It's long been assumed Sonken was mafia in a region that for years was bursting with rival crime families. A white-hot spotlight landed on the mob and followed it to Florida. Edgar Hoover's FBI to step up enforcement. Proximity to Cuba, another paradise ripe for exploitation and a pre-Castro gold mine for Lansky , added to South Florida's appeal. Customers arriving by yacht would dock at the back, double-docking on weekends as the restaurant grew in popularity. Maybe the gearshift had been rigged, the brakes cut, or there was foul play. The restaurant's name referenced its double identity — "Gold Coast" was both a term for Florida's Atlantic cities, including up-and-coming Hollywood, and for the once-swampy stretch of Chicago that through creative redevelopment improbably became elite. Then came a backlash. The large rectangular sign rose on stilts against the growing skyline of what was then called "Hollywood-by-the-Sea.
Born to a father from Russia and a Polish mother, Joe Sonken worked from the time he was 10, leaving school after eighth grade. Society columnist Walter Winchell even met with gangsters to learn underworld gossip. Every customer was important, but Sonken didn't kowtow. Agents were in the midst of a historic undercover operation using the restaurant as a staging ground at the time the car rolled into the drink. If Sonken thought you did something wrong, he would unleash an epic string of profanity. He was known simply as "boss. Proximity to Cuba, another paradise ripe for exploitation and a pre-Castro gold mine for Lansky , added to South Florida's appeal. Or perhaps it was one of the scores of mobsters who made his restaurant a second home. They even declared certain areas of South Florida murder-free. Sonken was a master at publicity. Long ago, underworld leaders agreed to make most of Florida a mafia Switzerland, where any mob family could operate freely the New York-based Gambino family carved out an exception for pornography, which they controlled. This was Joe Sonken's fiefdom. Broward County increasingly tantalized organized crime families. When people heard about what had happened to Sonken's car, many — including some restaurant staff — figured someone had messed with it. Then there was the fenced-in "cur lot" for diners to leave their dogs outside. But today the person behind the name is mostly misunderstood or forgotten, as is the story of his "magic space" as one restaurateur called the Gold Coast. The large rectangular sign rose on stilts against the growing skyline of what was then called "Hollywood-by-the-Sea. He gave the boot to Frank Sinatra and his crew for being disruptive. In Miami, Sonken partnered with two Chicago transplants who'd left the Devonshire under the dark clouds of their reputations: Maybe the gearshift had been rigged, the brakes cut, or there was foul play. The three spent several years running Mother Kelly's, a stylish Miami Beach nightclub on Dade Boulevard that was advertised as "the rendezvous of the sophisticates. The boss protected his clientele's peace and privacy. He had run up tabs worth thousands of dollars, and owed thousands more to Sonken in rent for a commercial property. The joke among waiters was if he liked you, he cursed at you, and if he didn't curse at you, start looking for a job. It's long been assumed Sonken was mafia in a region that for years was bursting with rival crime families. He entered the meat industry before losing a bundle in the Great Depression and then overseeing a lounge at the Devonshire Hotel in the city's North Loop. Each dish that came out of the kitchen was meant to be a masterpiece, and Sonken showed a knack he'd nurtured at Mother Kelly's for attracting celebrity clientele.
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Pawn Stars: 1966 Miami Dolphins Playbook (Season 5)
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