Aliases: Charles Simon, Charles Solomont, Carl Solomont
Born: 1894, Russia
Died: January 24, 1933, Cotton Club, Boston
Addresses: Brookline, Massachusetts and New York
Associations: Murder Inc., Lucky Luciano and his own liquor, narcotics, theater and nightclub enterprises.
For the record he was called “King” for a good reason.There was little in Boston in the 1920s and early 1930s that Charles Solomon didn’t control or have a hand in, even while he managed to stay a step ahead of law enforcement agencies.He was then the undisputed boss of the Boston rackets, a Russian Jewish immigrant who made enough money to pay off the police and others and to retire but couldn’t give up the power and the street life. He made a fortune in the business.From rum running to dope peddling to prostitution, from nightclubs to theaters, his was an empire both illegal and legit.
His last words recounted slightly differently depending on the reporter doing the story–seem like a bad imitation of James Cagney.As a bootlegger, he devised elaborate schemes to deliver hooch to New Englanders and did deals with MURDER INC., boys of New York.As a nightclub owner, he wined and dined famous stars of his day, nothing but the TOP shelf celebrities.Sally Rand, Sophie Tucker, and Texas Guinan, were at the TOP of the class celebrities.His legacy has a particularly insidious footnote. He was the owner of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub from 1931 to 1933, and while he was long gone at the time of the infamous 1942 Boston Fire that killed nearly five hundred people, he had established a custom that would doom so many: he insisted on keeping the doors to the club locked both inside and out.
The man who would be KING was born in Russia to Joseph and Sarah Blum Solomon and grew up in the famous witch town called Salem, Massachusetts. Samantha Stevens the star on the hit TV series “Bewitched” statute stand prominently in the town of Salem, as well as other historic cites.After Solomon’s parents immigrated to New England, he became a professional bondsman but soon branched out into other enterprises.His first arrest came in his teens, and he would go on to have twenty-one court records in the next 21 years.
He was first nabbed in 1911 with Golda Solomon for keeping a house of ill repute, a whore house.His record includes breaking and entering, being idle and disorderly, receiving stolen goods, gambling, perjury and narcotics dealing.Each time he managed to get off with fines or short jail sentences through payoffs, to the right people.Frustrated, police also nabbed him on a variety of small stuff: driving on the wrong side of Dover Street, making a wrong turn and “using profanity to a police officer in performance of his duty.”Despite his legal battles, Solomon eventually commanded a fleet of boats guided by secret radio stations along the coast of New Jersey and Long Island that brought booze in from Central America, which facilitated an extremely lucrative business for him.Solomon bought three Boston Theaters, several Boston nightclubs, a beauty parlor and numerous restaurants and Hotels in the cities of Boston and New York as well as Montreal, Canada.Solomon obtained the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in 1931 and used it as his personal showcase.Austen Lake of the Boston Evening American newspaper describes “I Solomon Pax, Fecit,” who “sat on his lobby throne, or with assorted society, and flashed his $500.00 teeth, occasionally excusing himself at the discrete eye-wink of some private courtier to ‘see certain party about a certain matter which concerns you know what.'”
While he hated publicity, he craved the limelight, and cut a fine figure in evening clothes.His acquaintances ranged from fellow mobsters and showgirls to lawyers and high ranking politicians.Texas Guinan tartly called him the “Man with the Lascivious Lip” and “Old Slobber Puss,” and he loved it, Lake asserted.At age 49, Solomon was at the height of his power in Boston and New England, dubbed the “Capone of the East” by federal agents, according to the Boston Globe.”Capone had a mob,’ Solomon had a machine that wanted no opposition and took care of opponents so efficiently that there was little that became news,” the Boston Globe reported.A police captain once asked Solomon, “Charlie, you’ve got millions. Why don’t you get out of the rackets?The King waved him off, saying, “Don’t be silly.”But even a King can’t rule forever as Solomon was later to find out.
On January 8, 1933, federal indictments were handed down fingering Solomon as the “brains” of a $14 million dollar liquor-running enterprise that smuggled whiskey to the United States from Belize and St. Pierre to Boston and New England area.Arrested, Solomon posted the $5,000 bail and went about his business, as usual, likely figuring he would beat the rap as he did all the others.”I have friends in high places,” he told reporters. On the evening of January 23, two days before he was to appear in federal court, Solomon, as was his habit, spent the evening at the Cocoanut Grove.His wife, Bertha “lilies:” Solomon, was likely at her home in Taunton.
He was on the outs with his main squeeze, a looker named Dorothy England, so he was out to impress two young dancers. With $4,600 in his pocket, he, the girls and Joe Solomon, his band leader (most sources say the two were related), grabbed a taxi to the Cotton Club on Tremont Street in Boston, near Massachusetts Avenue, a club catering to Boston’s African American community where a band continued to play.Solomon was friendly with the owner Tommy maren (Solomon might have been part owner of the Cotton Club), and the party was going strong about 3:30 a.m.At one point, Solomon left his table to go to the bathroom and was followed by a group of men who had been drinking sullenly at a nearby table.
Witnesses reported hearing an argument about a “double-crossing, no good rat,” with Solomon saying something to the effect of, “You got my roll, now what do you want The reply” “You’ve had this coming for a long time,” Shots rang out, the men looked like Italian Americans whom applied the multiple shots to Solomon’s chest, abdomen and neck, as Solomon staggered out. “The rats got me,” he grunted before being rushed to the hospital, where he died.
He was found to be missing the $4,600. “Bullets sang the requiem of “King” Solomon yesterday and wiped forever from his face the smile that thousands knew,: the Boston globe declared on January 25. That Solomon affected many is demonstrated by the throngs of onlookers who crowed Fuller Street in Brookline, Massachusetts to watch as his hearse passed during his large funeral procession.Police arrested and questioned the men seen at the Cotton Club that night. Three were convicted. Half Italian and Half Irish: James J. “Skeet’s” Coyne and James J. Scully served time for manslaughter, and John F. O’Donnell was convicted of being an accessory after the fact.
While some news reports maintain the King met his end as the result of a “cheap holdout” by impulsive petty thieves who knew that Solomon always carried wads of cash, the New York Times quoted assistant United States Attorney Leonard Greenstone as saying, “I believe Boston Charlie was put on the spot to seal his lips” about rum running ring. Mob watchers speculate that the Italian mob in the North End ordered the hit to eliminate a rival.Reporter Austen lake, however, maintains that Solomon skimmed too much off the top while safekeeping funds from a recent Fall River holdup and thus “carved his initials on the bullet that killed him.”
Coyle and Scully were not associated with any particular gangs, either Italian of Irish.Solomon evaded the law even after death. Despite his reputed millions, his estate was valued at just $457.33, according to documents filed by his window. She must have stolen millions to avoid paying taxes on it.Solomon’s lawyer, Barnet “Barney” Welansky, emerged from obscurity to take over the Cocoanut Grove, and he, too, made it a habit to keep the doors of the nightclub locked inside and out.