Andrew Gross presenting Button Man
Wednesday, January 16th at 6 pm
The youngest of three brothers, Morris Raab has grown up rough and tumble on the streets of New York's Lower East Side, teeming with both opportunity and the lure of crime.
Poor, but driven, (and never one who shied away from using his fists), Morris drops out of school at twelve and finds work as a cutting room apprentice in the city’s bustling garment trade. A tireless worker who absorbs everything, by twenty-one he is running the shop and by twenty-six, has opened his own firm with his older brother Sol. But not his wayward brother Harold, an affable lad who’s been scarred by a family tragedy, and who falls under the spell of a gang of neighborhood pals who have turned to crime.
As Morris and Sol’s firm grows, it comes head to head with corrupt garment unions which have been taken over by the most feared gangster in town, who ruthlessly uses them to line his pockets and increase his power, and who Harold’s cronies now work for as “button men,” hired mob gunmen.
Fighting both the throes of the Depression and the vice-like grip of the unions who have left several of Morris’s friends with broken bones or worse, Morris goes head to head with Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, the city's most ruthless crime boss, someone he has gone up against since their youth, and from whom he has earned both respect, and ultimately, his wrath.
Set between 1905-1935, and a rags-to-riches tale like Dickens’s Great Expectations merged with The Godfather, Button Man traces the rise of a Jewish immigrant family in the dawn of the women’s garment business collapse under the hammer of organized crime. It draws in the real life crime figures of Lepke, Dutch Schultz, and Albert Anastasia of the feared Murder, Incorporated, as well as Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey, just as single-minded to shut them down, pitting brother against brother–both tragic, and yet like the story of so many of that generation who brought themselves up from nothing, inspirational.