Little Man ©2016
Written by David Simmons
An Original Stage Play
Meyer Lansky (1902-1983) was Jewish, a genius with figures and a hard core criminal. A combination of those talents led him to becoming “The Accountant to the Mob” and one of the most wanted men in America. Most of his associates bore tags. Lucky Luciano, Bugsy Siegel, Dutch Schulz. Meyer was tagged “Little Man”
New York, 1971. An unshaven, dishevelled Meyer is shuffling around a grubby apartment. He is being investigated by the I.R.S and has to give the appearance of having no money. He’s waiting for the weekly call from two I.R.S agents. He is worth $500 million.
Flashback to a New York nightclub, 1919. Meyer has called a meeting of his mafia bosses. Their main concern is that if Prohibition is passed, it will destroy their clubs and gambling activities. Meyer assures them he’s taking care of it. He then deals with distribution of the month’s profits,$8.7 million. Nothing is written down, all the numbers are in his head. Lucky takes Meyer aside to tell him Albert Rothstein is skimming. Meyer knew this and has ordered a hit on Albert in an imaginative way. He will have dollar bills stuffed down his throat until he chokes to death. This will send out a message to other potential thieves.
Dutch knocks up, Sandra, one of the show girls. Meyer is very protective to her because of the way he saw women abused in the pogroms in his childhood home, Grodnow Russia. He insists Dutch makes provision for her and the baby. Sandra can’t resist the club scene of rich men, champagne and gifts and is murdered in a hotel room by a British attache. Meyer extracts a terrible revenge.
Bugsy Siegel was Meyer’s boyhood friend. He has been a star performer for the mafia in building up Las Vegas. He believes he’s untouchable. Prohibition will hurt his profits more than most and he asks Meyer for permission to execute Thomas Dewey, the State Governor who is the main supporter of Prohibition.Meyer won’t condone this because of the potentially massive repercussions. Bugsy ignores Meyer and tries to set up the hit but is betrayed by an informant and arrested.
1920,the newspaper headlines announce, ”PROHIBITION-IT’S HERE”. Meyer introduces Joseph Kennedy (father to John and Robert). Joseph and his associates control whisky production in Canada where it’s not illegal. Meyer has brokered a deal that the mafia will have sole distribution in the USA. He knew all along that Prohibition offered the opportunity to make hundreds of millions of dollars as the mafia would effectively have the American illegal booze market tied up.
Dutch tells Meyer that he doesn’t trust Joseph and that he wants permission to set up a small operation sourcing booze from Europe. Lucky hijacks Dutch’s first shipment and kills Dutch.
1933. Prohibition ends. The Golden Goose is dead. Hitler is making noises in Europe and Meyer starts to look at how to make money if war breaks out.
Meyer realises that there is no way Bugsy is ever going to come out of jail with three murder charges against him and he may even be sent to the electric chair. The mob won’t accept the risk that faced with those options, Bugsy might turn state’s evidence. To avoid Bugsy facing a terrible gang execution in jail, Meyer visits Bugsy and slips him a lethal powder. He weeps as he leaves his lifelong friend.
1942. American has entered the war and a luxury liner, The Normandie, has been sabotaged and destroyed while it was being converted into a troopship in the New York docks. Meyer is approached, unofficially, by Commander Charles Haffenden. who is aware of the mafia’s influence in controlling the docks and asks for Meyer’s help as the Navy desperately needs to secure the docks. Meyer agrees, unconditionally but says he can be much more effective if Charles can get Lucky out of jail, Joseph Kennedy having turned him in.
1945. The war has ended and Haffenden is full of praise for the great job Meyer has done which may have saved tens of thousands of lives. He warns Meyer that, with the war over, the authorities are going to look hard at organised crime and he can’t protect him. Meyer assures him he doesn’t want favours, he was just pleased for the opportunity to be a patriot. He says that if the pressure gets to great, he’ll “go home”
1970, Ben Gurion airport. A paunchier, sicker Meyer arrives in Israel and is met by Joseph Stracher, a New York mobster who has been living in Israel since 1964.Prime Minister, Golda Meir,72, is told by her sabra assistant, Dov Stern that Meyer has arrived in Israel. Meyer has been a friend to Israel arranging for artillery and spare parts for tanks to be smuggled into Israel when the rest of the world had applied an embargo. However, she knows the Americans want Meyer extradited and she can’t afford to upset them.
Joseph introduces Meyer to Daniel Levi and Meyer appoints him as his lawyer to handle his request for Israel citizenship under the statute of the “right of return”, a law that gives all Jews the right to citizenship of Israel. However, the law had been amended in 1955 giving the Courts the power to deny citizenship to dangerous criminals.
Golda finds her life getting more complicated over the Lansky issue as the Americans squeeze even harder and the powerful religious party let her know that Meyer is a good friend because of his financial donations.
The Court rules against Meyer and he is faced with immediate deportation. Daniel has one last trump card. His father, an eminent lawyer, is a very good friend of Golda, having helped her over the years in many tricky legal situations. Daniel is able to set up a meeting.
Meyer and Golda hit it off. She knows his past, but also acknowledges that Israel has a debt to him for all the help he has offered over the last 25 years. Even so, she can’t afford to upset the Americans. Meyer makes a proposal. Although Israel is a small country, there is a great opportunity to create a new Las Vegas in the desert which would bring in millions of dollars to the State. Meyer would arrange 100% of the funding from bona fide sources. Golda is intrigued but reminds Daniel that she can’t influence the Supreme Court.
While waiting for the Court of Appeal decision, Daniel gets a call from the US Embassy revoking Meyer’s US passport with immediate effect. If his appeal fails, the only country in the world that he can travel to, will be the US. Meyer’s only option is to make a run for it to Africa or South America where they may not yet have received notice of the rescission of his passport. Daniel goes with him.
After Meyer and Daniele leave, Joseph turns on the radio to hear that President Nixon has assured Israel that the US will deliver forty Phantom fighter bombers and Golda has given Nixon her assurance that “there will no mafia in Israel”
Meyer, back in his New York apartment tells the audience that no country would allow him entry and he ended up back in the US. He just needs to clear up the I.R.S investigation and he can resume a quiet life in Florida. The I.R.S agents knock on the door, right on schedule. Meyer’s response, ”I gave already!”
During his entire life, Meyer Lansky, accountant to the Mob, only served two months in jail on a charge of illegal gambling.
About the Author
David Simmons, was brought up North London and went to live on Kibbutz Mahanayim in January 1967, the start of a long association with Israel. He subsequently worked in the music industry for over 40 years, mainly as a music publisher, working with some of the greatest artists in the world, including Bob Marley, Fleetwood Mac, John Denver, Motorhead, Don Black and Culture Club.
Two of his original plays, written with Geoff Morrow, the songwriter have been performed to date. “Obits” was staged at the Canal Theatre and “The Boy Who Was Woody Allen” was staged at the Pleasance Theatre. This has been reworked into a full musical and “Being Woody” will be staged at a West End Theatre in 2017. It is being produced by Michael Grade and Michael Linnit.
He provided the story for “Rebels”, a $30 million feature film, which is a story of Bob Marley and his connection to organised crime. He is a featured character in the film and Executive Producer. The film is produced by award winner, Rudy Langlais,(“Hurricane”) and is due to start shooting in St.Kitts in 2017.
“Little Man” is his second project with producer, Adam Morley.
David, 67, lives in Hampstead Garden Suburb and is married to Ruth, one of the U.K.’s leading music licensing experts.