The Chicago Syndicate: Mob better watch out: Best mayor is getting mad

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Mob better watch out: Best mayor is getting mad

Today, readers reflect on the big news about the FBI's Operation Family Secrets investigation, which led to the indictment of several Outfit bosses and the closing of 18 previously unsolved mob killings.

Hey, John, the Outfit is in serious trouble now. Forget about the U.S. attorney and the indictments. Know who's mad at them? The mayor. The mayor's mad at the hoods and the mob. He says they run drugs and everything else and he's really, really mad at the mob. Wow, are they in trouble! When Mayor Daley starts fighting them, look out. T.P.

Dear T.P. -- Jeepers, you are a sarcastic Chicago resident. Are there more of you? It's just another reason why he's the best mayor in the cosmos. I'm calling TIME Magazine right now, mister!

I feel prompted to write you after reading your April, 26, 2005, column ("Mob charges tell a story, but more isn't told"). When you discussed how the Chicago Outfit's survival has been dependent upon help provided by crooked politicians, judges and cops, it reminded me of a book I read as a teenager, CAPTIVE CITY CHICAGO IN CHAINS. Have you read this work? Can you recommend any other books that cover this topic? I've been fascinated by this subject matter since I was a teenager. Thanks. P.P.

Dear P.P. -- When I first started covering Chicago politics in 1980The Outfit, someone lent me a worn paperback copy of Demaris' "Captive City," which fascinated me by detailing the incredible web of political connections between civic leaders, politicians and the Outfit. It was so good that, naturally, I stole it. It is the best book on the subject I've ever read. If you'd like to read more about the mob and politics, I'd recommend reading this newspaper and also "The Outfit" by Gus Russo. (Appropriately enough, a friend gave me Russo's book while we were having a drink on Rush Street.) Also, the William Brashler book The Don about Sam "Momo" Giancana, and Mafia Princess: Growing Up in Sam Giancana's Family by Giancana's daughter, Antoinette, who makes a great pasta sauce. And, the Web site of the Laborers International Union of North America (http://www.laborers.org/.) has plenty of information. If anyone can recommend other books on the Outfit, please share them with me and I promise to steal them too.

John, my son-in-law gave me the book "The Outfit" for Christmas. I was enjoying it but had to take a break because suddenly, everything I saw was "connected." I was stunned to realize that the Outfit probably provided the bottles of milk I drank in elementary school. I started looking over my shoulder; the Outfit seemed to dominate my thinking; and every businessperson, waiter, delivery guy looked like they were part of it. I would mutter "mob connections" in unlikely places. My family became concerned that I had developed some kind of mob dementia. They would laugh, but I would nod knowingly, like some old crone in Sicily. J.H.

I had a similar experience recently. A friend mentioned the great philanthropic family, the Annenbergs, and I said they started as tough guys in Chicago's old newspaper circulation wars, under the tutelage of Paul "The Waiter" Ricca. The friend looked at me as if I was crazy. I just smiled, knowingly.

It's commendable that they round up all these old mob guys. I'm sure they've all done something one time or another. But it's Godfather 4. What are they going to do, put them in the retirement home? How about the drug gangs, Chinese mob, Russian and Ukrainian mobs, the black gangs. What about the sex offenders? They just grabbed another one. But they put a monitor on Martha Stewart's ankle, so we feel safe at night. So they're going to put these mob guys in the senior citizen home? Big deal. B.D.

You're not the first American of Italian descent to have such feelings about the mob story. Another is my wife. When I asked her, she said: "So I'm the token angry Sicilian in the column, the one who's angry about how these criminals reflect on us? They're criminals, but we all look bad." I don't think the indictment of Joe Lombardo makes Italians look bad. It makes Lombardo look bad.

But I also think that because Italians are now considered white, which wasn't always the case in the U.S., writers take more liberties with the Outfit than we do with the equally ridiculous behavior of the black and Latino gangs.

Bill Dal Cerro, of the Italic Institute of America, is someone always on the lookout for anti-Italian images in the media. He just wrote me a letter saying it was important to focus not only on the gangsters, but also on those public officials--crooked politicians, judges, cops--who've allowed the Outfit to prosper in Chicago and suburbs.

"We hope you can pursue this line of logic," Dal Cerro wrote. "It is uncharted territory. You are going to get hell for it because it challenges the notion that `organized crime' is somehow an `alien' [read: Italian] thing which pollutes the pristine veneer of an `uncorrupt' nation. As my Uncle Louie used to say, `@#$$% {circ} &*!'"

Thanks to John Kass

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