|The Naked City||Aug 18 2009|
Crime Detective had a lot of questions about Serge Rubinstein’s murder, but no answers.
The detective magazine business used to be booming. We’ve already discussed or shown you covers for True Detective, Official Detective, Inside Detective, Front Page Detective, Master Detective and Confidential Detective. Today we have yet another entry in the genre—Crime Detective. This issue is from August 1962, and it has a story on the treacherous Serge Rubinstein—financier, crook, blackmailer, two-timer, and victim of murder back in 1955. Why did he make the cover seven years after his death? Because the crime was never solved, and it remains one of the most famous unsolved killings in New York history.
Rubinstein was Napoleonic in size and ambition. He sought wealth and believed rules applied to everyone except him. He was a swindler nonpareil, and though many people suspected this, he had the requisite veneer of manners and the requisite pocketful of cash to blend with the upper crust. He was a draft dodger, like so many of the ultra-wealthy. But when it came to fighting women, he was a real tough guy—he beat his first wife unconscious and ripped off her clothes. But he kept the ugliness and violent tendencies hidden, and used his money to attract socialites who ordinarily would have assumed he was the coat check boy. He always dated several models at once, yet insisted on fidelity from all of them. He bugged their apartments to be sure they complied. In summation, Serge Rubinstein—who you see at left dressed as Napoleon—was a bad guy.
No surprise, then, that he was eventually found strangled on the floor of his palatial Manhattan flat. Police first believed he’d been tortured for the purpose of revenge or for extracting business secrets. Then they started thinking it was a kidnapping gone wrong. The last person to see Rubinstein alive was one of his girlfriends, Estelle Gardner, but she had left his apartment around 1:30 a.m. Around 2:30 a.m. Rubinstein had called another girlfriend named Patricia Wray, but she had declined his invitation to come over. The apartment was protected by heavy doors and iron bars, which meant a key had been used to gain entry. Rubinstein gave keys to staff and girlfriends. All were questioned and all were cleared. That left about a thousand more suspects, consisting of the cheated, the betrayed, the ruined, and the embarrassed. Serge Rubinstein’s bad habits had caught up with him. Not only had they cost him all the things he ever had, including his life—the person who took them away would never be found.