Benny Sternberg – The Tango Pirate
Last week, I posted about Elsie and Benny Sternberg. This is an update on Sternberg’s later years.
This is Benny’s draft information card for World War One. He was 24 at the time of Elsie’s murder a few months later. At the beginning, this was not a popular war with the mostly isolationist American public. Many still remembered the horrors of the Civil War. And when Woodrow Wilson called for volunteers, expecting a million in six weeks, only sixty-thousand had signed up. A few months before Elsie’s murder in 1917, Benny the smart-ass, submitted his draft registration card. Look at what he wrote down for his job. Unbelievable. His lifestyle was not well suited for the Army. I remember all of the times I applied for that salesman job at the Dept of Corrections. Nice and fancy signature though.
In 1942, when required to fill out another selective service card – in case the government required the service of middle-aged men – Benny was of course “Unemployed” and living with what appears to probably be a girlfriend in a ratty looking block of apartment buildings in Brooklyn. He was in his late forties.
This is Benny’s receiving card upon entering Sing Sing in 1920. We see his physical attributes and that he had moderate habits (drinking), tobacco use, was employed (probably at his father’s enterprise). The residence where he was arrested is a crumbling five-story apartment building which stands in an otherwise vacant lot in Brooklyn. One can imagine Benny lying around here at his scary girlfriend’s apartment in his boxer shorts sucking on a Chesterfield when the Fuzz showed up. The “27 days” is either time served or the good behavior credit program – for every 27 days with good behavior, 27 days are removed from the sentence. He was a Jewish fella, and while being questioned by detectives regarding Elsie’s murder, one detective allegedly took Benny’s penknife and while shouting “This nice green tie is too good for a Jew!” he cut the tie into several pieces.
Benny died at age fifty-nine in 1952, probably a pauper. His relatives don’t seem to have scraped up enough for a proper grave marker as he is listed at the cemetery on Long Island simply resting in the family plot with a stone marker which offers only a word: STERNBERG.
As an added bonus, I bring you an excerpt from the classic 1930 true crime book, The Third Degree by Emanuel Lavine. In the book he has a chapter on Benny’s marathon 72-hour interrogation by Brooklyn cops. Lavine was not a crusader or reformer, just a reporter.
Here, he details how cops interrogate suspects, in this case, females: