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Augie's Secrets: The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip Hardcover – April 1, 2013
Augie Ratner, the proprietor of Augie's Theater Lounge & Bar on Hennepin Avenue, was the unofficial mayor of Minneapolis's downtown strip in the 1940s and '50s. In a few blocks between the swanky clubs and restaurants on Eighth Street and the sleazy flophouses and bars of the Gateway District, the city's shakers-and-movers and shake-down artists mingled. Gangsters and celebrities, comedians and politicians, the rich and the famous and the infamous--all of them met at Augie's: Jimmy Hoffa, Henny Youngman, Kid Cann, John Dillinger, Jack Dempsey, Peggy Lee, Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, and Gypsy Rose Lee. Augie Ratner knew everyone, and everyone knew and liked Augie, and they told him everything.
Mixing careful research with long suppressed family and community stories, Neal Karlen, Augie's great-nephew, tells the real story of the seamy underside of Minneapolis, where Jewish mobsters controlled the liquor trade, invented the point spread in sports betting, and ran national sports gambling operations. Even after Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey supposedly cleaned up the town, organized crime quietly flourished. And Augie was at the center, observing it all.
Neal Karlen has been a staff writer at Newsweek, a Rolling Stone Contributing Editor, and a regular contributor to the The New York Times and a score of of other national publications. He is the author of eight books.
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- Publisher : Minnesota Historical Society Press; 1st edition (April 1, 2013)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0873518896
- ISBN-13 : 978-0873518895
- Item Weight : 15 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,106,658 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The more colorful cousins left for Nevada as Minneapolis was shutting down and Vegas was opening up, and their departure left me wondering what they were escaping and what they were still looking for. Augie's Secrets gives up the answers -- not just exhuming Augie himself, but bringing him and the avenue back to life. I've walked up and down that street for more than 50 years, and finally, thanks to Karlen, I've been able to smell the cigar smoke and the corned beef and get a look inside the fancy restaurants and smoky strip joints.
Full disclosure: I was a minor source for the book. I had heard about and talked about many of the characters described between its covers. Now, after reading Augie's Secrets, I'm surprised and often delighted to learn that the DNA of the Minneapolis of my youth is alive and well. The descendants of the Minneapolis Mob may even have more clout than their parents and grandparents did. It's just that the Jewish pioneers were forced to operate on the margins and now the children and grandchildren have been forced to go legit. Karlen leaves us to wonder whether that's such a great thing.
It sounded like a good book, but it was painful to read.