Gangs of Old Shanghai: The Boychiks

By Paul French, September 17, 2019

1 0

Following on from New York Times bestseller Midnight in PekingPaul 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.

The Boychiks

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 then built his own enormous dancehall and casino (which he ran with Jack Riley, who you can read about right here) in the Badlands (take a tour of the Shanghai Badlands 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...

To read about more Gangs of Old Shanghai, click hereFor more history stories, click here.

[Images courtesy of Paul French]

more news

Shanghai Confirms 3rd Coronavirus Death

A 25-year-old man died of the novel coronavirus in Shanghai on Friday.

Shanghai Students Will Now Take Classes on TV Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

Instead of attending school in person, students will watch classes which will be broadcast on 12 cable TV channels – one for each grade.

Shanghai Confirms 2nd Coronavirus Death

The latest victim of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) was a 79-year-old woman.

Shanghai Schools to Remain Closed, Online Classes Start March 2

Primary and secondary schools in Shanghai will remain closed for the foreseeable future and will start offering online classes starting on March 2.

Chase Williams on Devastating Impact of Coronavirus on Shanghai F&B

'The general industry expectation is that it will take at least six months for most businesses to recover.'

Shanghai F&B Scene in 'Hibernation' Due to Coronavirus: Logan R. Brouse

Brouse shares his thoughts on the impact the novel coronavirus is having on the Shanghai F&B scene.

Emily Hahn: The American Writer Who Shocked '30s Shanghai

She had a Chinese lover, an addiction to opium and a pet gibbon named Mr. Mills.

We’re Hiring: Social Media Intern (Shanghai)

Want to work for China's number one English-language media company?

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsGuangzhou for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Guangzhou With

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday


Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's PRD!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.