Murder Incorporated

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Otto "Addadabba" Berman

Otto "Abbadabba" Berman is a legendary US Mafia accountant famous for his ability to cook accounting books. He is also known for coining the phrase "Nothing personal, it is just business."
Virtually no information on Berman has survived in the ensuing years since his death. He was born Otto Biederman in or around 1889 in NYC; when he was fifteen, he was arrested and tried for attempted rape but found not guilty. It is thought that his best friend was a man by the name of Brobyn. As an adult he became an accountant, well known for his ability to figure complex mathematical equations and algebraic expressions in a matter of seconds, without the use of paper or pen. A member of the New York nightlife, he met and befriended writer Damon Runyon. Runyon would go on to base his recurring character Regret on Berman, and Berman would be thus immortalized by character actor Lynne Overman when a movie was made out of Runyon's story, Little Miss Marker.

In the 1930s Berman fully enshrined himself in the criminal underworld when he became the accountant for and advisor to gangster Dutch Schultz. In 1935 Berman was having a meeting at the Palace Chophouse tavern in Newark with Schultz and gunmen Abe Landau and Lulu Rosenkrantz when assassains hired by Lucky Luciano burst into the room. Berman suffered several bullet wounds and buckshot from a twelve gauge shotgun, and was the second of the four men to die. A photo of his bullet-riddled body appeared alongside a photo of Schultz undergoing surgery in the next morning's newspaper, under the headline, "Schultz, Five Pals Shot" (itself a misnomer; the only people attacked that night were Berman, Landau, Rosenkrantz, and Marty Krompier, one of Schultz's lieutenants). That article claimed that Berman was a gunman for Schultz; an angry Damon Runyon quickly submitted an editorial to the newspaper, defending Berman.

Some fifty years after his death Berman became a literary anti-hero as the sage mentor to the main character in the PEN/Faulkner award winning novel, Billy Bathgate.


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