Ida “The Goose” Burger was a strikingly-beautiful dance hall girl and sometimes prostitute, who was the favorite of several members of the five hundred-strong Gophers gang, which controlled the New York Hell’s Kitchen area, that ran on the West Side of Manhattan, from Fourteenth Street to Fifty Seventh Street. The Gophers passed Ida the Goose around from boss to boss, and even down to the low-level members of their gang. But make no mistake, Ida belonged to the treacherous Gophers and anyone who thought otherwise would be dealt with in a severe manner.
Jack Tricker was a saloon keeper/gangster, who, after Monk Eastman was sent to prison for armed robbery, headed up one faction of the Eastman mob on the Lower East Side. Tricker owned a bar on Park Row in downtown Manhattan, but after it was closed down by authorities for basically being a den of iniquity, Tricker decided to branch out of the Lower East Side and into Hell’s Kitchen. He decided that maybe, because of the Gophers’ internal battles, they were not so tough anymore. In an act of defiance, he bought the Old Stag Bar on West 28th Street, smack in the middle of Gopher territory, and renamed it the Maryland Cafe.
One of Tricker’s men somehow won the affections of Ida the Goose, and he spit in the Gophers’ face, by taking Ida away from an influential Gopher and bringing her to the Maryland Cafe, where they installed her as the main attraction; the “Belle of The Ball,” so to speak. The Gophers immediately sent an emissary to Tricker, demanding the return of Ida the Goose. Tricker told the emissary that he would not get involved, one way or another, and that it was their problem, not his. Immediately, threats spewed from the Gophers to Tricker’s gang, who armed themselves heavily in anticipation of war. But after weeks passed with nothing happening, Tricker’s gang relaxed a bit, thinking the Gophers were all talk and no action.
In October of 1910, four Gophers, one of whom was Ida’s former boyfriend, swaggered into the Maryland Cafe, approached the bar and ordered a four beers. Six Tricker gangsters, who were sitting at a large round table, were so surprised by the bold move, they sat transfixed and said not a word, let alone try to evict the invaders. Outraged, it was Ida the Goose who spoke first. She screamed at the Gophers, “Say!! Youse guys have some nerve!”
The Gophers calmly finished their beer, then one turned around slowly and said, “Well, let’s get at it.” They each drew two guns and began spraying the bar’s walls, mirrors and tables with gunshots. The two bartenders, who were not part of Tricker’s gang, dived behind the bar, and five of Tricker men’s were shot and disabled. The sixth, who was Ida’s newfound lover, dived under Ida’s flowing skirt, seeking protection. She stared down at him in disdain, then shrugged her shoulders and said, “Say, youse! Come on out and take it.”
Ida shoved him into the center of the floor and the Gophers pumped four bullets into his torso. Then Ida’s former boyfriend stepped forward and put on the final touches, by firing one shot into the fallen man’s brain.
The four Gophers strode out of the Maryland Cafe, followed closely by Ida the Goose, glowing in pride that such a battle was fought over her affections. She went back to the Gophers and never strayed from their side again.