Tag Archives: political boss

Lunchtime with Nucky Johnson

For the past year I’ve been all over the place talking up my book American Dictators: Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine, but I’ve never done a book talk anywhere near Nucky’s old power base, Atlantic City. I’ve been to Jersey City and Hudson County many times to talk about Frank Hague, but up to now Atlantic County and Atlantic City — nada, Nucky or no Nucky

I’ll remedy that Friday, Nov. 14, when I set up shop on Atlantic Avenue at 12:30 p.m. to give the lunchtime crowd a taste of old Atlantic City and the colorful career of Nucky Johnson, the city’s best-known political boss. It’ll be in the NJ350 Pop-up Store that will appear at 1125 Atlantic Avenue, a short walk from the Boardwalk.

There will be a good-sized stack of American Dictators for sale, and I’ll be hawking some of my other titles as well. Prominent among them will be my new title, Let the Devil Speak: Articles, Essays, and Incitements. History and a visit to the Jersey shore all at once. How can you resist?  

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Rizzo the Raider

Shortly after my folks moved us to the suburbs of Philadelphia in 1975, I began to hear about the Philly police department’s Gestapo-like reputation, and the bullyboy tactics of then-mayor Frank Rizzo. At one point, a bunch of goons actually encircled the Philadelphia Inquirer building and blocked access for at least an hour, apparently to express their displeasure with an Inquirer series that cast Rizzo in an unflattering light. Even Doonesbury made jokes about Frank Rizzo. Mike Doonesbury and Mark Slackmeyer, stopping at a Philly diner during a cross-country road trip, are warned to get out of town before sundown by a thug with bandoliers criss-crossing his chest. “Who was that?” they ask. “The mayor,” the counterman says.

Like they say, you had to be there, but if you weren’t here’s a good documentary about Rizzo’s penchant for  conducting surveillance against anyone with the nerve to criticize the powers-that-be. A lot of it reminded me of my favorite political boss, Frank Hague, when his newfound obsession with stamping out communist agents dovetailed conveniently with his crusade against the CIO as it tried to organize workers in Hudson County.

Who knows? Maybe I ended up writing this book because life just outside Ciudad Rizzo gave me an appreciation for the workings of political bosses.

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