Monday, May 11, 2009

Nobody Does a Funeral Quite like the Mafia

The local chapter of La Cosa Nostra may be a hapless shell of its former self. But when it comes to staging a funeral, nobody does it quite like the Mafia.

“Three flower cars, wow!” said a pilgrim from Wisconsin who was just about to chomp down on a chocolate cannoli from Mike’s Pastry yesterday morning. The cheesehead was momentarily spellbound by the stately procession of black Cadillacs gliding toward him up Hanover Street, coming to rest at the venerable gates of St. Leonard’s Church. “Wonder who that is?” the tourist said to his wife.

Standing within earshot was a slight gentleman wrapped in a tailored black suit, black tie, black sunglasses and a perfectly coiffed head of white hair that seemed to glow in the sun.

The dapper gent studied the rube for a moment, then made his way across Hanover Street, where he began kissing the family and friends of Donato “Danny” Angiulo, a capo regime in brother Jerry’s mob franchise, who expired Sunday night at the ripe age of 86.

Inside St. Leonard’s, a Franciscan Friar told the congregation that “death comes to all of us. Yes, we think we are going to live forever . . . that death will never touch us . . . it’s not a part of our future . . . but sooner or later . . .”

In a consoling gesture, the priest went on to remind the mourners that fate had actually smiled upon the old capo they called “Smiley.”

“Donato’s death was a peaceful death,” the priest noted, “whereas other deaths can be violent, horrible.” The words just hung in the incensed silence, floating among the statues of the saints and the chorus of angels swirling in vast murals across the domed ceiling.

“Danny was always the muscle in the (Angiulo) family,” recalled one law enforcement source, who studied the kid brother who enforced the Angiulo family will on the street.

“Where Jerry was always the yeller and the screamer, Danny was the guy who carried out the assignments. He was the brother that functioned where the rubber met the road. As result, he was respected on the street.”

There was a strange clash of cultures seeing that long black train of Cadillacs choke traffic in a North End where tourists and yuppie condo-dwellers now exert far more sway than bookies and leg-breakers.

Smiley Angiulo died peacefully surrounded by his family, which, in the end, is all any aging Mafioso could ask given the range of alternatives.

As the flower cars headed north, a certain nostalgia took hold. Could it be the end of an era? Or will there be four . . . maybe five flower cars, for brother Jerry, the tempestuous old don who stayed largely out of sight yesterday.

Thanks to Peter Gelzinis

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