People throw around the word “sociopath” a lot these days, but Dutch Schultz was a man who could commit murder “just as casually as if he were picking his teeth”—or so his own lawyer said. Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York tells how the gangster and his partner hung an uncooperative bootlegger “by his thumbs from a meat hook and beat him viciously,” wrapping a bandage around his eyes that “had been liberally coated with discharge from a gonorrhoeal sore.” The bootlegger went blind; Dutch went to the top of the world, ma! Then there’s this heartwarming anecdote about the Dutchman from Five Families:
When he suspected that one of his long-time trusted lieutenants, Bo Weinberg, was plotting against him with Italian mobsters, Schultz personally encased Weinberg’s legs in cement and dumped him into the Hudson River while still alive.
At the time of his death, Schultz was planning to murder special prosecutor Thomas Dewey in defiance of the wishes of the other major figures in organized crime, a hubristic move that likely resulted in the gangster’s own demise. On October 23, 1935, gunmen shot down Schultz and his men in Newark’s Palace Chop House. As he lay dying in the hospital with a 106-degree fever and bullet holes in his trunk, a police stenographer transcribed his ravings.
It is no use to stage a riot. The sidewalk was in trouble and the bears were in trouble and I broke it up. Please put me in that room. Please keep him in control. My gilt-edged stuff and those dirty rats have tuned in.
Please get me up my friends; I know what I speak of. Please, look out, the shooting is a bit wild, and that kind of shooting. Saved a man’s life. Oh, Elmer was. No, everything frightening; yes, no payrolls, no walls, no coupons.
Oh, sir, get the doll a roofing. You can play jacks and girls do that with a softball and do tricks with it. I take all events into consideration. No. No. And it is no. It is confused and it says no. A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim.
French-Canadian bean soup. I want to pay. Let them leave me alone.
These utterances were then scrutinized for all kinds of hidden meanings—not least for clues to the location of Dutch’s buried millions. Authors William S. Burroughs and Robert Anton Wilson, however, found something else fascinating in the transcript; both men spoke as if it was at once the coded prophecy of a gangland oracle and a high modernist poem. Burroughs wrote a screenplay, The Last Words of Dutch Schultz, which was never filmed despite his efforts to sell it in Hollywood, and Schultz’s last words feature in Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy.
Victor Bockris records how Burroughs described the deathbed scene, and its relationship to the modernists, to Lou Reed in 1978:
You don’t know about the last words of Dutch Schultz? You obviously don’t know. They had a stenographer at his bedside in the hospital taking down everything he said. These cops are sitting around asking him questions, sending out for sandwiches, it went on for 24 hours. He’s saying things like, “A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim,” and the cops are saying, “C’mon, don’t give us that. Who shot ya?” It’s incredible. Gertrude Stein said that he outdid her. Gertrude really liked Dutch Schultz.
In 2003, Dutch filmmaker Gerrit van Dijk used Schultz’s last words as the basis for an animated film, intercut with TV-style live-action dramatizations of the Palace Chop House shooting. Rutger Hauer, Schultz’s voice in the short, gives a surprisingly understated performance. The animated portion of the film represents Dutch’s subjectivity roaming freely through time and space, hallucinating past and future. Anachronisms slip into the 1930s world of newsboys, gangsters and gun molls: while Dutch rambles, Mike Tyson bites off Evander Holyfield’s ear, John F. Kennedy’s head explodes, O.J. Simpson is declared not guilty, and the first plane hits the World Trade Center. Even if none of this is up your street, the rotoscoping is quite beautiful, and there’s always the possibility that you’ll crack the code and find the Dutchman’s buried millions.