The Fine Union Craft of the Stink-Bomb

Westbrook Pegler

Spartanburg Herald-Journal/May 15, 1940

New York, May 14—Great excitement prevails in the Stage Hands’ and Movie Employees union as the day approaches for the opening of the union’s international convention in Louisville. Although that date, June 3, is still some time away, the stink-bomb teams representing Chicago, New York, St Louis and southern California are in a high state of competitive zeal as they face the blue-ribbon or championship test for the John P. Nick trophy, one of the largest baubles in the realm of labor racketeering. The John P. Nick trophy is an artistic work of extraordinary merit and graphic symbolism. It depicts an American mother and two little children lying in the aisle of a moving picture theater overcome by the fumes of a stink-bomb in the ventilating system and trampled in the ensuing panic, the group upheld by a huge golden gorilla. It was named for John P. Nick of St. Louis, who was kicked out of the leadership of projectors’ local 143 of that city by a court order and indicted on two charges of extortion, but acquitted on one charge after three mistrials, through a famous directed verdict which culminated in the Post-Dispatch contempt case.

Mr. Nick received his original appointment from George Browne, the international president, who also personally selected Willie Bloff, the old pander, as one of his personal representatives, and Nick Circella, a Chicago stickup man and Capone gangster, as another.

Although officially removed from local No. 143 by a court order which has been affirmed by the Missouri Supreme Court, Mr. Nick remains a vice president of the international union, with the official support of Will Green, president of the American Federation of Labor, who instructed the St. Louis Central Trades Union not to seat the anti-Nick delegates.

Thus, it will be seen, Mr. Nick is an illustrious figure and an inspiration to the minor leaders who will attend the reunion of the mob.

The art of stink-bombing has been developed to a high degree in recent years, but no mob has more reason to be proud of its progress in the specialty than the gorillas of stage hands’ and movie employees’ mob. As the technicians of Hollywood have improved the sound effect of the move industry, the gorillas have matched them stride for stride, or smell for smell, with new chemicals, the most notable being a secret formula known as buzzard’s breath, invented in Chicago, which is expected to make a strong bid for the championship in the Louisville tournament. The New York stink-bomb team has been working a recipe based on an old stench formerly used in the dry cleaning racket, but greatly improved, and known as the Knickerbocker reek and the Southern California team promises some powerful competition with a liquid called cheval mort. The team may exaggerate slightly, but all the entrants in the stink-bomb competition claim that after one treatment it is necessary not merely to renovate a theater but to tear it down. The St. Louis team, of course, has a particular incentive of prestige and loyalty to this great event of the convention, and confidential advices have it that their stench will be compounded from elements distilled from the verdict, whereby the first of the extortion charges against Mr. Nick was dismissed from the bench. It is admitted that the boys of the St. Louis team certainly have something there. Still, all entrants profess to be confident of winning the Nick trophy, and one member of the New York team expressed the optimism of his group in the words, “We will stink them bums out of town.”

Some difficulty was overcome in the council when it was suggested that it might be impossible to obtain permission to stink-bomb any of the Louisville theaters, but this was quickly overcome when the captain of the Chicago team said “Since when do we have to get permission to stink out a joint?” The practical wisdom of this remark was obvious, so visitors to Louisville theaters during the mob’s reunion may expect to serve as guinea pigs for the competition at any time, and after the reunion it may be necessary to tear down not only the theaters but the whole city of Louisville.

The competition for the Tommy Maloy memorial blast furnace also will be hotly contested. Mr. Maloy, late president of the Chicago branch of the mob, was demised abruptly by a shotgun or blast furnace in 1935, and his memory is revered because he was one of the most successful gorillas in the union’s history and remains a model. The Tommy Maloy memorial blast furnace is a solid gold, 12-gauge sawed-off furnace capable of shooting a heavy charge of bolts, bedsprings and used motor parts, and is highly coveted for business purposes by many leading spirits of the union, or mob.

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