Gangs, Gangs – The Crazy Butch Gang
In the gay 1990s, Crazy Butch was one of the youngest criminals on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Legend has it that Butch was abandoned by his parents when he was only eight years old, and as a result, Butch lived on the streets and became, what was known at the time, a “street urchin.”
One day, Butch was prowling the streets looking for food, when he came across a dog, which was also abandoned. Butch took the dog under his wing and named him “Rabbi”, because the dog was very intelligent.
Butch began teaching the rabbi “tricks”, but not the usual tricks children taught their dogs. When Butch saw an old woman carrying a handbag, he would say to the rabbi, “Go find.” And that’s what the rabbi would do, lashing out at the bag and yanking it from the surprised woman’s arm. Then the rabbi, bag clutched in his mouth, would run to the corner of Willett Street and Stanton Street, where Butch would be waiting. Butch would get the contents of the bag, and Rabbi would get himself a nice big bone, one of which Butch always kept in his pocket, in case a mark suddenly appeared.
Butch and Rabbi were so successful in their robbery that other street urchins began to follow them, so they too could learn the tricks of the trade. Butch soon had his own gang of preteen and teen delinquents, which he called the “Crazy Butch Gang.”
When Butch accumulated enough cash, he bought a huge bicycle; not just for transportation, but to be used as an instrument for your next plan. Butch sold the bike on the busy streets of lower Manhattan, followed by his gang and the rabbi. When Butch thought the time was right, he crashed his bike into an unsuspecting pedestrian. Instead of apologizing to the fallen lady, Butch would jump off his bike and start scolding his victim with comments like, “What are you blind or something? Old sack!”
Almost immediately, a curious crowd would form a circle around Butch and his victim. As unsuspecting onlookers watched the Crazy Butch situation, Butch’s gang, which ranged from 10 to 15 incorrigible kids, slipped through the crowd, scooping up every pocket in sight. The rabbi was grabbing his usual purse, usually from the same person Butch had thrown on the pavement. Then the gang members would spread out in different directions. They would meet later at their headquarters, a small apartment on the third floor of Forsyth Street, to share the proceeds.
As Butch and his gang began to get older and bolder, they attracted the attention of Paul Kelly’s Five Points Gangs, who ruled the same neighborhood where Crazy Butch had been robbing. Apparently, Butch’s gang had victimized some relatives of the Five Point Gang, and it was rumored that one of the Five Pointers themselves had been robbed by the Crazy Sailors Gang.
Soon, Butch learned that the Five Pointers wanted to catch him and his gang, so one summer day, Butch decided to test how good his gang’s defenses were at his Forsyth Street apartment. Butch, who wasn’t the brightest of all, ran up the stairs, screaming like a banshee, stormed into his gang’s apartment and fired a revolver in each hand. The shocked members of his gang, most of whom were napping, were taken totally by surprise. One of the gang members, Little Kishky, was sitting on the windowsill with the window open. Little Kishky fell backward out the window onto the pavement three stories below. It is unclear if Crazy Butch paid Little Kishky’s hospital expenses.
As the Crazy Butch Gang grew older, in order to neutralize the Five Pointers who were constantly chasing them, Butch’s gang joined forces with the 2,000-member Monk Eastman Gang, which was constantly at war with Paul Kelly’s Five Pointers.
This worked well for a while until Butch made the mistake of falling in love with a thief named The Darby Kid. Butch loved The Darby Kid, and apparently The Darby Kid loved Butch. However, The Darby Kid had a jealous boyfriend named Harry the Soldier, who was always packing heat. Harry the Soldier caught up with Butch and shot him dead, sending the Darby Kid back into the arms of Harry the Soldier.
With the loss of their leader, Crazy Butch Gang broke up forever. Some left alone and others were absorbed by other Lower East Side gangs. One of the Crazy Butch Gang who made it to the top was Big Jack Zelig, known to the police as “The toughest man in New York City.” Big Jack took over the Eastman gang after Monk Eastman was sent to prison for robbery, and Monk’s successor, Max “Kid Twist” Zwerbach, was shot and killed on Coney Island. But alas, on October 15, 1912, Zelig was shot and killed at the age of 24, while riding the Second Avenue streetcar.
There is no record of what happened to Rabbi, the dog who stole the purse.