Bronx Stroll: On the Lamb
I recently 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 Moriartyís money.
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.
"He had a bigger mob than the Mafia behind him," Lamb told me. "He had the Jersey City police force as his back-up."
The end came for the Newsboy in 1962 when $2,400,000 was discovered in the trunk of his 1949 Plymouth, parked in a small garage.
"In the days that followed, just about every garage in Jersey City was broken intoÖ [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."
Patrick 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: Itís 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.
"[Itís] exactly like the Bronx," he says. "It was once mainly Irish and Italian and now has every minority you can think ofÖ All people know about Jersey City is that they drive through it and donít like what they seeÖ When I was growing up there, it was mainly known as Manhattanís train yard."
Lamb was raised in a family of 14 children. His father worked as a manager for FordĖwhere he "picked up the principles of mass production" and then applied them to his family effortsĖand his mother was a housewife. "My mother was tough, [but] given that there were 14 kids I donít know what else she could have done."
Life was 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.
"After that, it was clip-on ties."
To his credit, Lamb doesnít claim to have been an angel. "I knew a lot of hooligans growing upĖkids [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 couldnít be a criminal because people would come up to me and tell me who I was."
He stayed in Jersey City until 1990, but now lives in Bloomfield ("Itís Soprano country," near where, "Connie Francisí brother got whacked"). His brothers and sisters went on to become CPAs, lawyers, nurses, stockbrokersĖ one even became a state trooper, and he took a job at the New Jersey Division of Taxation. "But Iím one of the good guys. I actually help people make sure they donít 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.
"Mohammed Salameh lived like 30 yards from my motherís 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 motherís 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 arenít 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."
Along with his tax duties, Lamb is working at developing his craft as a cartoonist and a stand-up comic.
"I donít 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 them talk."
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.
"I did a club out in Allentown and went to a restaurant out there, and as an entree they had hot baloneyÖ Out there I tell them Iím used to playing big rooms in New YorkĖlike the menís room in Port Authority. When they laugh, itís a high."
Lamb bristles at Manhattan comics who mock his Jersey roots.
"The 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 donít come from here. All they know about Manhattan is that it is a yuppie theme park. They couldnít tell you Woodlawn from Hunts Point. They donít get the city right. They think they do, but they donít. They may live in Brooklyn, but you canít be from there until 50 people have chased you through the subway trying to kill you."
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