The Chicago Syndicate: The Sopranos vs. The Chicago Outfit

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Sopranos vs. The Chicago Outfit

Friends of ours: Frank Calabrese Sr., Nick Calabrese, James Marcello
Friends of mine: Soprano Crime Family, Frank Calabrese Jr.

As the "Sopranos" ends its lengthy run tonight on HBO, has the popular show gotten mob life right?

Here's a look at how the series has been right on the money, and when it hasn't, compared to the Chicago Mob:

On the money

1. Mob families are screwed up.

Look no further than Chicago's own Calabrese family. At the upcoming federal Family Secrets trial, the brother of reputed mob hitman Frank Calabrese Sr. will testify against him. So will Calabrese Sr.'s son, Frank Jr., who secretly recorded his father while they were in prison. Calabrese Sr. allegedly confessed to mob killings. To say there's bad blood in this family is an understatement.

2. The rules are the rules, until they aren't.

Tony Soprano is well known for enforcing strict discipline among his crew until his rules inconvenience him. The same attitude is true of many a Chicago Mob leader, observers say. The bosses make the rules -- and break the rules when it suits them.

3. I love you, and now I'm going to kill you.

This season, viewers were shocked when Tony Soprano suffocated his nephew, Christopher Moltisanti. But mob observers say such ruthless behavior is not unusual in the Mafia. When Frank Calabrese Sr. learned that his brother, Nick, might be cooperating with the feds, Calabrese Sr. allegedly gave his blessing if Nick got whacked, according to secret tape recordings.

Outta whack

1. The mob takes care of its own.

In the "Sopranos," mobsters always take care of families of crew members who die or go to prison. Not always so in Chicago. Promises are made but not always kept. Frank Calabrese Sr., for instance, allegedly did not take care of the family of his brother, Nick, while both were in prison, despite assurances he would do so. Calabrese Sr. let other family members down, too. Taking up the slack, reputed Chicago mob boss James Marcello allegedly made monthly payments of $4,000 to Nick Calabrese's wife. A lot of good it did him -- Nick Calabrese will be a key witness against Marcello in the upcoming trial.

2. Fashion sense

No offense to Chicago mobsters, but the wise guys in the "Sopranos" generally dress much nattier than typical gangsters here, observers say.

3. Mobster therapy?

It's always seemed a stretch to some mob experts that a mob leader would ever see a shrink. The secret prison recordings of Frank Calabrese Sr. are not filled with him wondering how he could have been a better father or discussing his panic attacks. At one point, he allegedly talks about spreading lime on a dead guy.

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