Friday, September 08, 2006
Jerry Oppenheimer reports in "House of Hilton" that Kathy Richards - known as "Big Kathy" -was hitched to a notorious gangland figure when her daughter, "Little Kathy," fell in love with Paris' dad, Rick Hilton.
Oppenheimer, whose Crown book comes out in November, is withholding the mob guy's name for now. But he reports that federal prosecutors linked him to Mafia families in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago.
"Big Kathy used to boast to friends … that 'if you ever need someone taken care of,' her husband had the muscle to handle it." But Big Kathy got nervous when her daughter hooked up with Rick. "I can't have the Hiltons finding out what [my husband] does," she told a friend.
Big Kathy promptly divorced the potential wedding-spoiler, one of four husbands she collected. The gentleman later died of a heart attack - just before he was due to serve 15 years for counterfeiting, money-laundering and other charges.
Even so, Mama Richards was banned from the Hilton estate in Los Angeles unless the family patriarch, Barron Hilton, was out of town, according to Oppenheimer. "Barron couldn't stand being around Kathy's mother," a source told Oppenheimer. "He used to call her 'The Madam' - as in bawdy house madam."
Word is her mobster gave Big Kathy the same big honking diamond ring that he'd given earlier molls. "He'd always get it back from them," a source tells us. "But he never got it back from Big Kathy."
A spokesman for the Hiltons, who are said to be dreading the book, declined to comment. But Paris still cherishes the memory of her grandma, who died in 2002 at the age of 63. "We were, like, best friends," Paris says in September's issue of Blender. "She would say, 'You're my Marilyn Monroe. You're my Grace Kelly. You're going to be the most famous woman in the world.' … I feel like she made all this happen."
Thanks to Rush & Molloy
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Friends of mine: Michael Spilotro, Phillip Goodman
Westmont police Wednesday asked the public for information about the whereabouts of Anthony Zizzo, an elderly organized crime figure who was last seen Aug. 31 driving away from his home in the suburb.
While the Police Department is taking the lead in the investigation, which was launched after Zizzo's wife filed a missing person report, federal authorities are now also participating in the investigation, law enforcement sources said.
Westmont officials confirmed Wednesday that Zizzo's vehicle was recovered Saturday in the parking lot of a restaurant in Melrose Park. Police said he suffers from kidney failure and did not take medication with him when he left home.
Zizzo's wife reported him missing Friday morning. She had last seen him the day before as he drove away from their home in the 5700 block of South Cass Avenue, police said. When last seen, Zizzo, who is 5-foot-3 and 200 pounds, was wearing a gray shirt, black pants, a black windbreaker and black athletic shoes. He has thinning gray hair, blue eyes and wears metal-rimmed glasses.
It is unclear what his plans were when he left home, but some sources familiar with the case said he may have been headed for a meeting in the Rush Street area of Chicago.
Zizzo, 71, was a major figure in the organization of mob kingpin Sam Carlisi and went to prison with his boss and several others in 1993. He was released in 2001.
Zizzo, who lived in Melrose Park before his conviction, was described as the No. 3 person in command of the late Carlisi's crew. He supervised loan sharking and gambling operations, prosecutors said.
According to court records, Zizzo was the former boss of a Carlisi crew enforcer and debt collector, Anthony Chiaramonti, who was gunned down outside a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Lyons in November 2001. That killing was the last-known hit in the Chicago mob world.
At the time of Zizzo's conviction, federal authorities said he and some co-defendants were believed to have information about several unsolved mob murders. Each was named in connection with events that preceded the murders of Anthony and Michael Spilotro and bookmaker Phillip Goodman, according to a prosecution filing in the Carlisi case. It did not link anyone to the actual crimes, however.
Last year, federal prosecutors charged several reputed Chicago mob leaders in connection with a number of unsolved murders. Zizzo was not named, but one of his 1993 co-defendants, James Marcello, was charged in the massive federal conspiracy case.
Thanks to David Heinzmann and Jeff Coen
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
The way John A. (Junior) Gotti sees it, if the feds were so convinced he was a dummy, how could he have run the city's most murderous crime family? In recorded prison chats played for jurors yesterday, Gotti mocks the tag he earned after government agents said he didn't have the smarts his father possessed to run the Gambino crime family.
"I'm the Dopey Don, remember?" he tells pal Steve Dobies during a July 2003 prison conversation intercepted by the feds. "That's what I was. I had no problem with that. But you can't just now say, 'Well, we thought now because we're gonna put him in jail for life, he wasn't really the Dopey Don. You can't do that. ... You gotta lock them into something."
The Dopey Don chat was among more than a dozen prison conversations played for jurors yesterday as prosecutors wrapped up their racketeering case against the 42-year-old mob scion by presenting evidence they say shows Gotti never truly renounced the mob life as he claims he did.
When Gotti's lawyers begin calling witnesses today, they may start with Curtis Sliwa, the radio host allegedly shot twice by thugs prosecutors say were sent by Junior. Sliwa testified for the prosecution at two previous trials but was not called this time.
On the tapes recorded in 2003 and 2004, Gotti weighs in on numerous topics, from "vulture" uncles to a "bum" brother to his interpretation of the Torah.
Among Junior's greatest hits:
Gotti told pal John Ruggiero during a 2003 chat that if uncles Peter or Richie Gotti turned up in the upstate New York prison where he was being housed, they'd suffer the consequences. "I swear it to you on my dead brother and my dead father, I swear to you, I will meet them by the [prison] door, with two padlocks in my hands, and I will crack their skulls."
On brother Peter, whom he crossed off his prison visitors list in 2003, he said: "I love him, but my brother's a bum. That's all he is. No more, no less. ... I have a hard time respecting any man who doesn't spend any time with his wife and kids at all. If Pete has an available moment he'll take whatever's in his pocket, like my father would have done, and go to OTB or go to Atlantic City."
Gotti's anxiety heightens throughout as it becomes clear the feds are preparing to indict him on new charges. He muses about leaving New York once his five-year prison hitch is over. And when Gotti lawyer Richard Rehbock complains about having to buy Dobies - who is Jewish - lunch every day, Gotti offered his take on the Torah. "Isn't that like supposed to be a Jewish pact or something that youse got with each other to feed each other to shelter them in their shelter or some s---?" Gotti asked. "Isn't that in the Torah?"
Thanks to Thomas Zambito
Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro
Known as the Chicago mob's overseer in Las Vegas, Spilotro, 48, was brutally slain in 1986 along with his brother, Michael. Their bodies were found in an Indiana cornfield and the slayings were part of the movie "Casino."
Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel
The boss of West Coast gambling for the crime syndicate and an original member of Murder Inc., he came to Las Vegas in 1945. A year later, Siegel opened the Flamingo hotel on a dusty stretch of highway that soon would become known as the Strip. A shrewd businessman with an explosive temper, Siegel was executed in 1947 in Beverly Hills before he could see his Las Vegas dream come to fruition. More than 40 years later, Warren Beatty brought the gangster back to life in "Bugsy."
Anthony "Big Tuna" Accardo
Accardo rose from Al Capone's bodyguard to become the reputed boss of the Chicago crime syndicate. Under his leadership, the Chicago mob was the secret power behind Las Vegas casinos, skimming millions. He also was known as "Joe Batters," apparently a reference to his prowess as a mob enforcer. Though he had a long arrest record, he was never convicted of a felony and boasted that he had never spent a night in jail. Accardo died in 1992 at age 86.
Proposed by Michael Martinez
Friends of mine: Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal
Las Vegas' mayor gained fame and fortune defending mob titans. Now he wants a museum celebrating their role in building Sin City.
Mayor Oscar Goodman, the flamboyant, gin-sipping, sports-gambling, showgirl-squiring executive of Sin City, is caught in a contradiction. For years he had told the world, "There is no mob." That was when he was a defense lawyer who represented mobsters and even had a cameo playing himself in Martin Scorsese's "Casino." Goodman said there were no mobsters--just alleged mobsters. Now, as mayor, he wants to take a National Historic Landmark, the old federal courthouse where he tried his first case, and turn it into a mob museum--and there's no alleged about it.
Many of Goodman's constituents and some former FBI agents are appalled by the idea, but Goodman insists he's just recognizing Vegas' founding fathers. Or godfathers. "The mob founded us, and I never apologized for them because I represented them, and they made me a rich man," he said.
Goodman, 67, who recalled representing an alleged mobster at Chicago's criminal courts complex known as "26th and Cal," is winning all verdicts in the political arena these days. He was re-elected in 2003 to a second term as mayor of Las Vegas with more than 85 percent of the vote.
If Goodman wants it, he gets it. And he wants a mob museum. "As long as I'm mayor," Goodman asserted, "we're going to keep on smiling at ourselves at how the mob founded us."
One of the most prominent founders was Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, a maverick underworld mastermind who was the boss of West Coast gambling for the crime syndicate and who opened the Flamingo hotel in 1946 on a forlorn patch of highway that eventually became known famously as the Strip.
Some wonder whether the museum will end up as a monument to Goodman's legal career and his extensive list of old clients: Anthony "Tony the Ant" Spilotro of Chicago, Jimmy Chagra, Nick Civella, Vinny Ferrara, Frank Rosenthal, Meyer Lansky, Natale Richichi and Nicky Scarfo.
That compilation was made by author and Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith, who wrote a book about Goodman, including how he despised mob snitches, in "Of Rats and Men: Oscar Goodman's Life from Mob Mouthpiece to Mayor of Las Vegas."
"Oscar's client list would fill any mob museum," said Smith, 46. "You know, he has represented members of various organized crime families literally from coast to coast. He's most known locally and in Chicago, of course, for his representation of Tony Spilotro."
Spilotro allegedly crushed the skull of one victim in a vise and later turned up dead in an Indiana cornfield in 1986. "Most locals here know him as a killer, but [Goodman] says he was a gentleman. . . . Of course Oscar never went on any long rides with Tony Spilotro, or he wouldn't have come back," Smith said.
The notion of a mob museum annoys the FBI agents who were Goodman's legal adversaries. "In my estimation, his purpose would be to glorify them," said Joe Yablonsky, 77, who retired as agent in charge of the FBI's Las Vegas office in 1984. "The only reason that he gets away with this is that he's in Vegas. If he was in some normal American city, he'd never make it."
Yablonsky, who spent the last four years of his FBI career in Las Vegas and now lives in Lady Lake, Fla., said many Vegas residents don't remember the violent days of mob-influenced casinos because most of them weren't living there then. The population of Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County is 1.8million, four times what it was in 1980. "If it were told truthfully, it would be OK, how we ridded the place of them and what they were really like," Yablonsky said. "They milked the place for all these dollars they took in the skim and . . . Spilotro was a hit guy, and we figured him for 22 whacks and that was supposed to be his role as enforcer. How is [Goodman] going to make him look good?"
The museum, which doesn't have a formal name yet, would be housed downtown across the street from City Hall in the old federal courthouse and post office, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, said Deputy City Manager Betsy Fretwell.
The city awarded a $7.5 million contract this month for an architect to design temporary and permanent galleries. The museum and cultural center is expected to cost $30 million.
City officials have yet to decide how the museum, which would open in 2008, will depict the Mafia, but Fretwell said it will be entertaining enough to hold its own against the stiff competition for which Vegas attractions are renowned.
City officials now refer to the building as the POST Modern, a word play on how they want a modern use for the old post office, which opened in 1933. The building's sole courtroom is perhaps best known as one of the sites used in 1950 for the U.S. Senate's televised Kefauver hearings, in which suspected crime figures were interrogated.
Because the museum is to address the history of organized crime in Las Vegas, exhibits could very well bear upon the mayor's career as a defense lawyer. "The mayor has a rich history as an attorney and may have things to contribute in terms of collections or oral history," Fretwell said.
An advisory board including local media members, a former chief of the Las Vegas FBI office and tourism officials has been formed, and a panel of historians also is being assembled, Fretwell said.
While a recent city-commissioned survey showed that out-of-town visitors preferred a mob museum in the old courthouse, locals more often preferred a museum devoted to "vintage Vegas," its architecture and entertainment evolution.
One resident, Wayne Haag, 45, a garbage collection driver, thought the mayor's idea cast a negative light on Las Vegas. "A Mafia museum--in a way, he's related to it. It's an old post office. Why [a Mafia museum]? To me, it's m-o-n-e-y," Haag said.
Thanks to Michael Martinez