Have you seen the new series on HBO, Boardwalk Empire?
It’s all about some seriously ridiculous sh*t that happened during Prohibition in Atlantic City, New York & Chicago. But mostly Atlantic City.
I have only one experience with Atlantic City. I went there for a bachelorette weekend for one of my all-time best friends. She invited about 12 or so of her all-time best friends. Unfortunately for me, I was at an all-time fat and being the girl NOT from Philly or New York, was kind of like the cousin from HeeHaw. I was always inappropriately dressed. When I didn’t try, everyone else was immaculate. When I tried, everyone else was carelessly perfect. It was maddening. If I hadn’t had such a stick up my bum about watching out for a dozen drunk, silly girls, I would have gotten extraordinarily drunk and laughed it off with some scary codgers at the losers bar. As it turns out, I was practically a mother hen, clucking at the girls that belonged to me (I drove) regularly and making sure they hadn’t been carted off by the medium-rollers trolling for plucks.
From what I saw, Atlantic City wasn’t anything to die for.
But evidently I missed the hey-day.
“Mr. Pink” plays the head bad-guy in Boardwalk Empire, Nucky Thompson. He is kind of a self-made mob boss. So far, he’s kept his hands clean by having his people do the dirty work for him. That’s how it goes, right? When you’re at the top of Maslow’s Heirarchy, you get to be squeeky clean. In the first episode, one of the muscle guys revealed himself as “Al. Al Capone.”
I got a shiver.
What is it about the Gangsters of that era?
How have they been romanticized into legends and heroes-of-sorts? (I mean, it’s not just me, right?)
They were criminals, right? They did break the law, contribute to thefts, murders, etc. etc?
This show has my mind racing about a myriad of things: prohibition, conservativism, revisionist history, immigration, entrepreneurship, the legal system, law enforcement, corruption, power, money, bravado, testosterone, and morality.
I am a woman who likes to know a little about a lot, so I’ve been sneaking in searches when I need a break at work, and after my daughter is asleep. Here’s what I’ve compiled so far:
- The Volstead Act (Prohibition) was the 18th Amendment to the constitution.
- It was passed in 1919 and became law in 1920.
- Prohibition lasted THIRTEEN YEARS. (How the bloody hell?)
- Among the unintentional consequences of this folly were: bootlegging, racketeering, increased organized crime, increased prostitution, increased theft, increase murder, and the spread of speakeasies and jazz music.
In retrospect, this seems like a joke. Like the smart people took their hands off the wheel of our country for, like, a second and it went to sh!t overnight. But isn’t it more likely that I feel that way because alcohol is legal now? Temperance was a pretty big movement. Prohibition was enacted by a fairly significant margin in Congress. The reports I could find said that Democrats voted 140 to 64 in favor of Prohibition, and Republicans voted 132 to 64 in favor.
Of course, as the Great Depression wore on, the belief that prohibition was a local issue (and not one that should be legislated by our consitution) grew in popularity. In addition, the lost taxes, jobs, and temporary relief of a good stiff drink seemed to outweigh the importance of having a sober society, or at least a society that was legally supposed to be sober. With all the trafficking of liquor across borders, home distilleries, and smuggling, people who wanted to drink still did. I mean, evidently.
So what I can’t help wonder is Will we feel this way about drugs someday?
I mean, drugs were legal before they were illegal. We’re spending a bajillion dollars on a “war” against them that is totally unwinable. We have criminalized possession and use and STILL our jails fill up. We’re missing out on, I would guess, trillions of dollars in taxes. It is widely believed to be the source of significant crime, including theft and murder.
And though I keep my nose clean these days, I know too well that if you want to find drugs in this country, you can.
The illegality of drugs seems like Prohibition deja vu all over again. You know, if I’d been around in the 1920s.
So I keep thinking to myself, those who don’t learn from the past, are destined to repeat it. And, well, aren’t we? I wonder if our grandkids will watch movies about drug runners and think, “Man how stupid was that era?”
I don’t know. But I can’t stop thinking about it.
One thing I do know – Boardwalk Empire has made me fall in love with Supper Clubs. I know it’s hollywood and entertainment but how aaaahmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing is the idea of a big open club where everyone dresses up to eat, drink and dance?
Ok, we go to restaurants. Yup, we go to bars too. BUT WHERE DO WE GO TO DANCE?!?!??!!
And to do all three in once place? Heaven.
I’m not talking about those OONZ-OONZ-OONZ clubs where people chew glow sticks and dance with their cell phones. I’m not talking about hooker gear or girls night out or bachelor parties with “hostesses”. I’m talking about groups of couples – marrieds & nots, groups of friends – men & women – going out to share a night of laughs while consuming and burning calories. Why the hell did that go out of style?
Where’s Al when you need him?