Man With Eyes Of Ice

"Meyer Lansky, 81, an underworld financial genius who rose from the obscurity of Manhattan's lower East Side and moved organized crime from back alleys to executive boardrooms, died yesterday in Miami Beach of lung cancer."

- Daily News, January 16, 1983

Lansky was born in Russia, did most of his growing up on the Lower East Side and was best friends with Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel. During the boom days of Prohibition, this Jewish gangster teamed up with another Mafia visionary, Charles (Lucky) Luciano, to create what was simply called "the syndicate." The syndicate was an organized crime commission that divided up Mafia territories into franchises. The syndicate decided questions of turf and also performed as a think tank. The syndicate's enforcement arm was also created by Lansky and operated for over a decade, killing an estimated 400 people. It was dubbed Murder, Inc. by the press.

Lansky made so much money for the mob in gambling and other areas that when the "Little Man" died, all the Mafia mourned. The News article published the day after he died descibed Lansky's relationship with the mob thus:

"[The Mafia] had the muscle, and Lanksy had the financial finesse, unbelieveably intricate schemes which he tucked away in his mind where Elliot Ness could not raid."

Lansky was renowned as a stone cold killer as well as a financial wizard. For years rumors abounded that Lansky had given the nod to the mob slaying of his best pal, Bugsy. Lansky always denied the rumors, but Jimmy Breslin had his doubts. In a column written the day after Lanksy died, Breslin related this anecdote: "If he leaves us anything, it is the memory of his eyes.

"There was a day when Sid Zion, writing his book, 'Read All About It,' sat with Lansky and said to him, 'Tell the truth, didn't you give the okay to get Ben Siegel hit?'

"Lansky had been smiling, and now his face became straight. The eyes became small ice ponds.

" 'He was the best friend I ever had,' Lansky said. 'His grandchildren are coming to visit with me. Why don't you stay here a few days and see for yourself? How could I get a guy killed if I have his grandchildren coming to visit me?' Lansky's eyes kept staring.

" 'That was when I knew that he had Siegel killed,' Zion said."

- Daily News, January 16, 1983

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