Polly Adler: The Madam to the Mob

November 8, 2021

Madam Polly Adler

Non-fiction author Debby Applegate discusses the famous New York madam Polly Adler. We learn how Ms. Adler came to America as a Russian Immigrant Jew and how she rose to prominence and achieved a certain amount of fame in New York Society in the same manner as other Jewish emigrants like Meyer Lansky. With most other opportunities denied her because she was Jewish, she turned to crime. Starting from the Brownsville Jewish ghetto in New York City, she learned that the only work available to her would result in a lifetime of drudgery and starvation. When a pregnancy results from date rape, Polly turned to a back alley abortionist. From this start, Polly Adler decided she is a ruined woman and turned to prostitution.

Polly Adler and the Mob

During prohibition, law enforcement directed a lot of attention toward the existing house of prostitution. Like the speakeasies, this drove the prostitutes underground. Polly Adler was an organizer and a natural leader. She rented an apartment and started a “Call House.” She had a book of clients that was growing all the time. She entertained men at her house and called in other girls. The famous gambler and mob fixer of the World Series, Arnold Rothstein took notice and admired her business sense. He gave her his approval among his underworld pals and her business grew.  She was introduced to Lucky Luciano,  Dutch Schultz, and Frank Costello among others. Lucky always used her girls when he wanted to entertain out-of-town guests. Dutch Schultz and Polly Adler had a strong relationship to the point that when Schultz was on the run from Tom Dewey’s men and other gangsters, he hid out in Polly’s house.
Show notes by Gary Jenkins
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