Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Top 10 Best Hollywood Mobsters of All-Time

As moviegoers prepare for Johnny Depp's John Dillinger facing off against Christian Bale's FBI man Melvin Purvis in "Public Enemies," the mob is on the mind - so here, for your debating pleasure, are 10 of the greatest "trouble boys" to ever grace the screen, small or big. And before you snatch your gats to drill this jingle-brained finkeloo, nibble one and pipe the rules: These are mobsters, as in members of highly organized crime syndicates, not just criminals who are well organized (sorry, Robert De Niro in "Heat"), free agents (such as Dillinger's gang) or lugs with bean-shooters (sorry, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in "Bonnie and Clyde" and James Cagney in "White Heat"). All silk so far?

10 Roman Moroni (Richard Dimitri, "Johnny Dangerously"):
Just as Al Capone went to the big house for income-tax evasion, the malevolently malapropping Moroni ("You fargin sneaky bastage ... bunch of fargin iceholes") was convicted of murdering ... the English language. The headlines blared his punishment: "Moroni Deported to Sweden. Says He's Not From There."

9 Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci, "GoodFellas (Two-Disc Special Edition)"):
Martin Scorsese's masterwork may be the greatest mobster movie ever, mostly because of his gripping direction. The cocaine freak-out sequence should be taught in film-school editing classes. Pesci's Tommy, with the deadliest case of short man's disease this side of Kim Jong Il, made lines such as, "Funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?" part of the tough-guy lexicon.

8 Al Capone (Robert De Niro, "The Untouchables (Special Collector's Edition)"):
"I want him dead! I want his family dead! ... I want to go there in the middle of the night and piss on his ashes!" Chicago's poet laureate, David Mamet, was the perfect guy to write the screenplay, and De Niro, in yet another stunningly transformative performance, was the last guy you'd want pacing behind you with a baseball bat.

7 Sonny Corleone (James Caan, "The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration"):
The trash-can beating he administered to his brother-in-law is a classic. Viewers suffered tollbooth phobia that had nothing to do with misplaced FasTrak passes for years after witnessing Sonny's fate (which Mad magazine attributed to his trying to pay with a large bill). Bonus points: The DVD includes a great Easter egg (hidden feature) of Caan doing a Marlon Brando impersonation.

6 Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises (Widescreen Edition)"):
If you had never seen Mortensen before this film, you'd think he was that guy, that the filmmakers had just pulled some Russian dude out of a high-end London nightclub. Equal parts preening macho narcissist and cold-blooded hatchet man, he tops even "Borat" for best naked fight.

5 Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro, "The Godfather Part II - The Coppola Restoration"):
The up-and-coming De Niro was picking up the origin story of an already-iconic character that had won an Oscar for an iconic actor (Marlon Brando in "The Godfather"), and he had to do it in Sicilian, a dialect he had learned just a few years before for another film. His portrayal is not only feeling, thinking and reactive, but it also creates a bridge to Brando's work that brilliantly illustrates the character's evolution.

4 Bill "The Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis, "Gangs of New York (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)"):
One of the great screen villains, which we can now see as Daniel Plainview with one more pin of civility removed. A movie monster on the order of Hannibal Lecter, but with a heart and that disturbing false eye. There is, by the way, no truth to the Internet rumor that Day-Lewis was originally to play "Priest" Vallon to Robert De Niro's Bill.

3 Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos - The Complete Series"):
The best TV mobster ever. Like Vito Corleone, a multilayered family man - but he's more flawed and real. Bonus points: There's a classic Easter egg in the bonus disc of the original "Godfather" set in which Tony and the boys try to watch a bootleg copy of the 1972 movie.

2 Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando, "The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration"):
Brando gets the nod over De Niro's portrayal of the title character because of the older version's dark mystery and the already arrived quality of the kindly patriarch, who also made people wet their pants in fear. The improvised orange-in-the-mouth ape scene alone, in the greater context of the head of the Corleone crime family, is enough for enshrinement here.

1 Tony Montana (Al Pacino, "Scarface (Widescreen Anniversary Edition)"):
One of the rare ultra-violent movies that women love as much as men do. Its excesses are its successes, from the nosedive into a molehill of yayo to the chain-saw-in-the-shower scene. But the true test of this performance's greatness is to imagine its famous lines delivered by someone - anyone - else. Could even Daniel Day-Lewis or Denzel Washington or Robert De Niro have so unforgettably spat out, "Say hello to my little friend"? No, there is no one else who could have quite pulled off that haircut, that suit, that accent, that je ne sais quoi. It's Pacino waaaay over the top, where he belongs. And considering the character's lingering cultural impact, especially in hip-hop, it surpasses even the Godfather himself. So take a look at the bad guy. You won't see his kind again.

Runners-up: Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson, "Pulp Fiction"), Don Logan (Ben Kingsley, "Sexy Beast"), Furio Giunta (Federico Castelluccio, "The Sopranos - The Complete Series"), Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio, "Bugsy Malone"), Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington, "American Gangster (2-Disc Unrated Extended Edition)") and Tony Blundetto (Steve Buscemi, "The Sopranos - The Complete Series").

Thanks to Michael Ordona

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Was Michael Jackson Targeted for Death by the Mafia?

Speculation is building that Michael Jackson was targeted by members of the mafia in Los Angeles in what was believed an attempt by various disgruntled creditors to recover millions of dollars of money owed on failed business ventures.

Sources in Los Angeles believe various "high-ranking" members of the underworld had been given orders to approach Michael Jackson in an attempt to recover money given the stars apparent rise in fortunes.

The star is believed in an act of desperation may have overdosed on sleeping pills in a desperate last ditch attempt to avoid a grueling 50 date tour in London and confrontations with the underworld.

An autopsy of Michael Jackson is likely to take place in the next few days, with funeral arrangement yet to be confirmed.

Thanks to The London Daily News

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Hollywood's Love Affair with Gangsters Continues to Grow

What is it about the gangster that has always captivated our public imagination?

In America, since the very first black- and-white silent films, we’ve been mesmerized by the fedoras, the guns, the women and the nightlife. These were the men who broke all the rules - when they weren’t writing their own rules - and lived the good life as a result.

In this way, they aren’t just criminals but also a certain special sort of capitalist. Take away the nasty, back-alley murders and they are living the American dream: building up mini corporate empires and reaping the profits.

We’re less than a week away from the next gangster movie epic: "Public Enemies," which opens in theaters Wednesday. Attracting the talents of such considerable film artists as director Michael Mann and actors Johnny Depp and Christian Bale it’s clear that gangsters remain as fascinating a force today as they were for the authors and filmmakers of a century ago.

What’s different this time around, however, is that "Public Enemies" focuses on not just one, but two emerging power structures. Less a claustrophobic view of the mafia power structure ("The Godfather"), "Public Enemies" is about a clash of two titans in the public sphere: bank robber John Dillinger (Depp) who wanted to be the renegade celebrity of his time, and J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup), who brought all his forces to bear in his hunt for Dillinger because he was convinced that this was the case that could legitimize and nationalize the FBI.

It’s a face-off of epic proportions, but hardly the first. Here’s a quick look back at the evolution of the movie gangster:

Scarface
(1932)

More people are familiar with the 1983 remake starring Al Pacino, but the very first "Scarface," released in 1928, was a bleak affair. So, too, was the Howard Hawks remake in 1932, which viewed the gangster life as an apocalyptic one - a sure-fire path to the grave. Made back in the day when gangs and mafia kingpins really did rule with an iron fist, this was a movie that reflected its era.

The Public Enemy
(1931)

It’s truly shocking to go back and rent "The Public Enemy" some 77 years after it was first released. This is an intense, vicious, fierce movie - and it comes as a surprise how very little about this old-time movie seems soft or dated. It stars James Cagney as an up-and-comer in Chicago, working his way through the ranks of gangsters even as a murder threatens to unleash havoc amid those in the underground community. Cagney is cool and calculating, and downright nefarious when he needs to be. We can smell the smoke, and feel the ferocity of the time period.

Kiss Me Deadly
(1955)

One of my personal favorites, "Kiss Me Deadly" brought gangsters and the film noir genre into the nuclear age. Mike Hammer was a firebrand of a private eye, quick to fire off the first punch or the first bullet. And in "Kiss Me Deadly," a mysterious hitchhiker draws him into a web of violence and mystery, as everyone seems determined to take possession of a mysterious suitcase that glows whenever you open it (it was the inspiration behind the golden glowing suitcase in Quentin Tarantino’s "Pulp Fiction.")

The Godfather Part II - The Coppola Restoration
(1974)

Francis Ford Coppola was brilliant in the way he structured this sequel to "The Godfather," paralleling a modern-day story starring Al Pacino with a turn-of-the-century subplot involving Robert De Niro (playing Pacino’s father when still a young man). Establishing friendships with local businessmen, stocking up favors and slowly starting to exert his influence among the establishment, we come to see the way that thughood can be a grass-roots affair. Forget tyrant, De Niro is almost a populist in the way he helps the community and earns their undying allegiance in the process.

Road to Perdition (Widescreen Edition)
(2002)

A modern and moody spin on the standard gangster thriller, "Road to Perdition" went beyond the blood and the testosterone to offer us a wave of sincere emotion beneath the surface. Paul Newman plays the Chicago mob boss in 1931, and Tom Hanks works for him directly. Hanks’ world is flipped upside down when his son follows him one night and witnesses what daddy does for a living. More than just about a gangster ruling with an iron fist, "Road to Perdition" poses the question of whether violence is truly manly, or if it’s a weak man’s attempt to provide for a family. And as Hanks shares his trade with his son, we see the way that bad traditions are passed down through the generations, a cycle of dark despair.

Heat
(1995)

It’s also worth taking a moment to acknowledge the last gangster movie that was made by "Public Enemies" director Michael Mann. "Heat" viewed the gangster and the cop as equals, with Al Pacino in the part of the detective and Robert De Niro in the part of the master criminal. Sitting down to coffee as they try to intimidate - and relate to - one another, "Heat" is less about good and evil, crime and justice, than about seeing the men of the law and the men of the shadows as two personas cut from the same cloth. Both are obsessed, vigilant, and cut-throat; "Heat" is truly one of the great thrillers.

Thanks to Steven Snyder

Friday, June 26, 2009

Convicted Family Secrets Cop to Petition Police Pension Board to Keep Pension

Chumbolone (pronounced chum-buh-LOAN), my favorite Chicago political word that explains exactly what politicians think of us taxpayers, has finally made it to the big time, with its own listing on urbandictionary.com. And as a bonus, today there's even more chumbolonian news.

The corrupt cop Anthony "Twan" Doyle -- who first uttered the word from a federal witness stand and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for being a messenger boy for bosses of the Chicago Outfit -- will petition the police pension board on Thursday in the hopes of keeping his pension.

"I'm not going to diminish his conviction and say it's insignificant, because it's not," said Twan's lawyer, the criminal defense whiz Ralph Meczyk. "But one event erased the career of a hardworking copper, and as far as his pension goes, it shouldn't be a complete loss.

"It's not going to be easy, I know."

Meczyk is scheduled to appear before the police pension board, one of the groups that mysteriously gave Mayor Richard Daley's nephew $68 million of city pension cash to invest, and the mayor says he knew absolutely nothing about it. The mayor thinks we're chumbolones.

Twan's gambit, that he was a good cop despite the Outfit messenger boy stuff, probably won't work. But given precedent, it's worth a try.

Just last February, convicted serial arsonist and former Chicago Fire Department Lt. Jeffrey "Matches" Boyle sought to recover his $50,000-a-year city pension despite the arson convictions.

Boyle's legal theory? When he set the fires, he was off duty, not on city time. The city fire pension board asked Boyle what his years as a firefighter taught him about being a good arsonist. "The hotter it got, the more it would burn," Boyle said. A clean answer without ambiguity. But he didn't receive his pension.

The reason I called Meczyk was to inform him that "chumbolone" had made it to urbandictionary.com, and to ask Meczyk to get all his friends and clients to go online and vote a jolly "thumbs up" for the word.

"I like chumbolone," Meczyk said. "You popularized it. And it's such a Chicago thing, it's part of Chicagoese now. I haven't met anyone, almost, who doesn't like the word, except for one person."

Who?

"Twan."

Oh.

Twan was known as the big silent guy with the big biceps who hung around with reputed mob street boss Frank "Toots" Caruso in Chinatown.

Twan had been picked up on federal recordings, visiting convicted Outfit boss Frank Calabrese Sr. in prison and talking about murder evidence while joking about using a cattle prod on mafioso cooperating with the FBI. But Twan testified he had no idea what Calabrese had been saying. He said he only kept nodding and agreeing out of good manners.

"I gave him lip service," Twan said from the witness stand, shrugging. "I didn't know what he was talking about. I don't wanna look like a chumbolone, an idiot, stupid."

Search for the word on urbandictionary.com, and you'll see it right next to the condom ad and the photo of a curvy young woman selling T-shirts that say: "Make Awkward Sexual Advances, Not War."

Here's the Web site's definition:

Chumbolone -- idiot, stupid -- Popularized by Chicago newspaper columnist John Kass after first hearing the word spoken in testimony by mob messenger boy Anthony "Twan" Doyle during a 2007 federal trial. While working for the mob, Doyle got himself hired into the Chicago Police Department evidence department in order to remove or destroy DNA and other evidence of mob homicides.

Some readers insist that chumbolone is not a proper word. Others say it refers to a tasty Italian cake. One reader in particular really doesn't want me to use it.

"Twan doesn't like you using the word," Meczyk said. "He really doesn't like it."

Really? Why?

"He never said. He's quite stoic in this regard," Meczyk said. "He's in prison, but he's no chumbolone."

Thanks to John Kass

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Colombo Crime Family Illegal Gambing Den Building to Be Sold by the Feds as The Sons of Italy End Affiliation with Long Island Lodge

The Sons of Italy are getting the boot from their lodge on Long Island.

Prosecutors will seize the building that houses the Sons of Italy-William Paca Lodge on Sunrise Highway in Babylon, where the Colombo crime family was operating an illegal gambling den, according to a letter filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Because only half of the building was used for the high-stakes Texas Hold 'Em games supervised by reputed capo Michael Uvino, the group will get 50% of the proceeds from the sale of the property, said attorney Joseph Ryan, who represented the 15 members of the lodge.

The Sons of Italy state organization also cut its ties with the lodge.

"The lodge members are old and poor, but they love to play cards," Ryan said. "They have to find a new card room."

Uvino was caught on a wiretap boasting that the Sons of Italy was an effective cover for the illegal activity because of the group's respectable reputation.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Details Surface of The Real Housewives of New Jersey's Danielle Staub's Past "Organized Crime" Activities

Now that Bravo is milking additional episodes out of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey," the cable network's hit series about a quintet of Garden State lovelies, The Smoking Gun decided to join the examination of the tawdry history of the show's true star.

Archived federal court records provide a detailed account of the criminal, drug, prostitution, and informant history of Danielle Staub, the 46-year-old lightning rod from the reality TV program. Staub, once known as Beverly Ann Merrill, was arrested by FBI agents in June 1986 for her role in a kidnapping plot that grew out of a cocaine deal gone bad. According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Miami, Merrill and Daniel Aguilar, who distributed narcotics for a Colombian drug family, sought to extort a $25,000 ransom from a man whose son they were holding. The captive, Carmen Centolella, was blamed by Merrill and Aguilar for the botched drug deal, which cost them a kilo of cocaine worth about $24,000, according to the below criminal complaint.

Merrill and Aguilar were arrested after federal agents traced ransom calls they placed to Centolella's father. Merrill was busted in a Miami apartment in which agents discovered six kilos of cocaine and about $16,000 in cash. In a subsequent indictment, Merrill was charged with eight felonies, including extortion, cocaine possession, and narcotics conspiracy. Prosecutors allege that Merrill placed the first call to Centolella's father and "threatened injury or death" to his son "unless a sum of money was paid."

Facing the possibility of decades in prison, Merrill quickly opted to flip. In August 1986, she copped to a single felony count and signed a plea agreement pledging to "provide full and complete cooperation" with federal prosecutors and FBI agents. Merrill's plea, the agreement noted, exposed her to a maximum of 20 years in prison. Merrill's decision to snitch out her cohorts resulted in threats allegedly directed at her by Aguilar and his family, prosecutors contended in one motion. Merrill, who at the time used the alias "Angela Minelli," received one phone call warning, "Angela, your life is at an end, honey," and another from a male caller noting, "I saw you walking your dog--I wouldn't take that kind of risk."

The government motion further described Merrill's role in the botched cocaine deal, noting that she "took one of the kilos from Aguilar to Centolella's apartment for testing." There, she was accosted by four armed men who robbed her of the cocaine. According to an FBI report, when Aguilar was interviewed by agents following his arrest, he stated that "Angela" was the "common link" that put him together with Centolella, the prospective cocaine buyer. Centolella, he said, knew that "Angela had sources that could provide a kilo of cocaine." He later described "Angela" as a friend whose last name he did not know. "She also uses cocaine," he told agents.

During a court hearing, FBI Agent Robert Favie testified that Merrill met Aguilar while she was working for an escort service (Aguilar was a customer). Asked by Aguilar's attorney if he had checked into Merrill's background as a prostitute, Favie replied, "I know that she has told me that she has worked for an escort service, yes." In November 1986, Merrill was sentenced to five years probation for her extortion conviction (by comparison, Aguilar got 15 years after pleading out to extortion and cocaine possession counts). She was also ordered to participate in a drug treatment program and submit to weekly urinalysis tests during the first six months of her supervision.

Two years after Merrill's sentencing, a substance abuse counselor (who worked in conjunction with Merrill's probation officer) recommended that, "considering the severity of Beverly's drug history and her former drug life style," that her "mandate for drug aftercare be continued." Court files do not indicate how Judge Eugene Spellman, who sentenced Merrill, ruled on this request.

In a recent interview with People magazine, Staub claimed records from her criminal case were "sealed" and that she was only charged as an "accessory."

Thanks to The Smoking Gun

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Twitter Given a Mafia Offer That it Can Refuse, For Now

A new Mafia video game has presented Twitter with an offer, but it's one that Twitter thinks it can refuse.

On Tuesday, a Twitter-based game called "140 Mafia" became the first to use "virtual currency" on the social networking site, providing a money-making platform that experts believe could fuel Twitter's success.

Designed by a company called Super Rewards, the virtual currency lets users pay for game-playing advantages. For instance, in the popular role-playing game "140 Mafia," players will now be able to visit a character named the Godfather to buy virtual health, money and ammunition with their real credit cards or bank accounts.

Although most virtual currency users pay $15 to $20 per transaction, some have paid thousands of dollars playing the original Facebook version, "Mob Wars," which debuted in March 2008, and immensely popular "Mafia Wars" sequel.

Super Rewards Chief Executive Jason Bailey said his company is currently on track to make close to $100 million in revenue this year through the games' success on Facebook and MySpace, as well as iPhone applications. "This is a tremendous opportunity for Twitter, and they can make a ton of money" said Bailey.

Apple takes a cut of its app sales. Social networks like Facebook and NewsCorp's MySpace use an advertising model to generate revenue -- driving up site traffic as gamers use more and more virtual currency.

Facebook began selling "Facebook credits" that game players can use for virtual currency, but many analysts say they came too late to the table to be successful.

Bailey believes that Twitter, which is new to the virtual currency frontier, could lay down Apple-like ground rules for future games and make a killing off of it. But, he added that, "Twitter seems content to not make money. It's all about eyeballs with them."

They're getting those eyeballs. Twitter is by far the fastest-growing social networking Web site. The site attracted 18.2 million unique visits last month, up 1,448% from a year ago, according to the latest data from Nielsen. Average time spent on the site increased 175% during that same time period.

Excitement about Twitter has grown rapidly in the past few weeks, as the social network has gotten a lot of free press amid its role in broadcasting the post-election Iranian protests. Iran's tight restrictions on outside news coverage of the protests have led the global media to turn to protesters' 140-character "tweets" to find out what is happening on the ground.

Twitter continues to turn down opportunities to make money off of its popular Web site. It has no advertising. It allows third-party developers to use the social network's platform to make games and applications, but it doesn't charge those companies a fee. And it doesn't seem interested in revenue sharing with virtual currency companies either.

Many analysts believe that the company taking a Google-like path, generating millions of users as it figures out its business model. Google, which some believe is a prime candidate to buy Twitter, was popular for many years before it figured out the key to online advertising.

"Twitter absolutely wants to have a long-term sustainable business once they find their business model," said Ray Valdes, social network analyst at Gartner.

Others wonder if Twitter is becoming the Craigslist of social networks. Craigslist is an online classified Web site that famously does not monetize its business.

"I don't know who puts hippies in charge of these companies," said Bailey, who noted that he has begun making far more money with Twitter than Twitter itself.

Twitter not budging. Twitter appears to be content where it is.

Though the company declined to comment for this story, co-founder Biz Stone has previously said publicly that Twitter does not need to generate revenue for the time-being, since it has still yet to blow through the more than $50 billion it has raised from venture capitalists.

"They are passing by the pennies on the path for the real dollars further down the road," said Valdes. "As long as they provide opportunities for others to have an ongoing engagement with Twitter users, they can monetize later."

Valdes said Twitter is getting buyout offers from several companies for close to $1 billion. But he does not believe Twitter is interested in selling quite yet. Instead, Valdes said Twitter will likely take advantage of its unique position in the social networking world, as a kind of live-updating news service for millions of followers, as highlighted by the Iran protests.

Experts are mixed on how the company's business model will eventually pan out, but most say virtual currency and charging users to follow certain content could likely be a part of that.

"Twitter is a new kind of broadcasting, with millions of people listening in real time on their cell phones and computers," said Valdes. "There's money to be made on all sides of Twitter interactions."

Thanks to David Goldman

Monday, June 22, 2009

Carmen “The Cheeseman” DiNunzio to Get Married, Despite House Arrest

“When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool, that’s amore!”

The late Dean Martin is unavailable to croon for the reception band, but reputed Boston Mafia godfather Carmen “The Cheeseman” DiNunzio has been shot by Cupid’s arrow and is engaged to be married, the Herald has learned.

A source confirms DiNunzio, 51, who has shed some 75 pounds since being placed on house arrest in East Boston more than a year ago, plans to wed Denise Spagnuolo, 53, of the North End.

It was unclear yesterday how the romance bloomed, given DiNunzio’s commitment to a GPS bracelet. The blushing bride hung up on a reporter who called to offer congratulations. Her groom-to-be’s attorney declined comment.

DiNunzio has asked a U.S. District Court judge to let him go to dinner in style tonight for a belated Father’s Day celebration at a restaurant approved by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and pretrial services.

In a promising sign of male bonding, the guest list includes Spagnuolo’s sons, Joseph and Caesar.

The honeymoon, however, may have to be put on ice.

DiNunzio faces state extortion and gambling charges in Essex County and is scheduled to go to trial Oct. 19 on federal charges that he bribed an undercover FBI agent posing as a Massachusetts Highway inspector $10,000 in 2006 to purchase 300,000 yards of untested loam for the Big Dig for $6 million.

In addition to being the alleged underboss of the New England La Cosa Nostra, DiNunzio owns the North End’s “Fresh Cheese” shop.

Last summer, when DiNunzio’s weight hit 400 pounds, the federal court agreed to grant him 60 minutes of freedom each day to join a gym or go walking. DiNunzio’s doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital said he had diabetes and was at risk of heart failure if he didn’t slim down.

Thanks to Laurel J. Sweet

Friday, June 19, 2009

Public Enemies Trailer

Johnny Depp Attends the Chicago Premiere of "Public Enemies"

Less than four miles from the Lincoln Park theater where the hunt for John Dillinger ended, a crowd of about 600 waited to get a glimpse of Johnny DeppJohnny Depp Walks the Red Carpet at the Chicago Premiere of Public Enemies. -- who portrays the notorious bank robber in "Public Enemies."

Depp walked the red carpet for the film's Chicago premiere on Thursday along with fellow "Enemies" stars Christian Bale and Marion Cotillard, and director and Humboldt Park native Michael Mann.

Parts of the movie were filmed last year at the actual Chicago locations Dillinger visited, including the front of the Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue, where he was gunned down.

Depp was the last of the cast to arrive. Once he stepped out of the car, some of the crowd broke into high-pitched screaming, while others chanted "Johnny."

"It's nice to be able to come back here and say 'Thank you,' and this shindig is a way of doing it," said Depp.

While in Chicago the 46-year-old actor, as is traditional for out-of-towners, visited Wrigley Field. "It was mostly for fun," said Depp, who signed autographs for fans after speaking to the media. "It was great to go and see the Cubs and experience that. That was classic Dillinger ... He was a big Cubs fan."

Depp's rival in the film, Bale, is no stranger to Chicago after filming " Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" here. Bale said his favorite place to visit in the city was Millenium Park.

As for his F.B.I. character who tracks Dillinger down, Bale said he is a "good guy" in the film. "It's a Dillinger movie," said Bale. "Whether it's legend or not, Dillinger was a charismatic man. He was being cheered for back then and I'm sure it will happen again now with all the fat cat factors everyone is dealing with nowadays."

Thanks to Luis Arroyave

Black Mafia Family Straggler, Vernon Marcus Coleman, is Target of America's Most Wanted

This SATURDAY, June 20, 2009, AMERICA’S MOST WANTED will be airing the following cases.

Atlanta, Georgia… VERNON COLEMAN… The U.S. Marshals and the DEA have teamed up to bring down the Black Mafia Family, a major drug trafficking organization. They were successful in arresting all but one of the suspects, and the only straggler is Vernon Marcus Coleman, known as Big Wu on the streets.

Harlem, New York… CARLOS THOMPSON… New York cops say rapper Carlos Thompson handed a .38-caliber revolver to a 13-year-old boy and ordered him to murder another teen. Now, more than a year later, Thompson is in custody.

Stone Mountain, Georgia… DERRICK YANCEY…
Newly-released surveillance video shows Derrick Yancey, a former sheriff's deputy accused of killing his wife and another man, in his first hours on the run. Investigators say Yancey is seen buying a Greyhound bus ticket to California, but his whereabouts are now unknown.

Whitewater, Wisconsin… RICKY HOWARD… Cops in Whitewater, Wisc. say Ricky Howard is a perpetual danger to society. Throughout his life, Howard's been in and out of jail, but cops say in December of 1999, he reached a new low when he violently raped a 12-year-old girl. Nearly ten years later, Howard is still on the run and police need your help to find him.

Garland, Texas… CESAR OROZCO… Authorities are searching for Cesar Orozco, a man who they say shot and killed 26-year-old Joe Castillo last March. Police suspect that Orozco killed Castillo because he thought he was seeing his ex-wife.

Nationwide... JOHN PARIGIAN… After being convicted of wire fraud, cops say Boston con-man John Parigian rented a plane and vanished into thin air – literally. Now, police are piecing together his trail, and believe he could be hiding out in New York or Massachusetts.

Anchorage, Alaska… JOHN PEZZENTI KILLER… On December 3, 2007, detectives were called to a two-story shack in Anchorage, Alaska, where they found a body, soon identified as acclaimed wildlife photographer John Pezzenti, Jr. With no signs of forced entry or robbery, cops say John knew who pulled the trigger, and they hope that AMW viewers can help solve the murder.

Nationwide... PATRICIA PARDO… In 2000, cops say Patricia Pardo stole the identity of 17-year-old Joanna Saenz. Eight years later, Pardo was arrested but quickly disappeared after posting bond. Now, Joanna is determined to fight back and help police track down the woman they say changed her life forever. This Saturday, AMW will put Pardo on national TV in hopes of bringing her to justice.

Houston, Texas… TIMOTEO RIOS… In April of 2008, 39-year-old Tina Davila headed to a Cricket store in Houston, Texas to pay her cell phone bill. But before she got inside, cops say she was attacked in an attempted carjacking by Timoteo Rios. With her 4-month-old baby in the backseat, Tina fought back, but police say Rios stabbed Tina in the chest, killing her at the scene. Cops say Rios escaped in his own car, but that this was just the beginning of a crime spree that lasted all afternoon.

Washington, D.C…. TOP COPS 2009… Once a year, the bravest and most heroic police officers -- the nation’s TOP COPS -- are honored in a ceremony hosted by AMW Host John Walsh. This year’s TOP COPS AWARDS showcased some truly inspiring stories, with the night’s top honor going to a Georgia Police Officer who single handedly stopped an armed robbery and saved the life of a cashier who was taken hostage.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Michael Mann on His Production of "Public Enemies" Starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger

Hollywood is full of filmmakers who are uncompromising perfectionists, but only Michael Mann could boast that he not only has a favorite room to screen his films -- the Zanuck theater on the Fox lot -- but also a favorite row in the theater where you should park your fanny.

Michaelmann "If you sit in row J at the Zanuck, you'll find yourself in the perfect mean, the center of the bell curve for every theater in America," he told me the other day, camped out in his Santa Monica offices, surrounded by memorabilia from decades of his work, which includes a host of wildly compelling films and TV shows, including "Crime Story," "Heat," "The Insider," "Ali" and "Collateral."

"If your film can play in row J, you're in the heart of the zone," he says. "I know some people that want to sit farther back, but that's the worst place to sit. If you're too far back, the surrounds are too large."

Even though we got together to talk about "Public Enemies," Public Enemies Stars Johnny Depp as John Dillingerhis new film that stars Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, our conversation ranged far afield, since Mann often sounds more like a Marxist history professor than a filmmaker, waxing just as eloquent about the broad historical forces that shaped Depression-era gangsters like Dillinger as how the notorious criminal managed to bust out of a high-security prison armed with a wooden pistol.

At 66, Mann still has the swagger and stamina of men half his age. Our interview was pushed back a couple of hours because the filmmaker had pulled an all-nighter, staying up until 9 a.m. overseeing digital transfer work on "Public Enemies," which has its first public showing June 23 at the Los Angeles Film Festival. (It opens nationwide July 1.) Even though he was going on scant hours of sleep, Mann looked fresh, as if staying up all night were a tonic.

"Actually it's exhilarating at this stage, when it all comes together," he explains in a voice that still had the echo of his upbringing in Chicago's working-class Humboldt Park neighborhood. "The film feels like it's containable, in your hands, almost like it was when it just an idea on three paragraphs on a piece of paper."

Mann is part of an elite Hollywood club of veteran directors -- notably Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Ridley Scott and David Fincher -- who are both held in high critical esteem and act as magnets for A-list movie star talent, allowing them a freedom to pursue the kind of dark, difficult material largely out of favor with today's franchise-obsessed movie studios. Mann has never enjoyed a mega hit -- of his nine features, only one, "Collateral," made more than $72 million domestically. His last film, "Miami Vice," was a box-office dud. But he has earned the right to make a wide range of absorbing films, largely thanks to the presence of such stars as Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Jaime Foxx and now Depp in the leading roles.

It's easy to see what attracts such star power. Mann has a great ear for dialogue, a brilliant eye for action and the beguiling charm of a guy who's comfortable hanging out with all sorts of ex-cops and hoods. His technical advisor on "Public Enemies" was a convicted armed robber who once, as Mann explains with a twinkle in his eye, "stole a diamond as big as a grapefruit."

But what happens when studio bosses try to control a filmmaker who is uncontrollable? Keep reading:

Being in the Michael Mann business isn't for the faint of heart. After butting heads with Mann, any number of studio heads have sworn to never work with him again, exhausted by what they view as his budget-busting intransigence. ("Public Enemies" cost roughly $100 million and came in on time, in part because the production had to be finished before last summer's presumptive SAG strike date.) But after a few years pass, the stance often softens, since the artistry of the film remains long after memories of the clashes with Mann fade. When Mann made "Ali," he battled with Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal, who was especially infuriated by the director's insistence on retaining a couple of obscenities in the picture, which prevented the film from earning a PG-13 rating that would have helped it reach a far broader audience. But now all is forgiven. "No matter what I said at the time, I think Michael is one of our most gifted filmmakers -- we're always trying to develop new directing projects for him," says Pascal. "You put all the disagreements behind you because you remember the great work, not the pain of the moment." She laughs. "You forget about the pain of childbirth too. I mean, whatever you go through, you still want another baby. It's like that with Michael too."

It's not so hard to see parallels between Mann, who has the fierce independence of an earlier generation of Hollywood filmmakers, and Dillinger, who is portrayed in "Public Enemies" as something of an anachronism, a lone wolf being squeezed out of the bank-robbing trade by the growing corporatization of crime. A key element in Mann's conception of the film -- which he wrote with Ronan Bennett and Ann Biderman -- is that it wasn't just J. Edgar Hoover's FBI who was gunning for Dillinger, but the newly organized crime syndicates who saw freelance outlaws like Dillinger as threats to their nationwide business aspirations.

"Dillinger was actually obsolete, but he was so damn good at what he did that he managed to survive, despite all the horrible attrition around him," explains Mann, who makes a point in the film of showing that virtually all of Dillinger's cohorts were gunned down before he famously meets his end outside Chicago's Biograph Theater. "There are two big evolutionary forces at work. There's what Hoover is doing with the FBI, with information gathering and data management. And there's organized crime, being cash rich, moving into corporate capitalism, and they don't want these Depression outlaws around [inspiring the Feds to pass crime legislation] against moving money across interstate lines."

Mann had always seen the 1930s as fertile territory. Back in the 1980s, he wrote a screenplay about Alvin Karpis, a Chicago bank robber who often crossed paths with Dillinger (he appears in "Public Enemies," played by Giovanni Ribisi). Nothing came of it, but Mann got interested again when he read an excerpt from Bryan Burrough's book "Public Enemies" in Vanity Fair. The filmmaker teamed up with producer Kevin Misher to put the project together. The first draft of the script was written by Bennett, a novelist Mann thought would have an interesting take on Dillinger, since when Bennett was a young IRA sympathizer he was accused of being involved with a series of bank robberies and ended up serving time in prison.

The film paints Dillinger in somber, fatalistic tones. Even though he has a soulful relationship with a Chicago hat-check girl (played in the film by Marion Cotillard), Dillinger always has a dark cloud of doom hovering over his head. He knows he won't be around long enough to worry about tomorrow. But he's also a populist icon. When a farmer offers him a few dollars in the middle of a bank heist, Dillinger refuses to take the cash, saying, "We're not here for your money. We're here for the bank's money."

To Mann, it's easy to identify with Dillinger. "He was a charismatic outlaw hero who spoke to people in the depths of the Depression. He assaulted the institution that made their lives miserable -- the bank -- and he outsmarted the institution -- the government -- that couldn't fix the problems brought about by the Depression."

Mann uses the same word over and over to describe Dillinger -- brio. When Dillinger broke out of Indiana's supposedly impregnable Crown Point jail, "he didn't just take a car, he takes the sheriff's new car, a V-8 Ford, and then he wrote a letter to Henry Ford, telling him that whenever he stole a car, he wanted to steal a Ford."

Once Mann had a finished script, he went to Depp, having been a fan of his work, especially offbeat fare like "Libertine." "Johnny is not afraid to take chances," says Mann. "I thought this was a character he could relate to internally, to mine the deeper currents within himself, the way he would if he were ever to play a musician. I wanted to see Johnny go inside this guy, to do something emotionally open and expressive."

So how does a filmmaker know he's in sync with an actor when they're preparing a film? "The more you do it, the more you know it when you know," Mann says. "When Russell Crowe came in for 'The Insider,' I thought it was going nowhere -- and suddenly we were reading a speech and after two lines -- wham! -- he was Jeffrey Wigand. It was all him." Mann had a similar moment of takeoff with Depp a few weeks before shooting began. "As he was reading, I started hearing the voice I heard in my head when I was writing the words. It was great."

It wasn't always great on the set. According to people who were there, Depp, accustomed to the clockwork production schedule on Gore Verbinski's "Pirates of the Caribbean" films, had trouble adjusting to Mann's more idiosyncratic schedule, which often forced Depp to wait for long hours until Mann was ready to proceed. (I got a little taste of it myself, cooling my heels in Mann's outer office before the filmmaker came out to meet me, with his assistant explaining that I'd have to wait "until he finishes thinking.")

Mann says reports that Depp sometimes left the set in frustration are untrue. "That's nonsense," he says. "He may have kept me waiting, I have may kept him waiting. That's not a big deal. For me, what goes on in a film set is sacrosanct, so I have nothing to say about what went on."

Mann isn't especially enamored by the tag of uncompromising perfectionist either. "If someone says, 'Are you a perfectionist?' I'd say no," he says. "There are many scenes in this film that were great that aren't in it anymore because I don't believe in wasting time on a meaningless detail at the risk of blowing the richness that's down the block. I know what's important [in a film] and what's not."

For Mann, it's all about delivering the goods. not just to the studio but also the moviegoer. "When I set out to make a movie, part of the thrill is the level of commitment," he says. "I ain't playing, you bet. I don't leave things half-[done], saying, 'Well, that scene is good enough. We can move on.' That doesn't happen. The ambition -- and it's a sizable one -- is to make a movie that has a dramatic impact on people."

Thanks to Patrick Goldstein

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Reputed Chicago Mobster, Michael "The Large Guy" Sarno Released on $1,000,000 Bond

Reputed Chicago Outfit figure Michael "the Large Guy" Sarno pleaded not guilty today to racketeering charges that allege he ran an illegal gambling operation and coordinated the bombing of a rival.

Sarno was indicted last month in connection with a mob-connected criminal ring that also allegedly ran jewelry heists and intimidated witnesses. He was charged in connection with the 2003 bombing of C&S Coin Operated Amusements in Berwyn.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier ordered Sarno released to home confinement on a $1 million bond secured by four properties owned by his family members.

Prosecutors have alleged the ring operated with the protection of two suburban police officers, including former Berwyn officer James Formato, who allegedly provided information about law enforcement activity.

Agents from the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive seized between 20 and 30 video poker machines in raids carried out in conjunction with the indictment last month. Sarno faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Thanks to Jeff Coen

Monday, June 15, 2009

Photo of Robert De Niro Hanging Out on Movie Set with Real Mobsters

Robert De Niro is another "GoodFella" who has hung out with the Gambino crime family.

While making the 1999 film "Analyze This," about a neurotic gangster, De Niro consulted with the late Gambino soldier Anthony (Fat Andy) Ruggiano - and the Daily News has obtained a never-before-seen photo of the Oscar-winning actor with the big-time gangster in the actor's trailer.

Robert De Niro(c) poses inside his trailer with the late mob boss Anthony 'Fat Andy' Ruggiano (r) for research on his role.

The film may have been a comedy, but Ruggiano was no joke. Ruggiano, who died in March 1999, was inducted into the crime family when the boss was Albert Anastasia. He was involved in at least seven murders, including giving the approval to whack his son-in-law.

"He did a lot of work for the family," Ruggiano's turncoat son Anthony Jr. testified recently at the trial of a Gambino hit man. "Work" is mob jargon for gangland killings. "He killed somebody with a fellow named Joe," Anthony Ruggiano Jr. recalled. "He killed a florist in Brooklyn. He killed three people in a warehouse that was robbing crap games.

"He killed somebody with me . . . and they had this guy Irish Danny killed behind the Skyway Motel on Conduit Blvd."

De Niro, who is famous for scrupulously researching his roles, was introduced to Ruggiano by reputed Gambino associate Anthony Corozzo, a member of the Screen Actors Guild and an extra on "Analyze This," a knowledgeable source said.

Anthony Corozzo is the brother of high-ranking Gambinos Nicholas (Little Nick) Corozzo, a powerful capo, and reputed consigliere Joseph Corozzo. He also appeared in another film starring De Niro, "A Bronx Tale," and forgettable flicks "This Thing of Ours, "The Deli" and "Men Lie."

"Anthony is like a liaison with the acting community," the source said.

De Niro's rep, Stan Rosenfeld, said the movie was made a long time ago and the actor doesn't recall Ruggiano. "Bob seldom, if ever, discusses his research techniques," Rosenfeld said.

Attorney Joseph Corozzo Jr. denied his uncle brought Fat Andy to the set.

Jerry Capeci of the Web site Ganglandnews.com said it's no secret actors like to rub elbows with real tough guys, and the feeling is mutual. "Even Carlo Gambino, the epitome of the understated, low-key mob boss, couldn't resist the lure of posing in that now famous backstage picture with Frank Sinatra surrounded by a bunch of smiling wise guys," Capeci said.

During the filming of "GoodFellas," De Niro was interested in talking to the legendary gangster he was playing, but James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke was in jail and refused to meet with the actor, the source said.

De Niro is the latest alumnus from the film "GoodFellas" to have met with members of the Gambino family. Actor Frank Sivero posed for photos at Gambino hit man Charles Carneglia's junkyard, and actor Anthony Borgese was indicted last week for participating in an extortion with a Gambino soldier.

Thanks to John Marzulli.

Ex-Governor of Illinois Accuses Democrats of Ties to The Chicago Outfit

The adjourned session of the General Assembly failed abysmally to come to grips with Illinois’ pervasive state of corruption. Leading the failure were two Chicagoans — Mike Madigan, speaker of the House and John Cullerton, president of the Senate. The Chicago bloc fell in line behind them, demonstrating once again the baleful grip that Chicago’s Democratic machine, now 85 years old, has on this state.

It’s time to state the obvious. The primary cause of endemic corruption in Illinois is the Chicago political machine.

The machine began with “Push Cart” Tony, Anton J. Cermak. He and his successor, Edward J. Kelly, welded the Democratic Party’s 50 ward committeemen and 3,000 precinct captains into a tight, powerful and well-disciplined political machine that on election day regularly delivered the votes needed to elect its candidates — the ultimate goal of the Chicago machine, then and now.

Demanding unswerving loyalty, the machine absorbed many thousands of new arrivals — first, the Irish, Italians, Jews, Poles and Germans, and then the blacks from the South. With few changes in its disciplined methodology, it has now endured for more than 80 years as the available patronage jobs have grown to exceed 40,000.

From the beginning, self-preservation and a lack of ethical standards have characterized the machine’s method of operations. And the machine MO has always included its cardinal credo — “look the other way.” If thy brother is lining his pockets, it’s none of thine’s business.

The credo of toleration and its accompanying lack of ethical standards was hardened when the machine encountered Al Capone’s criminal organization. Sometimes close, sometimes at arms’ length, the political organization with its “look the other way” credo has ever since tolerated what has been called variously the criminal organization, crime syndicate, the Mob, the Chicago Outfit.

The blindness to crime existed in the 11th Ward organization, home for all the Daleys. The precinct captains of that ward organization worked the same streets as the Outfit’s soldiers.

Yet, Daley constantly denied that organized crime existed in Chicago. Significantly, Richard M. Daley looked the other way as state’s attorney, Cook County’s chief law enforcement officer from 1980 to 1989. Ignored during those years were the criminal activities of the Outfit disclosed recently by the Family Secrets trial.

The machine’s political power has extended over the years far beyond Chicago. The machine has also controlled the state’s Democratic Party organization and the selection of candidates for both county and state office. In the state legislature, the machine has constantly controlled a large bloc.

With wheeling and dealing and masterful power brokering raised to an art form, the machine bloc has enabled Chicago machine politics to control both leaders and the flow of legislation in both houses. To get anything accomplished, downstate legislators must bow to the Chicago leadership.

In recent years, money has replaced patronage as the critical fuel for the machine’s operations. So-called “pay to play” has become endemic. Governmental rewards go to those making large contributions. In practical effect, it’s legalized bribery.

Often, the money flows through lawyers — a business desiring governmental results pays high fees to particular attorneys who, in turn, make campaign contributions to the official having the power to grant the favors.

Today, Mayor Richard M. Daley denies that he heads a political machine. He should read the felony indictments of more than 130 officials in his administration. They spell out an MO that is basically no different from that of old-time bosses Tony Cermak and Edward Kelly. And basically, it’s the same MO spelled out in the 75-page indictment of impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the 18-count indictment of former secretary of state and Gov. George Ryan, one a Democrat and the other a Republican.

The columnist Mike Royko once wrote that the City of Chicago’s official motto, “Urbs in Horto” (city in a garden), should be changed to, “Ubi est Mea” (what’s in it for me). That has a strange similarity to Blagojevich’s infamous statement about the Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama that he tried to auction off to the highest bidder: “I’ve got this thing and it’s ---- golden and I’m not going to give it away for ---- nothing.”

As the trial lawyers say, I rest my case. The record is clear that it is the Chicago political machine that has brought Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, to its present intolerable state of corruption.

Thanks to Dan Walker, Governor of Illinois from 1973-77.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Sopranos Adriana Gets Engaged to Musician

Drea de MatteoDrea de Matteo, Adriana La Cerva on 'The Sopranos' is getting married to Shooter Jennings. and boyfriend Shooter Jennings are ready to tie the knot. Just ask anyone who was in attendance at Jennings' Thursday-night concert.

Jennings — a music artist and son of the late country singer Waylon Jennings — proposed to the former Sopranos star during his performance in Utica, N.Y., according to People.

The musician also tweeted about popping the question. "Asked Drea to marry me on stage tonight. I'm a lucky man. I'll never forget Utica," he wrote.

Jennings, 30, and de Matteo, 37, have been dating since 2001. They had a daughter in 2007.

In addition to her role as The Sopranos' Adriana La Cerva, de Matteo also starred in the Friends spin-off Joey and has appeared on Sons of Anarchy. Her next slate of projects includes New York, I Love You, which also features Blake Lively and The Hangover's Bradley Cooper, among other stars.

Thanks to Anna Dimond

Racketeering Lawsuit Filed Against Rod Blagojevich by Three Casino Companies

Three casino companies have filed a $267 million racketeering lawsuit against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and a prominent racetrack owner over a controversial law that requires casinos to funnel part of their revenues to struggling horse tracks.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago Friday, grew out of a federal investigation into an alleged pay-to-play scheme the former governor is accused of running.

A federal affidavit alleged Mr. Blagojevich attempted to pressure John Johnston, whose family owns and operates several tracks in the Chicago area, for a $100,000 contribution in return for the governor's signature on legislation to help the struggling horse-racing industry. The legislation requires the state's four top-earning casinos to give 3% of their gross adjusted annual revenues to the horse-racing industry.

The suit, filed by Harrah's Entertainment Inc., MGM Mirage and Penn National Gaming Corp., says Mr. Johnston and various businesses under his control donated tens of thousands of dollars to Mr. Blagojevich in return for the former governor's support for the legislation, which was approved twice by legislators. Attorneys for Mr. Blagojevich didn't return calls for comment.

Dan Reinberg, a lawyer for Mr. Johnston, said the suit "wasn't unexpected. The reality is that this is desperation by the casinos."

The casino suit comes days after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to stay out of the issue, and passed on hearing an appeal from the casinos on the matter.

In their complaint, naming Mr. Blagojevich, his campaign fund, Friends of Blagojevich, and Mr. Johnston, the casinos allege "Blagojevich had sold, and Johnston purchased, enactment of this law." A spokeswoman for Harrah's said the suit was filed Friday. A copy of that suit was provided by the plaintiffs.

The law was enacted in 2006 and mandated that the casino funds be transferred to the horse tracks for two years. The complaint says that after the 2006 passage, "Blagojevich and Johnston and possibly others in the horse racing industry, agreed that Johnston or his affiliates would pay Blagojevich or Friends of Blagojevich money in exchange for ensuring the enactment" of the law. The complaint says that a month after Mr. Blagojevich signed the 2006 law, Mr. Johnston contributed $125,000 to Friends of Blagojevich though various affiliates. "To conceal their unlawful scheme, Johnston arranged for this money to paid through several entities under his control," the suit alleges.

A similar bill extending the transfer of funds was passed in 2008, which Mr. Blagojevich signed last December.

Mr. Reinberg said Mr. Johnston refused to pay Mr. Blagojevich. The alleged attempt to extort money from his client "speaks to the former Governor's integrity but has nothing to do with the merits of the bill itself,'' Mr. Reinberg said.

Mr. Reinberg said Mr. Johnston's campaign contributions to Mr. Blagojevich were routine, and timed to an annual June fundraiser for the Governor, and not payment for enactment of the initial 2006 law, as the suit alleges.

Mr. Johnston "never made a contribution to Governor Blagojevich or any other politician with a quid pro quo or any expectation that the Governor would act on his behalf," Mr. Reinberg said.

The complaint accuses Messrs. Johnston and Blagojevich of racketeering under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO law.

So far, casinos have paid $89.2 million into an escrow account being held for the horse-racing industry while the legal battles over the law have raged.

Thanks to Tamara Audi

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reputed Mobster Beats NBA Ref Tim Donaghy in Prison

Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy will be released from prison on June 17, 2009. Donaghy, convicted for betting on professional basketball is serving a 15-month sentence at the federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida.

Donaghy’s release date has recently been in question due to concerns about his medical condition. Donaghy was injured during an assault in November of 2008. During the assault, another inmate claiming ties to the New York mob beat Donaghy with a heavy object. Donaghy suffered severe knee and leg injuries that will require surgery.

Donaghy will complete his prison term at a halfway house in Tampa Florida. His future plans include re-uniting with his four daughters, obtaining employment, participating in treatment for his addiction to gambling, and finishing a memoir of his 13 years in the NBA.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

John Dillinger Day at the Biograph

JOHN DILLINGER
DIED FOR YOU

The 75th anniversary gathering at the John Dillinger death site
1934-2009

SHOOTING of JOHN DILLINGER
PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE

The "John Dillinger Died For You Society" invites you to Lincoln Station, 2432 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, on Wednesday, July 22, 2009, from 8:00 to 10:30 pm, for a
SPECIAL COMMEMORATION

On July 22nd Richard Crowe, Michael Flores and the cast of the show THE BRIDES OF GHOST HUNTER RICHARD CROWE: JOHN DILLINGER EDITION will re-enact the life of Dillinger and the women in his life! To be followed by a procession to his death spot.

Watch Richard Crowe discuss Dillinger and his hauntings here:




Meet fellow gangster buffs, authors & authorities, indulge in bar specials, and enter to win a special prize for the "Hottest Lady in Red". Shortly after 10 PM there will be a bagpipe procession led by Mike Dietz (of the Celtic rock group Stirling), retracing the last steps of Dillinger to the alley by the Biograph Theater where there will be a ceremony - on the very spot that the outlaw met his grisly fate!

Words will be spoken by Michael Flores on "the place of John Dillinger in pop culture & modern society". He has read the PUBLIC ENEMY script and he is not happy.

And Richard Crowe, famous Chicago folklorist and ghosthunter, will talk on "the supernatural legacy & legends of John Dillinger".

Note: This event may be filmed for newsreels! Be prepared to protect your identity by wearing a disguise, if necessary.

YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS!

FREE ADMISSION

Half price for Ladies in Red
(Please be kind enough to tip the piper)

CASH BAR and CASH MENU

LINCOLN STATION
2432 North LINCOLN AVENUE
JUST NORTH OF FULLERTON,
ACROSS FROM THE BIOGRAPH THEATER

Brought to you by the John Dillinger Died For You Society, The Brides of Ghost Hunter Richard Crowe http://ghosthunter.blogdrive.com , the Psychotronic Film Society, and Ghosthunter Richard Crowe's Supernatural Tours

****************************

John Dillinger was the most notorious bank robber and outlaw of the Depression era. Indiana born, Dillinger had many Chicago connections and after his March 1934 daring escape from the Crown Point, IN, jail, spent much of his remaining life in the Lincoln Park area.

In an attempt to gain political power, the fledgling FBI's J. Edgar Hoover declared Dillinger "Public Enemy #1" - the first time such a designation was used by a Federal bureaucrat.

Dillinger's betrayer was a female Judas named Anna Sage. The landlady of Dillinger's girlfriend, Sage betrayed him on the promise to be allowed to stay in the USA and be freed from a deportation proceeding. Ironically, she would be deported anyway.

On Sunday night, July 22, 1934, Dillinger, with girlfriend Polly Hamilton and Sage, left the Biograph Theatre at 10:30 PM. The trio had just watched the gangster movie MANHATTAN MELODRAMA. The Feds spotted Anna's tell-tale red dress and began wildly shooting on the busy street. Moments later, two innocent women were hit and Dillinger lay sprawled in a pool of blood in an alley next to a chop suey carryout.Dillinger's name would forever be linked to Chicago.

Mafia Wars Are Addictive on Facebook

A simple concept game, Mafia Wars courtesy of Zynga encourages mafia families to form. With a strong mafia family, fights are easier to win. With an energy meter, the players accomplish jobs to work their way up. Both earn money, before long property ownership comes to play to earn even more money. And that is Mafia Wars on a basic level.

Addiction comes from wanting to beat anyone deemed weaker to gain experience points, level up or simply get more money.

The catch about Mafia Wars is everything is based on a timer. Whether it's the energy, health or stamina meter, time is of the essence. A key characteristic to the game is patience. To monetize the game, developers offer a way to buy points to refill meters but it'll cost at a minimum $5. Gotcha! It also encourages interaction with strangers which is the point of social networks.

For some the game may have gone stagnant. Leveling up and mafia domination can get old. To spice up the game, developers recently started to beta test a change in setting: Cuba. While it isn't available to everyone, select few have been racking up more jobs and exploring the new aspect of the game.

Personally, the fun of the game is finishing jobs with fun names like: Run a Biker Gang Out of Town, Flip a Snitch or Recruit a Rival Crew Member. The other upside is seeking revenge on other mafia dons who attack me. Revenge can be done as an attack, sucker punch or adding them to the hit list.

While the jobs can sound gruesome and exploit the mystery of mafia life, it's all text. Unlike console video games there are no moving parts to the game. Stealing an Air Freight Delivery is simply a click. There is no video that comes with it. The game relies on imagination to fill in the action.

Thanks to Tracy Yen

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How Mafia Crime Families Adapted for the 21st Century

New York City's Five Families owned the 20th Century. Now they must confront the 21st — still alive, still armed and still dangerous.

Today's traditional Mafia family has ventured far from its roots as an ultra-secret society formed in the streets of New York at the dawn of the Depression. The evolution has been epic.

To some, it appears a gang of criminals has turned into a popular culture commodity, spawning movies and TV shows that will long outlast the real-life story. In that version, the bosses are in jail, the gang is undone, and all that's left is the book and movie deal.

In reality, the mob somehow survives, transforming, changing, adapting to the new economies and technologies — sometimes a jump quicker than law enforcement. "As the economy goes, these guys go," said Michael Gaeta, supervisor of the New York FBI's organized crime unit. "Despite our attacks, they've managed to adapt."

Strategically, law enforcement sources say, the mob is closer to its roots, returning to the shadows, avoiding the public walk-talks that brought law enforcement to their door.

They still reap ill-gotten gains from traditional sources. They still have some control over corrupt contractors and unions, and illegal gambling continues as a primary source of wealth. They've also diversified, crafting new scams befitting a new century.

"They're clearly not as visible as they used to be," Gaeta said. "You're not going to see the regular meetings you used to see. They're much more compartmentalized.

"They're smarter about the way they conduct business. At meetings, they make sure everybody leaves their cell phone at the door."

Today's Mafia families no longer perform the ornate induction ceremonies in which a card depicting a saint is burned and a gun is displayed. They've ditched the saint and the gun. Still, they induct new members when old ones die, and they find new ways to steal.

Several families, for instance, got in on the housing boom of 2002-2007 through corrupt construction companies and unions, court papers and sources say. Records show mob-linked companies have been subcontractors on most of the major projects of the last few years, including highway repair, the midtown office tower boom, the massive water treatment plant in the Bronx, even the rebuilding of the World Trade Center.

"They were taking full advantage of that — even if it was only removing waste from a construction site," one source said. "They'd have their favorite companies getting jobs. If the union was a problem, they'd take care of it."

Each family had a different method of adapting to the new century.

In the Wall Street boom, a Luchese soldier formed a fake hedge fund, operating out of a one-family house in Staten Island. He conned hundreds of wealthy investors into putting their money in bundled mortgage securities — one of the major causes of the economy's collapse.

When the housing bubble burst, a Genovese crew cashed in on the wave of foreclosures through house-flipping schemes in suburban Westchester.

The Gambino family stole credit card numbers via Internet porn sites, laundered gambling money through an energy drink company called American Blast, and took over a company that distributed bottled water — a far cry from the Prohibition days of bootlegging.

All the families use the Web to enhance their multi-million dollar illegal gambling empires through offshore betting shell corporations.

As part of the new mob order, the penchant for violence has diminished. That is a sea change in New York that also represents a return to the old ways.

For years, the five families divided up New York City in mostly peaceful co-existence, with occasional bouts of behind-the-scenes violence usually wrought by internal power struggles.

Bloodshed began to escalate in the 1980s, as bodies turned up in Staten Island swamps, the World Trade Center garage, even at the doorstep of Sparks Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan.

Then came a major shift in the mob's ability to enforce the vow of silence known as ‘omerta.' In 1991, Gambino underboss Salvatore (Sammy Bull) Gravano decided to become an informant. A wave of informants followed, which deteriorated into shootouts in the streets and dozens of suspected informants who disappeared.

Since 2000, the number of bodies has dropped precipitously, law enforcement sources say. They take this as a sign that the mob once again craves a lower profile to avoid scrutiny. "They keep things calm," one source said. "They try to keep things looking legit. They'd rather take 5 cents from 1,000 people than $10,000 from one."

They've also adopted management changes. Since the conviction of all the major bosses of the middle 20th century, all five families have struggled to find replacements who will last.

Three of the five families have retired the official boss altogether, forming flexible leadership panels that mediate disputes and enforce the so-called rules. "They retrenched. They became much less visible," said one law enforcement source. "The days of John Gotti nonsense, you don't see that anymore."

Today, the mob's haunts aren't what they were. Neighborhoods of Italian immigrants that once served as Ground Zero of Mafia-dom are ethnically diverse, with many former residents relegated to suburbia. The days when mobsters hung out at inner city social clubs — and FBI agents watched from nearby vans with tinted windows — are rare.

Some of the best-known clubs have just vanished:

  • Gravano's old hangout, Tali's Bar in Bensonhurst, where bar owner Mikey DeBatt was whacked in the back room by one of Gravano's crew, is a Vietnamese restaurant.
  • John Gotti's Ravenite Social Club is a trendy shoe store.
  • The Palma Boys Club, where the Genovese family met is an empty store front with lime green walls, is up for lease.
  • The Wimpy Boys Club in Gravesend — where a mob moll was once shot in the head and her ear turned up weeks later — is now Sal's Hair Stylist.

But just because they can't be seen doesn't mean they aren't there.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Reputed Gambino Crime Family Associate Loses Appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the racketeering conviction of a reputed associate of the Gambino crime family.

Edmund Boyle was convicted in connection with a string of burglaries of night deposit boxes at banks in the New York metropolitan area. He was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison.

Boyle challenged his conviction, claiming that the federal racketeering law was intended for criminal enterprises with more structure than the loosely organized group that broke into cash-laden deposit boxes.

By a 7-2 vote, the court on Monday upheld the conviction.

"The group need not have a name, regular meetings, dues, established rules and regulations, disciplinary procedures, or induction or initiation ceremonies," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court.

Justices Stephen Breyer and John Paul Stevens dissented.

Boyle also is facing charges that he conspired to kill a suspected snitch outside a strip club in the New York City borough of Staten Island in 1998.

The case is Boyle v. U.S., 07-1309.

Thanks to L.A.T.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Frank Vincent Defends "Protection" Commercials after Miller Lite Orders the Ads Whacked

MillerCoors executives just announced they are pulling the Miller Lite “Protection” commercials that have been broadcast for the last month in a national television campaign for the beer company.

Frank Vincent ('The Sopranos') and his sidekick, Mike Starr ('Dumb & Dumber'), play mobsters who offer a store clerk and bartender 'protection.'

The spots are being pulled in response to protest from representatives of the Italian-American community. In the commercials, Frank Vincent (“The Sopranos”) and his sidekick, Mike Starr (“Dumb & Dumber”), play mobsters who offer a store clerk and bartender “protection.” The employees tell them “no thanks,” because they have all the protection they need with Miller Lite’s taste protector lid. Italian music plays in the background, and the actors wear the typical Mafioso attire. The commercials were created by Chicago-based ad agency DraftFCB.

"We seem to be the last breed in America that ad agencies think they can take a shot at," said Lou Rago, founder of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago. On Monday, Rago and Anthony Baratta, the Chicago-based national chairperson for the Commission for Social Justice, had a conference call with MillerCoors executives. Initially, the beer company agreed to run fewer “Protection” commercials. But when Rago and Baratta threatened a national boycott of Miller products by Italian-Americans, the executives agreed to pull the ads within a week.

The controversy hit headlines on Wednesday, June 3rd when the Chicago Sun-Times broke the news. Frank Vincent received a Google alert notifying him about the article, and felt compelled to offer his side of the story. “I think both of these groups should have a better sense of humor,” Vincent told the Sun-Times. “The humor is there in the commercials, and a lot of people were enjoying the work.”

Vincent also went on The Roe Conn Show on WLS AM Wednesday afternoon to discuss the controversy with Roe Conn. When asked if he was perpetuating a stereotype, Frank said he didn’t think so, “Because it’s a character, I’m an actor. I’ve played good guys, I’ve played cops, I’ve played bad guys. I’m acting.” Vincent said.

Frank argued that the mob is not just synonymous with Italian-Americans. History has proven that many different ethnicities have all run organized crime outfits. He wonders why these Italian-American organizations have singled out the Miller Lite commercials. “How about Bugsy, how about all the gangster movies in the 30s and 40s, when they depicted all the original gangsters that came here. The Jews, and the Germans, and the Irish…this argument can go on forever and ever.”

Vincent and Starr both star in the soon-to-be released film “Chicago Overcoat”, filmed by local film production company Beverly Ridge Pictures. The movie also stars Armand Assante (“American Gangster”), Kathrine Narducci (“The Sopranos”), Stacy Keach (“Mike Hammer: Private Eye”) and local actor Danny Goldring (“The Dark Knight”). Vincent looks forward to returning to Chicago to attend the film’s world premiere later this year.

Banned Miller Lite Wise Guy Protection Commercial

Banned Miller Lite: Mafia Protection for Convenience Store Ad

Sopranos/GoodFellas Actor Charged with Real Life Strong-Arming with a Reputed Gambino Soldier

A veteran actor with roles in "The Sopranos" and "GoodFellas" played a tough guy in real life, too, prosecutors say.

Anthony Borgese - along with a reputed Gambino crime family soldier - was charged with trying to strong-arm cash from an unlucky soul who owed money to a loanshark.

Borgese pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he tried to extort the unidentified man in upstate Monticello in 2004. The longtime character actor, who grew up in Brooklyn, uses the stage name Tony Darrow and calls himself the "Goodfella of Comedy" on his Web site.

He was busted by FBI agents at LaGuardia Aiport as he arrived home from a film shoot late Thursday, sources said.

The 70-year-old actor looked haggard in court Friday after spending the night at the federal lockup in Brooklyn.

He declined to talk to the Daily News after he was released on a $750,000 bond secured by his upstate home and $50,000 cash. "I can't comment until I find out what this is about," he said as he hauled a cart with his luggage out of Brooklyn Federal Court.

Also charged in the two-count indictment were reputed Gambino soldier Joseph (Joey Boy) Orlando, who is serving a 33-month sentence for a separate extortion conviction, and alleged mob associate Giovanni Monteleone, who was released on bail.

"This is a violent crime, but we are satisfied that with the bond being posted the community will not be at risk," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Buretta said.

Borgese is best known for his role in "GoodFellas" as Sonny Bunz, the beleaguered owner of the mobbed-up Bamboo Lounge. The timid Bunz fights over a bar tab with hothead Tommy DeVito - played by Joe Pesci - who breaks a bottle over his head.

He also appeared as Larry Boy Barese in 14 episodes of "The Sopranos," and several Woody Allen movies, as well as having a Vegas nightclub act.

"I travel a lot," Borgese told Magistrate Roanne Mann Friday. "I do autograph signings and personal appearances."

Borgese worked in the real Bamboo Lounge in Canarsie, Brooklyn - a hangout for Luchese crime figures Henry Hill, James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke and Tommy DeSimone, whose stories were the basis for "GoodFellas."

In an interview with The News in 2000, the East New York-bred Borgese said: "Most of my friends from the old neighborhood are either dead or in jail. Sometimes I wonder, 'Why did God forget me?'"

Borgese isn't the first "GoodFellas" cast member to be linked to the Gambino crime family.

Earlier this year, at the trial of hit man Charles Carneglia, prosecutors introduced into evidence a photo of actor Frank Sivero - who died on a meat hook as Frankie Carbone in the film - posing with the Gambino goon.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Who is The Real Mayor of Chicago?

Most Americans living outside the Chicago area identify the city with Oprah, Obama, or Michael Jordan. When the subject of who really runs Chicago comes up, most people would say Mayor Daley. Chicago's lack of term limits and persistent political machine have kept Mayor Daley in office for over 20 years.

Those who know Chicago politics know there's one man who's more powerful than Mayor Daley, Alderman Ed Burke. Mayor Daley may be the identifiable public face of Chicago's political system and act as a lightning rod for criticism, but the lower profile Alderman Burke wields the real power.

Chicago's City Council recently celebrated Alderman Burke's record-breaking 40 years in office. No Chicago Alderman has served so long or accumulated so much power. No man represents Chicago's political system better and all that is wrong with it. Only in a city that is hostile to checks and balances could a politician achieve what Alderman Burke has done. Since joining City Council in 1969, Alderman Burke has amassed a portfolio of positions to be the Machine's top boss. Alderman Burke not only represents the 14th Ward but also serves as Chairman of the Finance Committee. The city of Chicago’s own website is quite honest about exactly who's in charge:

As Chairman of the City Council’s powerful Committee on Finance, Alderman Burke holds the city’s purse strings and is responsible for all legislative matters pertaining to the city’s finances, including municipal bonds, taxes and revenue matters. Alderman Burke became Chairman for the second time in 1989. He previously served from 1983 to 1987. He also serves as a member of the Chicago Plan Commission.


One of the Finance Committee's responsibilities is dealing with workers compensation claims. A few years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times explained Chicago's system: "When city workers get hurt on the job, they usually turn to a handful of lawyers tied to City Hall. And the city often fights back by hiring lawyers with ties to Ald. Edward M. Burke, chairman of the City Council Finance Committee, which has sole authority to settle workers compensation claims against the city."

But, Alderman Burke's control of Chicago's financial purse strings isn't his only lever of power. Cook County has the largest unified court system in America. In heavily Democratic Cook County, 100% of all of the judges are Democrats. The Chairman of the Democratic Party Judicial Slating Committee is none other than Alderman Burke.The Chicago Reader astutely observed Burke's "Seat on the Democratic Party judicial slate-making committee ensures that Cook County judges owe him their jobs." Alderman Burke's influence goes beyond the Cook County level: his wife Anne is a justice on the Illinois Supreme Court.

Along with all of Alderman Burke's power to control Chicago's tax code and Cook County's judicial system comes campaign contributions. Alderman Burke doesn't represent a wealthy ward, nor has he ever faced a serious political opponent, but he still has amassed an eye popping campaign fund. The Chicago Tribune explains:

But the state’s richest political family was Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and his wife, Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke. Together, their political committees held $8.3 million in cash. The Tribune reported Monday that Anne Burke’s campaign was returning a large portion of her cash to donors because she is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Mayor Richard M. Daley, who traditionally ceases fundraising after elections, raised just $43,000 in the last six months, but had $3.1 million in cash on hand.


In terms of cash at the very least, Burke is already more potent not only than Daley but has more in his coffers than Daley and all 49 Aldermen combined. But, the ever active Alderman Burke is also a businessman, not surprisingly a rather successful one.

The state of Illinois has rather lax ethics laws, and since being an Alderman is a "part time” job, Alderman Burke has outside employment. Burke runs a successful property tax appeals business. Burke's latest ethics form filed with the city of Chicago shows his impressive list of clients. Such big corporations as AT&T, American Airlines, Bank of America, Northern Trust, Harris Bank, T Mobile and many others have done at least $5000 in legal business with Alderman Burke's law firm in the last year. They also – I am sure readers will be shocked – do business with the city of Chicago. WBBM, the local CBS affiliate, even has Alderman Burke handle some of its legal business.

Occasionally, Alderman Burke's conflicts get reported on. When Obama ally and Blagojevich influence peddler Tony Rezko was looking to get his taxes cut on a big land deal the Chicago Sun-Times explained:

Why did Ald. Edward M. Burke vote to approve Tony Rezko’s plans to develop the South Loop’s biggest piece of vacant land even as he was working for Rezko on that same deal?

Burke says: I forgot to abstain.


When Rod Blagojevich first decided to run for Governor in 2001, he got important backing from Burke. Blago's father in law, by the way, is Alderman Dick Mell, a colleague of Alderman Burke's who got the ball rolling.The Daily Herald unearthed this revealing statement from Alderman Burke in 2001 concerning Blago:

"I am with Rod 100% because he has what it takes to win – money, message and an army of supporters,” said Burke, referring to a rousing announcement speech given by Blagojevich to a reported throng of 10,000 people on August 12. Burke also mentioned filings with election officials that show Blagojevich with over $3 million in his campaign fund, double the amount of cash on hand of all of his potential Democratic opponents combined.


In the coming years, as Chicago style politics seeps into America's mainstream, remember Alderman Burke. Thirty of Burke's colleagues on Chicago's City Council went on to become convicted felons since 1970. But Alderman Burke is still standing, and still dominating in the shadows, atop much of what happens in the Windy City.

Thanks to Steve Bartin

Steve Bartin is a resident of Cook County and native who blogs regularly about urban affairs at http://nalert.blogspot.com. He works in Internet sales.

Mafia 2 to Get an Opposite?

Wondering what Rockstar's new PlayStation 3 Exclusive, Agent is? Well, there's a rumor running around the internet saying that the game will be 'the opposite of Mafia 2 (Which is set to hit our screens this year). Eventhough Mafia 2 will be set in the 1940's/1950s and Agent will be set in the 1970's

So at the moment it does look like you will be playing an undercover agent killing crime down in one city or another.

This is all just speculation for the moment. So don't get too excited and we will bring you all the info on Agent as soon as we get it.

Thanks to mjolliffe

Twilight Star, Robert Pattinson" to Play Gangster Joe Gallo?

Harvey Weinstein is keen to sign up 'Twilight' star Robert Pattinson to appear in his next movie, a biopic of Mafia gangster Joe Gallo. Although Leonardo DiCaprio is also in the running for the part, Weinstein - who is making the film adaption of Tom Folsom’s book 'The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld' - made it clear he wants the 'Twilight' heartthrob taking the reins. He said: “Rob Pattinson, I made him kiss girls in Cannes. He’s the most charming, wonderful young man. He really cared about the charity, and that’s not an easy thing to do. That’s a sweet, sweetheart thing to do. And then we got two bids.”

Thanks to Bild