Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

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Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:35 pm

I remember coming across the "Chickens and Bulls" material back when I was spending too much time on Franklin digging, but to explore it again now has been an education. Humbling to think that in another decade's time, I will look at everything I now "know" in a completely different light.

Edward Francis Murphy has existed many times, since that's a pretty common name. This thread is about the one that was born in New York City in 1926, spent his life working for organized crime, ran a nation-spanning blackmail ring that extorted closeted gay men for millions of dollars and ruined a lot of lives, and somehow, improbably, died as "A Gay-Rights Leader" per his NYT obituary.

Most of what exists online about the man is sourced from a Slate article about "The Chickens and the Bulls" by William McGowan, himself an NYC lad with a degree from Middlebury. I will produce it in full here, then flesh the thread out with some supplemental sources.

The Chickens and the Bulls
The rise and incredible fall of a vicious extortion ring that preyed on prominent gay men in the 1960s.

By William McGowan July 11, 2012

On a sleepy Sunday morning in late July 1965, Detective 3rd Grade James McDonnell received a call in the upstairs squad room of midtown Manhattan’s 17th Precinct. There was a man at the Western Union office in Grand Central Station who might be impersonating a police detective, he was told. The man was in the company of a 14-year-old runaway and had contacted the boy’s father in Texas to wire plane fare so the son could fly home. The father had grown suspicious when the man had asked for $150—twice the needed amount. McDonnell quickly drove the 10 blocks to Grand Central, parking his unmarked black sedan on Lexington Avenue and hurrying down to the terminal’s lower level. Criminal impersonation of a police officer was an E felony—a “good collar,” as cops like to say, and if the perp had a gun, even better. There’d also been chatter on the detective grapevine about a number of recent cases of phony policemen, so McDonnell was eager to see what was up.

Inside the Western Union office, McDonnell saw a man who looked just like a New York detective—“calm, good looking, sharply dressed,” the now 89-year-old retired detective recalls. But when McDonnell flashed his gold shield to the “detective,” the man was slow to show his own, and was also reluctant to tell McDonnell what squad he was from, making McDonnell suspicious.

McDonnell asked the man if he had filled out an incident report, or a “5” as it was known in detective parlance. When the “detective” asked what a “5” was, McDonnell knew something wasn’t right. “I told the clerk to lock the door so we could sort everything out,” and handed the clerk a slip of paper with the precinct phone number on it so he could call for backup. Meanwhile, McDonnell kept his eyes on the bogus detective’s hands, just in case he tried to pull a gun. In a matter of minutes, four burly uniformed officers barged into the Western Union office, and McDonnell handcuffed the suspect without resistance.

Once restrained, 34-year-old John Aitken got panicky. He’d been arrested before for child molestation, and if he was charged with corruption of a minor, as he might be now, he could be facing a serious prison sentence. Aitken told McDonnell he was trying to do the runaway a favor. He had used the kid in a robbery scheme but “the kid was too green.” He felt sorry for him and had just wanted his “cut” for doing a good deed by helping him get home. If McDonnell could make sure he wouldn’t do heavy time for the charge he was facing now, Aitken said, he could give information on something much bigger, something that involved big names and lots of money.

As Aitken’s interrogation proceeded back at the 17th squad room, he confessed that he had knowledge of an extortion ring that had shaken down dozens of prominent closeted homosexual men across the country—most of them married and with families. “Nobody could believe the names he was naming, or the amount of dough they were being shaken down for,” McDonnell recalls. “Once he started talking, you couldn’t shut him up. I barely got home that night.”

McDonnell’s squad commander gave him the time he asked for to investigate and confirm Aitken’s tale. Aitken’s tips led to a quick arrest of the security director of the New York Hilton, and indications that the operation was national in scope. “I couldn’t believe what I was looking at,” McDonnell says. “It just went on and on.” In early August, a couple of weeks after the Aitken collar, McDonnell received an order from the chief of detectives’ office to report down to the Manhattan district attorney’s rackets squad, with his notes.

In the year following the Western Union arrest, the NYPD and the FBI, working in parallel (and sometimes at odds), would uncover and break a massive gay extortion ring whose viciousness and criminal flair was without precedent. Impersonating corrupt vice-squad detectives, members of this ring, known in police parlance as bulls, had used young, often underage men known as chickens to successfully blackmail closeted pillars of the establishment, among them a navy admiral, two generals, a U.S. congressman, a prominent surgeon, an Ivy League professor, a prep school headmaster, and several well-known actors, singers, and television personalities. The ring had operated for almost a decade, had victimized thousands, and had taken in at least $2 million. When he announced in 1966 that the ring had been broken up, Manhattan DA Frank Hogan said the victims had all been shaken down “on the threat that their homosexual proclivities would be exposed unless they paid for silence.”

Though now almost forgotten, the case of “the Chickens and the Bulls” as the NYPD called it (or “Operation Homex,” to the FBI), still stands as the most far-flung, most organized, and most brazen example of homosexual extortion in the nation’s history. And while the Stonewall riot in June 1969 is considered by many to be the pivotal moment in gay civil rights, this case represents an important crux too, marking the first time that the law enforcement establishment actually worked on behalf of victimized gay men, instead of locking them up or shrugging.


By the summer of 1965, Frank Hogan had been Manhattan district attorney for almost 25 years, earning the nickname Mr. Integrity. The NYPD detectives who worked in the office’s various investigative bureaus were considered “the pick of the force,” as The New Yorker’s Richard Rovere put it. They wore sharp suits, crisp shirts, silk ties and Old Spice after-shave. The Rackets Squad, which investigated unlawful doings in the garment, construction and trucking industries as well as labor union corruption and some organized crime activity, was particularly favored by Hogan, who had once been its senior prosecutor before becoming DA. The squad’s commander, Inspector Paul Vitrano, enjoyed Hogan’s confidence for the work the squad had performed on numerous, highly publicized cases. Jim McDonnell had 15 years as a detective and shared the working-class, Irish Catholic background of most of the of Rackets Squad members, but he still felt like an outsider when he arrived to brief them on the information he’d developed.

At the time McDonnell was assigned to Rackets, the DA’s office had been “looking at” a couple of police impersonation cases and had received a couple of letters, most of them anonymous, alerting them to homosexual blackmail incidents. An earlier discovery of an NYPD arrest warrant and a knock-off of an NYPD detective’s shield, on an Eastern Airlines flight between New York and Miami, had raised suspicions that something outside the usual parameters of a police impersonation case was in play. The information McDonnell came in with connected the dots, allowing the office to see that the cases were not isolated and that an extortion operation of significant size was at work.

McDonnell was only on temporary assignment to the rackets squad, but he insisted on “running” the principal informant he had developed. That informant was Edward Murphy, the Hilton hotel security director who he had arrested shortly after the Western Union incident.

Although the Manhattan DA’s office got into the case first, the FBI was not far behind. Around the same time as the Western Union incident in New York, a renowned paleontologist and professor emeritus from Princeton walked into a New Jersey FBI field office and explained that two men claiming to be federal agents had confronted him about a homosexual assignation with a male prostitute in Washington, D.C. The “agents,” he said, had told him the prostitute was underage but that they could process the matter through back channels if the professor gave the agents $11,000 in “bail money.” After waiting for his money to be returned, as the agents stipulated they would in their “arrangement,” the professor now suspected he’d been had, and wanted the FBI to help him get the money back.

This federal involvement was led by Robert Morgenthau, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in New York. (Morgenthau would later succeed Frank Hogan as Manhattan DA, holding that office for 35 years.) Morgenthau’s deputy was Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney, who would later become the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District (Brooklyn) under Ronald Reagan, where he convicted John Gotti. The lead FBI agent in New York was Special Agent Paul Brana, who went on to become director of security for the New York Times.

That a gay extortion ring existed in the mid-1960s was hardly a surprise. Broad societal homophobia set the stage for extortion, offering blackmailers lots of leverage. Closeted gay men, if exposed, could expect their careers wrecked, marriages ruined and friendships destroyed. Scandal sheets like Confidential magazine took exceptional delight in outing the prominent, publishing cruel, mocking exposes littered with snide references to “tearoom arrests,” “lavender stripes,” “double-gaitedness,” and “forbidden satisfactions.” Even more-respectable precincts of the press could be disdainful. In its review of Basil Dearden’s 1961 British blackmail thriller, Victim, which was instrumental in the repeal of anti-sodomy laws in the U.K., Time magazine scorned the film’s “implicit approval of homosexuality as a practice.”* A 1963 New York Times report, headlined “Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern,” cited the general belief “that strict enforcement of the law against seduction of minors is important to protect borderline cases from adult influences that could swing them toward homosexual orientation when heterosexual adjustment was still possible.”

Law enforcement was especially homophobic. In most states, homosexuality (sodomy) was a punishable offense. In many cities, the police engaged in entrapment campaigns, sending uncover officers into public restrooms, bathhouses, or gay bars to be propositioned or to offer sex before making an arrest, often fabricating evidence. In fact, some police officers extorted money from closeted gay men to keep their secret hidden—“fairy shaking” as it was known. At best, authorities were indifferent, particularly to crimes against, and especially between, gay men. Coroners might tell reporters at a murder scene that the cause of death was “loose sphincter.” Reporters would then understand it was a gay-on-gay attack, heading back to the “press shack” at headquarters muttering about yet another un-newsworthy “homo-cide.”

What would be remarkable about the Chicken and Bulls case, as it developed, was the way cops and prosecutors set aside their own prejudice. If Hogan’s men did have any distaste for the proclivities of the victims, those personal feelings were eclipsed by sympathy for the men and their families, disgust at the cruelty of the criminals, and professional outrage that the good name of the NYPD was being sullied by extortionists carrying their gold shields. “We had all these big people around the country thinking our guys were really doing this, and it was starting to make us all look bad,” former rackets investigator Tobias Fennel explains. The class backgrounds of the victims certainly didn’t hurt, helping to get the attention of well-placed members of the judicial and law enforcement establishments who controlled the police.

As the NYPD and FBI pursued their investigations in 1965 and 1966, they found that the ring had conducted operations in a dozen or more cities around the country. It was fluid in nature, with a changing cast of about two dozen “bulls” and “chickens.”

Three main ringleaders organized, financed, and equipped its various operations. In Chicago, there was John Pyne, already in his early 50s, who had joined the Chicago Police department in 1938. Pyne had been a member of the Chicago department’s Confidential Squad, learning the tricks of the blackmail trade from the very same shakedown artists he had put in jail. Using a nationwide network of police officers, mostly “clerical men,” in his pay, Pyne had dozens of different police badges, which were referred to as buttons. Pyne also had arrest forms, warrants, and extradition forms “from virtually every jurisdiction in the country,” as Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Baer would later say at Pyne’s arraignment.

Moving between New York, Chicago, and Baltimore was Sherman Chadwick Kaminsky, a 38-year-old “salesman” who also went under the alias of Paul Vargo. Kaminsky’s past was hazy. According to court documents, Kaminsky said he was “born and raised in the streets of New York.” In some accounts he is said to have served in the Israeli army. In his mug shot, he has a full head of well-combed hair, giving him a vague resemblance to the late Jerry Orbach. Kaminsky often partnered up with John Fellabaum, described in press reports as a “weightlifter and bodybuilder” in his late 20s from Monroeville, Pa. Fellabaum’s beefcake physique apparently made him an attractive lure.

Another principal figure was the arrested Hilton Hotel house detective, 39-year-old Ed Murphy. A burly tough from Manhattan’s lower west side, Murphy was expelled from a Catholic grammar school as a young boy and was put in reform school after whacking a policeman over the head with a milk bottle for breaking his shoebox. He served in the Army in France during World War II and in the late-’40s became a doorman at a couple of gay bars on Eighth Avenue near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. After a spree of robbing dentists of gold used in fillings, Murphy was sentenced to 10 years in state prison, most of it spent in isolation after violent assaults on fellow inmates and guards.

Released from prison, Murphy went back to working the door at a number of sketchy gay clubs such as the Cork, the Sans Souci, and the Bali. He also took up professional wrestling, grappling against legendary characters such as the Super Swedish Angel and Gorgeous George, and throwing chairs at people who booed him. With his bright shaved head, Murphy took on the wrestling moniker of “Skull.” But to the young male runaways and prostitutes whom Murphy cared for—and sometimes pimped—he was “Mother.” Despite his criminal history and shady involvements, Murphy became the director of security at Manhattan’s Hilton Hotel, where McDonnell had arrested him. According to McDonnell, Murphy was gay himself, and smitten by his striking-looking Puerto Rican boyfriend, who worked as a beautician.

According to McDonnell, Murphy had been arrested with a counterfeit detective shield in his possession. Some of the cops at the station house were ready to take him into a back room and give him “the treatment” for passing himself off as one of them. McDonnell intervened. “I told Murphy I’d be straight with him and he trusted me.” Murphy became one of his most important informants. Before long the investigation was gaining momentum. “I had informants feeding me more information than I could handle,” said McDonnell.

In New York, the ring operated out the Tangiers nightclub, a seedy knockoff of the storied El Morocco . Chickens were sent to work the Hilton Hotel near the old Madison Square Garden, or the Astor Hotel in Times Square, the latter being notorious for the young men who lounged on the “meat rack” outside it, and for the circular bar in the Orangerie which was popular with theatre people. Detective Fennel, McDonnell’s rackets squad colleague, said the chickens employed by the ring had exceptionally sharp sense of what we now call gaydar. “They could spot a potential mark a mile away,” said Fennel. “They could tell who was game and who wasn’t after just a few remarks at the bar. “

In almost every case, after making contact, the chicken would accompany the mark up to his room, or suggest another hotel where they could go instead. Once in the room, one of two scenarios would follow.

In some cases, the bulls would wait until the two men had gotten themselves into a compromising position before bursting into the room and identifying themselves as vice squad detectives, capitalizing on the fear, panic, and surprise they induced in the victim as they initiated what they referred to as the play. At the Hilton, where Skull Murphy was head of security, the timing was made easier by the inch or so Murphy had shaved from certain room doors, into which he inserted a small dental mirror taped to the end of a cane, the better to see exactly when to pounce.

The bulls would explain the penalties for violating sodomy laws or corrupting a minor, then demand an outright bribe, or as they did to the Princeton professor, suggest that the victim pay “bail money” as a way of avoiding making his arrest public, or prison. In some cases the bulls might induce a payoff by putting a victim together in a room with another man they pretended to have arrested for the same thing elsewhere in the hotel. That other man might say something like: “Hey, I can’t afford to be arrested. I’m going to offer them money, what about you?” Having the victim induce the payoff, rather than demand the money outright, lowered the criminals’ exposure in court.

With all the right clothes and the right police jargon, some of the blackmailers appeared “more detective than real detectives,” the FBI’s Paul Brana said. The official paperwork—warrants, affidavits, arrest forms—was convincing too.

Sometimes the thugs carried real guns and used real badges. But in New York, where penalties for police impersonation and criminal possession of a weapon were stiff, the thugs often flashed fake badges and either didn’t carry a gun, or carried toy pistols, instead. The fact that at the time real corrupt detectives were known to employ similar “fairy shaking” techniques only made these bulls more believable.

In some instances after an “arrest,” the bogus cops would park their “unmarked” vehicle outside a station house, ostensibly to check whether the duty captain might OK dropping the charges if a payment was arranged, which tended to encourage the victim to comply. In other more resistant cases, the blackmailers would bring their victims right into night court in lower Manhattan, with one of the bulls sitting the victim down in the back of the courtroom while another kibitzed at the rail with the calendar clerk about the arraignment schedule or a mutual friend “On the Job.”

In at least one case, the phony cops bluffed a sleepy desk sergeant into putting a victim into a holding cell overnight when the bogus detectives, who said they were from another precinct, told the sergeant they had another call to handle.

After the victim broke, everyone would return to the hotel to wait until the banks opened. As the victim squirmed or sat in shock, the bulls might blithely pass the time playing cards. At 9 a.m., they would be standing in line with the mark, in case the teller asked any suspicious questions or the victim signaled for help. Often the sums were so large, the teller would have to bring a supervisor over for authorization, heightening the tension. “Sometimes they took everything the victim had,” recalls Robert Morgenthau. “They wiped people out.”

In another scenario, the chicken would simply rob the mark in the hotel room, making off with his wallet. The hustler would keep any cash, but his handlers would then use the victim’s driver’s license, credit cards, or employment ID to run a background check, often with the assistance of the crooked cops in police intelligence or clerical units on their payroll. This was how they determined who they had entrapped and whether they were worth targeting. “They weren’t looking for nickels and dimes,” Andrew Maloney says. “They were looking for people who really had something to lose—people who were vulnerable and had the resources to pay them what they wanted.”

Presenting the victim’s wallet or ID as proof they knew what the victim had been up to, the bogus cops would explain that they were investigating a robbery or a homosexual prostitution ring and that the victim was being called as a material witness to provide testimony in the jurisdiction where the incident had taken place unless he posted money for a bond—with them. If the victim paid up, the cops said they could find another victim to testify in his stead. A victim who had become “a little Herman” during the initial robbery—thug-speak for frightened—was more likely to acquiesce when confronted later on. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago ringleader, John Pyne, had a henchman pose as a wire service reporter to call victims and threaten to print stories “exposing their homosexual activities,” sharpening fear of imminent public exposure.

They played this long game with chutzpah too. On two occasions they marched New Jersey Congressman Peter Frelinghuysen, who sat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, right out of his Capitol Hill office and onto a private plane for a trip to his New Jersey bank where he paid them $50,000 in total, according to the FBI’s Paul Brana. Admiral William Church, who, among other duties was in charge of the New York Naval Yards at the time, was escorted from the Pentagon, handing over $5,000, as was an Army general who paid $2,000. The criminals also rushed a prominent surgeon right out of an operating room, forcing his colleague to finish the procedure. They didn’t miss a chance to see a bit of the world either, flying to London to nick a well-known British producer for $3,000.

Once successful in obtaining a payoff, the culprits often returned for more. A Midwestern teacher paid $120,000 over a four-year period. A Kansas City businessman handed over nearly $150,000 until he pleaded with the criminals to kill him because he had no more money. If denied, the criminals made good on their threats, often destroying lives. The Times reported that “The marriage of one victim who refused to be intimidated was wrecked when the gang informed his wife.” According to Time magazine, the fiancé of another victim broke off her engagement.

In one case, two phony detectives, armed with pistols and flashing their shields, broke into a hotel room and got the drop on a nuclear scientist from California with a chicken. The bogus cops took the man’s credentials then let him leave for the West Coast. A month later, the cops arrived in California and gained entrance to the government research facility where the scientist worked. As they confronted him for money, they were interrupted by the scientist’s supervisor. The quick-thinking victim introduced the extortionists as two detectives he had befriended on his last trip east, and the two “detectives” were then given a tour of restricted areas of the facility, right at the height of the Cold War.

At least one shakedown effort went awry. According to the FBI’s Paul Brana, and former U.S. Attorney Andrew Maloney, after being misidentified as a target, a Kansas abortionist took out a shotgun and chased the thugs away.


Investigators worked to collect evidence on the extortionists and to determine who had been victimized. At one point when John Pyne, the ringleader from Chicago, flew into New York, both his airport porter and his taxi driver were New York detectives. Once the arrests began, ring members rolled on each other fairly readily to avoid heavy jail time, or became confidential informants. This sometimes allowed investigators to follow the thugs as their operations unfolded in real time.

Testimony from chickens was harder to get. Most were transients or runaways from abusive family backgrounds who were difficult to track as they moved between fleabag hotels and seedy YMCAs, turned tricks in the back of tractor trailer trucks parked on waterfront piers, or sought cinematic thrills in the grindhouses of 42nd St. Some were drug addicts, under the thumbs of their pushers and their pimps, who were often blackmailers in the ring’s middle ranks.

But getting the victims to cooperate, which was crucial to any prosecution, proved to be “the most difficult part of the investigation,” as Robert Morgenthau explains. Of the few victims who came forward on their own, only a small number were willing to sign formal complaints.

Many of those who had been identified as victims by members of the ring simply lied to investigators. Some were petrified by the personal and professional costs of being “outed” if the extortionists made good on their threats. Others were anxious that the criminals might learn of their cooperation through law enforcement leaks and physically attack them, or their families, in retaliation. Their concern was not unfounded given how far-flung Pyne’s payroll was thought to be. “The blackmailers were counting on the victims not taking the stand,” Andrew Maloney says.

Some of the victims continued to believe that the men who shook them down were real cops. The nuclear scientist who’d given his “friends” a tour of his facility for instance, refused to believe his blackmailers were not real cops, saying he was “disgusted” with the NYPD. The scientist only cooperated after he was shown mug shots of his two visitors. At one point, an anonymous law-enforcement official signaled victims through a quote in the Times: “Extortion of money from well known persons who are homosexual or bisexual is a persistent problem. We want to alert these people who come from all walks of life that such extortion schemes exist and we want to impress upon them also that New York City detectives are no part of this disgusting racket.”

And there were victims who were wealthy enough to pay off the blackmailers. According to the Times, “a musician who has made numerous appearances on television,” whom many at the time believed to be Liberace, declined to testify before a New York grand jury. “I can afford to lose the money,” he was quoted in the Times as saying. “I hope they die of cancer.” It was the contractual “morals clause”—standard back then—which of greater concern. According to McDonnell, the entertainer, who was being coached by his lawyer, told him by phone that he would not be able to identify anyone anyway, and that he had “nothing to gain and everything to lose” by testifying.

Some of the victims being identified in the investigation fled to their country houses, or to Europe. Others went completely underground. Detectives found one victim by staking his son’s birthday party at the family’s Connecticut estate.

Many of the victims’ wives were especially distraught. Some were learning of their husbands’ secret life for the first time. Others were worried their husbands might commit suicide.

Underscoring the emotional delicacy of the situation was the suicide of Admiral William Church, cousin of the powerful Democratic Senator from Idaho, Frank Church, who’d been shaken down several months after being robbed of his credentials by a chicken at the Astor Hotel. Church was initially “arrogant and abrupt,” when McDonnell approached him in his Pentagon office, but grew “very taken aback and withdrawn,” only agreeing to talk to investigators and prosecutors up in New York after being shown what he was told was a yet-to-be-activated subpoena with his name on it. The rackets squad’s commanding officer, Inspector Paul Vitrano, wanted Church to fly up to New York with McDonnell right then, but McDonnell argued that if they let Church come up on his own, as he preferred, they might get more information from him. It was agreed that he would drive up by himself the next day, when Church would have an off-the-record conversation with Hogan. This would spare Church from testifying before a grand jury, which would have resulted in him losing his commission.

Later that night however, Church drove to a motel in Bethesda, Md., and shot himself in the head. According to McDonnell, the “subpoena” he showed Church was merely an official-looking piece of paper with Church’s name written on it. “He just assumed it was real,” said McDonnell, who still winces at the turn of events. McDonnell called Church’s private office number to see where he was when he hadn’t shown up at the scheduled time and heard the news from Church’s secretary.

In the end the ring was broken and its victims largely protected because of persistence, discretion, and trust, as well as sensitivity to men whose lives and careers could easily be shattered. “I felt sorry for them,” Detective McDonnell recalls. “I did everything in my power to make sure their families and the business associates did not get involved.” Adds Robert Morgenthau: “We treated them as victims of crime. We didn’t want to cause them any personal embarrassment.” Financial records, which were crucial for making cases, were sought with particular delicacy to avoid stoking rumors among bank employees. In some cases, the Mattachine Society, a homophile organization whose members included lawyers with connections in high places, served as a go-between so that the victims would feel less exposed.

Authorities announced arrests as they occurred, but the press coverage was fragmentary. It was only in the beginning of March 1966, when the New York Times ran a front-page story based on anonymous police and prosecutorial sources, that details about the number and prominence of the victims, the amount of money involved, and the brazenness of the criminals became known. The Times was careful not to identify or “out” any of the ring’s targets, complying with DA Hogan’s request. But the play given the story underscored the very homophobia that had contributed to the victims’ exploitation. “Nationwide Ring Preying on Prominent Deviates.”read the Times’ headline.

Although prosecutors often had enough evidence to win convictions at trial, “We got most of the perpetrators to plead because we really did not want to put the victims on the stand,” Andrew Maloney explains. “And even when they testified in open court, we did not get into the sex thing.” “We made every effort to protect them,” his boss Robert Morgenthau recalls. “Every effort to keep things confidential.”

After Hogan’s initial announcement to the New York Times, prosecutors downplayed the cases in the media, shunning what could have been sure publicity, by trying the cases one-by-one and not as part of a broader, more sensationalistic package. For their part, news organizations which did have embarrassing information on high-profile victims were for the most part discreet. “It wasn’t something that the media wanted to generate attention to,” Andrew Maloney says. “In those days, things (like this) were handled a little bit differently.” Although the Times did run a front-page report in May 1967 that a congressman had paid blackmail to the ring, the paper did not specify the congressman other than that he was “from an eastern state.” Most other news about the case was relegated to the inside pages.

The Church tragedy aside, authorities were successful in limiting personal and professional damage. Military officers—the two generals, as well as a much-decorated Navy pilot and some others—who admitted to being targets had to retire or leave the service, however. Congressmen Frelinghuysen cooperated with authorities in their investigation, although his blackmailers were ultimately not prosecuted. And while Frelinghuysen was able to remain in Congress, according to the FBI’s Paul Brana, he was forced to leave his seat on the Armed Services Committee after the Justice Department discreetly informed House leaders, citing concerns for national security.

The low-profile approach seemed to satisfy activists of the day. In 1966, the Mattachine Society gave Robert Morgenthau its man of the year award. “Obviously they were happy with the outcome and the way we handled it,” Morgenthau says. Members of the rackets squad who worked the case all received commendations. McDonnell was made a permanent member of the DA’s squad by Frank Hogan himself, who, according to McDonnell, picked up the phone and made the appropriate call right in the middle of a Christmas party. Not long after this case, the NYPD ended its undercover “entrapment” operations, yielding to political pressure from the Mattachine Society and from a crusade which had been mounted by the then-liberal New York Post.


The court proceedings against the defendants often smoked with indignation, a far cry from the days not long before when crimes against gay men would have prompted prurient remarks or indifference. In Chicago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nash called ringleader John Pyne “a menace of the most depraved kind.” Pyne was given two 20-year federal prison terms, to be served consecutively. In New York, federal Judge Irving Ben Cooper thunderously denounced weightlifter John Fellabaum as being “so steeped in filth that as I read the (investigation) report I cringed, and my flesh crept as I read the depth of iniquity to which you have allowed yourself to sink.” According to former federal prosecutor Thomas Baer, Cooper was disgusted at Fellabuam for making the witness, a gentlemanly antiques dealer from Maine, take the stand and publicly “out” himself, only for Fellabaum to plead guilty immediately after the opening trial session. (Fellabaum wound up appealing his conviction on the grounds of inadequate counsel, with the appeal going up to the Supreme Court in 1969, where it was denied cert.)

Sherman Kaminsky agreed to plead guilty on federal charges, but when Admiral William Church committed suicide, New York DA Frank Hogan raised the prospect of prosecuting him on manslaughter charges. Kaminsky tried to strike a deal with federal prosecutors, says Andrew Maloney, but the feds refused. Panicking, Kaminsky jumped bail, becoming a fugitive for 11 years.

Authorities suspected that Kaminsky might have spent some time in Israel, but couldn’t find any productive leads. In January 1978, however, the FBI got a tip and apprehended Kaminsky early in the morning at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as he transited flights between Vancouver and Denver. According to the FBI, Kaminsky had lived for much of the intervening 11 years in Denver under the name of Calvin Paley, and had operated a rabbit-raising business as well as a company that distributed hair replacement products.

Because Kaminsky had deliberately fled, the federal statute of limitations on his extortion conviction was voided. In the end, Kaminsky dodged jail, making a deal with federal prosecutors to gather state’s evidence on a fellow detainee who was suspected of being a central figure in the 1976 Orlando Letelier bombing case. Judge Irving Ben Cooper, still on the federal bench, showed he had lost none of his edge when interviewing Kaminsky in chambers for the deal, telling Kaminsky that what he had done before was “a dirty, slimy, almost inhuman bit of deportment.” Having upset numerous violent, right-wing Cuban nationalists as well as a few Chilean secret agents with his testimony, Kaminsky was enrolled in the federal witness protection program in whose custody he has presumably died.

But it is the Hilton Hotel’s Edward “Skull” Murphy who had the most interesting second act, by far. His life after his arrest points to the incredible changes that overtook gay America in the years after the extortion ring was broken. Murphy pleaded guilty to the New York State indictments against him but he served no jail time, his cooperation on the case leading to a five-year suspended sentence.

Murphy hardly went straight however. He became the “door manager” at the Stonewall Inn, where he made payments to the mob and payoffs to the police. According to David Carter, author of the 2005 book Stonewall, Murphy may have used the that club’s membership lists, which held the names of thousands of open and closeted gay men, to identify well-placed homosexuals who worked on Wall Street, or gained that information from manipulative bartenders and waiters. At one point, a large cache of negotiable securities disappeared from the United States and were put up for sale in Europe. According to Carter, the NYPD later found indications of collusion between mob figures and the employees of a federal depository who frequented Stonewall. Murphy, Carter suggests, may have told the mob of these men’s proclivities which would have been quite effective as a blackmail tool on Wall Street.

Carter also maintains that Murphy was arrested during the Stonewall riots in June 1969, but escaped police custody handcuffed to a drag queen named Blond Frankie. Murphy and Blond Frankie allegedly hopped a cab to another bar further downtown called Keller’s, which was popular with by seaman by day and with gay men by night, where an S&M drag queen got them out of their restraints.

After Stonewall, Murphy appears to have pulled off one of the more intriguing makeovers in criminal history, becoming, against all bets, a gay movement activist and community icon. Those who knew about his role in the Chickens and the Bulls case either got old and forgot or died off. When Murphy did speak about the case, he airbrushed his role, claiming to have been a confidential informant for the FBI, not the NYPD, and had actually infiltrated the ring for them.

In a significant turnabout, Murphy earned prominence for working with people with AIDS, runaway teens, and young prostitutes, as well as homeless kids, addicts, and the mentally retarded. His Christmas party fundraisers were “a holiday fixture,” recalled one admirer, and he was especially adept at getting bakeries and dairies to donate to AIDS hospices and old age homes. In fact, he was so persuasive that he even got Detective Jim McDonnell to do some volunteer work when he retired and surprised McDonnell at an awards dinner with a plaque to honor his work. And Murphy apparently had enough of a name and stature in the community to merit a cameo in Joseph Lovett’s documentary Gay Sex in the ’70s.

On the political front, Murphy played a key role in rallying support for gay initiatives. A 1978 Village Voice profile by Arthur Bell portrayed Murphy leading a march on behalf of a gay rights bill then before the New York City Council, with a lavender marshal’s hankie knotted around his wrist as he led protesters in a rousing chorus of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, discrimination’s got to go.” Murphy looked like “a character from Guys and Dolls who’d just stepped away from the craps table,” wrote Bell. And his penchant for referring to his brothers as “queens, fags, and cocksuckers” did not go down well with “the (Dewar’s) White Label liberationist crowd.” But Murphy was a “phenomenal resource” whom everyone respected, another activist explained. According to Bell, Murphy turned against the mobsters who he’d long worked for, becoming a witness in hearings into mob control of the gay bar scene held by the New York State Select Committee on Crime.

Eventually known as the “Mayor of Christopher Street,” Murphy played a central role in organizing the now-famous street festival that takes place during New York’s annual gay pride weekend. Every year, Murphy and a crew much younger men would ride in a convertible Cadillac in the gay pride parade itself. A picture from the 1984 parade shows Murphy looking dapper, in a trimmed beard and a blazer, wearing a blue sash bearing the words: “The Original Stonewaller.”

Murphy died of AIDS in early 1989 at the age of 64. At his standing-room-only Roman Catholic funeral, the priest said that “If Ed Murphy is not with God, then there is no God.” As pallbearers carried him to the hearse, a police escort stopped traffic and a tenor sang Danny Boy. An obituary in the New York Native called Murphy “a patriarch to his own,” and said that “bigotry appalled him.” He was, the obituary declared, “a humanitarian with few peers whose like may not pass our way soon.”

Later that year, Murphy was named posthumous Grand Marshall of the Lesbian and Gay Pride parade. The caddy Murphy traditionally rode in led the march, empty but for the driver.

Correction, July 11, 2012: This article originally stated that Edward Murphy wore a rainbow sash during the gay pride parade. It was blue. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Correction, July 13, 2012: The article originally mischaracterized Pauline Kael’s review of Victim, unfairly attributing anti-homosexual sentiments to her. It also wrongly claimed that her review ran in the New Yorker; she had not yet started writing for the New Yorker at the time she reviewed Victim. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
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Re: Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Tue Apr 28, 2020 8:57 pm

There's a lot to parse just from the Slate piece, which connects far more dots than it lets on.

First, there were two parallel investigations going here -- the NYPD's initial footwork and the FBI's "Operation HOMEX" which didn't seem to go anywhere, at least not overtly.

It's interesting and odd that this whole scandal turned into a national story at all. It was the prevailing police culture, and not just in NYPD, that made this operation so easy -- "fairy shaking" was very common all across America. So why did this get so much traction? Perhaps because of the suicide of Rear Admiral Church (cousin of Frank Church, who would go on pursue a bit of a vendetta against the intelligence community), and perhaps because of the Wall Street aspect. NYC was the epicenter of this ring and they were keen to compromise wealthy bankers.

My suspicion is that the FBI saw an opportunity here. "Once the arrests began, ring members rolled on each other .. to avoid heavy jail time or became confidential informants. This allowed investigators to follow the thugs as their operations unfolded." Is this an investigation or a fucking internship?

I'm guessing it's the latter. As Murphy remarked of Hoover: "He was the biggest fuckin' extortionist in this country. He had presidents by the balls. He had a record on everybody and his brother."

And look at how things washed out: Pyne got simply fucked, Kaminsky had to go on the run, probably as a sayanim, and wound up on the periphery of a WACL hit in Washington DC. And yet ol' "Skull" not only walks, he finds a whole second act as the benefactor of the very community he built a career victimizing. So it's likely that he either flipped first, or did a much better job keeping, and keeping track of actual blackmail material -- or very likely both.

And the FBI inherits not only a system, but a network. They have a rolodex full of both marks and bait, and a nationwide network of accomplices in key positions who don't want to lose their jobs and go to jail.
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Re: Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Tue Apr 28, 2020 9:09 pm

So, back to Hoover. From a defunct blog:

J. Edgar Hoover Biopic Punts On Gay Question

Clint Eastwood's new film about J. Edgar Hoover which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the storied FBI Director declines to expressly address his sexuality, and leaves it to viewers to draw their own conclusion about his relationship with Associate Director Clyde Tolson as reported by Ann Oldenburg for USA Today:

"Well, they were inseparable pals," says Eastwood. "Now, whether he was gay or not is gonna be for the audience to interpret. It could have been just a great love story between two guys. Or it could have been a great love story that was also a sexual story."

DiCaprio explains, "What we're saying is that he definitely had a relationship with Tolson that lasted for nearly fifty years. Neither of them married. They lived close to one another. They worked together every day. They vacationed together. And there was rumored to be more. There are definite insinuations of—well, I'm not going to get into where it goes, but . . . If I were a betting man, I actually don't know what I would bet."

M. Wesley Swearingen, an FBI agent from 1951 to 1977, writes in his memoir FBI Secrets: An Agent's Expose about the long-standing rumors within the Bureau concerning Hoover and Tolson which include allegations that the FBI Director ignored the Mafia for decades because the wise guys had incriminating goods on the supposed lovers:

One year after arriving in Memphis, Hoover transferred me to Chicago, Illinois. I was thrilled – my mind was full of gangsters, Tommy guns, and the FBI's famous machine gun battles of the 1930s. It was clear to me from Chicago's newspaper headlines that gangsters ruled a Chicago underworld element in the 1950s because gangland style murders averaged close to 100 a year in the Chicago area. * * * But when I told my colleague and veteran agent Vince Coll of my big plans for Chicago, he said that Hoover did not recognize the existence of a mob in Chicago. According to Coll, Mafia leader Meyer Lansky's organization had enough on Hoover and Tolson, as closet homosexuals, that Hoover would never investigate the mob.

The allegations were fleshed out -- so to speak -- in Official and Confidential: the Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover by Anthony Summer. A review of the book ("Partners For Life") by Sidney Urquhart for Time magazine summarizes one alleged incident as follows:

Perhaps Summers' most bizarre revelation is an account provided by Susan Rosenstiel, the wife of a liquor distiller and gambling crony. Rosenstiel recalls attending what she thought would be an elegant private party at New York City's Plaza Hotel in the company of lawyer Roy Cohn, Hoover and others. Instead, Cohn introduced Rosenstiel to a woman named "Mary," dressed in a fluffy black dress, lace stockings and high heels. It was obvious Mary was no woman. "You could see where he shaved. It was Hoover," said Rosenstiel. Joined by Cohn, Hoover stripped down to a tiny garter belt and proceeded to have sex with two young boys. Cohn later joked about the evening. "That was really something, wasn't it, with Mary Hoover?"

The "two young boys" with whom Hoover allegedly had sex perhaps were provided by Ed "the Skull" Murphy who was a long-time Genovese associate involved in the crime family's gay bar and boy prostitution rackets in New York City. In Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution, David Carter writes:

John Paul Ranieri, a former prostitute interviewed for this history, provided critical testimony for corroborating and better understanding the larger implications of Murphy's criminal enterprises for gay history. Ranieri said that as a youth from Westchester County he had been forced by blackmail and Mafia-supplied drugs into a prostitution ring in which he remained active for three years before he escaped the mob's control. He claimed that a number of youths in the ring had disappeared after they got careless with talk, for while most of the customers were more or less average homosexual men with money, the regular clientele, according to Ranieri, also included famous men such as Malcolm Forbes, Cardinal Spellman, Liberace, U.S. Senators, a vice president of the United States, one of the most famous rock musicians, and J. Edgar Hoover. The mob's order, according to Ranieri, was strictly "Keep your zipper open and your mouth shut."

Ranieri said that he met J. Edgar Hoover at private parties at the Plaza Hotel and that Hoover's name was never mentioned. Hoover was always in drag, and Ranieri said he could tell that the FBI director was sure that no one recognized him. Ranieri said that he had ensured his own survival by having in his possession a photograph of himself with Hoover, given to him by the photographer.

How does the preceding information link Ed Murphy with J. Edgar Hoover? The connection is made evident in a news story written shortly after Hoover's homosexuality and transvestism became public. When [Anthony] Summer's book [Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover], was published [in 1993], a newspaper story about the 1960s national homosexual blackmail ring suddenly appeared after a quarter of a century of silence on the subject. Without mentioning Murphy's name, it quoted law enforcement sources who had worked on the case as saying that their investigation into the nationwide blackmail ring had turned up a photograph of Hoover "posing amiably" with the racket's ringleader and had uncovered information that Clyde Tolson, Hoover's lover, had himself "fallen victim to the extortion ring." After federal agents joined the investigation, both the photograph of Hoover and the documents about Tolson disappeared. * * * Very suggestive in this context is that Murphy would publicly say in 1978—before it became public information, as it did in the 1990s, that the Mafia had photographs of Hoover involved in sex acts—that he knew that J. Edgar Hoover "was one of my sisters."

Murphy's boys did have a habit of disappearing. For example, one Puerto Rican youth known as Tano with whom Murphy was sexually involved was kidnapped right off the streets never to be seen again according to one eyewitness to the incident as recounted by Carter in Stonewall.

Curiously, Murphy also was a long-standing FBI informant according to a May 8, 1978 article ("Skull Murphy: The Gay Double Agent") by Arthur Bell for The Village Voice. Indeed, this article contained the interview in which Murphy expressly speaks of J. Edgar Hoover as one of his "sisters": "He was the biggest fuckin' extortionist in this country. He had presidents by the balls. He had a record on everybody and his brother."

The allegations that Meyer Lansky had incriminating evidence against the FBI Director are particularly credible in light of the relationships among all the parties with political fixer Roy Cohn -- a fellow closet case who died of AIDS in 1986 -- at the center of it all.

Cohn was a personal friend of Hoover during the 1950s and 1960s, and the two shared extensive correspondence directed to each other on a first-name basis including a September 1957 exchange on an article published by the Director entitled "Let's Wipe Out the Schoolyard Sex Racket." Ironically, only months earlier an apparent obscenity indictment against Cohn had been dismissed according to an FBI memo dated June 28, 1957 from Assistant Director Louis B. Nichols to Clyde Tolson:

Roy Cohn called 6-27-57 to advise that Neil Gallagher of the New Jersey Turnpike Commission represented him in connection with the return of an indictment charging the sale of obscene literature. Gallagher went before the Superior Court judge in Union County, New Jersey, Thursday afternoon and moved the dismissal of the indictment. The district attorney joined him in this recommendation and issued a public apology to Cohn.

Cornelius "Neil" Gallagher later became a U.S. Congressman from Bayonne, NJ until he lost the seat in 1972 after Life magazine ran an article alleging mob ties.

The relationship between Hoover and Cohn is particularly troubling given that the FBI was fully aware that Cohn had ties to the most powerful bosses in the Mafia. For example, in 1964 federal prosecutor Robert Morgenthau was trying Cohn on corruption charges, and at the trial introduced excerpts of earlier grand jury testimony by Cohn. A March 27, 1964 article from The New York Times which the FBI contemporaneously clipped for its files on Cohn states:

The excerpts contained admissions by Mr. Cohn that he was acquainted with Geralde (Jerry) Catena, described by the Senate Rackets Committee as "No. 2 Man" in the Vito Genovese unit of the Cosa Nosta, and with Meyer Lansky, gangster. Mr. Cohn said he scarcely knew Lansky but that he had played golf two or three times with Catena.

Cohn further had represented the Stork Club which was Hoover's favorite stomping ground and Schenley Industries which was one of the country's largest liquor distillers. Louis Rosensteil was the president of Schenley Industries, and he had close ties to Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello. "In fact, on several occasions, Hoover was seen at the Stork Club fraternizing with people like Costello and Rosensteil" according to Peter J. Devico in The Mafia Made Easy. After Hoover's right-hand man Louis Nichols left the FBI in 1957, Cohn allegedly secured him a plum job making $100,000 a year at Schenley Industries although Nichols insisted in Hooveresque fashion that Rosensteil shunned the mob.

If you lay down with dogs you get fleas, and by associating with a mob tool like Cohn it's more likely than not that Hoover got blackmailed.

Of course, the best evidence that Meyer Lansky had the goods on the FBI Director is that the storied agency never laid a hand on the gangster who was a bootleg kingpin during Prohibition, later founded Murder Inc., and finally ran gambling operations in Las Vegas and Havana, Cuba. At the time of Lansky's death in 1983 the FBI estimated that he had a net worth of $300 million, and yet during his long criminal career the G-men never nailed him on a single charge or recovered a single penny. Indeed, the FBI did not even start a file on Lansky until the 1950s, and a review of the file's sparse contents illustrates that the agency's efforts to target him -- a purported top hoodlum -- were half-hearted at best involving little more than the occasional wiretap and a sometimes surveillance. Indeed, the newspaper articles on Lansky which the FBI clipped were more informative on the mobster's activities than the investigator reports. Ironically, Lansky only was arrested in 1972 -- the same year Hoover died -- as a result of an IRS investigation involving an alleged skimming scheme from a Vegas casino, and even that indictment conveniently was dismissed because Lansky was considered too ill to prosecute.

But apparently none of this matters to Clint Eastwood in his celluloid drama masquerading as a biopic.
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Re: Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Tue Apr 28, 2020 11:47 pm

Via: https://aelarsen.wordpress.com/2015/10/ ... -but-true/


The Improbable Life of Ed Murphy

Murphy grew up in Depression-era Manhattan where he was a problem child. He was expelled from a Catholic grammar school and later got sent to a reform school for assaulting a policeman with a milk bottle. After briefly working in a gay bar run by the Jewish mafia, Murphy fought in France in World War II. His post-war career included stints working as the doorman for gay bars, burglarizing dentist’s offices for dental gold, a ten-year term in prison noted for the numerous fights he got into, and finally a stint as a professional wrestler. During his wrestling career, he took to shaving his head and adopted the nickname “The Skull”. His signature move was a head-butt, and he was famous for throwing chairs at fans who booed him. (However, he’s not to be confused with his contemporary, pro wrestler Mike “Skull” Murphy.)

He eventually got a job as a house detective at the New York Hilton, doing discrete security work. And it’s here that his story gets weird. Murphy became involved in a remarkably elaborate prostitution and blackmail ring that operated across the whole country. The ring recruited young, often homeless men, known in gay parlance as ‘chickens’, and used them to turn tricks at the Hilton or sometimes another hotel. Once the hustler got a client into a room...

From here, the author lurches into a barely re-warmed re-cap of the McGowan article above.

Exactly what role Murphy played in the prostitution scam is unclear. Some have said he was one of its ringleaders, while Murphy later claimed that he joined the ring to act as a police spy, and records suggest he was arrested during the investigation and gave evidence to avoid a jail sentence.

When the real police finally learned of the scheme and brought the members of the ring to trial in 1965, the whole thing became a national scandal. The detective supervising the case actually treated the targets as victims rather than as criminals, a surprisingly progressive choice given the way homosexuals were treated in the post-war period. Pressure from the Mattachine Society in the wake of the scandal led the NYPD to end the entrapment operations that made this scheme so plausible.

But That’s Not All

After dodging jail time for his involvement in this scam, Murphy went on to become the door manager of the Stonewall Inn. Historian David Carter thinks that Murphy may have run a prostitution network out of the upper floor of the Stonewall, although he doesn’t explore it much in his book on Stonewall, perhaps because at this remove there simply aren’t many people left who know much about it. Certainly the New York Mafia ran prostitution rings that provided chickens to wealth gay men, including clients such as Liberace, Malcolm Forbes, Cardinal Spellman, and reportedly a vice-president.

I'm betting that's Milhous.

The Stonewall Inn claimed to be a private club that required memberships. Those who wanted entrance had to sign a book. Smart patrons used fake names, but lots of others used their real names. Murphy combined that information with information that the bartenders had pumped from patrons to start blackmailing gay Wall Street bankers.

According to Seymour Pine (who, incidentally, literally wrote the US Army’s handbook on hand-to-hand combat), the thing that actually led to the raid on the Stonewall was not simply its status as a gay bar, but rather a report that negotiable security bonds had vanished from Manhattan brokerage houses and turned up for sale in Europe. A theory emerged that the bonds were stolen by a gay banker who was being blackmailed by the mob, and the activities at the Stonewall made it seem like it could be the center of the blackmail. So Pine claimed in later years that his true goal was to shut down a blackmail ring and not simply to harass the gay community.

Carter offers an even more interesting theory on top of these details. He points out that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was homosexual and probably in a relationship with Clyde Tolson, his assistant director at the FBI. By the late 1960s Hoover’s sexual interests were a widely whispered secret within the gay community; in fact, a 1968 publication, The Homosexual Handbook, actually outed Hoover by name, but was forced to remove the mention from a subsequent printing of the book. Hoover is rumored to have been a transvestite; although historians have dismissed the story as unsubstantiated, at least two witnesses have insisted that they saw Hoover dressed as a woman at parties at which Mafia-provided hustlers were present. At least one of these hustlers claims to have had a picture of himself with Hoover in drag, which he kept as a way to ensure his own safety from police harassment.

From all of this, David Carter theorizes that Ed Murphy may have had compromising photos of Hoover that he used to keep Hoover off the Mafia’s back. He doesn’t have any direct proof of this, but given Murphy’s role in both prostitution and blackmail rings, it is an entirely plausible theory, and one newspaper source reported that one of the leaders of the Hilton prostitution scam had pictures of himself with Hoover, which may be a reference to Murphy, who claimed to have known Hoover.

And that brings me back to the offensive scene with the elderly transvestite. It fits what we know of Ed Murphy’s activities. Murphy was at one point rumored to have participated in the kidnapping of a street youth, Carter suspects he was running a prostitution ring, and he may have had a connection to Hoover.

And that’s why I think that Jay is supposed to be Hoover; Jeremy Irvine has broadly hinted at this. And note Hoover’s first initial.

But Wait! There’s More!

Murphy’s life had one last surprising twist to it. After a career as a petty criminal, soldier, doorman at gay bars, pro wrestler, pimp, blackmailer, and police informant, in the wake of the Stonewall Riots he fashioned an even more improbable identity for himself as a gay rights activist.

In 1972, he founded the Christopher Street Festival, timed to coincide with the growing Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade, and in 1974, he persuaded the parade’s organizing committee to reverse the direction of the parade, so that it would start at Central Park and end at Christopher Street. His motive for this was probably money, since if the parade ended at Christopher Street, all the bars and businesses there were likely to turn a nice profit, but he insisted in later life that of all the people running the Stonewall Inn, he was the only one who actually cared about gay rights. He took to calling himself the First Stonewaller and began riding in a float in the parade.

Over the course of the next two decades, Murphy became a highly respected activist, doing charity work for a variety of causes including homeless street youth, prostitutes, and the mentally handicapped. Whereas the street youth in Stonewall distrust Murphy, he was in fact beloved by the real street youth, who nicknamed him ‘Mother’. When the AIDS crisis developed Murphy championed that issue as well. In 1978, he formally came out as gay and led a march in support of an anti-discrimination bill for New York City. He acted as a witness against mafia figures who controlled the gay bars, and decried the police corruption of the 1960 by which gay bars paid off the police to be notified when raids were coming; he claimed that the police had been paid off literally hours before the second Stonewall raid. By the end of his life, he had become known as the Mayor of Christopher Street (although he’s not the only figure that title has been applied to, since Marsha P. Johnson was another candidate for that honor). When he died of AIDS in 1989, he received a standing-room only funeral and was posthumously named Grand Marshall of what was by that point the Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade.

So the Stonewall Riots weren’t just transformative for the gay community in New York City. They also apparently gave Murphy an opportunity to redeem himself for the way he had preyed on the gay community earlier in his life. It’s a pity that the film couldn’t make his sub-plot more satisfying, because he was much more fascinating person than the film suggests.
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Re: Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Wed Apr 29, 2020 12:03 am

This is a much longer, fucking devastating, article from a website that will probably get disappeared soon. I'm assuming Mario Number One is already up on this resource? Here is the relevant section.

Via: http://www.americanmafia.com/Feature_Articles_574.html


The FBI's protection of Ed Murphy began many years before their protection of James “Whitey” Bulger and Jeffrey Epstein, but it is essentially the same story. Murphy was also a pedophile who preyed upon vulnerable youths whom were teenagers. His victims were young boys.

First, he sexually assaulted these boys, plying them with illegal drugs. Once under his sexual and financial control, Murphy then pimped these boys out to rich and prominent closeted gay men, many of whom he then extorted from significant amounts of cash and commodities as blackmail.

Like Whitey Bulger, Murphy was sent to prison for several years as a young man and when he got out he vowed to never go back, even though he was committed to his profession; that of a career criminal. Like Bulger after him, Murphy found that he could be protected from Prosecution by serving the FBI as their Informant. Also, like Bulger, Murphy would perpetuate the false narrative that he was some sort of “folk hero” within his own community.

In Bulger's case, it was the Boston Globe that would expose him as an FBI Informant in their landmark 1988 Feature story. Murphy's double-dealing was outed by the Village Voice in their landmark 1978 Cover Story: “Skull” Murphy: The Gay Double Agent.” (1) Subsequently, numerous books and Media accounts would reveal Murphy's one claim to fame; his work as a Bouncer at Manhattan's Stonewall Inn, on the night of the riot that marked the birth of America's gay rights movement. And, the substantial evidence of Murphy's recruitment and work as an FBI Informant. (2)

The investigations of Ed Murphy by the Media and law enforcement escalated regarding a notorious American Mafia crime committed in broad daylight in Manhattan in 1971. The man who committed this crime had organized crime connections that led investigators to Ed Murphy and his associates, who were also involved with the American Mafia. And, there were 2 men there that day that witnessed this crime whom are now known to have been FBI Informants. One of them was Greg Scarpa, a hitman for the Colombo Mafia Family whom had secretly worked for the FBI since 1960. (3) The man targeted that day for assassination was Scarpa's “other Boss,” the Godfather of the Mafia Family to this very day known by his name; Colombo; Joe Colombo.

The date was June 28, 1971; the location, Columbus Circle in Manhattan. It was Colombo's Second “Italian Unity Day” celebration for his “Italian-American Civil Rights League,” an organization he had created the year previous that perpetuated the false narrative that there was no such thing as the American Mafia. As preposterous as that narrative was, it had actually for many years been championed by the Founding Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover was forced to drop this false narrative when Bobby Kennedy became his “Boss” as Attorney General of the United States.

Godfather Colombo's movement caught on quickly; 50,000 people would jam into Columbus Circle on June 29, 1970, at the League's first public Rally. In November of that year, Frank Sinatra was among many celebrities who appeared in a benefit for the League held at Madison Square Garden. Law enforcement agencies have consistently revealed in the past decades that far less than one percent of Italian-Americans are involved in organized crime. The same can be said for Irish-Americans.

That being said, many of the members of these two ethnic groups have perceived that they have been stereotyped by the Media and the Hollywood entertainment industry. Colombo, like Whitey Bulger after him, seized upon the frustration held by many law-abiding American citizens among these respective ethnic communities. Colombo's and Bulger's Message had validity; they were just the wrong Messengers, who exploited it to their own advantage.

At Colombo's second Rally in 1971, in attendance were numerous members of the Media, some armed with cameras, members of the New York City Police Department, Agents of the FBI, members of several New York Mafia Families, and other criminals. One such was Jerome A. Johnson, a young African-American from New Jersey, accompanied by a young African-American female. Adorned with fake Press credentials, nothing seemed out of the ordinary as Johnson followed Godfather Colombo around with his film camera, along with his assistant. Then, the young woman, as if on cue, called out a greeting to the Godfather. Colombo turned to face her. Johnson now held in his hands both a camera and a gun, which may have been secreted to him by his female accomplice. He then opened fire on Colombo at close range. Several Mafia members then jumped upon Johnson, one of them pumping three bullets into the assassin's back. Despite the presence of dozens of cops, both Johnson's accomplice and the man who killed Johnson managed to get away. (4) Somehow, in the presence of dozens of reporters, not a single photograph emerged publicly of the young female accomplice of Johnson as she fled the scene, nor the Mafia Associate who killed her accomplice.

The shooting of a Mafia Godfather in the heart of Manhattan would become an obsession with the Media - and law enforcement - for many years. History would repeat itself 14 years later when Gambino Family Godfather Paul Castellano was gunned down outside Manhattan's Spark's Steak House. During the investigation of both of these shootings, the New York City Police Department was under enormous public pressure to solve these crimes. From the outset, the NYPD branded the shooting of Colombo a "hit" orchestrated by the Mafia. Carlo Gambino, Joe Gallo, and Carmine Persico, a rising star in the Colombo Family, were all taken in for questioning by the cops, as was a Mob-connected pornographer, Michael Umbers. (5)

FBI Informant Greg Scarpa, a hitman and drug dealer for the Colombo Family, who witnessed the shooting of his crime Boss from just a few feet away, also contributed his information to the FBI, as revealed by FBI “302” Documents later obtained by Forensic Intelligence Analyst Angela Clemente through her Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. One such FBI document reveals that on June 6, 1971, 2 weeks before Colombo was shot, Scarpa told the FBI that he had met with Godfather Colombo, who informed him that his personal security team had detected a car inhabited by several African-Americans surveilling his house recently in the early morning hours. Colombo assumed that these men were associates of “Crazy Joe” Gallo, whom had befriended a number of African-American inmates while imprisoned and was now free, and by his own statements and actions hostile towards Godfather Colombo.

During the investigation into Colombo's shooting, then Chief of Detectives of the NYPD Albert Seedman uncovered evidence that Jerome Johnson was not only involved with members of the American Mafia, but also with members of a domestic terrorist organization that went by the name of the Black Liberation Army. This group, an offshoot of the Black Panthers organization, had, before the shooting of Godfather Colombo, embarked upon a campaign of assassinating Police Officers nationwide that would continue into 1981.

Thus, there were 3 likely scenarios as to whom the inhabitants of that car monitoring Colombo were; 1. former prison associates of Joe Gallo; 2. members of the BLA; or, 3. associates of both Joe Gallo AND the BLA.

What first intrigued the Detectives investigating Colombo's shooting was Johnson's connections to the shadowy world of gay pornography in New York as it existed at that time. It was an era in which even the hint of gay behavior could destroy a public person's career. A retail establishment which gays could patronize openly existed in very few places across America during that time. In New York City, however, the large numbers of gays presented a profit potential that the American Mafia simply could not afford to ignore.

Virtually all of the bars, restaurants, bookstores, and sex clubs that catered to a gay clientele during that time were Mob controlled. That created another problem for gay men; the potential for blackmail. Certain men, in certain professions, possessed the ability to perform certain services which the Mafia could exploit. Compromised doctors, for example, could provide medical services to a mob figure who had a bullet in his body but for obvious reasons did not want to check into a local hospital for it's removal. Compromised Undertakers could help mobsters when faced with the untidy problem of how to dispose of a dead body. Closeted traders on Wall Street could proffer invaluable assistance in "insider trading" and stolen securities scams. Compromised members of law enforcement could provide invaluable "insider information" about law enforcement scrutiny of the Mob.

Thus, those gay establishments run by the American Mafia were populated with Informants who could profile, identify, and compromise such men to be used as tools of organized crime. This was the world from which Jerome A. Johnson emerged to shoot a Mafia Godfather, and this world is best described by the life story of one man; Ed "Skull" Murphy.

Murphy had been born in Manhattan's Greenwich Village to Italian and Irish parents. Much of Murphy's youth was spent in the robbing of Dentist's offices for the bounty to be found in the gold that was used to make gold teeth. When Murphy was finally caught, he spent 10 years in prison. Once free, Murphy accelerated the body building habit he had acquired in prison by using anabolic steroids to bulk up. This allowed Murphy, still a young man, to enter the world of "professional wrestling." Such a "sport" existed on the fringes of the American Mafia. Although steroids were not illegal at that time, the drugs were an integral part of operations run by three syndicates in New York that today are known as the Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese Families. These Families would provide steroids to young body builders, and such men could then be exploited into a number of sidelines; work as bodyguards for mobsters, bouncers at bars, the world of professional wrestling, professional prostitution, and the production of X-rated films. The Colombo Family were masters of these rackets, and would eventually change the adult entertainment business forever with their production of the movie "Deep Throat," which would rake in millions of dollars for the Family. The fight over the profits of that movie within the Family led to a shoot-out that killed 2 people, including an innocent bystander, a retired Nun. (6)

The October 8, 1967 edition of the New York Times noted that suburban Long Island was the area inhabited by many such mobsters, among them the Colombo's Sonny Franzese, who was reported to be among many such organized crime figures who ran gay bars throughout the New York area and that such operations included a lucrative side-line involving the blackmail of wealthy or prominent patrons.

By the time of the publication of that story, Ed Murphy had already been arrested as the ringleader of a Mafia-run gay blackmail ring broken up by State prosecutors in Manhattan. Over a dozen such men had been Indicted who were part of a nationwide blackmail syndicate that netted over a million dollars a year. This is how the scam worked; a man would travel to a large city, such as New York, where he would procure the services of a male prostitute. Many of the prostitutes were teen-agers. The prostitute could be solicited at a gay bar, a convention center, or in the bar of an airport. Another venue was through the corrupt auspices of a Concierge at certain hotels. Once the blackmail victim and the teen-aged-boy were alone in the hotel room, one of either two scenarios would be enacted; either the boy would steal the John's wallet and run out of the hotel, or the "Hotel Detective" would burst in and demand cash in exchange for not arresting the visiting man. In the plan where the wallet would be stolen, the wallet would then be turned over to the Mob ring, who, with their corrupt co-horts in law enforcement, would compile information on their new victim. If the "John" was rich or famous or from a prominent family, two "members of law enforcement" would then travel to that person's home and threaten that person with public exposure - even arrest - unless money was forked over to make the case "go away."

After the existence of the blackmail ring became public in a February 18, 1966 New York Times story, the FBI moved in on the investigations, the predication being that many of those involved crossed State lines in order to commit their crimes. Almost all of the high-ranking members of the blackmail ring were thus convicted, such as John J. Pyne, a retired Chicago police officer, and John Fellenbaum, a bodybuilder from Pennsylvania. Ed Murphy was identified in that Times article as one of the ringleaders. His name, however, did not appear in any subsequent stories. At that time, Murphy faced decades in prison on both Federal and State charges. Yet, Murphy only received 5 years Probation for his Federal Extortion charge. Murphy would be protected by the FBI for the rest of his life, in exchange for providing them information they coveted.

Among the names Murphy gave up as victims of the extortion ring were that of a Congressman from New Jersey who paid them $25,000 in hush money, and Admiral William Church, the head of the New York Naval Yards in Brooklyn. As a result of the Grand Jury convened to investigate the evidence Ed Murphy had turned over, Admiral Church was then Subpoenaed to testify. At that point the Admiral drove to a motel in Maryland and shot a bullet into his head. (7)

Thus, Hoover's recruitment of men such as Ed Murphy was not designed to put an end to his blackmail of gay men, but rather to provide information that Hoover might need to utilize for his own purposes. Such was the man J. Edgar Hoover, his successors as Director - and his Bureau, - that would protect pedophiles such as Ed Murphy, and later, Whitey Bulger, and Jeffrey Epstein, among others.

Beginning in the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Ed Murphy and Mike Umbers ran a prostitution ring that pimped underage boys to wealthy pedophiles. Murphy and Umbers both were associated with the Genovese and Gambino Mafia Families. A December 23, 1971 story by the Village Voice revealed that Umbers and two accomplices had previously been arrested on child pornography charges.

Also that year, NYPD Chief of Detectives Albert Seedman told the Media that Umbers was the link between Jerome Johnson and the Mafia. Johnson had last been residing in an apartment above Christopher's End, the bar managed by Umbers, and owned by Paul DiBella, a member of the Gambino Family. Umbers had used Johnson's skills as a camera man in their production of child pornography. (5) Umbers would eventually receive notoriety for his role in the botched New York bank robbery that was depicted in the Hollywood motion picture "Dog Day Afternoon."

Ed Murphy was the Bouncer at the Mafia-run gay bar the Stonewall Inn, adjacent to Umber's Christopher's End next door on Christopher Street. On the evening of June 28, 1969, when the NYPD, as it had often done in the past, raided the Stonewall Inn, the patrons of the bar fought back, culminating in riots that lasted for several days. Chanting "Get the Cops and the Mafia Out of Gay Bars," the unrest forever changed America.

Ed Murphy died in 1989 due to AIDS. In addition to the NYPD's investigation of Jerome Johnson's involvement in the gay porn industry, of which Murphy was involved, the NYPD also pursued evidence that Johnson was also associated with the BLA. Two months prior to the shooting of Godfather Colombo, on April 6, 1971, a member of the BLA, JoAnne Chesimard, knocked upon the door of a room at the Statler Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, intending to rob the occupant. The intended victim, however fought back, and Chesimard received a bullet wound from her own gun to her abdomen. (8)

6 weeks later, members of the BLA opened fire with a machine gun on two Police Officers guarding the home of the Manhattan District Attorney, Frank Hogan. Both officers, Thomas Curry and Nicholas Binetti, were wounded for the rest of their lives. 2 days later, the gang executed NYPD Officers Waverly Jones and Joseph Piagentini outside a public housing building in Harlem. One month later, Jerome Johnson and his female accomplice carried out the shooting of Godfather Colombo.

Two months later, 3 members of the BLA burst into a police station in San Francisco and gunned down Sgt. John Victor Young as he sat at his desk. On November 3rd, 1971, 3 associates of the BLA executed Atlanta Police Officer James R. Greene as he serviced his patrol vehicle at a gas station. (9) On December 20th of that year, the gang attempted to murder 2 NYPD cops by throwing a hand grenade under their patrol car. Their car was demolished, but the cops survived. (10)

On January 27, 1972, the BLA executed 2 more NYPD cops, Rocco Laurie and Gregory Foster. These two Police Officers were shot in their backs with a machine gun. The BLA was a racist organization that did not believe that Blacks should associate with Whites. Officers Laurie and Foster were targeted because one was Black and the other White. Both had bonded as young men while serving in the United States Marine Corps in VietNam. Once home, they both applied for acceptance as members of the NYPD. They were accepted, and later made Partners, as an intentional means by the NYPD to promote better relations between Officers of diverse backgrounds. (11)

A few weeks later, several members of the BLA, including Joanne Chesimard and her then-lover Fred Hilton, got into a confrontation with the St. Louis Police, during which BLA member Ronald Carter was killed.

Fred Hilton would later be arrested in 2001 on charges he raped a 12-year-old girl. (12) Hilton later changed his name to the Marxist moniker Kamau Sadiki; Joanne Chesimard later changed her name to Assata Shakur. In November, 2003, Kamau Sadiki was sentenced to Life imprisonment after his conviction for the murder of Atlanta Police Officer James Green. (13)

On May 2, 1973, the BLA murdered New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. This event began when New Jersey State Trooper James Harper pulled a car over for a traffic violation, and was joined by Trooper Foerster in another patrol car. A gunfight ensued, and when it was over, Trooper Foerster and a BLA member were dead; JoAnne Chesimard and Trooper Harper were wounded. Chesimard was eventually convicted for the murder of Trooper Foerster, but escaped from prison in 1979 with the help of the BLA. BLA members and their associates in the Communist community then facilitated Chesimard's travel to Cuba, where she has been granted asylum to this very day.

Such was the carnage of violence by criminals of various motives during the 1960s and 1970s. The investigations by the NYPD of the BLA, the American Mafia, as well as Manhattan's gay pornography industry thus intersected in one man; Jerome Johnson, who dared to shoot Godfather Colombo before thousands of people.

Among those who witnessed this shooting was Mafia hitman and drug dealer Greg Scarpa, who led a double life as an FBI Informant.

Part Two

1. “Skull Murphy: The Gay Double Agent,” by Arthur Bell. The Village Voice, May, 1978.

2. “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution,” by David Carter. St. Martin's Press, 2004.

3. “Deal with the Devil,” by Peter Lance. Harper Collins, 2013.

4. The New York Times, June 29, 1971.

5. "Chief: Classic Cases from the Files of the Chief of Detectives," by Albert Seedman and Peter Hellman, Avon, 1975.

6. “The Wiseguy and the Nun,” by William Bastone. The Village Voice, February 9, 1999.

7. “J. Edgar's Slip was Showing,” by Murray Weiss. The New York Post, February 11, 1993.

8. “Woman Shot in Struggle With Her Alleged Victim,” by the staff of the New York Times. April 7, 1971.

9. “Officer Down Memorial Page.org.”

10. “Political Violence and Terrorism in Modern America: A Chronology,” by Christopoher Hewitt. Praeger, 2005.

11. “Foster and Laurie,” by Al Silverman. Little, Brown, 1974.

12. “A Break in 1972 Killing of Cops – Former Black Militant Aids Double-Slay Probe,” by Larry Celona. The New York Post, July 23, 2001.

13. “Hilton vx. State: The Supreme Court of Georgia, November 8, 2010. https://casetext.com/case/hilton-v-state-52
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Re: Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Sun Jun 14, 2020 8:41 pm

Via: http://www.fivefamiliesnyc.com/2010/04/ ... y-new.html

With respect to Ed "the Skull" Murphy who managed gay bars -- including the "juice bar" Tenth of Always at 82 West 3rd Street for the teen set which was owned by Nicholas DeMartino who was the stepson of reputed Gambino soldier Paul Di Bella -- on behalf of both the Genovese and Gambino crime families during the 1960s, historian David Carter writes in his 2004 book Stonewall:

"Beyond Murphy's involvement in the Stonewall Inn and in blackmailing gay men, he was deeply involved in male prostitution. Chuck Shaheen, who had a very high regard for Murphy, told Martin Duberman, "I knew Eddie Murphy for a long time. . . .He was into young boys. Most definitely. And he was very, very involved with the procurement of young boys." Danny Garvin recalls how he would "always see these hustlers hanging out with [Murphy]. He had connections,and these hustler kids would hang out with him." Tommy explains why the Mafia would operate the Tenth of Always as an ice-cream parlor in terms of Murphy's predilections: "The Tenth of Always had a kind of particular feeling, that you knew you were there because Murphy liked chicken. In there I felt like I was in some surreal Catholic Youth Organization dance, because everybody was like my age or younger, and the drag queens just looked like regular high-school girls, and the hustlers looked like regular high-school boys. And then it really looked crazy because everyone was sitting, sipping these sodas, and it was like – there’s no word to describe – it wasn't a brothel, a bawdyhouse, or whatever. It was like the pickings of johns: that's what it was set up for." Bob Kohler, who hated Murphy passionately, cited as evidence of Murphy's loathsomeness that he paid the youths he pimped with counterfeit money."

Some of Murphy's young charges allegedly did not fare well, and Carter further writes: "The suspicion that Murphy was involved in the murders of youths goes back at least to the early sixties. Stephen van Cline recalls, for example, that Murphy had been involved with the early 1960s waterfront gay bar called Dirty Dick's, where, he says, a number of young men were seen for the last time."

A lot of other excellent background information at that link.
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Re: Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby cptmarginal » Thu Jun 18, 2020 12:15 pm

Thanks for this, just catching up on it.

Wombaticus Rex » Wed Apr 29, 2020 12:03 am wrote:This is a much longer, fucking devastating, article from a website that will probably get disappeared soon. I'm assuming Mario Number One is already up on this resource?

Would fit right in to this part of his wiki:

http://cavdef.org/w/index.php?title=Cat ... _sex_rings
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Re: Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby JackRiddler » Thu Jun 18, 2020 1:37 pm

This is spectacular material.

Not to oversell on the praise for you, WRex, it's mostly just annotation of found articles, but you do a lot of work with focus and acumen. Your analytics are sharp in bringing out what is there but unspoken, or veiled, and in combining bits so as to illuminate.

This helps me see beyond the mere term how this is a business model, a known and ancient set of organized practices for gaining power and profit in a competitive and brutal environment that different groups can adopt, that has gone through many forms and variations in different places and eras, depending on the available institutional frameworks, prevailing mores, and the usual dose of happenstance and fuck-up. From "Skull" to Hoover's nets to Franklin to Epstein, while the same kind of thing happens in parallel in other national venues, often with intersections.

I was going to say it really should have been you attempting a history Ph.D., but just as quickly went on to the thought that, contrary to your impression, while censorship and conformity to the imaginary "SJW" tyranny and fear of the weird do not prevail within the academy generally or to the extent you sometimes seem to imagine -- and while it's also not a hotbed of pre-compromised blackmail networks to the extent that certain departments in Cambridge may nowadays make it seem -- this kind of material is really, really, hot to handle in any context.

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Re: Ed "Skull" Murphy and Homosexual Blackmail in NYC

Postby Wombaticus Rex » Thu Aug 12, 2021 10:37 am

Outstanding new find from a twitter contact who is so reliable I should start sending them money: a PDF narrative (backup link) from Karen A. Doherty of the Conference for Catholic Lesbians. This also went up on her blog Nihil Obsat, and they're available as separate posts there. I'm going back through it now to parse it more finely, but it's largely a synthesis of her personal experiences in NYC and the sources here, mixed with some meticulous sleuthing of her own.

1 - Meeting Ed Murphy
2 - "Villainous Skull" Murphy
3 - The Chickens and The Bulls
4 - Secret Lives: J Edgar Hoover & Roy Cohn
5 - Stonewall Shakedowns
6 - The Stonewall Raid
7 - The Improbable Activist
8 - Double-Edged Legacy

Ed Murphy is not a relation, but he’s an interesting story in my life. Ed was an integral figure in the “Chickens and the Bulls” homosexual blackmail scandal in the mid-1960s. He was probably involved in a series of blackmail schemes run by the Mob out of the Stonewall Inn in New York as well. He stole, and threatened and blackmailed most of his life. He got away with it, and wound up a gay liberation hero. Ed is mostly forgotten now, but I will never forget him. I still can’t decide if he was a bad man who did some good things; or a good man who did some very bad things. I sensed goodness in him, and he was good to me; but the other part of him, which I can’t forget or reconcile, is the terror and misery he caused hundreds of gay men and their families.
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