Michael J. Daly
Saturday, June 6, 2015
Arthur Flegenheimer knew a few things about living large.
His business interests made him tons of money, which afforded him the opportunity to choose some of the finer things in life, including where he would vacation. And that was in Bridgeport.
So this bunk from some outfit called WalletHub.com about Bridgeport being the worst place to go for a summer vacation clearly misses the point.
The business interests of Flegenheimer, better known to his associates and the general public as Dutch Schultz, included bootlegging, strong-arming, extortion and related enterprises, and in those wild days of the 1930s, also attracted the law.
And when the hot breath of the law got too uncomfortable for The Dutchman in New York and New Jersey, he knew where he could go and kick back.
With his ill-gotten millions, he could have gone most anywhere.
But it was to a fourth-floor suite at the former Stratfield Hotel in Bridgeport that he would repair with a cadre of no-neck torpedoes to relax.
The Dutchman knew a vacation spot when he saw one.
In 1935, he visited town with a few of his torpedoes, including head bodyguard Lulu Rosenkrantz, and moved into his favored suite at the old Stratfield Hotel on Main Street in downtown.
The comings and goings of the John Gotti of his day did not go unnoticed by the media, local and otherwise.
A lively local publication in the '30s was the Bridgeport Sunday Herald and the face -- and voice -- of that newspaper was its principle columnist, a clever writer named Harry Neigher.
On one of Schultz's visits, Harry wrote a column with a headline reading, "Dutch Schultz gives Bridgeport Police 24 hours to leave town." It drew chuckles in many places.
But not in all.
On a subsequent morning, Harry was having breakfast with his brother at a downtown location. As they dined, a solidly built mailbox of a man approached and stood at their table.
He did not have the manners to introduce himself nor to remove the wide-brimmed fedora he wore. It most likely was old Lulu himself.
Instead, he had an inquiry.
"Which one a yiz iz Neigher?"
By all accounts, Harry Neigher was a stand up guy, so he stood up and identified himself.
Lulu reached into his pocket and drew out a silver dollar. Part of its circumference had been honed to razor sharpness, He reached across the table, grabbed Neigher's tie and with one swipe cut it in half.
He dropped in on the table.
"Nice ta meet yiz," he said before turning and walking away.
Dutch, who'd acquired "Public Enemy No. l" status from the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover, relished his stays in Bridgeport.
He had a horse named Sun Tan that he kept at a place called the Brookside Stables in Fairfield, owned by one Dudley Brothwell, and was fond of riding the countryside.
I like to think of Lulu, fedora, silver dollar and all, cantering alongside the Dutchman.
And it was no doubt the exotic whiff of danger that came off the man that made him a popular guest at upper-crust Fairfield County soirees.
According to an account kept in the Bridgeport History Center, one socialite told the long-departed New York Sun, "My dear Arthur was the answer to a hostess' prayer. When it became known that he was invited to your party, you had nothing to worry about. Everyone came ... and really, he was charming.
"It was hard to believe all those horrid stories," she said.
Part of the legend of the Dutchman is that in his final days -- he was gunned down in October 1935 in a Newark chop house along with Lulu and a pal named Otto "Abbadabba" Berman -- he buried a chest full of money.
No one knows where, but my hunch is it's around here somewhere in a spot the Dutchman may have come across and liked on his equestrian outings.
Now, WalletHub.com said it made its rankings in part on the cost of getting to and staying in Bridgeport.
Money, of course, was no object to Dutch.
There was something in the DNA of the place that made it comfortable for guys like Dutch Schultz.
And that hasn't changed.
Michael J. Daly is editor of the editorial page of the Connecticut Post. Email: email@example.com