Partners in Innovative Crime Busting, Prohibition Style: The Incomparable Izzy & Moe

Izzy Einstein and Moe Smith, former police off...

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They grew up speaking Yiddish. Isidor Einstein was born in Austria and moved, early on, to the United States with his parents. Moe Smith was born in New York to parents who had recently arrived from Galicia, near Austria, but these two boys were as American as the “New World” in which they found themselves, and just as creative in their handling of their chosen profession.

The duo became New York City policemen, and after alcohol was outlawed during Prohibition, “Izzy and Moe” became the most famous pair of booze-fighters in the country. Izzy Einstein had perfected what he called “The Einstein Theory of Rum Snooping.” The two gents went undercover using a whole collection of disguises. They dressed as gravediggers one day, fishermen the next, even opera singers. At one point they even dressed as women. They used the element of surprise to keep people off-guard, and it worked magnificently.

Then, since the bars had all been officially closed and the drinking public had no choice but to get their libations at “Speakeasies” and other clandestine locations, they’d enter whatever establishment was selling illegal liquor, pretend to be customers, and promptly bust the proprietors.  They also got to hear all those great 1920’s tunes that were being played by jazz bands at the Speakeasies in the bargain – and get paid for it!   At one point they even “invaded” the Democratic Convention of 1924, which was being held in Manhattan. They glued on phony goatees, said they were delegates from the state of Kentucky, and were all set to make some high-profile arrests. Unfortunately the convention’s concession stand was not selling anything stronger than soda.

It was one of the only times that Izzy and Moe tried to round up some unusually soused subjects and did not succeed. While they worked , from 1920-1925, against the violators of Prohibition they made 4.932 arrests. An astonishing 95% of their arrests led to convictions. In total, as Moe’s obituary in Time Magazine later stated, they also “confiscated 5 million bottles of hooch!”

A charming television movie was made in the 1980’s, loosely based on their terrific track record and hilarious exploits. Two of the greatest comedians of all time were chosen to play the title roles. Jackie Gleason played Izzy and Art Carney played Moe. If you want a good laugh, I can’t recommend that movie, “Izzy and Moe,” enough. They used any means – and any disguise – necessary to get the job done, and not only that, they performed their duties with a flair.

And oh, what I would have given to have been a part of their team – and to have gotten the chance to hear the 20’s jazz music as part of the job myself!

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