Mobsters & Spies & Pilates (with Lincoln's Bible)
LB opens up about her life and "The World Beneath," her superb new narrative podcast.
GANGSTER PICTURES have been popular since the first such film, Underworld, dropped in 1929. Comics still ape the voice of Edward G. Robinson in 1931’s classic Little Caesar (that his character is named Rico has become somewhat ironic). That same year, James Cagney starred in the first of his many gangster films, The Public Enemy. In 1932, Scarface, a film loosely but obviously based on the life of Al Capone, was finally released, after a months-long struggle with the Hays Code, which denounced the film for its glorification of both violence and crime. The censors were unmoved by the commercial reality that the American moviegoing public loves both of those things.
Gangsters—mobsters, wiseguys, goodfellas, whatever you want to call them—have populated our screens large and small ever since. No list of the greatest films of all time is complete without The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, with Goodfellas right behind. The Al Pacino Scarface is a cult favorite. Miller’s Crossing is arguably the best Coen Brothers flick. Heck, even Some Like It Hot, one of the funniest movies ever made, is technically a gangster movie. When it comes to ticket sales, gangster pictures work like gangbusters.
The irony is, the Hays Code got it right—these films really do glorify violent criminals. They created a mythology, as Lincoln’s Bible, self-described “bringer of moblight,” puts it. Which is well and good, especially when it comes to box office receipts and, you know, entertainment. Who doesn’t love Michael Corleone? But mythology isn’t history. It doesn’t present an accurate picture. It shows us only what Martin Scorsese chooses to let us see, as “Layla” plays.
For one thing, gangster movies tend to miss half the story. As soon as crime started to get organized over a century ago, LB points out, so did the spies. The two are inextricable. You can’t have one without the other.
The World Beneath, her landmark narrative podcast, tells the story of how this all came to be. We meet the seminal American gangsters, Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano, and the freaky-brilliant power couple, Elizabeth and William Friedman, who invented cryptanalysis and founded what became the National Security Agency. And we learn how the latter began to hunt down the former. The podcast is a fascinating look at the intersection of mobsters and spies, a darkling place long confined to the shadows.
The format of LB’s podcast is novel. After each narrative episode—there have been two so far, although the whole series can be binged with an Apple subscription—she conducts a “sit-down” with someone with an area of expertise that bridges the two narrative episodes. The first sit-down is with her uncle, longtime NSA veteran Jeremy Black, who I interviewed at PREVAIL last year. The second sit-down, released yesterday, is with me:
Later in the series, LB talks to Frank Figliuzzi, former assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, and Andrew McCabe, the Bureau’s former deputy director, among other notables and luminaries.
But who is Lincoln’s Bible? A screenwriter? An executive at Playboy? An early tech entrepreneur? A Pilates instructor to the stars? A Malibu mom? Somehow, she’s been all of those things, and more—as we discuss, in this episode of the PREVAIL podcast.
One thing’s for sure—she can’t stop writing about mobsters and spies. Even when she thought she was out…they pull her back in!
Description: Lincoln’s Bible discusses her new mobsters & spies podcast, “The World Beneath,” and opens up about her own background. Plus: a Fourth of July message from America’s favorite whistleblower.
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Photo credit: Edward G. Robinson in a still shot from Mervyn LeRoy’s Little Caesar (1931).