Following on from New York Times bestseller Midnight in Peking, Paul French released City of Devils, a delve into the murky underworld of Old Shanghai. There were plenty of wrong'uns about, and a whole lot of bad blood between them. In this 'Gangs of Old Shanghai' series, French presents us with a who's who of old time organized crime, and quite the rogues gallery it is too.
Boss: Walter ‘Wally’ Lunzer
Base: Farren’s Nightclub & Casino, Great Western Road (Yan’an Xi Lu)
Big time Old Shanghai player Joe Farren was dubbed by the China coast press as “the dapper Ziegfeld of Shanghai.”
Born Josef Pollak in Vienna, Farren was an exhibition dancer who came to the city in the late 1920s and created stunning chorus lines at the Majestic Hotel on Bubbling Well Road, the Paramount and the Canidrome in Frenchtown (you can read a history of the Shanghai Canidrome here, and about the Canidrome Tower Gang here).
He needed security and muscle for the door and hired the ‘Boychiks,’ a group of young Viennese Jewish guys (hence the Yiddish term), who had all left the city when the Nazis arrived in early 1938, and led by heavy Walter Lunzer.
They worked the doors of various Jewish-run cabarets and bars in Hongkou for a while, before being recruited by Joe to secure Farren’s. Wally Lunzer always carried a Mauser semi-automatic and kept a pump-action shotgun behind the bar for when things kicked off. In February 1941, it did. And then some...
[Images courtesy of Paul French]