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.
The Red Rose Gang
Boss: Albert Wiengarten
Base: The Red Rose Cabaret, Jukong Alley, just off of Jukong Road (Zhongxing Lu)
Al Wiengarten was in his 70s in the mid-1930s. Along with his brother Sammy, he ran a successful, but not overly salubrious late night joint called the Red Rose Cabaret up in northern Hongkou (widely known as 'Honky Tonk Hongkou').
Romanian Jews from Bucharest, they came to Shanghai in the first years of the 20th century as pimps, bringing Eastern European women over via London and Marseille to work in Shanghai’s foreign-staffed bordellos. They decided to stay and opened the Red Rose. Their crew was almost entirely Jewish, and they stayed on the decidedly slummy Jukong Alley, even when they had the cash to move uptown.
They also ran opium to Europe and America in association with the Jewish mobs in New York; they brought young White Russian girls down on ‘dance’ contracts to work in the brothels of Hongkou; they were much liked, but argumentative and vulgar.
It ended badly… but some tales have to stay in City of Devils!
[Images courtesy of Paul French]