Satan's Playground: Mobsters and Movie Stars at America's Greatest Gaming Resort

Satan's Playground: Mobsters and Movie Stars at America's Greatest Gaming Resort

by Paul J Vanderwood
     
 

ISBN-10: 0822347024

ISBN-13: 9780822347026

Pub. Date: 04/09/2010

Publisher: Duke University Press Books

Satan's Playground chronicles the rise and fall of the tumultuous and lucrative gambling industry that developed just south of the U.S.-Mexico border in the early twentieth century. As prohibitions against liquor, horse racing, gambling, and prostitution swept the United States, the vice industry flourished in and around Tijuana, to the extent that reformers came

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Overview

Satan's Playground chronicles the rise and fall of the tumultuous and lucrative gambling industry that developed just south of the U.S.-Mexico border in the early twentieth century. As prohibitions against liquor, horse racing, gambling, and prostitution swept the United States, the vice industry flourished in and around Tijuana, to the extent that reformers came to call the town "Satan's Playground," unintentionally increasing its licentious allure. The area was dominated by Agua Caliente, a large, elegant gaming resort opened by four entrepreneurial Border Barons (three Americans and one Mexican) in 1928. Diplomats, royalty, film stars, sports celebrities, politicians, patricians, and nouveau-riche capitalists flocked to Agua Caliente's luxurious complex of casinos, hotels, cabarets, and sports extravaganzas, and to its world-renowned thoroughbred racetrack. Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Louis B. Mayer, the Marx Brothers, Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, and the boxer Jack Dempsey were among the regular visitors. So were mobsters such as Bugsy Siegel, who later cited Agua Caliente as his inspiration for building the first such resort on what became the Las Vegas Strip.

Less than a year after Agua Caliente opened, gangsters held up its money-car in transit to a bank is San Diego, killing the courier and a guard and stealing the company money pouch. Paul J. Vanderwood weaves the story of this heist gone wrong, the search for the killers, and their sensational trial into the overall history of the often-chaotic development of Agua Caliente, Tijuana, and Southern California. Drawing on newspaper accounts, police files, court records, personal memoirs, oral historians, and "true detective" magazines, he presents a fascinating portrait of vice and society in the Jazz Age, and he makes a significant contribution to the history of the U.S.-Mexico border.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822347026
Publisher:
Duke University Press Books
Publication date:
04/09/2010
Series:
American Encounters/Global Interactions
Pages:
408
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

1 The Mob Strikes the Border Barons 1

2 Mobs 12

3 Playground of the Hemisphere 37

4 Fortuitous Breaks 51

5 Border Babylon 71

6 King of Border Vice 80

7 "They're Off!" 90

8 Prohibition's Bounty 103

9 The New Wave 119

10 Agua Caliente in Gestation 134

11 Building Camelot 140

12 Captain Jerry's Day 172

13 "Silent" Marty's Oration 179

14 Veracity 190

15 Fixes 199

16 Sentencing and Censuring 212

17 Hollywood's Playground 222

18 "Place Your Bets!" 238

19 Get the Barons! 272

20 Fools and Thieves 291

21 A Dead Cock in the Pit 304

22 What Ever Happened To? 320

23 Ghosts 336

Notes 341

Sources 373

Index 385

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