The Chicago Syndicate: Bugsy Siegel
Showing posts with label Bugsy Siegel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bugsy Siegel. Show all posts

Monday, August 05, 2019

Attend a One-Day Conference "The Summit" to Discuss the Mob in Las Vegas at the @TheMobMuseum

THE SUMMIT: THE MOB IN LAS VEGAS



Date: September 21, 2019
Time: 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Oscar B. Goodman Room
Cost: Regular price $225. Member price $180 (20% off).

RVSP Today!

Join us for a one-day conference that centers on the Mob’s four-decade-long reign in Las Vegas. Engage in conversations with historians, journalists, agents, regulators and others on the Mob’s arrival in Las Vegas, its control of the Strip and its eventual dislodging from the casino industry. Dig deep into subject matter involving mobsters such as Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and Tony Spilotro.

Breakfast, lunch, a tour of The Mob Museum’s distillery, and a gift bag are all included.

FEATURED SPEAKERS

Oscar Goodman, author of Being Oscar: From Mob Lawyer to Mayor of Las Vegas, keynote speaker

Known for his trademark, no-nonsense tell-it-like-it-is style, Oscar B. Goodman, the 19th mayor of Las Vegas, served for 12 years before swearing in his wife, Carolyn G. Goodman, as mayor in 2011. Passionate about downtown revitalization, Oscar Goodman is the primary visionary of The Mob Museum. As former chairman of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Oscar Goodman worked feverishly to promote Las Vegas as one of the most exciting destinations in the world. Today, he is still formally engaged with the LVCVA, promoting Las Vegas as the city’s official ambassador. This self-proclaimed “happiest mayor in the universe,” Oscar Goodman is one of the nation’s best criminal defense attorneys and was named one of the “15 Best Trial Lawyers in America” by the National Law Journal. He spent more than 35 years defending some of the most notorious alleged Mob figures, including Meyer Lansky, Frank Rosenthal, Anthony Spilotro and others. In 1995, he appeared as himself in the movie, Casino. Oscar Goodman has been honored with the Public Leadership in the Arts Award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Leadership Award for Public Service from the International Economic Development Council.

George Knapp, journalist

George Knapp moved to Las Vegas in 1979. He has progressed from part-time studio cameraman to investigative reporter and is currently chief reporter for Channel 8’s I-Team investigative unit. During his career, Knapp has been the recipient of countless journalism awards—including the DuPont Award from Columbia University and the Peabody Award.

John L. Smith, journalist and Mob historian

John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas journalist and author of more than a dozen books on Nevada subjects, including:



The Nevada Press Association inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2016. That same year, Northwestern University awarded him the James Foley-Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism and he also received the National Society of Professional Journalists Ethics in Journalism Award and the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics from the University of Oregon. Smith’s biography of Las Vegas civil rights activist and politician Joe Neal is scheduled for publication in the spring of 2019. As a freelance writer, his work regularly appears in the Nevada Independent and CDC Gaming Reports, and he contributes commentary for Nevada Public Radio.

Herm Groman, retired FBI agent

Herman Groman, is a retired FBI Special Agent and former director of security at a large Las Vegas hotel/casino.  While in the FBI, he specialized in deep, long-term undercover operations as an undercover operative in the areas of organized crime and narcotics. Herman also served as the agent in charge of several high-profile public corruption investigations. Later, he worked as a team leader of an FBI Special Operations Group that conducted surveillances of major terrorist cells and their associates throughout the United States. Prior to his extensive FBI experience, Herman served in the infantry in Vietnam. He was awarded both the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for valor. He resides in Las Vegas with his wife. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. His first novel Pigeon Spring, a Nevada thriller mystery, was released in the summer of 2010 and is selling all over the U.S, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. He is writing his second action packed Nevada based novel, Yucca Pointe, which will be published by Total Recall Publishing. He can be contacted on line at his website www.hermangroman.com.

Larry Gragg, historian

Larry Gragg is curators’ teaching professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, Missouri. He has made more than 40 research trips to Las Vegas. Among his eight books is Bright Light City: Las Vegas in Popular Culture (2013) and Benjamin Bugsy Siegel: The Gangster, the Flamingo, and The Making of Modern Las Vegas (2015).

Michael Green, historian

Michael Green, Ph.D., is a noted historian and associate professor in UNLV’s Department of History. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UNLV and obtained his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. Green is the author of nine books about the history of Las Vegas and Nevada as well as broader topics in American history.

His books on the Civil War era include:



His works on Nevada include:



His college-level textbook, Nevada: A History of the Silver State, is near publication and he is writing a history of the Great Basin in the twentieth century. Green is also active in writing and speaking in the community. He writes the Politics column and blog for Vegas Seven, Nevada Yesterdays for Nevada Humanities and KNPR, and Inside the Beltway and Books for a newsletter, Nevada’s Washington Watch.

Geoff Schumacher, Senior director of content, The Mob Museum

As the senior director of content, Geoff Schumacher is responsible for exhibits, artifacts and public programs. Schumacher earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno, and his master’s degree in history from Arizona State University. He started his 25-year journalism career at the Las Vegas Sun, where he was a reporter, editorial writer and city editor. He was the editor of Las Vegas CityLife and founded and edited the Las Vegas Mercury. He served as director of community publications for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 10 years and also wrote a weekly public affairs column for the Review-Journal. He culminated his newspaper career by serving as publisher of the Ames (Iowa) Tribune.

Schumacher is the author of two books:



He served as editor of Nevada: 150 Years in the Silver State, the official book commemorating the state’s sesquicentennial.

Jeff Burbank, Content development specialist, The Mob Museum

Jeff Burbank is content development specialist for The Mob Museum. He is the author of four books, including:



Monday, January 07, 2019

Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker

They say in Vegas you can’t understand the town unless you understand Benny Binion — mob boss, casino owner, and creator of the World Series of Poker. Beginning as a Texas horse trader, Binion built a gambling empire in Depression-era Dallas. When the law chased him out of town, he loaded up suitcases with cash and headed for Vegas. The place would never be the same.

Dramatic as any gangster movie, Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker, draws readers into the colorful world of notorious mobsters like Clyde Barrow and Bugsy Siegel. Given access to previously classified government documents, biographer Doug J. Swanson provides the definitive account of a great American antihero, a man whose rise from thugdom to prominence and power is unmatched in the history of American criminal justice.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Hollywood and the Mafia

Bollywood's connections with the underworld are common knowledge. There is a certain level of romanticism attached to the lives of the mafiosi and their molls. But, the fact remains that even Hollywood greats like ol' blue eyes Frank Sinatra and the original bombshell Marilyn Monroe were rumored to have underworld links. Here's a look at some of the folklore:

The ChairmanFrank Sinatra, actor-singer:

Special agents from the CIA and FBI had kept tabs him on the since 1947 when he took a four-day trip to Havana. He had painted the town red with a gaggle of powerful Cosa Nostra members. Sinatra's other rumored criminal associates included Joseph and Rocco Fischetti, who were cousins of Al Capone and reigning Chicago boss Sam Giancana. When Giancana had been arrested in 1958, the police found Sinatra's private telephone number in Giancana's wallet.

In the summer of 1959, Sinatra allegedly hosted a nine-day, round-the-clock party at the Claridge Hotel in Atlantic City where Chicago wise guys rubbed elbows with top East Coast mobsters, including Vito Genovese and Tommy Lucchese. Charges like these plagued Frank Sinatra throughout his life, and he repeatedly and vehemently denied having any association with the mafia.


MarilynMarilyn Monroe, actress:

The extensive influence the Chicago mafia had over Hollywood is best illustrated in 1948 when Chicago Mafia boss Tony Accardo had told John Rosselli to force powerful Columbia Pictures' president Harry Cohn into signing then-unknown actor Marilyn Monroe to a lucrative multi-year contract. The usually highly combative Cohn quickly complied without opposition, mainly because Cohn had obtained control of Columbia through mob funds and influence provided by both Accardo and Rosselli.


Bugsy SiegelBugsy Siegel, mobster:

Siegel had a number of mistresses, including actor Ketti Gallian and Wendy Barrie With the aid of DiFrasso and actor friend George Raft, Siegel gained entry into Hollywood's inner circle. He is alleged to have used his contacts to extort movie studios. He lived in extravagant fashion, as befitting his reputation. The highly fictionalized motion picture Bugsy was based on his life with Warren Beatty in the title role.


Lana TurnerLana Turner, actor:

After acting in 'Johnny Eager', a mafia flick, Lana began her own involvement with a real life mobster, Johnny Stompenado, a crew member for the Hollywood mob organisation headed then by Mickey Cohen. Stompenado had confronted several of Turner's screen co-stars, including a celebrated tiff with Sean Connery.


Mickey Cohen
Mickey Cohen, mobster:


He begun his mafia career as a thug for Vegas boss Ben Siegel before moving to Hollywood. Cohen inherited Siegel's racing interests and operated a small haberdashery in Los Angeles that served as a front for a book making enterprise. Always high profile, he dressed lavishly and flaunted his money and friendships with Hollywood heavy-weights.


Steve BingSteve Bing, producer:

Best know for being the father of Elizabeth Hurley's son Damian, Bing's friends are said to include Dominic 'Donny Shacks' Montemarano, a felon and one time capo in the mafia.


Thanks to After Hrs.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Bugsy Siegel Gunned Down in 1947 #OnThisDay

A drive-by shooter unloads nine rounds through the front window of a Beverly Hills home, instantly killing notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel. A founder of the small but promising Las Vegas casino scene, the pal of movie stars and moguls, and head of the Mafia's west coast syndicate, is dead at 41.

Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel was an American mobster. Siegel was known as one of the most "infamous and feared gangsters of his day". Described as handsome and charismatic, he became one of the first front-page celebrity gangsters. He was also a driving force behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip. Siegel was not only influential within the Jewish mob but, like his friend and fellow gangster Meyer Lansky, he also held significant influence within the American Mafia and the largely Italian-Jewish National Crime Syndicate.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Most Dangerous Casino Mafia In History

Bugsy Siegel is one of America’s most notorious mobsters that was single handedly responsible for several murders, illegal gambling operations, bootlegging operations and even prostitution rings. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was born in 1906 in Brooklyn, New York and he died at the age of 47 when he was shot at the Beverly Hills residence of his then girlfriend, Virginia Hill.

Siegel was known to be a bit of a good-looking philanderer who wasn’t only easy on the eyes, but also had a charismatic personality. Siegel has his hands everywhere, not only was he a key figure in Jewish mobs, but was also had connections within the Italian – American mafia and even the Italian – Jewish National Crime Syndicate.

During the prohibition, Siegel operated mostly as a big shot bootlegger and dealt illegal booze among other things. However, Siegel stepped into illegal gambling and casinos only after the prohibition was lifted and his boot legging was no more as profitable. Even though he was a mastermind behind many operations and crime rings, Siegel was mostly a hit man who knew his way around guns and did not shy away from violence. In the year 1936, Siegel moved away from New York to California.

He frequented Las Vegas, Nevada where he then took his illegal gambling business to the next level. He invested in and managed many of the original casinos. In fact, the Las Vegas strip as we know it today, was shaped and initially sparked by Siegel and his associates.

During his early days, Siegel’s introduction to crime started off simultaneously as his friendship with Meyer Lansky, also known as Meyer Mob, started to blossom. Meyer Mob was the kingpin of a small group of mobsters who were mainly into grand theft auto, larceny and all sorts of illegal gambling operations. Meyer Mob began this gang when he identified that there was no Jewish gang in his neighborhood like how there was an Italian gang and an Irish Gang.

Siegel became one of Meyer Mob’s very first recruits and he served as the hit man and muscle of the group for the most part. It was this exposure to illegal gambling and other criminal operations which gave Siegel the experience and the knowledge which later manifested into he-himself becoming a big shot kingpin and casino owner who was known and feared all across the country.

Siegel loved the lavish life, loved to be a womanizer, loved the nightlife, flashy clothes, swanky houses and flashy cars. However, he also had a reputation for being downright fearless. In an interview with biographers, one of his fellow mobsters, Joseph “Doc” Stacher, had told biographers that Siegel was one of the most fearless men he knew and on one occasion had even saved the lives of his gang members. While everyone was wondering how to cope with an attack, Siegel supposedly would already be all guns blazing.

It was in the late 30’s that Siegel’s life was really under threat and he moved to the east coast. This is when his involvement with casinos really got some traction. His objective during his Californian years was to develop and strengthen syndicate – sanctioned gambling rackets along with Jack Dragna, a Los Angeles family boss.

In the early forties, Siegel and his bookmaking efforts were said to be pulling in a staggering amount of money in the order of nearly half a million a day, which for the forties is really a ludicrous amount. Seigel also had connections with politicians, businessmen, industrial tycoons, attorneys, accountants and lobbyists. In December 1946 Siegel opened The Pink Flamingo Hotel & Casino at a cost of $6 million, which was once again, more than an absurd sum in those days.

It was on 20th June, 1947 that Siegel breathed his last breath. He was in his girlfriend’s residence in Beverley Hills and was accompanied by his associate Allen Smith when an assailant shot him multiple times with a .30 caliber. He took two bullets to the head and several more elsewhere in his body and pretty much died on the spot. To this day, nobody has been charged with his murder and the killing remains an unsolved mystery.

Frank Lawrence Rosenthal lived a life so eventful that his life was depicted in Martin Scorsese’s film Casino. Rosenthal was many things, a husband, a father, a professional gambler, an entrepreneur, and when required – a ruthless mobster.

Rosenthal spent his early years learning sports betting in the west side of Chicago. It is said that he would frequently cut class to go partake in sports betting and witness sporting events. From his younger days itself, Rosenthal had a knack for being able to seek out excellent sports bets and make good money in the process. His eye for detail and talent landed him a job with the Chicago outfit. Fast forward a few years and Rosenthal was running the biggest illegal bookmaking operation in the country and worked for the American Mafia.

Even though he was charged and tried on many occasions for illegal gambling and several other charges, it was only once that he was actually convicted. Rosenthal could not care for licenses and regulations and was discovered to have been running multiple casinos without holding a single license.

Rosenthal was the first person to bring sports betting to the US. He was also the one who created the concept of female blackjack dealers which saw the incorporating casino almost double its blackjack driven profits.

Rosenthal survived a murder attempt in 1981 when he sat in his Cadillac Eldorado and it blew up. He is said to have survived the attack because of a manufacturing defect in his car.

In 2008, Rosenthal passed away after suffering a heart attack at the age of 79.

Thanks to Legal Gambling and the Law.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bugsy Siegel, the glamour-loving gangster, was shot down in Beverly Hills on this day in 1947

A drive-by shooter unloads nine rounds through the front window of a Beverly Hills home, instantly killing notorious gangster Bugsy Siegel.

A founder of the small but promising Las Vegas casino scene, the pal of movie stars and moguls, and head of the Mafia's west coast syndicate, is dead at 41.

No one was charged with the murder, and the crime remains officially unsolved.

Monday, May 08, 2017

All Against The Law: The Criminal Activities of the Depression Era Bank Robbers, Mafia, FBI, Politicians, & Cops

This book tells the remarkable true stories of America’s most infamous Public-Enemy-Number-1 gangsters. Based on exhaustive documented research, Bill Friedman chronicles the true history of illegal gambling, rum-running, organized crime, and the politics of law enforcement during the Prohibition era.

Based on crime-scene eyewitness accounts, state’s witnesses harborers’ accounts, and historical records, Friedman paints exciting portraits of John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and other luminaries of the underworld—and documents how surprisingly different that world was from the way Hollywood portrays it. Like great literary characters, history’s gangsters and bank robbers were complex and fraught with contradiction.

Captivating tales of criminal daring are balanced with shocking political exposés revealing how complicity and incompetence hindered the effectiveness of law enforcement. Written in fast-moving prose that’s sure to entertain, All Against The Law: The Criminal Activities of the Depression Era Bank Robbers, Mafia, FBI, Politicians, & Cops, is a must-read for anyone who loves classic American ‘cops and robbers’ stories. Friedman’s historical accounts are as exciting and dramatic as any genre fiction, while ringing with the power of truth and authenticity.

All Against The Law: The Criminal Activities of the Depression Era Bank Robbers, Mafia, FBI, Politicians, & Cops” covers U.S. major crime in the Great Depression era. It is the incredible stories of daring prison escapes and breathtaking police pursuits by the Great Depression’s four successive Public Enemies Number One - John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Alvin Karpis with the Barker brothers. These were the most aggressive and dangerous killers ever. When fleeing from pursuing lawmen, every one of these bank robbers either whirled their cars around and floored their accelerator towards their pursuers, or they ran in the open, charging pursuers while relentlessly blasting away with machineguns. All these ferocious counterattacks made them dreadfully successful at killing the most policemen and FBI agents of any American outlaws. This is the first complete history because the newspaper accounts and trial testimonies by both their criminal cohorts and the harborers during their long fugitive manhunts are included.

Against these fierce killers, Congress assigned a fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), an accounting agency of government money made up of politically-appointed accountants and attorneys with no police experience. Headed by J. Edgar Hoover, a librarian, he failed to teach his agents any of the fundamentals of police and detective work or instruct them to respect individual liberties and rights. Thus, his courageous but ill-prepared early agents conducted one amateurish and failed raid after another that occasionally caused disastrous results for both his agents and innocent civilian bystanders caught up in the lines of fire.

Hoover’s leadership and management of the FBI has been thoroughly discredited by contemporary exposé articles and scholarly historical biographies. This book penetrates the veil much further in presenting how politically-conservative Hoover failed to prosecute serious criminals, used underhanded illegal tactics against critics; occasionally fought to survive his malfeasance in office; and blackmailed errant Congressmen to further his own political agenda. All this made him an unaccountable malevolent fourth branch of the federal government totally outside the brilliantly-conceived Constitutional checks-and-balances system.

To disprove that the FBI’s chief suspect, Pretty Boy Floyd, was involved in the Kansas City Massacre that slaughtered four lawmen, and to finally reveal the actual perpetrators and their motives, the forty-year reign of that town’s unique political-power structure is laid bare. The town’s political kingmaker Jim Pendergast chose as his lieutenant the city’s Mafia leader, and this Mafioso selected the chief of police and his detectives. The state legislature tried to stop this affront to justice by having the governor appoint a Police Commission to control the city’s departmental hirings. This action just led Kansas City’s Mafia chieftain to expand his political sphere of influence across the state to elect puppet governors who appointed Commissioners of his choosing.

These Kansas City political leaders stuffed ballot boxes in every election of politically-progressive Harry Truman, who later became the only president to sell out to organized crime because of his long political ties to the Kansas City Mafia. The entire last chapter strictly covers the many interactions Truman had from the White House with this Mafioso. Their mutual political hijinks, conflicts, and intrigue are astonishing. As tensions mounted this Mafioso was murdered, and Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress directly accused the President of ordering his political henchmen to kill him. This whole period in the White House is beyond mind-boggling.

A number of the gangsters in this book had ties to the early Nevada gambling industry, where the author spent his whole career. The action opens in that state, when Reno was its largest city, and Bill Graham and Jim McKay were the biggest casino operators both before and after gambling was legalized in 1931. Prior to Baby Face Nelson going into bank robbing, he was their doorman/bouncer. Graham and McKay operated the most popular casino in the state’s largest hotel, the Golden, and they developed an effective but very illegal tourist-marketing program to bring in high-rollers during the Great Depression. They offered an emporium of services for criminals who stole money through armed robbery, kidnapping, or by con. This drew financial criminals in large numbers from across the country. One service was to hide fugitives on the run in this isolated town and protect them from police interference. In the weeks to months before the FBI took down Dillinger, Nelson, Floyd, Karpis, and Fred Barker, all enjoyed the safe haven provided by Reno’s casino operators.

Before Ben Siegel began construction of his Fabulous Flamingo gambling resort, Kansas City Mafioso Charles Binaggio, who was shot to death under President Truman’s portrait, had planned to become a major investor in the Thunderbird Hotel & Casino on the Strip. A number of other links between the Kansas City Mafia and the Nevada casino industry during this era are presented. This book closes with the career of Kansas City’s fifth Mafia leader, Nick Civella. As the original pioneer gangsters, who had built the Las Vegas Strip from their Prohibition fortunes, retired and sold out, Civella financed a new wave of hidden underworld casino owners through the Teamsters Union Pension Fund, as was fictionally presented in the 1995 movie Casino.

This book is based on 47 years of research, and it has an enormous amount of new information. It details the major crimes of that era, and it exposes major corruption by politicians, police detectives, prosecutors, and judges. Justice eventually prevailed as the vast majority were imprisoned.

Every word comes from the victims, eyewitnesses, local police officials, or the pursuing FBI agents' official internal reports, as documented in 34 pages of 326 endnotes. the subject Index is 14-pages of double-columns.

Monday, May 01, 2017

30 Illegal Years to the Strip: The Untold Stories Of The Gangsters Who Built The Early Las Vegas Strip

30 Illegal Years To The Strip: The Untold Stories Of The Gangsters Who Built The Early Las Vegas Strip.

These are the untold inside stories of Prohibition’s most powerful leaders, and how they later ran elegant, illegal casinos across America, before moving on to build the glamorous Las Vegas Strip gambling resorts.

The seven leaders of the three dominating Prohibition gangs imported the world’s finest liquors on a massive scale. Although they conducted their business in an illegal and dangerous world, these seven espoused traditional business values and rejected the key tools of organized crime - monopoly, violence, and vendetta. This made them the most unlikely gangsters to rise to underworld leadership. But they earned every criminal’s respect, and fate made them the most powerful gangland leaders in American history.

Unbelievably, the most murderous and most psychopathic gang leaders not only admired them but supported them in gangland conflicts. In the mid 1900s, these seven leaders stood up to, and restrained, America’s worst villains. The seven prevented many gangland wars and killings.

The three dominating liquor-importers were the first gangs to work closely together in mutual interest. Joining them was the violent Chicago Capone gang, as they partnered in both illegal and legal businesses during and after Prohibition. They were also close allies in the complexities, treachery, and violence of underworld politics.

Some of these seven leaders became powerful overworld political kingmakers. Allied with them in New York City politics was Arnold Rothstein, the ultimate gambler. His murder is one of several major gangland killings finally solved here.

Great entertainment was a key part of these seven gang leaders’ illegal-casino and Strip-resort showrooms. Their biggest-drawing star was comedian Joe E. Lewis. He set the standards for excellence during the half-century popularity of nightclub and casino showroom entertainment.

The action-packed careers and relationships of the gang leaders, who together would go on to build the Las Vegas Strip, are presented for the first time in this thoroughly documented, in-depth, authentic history of how organized crime developed. It contains 546 source notes, and many addendums that expose the serious fallacies and outright fictions of previous books about early organized crime.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top 10: Gangsters

If you browse around your local video store, you'll notice dozens of films about the Mafia. Witness the popularity of Goodfellas, The Godfather, Casino, and Bugsy. Why have so many films been made about these tough-guy hooligans? Because men have a fascination with gangster culture and organized crime. But who are some of the most notorious gangsters of all time?

To make the list, gangsters must have had a significant impact on the Mob thanks to the way they did business. They must have done most of their business in America, their legacy must have stood the test of time, and they must have had a significant impact on pop culture.

Honorable Mention
Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (1906 - 1947)

Benjamin Siegel was born in Brooklyn in 1906 and soon associated himself with fellow Jew Meyer Lansky. After running contract killings for Murder, Inc., Siegel -- who was nicknamed "Bugsy" because of his unpredictable nature -- went in cahoots with Lucky Luciano and his newly organized Syndicate. But killing for Luciano earned him enemies, and in the late '30s, he was forced to escape to Los Angeles, where he had lived glamorously with movie stars.

He then discovered the gambling laws of Nevada. "Borrowing" millions from the Syndicate, he established one of the first casino hotels in Las Vegas, the Flamingo. But the resort was losing money, and when it was discovered in 1947 that he had stolen money from his friends, he was killed.

Featured in: The best portrayals of Siegel are in Warren Beatty's Bugsy  (1991) and The Marrying Man (1991) with Armand Assante.

Number 10
Vincent "The Chin" Gigante (1928 - 2005)
Born in New York in 1928, Vincent Gigante was quite a character. He dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and started boxing, winning 21 of 25 light-heavyweight bouts. By the time he was 17, he had turned to crime to support himself, which resulted in seven arrests before he was 25.

Gigante's first significant act as a gangster and member of the Genovese family was an attempt to kill the powerful Frank Costello, but Gigante's bullet missed the target. Nevertheless, he continued to climb the ranks within New York's Genovese organization, eventually becoming a capo and consigliere in the early '80s.

Then, when Mob boss Tony Salerno was convicted, Gigante became the main man. What makes Gigante so memorable is his 30-year ploy of acting insane. After he successfully averted prison in the late '60s by employing psychiatrists to testify to his insanity, he took it upon himself to continue the act; throughout his career, he was often seen walking around the streets of New York wearing a bathrobe. For this reason, he was nicknamed the "Oddfather" and the "Pajama King." Imprisoned for racketeering, he finally admitted in 2003 that he was not crazy.

Gigante died in prison on December 19, 2005 due to heart complications. The Gigante family and his lawyer, Flora Edwards, filed a federal lawsuit regarding the lack of health care that Vincent received while in prison. Vincent was scheduled for release in 2010.

Featured in: Gigante was a character in the made-for-TV film Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999) and served as inspiration for an episode of Law & Order.

Number 9
Albert Anastasia (1903 - 1957)
Born in Tropea, Italy in 1903, Albert Anastasia was still a teenager when he came to America. Involved in the docks operations in Brooklyn, Anastasia was sent to Sing Sing Prison for 18 months for the murder of a longshoreman; the mysterious deaths of witnesses led to his early release. Albert Anastasia (aka "Lord High Executioner" and "Mad Hatter") was known as a killer, a reputation that led Joe Masseria's gang to recruit him. Anastasia was also extremely loyal to Charles "Lucky" Luciano, who had plans to rule America's crime world. Anastasia had no problem betraying Masseria -- by being one of four people sent to kill him in 1931 -- when approached by Lucky Luciano.

At this time, Anastasia started taking on hits for the Murder, Incorporated outfit in New York, and in 1944, he became the leader of the murder squad. Although Anastasia was never prosecuted for any killings, Murder, Inc. was responsible for between 400 and 700 murders. In the '50s, he became the leader of the Luciano family, but Carlo Gambino wanted the job. Though the murder is officially unsolved, many believe that Gambino had Anastasia killed in a barbershop in 1957.

Featured in: Albert Anastasia was a prominent character in Murder, Inc. (1960), a gangster film starring Peter Falk and Howard Smith (as Anastasia), as well as in The Valachi Papers (1972) and Lepke (1975).

Number 8
Joseph Bonanno (1905 - 2002)
Born in 1905, Joe Bonanno grew up in his native Sicily and became an orphan at the age of 15. He left Italy due to the fascist power of the Mussolini regime and made a brief stopover in Cuba before moving to the United States when he was 19. Joe joined the Mafia as a way to prevent Mussolini from taking over Sicily. Nicknamed "Joey Bananas," he joined forces with Salvatore Maranzano. Before Luciano killed him, Maranzano created The Commission, the ruling body over Mafia families in the entire country.

Bonanno stepped up and took over one of these families. He became powerful in New York with cheese factories, clothing businesses and funeral homes, which were a terrific way to dispose of bodies. But plans to eliminate all the rival families turned against him and Bonanno was kidnapped for 19 days until he agreed to retire. In 1965, he initiated the Banana War to settle scores, but he retired for good soon thereafter due to bad health. Never in his life was he convicted of a serious offense.

Featured in: Two cable movies have been made about the crime legend: Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage (1993) with Ben Gazzara and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999) with Martin Landau.

Number 7
Dutch Schultz (1902 - 1935)
Arthur Flegenheimer, later known as Dutch Schultz, was born in the Bronx in 1902. As a teenager, he held up crap games to impress his boss and mentor, Marcel Poffo. At the age of 17, he did some time at Blackwell's Island (now known as Roosevelt Island) for theft. With prohibition in full swing in the 1920s, he realized that money was in bootlegging. A ruthless man, he would kill whenever his temper flared, which helped keep his competition in line.

He had a part in the founding of the Syndicate, but soon Luciano and Capone became his enemies. In 1933, the law wanted to shut down Schultz, so he went into hiding in New Jersey, which left his New York territory free for a takeover; Luciano seized the opportunity. Schultz made a comeback in 1935, but members of Albert Anastasia's crew killed him in a restaurant men's room before he could do any damage.

Featured in: Dustin Hoffman was memorable as Dutch Schultz in Billy Bathgate (1991), but Tim Roth was even better in Hoodlum (1997). Other movies featuring Schultz include Gangster Wars (1981), The Cotton Club (1984) and The Natural (1984).

Number 6
John Gotti (1940 - 2002)
In the wake of the great gangsters who ruled New York, John Gotti had his work cut out for him. Born in Brooklyn in 1940, he was always quick with his fists and it was his life's dream to become a wiseguy. By the age of 16, he had joined a local street gang known as the Fulton-Rockaway Boys. He quickly became their leader, stealing cars and fencing stolen goods. In the '60s, he began associating with Mafia hoods and hijacking trucks. In the early '70s, he became a capo for the Bergin crew, a part of the Gambino family. Extremely ambitious, Gotti started to deal drugs, which was forbidden by family rules.

As a result, Paul Castellano, the Boss, wished to expel Gotti from the organization. In 1985, Gotti and his guys killed Castellano outside a steakhouse and Gotti took over the Gambino family. No matter how many times the authorities tried to indict him for being the most powerful criminal in New York, the charges were always dropped. Because of this -- and the fact that he dressed well and loved media attention -- he was nicknamed "The Dapper Don" and "The Teflon Don." He was finally convicted for murder in 1992 and died of cancer in prison in 2002.

Featured in: He was played by Anthony John Denison in the made-for-TV movie Getting Gotti (1994) and by Armand Assante in the HBO event Gotti (1996). Other TV movies featuring him include Witness to the Mob (1998) with Tom Sizemore and The Big Heist (2001).

Number 5
Meyer Lansky (1902 - 1983)

Born Maier Suchowljansky in Russia to Jewish parents in 1902, Lansky moved to New York when he was 9. He met Charles Luciano when they were just schoolboys. Luciano demanded protection money from Lansky, and when he refused to pay, the two boys fought. Impressed by Lansky's toughness, Luciano befriended the younger boy and the two remained lifelong friends. Lansky also met Bugsy Siegel when he was a teenager, and the three formed a powerful partnership. Lansky and Siegel formed the Bug and Meyer Mob, which became Murder, Inc.

Lansky's primary order of business was money and gambling, and he had operations in Florida, Cuba and New Orleans. He was an investor in Siegel's Las Vegas casino, and he even bought an offshore bank in Switzerland that was used for money laundering. A financial genius, he codeveloped the National Crime Syndicate and the Commission. But business is never personal, and he approved the murder of his best friend Bugsy Siegel when Siegel was unable to produce profits for the Syndicate. Even with a gambling racket in operation across the planet, Lansky never spent a day in jail.

Featured in: Not only did Richard Dreyfuss give a powerful performance in HBO's Lansky (1999), but the character of Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part II (1974) was loosely based on him as well. The role was also played by Mark Rydell in Havana (1990), Patrick Dempsey in Mobsters (1991) and Ben Kingsley in Bugsy (1991).

Number 4
Frank Costello (1891 - 1973)
Francesco Castiglia was born in 1891 in Italy and moved to the United States with his family when he was 4. He changed his name to Frank Costello when he joined a street gang at age 13. After numerous petty crimes landed him in prison, he became best friends with Charlie Luciano; together, they dealt in bootlegging and gambling. Costello's strength was his position as a link between the Mob and politicians, especially the Democratic Party's Tammany Hall in New York, which enabled him and his associates to pay off certain officials.

Following Luciano's arrest, Costello became the man in charge, and he solidified and expanded the operation during this time. A power struggle between him and Vito Genovese (who served as Underboss) erupted in the '50s, and Vincent Gigante tried to kill Costello. Eventually, Costello grew tired of the gangster life and retired, but not before framing Genovese and Gigante for a drug bust. He died peacefully in 1973.

Featured in: The man was best portrayed by James Andronica in the 1981 miniseries The Gangster Chronicles, by Costas Mandylor in Mobsters (1991), by Carmine Caridi in Bugsy (1991), and by Jack Nicholson in The Departed (2006). (The author is actually incorrect about Jack Nicholson playing the real Frank Costello in The Departed. Only the character name was in common with the real Frank Costello. Nicholson's character was mostly based upon another gangster, Whitey Bulger.)

Number 3
Carlo Gambino (1902 - 1976)
Carlo Gambino came from a family that had been part of the Mafia for centuries in Italy. He started carrying out murders when he was a teenager and became a made guy in 1921 at the age of 19. With Mussolini gaining power, he immigrated to America, where his cousin Paul Castellano lived. He became a thug for different New York families until he joined Lucky Luciano's crew.

After Luciano was extradited in the '40s, Albert Anastasia took over. But Gambino thought it was his time to shine and had Anastasia killed in 1957. He appointed himself Boss of the family and reigned with an iron fist over New York until his natural death in 1976.

Featured in: Al Ruscio played him beautifully in the TNT movie Boss of Bosses(2001). Other "Gambino" appearances include the made-for-TV movies Between Love & Honor (1995), Gotti (1996) and Bonanno: A Godfather's Story (1999).

Number 2
Charlie "Lucky" Luciano (1897 - 1962)

Salvatore Lucania was born in Sicily in 1897, but his family moved to New York nine years later. At a young age, he became a member of the Five Points gang, in which Al Capone also received his education. Five years after establishing an empire based mostly on prostitution, Luciano controlled the racket all over Manhattan. After a failed but brutal attack on his life in 1929, Luciano started planning the National Crime Syndicate, an extension of Salvatore Maranzano's Commission, with Meyer Lansky.

They eliminated the competition, and by 1935, Lucky Luciano was known as the Boss of Bosses -- not just of New York City, but of the whole country. He was arrested and sentenced to 30 to 50 years in 1936, but was let out on parole in 1946 on the condition that he be deported to Italy. He had so much power that U.S. Navy intelligence sought his help when the Allies were set to invade Italy during World War II. He died of a heart attack in 1962.

Featured in: Christian Slater played him in Mobsters (1991), as did Bill Graham in Bugsy (1991) and Anthony LaPaglia in the TV film Lansky (1999).

Number 1
Al Capone (1899 - 1947)
If there ever was a gangster who earned the No. 1 spot, it is Al Capone. Alphonse Capone was born in 1899 to Italian immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, where he got his start in street gangs. He then joined the Five Points gang and became a bouncer. It was during these days that a series of facial wounds earned him the "Scarface" nickname. Capone moved to Chicago in 1919 and quickly moved up the Mafia hierarchy while working for Johnny Torrio (Capone became Torrio's protege).

It was the time of the Prohibition, and Capone ran prostitution, gambling and bootlegging rings. In 1925, at the age of 26, Capone took over after Torrio was wounded in a gang war. Known for his intelligence, flamboyance and love of public attention, Capone was also known to be very violent; his role in the orchestration of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, in which key rival gangsters were murdered, proves this. In 1931, Federal Treasury agent Eliot Ness arrested him for tax evasion.

Featured in: Many movies have been made about Capone, but the most famous are probably The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) with Jason Robards, Capone (1975) with Ben Gazzara and The Untouchables (1987) with Robert De Niro.

Thanks to Matthew Simpson

Monday, January 30, 2017

How the Mafia Dealt with J. Edgar Hoover?

Excerpt from Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, by Anthony Summers:

To Costello, and to his associate Meyer Lansky, the ability to corrupt politicians, policemen and judges was fundamental to Mafia operations. It was Lansky's expertise in such corruption that made him the nearest there ever was to a true national godfather of organized crime.

Another Mafia boss, Joseph Bonanno, articulated the principles of the game. It was a strict underworld rule, he said, never to use violent means against a law enforcement officer. "Ways could be found," he said in his memoirs, "so that he would not interfere with us and we wouldn't interfere with him." The way the Mafia found to deal with Edgar, according to several mob sources, involved his homosexuality.

The mob bosses had been well placed to find out about Edgar's compromising secret, and at a significant time and place. It was on New Year's Eve 1936, after dinner at the Stork Club, that Edgar was seen by two of Walter Winchell's guests holding hands with his lover, Clyde. At the Stork, where he was a regular, Edgar was immensely vulnerable to observation by mobsters. The heavyweight champion Jim Braddock, who also dined with Edgar and Clyde that evening, was controlled by Costello's associate Owney Madden. Winchell, as compulsive a gossip in private as he was in his column, constantly cultivated Costello. Sherman Billingsley, the former bootlegger who ran the Stork, reportedly installed two-way mirrors in the toilets and hidden microphones at tables used by celebrities. Billingsley was a pawn of Costello's, and Costello was said to be the club's real owner. He would have had no compunction about persecuting Edgar, and he loathed homosexuals.

Seymour Pollack, a close friend of Meyer Lansky, said in 1990 that Edgar's homosexuality was "common knowledge" and that he had seen evidence of it for himself. "I used to meet him at the racetrack every once in a while with lover boy Clyde, in the late forties and fifties. I was in the next box once. And when you see two guys holding hands, well come on! ... They were surreptitious, but there was no question about it."

Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno, the highest-ranking mobster ever to have "turned" and testified against his former associates, was at the track in 1948 when Frank Bompensiero, a notorious West Coast mafioso, taunted Edgar to his face. "I pointed at this fella sitting in the box in front," Fratianno recalled, "and said, 'Hey, Bomp, lookit there, it's J. Edgar Hoover.' And Bomp says right out loud, so everyone can hear, 'Ah, that J. Edgar's a punk, he's a fuckin' degenerate queer.'"

Later, when Bompensiero ran into Edgar in the men's room, the FBI Director was astonishingly meek. "Frank," he told the mobster, "that's not a nice way to talk about me, especially when I have people with me." It was clear to Fratianno that Bompensiero had met Edgar before and that he had absolutely no fear of Edgar.

Fratianno knew numerous other top mobsters, including Jack and Louis Dragna of Los Angeles and Johnny Roselli, the West Coast representative of the Chicago mob. All spoke of "proof" that Edgar was homosexual. Roselli spoke specifically of the occasion in the late twenties when Edgar had been arrested on charges of homosexuality in New Orleans. Edgar could hardly have chosen a worse city in which to be compromised. New Orleans police and city officials were notoriously corrupt, puppets of an organized crime network run by Mafia boss Carlos Marcello and heavily influenced by Meyer Lansky. If the homosexual arrest occurred, it is likely the local mobsters quickly learned of it.

Other information suggests Meyer Lansky obtained hard proof of Edgar's homosexuality and used it to neutralize the FBI as a threat to his own operations. The first hint came from Irving "Ash" Resnick, the Nevada representative of the Patriarca family from New England, and an original owner-builder of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. As a high-level mob courier, he traveled extensively. In Miami Beach, his Christmas destination in the fifties, he stayed at the Gulfstream, in a bungalow next to one used by Edgar and Clyde. "I'd sit with him on the beach every day," Resnick remembered. "We were friendly."

In 1971, Resnick and an associate talked with the writer Pete Hamill in the Galeria Bar at Caesars Palace. They spoke of Meyer Lansky as a genius, the man who "put everything together" -- and as the man who "nailed J. Edgar Hoover." "When I asked what they meant," Hamill recalled, "they told me Lansky had some pictures -- pictures of Hoover in some kind of gay situation with Clyde Tolson. Lansky was the guy who controlled the pictures, and he had made his deal with Hoover -- to lay off. That was the reason, they said, that for a long time they had nothing to fear from the FBI."

Seymour Pollack, the criminal who saw Edgar and Clyde holding hands at the races, knew both Resnick and Lansky well. When Lansky's daughter had marital problems, it was Pollack who dealt with her husband. He and Lansky went back to the old days in pre-revolutionary Cuba, when Havana was as important to the syndicate as Las Vegas. "Meyer," said Pollack in 1990, "was closemouthed. I don't think he even discussed the details of the Hoover thing with his brother. But Ash was absolutely right. Lansky had more than information on Hoover. He had page, chapter and verse. One night, when we were sitting around in his apartment at the Rosita de Hornedo, we were talking about Hoover, and Meyer laughed and said, 'I fixed that son of a bitch, didn't I?'" Lansky's fix, according to Pollack, also involved bribery -- not of Edgar himself, but men close to him.

Lansky and Edgar frequented the same watering holes in Florida. Staff at Gatti's restaurant in Miami Beach recall that the mobster would sometimes be in the restaurant, at another table, at the same time as Edgar and Clyde. One evening in the late sixties, they were seated at adjoining tables. "But they just looked at one another," recalled Edidio Crolla, the captain at Gatti's. "They never talked, not here."

If Edgar's eyes met Lansky's, though, there was surely an involuntary flicker of fear. "The homosexual thing," said Pollack, "was Hoover's Achilles' heel. Meyer found it, and it was like he pulled strings with Hoover. He never bothered any of Meyer's people.... Let me go way back. The time Nevada opened up, Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo. I understand Hoover helped get the okay for him to do it. Meyer Lansky was one of the partners. Hoover knew who the guys were that whacked Bugsy Siegel, but nothing was done." (Siegel was killed, reportedly on Lansky's orders, in 1947.)

According to Pollack, Lansky and Edgar cooperated in the mid-fifties, when Las Vegas casino operator Wilbur Clark moved to Cuba. "Meyer brought Clark down to Havana," Pollack said. "I was against him coming. But I understand Hoover asked Meyer to bring Clark down. He owed Clark something. I don't know what.... There was no serious pressure on Meyer until the Kennedys came in. And even then Hoover never hurt Meyer's people, not for a long time."

Like Frank Costello, Lansky did seem to be untouchable -- a phenomenon that triggered suspicions even within the Bureau. "In 1966," noted Hank Messick, one of Lansky's biographers, "a young G-Man assigned to go through the motions of watching Meyer Lansky began to take his job seriously and develop good informers. He was abruptly transferred to a rural area in Georgia. His successor on the Lansky assignment was an older man who knew the score. When he retired a few years later, he accepted a job with a Bahamian gambling casino originally developed by Lansky."

Also in the sixties a wiretap picked up a conversation between two mobsters in which, curiously, Lansky was referred to as "a stool pigeon for the FBI." The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, taping a conversation between a criminal in Canada and Lansky in the United States, were amazed to hear the mob chieftain reading from an FBI report that had been written the previous day.

There was no serious federal effort to indict Lansky until 1970, just two years before Edgar died. Then, it was the IRS rather than the FBI that spearheaded the investigation. Even the tax evasion charges collapsed, and Lansky lived on at liberty until his own death in 1983.

New information indicates that Lansky was not the only person in possession of compromising photographs of Edgar. John Weitz, a former officer in the OSS, the predecessor of the Central Intelligence Agency, recalled a curious episode at a dinner party in the fifties. "After a conversation about Hoover," he said, "our host went to another room and came back with a photograph. It was not a good picture and was clearly taken from some distance away, but it showed two men apparently engaged in homosexual activity. The host said the men were Hoover and Tolson...."

Since first publication of this book, Weitz has revealed that his host was James Angleton, a fellow OSS veteran and -- in the fifties -- a top CIA officer. A source who has been linked to the CIA, electronics expert Gordon Novel, has said Angleton showed him, too, compromising pictures of Edgar.

"What I saw was a picture of him giving Clyde Tolson a blowjob," said Novel. "There was more than one shot, but the startling one was a close shot of Hoover's head. He was totally recognizable. You could not see the face of the man he was with, but Angleton said it was Tolson. I asked him if they were fakes, but he said they were real, that they'd been taken with a special lens. They looked authentic to me...."

Novel said Angleton showed him the pictures in 1967, when he was CIA Counter-Intelligence Chief and when Novel was involved in the furor swirling around the probe into the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. "I was pursuing a lawsuit against Garrison, which Hoover wanted me to drop but which my contacts in the Johnson administration and at CIA wanted me to pursue. I'd been told I would incur Hoover's wrath if I went ahead, but Angleton was demonstrating that Hoover was not invulnerable, that the Agency had enough power to make him come to heel. I had the impression that this was not the first time the sex pictures had been used. Angleton told me to go see Hoover and tell him I'd seen the sex photographs. Later, I went to the Mayflower Hotel and spoke to Hoover. He was with Tolson, sitting in the Rib Room. When I mentioned that I had seen the sex photographs, and that Angleton had sent me, Tolson nearly choked on his food. Hoover told me something like, 'Get the hell out of here!' And I did...."

With Angleton dead, there is no way to follow up this bizarre allegation. While Novel is a controversial figure, his account of seeing compromising pictures must be considered in light of other such references -- not least that of former OSS officer John Weitz. For Novel added one other significant detail, that "Angleton told me the photographs had been taken around 1946, at the time they were fighting over foreign intelligence, which Hoover wanted but never got."

During his feud with OSS chief William Donovan, dating back to 1941, Edgar had searched for compromising information, sexual lapses included, that could be used against his rival.

His effort was in vain, but Donovan -- who thought Edgar a "moralistic bastard" -- reportedly retaliated in kind by ordering a secret investigation of Edgar's relationship with Clyde. The sex photograph in OSS hands may have been one of the results.

It may be significant, too, that compromising pictures are reported as having been in the hands of both the OSS and Meyer Lansky. The OSS and Naval Intelligence had extensive contacts with the Mafia during World War II, enlisting the help of criminals in projects including the hiring of burglars and assassins, experimentation with drugs, the protection of American ports from Nazi agents and the invasion of Sicily. Lansky helped personally with the latter two operations, meeting with Murray Gurfein, a New York Assistant District Attorney who later became one of Donovan's most trusted OSS officers.

At least once, Lansky worked alongside U.S. intelligence officers on exactly the sort of operation likely to turn up smear material on prominent public men. In 1942, he arranged for the surveillance of a homosexual brothel Brooklyn suspected of being the target of German agents. "Clients came from all over New York and Washington, Lansky recalled, "and there were some important government people among them .... If you got hold of the names of the patrons you could blackmail them to death... some pictures through a hole in the wall or a trick mirror and then squeeze the victim for money or information."

There is no knowing, today, whether the OSS obtained sex photographs of Edgar from Lansky, or vice versa, or whether the mobster obtained them on his own initiative. A scenario in which Lansky obtained pictures thanks to the OSS connection would suggest an irony: that Edgar had tried and failed to find smear material on General Donovan, that Donovan in turn found smear material on him and that the material found its way to a top mobster, to be used against Edgar for the rest of his life.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The grandson of Meyer Lansky is a temperature control guy in Tampa

Gary Rapoport may be the grandson of deceased mobster Meyer Lansky, but in Tampa, he has another claim to fame. Rapoport, owner of 3-G's Gas Service, is the force behind outdoor heating and cooling units for more than 300 restaurants and bars in the Tampa Bay region. The business owns between 500 and 600 patio heaters, plus about 1,500 propane tanks, he said. 3-G's sells or leases those heating and cooling units to bars and restaurants throughout Tampa Bay. Then he or one of his three employees stop by once a week or so to change out the propane tank with a full one, billing the bar or restaurant the cost of fuel. Rapoport's biggest client, he said, is likely the Beach Bar and Restaurant formerly known as Hogan's Beach, which rents out 20 heaters and five or six fire pits each winter. In a recent interview with Tampa Bay Times, Rapoport recently sat down with the Tampa Bay Times' Alli Knothe to talk about business, family and a Cuban hotel and casino that he claims has his family's name on it.

How did you start this business?

I started the business about 10 years ago with a pickup truck and five or six propane tanks. It started out just as a joke really. A friend and I were sitting at a bar, and they ran out of propane (for the heater). I said I have some at home, and can run and get it. That was the birth of the 3G's: Gary's Got Gas. I tried to clean up (the name) and change it to something else but it didn't stick. Our motto is "Bustin' our a-- to bring you gas," and people just laugh when they see me driving down the road.

I've been told that this time of year your back yard looks like a graveyard for heating units.

During the summertime we tend to grow a lot of steel trees in the back yard. Now we've moved them all out to keep zoning happy.

The last couple of winters have been pretty mild in Tampa. How has that affected your business?

We've focused on evaporative cooling for bars and restaurants, like air conditioning for the outdoors (during the summer). I hate those misting fans because you feel the water hitting your neck. I'm selling a new design from a company out of Arizona. Out west they use a lot of evaporative cooling because it was such a dryer climate, and I wanted to try them out here. I bought eight or nine units and left them out for a week at some bars and restaurants. Half of my customers wouldn't give them back. That's the birth of a product line for me.

What's it like to be the grandson of Meyer Lansky?

Meyer was a tremendous influence on me. I grew up with him in Miami. He was a driver for me to learn a lot and get educated. He wanted us to have the same enthusiasm for reading and following your interest as he had. Some people look at him in the negative way. He had a lot of problems when he moved to this country. My grandfather took a beating from the Italian gangs. He kept getting back up and getting knocked back down. His tenacity, his desire to keep going in life got him ahead. Ben Siegel, Charlie Luciano, my grandfather and Frank Costello. They were like the four main guys. Two Italians, two Jews.

Charlie became the head of the Mafia and my grandfather became the accountant. He was the person who held all the money.

You spent some time as a small business loan officer before you started 3G's. Did you grandfather's career inspire you to get into that field?

It's a long story. I was in the bar and nightclub business for 20 years until I decided to make a change. I went to work for my wife's mom, and we did community mental health centers. I felt it was really rewarding work. The mental health thing ended because we lost government funding. The only other thing I really knew was the bar business. I became co-owner of Rock City, a rock-and-roll steak house. Unfortunately that ended my marriage because you've got to be there at night and my wife didn't want me to be there at night.

After the divorce, I went to work at Home Depot for eight or nine years. When the housing crunch came my best friend said come work with me at Regions Bank. I worked for them for a year. They laid me off, and I sold restaurant equipment for a while and then went to another bank where I did small business loans.

What does the future hold for you?


I developed this business and really stayed with it. Everything I made went back into it to help it grow. I went to all the trade shows, I kept adding equipment and meeting people. I'm a street warrior. It's about finding the right fit for (bar and restaurant owners). Half of their square footage is outside. We help them keep it warm in the winter and keep it cool in the summer. My hobby with my ten propane tanks has turned out to be quite a good business.

There's still money in Cuba that I'd like to get my hands on. (Lansky) is still listed as the owner of the Havana Riviera, and the Del Marina Hemingway with Frank Sinatra. We knew that Castro seized the hotel shortly after they opened and that's where the money stayed.

Thanks to Alli Knothe.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Bugsy - The Original Gangster

I was catching up on some old issues of the Wall Street Journal that I had not read yet, when I saw a full page ad for what they called The Original Gangster, Bugsy. For the 15th anniversary, Tri-Star released an all-new unrated, extended cut, completely remastered and loaded with new special features. If that sounds like an ad, it is because I pulled it right from the paper. I had forgotten that Bugsy won a Golden Globe for Best Drama and had been nominated of Best Picture at the Oscar's along with 9 other nominations. Hence, I have an updated preview on the DVD.

This is the 1991 movie in which notorious ladies man Warren Beatty finally met his match in his feisty co-star Annette Bening. The pair sparred on set and off -- and have been happily married ever since.

Beatty needed a strong foil for his ferocious performance as Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel, the real-life, brutal New York gangster who aimed for the big time after moving to Los Angeles in the 1930s.

After pursuing and conquering sexy Hollywood starlet Virginia Hill (Bening), a one-time prostitute who had also worked for the Chicago mob, Siegel dreamed of making millions from gambling in a then-small desert town called Las Vegas. He built the original Flamingo Hotel, but enraged his eastern crime bosses when the project ran millions over budget. He was killed by mob hitmen in 1947, just a few years before Vegas started generating billions.

Beatty and Bening make a terrific pair, but Bugsy also features a notable performance from Ben Kingsley as Siegel's childhood friend and later crime associate Meyer Lansky.

A powerful and evocative film, Bugsy gets the two-disc treatment here to include some great documentaries and extra features.

Thanks to Andy Cooper

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Don't Call Me Bugsy Documentary

A curious phenomenon occurs all too often with documentary films about organized crime. Even the most rational and high-minded documentarian tends to fall prey to the notion that they must adhere to the tropes of a gangster B-movie. Don't Call Me Bugsy, which details the rise and fall of Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, is no exception. From its self-consciously hardboiled voiceover narration to its formulaic presentation, the 70-minute doc is a passable, if unexceptional, examination of the underworld figure who helped create modern-day Las Vegas.

Don't Call Me Bugsy touches on the essentials about SiegelDon't Call Me Bugsy, whose crazy temper earned him the sobriquet "Bugsy," a nickname he despised (hence the title of the flick). Born in Brooklyn, he aligned himself at an early age with fellow gangsters Meyer Lansky and Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Lansky was the brains of the outfit and Luciano the connection to the Sicilian Mafia, but Siegel possessed the murderous instinct that made him the favored triggerman. True-crime author Tim Power notes that the trio was undeniably vicious, but "it's impossible not to admire their energy, their drive."

As Prohibition ensured there was a fortune to be made trafficking in illegal booze, the Luciano-Lansky-Siegel alliance maneuvered to head criminal activities in New York and along the East Coast. In 1931, Siegel and three others killed old-school Mob boss Joe Masseria, setting the stage for the new generation of young Turks to transform organized crime into more of a streamlined business operation. But Siegel was restless for more adventure and, in 1935, relocated to Los Angeles. Enlisting the help of childhood-friend-turned-actor George Raft, Siegel dived into Beverly Hills society. His movie-star looks and roguish charm made him a favorite among polite society, particularly with rich women.

His most significant achievement, however, came when Lansky directed Siegel to spearhead the construction of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Gambling had been legal in the dusty desert town since the mid-1930s, but Lansky envisioned a gaming Mecca along the lines of what organized crime had built in pre-Castro Cuba.

Siegel took to the assignment with a vengeance, sparing no expense in his desire to make the Flamingo a world-class destination. Nevertheless, costly delays and a ballooning budget assured his own demise. In 1947, Siegel was gunned down in his Beverly Hills home, a crime that remains unsolved.

The documentary intersperses black-and-white still photographs and archival footage with a handful of interviews from true-crime experts and various folks who knew Siegel, including his lawyer, barber and next-door neighbor. While the interviewees offer some juicy tidbits, they must compete with a hackneyed voiceover narration read by Larry Moran. When relating Siegel's 1926 arrest for rape, the narrator's sonorous voice tells us, "When it came to sex, he didn't discriminate. He didn't always ask, either." Siegel's longtime girlfriend, Virginia Hill, is described as "a feisty redhead from the foothills of North Carolina." Cue the eye-rolling. It's enough to make Mickey Spillane shudder.

It isn't a bad documentary, but it is uninspired and surprisingly lifeless. Too much of the film is a recitation of facts that don't shed much light on the subject. Only when we get to the saga of the Flamingo does Don't Call Me Bugsy really grab you, and most of that is due to rarely seen footage of Las Vegas in its early days.

The Video: The full-frame picture is solid but unremarkable. A few of the modern-day interviews suffer from softness, but much of the black-and-white archival footage is in very good condition.

The Audio: The 2.0 Stereo audio track gets the job done without any fanfare. The sound is somewhat flat, but you clearly hear the interviews and voiceover narrator, which is all that an audience would need.

English subtitles are available, but it should be noted that whoever is responsible for them evidently has little understanding of when a comma is necessary.

Extras: None.

Final Thoughts: Made in 1992, Don't Call Me Bugsy is a run-of-the-mill true-crime documentary that packs more information than it does illumination. The film chronicles Siegel's extravagant tastes for the Flamingo, but there is no speculation about what prompted it. What was his vision for Las Vegas? Did he even have a vision for it? People fascinated by organized crime (a group that includes your reviewer) would be better-served elsewhere, while viewers with only a casual interest are not likely to find much here worth their time.

Thanks to Phil Bacharach

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Bringing Down the Mob: The War Against the American Mafia

Longtime business associates Allen Dorfman and Irwin Weiner frequently lunched together. On a day in January 1983, they emerged from Dorfman's Cadillac onto the icy parking lot of a suburban Chicago restaurant, ten minutes late for their one o'clock reservation. According to Weiner, they were walking between parked cars when two men ran up behind them and yelled, "This is a robbery." One of the men fired a .22 automatic at least half a dozen times. Only Dorfman was hit. He fell to the ground in a large pool of blood that quickly froze into red ice. When the paramedics arrived, he showed no signs of life.

At fifty-nine, Dorfman was a nationally known figure, and his death would be reported across the country. His murder was news, but it was not a surprise. He had been a key figure in the world of organized crime for more than thirty years. Beginning with Jimmy Hoffa, successive presidents of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) had allowed him to use his position as head of the pension fund to provide sweetheart loans to mob figures, money that bankrolled the Mafia's control of several Las Vegas casinos. The union itself, which had access to top business leaders and politicians right up to the White House, was run as a virtual subsidiary of the American Mafia. A month before his murder, Dorfman, Teamsters president Roy Williams, and a top Chicago mob figure, Joe Lombardo, had been convicted of attempting to bribe U.S. senator Howard Cannon of Nevada. After his conviction in December 1982, Dorfman was released on $5 million bail pending sentencing. He stood to receive as much as fifty-five years in prison.

In addition to the bribery case, the government was also conducting an investigation of money skimming in mob-backed Vegas casinos. Dorfman knew the secrets of both the Teamsters and Vegas. If he decided to cut a deal with prosecutors, talking in return for a more lenient sentence, many gangsters-and supposedly legitimate businessmen and officials-would end up in prison. The head of the Chicago Crime Commission told The New York Times, "There's no doubt in my mind that Mr. Dorfman was killed to keep him quiet ... if he ever coughed up to investigators ... this country would be shaking for a month." Someone with access to the crime scene apparently decided to ensure that at least some of Dorfman's secrets did not die with him. He made a photocopy of the dead man's memo book and sent it to the Chicago Crime Commission.

Though he was only an associate member, Allen Dorfman's life provided a window into the world of the American Mafia at its highest levels. Beginning in 1949, it took him just five years to rise from physical education instructor to millionaire, thanks to Hoffa's largess and the connections of his racketeer stepfather, "Red" Dorfman. At the time of his death he headed a financial empire that included insurance companies, condominium developments, resorts, and other projects, and he maintained homes in four states. He was a major contributor to various charities and was frequently honored by civic associations. Yet over his career he had been denounced by congressional committees and constantly pursued by federal law enforcement officers. He was indicted on several occasions, though he usually managed to win acquittals. In 1972 he was convicted of conspiring to facilitate a loan from the Teamsters Pension Fund in return for a kickback of $55,000, but he served only nine months in jail.

After his latest conviction, Dorfman should have been wary of his former associates. He might have known that the bosses of the Chicago mob would be worried that a man long accustomed to the affluent life might not be able to face spending the rest of his days in prison. True, Dorfman had not rolled over following any of his previous arrests. But in the Mafia world that was irrelevant. Chicago mob bosses Joey Aiuppa and Jackie Cerone, who were also caught up in the Vegas skim, had followed very different paths from Dorfman's. Their rise to the top had been slow, prefaced by years spent doing the dirty work with guns and blackjacks. Unlike Dorfman, they could not pose as businessmen and civic benefactors. Instead, they lived by a hard code that mandated that all doubts must be resolved in favor of the organization. They could not take the chance that someone who had so much potential to hurt them would stay silent. Since it was standard mob procedure to eliminate witnesses, Weiner's survival and his tale of attempted robbery caused some investigators to speculate that he had set Dorfman up.

The fact that Dorfman was not Italian had prevented him from becoming a "made" member of the Mafia. Still, he was well aware of its rules, though perhaps he did not think they applied to a big shot like him. The same lack of understanding had undoubtedly cost his old boss Jimmy Hoffa his life eight years earlier. Then again, a lot of people on both sides of the law had always found it hard to comprehend the culture of the American Mafia.

Books about mob life often end up on the true-crime shelves of bookstores, alongside biographies of serial killers and accounts of last year's "heist of the century." In some respects it is the appropriate place for the colorful criminals of the American Mafia. Each generation has brought forth an Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, Sam Giancana, or John Gotti, all of whom have fascinated the public, as have their big and small screen counterparts: Scarface, The Godfather, and The Sopranos.

Yet the American Mafia is more than just another group of criminals. Since the 1920s it has been the heart and soul of American organized crime. As such it has exercised significant influence on the political and economic life of the country. In American Mafia: A History of Its Rise to Power, I told the story of the organization up to the early 1950s. I described how the Mafia managed to acquire all the trappings of an independent state, flouting the authority of the United States government. It promulgated its own laws, not infrequently imposing the death penalty; it even maintained diplomatic relations with foreign countries, such as Cuba. And perhaps most critically, in both politics and business it managed to link the underworld to the upper world. That an organization that never had more than five thousand full-fledged members could exercise such immense power is one of the most phenomenal accomplishments in the history of the United States. It was not, however, a lasting achievement. The present work, an account of events from the 1950s into the twenty-first century, is the story of a declining power. Essentially it is a domestic military history, in that it describes the fifty-year war that law enforcement has waged on the American Mafia.

Words like "organized crime" or "Mafia" lack precision. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who crusaded against the organization, told his subordinates, "Don't define it, do something about it." Over the years, "Mafia" has come to be used as a shorthand for the leading element of American organized crime. Like "Hollywood" as a synonym for the movie industry, or "Wall Street" for high finance, it has become so embedded in the national consciousness that it is impossible to avoid using it. Attempts by official bodies to define the Mafia often fell short, or were misleading. In 1950-51 a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Estes Kefauver of Tennessee exposed the face of organized crime in a score of American cities. In its final report the committee declared that a Mafia, descended from the Sicilian original, controlled the most lucrative rackets in many major cities and tied together criminal groups throughout the country. A 1967 presidential commission described organized crime as "underworld groups that are sufficiently sophisticated that they regularly employ techniques of violence and corruption to achieve their other criminal ends." They explained that the core group of organized crime in the United States consist[s] of 24 groups operating as criminal cartels in large cities across the nation. Their membership is exclusively Italian, they are in frequent communication with each other, and their smooth functioning is insured by a national body of overseers.

In fact the Mafia in the United States was not an offshoot of the Sicilian version. While only men of Italian lineage could be "made" full-fledged members, the organization was not entirely Italian. Nor was the national "commission," as its body of top overseers was called, ever as clearly defined or powerful as it was sometimes portrayed.

In the nineteenth century, some people blamed the newly immigrated Italians for the prevalence of vice and crime in urban areas. But organized crime was well established in the New World long before Italian Americans arrived. Gamblers, saloon keepers, brothel madams, and other criminals paid off the police, who in turn funneled a large share of the take to their political masters. A few immigrants who came to the United States had been members of Old World criminal bands, such as the Neapolitan Camorra and Sicilian Mafia. It is clear, though, that the Italians who would turn to crime in this country (a tiny fraction of the whole) simply took advantage of what they found when they arrived. Even after Mussolini's crackdown on the Mafia in the 1920s propelled some genuine Sicilian mafiosi to the United States, the forms of organized crime they adopted were essentially American.

The Mafia in America produced bosses like Calabrians Frank Costello and Albert Anastasia, as well as Neapolitans Al Capone and Vito Genovese. For practical purposes it also included Jews such as Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel of New York, Abner "Longy" Zwillman of Newark, and Morris "Moe" Dalitz of Cleveland, and these men often exercised power equivalent to that of the Italian bosses. Lansky (nÈ Maier Suchowljansky) was generally ranked among the top three or four mobsters in the country. His success was the result of his financial skills and his ability to forge alliances with key leaders such as Lucky Luciano and Frank Costello. For similar reasons, Moe Dalitz would become a major figure in Ohio, Kentucky, and Nevada. Irish Owney Madden, though confined to the resort town of Hot Springs, Arkansas, after his exile from New York City, managed to reinvent himself as an elder statesman of the American Mafia. Welshman Murray "the Camel" Humphreys (nÈ Humpreys) was always near the top of the Chicago mob hierarchy, as were Jake Guzik and Gus Alex, who were Jewish and Greek, respectively. To emphasize the organization's American origins and its frequently multiethnic makeup, I refer to it as "the American Mafia," though to avoid constant repetition of the term, I will usually refer to it simply as "the Mafia," sometimes only "the mob(s)," or in individual cities by its local equivalent, such as "the Chicago Outfit" or the name of a particular New York family.

One clear indicator that the American Mafia was homegrown was its organizational structure. The American gangs replicated the political machines in the areas where they operated. Chicago, for example, was dominated by the Democratic county organization, though certain ward bosses were given considerable latitude. The Chicago mob controlled the metropolitan area but allowed some of its leading figures to operate with a high degree of autonomy. New York was too large to be ruled by one political organization. Tammany controlled Manhattan, but Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens had their own machines. The New York Mafia's five-family structure dispersed mob power similarly across the five boroughs. In Tammany days, a "commission" made up of a powerful politician from Manhattan, another from Brooklyn, a boss gambler, and a representative of the NYPD regulated organized crime. After 1931, a local Mafia commission composed of the heads of the five families performed the same function. At the same time, a national "syndicate" also developed, directed by a commission that included the New York families and representatives from other cities. The national commission reflected prevailing political practices as well. The Republican and Democratic national committees were dominated by big states, such as New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. In the national syndicate, the New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Detroit mobs called the shots (sometimes literally).

The internal arrangements of the families (borgattas or simply gangs) also resembled that of the political machines. The Tammany and Cook County party chairmen and the Mafia family heads were all called "boss." Both Tammany and the Chicago organization often had number two men; in the Mafia they were called underbosses. Tammany had leaders over every assembly district, while Chicago had a party committeeman in charge of each ward, and the Mafia had its middle managers too. In the post-Apalachin period, law enforcement began referring to mob sub-bosses by terms such as "capo" (head). While neat on paper, it did not always conform to local practice. In Chicago, instead of being called capos, sub-leaders were usually referred to by the territory they controlled: boss of the Loop, the Near North Side, the Far South Side, etc. In other places they might be known as captains or crew chiefs. The Tammany wise men were called sachems; the Mafia families' equivalent was consigliere, or counselor, though the job began as a sort of ombudsman to whom aggrieved gang members could appeal. Since "Tammany" was an Indian name, its rank and file were accordingly known as braves. On law enforcement charts, the lowest ranked members of the Mafia were called soldiers, a term that might also encompass crew members who were not "made." While it is sometimes claimed that any Italian made man outranked any non-Italian, this was not the case. A mob soldier, even a crew chief, had to be very respectful around "Bugsy" Siegel or "Shotgun" Alex, men whose nicknames alone indicated their temperament and propensities.

Even the boss title could sometimes be misleading. Some who bore it were no more than titular leaders. Gaetano Gagliano was formally boss of what became the Lucchese family from 1931 until his death in 1951, when he was succeeded by his underboss, Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese. Yet during the period when Gagliano was supposedly in charge, there was virtually no mention of him, while Lucchese was well known, just as European kings and presidents have often been overshadowed by their prime ministers. Sometimes it was unclear who was actually running a particular Mafia gang. In the 1980s the federal government prosecuted "Fat Tony" Salerno as head of New York's Genovese family even though he was actually the number two man.

The key to the American Mafia's success was its ability to buy or neutralize public officials. Until the 1920s, organizations such as Tammany Hall or Chicago's First Ward had the final say over organized crime. Then Prohibition- rich gangsters turned the tables and began to act as the partners or, in some instances, controllers of the politicians. As one criminal justice official told historian Arthur Sloane, "The mobsters have always been wedded to the political system. That's how they survive. Without that wedding they would be terrorists and we'd get rid of them." The decline of the Mafia began after the 1950s, when the mobs could not muster the political influence to protect themselves from the law enforcement assault led by the federal government.

In the present work I have adopted a broad approach, as opposed to a more narrow focus on a particular mob family or individual leader. Sometimes police or journalists have labeled gangs such as New York's Gambinos or the Chicago Outfit the premier mob families in America. Such assessments are like rankings of college football teams. The view of one expert is not always shared by another or borne out on the playing field. A similar practice is to designate an individual gangster such as Vito Genovese or Carlo Gambino "Boss of Bosses." For a long time, law enforcement followed the same narrow approach in its war on the Mafia: Go after an individual Mr. Big. The turning point in the war came in the 1980s, when the federal government broadened its targets and took down most of the leadership of all five New York families in one fell swoop.

Thanks to Thomas Reppetto

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