Tag Archives: cigar

Dr. James Salhany

October 15, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

He’s an experienced musician, composer and producer. He’s a published poet. He’s a university scientist and medical researcher with widely recognized expertise in hematology and authorship or co-authorship of numerous academic papers.

Among other things.

Whether you know him as Jim from the Old Market or Jimmy the musician or Dr. James Salhany, Jim Salhany is a dynamic, amazingly multifaceted individual who manages to find a perfect balance between his highly scientific and prolifically creative halves.

“I don’t sleep much,” Sakhany says, wryly. But he insists there’s no magic to how he manages to integrate his many interests into the same 24 hours the rest of us have each day; it’s just how he is. “For me, there was never a time when I didn’t have the humanities and science, to various degrees, as part of my life,” he explains.

“I was born in Detroit and grew up in the suburbs—the row house kind of suburbs—and I got my first guitar when I was like 12 or 13. “It was one in a junk store that my mom gave me ten bucks for,” he says. “We played a lot of two-note chords, which you could get away with in the ‘50s, and the drummer had a kick, a snare, and a cymbal—and that was it. And our bass player had a crummy little amplifier and we played in this little garage. People started coming around to listen to us, and that started becoming fun.”

And then there was that other big interest.

“I was also really into science, too,” he continues, “and Sputnik went up when I was in high school, thereabouts. Anybody with a math and science sort of inclination was turned on by this whole thing. It was just very exciting.”

Salhany continued to play in bands (with some interesting names like Penetrations and City Dog) as he pursued his education and launched his career, earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago. He also did postdoctoral research at Bell Laboratories in New Jersey before landing in Omaha, joining the University of Nebraska Medical Center faculty as an assistant professor in 1975. He was a full professor in UNMC’s departments of internal medicine and biochemistry and molecular biology by 1989, and also did scientific research with both a magnetic resonance heart laboratory at the Med Center and a blood laboratory at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“I’m officially retired. They give you the emeritus status,” he says, but their isn’t anything “emeritus” about his music. Salhany regularly works with his vocalist/flutist wife, Christine, on various projects. And he still plays with a couple of local ensembles, adding to the long line of collaborations he’s enjoyed over the years.

“It’s been a blast,” he says.

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Mafiosi and Madams

August 29, 2013 by
Photography by The Durham Museum and Julie Shadlow

An insignificant river town doesn’t grow up to be a thriving metropolis without producing its share of unsavory types. Villainous characters and shady stories abound in Omaha, especially in its early days, where men are often very tight and women deemed a trifle loose, according to poet John G. Saxe in 1869. These ain’t your mama’s headlines. Actually, they may have been your grandmother’s.

Political mob boss incites race riot. For 18 years, political boss Tom Dennison carried most of Omaha neatly in his pocket—government, police, and business. The man’s crimes were many, but his most reprehensible may have been inciting the infamous Omaha Race Riot of 1919. After citizens finally elected a non-Dennison man, one Edward Parsons Smith, as mayor in 1918, Dennison henchmen were accused of putting on blackface, assaulting women, and then stirring up crowds, leading to the lynching of black man Will Brown and the near-lynching of Mayor Smith. Smith’s administration was later accused of being ineffectual during the riot. Dennison himself was never found guilty of any involvement, and a key instigator, Dennison henchman Milton Hoffman, fled the state before he could be questioned.

Brothel owner donates building for hospital, receives public outcry. Six months before her death, Anna Wilson, madam of downtown’s Sporting District in the late 1800s, “…closed out her dive and presented the building, with  $75,000, to the city as an emergency hospital,” reads the Lawrence Journal-World on Jan. 16, 1912. Even though it was the second largest gift to charity yet made by an Omahan, city officials and residents balked at accepting the donation of an old brothel. To abate accusations of “tainted money,” Wilson agreed to accept a rent of $125 a month for the rest of her life.

James (Jimmy) Dahlman posing as The Cowboy Mayor of Omaha (courtesy of Durham Museum).

James (Jimmy) Dahlman posing as The Cowboy Mayor of Omaha (courtesy of Durham Museum).

Puppet mayor runs for eighth term. Depending on where you look, James Dahlman was either a heroic figure of Omaha or an unscrupulous politician. He shot and killed his brother-in-law at the age of 22 and was a close ally of political boss Tom Dennison. That alliance led to Dahlman winning three elections in a row, seven altogether. He was filing for an eighth reelection when he passed away. He did fight for and won more autonomy for the Omaha government from the state. Perhaps that desire for doing things by his own rules explains why Dahlman originally refused federal aid after the fatal Omaha Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913.

Saloon owner is key lieutenant in crime ring. William E. Nesselhous, one of Tom Dennison’s bootleggers, owned a saloon called The Budweiser, which served as Dennison’s headquarters. A tiny man with glasses (he was a former jockey), Nesselhous was Dennison’s connector, an adaptable man who managed people easily. He was indicted in 1932 (along with 58 other people) by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to violate prohibition laws.

Child of prominent family stolen! Kidnapper writes book. In the 1880s, Pat Crowe went to work for one of the big four names in Omaha’s meat industry when his butcher shop was bought out by the Cudahy Meatpacking Plant. Edward Cudahy later fired him when he was caught stealing money. Several years later, Crowe kidnapped 16-year-old Edward Cudahy, Jr., in 1900 and received $25,000, the first successful ransom in the United States. This was perhaps due to the cold ransom note, referencing another kidnapping where a boy died because the father refused to pay. “If you don’t give up…you can lead your boy blind the rest of your days,” Crowe’s note threatened, stating he would put acid in the young man’s eyes. Five years later, Crowe was arrested for the crime but acquitted, whereupon he wrote not one but two autobiographies detailing the kidnapping. Crowe’s crime supposedly influenced the famous kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s child.

Respectable wife murders husband in hotel lobby. On Nov. 17, 1888, Eliza Beechler of Chicago followed her husband, Harry W. King, Jr., to the Paxton Hotel at 14th and Farnam streets in Omaha. Beechler had seen a dispatch stating that King had married a Miss Duffy in Kansas City. At the hotel, King insisted Beechler go home, and when she refused, he allegedly replied that she shut her mouth or he would choke her to death. In response, she shot him in the Paxton lobby, killing him and depriving two other women, including one upstairs, of a man they also believed to be their husband.

Louise Vinciquerra, in a photograph dated 1927 provided by great-great-granddaughter Julie Shadlow of Oregon.

Louise Vinciquerra, in a photograph dated 1927 provided by great-great-granddaughter Julie Shadlow.

Phantom Sniper resents being called insane. After being released from the Iowa State Penitentiary for killing cattle, Frank Carter shot a mechanic and a doctor in Omaha and supposedly a railroad detective in Council Bluffs in 1926. Newspapers revealed the victims had been standing next to windows in their homes at night when they were shot. Though convicted of two murders, Carter claimed to have killed 43 people. His lawyers attempted to say he was a paranoiac with an inferiority complex, but Carter disrupted his own defense by shouting, “I’m not a nut! I tell you, I’m not a nut!” He was electrocuted on June 24, 1927.

Cigar store is front for Omaha Mafia boss. Anthony Joseph DiBiase (Tony Biase) was a short, portly man at 5’3 and 160 pounds. What began as small-time bookmaking in his Owl Smoke Shop on 16th Street in the ’40s would become a web of heroin trafficking and connections to New York mafia. In 1960, Biase was sentenced to 15 years for narcotics after his attempt on the life of a partner-turned-informant went wrong. Biase was paroled in 1970 and died in 1991 in South Omaha at nearly 100 years old. He only had one other arrest in between, in 1986.

Bootleg queen’s ex shoots her second husband. Earl Haning was visiting with his ex-wife, Louise Vinciquerra, in her home on July 4, 1933, when he was shot through a screen and killed by her first ex-husband, Sebastiano Vinciquerra. The two men had exchanged fire once before in 1928, while Haning was still married to Louise. Haning had been a prohibition agent in Omaha at the time he was married to Omaha’s Bootleg Queen. Haning was married to one Jessie McCombs when he was shot in his ex-wife’s home.

Shopkeeper butchers friend for $1,500. Ottway Baker killed his coworker, Woolsey Higgins, with two swings of an ax while Higgins slept in their shared room at a grocery on 12th and Farnam streets. Baker then set fire to the shop and shot himself in the arm to cover his tracks, but he was arrested and hanged on Valentine’s Day, 1868. It was the second legal execution in Omaha history and the city’s first ax murder on record.

The Blues Reign at Havana Garage

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

Thanks to the island atmosphere (think moody Rat Pack, not kitschy Cheeseburger in Paradise), guests at the Havana Garage are swept away to a more sophisticated era when jazz and the blues were kings in the music scene.

“A cigar, a drink, great live music you don’t have to shout over…it’s a social style,” says Chaz Kline, owner of Havana Garage, a cigar bar in what he calls the Old Market’s lower east side. “There comes a certain point when you want to graduate to a different level of socializing.”

The Garage doesn’t have live music every night, but expect it on Fridays and Saturdays and maybe Thursdays, if you’re lucky. “We’ve talked about curating an open mic night on Sundays, too,” Kline says. Regular performers include trumpet player Darryl White, the OK Sisters, and a couple different bands that Matt Wallace, esteemed local saxophonist, plays in.

Crime Sena, for example, is a kind of ‘70s rock band. “You know, what was on the radio in the ‘70s,” Wallace says. “People think they’re getting their last drink, and then we play something they haven’t heard in years. A few songs later they’re still in the back there singing along.” Thomas Sena, founder of T’eez Salon, plays piano in the band, a fact that has forced Wallace to take stock of his ego. “You really think you’re something until you play with him, and all the women are like, ‘Is that Tom Sena?’”

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Though live performances can be planned out months in advance, Kline will leave a few holes here and there in the calendar to fill in when something extra special comes up. “We haven’t found enough bands in Omaha with that Sancho Panza feel, you know?” he says. “What you’ll find most often is Mexican, a mariachi flavor. We’re looking for something more Cuban, more Caribbean.”

There’s usually no cover, but if you show up after 10 or so on a night of live music, you might get charged $5, depending on the band. “We’ll probably still promo a drink though,” Kline says. “This is Omaha. It’s not New Orleans with lots of places like this to choose from. We’re an adjunct to the music scene here. It’s not our whole angle, but it’s definitely the cherry on top of the cake.”

If you’re new to the rest of the cake, Kline suggested selecting a mild cigar from the humidor downstairs that has over 300 different facings. “Maybe Romeo y Julieta. Or Monte Cristo,” he says. “Those are some of the oldest names. They’re actually from Cuban seed.” Then, with a signature Havana Garage cocktail in hand (Brazilian rum, ginger beer, mint…think mojito meets Moscow mule), have a seat in either the backyard bodega for a low-key chat or in the bar area to listen to the Latin strains of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

If you need a snack to complete the picture, Kline noted with pride that Havana Garage rubs shoulders with some of the oldest restaurants in the Old Market. “People bring over their dinners from Ahmad’s or Twisted Fork or Indian Oven a lot,” he says. “We’ll get you the menus, we’ll phone next door.”

That sort of service is de rigueur as far as he’s concerned. “We’re all kind of little ambassadors here on the lower east side. The best compliment is, ‘I can’t believe you exist.’”