Saturday, November 26, 2022

One-Million and a Quarter Fornology Pageviews and Counting

Sue and I at Detroit Bookfest 2022. Come join us next July.

After a decade of writing my Fornology blog, I'm going to release my last anthology of my best posts called Michigan Time Capsule. It is a sequel to my Detroit Time Capsule that I released last year. Together, both volumes contain 130 of my 517 posts [25% of my best work]. Michigan Time Capsule will go to press in January 2023 and be available on my Amazon author site early this spring.

My original intention when I retired in 2009 was to write a semi-autobiographical memoir which culminated in Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel. In 2011, my publicist recommended that I start a blog. I was not enthusiastic, but she explained how blogging was a way to build an audience. Once I got the hang of it, I found I enjoyed writing the posts because of the instant gratification and interaction with my readers. 

By the time Terror In Ypsilanti was ready, I had people waiting to buy it and sold over 500 pre-release copies. That is a respectable amount for an independent title. But ten years and six books later, I am ready to ease up on the workload and pursue other interests. 

Anyone wanting to purchase any of my titles can click on my book covers in the left and right sidebars of this post, or you can check my Author Site where all of my books are listed together. Each title comes in a quality, paperback edition and all ebook formats. Terror In Ypsilanti and The Elusive Purple Gang also come in audio editions.

Thanks to all of my loyal readers for helping make my retirement productive and meaningful and to all the friends I have made along the way.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Eddie Wingate: Black Detroit's Big Daddy

Eddie Wingate

One of the economic Titans in Detroit's African American community of the 1950s through the late 1970s was Eddie Wingate. Wingate was born in Moultrie, Georgia, on February 13, 1919, the oldest of six boys. Young Eddie quit school in his adolescence to work on a nearby farm to help support his family on two dollars a day. During the Great Depression, his $10-$12 weekly earnings went a long way, but he had ambition to do better.

Eddie kept hearing the old folks talk about the economic promised land of Detroit where Blacks were making good money working in the auto plants and steel mills. In the late 1930s, Wingate scraped together all the funds he could and drove to Detroit in his rundown Model T to seek his fortune. 

At the age of nineteen, Wingate got a job with the Ford Motor Company. It is in the Ford plant that he became acquainted with the illegal numbers racket, called the Policy Racket by government prosecutors. He soon became involved with the business end of the operation.

After almost a decade of working on the assembly line and saving his money, Wingate quit his factory job and became the silent, majority owner of a restaurant named The 20 Grand Supper Club. He was also the sole owner of The 20 Grand Hotel next door where he ran his numbers empire and hosted Detroit's African American cafe society.

By 1961, Eddie Wingate was wealthy enough to pursue his passion for music. Along with his inamorata Joanne Jackson Bratton, they founded Golden World Records (GWR) that made waves in Detroit's pop music scene. Together, they established GWR, Ric-Tic Records, Wingate Records, and J&W Records, Inc. They built their own state of the art studio using the best musical equipment money could buy.

Wingate and Bratton developed their talent roster and used The Driftwood Lounge in the 20 Grand Supper Club, owned on paper by Bill Kabbus and Marty Eisner, as a performance venue for Edwin Starr, The Parliaments, the Manhattans, Laura Lee, and The Funkadelics. The popular venue was a good place to showcase their talent and build an audience to help sell records. 

Wingate's personal friend Berry Gordy also used the Driftwood Lounge to break in his growing list of future Motown headliners like The Supremes, Little Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and The Miracles to gain experience before sending them out on the "chitlin circuit" to hone their performance skills.

In 1968, Wingate and Bratton sold their record labels, their studio and production facilities, and their artists' contracts to Berry Gordy for one million dollars. Herion and cocaine were flooding the Black community and Wingate's adopted son became a junkie. Disgusted, Wingate turned his back on the hustlers in the music industry. The record business became more trouble than it was worth to him.

The 20 Grand Hotel at 2100 W. Warren Road next to the Supper Club  was where Wingate ran his numbers empire from rooms called "The Hole." A Michigan State Police informant testified to a federal grand jury that Wingate's numbers operation included a professional sports book which took bets on football and baseball games ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 over the phone from all over the country . The undercover surveillance occured from June to November of 1976 and relied heavily on wiretapping transcripts.

Early in 1977, the FBI arrested the top operators of the massive inner city bookmaking and numbers running operation. Along with Eddie Wingate, other operators Clarence Williams, John White, Walter Simmons, and Burrell "Junior" Pace were indicted. The men pleaded nolo contendere and paid heavy fines but were never convicted.

The federal government was more interested in the organization's kingpins. In March 1977, a federal grand jury brought indictments against mafioso brothers Anthony and Vito Giacalone for tax evasion. Wingate sold his business interests and left Detroit for Florida. The weather was better there, as were his chances for survival. He left his family operation in the capable hands of his younger brothers.

As a side note, playing the numbers today survives in all fifty states as government run and controlled lotteries used as revenue producing vehicles. Government knew a good thing when it saw it. The odds of winning contemporary govenment lotto games are many thousands or millions of times higher than the classic street game which used only three numbers chosen from 000 to 999, rather than five or six numbers including double digits. It is ironic how laws and attitudes change. What people once went to jail for is now advertised on television and in every convienence and liquor store in the nation.

Modern Michigan Lotto Slip

What is lesser known about Wingate outside of Detroit's Black community is that he and other numbers associates helped many Detroiters buy their first homes despite real estate covenants enshrining racial segregation. Entire White neighborhoods were redlined and off-limits to Blacks who could otherwise afford a conventional mortgage. They were routinely denied mainstream bank loans in desirable Detroit neighborhoods. 

Wingate recognized opportunity when he saw it, so he went into the residential real estate business, financed by his gambling profits which were considerable. Authorities would say that he and his associates were loansharking and laundering money, but their clients had steady jobs and most could pay off their monthly mortgage payments on time.

Because of men like Eddie Wingate, Blacks in Detroit had a higher percentage of home ownership in the 1950s and 1960s than any other urban center in the country. To many Detroit residents, Eddie Wingate became a local folk hero despite his underworld activities and connections.

Wingate was sole owner of several commercial buildings which were essentially number and money drops where people from the community were employed as money counters and accountants to keep his game running smoothly. It has been estimated that every dollar spent on the numbers circulated as many as five times in the neighborhoods where the game was played. 

Wingate also mentored, influenced, and helped finance many Black entrepreneurs to get started in businesses providing employment and services to city residents. In many respects, Wingate was a rainmaker who brought prosperity to many people enduring hard times. 

Eddie Wingate died in Las Vegas on May 5, 2006, at the age of 86. His body was taken back to Detroit for a funeral service at New Bethel Baptist Church on Saturday, May 13th. Wingate's body was interred at Roseland Park Cemetery on Woodward Avenue in Berkley, Michigan.

Mr. Don Davis, chairman of the First Independence Bank in Detroit, wrote in Wingate's online funeral guestbook, "He was the go-to guy (in Detroit) to get anything done of any magnitude if you were Black. The guy held the community together."

Detroit's Numbers Racket 

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Ann Arbor High Graduate Becomes Mr. Las Vegas

Moe Dalitz in Las Vegas publicity shot.

Morris "Moe" Dalitz was born in Boston but his family moved to Detroit where he grew up in the same Paradise Valley neighborhood with many of the original gang members who became known as the Purple Gang. In his adolescence, Moe's family moved to Ann Arbor where he completed his high school education.
During the Purple Gang's dominance controlling Detroit's illegal liquor business, Moe helped his father operate Campus Cleaners, a small chain of cleaners and dyers businesses in the Ann Arbor area. Moe used their fleet of laundry trucks to distribute Purple Gang liquor in Washtenaw County.
Moe became affiliated with the Little Jewish Navy--a faction of the Purples, that controlled smuggling along the Detroit Riverfront. When three of their top leaders were brutally assassinated by the Purples over an unpaid liquor debt, Moe quietly relocated to Cleveland where he continued his bootlegging operation and opened a chain of mob-protected casinos in Ohio and Kentucky. This became his life's work.

Unlike many of his associates who spent their money as soon as they made it buying fancy clothes and flashy cars, Moe maintained a low public profile by investing in legitimate businesses in Michigan. Dalitz held an executive position in the Michigan Industrial Laundry and the Colonial Laundry of Detroit where one of their illegal services was laundering gang money. Moe was also the president of Dalitz Realty Company in Wyandotte, Michigan, that specialized in selling industrial-zoned tracts of land in the Downriver area.

Dalitz served stateside in the United States Army during World War II. While still wearing the uniform, he loaned Detroit Steel $100K to save a collapsing merger with Cleveland's Reliance Steel which proved profitable. In the late 1940s, Dalitz and his underworld backers used Teamsters Union pension funds and began investing in Las Vegas. They lent front man Wilbur Clark--famous Las Vegas developer--the money to build the Desert Inn and then the Stardust casinos.

Dalitz with Bob Hope and Desi Arnez.
Moe Dalitz became a gaming pioneer and a legend of the Las Vegas Strip. His casinos were one-stop resorts catering to a new demographic changing the face of the Las Vegas Strip--working-class Midwesterners. The Desert Inn and Stardust catered to America's postwar, burgeoning middle class. Dalitz and his investors transformed Vegas from a gambling town to a vacation resort destination. Other organized crime figures took notice and began investing in Vegas opening the door to the Midwest mob's infiltration of Las Vegas, which led to skimming the casinos' gross profits "off the top."

Dalitz and other former mob figures discovered a way to sanitize their images. In the early 1950s, they formed the Paradise Development Company which built the Las Vegas Convention Center, Sunrise Hospital, the Boulevard Shopping Mall, a championship golf course, and several buildings at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Dalitz became a philanthropic civic leader earning him the name Mr. Las Vegas.

Dalitz at Kefauver crime hearing.
Dalitz came from the rough world of the Purple Gang in Detroit and the Mayfield Road Mob in Cleveland. Despite his great success as a businessman and philanthropist in Vegas, Dalitz was never able to completely shed his associations with organized crime figures. He was called to testify before the Estes Kefauver Crime Hearings on February 27, 1951.

Senator Kefauver asked Dalitz, "We have sworn testimony that you lent Detroit Steel $100,000 for $10,000 worth of company stock. You made $230,000 from that deal, didn't you?"

"Maybe more," was his unapologetic answer. "When I cast bread upon the waters, it comes back cake."

"Mr. Dalitz, didn't you make your original fortune as a rum runner?"

"I didn't inherit any money, that's for sure," Dalitz responded sidestepping the question.

Moe with only daughter Suzanne.
Fifteen years later on August 10, 1966, Dalitz was subpoenaed to testify before the Nevada Gaming Commission about the skim and payments to underworld figures. The government was closing in on organized crime organizations who controlled the casinos behind the scenes. The underworld was looking for a way out of the casino business.

Howard Hughes
Deliverance came in the guise of Texas billionaire and movie mogul Howard Hughes. Hughes moved from Boston and rented the penthouse of the Desert Inn to live in seclusion as an eccentric hermit. In 1972, Dalitz wanted Hughes out of the suites because the holiday season was approaching and "high rollers"--important to the Desert Inn's bottom line--had annual reservations for those rooms. Hughes didn't gamble. Dalitz had intense negotiations with Hughes over the eviction. 
Weary of Dalitz's threats, Hughes asked him how much he wanted for the Desert Inn. Dalitz said $13,250,000. Hughes had his chief of Nevada business operations Robert Maheu write out a check and told Dalitz "Get the Hell out of my casino." The penthouse floor became Hughe's private residence while the floor beneath his penthouse suite was used for his business operations. Hughes lived there for four more years until 1976 when he was rushed to Houston, Texas in a Learjet where he died on April 5, 1976. The autopsy listed the cause of Hughes' death as kidney failure.

The Desert Inn sale marked a seismic shift in the ownership of Las Vegas Strip casinos. Corporate interests and billionaire financiers like Kirk Kerkorian were the only entities with the kind of money to buy out the mob. Groups like Bally's, MGM, and Conde Nast ushered in the postmodern corporate era in Vegas that we are familiar with today.

La Costa Resort and Spa
Dalitz and his backers did not get out of the resort business entirely. They moved to San Diego County in 1962 and built the La Costa Resort and Hotel for $4,250,000, which catered to wealthy Americans and aging wise guys looking to escape winter weather back East. On August 31, 1989, Moe Dalitz died in Las Vegas of congestive heart failure and kidney disease at the age of eighty-nine.

Suzanne Dalitz, her Dad, and the Vegas Mob Museum