Dinner with Meyer Lansky

Meyer LanskyThe gangster Meyer Lansky was known at “the Mob’s accountant.” Lewis Rosenstiel was a business tycoon whose lifelong involvement with the mob was established by the New York State Legislative Committee on Crime. Rosenstiel’s fourth wife Susan recalled a dinner party they hosted in honour of Lansky to the writer Anthony Summers. Her recollections were published in Summers’ wonderful biography The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover

“I had two butlers, double service, with Mouton-Rothschild to drink. The butlers were trained always to have white towels around the bottles so my husband couldn’t see it wasn’t one of his champagnes. And we had this marvelous dinner. I was using my beautiful gold dinner service that had belonged to Queen Marie of Romania. They ate the dessert and then the butlers brought the little finger bowls, with little flowers in them. And some of them thought at first it was an extra dessert. Meyer Lansky went to taste it and hurt his teeth on the bowl.

Then we went upstairs to the sitting room and Lansky said, ‘Can’t I have a decent cup of coffee?’ He had, you know, just a little demitasse. My husband thought himself quite a pianist, and he said to these men, ‘Well, boys, what would you like to hear me play?’ They said, ‘Play anything.’ So he did, and when he finished he said to Lansky, ‘Meyer, what do you think I was playing, what composition?’ I think Lansky had only heard of Beethoven, so he said Beethoven. And Rosenthiel laughed, and he said, ‘You goddamn son of a bitch, I composed that myself.’ They all had to applaud.”

The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, Anthony Summers, Ebury Press, 2011.