October 13, 2011

Soapy Smith and Boardwalk Empire, part 2

Front page of the Rocky Mountain News
October 16, 1892

Once again I watched HBO's Boardwalk Empire (episode 3, season 2) and continue to see so many similarities with Soapy Smith's empire in Denver. One example in this episode I especially enjoyed involved a violent outburst in a public restaurant. In the program, crime-boss "Nucky" and his Irish lover take a corrupt politician out for a nice dinner. In the same restaurant are leaders of his rising competition. Something happens that irritates Nucky into showing his anger. He makes a scene violently upsetting the dinner table of his competition. The program viewers see things from Nucky's point of view as his anger builds during the scene, from happy-go-lucky to red-hot mad. The scene had me thinking of the numerous recorded times that Soapy attacked somebody in a public place. In some of these instance there seems to be no rhyme-or-reason to his actions and some historians, not knowing the underlining reasons, have attributed such actions to simple drunkenness. As far as recorded history goes, I, as a historian, and must continue the "burden" of relying only on the facts. The Rocky Mountain News has reported most of the accounts where Soapy disrupted the general peace in a public place by starting, or getting involved in a brawl. Rarely are we given a complete and detailed report from his point of view.

Boardwalk Empire, although fictional, takes a personal view through the eyes of the bad guy character, "Nucky" Thompson, clearly defining and showing his personal and business reasons and feelings for each of his outbursts and reactions. In watching the program it is easy for me to substitute "Nucky" for Soapy which gives me the opportunity to understand and even explain some of Soapy's public outbursts and why he reacted the way he did. Please don't confuse my interest for condonement. I'm merely trying to see his life through his eyes.

I posted pretty much the same post on my personal Facebook page as well as the official Facebook group page for Boardwalk Empire. Strangely, they did not see my passion and excitement in the similarities between the two men and era's as worthy of others to read, and deleted my post. 

The political cartoon at the top from the front page of the Rocky Mt. News, October 16, 1892. Soapy is the bearded one. His name is written on his sleeve. He and the Republican ring map out capturing the vote in a coming election. It will involve fraudulent registration, stealing ballot boxes and buying votes. Below is a trailer for season 2.

Boardwalk Empire: October 4, 2011

Jeff Smith


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