Arlyne Weiss Brinkman – Part 1
Brinkman, Arlyne Weiss – She spent more time on her knees and on her back servicing mobsters than Michelangelo did painting the Sistine Chapel.
Arlyne Weiss Brickman was a slut and a sometime-prostitute. She dispensed blowjobs like the Salvation Army doles out free meals. But what made Arlyne the consummate dirtbag was that she became a rat who ate cheese for several government agencies, including the FBI.
In 1933, Arlyne Weiss was born in a Manhattan Lower East Side tenement to a privileged Jewish family with connections to organized crime. Her father, Irving Weiss, ostensibly was the owner of a car dealership – Chester Motors on 116th Street and Pleasant Avenue in Manhattan. But Irving made most of his money doing what Jewish gangsters of his time did: bookmaking, shylocking and the occasional labor union shakedown. Irving Weiss was friends with Jewish gangster mastermind, Meyer Lansky, and he used his connection to financially set up his family, which included his wife, Billie, and daughters Barbara and Arlyne, with the best of everything – clothes, jewelry, and fancy cars.
In 1936, the Weiss family moved into the newly-built Knickerbocker Village, a 1500-apartment, state-of-the-art housing development in the shadows on the Manhattan Bridge and two blocks from the East River. Knickerbocker Village was built on the site of what was called “Lung Block, because thousands of the crowded neighborhood’s tenement residents died from tuberculosis.
Author’s note: When Irving Weiss moved his family into Knickerbocker Village, the residents were overwhelmingly Jewish and mostly well-to-do. The dirty little secret about KV was that there was a decidedly pro-Communist presence imbedded in the fabric of the Knickerbocker Village tenants. As a result, in 1951, the Rosenbergs, Julius and Ethel, were arrested for treason in their apartment in Knickerbocker Village. In 1953, the Rosenbergs were executed in Sing Sing Prison for their crimes. (This author also lived in Knickerbocker Village from 1964-1996.)
Despite living in the hotbed of Communism, Irving Weiss was a capitalist of the highest order. And this ideology trickled down to his daughter, Arlyne.
Because of her passion for monetary extravagances and unadulterated glitz, Arlyne was drawn to her maternal grandmother, Ida Blum, who owned the Blum Funeral Parlor at 202 East Broadway, a short walk from Knickerbocker Village.
The Blum Funeral Parlor stood out in the neighborhood in many ways. While the surrounding tenements were dirty and decayed, the bottom floor exterior of 202 East Broadway was spit-shined to a bright gloss. Its brass railings sparkled and its front steps were scrubbed of grease and grime.
But although dead bodies of all religions were laid out in the Blum Funeral Parlor, the real action was in a private room next to the mortuary, where “Uncle” Frankie Oxman, supposedly the funeral parlor’s hearse driver, ran a very lucrative gambling business, taking book on everything except two cockroaches racing up the side of the wall. Oxman also had a tidy little side trade selling stolen merchandise, including goods that had fallen off the back of trucks.
“I used to go downstairs where they were taking the bets, and they were putting the money in the caskets,” Arlyne said on the Bio Channel’s Mob Ladies. “And it was just intriguing to look at all that money.”
Ida Blum was ostensibly married to Jake Blum, but it was obvious to all that Jake was merely an impediment to Ida’s romance with Oxman. One day, Jake just packed his bags and left (no explanation was necessary), and the voluptuous Ida, who wore the finest jewelry and the most expensive dresses, continued her affair with Oxman like Jake Blum never had existed. With Jake Blum out of the picture, Ida’s first order of business was to change the name on the canopy outside the funeral parlor from “The Blum Funeral Parlor” to “The Blum and Oxman Funeral Parlor.”
In light of future events, it’s understandable that Ida Blum became her granddaughter Arlyne Weiss’s role model.
At a young age, Arlyne was exposed to Uncle Frankie Oxman’s Jewish mob cronies.
First, there was Uncle Milty Tiller, a shylock of great note. Ida Blum liked Uncle Milty so much, when one of his relatives was on the run from the law, Ida graciously hid the fellow in the basement among the caskets, and once, when necessary, inside one of the caskets.
Arlyne also became acquainted with Izzy Smith, the owner of Zion Monuments, just up the street from the funeral home. Besides doing a brisk business in funeral headstones and monuments, Izzy, like Frankie Oxman, also sold stolen merchandise.
The Clinton Street Boys, who hung out in and around the funeral parlor, were the biggest gangsters in this entire Jewish section of the Lower East Side. These young thugs were labor racketeers, whose specialty was schlammin’, or beating up uncooperative union members who wouldn’t toe the lines drawn by the big mob bosses who ran the garment industry with an iron fist. Other gangsters who were seen in and around The Blum and Oxford Funeral Parlor included Meyer Lansky, Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Red Levine, and Charles “Lucky” Luciano.
Arlyne’s father, Irving Weiss, came from a prosperous family, which owned a grocery store on Kosciuszko Street in Brooklyn, just across the Williamsburg Bridge. Irving the second eldest of five brothers, didn’t envision being a grocer as his vocation. So Irving, along with his four brothers, opened a funeral parlor on Houston Street in downtown Manhattan. From the beginning, the funeral parlor was a front for Irving’s illegal businesses, which included bookmaking, loansharking, and the occasional leg-breaking ordered by the union bosses.
Soon, Irving met Billie Blum, Ida’s sister, and amongst the dead bodies and bookmaking slips, a romance between the families of two funeral parlor directors blossomed. Irving married Billie, they honeymooned in the Catskills, and one year later Arlyne was born.
In the late 1930s, Irving gave the funeral parlor to two of his brothers, and along with his brother, Henry, he opened Chester Motors. Irving derived the name of his luxury car business (his specialty was selling Rolls-Royces) from the fact a Chesterfield unfiltered cigarette usually dangled from the corner of his snarling mouth.
After all, racketeers have to keep up appearances.
Weiss decorated his showroom as if it were a shrine to himself. The floors were tiled with marble, and wide columns like those in ancient Greece dotted the showroom, which was covered floor to ceiling with spotless mirrors. Arlyne told her girlfriends her father worked in “The House of Mirrors.”