So today Mickey and I traveled over to Acra, NY, to hang out as a photographer shot the house of prohibition-era gangster Legs Diamond.
It’s kind of fitting that, in my nascent realtor career, the sellers I’m representing have a house that belonged to a gangster.
I’ve had a fifteen-plus years love/hate relationship with The Angelmakers, the female gangster book I’ve written seven times and not yet gotten right.
I once nearly had a fist fight with Martin Scorcese in Rome over his (shocking to me) amalgamation of three female gangster characters into one for the movie adaptation of Gangs of New York.
I read the book Gangs of New York many many times. And Luc Sante’s Low Life and hundreds of other books on the subject of outlaws in New York. I am soaked in gangster lore and now I’m selling a gangster house.
I was sitting in the real estate office one day when a Greek couple came in. They looked at me intensely and said: “Will you sell Legs Diamonds house for us?”
I thought they were joking. But they looked very serious. The man especially. He refused my offer to sit and stood with his hands clasped behind his back, staring ahead, as his wife, a curvaceous lovely blonde in spike heels, told me about Legs Diamond’s house. They had owned it for twelve years but they spent little time in it and now wished to sell it. Would I like to represent them.
Never mind that it’s on a busy-ish road and vaguely in the middle of nowhere, I instantly knew I was destined to sell this house.
Legs Diamond was sometimes known as “The Clay Pigeon” because he survived being shot like 57 times. Okay. Maybe four times, but still. One time it was three at close range to the heart. And he lived on. And on. Until he didn’t. I think the fifth time, he was shot in the back of the head and that finally did him in.
According to lore (and I haven’t read William Kennedy’s well-regarded tome LEGS to check on all this) Mr. Diamond moved to the house in Acra with his bodyguard, his gang, his wife, and his mistress. He had guard dogs, flood lights and, according to the guy who used to own the now-defunct bar across the road, a tunnel from his basement to the bar’s basement.
The Greek couple have searched and searched for the tunnel (Mrs. Greek Couple feared someone tunneling IN to the house) and if it did once exist, it has since been closed up.
But perhaps I can lure potential buyers with the promise of a hidden tunnel. Not to mention the fact that it’s a cool, rambling house with amazing original light fixtures, and four bungalows dotted along the two acre spread.
It started pouring rain as soon as the photographer and I arrived at the house so we had to scrap plans for exterior shots and Mickey refused to get out of the car.
All the same, I suggested The Greek Couple remove the patio furniture from the front porch.
Earlier in the day, I had emailed my private yoga student Klodin a picture of the house, explaining I had to go on a little road trip to have it photographed.
“Just remove the clutter from front porch, take pictures, and come back to teach me yoga.”
I did want the stuff moved from the front porch but didn’t want to be indelicate with The Greek Couple who were perhaps attached to having that stuff there.
“I have a friend,” I said, “he’s Italian.” I paused, knowing this alone could explain many things, “he said the photos would look nicer without any stuff on the front porch.”
Mr. Greek Couple muttered “Italians,” shook his head once, then said “Yes, the Italian is right.”
In fact, Klodin (who is not Italian and is not named Klodin) was right. The house looked a lot better without stuff in front of it.
And soon I will sell it to someone who wishes to soak in gangster lore. Then, maybe, I’ll get my damn gangster girls book done for good.