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Enoch “Nucky” Johnson

The trick is to stay alive long enough to cash out...

Hi there- Bette Hardwick here from sometime in the 1920s with my notes on Nucky Johnson.

If I play my cards right, maybe my editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer will let me file a real newspaper story for a change, instead of more stories about weddings and parties.

Hey, a gal can dream, can’t she?


King of the Boardwalk

I found out that Nucky Johnson’s income reaches as much as $500,000 a year. Sherilyn says that’s worth about $10 million clams to her.

It comes from the money he takes off the top on illegal liquor, gambling, and prostitution operating in Atlantic City, as well as from kickbacks on construction projects. And that’s all on top of his $6,000 a year salary as County Treasurer.

He likes to spend his money, too, riding around in a powder-blue limousine and wearing expensive clothes. He always wears a fresh red carnation in his lapel. He lives in a suite of rooms on the ninth floor of the Ritz and likes to host lavish parties. Some people call him the ‘Czar of the Ritz,’ but I’ve heard other people call him ‘the Prisoner of the Ritz’ on account of being a target of gangsters if he goes outside.

“When I live well, everybody lives well.” Enoch “Nucky” Johnson

Now, in case you haven’t read any of the newspaper stories about Nucky, he is a “monumentally corrupt” local politician, who has made Atlantic City into a haven of illegal alcohol sales, gambling, and prostitution. His power comes from his position as the boss of the Atlantic County Republican Executive committee, which gives him control of the governments of both Atlantic City and Atlantic County. He’s bought governors, senators, heck, maybe even the President.

Nucky’s also owned newspapers, breweries, been the County Collector, a county sheriff, and president of a building and loan company.

I chuckled when I read that he declined to run for the state senate, believing that it was beneath the dignity of a “real boss” to stand for election.

Sherilyn showed me the premiere of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire where Johnson (renamed “Nucky Thompson”) is raucously celebrating the dawn of Prohibition (with the mayor of Atlantic City in tow), knowing that the ushering in of the “noble experiment” would create a fortune for men like him.

“We have whiskey, wine, women, song, and slot machines. I won’t deny it, and I won’t apologize for it. If the majority of the people didn’t want them, they wouldn’t be profitable, and they would not exist. The fact that they do exist proves to me that the people want them.” Enoch “Nucky” Johnson

Atlantic City’s success as a tourist town comes from giving people what they want, and Nucky makes sure that none of the prohibition laws are enforced, and then some. Apparently, what tourists want is to drink, gamble, and visit prostitutes. Atlantic City has all that, in exchange for a little protection money.

Of course, there’s lots more on Nucky, but I gotta’ dash and see about writing this up as a story for the newspaper. Toodles….

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