Wednesday, July 01, 2015

MAFIA-PEDIA - The Government's Secret Files on Organized Crime

The government has opened an old treasure trove of information on some 800 gangland goons who wielded power during the Mafia's Golden Age - a virtual Social Register of the worst sociopaths to have packed a silenced pistol, wielded an ice pick or driven a getaway car in a sharkskin suit.

The dossiers, complete with black-and-white photos, chronicle the backgrounds of wiseguys ranging from mob bosses Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Sam Giancana and "Crazy Joe" Gallo to lesser lights like Al Capone's two-bit hoodlum brothers.

The files read like single-page snapshots of the mobsters' lives - their aliases and detailed physical descriptions, from distinguishing scars, tattoos and facial tics to styles of dress, home addresses, arrest histories and family trees - and even the names of mistresses.

Also revealed are the legitimate businesses they owned and their preferred leisure haunts - racetracks, prizefights, nightclubs and favorite restaurants - as well as an overview of the criminal status each man held within the larger Mafia firmament.

The 944 pages of material - featured in the book "Mafia: The Government's Secret File on Organized Crime,"from HarperCollins - was mined from the raw intelligence gathered by agents of the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics, a forerunner of today's Drug Enforcement Administration.

The cavalcade of hoods includes two men named Frank Paul Dragna, the son and nephew of one-time Los Angeles Mafia kingpin Jack Dragna.

The first Frank is known as "One Eye," the second "Two Eye," to distinguish the cousin with the glass right eye.

Entrants are listed by state, and New York, with more than 350 wiseguys, overwhelmingly leads the pack. A multitude of others resided in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Michigan. There are groupings of gangsters from Canada, France and Italy, as well.

The index cross-references each racketeer by nickname, many of them hilarious.

There's "The Old Man" (there are, actually, three), "The Bald Head," "Hunchback Harry," "Schnozzola" (he has a large nose), "Mickey Mouse" (he has large ears), "Slim," three people dubbed "Cockeyed," as well as four "Fats" and a "Fat Artie," "Fat Freddie," "Fat Sonny" and "Fat Tony" for good measure.

There's "Big Al," "Big Frank" (two), "Big Freddy," "Big John," "Big Larry," "Big Mike" (two), "Big Nose Larry," "Big Pat," "Big Phil," "Big Sam," "Big Sol," "Big Yok" - even a "Mr. Big."

Thanks to Phillip Messing

The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld

Joey Gallo died at 43, though not before leaving an indelible imprint both on New York and on American culture. In “The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld”, Tom Folsom deftly evokes a wacky world populated by the sort of characters celebrated by Jack Kerouac.

“The only people for me are the mad ones,” Kerouac once wrote, “the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn.”

Mr. Gallo fit the definition, and Mr. Folsom, who in an earlier book creditably re-created the world of the drug dealer Nicky Barnes, does the same for a man mythologized by cultural trailblazers from Bob Dylan to Gay Talese.

Thanks to Sam Roberts

The Mob Mentality that Tried to Shut Down the Filming of The Godfather

Death threats, shootings, strikes and bomb-scares ... John Patterson explains how - and why - the mafia tried to shut down the filming of The Godfather

On June 28, 1971, Francis Ford Coppola was putting certain finishing touches to his costly, controversial adaptation of Mario Puzo's million-seller The Godfather.

That day Coppola was shooting parts of the film's famous climactic massacre, in which Michael Corleone takes power of the New York mob by executing his rivals in a blizzard of machine gun-fire and Eisensteinian cross-cutting.

As Joe Spinell, playing one of Michael's button-men, pumped six slugs into a fictional New York mob boss trapped in a midtown hotel's revolving door, a for-real, blood-on-his-hands New York mob boss called Joe Colombo Sr, was being gunned down at an Italian-American rally in Columbus Circle, not four blocks away from Coppola's location.

The hit was the opening salvo in a vicious gang war declared by a newly released mafia upstart and criminal visionary named Joey Gallo. But it was the end of the strange connection between Colombo (who lingered in a coma until his death in 1978) and The Godfather, a movie that couldn't have been made without Colombo's say-so.

As detailed in C4's documentary The Godfather And The Mob (which borrows heavily from Harlan Lebo's The Godfather Legacy), Colombo had insinuated himself between the producer of The Godfather, Al Ruddy, and his own home turf of Little Italy, promising that the mob would take tribute from the movie, or not a frame of celluloid would be shot. Knowing that the movie would lose all its authenticity if shot on studio backlots, Ruddy had no option but to acquiesce, and once the media got hold of the story - a sit-down, handshake deal with the devil - they flayed him with it for months.

All this was, of course, great grist for the movie's publicity mill, and some commentators like Carlos Clarens, in his landmark 1980 study Crime Movies, recalled certain time-tested publicity-agent gambits: "the filmed-under-threat routine had worked wonders back in the days of Doorway To Hell (1930: Jimmy Cagney's second movie)." If nothing else, Lebo's book and The Godfather And The Mob prove beyond a doubt that none of this strange tale was concocted by press agents.

The details are toothsome and delectable. The Godfather was written by Puzo, an Italian-American who grew up in Hell's Kitchen but who had never met a bona-fide mafiosi. Puzo learned his mob folklore mainly from croupiers in the golden age, 1960s Las Vegas of Moe Dalitz and the Rat Pack. That didn't prevent him from achieving such an impressive degree of authenticity that by the time the movie was a runaway hit, many real-life mafiosi had begun comporting themselves according to the rituals solemnised by Puzo and Coppola - the cheek-to-cheek kisses, the quasi-papal pledging of fealty to the Godfather's ring.

The total-immersion experience of the movie - achieved by the goldfish-bowl effect of keeping the audience emotionally intimate only with mobsters, by the subterranean browns and golds of its colour scheme, and by its period, ethnic and socioanthropological authenticity - traps us in 1945, and even now it is hard to imagine that a block away from the border of the set, it was 1971 and the real New York mob was undergoing the same upheavals as everyone else in those Martian times. Although The Godfather And The Mob hints at much of this, it has no real grasp of the richness and complexity of this period in mafia history.

Colombo was the head of what had earlier been the Profaci crime family, which he had inherited in the mid-1960s only because Joey Gallo was in prison for 10 years.

In Goodfellas' famous circularshot of teenage Henry Hill's "introduction to the world" in 1955, Hill's narration says, "It was a glorious time, before Appalachin and before Crazy Joe started a war with his boss ..." Appalachin referred to a famous FBI raid of the upstate New York estate of a leading crime boss in 1957. A mob summit was taking place and agents chased dozens of top mafiosi through the snow as they dumped guns, jewels and thousands of dollars in cash (the incident is alluded to in the final episode of season five of The Sopranos, as Tony escapes the Feds, but New York boss Johnny "Sack" Sacrimone does not).

Joey Gallo, meanwhile, saw drugs as the coming bonanza for organised crime and in the teeth of stiff opposition from the abstemious old "Moustache Petes" of the Corleone/Lucky Luciano generation, he had no compunction about forging distribution partnerships with black criminals in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant and shipping major product.

The war that ensued in the late 1950s (obliquely alluded to in Godfather II - "Not here, Carmine!"), tore the mob apart, grabbed headlines, and encouraged new Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to prosecute the mob unmercifully after 1960 - focusing on such figures as Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and the mafia bosses of Chicago, Tampa and New Orleans (who may later have helped assassinate his brother John). So it was an exhausted, much harried New York criminal fraternity that greeted Coppola and Ruddy in 1971.

It was also a community that had little taste for publicity. At the movies, the words "mafia" and "cosa nostra" were rarely ever heard before The Brotherhood in 1968 (which sank faster than Johnny Rosselli in his concrete-filled oil-drum). Even J Edgar Hoover downplayed the importance of the mafia throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s - while exaggerating the moribund red menace - probably because the mob's financial genius Meyer Lansky (Hyman Roth in Godfather II) had, presciently, blackmailed Hoover over his homosexuality as early as 1935.

Still, in an era highly conscious of matters racial and ethnic, Italians like Joe Colombo found a way to express their sense of ethnic grievance, too. Although the Italian community was well served by social groups like the Knights Of Columbus and the Order Of The Sons Of Italy, Colombo became involved in a new outfit, heavily mob-influenced and called, in the spirit of the times, the Italian-American Civil Rights League. And The Godfather's arrival in Manhattan gave the group a chance to raise its profile.

The league demanded consultation rights and got them from Ruddy in exchange for access to locations. Frank Sinatra - probably not pleased at Puzo's oblique references to the manner in which he secured his comeback role in From Here To Eternity - headlined a league fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, and local politicians attended the league's first rally in 1970, decrying anti-Italian prejudice (one hears the echo of Joe Pesci's plaintive wail in Goodfellas: "She's prejudiced against Italians. Imagine that - a Jew broad!").

They had a point - up to a point: Gangsters in the movies before 1970 were redolent of grotesque and venerable stereotypes about unwashed Italian immigrants pouring off Ellis Island. On the other hand - tell it to Sidney Poitier.

Or consider a contemporary figure like Anthony Imperiale, "the White Knight of Newark", namechecked by Tony Soprano in series four. Imperiale rose in the aftermath of the 1967 Newark riots as a streetcorner agitator exploiting Italian-American fears about black encroachment on hitherto white neighbourhoods - which he patrolled after dark with carloads of excitable, albeit unarmed young men.

Imperiale disavowed any racist intent, indeed he merrily hijacked the language of the real civil rights movement, despite talking of "Martin Luther Coon" and invoking a feral, spectral "them" whenever he mentioned blacks. You can breathe this toxic atmosphere of neighbourhood insularity and racism throughout Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale, also set in those years.

A hunger for headlines and flashbulbs seemed to be part of Joe Colombo's motivation in entangling himself with the league and the Godfather shoot. It was to be his undoing. His secretive, camera-phobic criminal cohorts got fed up with him. Working in partnership with capo di tutti i capi Carlo Gambino, Joey Gallo, free again and no less crazy, had a black criminal associate, one Jerome Johnson, gun Colombo down at the Italian-American League's second annual rally at Columbus Circle.

A black triggerman in a mob hit was then unheard of, and totally alien to the mafia's modus operandi, but no one was fooled. Johnson was gunned down in seconds by an assailant who immediately vanished, but everyone suspected Gallo because of his Harlem connections.

By the time Gallo himself was killed a year later - gunned down in a Mulberry Street clam house while celebrating his 43rd birthday - he had acquired his own taste for publicity: he was feted by writers (he'd read Camus and Sartre in the can), and was pimping his own memoir, A-Block. After Joe Colombo's fatal experience with The Godfather, you'd think Gallo might have learned his lesson. As it turned out, he died the same way as Virgil "The Turk" Sollozo at the hands of newly-minted murderer Michael Corleone, in an explosion of blood and clam sauce - just like in the movies.

Thanks to The Guardian

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Signs Your Neighbor Is in the Mafia

10. He seems to do really well for a guy who runs a candy store that's open one or two hours a day
9. His partner in the neighborhood 3-legged race: Vincent "The Chin" Gigante
8. For his son's birthday, buys him a U.S. senator
7. Your tomato plants keep getting singed by the cars exploding in his driveway
6. Tuesday: paper boy misses porch; Wednesday: paper boy gets "iced"
5. All his anecdotes end with, "So I blew his head off"
4. Two goons show up and make your wife reveal the family recipe for apple crisp
3. At their Halloween party, they bob for mob informants
2. After having an argument with his kid, your kid wakes up with the head of Tickle Me Elmo on his pillow
1. His lawn gnome is riddled with bulletholes

Thanks to David Letterman.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Tony Montana Has Game, Scarface - The World is Yours Collector's Edition Video Game

Video Game Tony Montana in Action
Gangster Tony Montana is iconic, extreme and exactly the way Vivendi Games sees its release "Scarface The World Is Yours Collector's Edition." Developers went to great lengths to infuse the project with all of the creativity and craftsmanship that go into a tentpole feature film.

The "Scarface" franchise was "built for the video game generation before video games existed," according to Universal Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger. "Now that technology and the audience have all caught up, we're hoping for great results."

"World," produced by Sierra Entertainment, allows players to assume the persona of the sneering, ruthless crime boss who stormed the screen in Brian De Palma's 1983 film amid a ferocious hail of bullets, blood and four-letter words.

Shmuger calls the game, which took three years to create, an "A-plus" production. Striving to adhere to the movie's spirit, story line, characters and locations to create a sequel of sorts, developers first answered the question: How does one build a game around a film in which the main character dies?

Screenwriter David McKenna was brought onboard to craft a game story worthy of the iconic drug lord. He proposed: What if Tony gets out of the movie's mansion shootout alive but with nothing -- no power, real estate or money?

According to "World" executive producer Pete Wanat, players must rebuild Tony's empire from scratch, earning back his cash, clout and crib. "They can pimp out his house however the player wants it done," he says.

Game developers painstakingly portrayed details in order to create a "fictional extension" of the film. "The fictional extension is not to tell the movie story but to fill in the blanks," says Bill Kispert, vp interactive at Universal Studios Consumer Products Group.

Locations such as Tony's mansion, the Babylon Club and the Sun Ray Motel are identical to those in the film, he adds. "Tony still hates Colombians, and he still has a propensity for dropping the F-word," Wanat says.

The biggest coup for Vivendi was bringing Al Pacino onboard to review the characters and other game elements. "World" marks the first time the actor has allowed his likeness to be used in a video game, according to Kispert.

Says Wanat: "Tony is a much-loved character. You have to nail that character -- it can't just be OK. It's gotta look like Tony, walk like Tony and talk like Tony."

Pacino insisted on bringing Tony's moral code into "World," especially given the popularity of violent video games such as those in the "Grand Theft Auto" franchise. "Scarface" has a body count of 42, but Tony does not hurt innocents -- and the game does not allow players to do so, either.

If a "World" player lines up an innocent woman and attempts to shoot her, Tony's voice will issue a reprimand like, "That goes against my code!" "If you did this game without that, it wouldn't be Tony Montana," Wanat says. But that does not mean the game version of Tony will take it easy on his enemies, or that there is a lack of action. "World" opens with a shootout scene at Tony's mansion and does not slow from there.

Striving to match De Palma's crisp colors and rich textures, Wanat and his team were supported by production values including THX sound, effects from Skywalker Sound, McKenna's script and musical licensing from top artists.

Rounding out the talent are about 40 Hollywood actors, many of whom requested to be a part of the game. Joining the film's Steven Bauer and Robert Loggia were Ricky Gervais, Elliott Gould, Oliver Platt, James Woods, the music industry's B Real, Ice-T, Ivy Queen and Lemmy of Motorhead and even popular NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

A collectors' edition of "World" will be available for a limited time for PS2. The specially packaged set includes a bonus DVD featuring a "Making of the Game" documentary, a walk-through with producer commentary, cast interviews, playing tips and a map of the game world.

Thanks to Angelique Flores

The Godfather Returns

Forty-three years ago, Mario Puzo’s great American tale, The Godfather, was published, and popular culture was indelibly changed.

In The Godfather Returns, acclaimed novelist Mark Winegardner continues the story–the years not covered in Puzo’s bestselling book or in Francis Ford Coppola’s classic films.

It is 1955. Michael Corleone has won a bloody victory in the war among New York’s crime families. Now he wants to consolidate his power, save his marriage, and take his family into legitimate businesses. To do so, he must confront his most dangerous adversary yet, Nick Geraci, a former boxer who worked his way through law school as a Corleone street enforcer, and who is every bit as deadly and cunning as Michael. Their personal cold war will run from 1955 to 1962, exerting immense influence on the lives of America’s most powerful criminals and their loved ones, including


  • Tom Hagen, the Corleone Family’s lawyer and consigliere, who embarks on a political career in Nevada while trying to protect his brother;
  • Francesca Corleone, daughter of Michael’s late brother Sonny, who is suddenly learning her family’s true history and faces a difficult choice;
  • Don Louie Russo, head of the Chicago mob, who plays dumb but has wily ambitions for muscling in on the Corleones’ territory;
  • Peter Clemenza, the stalwart Corleone underboss, who knows more Family secrets than almost anyone;
  • Ambassador M. Corbett Shea, a former Prohibition-era bootlegger and business ally of the Corleones’, who wants to get his son elected to the presidency–and needs some help from his old friends;
  • Johnny Fontane, the world’s greatest saloon singer, who ascends to new heights as a recording artist, cozying up to Washington’s power elite and maintaining a precarious relationship with notorious underworld figures;
  • Kay Adams Corleone, who finally discovers the truth about her husband, Michael–and must decide what it means for their marriage and their children and
  • Fredo Corleone, whose death has never been fully explained until now, and whose betrayal of the Family was part of a larger and more sinister chain of events.


Sweeping from New York and Washington to Las Vegas and Cuba, The Godfather Returns is the spellbinding story of America’s criminal underworld at mid-century and its intersection with the political, legal, and entertainment empires. Mark Winegardner brings an original voice and vision to Mario Puzo’s mythic characters while creating several equally unforgettable characters of his own. The Godfather Returns stands on its own as a triumph–in a tale about what we love, yearn for, and sometimes have reason to fear . . . family.

The Godather II Video Game Goes Gold

Electronic Arts has announced that its slightly-delayed organized crime action game The Godfather II has gold gold for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.

The Godfather II puts players in the role of DominicThe Godfather II Video Game, a made mad in the Italian mod. After the leader of Dominic's family is killed at a mob meeting in Havana on the eve of the Cuban Revolution, the Corleone family recruits Dominic to act as Don so Michael Corleone keeps his hands clean while under investigation by the Senate Committee on Organized Crime. Aided by the Corleone's consigliere Tom Hagan (voiced by the role's originator Robert Duvall), Dominic has to figure out how to run his crew, expand a mob empire, reach out to corrupt officials, keep mob rivals in check, and set up new rackets in new markets like Miami and Cuba.

Although an action game, The Godfather II also features a "revolutionary" "Don's View" which offers a 3D visualization of criminal activities, enabling a player to coordinate their strategy and plan their moves.

The Godfather II is rated M for "Mature" by the ESRB.

Thanks to Geoff Duncan

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