in … the manufacturing of Tote systems (which automatically tote up statistics for racetrack betting), and …merchandising Florida land.

Modell reportedly dated Chesler’s daughter. His ad agency represented Chesler’s company.

.

.

.

.

___

That list is pretty salty by itself.  Here’s a couple more just to add to the list.

Modell client Meyer Lansky

Atlantic City Racing Association
One of Modell’s investors in the Browns purchase.

.

Meyer Lansky
Modell’s ad agency did work for a Lansky-owned TV company and of course Ben Marden was a mutual friend.

Since we trust un-citated Wiki sources wholly, here’s an interesting point regarding Lansky’s gambling operations:

There was also an absolute rule of integrity concerning the games and wagers made within their establishments. Lansky’s “carpet joints” in Florida and elsewhere were never “clip-joints” where gamblers were unsure of whether or not the games were rigged against them. Lansky ensured that the staff (the croupiers and their management) actually consisted of men of high integrity.

.

___

Before anyone gets twisted up over this:  Are we making accusations?

We are not.

(Well,,, we do say j’accuse to the press corps who have said not a word on this subject.)

.

But it is our blog so we will make this observation:

Frankly it sounds like Cleveland in the early 60s at The Theatrical was a great time!  

You’re 35 year old Browns owner Art Modell dating Suzanne Pleshette and flying to Murchison’s island and getting the Henry-Hill-at-the-Copa treatment at The Theatrical.  Christ.  What is not to like?  What on earth is not to like here?

We can’t hate Modell for this.

Screen Shot 2013-02-02 at 9.17.47 AM

Modell at The Theatrical >> Henry Hill at The Copa

.

Are we exaggerating? Here’s the house band.

And seriously, the culture was so different that it’s hard/impossible to overlay the morality-wisdom of 2013 onto the Rat Pack era.  The more you read about Short Vincent in that time, the more pissed you’ll be at the current hipster joints in town.  The other fact is that within Modell’s chosen trades and geographies (advertising-television/pro-sports in New York/Cleveland), it seems to us acquaintances in organized crime would hard if not impossible to avoid.

.

Now then, on the other hand, THAT BEING SAID; keeping such friends raises questions like these:

  • Was player information (injuries, benchings) passed to Art’s friends (innocently or not)?
  • Were loans taken from Art’s friends?  Because loans were definitely taken a lot of local banks.
  • Was Art indebted to crime figures?  If so, how did he re-pay?
  • All that cash in 70s from beer sales and parking… did Art’s friends gravitate toward it?

It’s not hard to see have how having an NFL owner owing you more than he can pay could create profitable opportunities for those … with an eye toward profiting on opportunity.

.

HOF VERDICT:  Disqualifying offense.

KANICK VERDICT:  Well done, sir.

.

And you Mr. and Mrs. Reader may draw whatever conclusion you choose.

.

___

Here is a Moldea interview circa 1990 discussing the book.  The excerpt I worked with follows that.

.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utO9jtDpsmQ&w=420&h=315]

.

___
Here is a Modea article on game-fixing in the NFL.  (Rosenbloom did NOT fix SB 3; he bet on the Colts.)

.

____
Fun fact: Prior to Modell, the Browns were owned by crime syndicate bookmaker Arthur (Mickey) McBride, head of the Continental Racing Wire, the mob’s gambling news service. The U.S. Senate’s Kefauver Committee called that news service “Public Enemy Number One.”

.

___
Following up on the tangent above (see the Mushy Wexner section):  what idiot city does this to the most popular part of town?
I don’t say these pics absolve Art of anything; but we must acknowledge that Modell was dealing with a city/county government that performed this on its citizens.

Short Vincent, 1952: Hollenden House Garage, Stouffers, Old Theatrical. This is the peak.

Short Vincent, 1967: .. getting worse..

2013:  Cleveland hates you right back.

Short Vincent, 2012: Cleveland hates you right back.

You may also like...