met with Patrick Lamb to discuss a legendary Jersey City gambling kingpin named
"Newsboy" Moriarty. Lamb had read my March "Bronx Stroll"
about the missing money from the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, money that
may be buried somewhere in the Bronx. He asked if I knew the story about Moriarty’s
In the early
60s, Newsboy Moriarty was known to keep a ton of cash on hand from his lucrative
gambling racket. Back in the pre-Lotto days, there was a lot of geld to be made
running numbers. Legend has it that Newsboy was kidnapped by some Jersey City
hoods and tortured with a blowtorch for the whereabouts of his stash. Moriarty
held his tongue.
had a bigger mob than the Mafia behind him," Lamb told me. "He had
the Jersey City police force as his back-up."
came for the Newsboy in 1962 when $2,400,000 was discovered in the trunk of
his 1949 Plymouth, parked in a small garage.
the days that followed, just about every garage in Jersey City was broken into…
[It] has been rumored that some of the police captains assigned to the case
retired quite comfortably thereafter. The legend of the loot of Newsboy Moriarty
was just the kind of story I loved hearing about growing up."
Lamb is an affable, slim, wide-faced Irishman with the typical quick wit and
ready smile. In his small office in downtown Brooklyn, I told him everything
I know about Jersey City: It’s on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel,
seems to be a whole other world and is generally dismissed as a backwater. Lamb
spent more than 30 years there, and has the district down cold.
exactly like the Bronx," he says. "It was once mainly Irish and Italian
and now has every minority you can think of… All people know about Jersey
City is that they drive through it and don’t like what they see… When
I was growing up there, it was mainly known as Manhattan’s train yard."
raised in a family of 14 children. His father worked as a manager for Ford–where
he "picked up the principles of mass production" and then applied
them to his family efforts–and his mother was a housewife. "My mother
was tough, [but] given that there were 14 kids I don’t know what else she
could have done."
tough for a lot of kids across the river. On the first day of school at St.
Aloysius, an older student hanged himself by a tie in one of the classroom closets.
that, it was clip-on ties."
To his credit,
Lamb doesn’t claim to have been an angel. "I knew a lot of hooligans
growing up–kids [who] threw matches everywhere. They tried to burn the
Meadowlands down. We used to go down to the Hackensack River and find dead animals
and burn them in a trashcan. I mostly stayed out of trouble because everyone
knew who I was. All 14 Lambs look alike. I couldn’t be a criminal because
people would come up to me and tell me who I was."
in Jersey City until 1990, but now lives in Bloomfield ("It’s Soprano
country," near where, "Connie Francis’ brother got whacked").
His brothers and sisters went on to become CPAs, lawyers, nurses, stockbrokers–
one even became a state trooper, and he took a job at the New Jersey Division
of Taxation. "But I’m one of the good guys. I actually help people
make sure they don’t overpay on their assessed property taxes."
Two of his
siblings live in Manhattan, two in Dallas, two in Virginia; the rest are in
New Jersey, including his mother, who still lives in the home town.
Salameh lived like 30 yards from my mother’s house. He was the guy the
FBI busted in 1993 after the World Trade Center bombing. He went to get his
deposit back after he blew up the truck. They should have beaten him on the
spot for the crime of being stupid. The night they bagged him, I went to my
mother’s house, and as I was walking around the neighborhood, it was like
the 1970s all over again. There were all these single white guys sitting in
cars. It looked like they were parked waiting for their dates. Those FBI guys
aren’t too imaginative. It was like the middle-aged cops in the 70s wearing
white socks and black shoes trying to pretend they were drug users."
his tax duties, Lamb is working at developing his craft as a cartoonist and
a stand-up comic.
don’t do situational or observational comedy. I do more storytelling in
the Irish tradition." He models himself after the "street guys"
from Jersey City who "could make you cry with laughter just listening to
As all comics
know, competition is tough in Manhattan. Since Lamb has a car, he finds work
in Jersey and even Pennsylvania, on what he calls the Hot Baloney Circuit.
did a club out in Allentown and went to a restaurant out there, and as an entree
they had hot baloney… Out there I tell them I’m used to playing big
rooms in New York–like the men’s room in Port Authority. When they
laugh, it’s a high."
at Manhattan comics who mock his Jersey roots.
Jersey comics are more New York than the Manhattan comics, because most of the
Jersey people have lived in this area most of our lives and know the flavor.
Most New York comics don’t come from here. All they know about Manhattan
is that it is a yuppie theme park. They couldn’t tell you Woodlawn from
Hunts Point. They don’t get the city right. They think they do, but they
don’t. They may live in Brooklyn, but you can’t be from there until
50 people have chased you through the subway trying to kill you."