Neal Karlen recalls the heyday of Minneapolis gangsters.

  • Blog Post by: Laurie Hertzel
  • April 19, 2013 - 12:16 PM

 Blog report from the Strib's Kristin Tillotson: 


Neal Karlen at Mill City Museum. Photo by Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell.

Neal Karlen at Mill City Museum. Photo by Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell.

Good thing for Neal Karlen that Israel "Icepick Willie" Alderman no longer roams Hennepin Ave. Ol' Icepick -- whose specialty was ramming a you-know-what into the eardrums of his victims to avoid obvious signs of murder -- wouldn't have taken kindly to Karlen's spilling his secrets Thursday night at the Mill City Museum, where more than 120 people braved the spring blizzard to hear the author read from his new book,  "Augie's Secrets" The Minneapolis Mob and the King of the Hennepin Strip."  The event was hosted by its publisher, Minnesota Historical Society Press.

The "Augie" in the title, a great-uncle of Karlen's named Augie Ratner, owned the strip club that still bears his name, though he sold it in the early '60s. Karlen spoke of how Augie's, along with long-gone establishments like the Persian Palms and the 620 Club, was a watering hole for infamous mobsters including Isadore "Kid Cann" Blumenfeld (who got his nickname because he was always in the bathroom when the cops showed up, so the story goes) and gambling kingpin Davey "the Jew" Berman.

Kid Cann gave money not only to synagogues, but also Christian churches, because he said he "liked to play all the angles," Karlen said, adding that the Jewish mafia weren't alone in their shady deals: "There were some corrupt Scandinavians, too."

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