The Drunken Orgy

To commemorate the Great Raid on the Blonger gang, we present this cartoon from the Denver Times, March 27, 1923. Scott photgraphed it on a recent trip to Denver. The original clipping was found in the papers of Robert Maiden, part of the collection at the Denver Public Library.

Maiden was working for the Federal Narcotics’ Bureau in Kansas City when Col. Van Cise recruited him to assist in the Blonger gang investigation. Maiden worked with Andy Koehn and A.B. Cooper in surveilling the gang, and the collection contains notes, newspaper articles and other items related to the case.

The Drunken Orgy

Lou, Duff, French and Dep. Tom Clarke have a toast to Mayor Bailey

The sketch depicts Lou Blonger, manager Adolph “Kid Duffy” Duff, bookmaker John Homer “Dapper Jackie” French, and Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Clarke, king of Denver’s West Side Criminal Court. They are all singing the praises of Lou’s old pal Mayor Dewey Bailey, who had been questioning Van Cise’s entire operation, suggesting it was plot by the city’s stock brokers to legitimize their own racket and crush the competition in one fell swoop.

By all accounts, the three main defendants were feeling good about their chances as the jury began their deliberations. Things seemed to be going their way; three of the jurors were bought and paid for, and in a pinch they’d been told they could expect a favorable result on appeal.  

On the other hand, in all likelihood Lou, Duff and French would be spending the night in the county jail, and maybe longer than that. While some of the smaller fry never made bail at all — which Lou would later regret — the three principals had been free since their arrest, but no more; with the jury out they would be guests of Dep. Clarke…

But their cozy cells, across the “Bridge of Tears” to the county jail, would have to wait. Instead they were sequestered in the Grand Jury room as they waited (prematurely) for a verdict. Clarke procured several bottles of whiskey, and a few young ladies for good measure, fans of Mr. French, no doubt. Meanwhile, one floor below, Van Cise and his team worked on the case into the night.

Both Van Cise and Forbes Parkhill tell this story in their books, from different perspectives. Parkhill recalls that the press pool had been at the bottle as well, and at one point conducted a mock rape trial as curious bystanders in the gallery were supposedly unaware of the charade. 

Van Cise recounts how the drunken Clarke had burst into his office, bellowing and blustering, incensed that the Colonel would try to give him orders in his own court. The jury had just retired for the night, and the prosecutor had ordered the defendants be taken to their cells. Clarke would have none of it.

Unfortunately for Clarke, Van Cise could see a whiskey bottle in his back pocket, and the next day a grand jury was convened. Clarke lost his job. The papers buzzed about the “drunken orgy” in the West Side Court.

As for the rest? They endured five more days of deliberation, when the final juror broke, and Van Cise got his convictions. Lou and his pals would soon be on their way to the penitentiary at Canon City.

2 Responses to The Drunken Orgy

  1. Jeff Smith says:

    Another great find! Happy Raid Day!

  2. Dave says:

    My Grand-Dad (Arthur K. Armstrong) was Chairman of that Grand Jury. Mom and my uncles used to recall that there were always cops around the house. I recall a story Grandmother told that she had bought a new cast iron frying pan at Daniels & Fishers (the tower building downtown used to be a Department Store).

    Grand-Dad was making “bath-tub” gin and used her new frying pan to burn sugar to make the booze look like whiskey. He ruined her new pan, and she came close to clefting his skull with it!


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