The Chicago Syndicate: Joe Gallo
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Showing posts with label Joe Gallo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joe Gallo. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

What Happened To Gennaro Colombo? #McMillionsHBO

Audiences watching HBO's new docu-series "McMillion$" may be astounded by the breadth of the conspiracy to defraud McDonalds of tens of millions of dollars –– while others may be more drawn to the colorful cast of characters who make up the scheme.

One of such these characters would be Genarro Colombo, who played a key role in helping fraud mastermind Jerome Jacobson pull off the $24-million scam of the Monopoly promotion game.

McMillions on HBO: FREE Sneak Peek.

Although Jacobson kicked off the scheme by stealing winning game pieces from his workplace and distributing them to friends and family, authorities alleged his connection with Colombo helped him take the scheme to another level –– especially aided by Gennaro's connections to an infamous Mafia family active in New York City: The Colombo Crime Family.

The Colombo Family is one of New York City's "Five Families," vast criminal enterprises which were established by the Mafia in 1931, according to The New York Times. The Colombo Family is the youngest of the five organizations and was responsible for dozens of murders and criminal rackets in the NYC area for decades. The family was started in 1928 by importer Joe Profaci and quickly rose to become a feared presence in the underworld – with hands in various criminal enterprises like extortion and protection rackets, an historical overview of the Family from The New York Post reported.

Colombo's membership in the Family is confirmed by his wife Robin and his brother Frank Colombo in the documentary. Robin talks about his connections to a godfather named "Uncle Dominic" who was served as Gennaro's main point of contact with the Colombo organization and who helped Gennaro find various jobs and cons to work on.

The Family itself was also known for various colorful gangland figures like “Crazy Joe” Gallo, who kept a mountain lion in his New York apartment, the Post reported, and Gregory “The Grim Reaper” Scarpa, an informant and hitman who the FBI believes killed perhaps over 100 people according to investigation records.

Gennaro's family insists he was also something of a lively figure in his field of work. "Take Marlon Brando and Joe Pesci and put them together ... you'd probably end up with my brother," Frank Colombo recounted about Gennaro in the documentary. Giving further thought to the subject, Frank later describes his brother as a mix between Al Capone and Rodney Dangerfield.

In 1995, Gennaro meets and forges a partnership with Jacobson, The Daily Beast recounted. He was allegedly referred to Jacobson's scheme to fix the McDonalds Monopoly game by his connections in organized crime. "Uncle Dominic" was the person who linked Gennaro to Jacobson, according to Frank. But Robin also tells the filmmakers that Dominic died soon after allegedly linking the two men together –– dodging a question on how Dominic died. Likewise, it is not made clear if Uncle Dominic is a pseudonym for some other figure of prominence in the Colombo organization.

After linking up, Gennaro helped Jacobson establish a network of "recruiters" to pass along the winning Monopoly pieces he was stealing from his workplace, according to The New York Times.

In exchange for finding recruits to claim the prizes, Jacobson and his associates like Gennaro would take a cut from these recruits. Robin recounts that her husband flew around the country picking the winners and Frank recalling that his brother would create various agreements depending on the prize amount, usually involving upfront payments for the winning piece.

Frank describes his brother as having a vaguely threatening aura that helped him compel his recruits to follow his commands. One of the winners, Gloria Brown, recounts how Gennaro even pressured her into taking out a new mortgage on her house in order to get upfront money for the winning game piece. "My life was in danger," Brown said. "I almost felt kidnapped."

Though even Gennaro himself stepped into the spotlight by using a stolen game piece to "win" a Dodge Viper.

Reporter Jeff Maysh had even uncovered an old McDonalds commercial featuring Colombo touting a win for a new car –– arraigned by Jacobson. The advertisement is also featured in "McMillion$."

His wife Robin said in the documentary "that commercial ... that almost cost him his life" going on to describe him as a "ham."

The series itself helps accentuate Gennaro's larger-than-life personality by talking about into his management of a night club known as the Church of The Fuzzy Bunny – at first a gentleman's club that he then attempted to turn into a religious establishment that prominently featured scantily clad women.

Robin explains she met Gennaro in 1995 and "the chemistry was crazy," she told the filmmakers –– describing the marriage as a rebellion against her "strict" family while displaying her excitement in talking about Gennaro's ties to organized crime.

However, Robin contends that Jacobson is the true "Uncle Jerry" that was behind the scam – after briefly confusing the documentarians while frequently using "Uncle Jerry," to refer to Jacobson, and Jerry, referring to her husband. But Gennaro himself would not ultimately be around for the collapse of the scheme. Just three years after meeting Jacobson, Gennaro would be involved in a horrific car crash in Georgia that sent him into a comatose state. Doctors turned off his life support two weeks later, according to The Daily Beast, and Jacobson soon moved on to find new accomplices.

More of the story will be illuminated in HBO's "McMillion$," which is currently airing on HBO.

Thanks to Connor Mannion.

Friday, September 06, 2019

I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa - Inspiration for the @Netflix Fiilm #TheIrishman

Soon to be a NETFLIX film directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel, and written by Steven Zaillian.

I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran & Closing the Case on Jimmy Hoffa, is updated with a 57-page Conclusion by the author that features new, independent corroboration of Frank Sheeran's revelations about the killing of Jimmy Hoffa, the killing of Joey Gallo and the murder of JFK, along with stories that could not be told before.

"I heard you paint houses" are he first words Jimmy Hoffa ever spoke to Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran. To paint a house is to kill a man. The paint is the blood that splatters on the walls and floors. In the course of nearly five years of recorded interviews Frank Sheeran confessed to Charles Brandt that he handled more than twenty-five hits for the mob, and for his friend Hoffa.

Sheeran learned to kill in the U.S. Army, where he saw an astonishing 411 days of active combat duty in Italy during World War II. After returning home he became a hustler and hit man, working for legendary crime boss Russell Bufalino. Eventually Sheeran would rise to a position of such prominence that in a RICO suit then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani would name him as one of only two non-Italians on a list of 26 top mob figures.

When Bufalino ordered Sheeran to kill Hoffa, the Irishman did the deed, knowing that if he had refused he would have been killed himself.

Sheeran's important and fascinating story includes new information on other famous murders including those of Joey Gallo and JFK, and provides rare insight to a chapter in American history. Charles Brandt has written a page-turner that has become a true crime classic.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Carmine Persico, AKA The Snake, Legendary New York Mobster and Longtime Boss of the Colombo Crime Family has Died in Prison

One of New York’s most storied mob bosses met his end in prison Thursday — old and sick, and mired in a lawsuit over his medical treatment.

Carmine "The Snake" Persico, the longtime boss of the Colombo crime family, died at age 85, the Daily News has learned.

Carmine the Snake: Carmine Persico and His Murderous Mafia Family.

Persico was convicted of racketeering and murder in the famous mid-‘80s “Commission trial,” which put three of the city’s five crime family bosses in prison in one fell swoop. He was the last surviving defendant in that notorious case.

He was serving his sentence at the federal prison in Butner, N.C. when he died at Duke University Medical Center, confirmed his lawyer, Benson Weintraub. Among his reported pals at the medium-security prison was Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff.

Persico spent the last 36 years of his life behind bars, serving a staggering 139-year sentence. But by most accounts, he remained the titular Colombo boss.

In 2016, Persico’s lawyers described a litany of health problems and called his 100-year sentence a “virtual life sentence.”

“Mr. Persico is legally blind in his right eye, and has diminished vision in his left eye. He also has limited use of his left and right arms and a deformity of his left wrist that has severely impacted his upper mobility,” his lawyer, Anthony DiPietro, wrote in March 2016. “Mr. Persico is also predominantly wheelchair-bound as a result of his emphysema. In addition, Mr. Persico suffers from anemia and a multitude of cardiac issues that require periodic medical attention.”

Persico sued the prison warden and a doctor there in December, alleging “deliberate indifference” to his deteriorating medical condition and calling for his compassionate release. He had serious infections in his legs, and was trying to block doctors from amputating his leg above the knee.

Wientraub said he suspected Persico died of the leg infections, which he said “spread as a result of deliberately indifferent treatment.”

Persico was known to his friends as “Junior” and to his enemies as “The Snake.”

He was born on Aug. 8, 1933, and grew up in the working class Brooklyn enclaves of Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. His dad was a law firm stenographer, while his mother stayed home to raise Carmine and his siblings – fellow future mobsters Alphonse and Theodore, along with their sister Dolores.

Persico was a high school dropout and ran with a local street gang. His first arrest was at age 17 in the fatal beating of another youth during a melee in Prospect Park. When the charges were dropped, he was recruited to the world of organized crime – working in bookmaking and loan-sharking operations.

By his mid-20s, Persico was a made man in the family headed by Joe Colombo.

He became affiliated with fellow Brooklyn mobsters the Gallo brothers – “Crazy” Joey, Larry and Albert, aka Kid Blast. Their crew was widely credited with the execution of mob boss Albert Anastasia, famously whacked inside a Manhattan barber shop.

The hit led to an internal family war, with the Gallos taking on boss Joe Profaci over what they felt was a slight following the Anastasia killing. The younger crew expected bigger responsibilities and more cash, only to clash with family’s old guard.

Persico turned on the Gallos, aligning himself with Profaci in the war that left nine dead, three missing and 15 more wounded. He was reportedly involved in the attempted strangling of Larry Gallo inside a Brooklyn bar, a hit interrupted by a local police sergeant.

He later survived an attempted murder by the Gallo faction before a truce was declared in 1963.

Persico, though in prison for hijacking, ruled over a powerful crew inside the Colombos. After the 1971 shooting of boss Joe Colombo, he and his brothers grabbed control of the family. Persico ran the family from the outside after he was released from prison in 1979 — but his time on the street was short.

Persico was indicted for racketeering in 1984 and arrested in the home of an FBI informant. He was also charged with the heads of other four families in the “Commission” prosecution led by then-U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.

Persico’s reply was to put out a contract on Giuliani.

He got a 39-year term in the first case. In the second, where he acted as his own attorney, Persico was hit with a 100-term – ensuring his death behind bars.

One small victory: Federal Judge John F. Keenan hailed Persico as “one of the most intelligent people I have ever seen in my life” for his performance as a lawyer.

While running the family from behind bars, the Colombos descended into another internal bloodbath pitting Persico loyalists against supporters of new boss Victor (Little Vic) Amuso. The war destroyed the family, which was decimated by a dozen murders and as many defectors to the government side – including the family’s consigliere and two capos. Sixty-eight made men and associates were arrested, including Carmine’s kid brother Theodore.

Persico appealed his conviction in 2016. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals shot down his request in 2017, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case later that year.

Thanks to Larry McShane and John Annese.

Carmine the Snake: Carmine Persico and His Murderous Mafia Family

Carmine “the Snake” Persico has been identified by the FBI and the Justice Department as the longtime head of the New York Cosa Nostra Colombo crime family.

Although incarcerated in 1987 due to his conviction in the 1986 famous Mafia Commission federal RICO caseCarmine the Snake: Carmine Persico and His Murderous Mafia Family, he reputedly still runs the Colombo crime family from prison. He made his name in the Profaci crime family as part of the hit team that shot and killed mob boss Albert Anastasia in a New York barbershop in 1957.

Anastasia, known as “The Mad Hatter” and “The Executioner,” was the co-creator of Murder Inc., the notorious enforcement arm of organized crime in New York in the 1940s. A famous photo was taken of the slain Anastasia, lying dead next to a barber’s chair as detectives look on.

In 1961, during a conflict between the Gallo crew and Joe Profaci, the Profaci crime family boss, Persico switched sides and attempted to strangle and kill his friend and fellow hit man Larry Gallo, which earned him the nickname “the Snake.” The attempted strangulation in a darkened bar was fictionally re-created in “The Godfather, Part II.”

Frank DiMatteo, who describes himself as a mafia survivor and previously wrote “The President Street Boys: Growing Up Mafia,” offers a “street level” view of the Colombo boss in “Carmine the Snake: Carmine Persico and His Murderous Mafia Family.” Michael Benson, a true crime author who wrote “Betrayal in Blood,” is the co-author of this book.

As Mr. DiMatteo notes in the book, his mother knew Persico when they were teenagers in Brooklyn, and his father was a bodyguard and driver for the Gallo brothers. He grew up in Brooklyn around the Gallo crew and heard numerous stories about Persico.

“Some men’s lives are measured by wealth and power. By that standard, Carmine John Persico, Jr. is a very successful man. His blood family is estimated to be worth upward of $1 billion,” the authors write in the beginning of the book. “Even allowing for inflation, he became one of the richest gangsters ever. His superpower was instilling fear. He made many thousands afraid, and they paid to stay safe.” But as the authors also point out, Persico’s life from street kid to mob boss might best be measured by the pain, suffering and death that he caused.

“Using a combination of brashness, cunning, and an appetite for extreme violence, Carmine Persico rocketed from gangbanger on a Park Slope, Brooklyn street corner to boss of the Colombo crime family, where he reputedly became the longest-reigning godfather in modern Mafia history — mostly from behind the bars of a federal penitentiary,” the authors tell us.

The book covers in detail the internecine mob war between the Gallos and the Profaci crime family, with each faction murdering and attempting to murder each other. The Gallo crew put a bomb in Persico’s car, but the detonation failed to kill him. The war ended with Profaci’s death and the murder of Crazy Joe Gallo in a restaurant.

Joseph Colombo, once a Profaci captain, later took over the organization and renamed it the Colombo crime family. Persico became a Colombo captain and later the boss of the crime family.

The book also tells of a Persico enforcer whose story would be unbelievable if told in a novel or film. The authors tell us that as Persico was heading to prison he chose Gregory “The Grim Reaper” Scarpa as his battle leader. Persico’s man was a mass murderer and a sociopath. “He was nuts, thought he was James Bond, and told his kids that he worked for the government.”

In a sense it was true, as the Colombo hit man was a longtime FBI informant. From the 1960s on he was involved in extortion, murder and other crimes. He told his fellow mobsters that he enjoyed killing people. “Scarpa’s actual cooperation with the U.S. Government went at least as far back as 1964 when the feds used him to help solve the ‘Mississippi Burning’ murders of three civil rights workers in 1964,” the authors inform us. “Somewhere there is a tape of Scarpa cajoling a KKK member to disclose where the bodies are buried.” And by cajoling, the authors write, they mean he beat the KKK member and stuck a gun in his mouth. Scarpa later died from AIDS.

The story of Carmine Persico, the Gallo brothers and the internecine mob war has been covered previously in several books, including a fine satirical novel, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” by Jimmy Breslin.

“Carmine the Snake,” written in a conversational style with street vernacular and sprinkled with Frank DiMatteo’s personal anecdotes and reminiscences, offers another look at the infamous crime boss.

Thanks to Paul Davis.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Discover "The Mafia Curse"

The Italian-American experience is a saga of tragedy and triumph - the struggle of proud, religious, life-loving people stained by an unfair curse of criminality that is still perpetuated today by crime writers, TV shows and moviesThe Mafia Curse. Author Cy Egan reveals the story of how "The Mafia Curse" began during the Italians' early life and times in America and of the exploits of an intrepid Italian-American detective who loved his fellow Italians passionately and drove himself to the limit to punish their tormentors and preserve their honor and dignity in a new found land.

Every other immigrant group that came before and after brought its own share of criminals, but most were excused on grounds that their lawlessness was bred by poverty and an inability to break into the economic mainstream. Only the Italians were burned with the brand of infamy and reviled by a nation that conveniently ignored the reality that crime infects all races and knows no nationality. The Mafia Curse, tells how the stigma was born in the late Nineteenth Century when emigrants to America from Italy were terrorized by a small band of their own compatriots and unfairly smeared as criminals by an American press seeking to boost readership by pandering to public prejudice.

Adopting the great American spirit of hard work and stick-to-it-iveness, the Italians survived the onslaught of hate with a deep devotion to family life that centered on nurturing and educating their children. They rose to the highest levels of academia, government, industry, science and show business, slowly carving out a slice of the American dream. Enshrined in the pantheon of their American accomplishments are names like Alito, Coppola, Cuomo, De Niro, DiMaggio, Fermi, Giamatti, Giuliani, Iacocca, LaGuardia, Puzo, Scalia, Scorcese, Sinatra, Stallone and Travolta. Despite these successes, one survey showed that 78% of teens and 74% of adults in America still identify Italians with blue-collar jobs or organized crime while the U.S. Justice Department says 67 percent are white collar workers and executives, and only .075 percent are mobsters.

The Mafia Curse, offers readers a refreshingly positive approach and reveals the real historical roots of how the mafia stigma began. By exploring its true origins, people's eyes will be opened to the truth and they will learn about the prejudices that led to its negative image as they further explore its history. Get a copy of this fascinating read now and discover how The Mafia Curse was born!

Mr. Egan. an award-winning crime writer, was a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Journal-American and the Post in New York. He covered major news events for nearly 40 years. These included the capture of famed bank robber Willie "The Actor" Sutton, the executions of Atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the mob shootings of Frank Costello, "Crazy Joe" Gallo and other underworld wiseguys, the gangland blinding of labor writer Victor Riesel, the civil rights riots and antiwar bombings of the 1960s and 70s and dozens of famous murder cases, including the Son of Sam serial killings. An author, he also has written hundreds of articles, many on women criminals. He lives in Tryon, N.C.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires By Selwyn Raab

As the Mafia grew into a malignantly powerful force during the middle of the last century, it owed much of its success to its low-priority ranking as a law enforcement target. During most of his reign as FBI director from 1924 to 1972, J. Edgar Hoover denied that the Mafia even existed. In the late 1950s, Hoover was ''still publicly in denial" that there was such a thing as the Mafia, writes Selwyn Raab in ''Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires," his engaging history of the New York mob.

Even Hoover, who hesitated to tackle mob cases because they were difficult to win and might corrupt his agents, grudgingly came around. ''Five Families," a gritty cops-and-robbers narrative and a meticulous case history of an extraordinary law enforcement mobilization, shows how the federal government finally brought the Mafia down.

Raab, a former reporter for The New York Times whose beat was organized crime, exudes the authority of a writer who has lived and breathed his subject. Indeed, Raab seems too attached to every last nugget that he has unearthed. ''Five Families" bogs down in places under the groaning weight of excessive, repetitious detail.

Even as he tosses congratulatory bouquets to the cops for having reduced the mob to a ''fading anachronism," as one of them puts it, Raab inserts a cautionary note. The redeployment since 9/11 of US law enforcement personnel from an anti-Mafia to an antiterrorism posture is providing Cosa Nostra -- as the Italian-American organized-crime syndicates refer to themselves, meaning ''Our Thing" -- a ''renewed hope for survival," Raab says.

If they are to prosper again, all five of New York's mob families (the Gambinos, Luccheses, Colombos, Genoveses, and Bonannos) must first rebuild their leadership. The top bosses of the five families, along with many underlings, have been convicted in racketeering prosecutions and sentenced to long terms in federal prison. Those prosecutions constitute ''arguably the most successful anticrime expedition in American history," according to Raab.

The decades-long jelling of the law enforcement response to the Mafia threat commands Raab's close attention. An impetus came from Democratic Senator John McClellan of Arkansas, whose subcommittee investigated labor racketeering in the late 1960s. One key behind-the-scenes figure -- an American hero, in Raab's account -- was G. Robert Blakey, who helped craft the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations legislation as an aide to McClellan and, as a crusading law professor, tirelessly promoted the statute's use after Congress enacted it in 1970.

The law enabled prosecutors to throw the book at top mobsters, who otherwise would have been able to insulate themselves more easily from criminal accountability. Electronic surveillance, which a related law authorized, added another invaluable weapon to the federal prosecutors' arsenal.

Another of Raab's heroes, G. Bruce Mouw, supervised the FBI's Gambino Squad. Mouw's relentless, six-year investigation of John Gotti stands as a model of aggressive anti-Mafia pursuit. Gotti, whom the tabloids dubbed ''the Teflon Don," beat federal charges three times. Mouw produced ironclad evidence of Gotti's guilt by identifying an old lady's apartment as the Gambino godfather's clandestine inner sanctum and bugging it. Prosecutors nailed the Teflon Don in a fourth trial.

As for the villains portrayed by Raab, they and their operatic brutality seem endless. Raab's profiles of such ogres as Joseph ''Crazy Joe" Gallo or Salvatore ''Sammy the Bull" Gravano quickly dispel any Hollywood depiction of mobsters as lovable rogues or, as in the case of Tony Soprano of HBO's prize-winning series, as an angst-ridden man groping for life's meaning.

Mobsters typically start out as losers, dropouts from school at an early age. They are natural bullies who turn to crime out of desperation and indolence. As adults, to quote Raab's description of Gotti's wise guys, they join together as a ''hardened band of pea-brained hijackers, loan-shark collectors, gamblers, and robotic hit men."

No surprise, then, that such lowlifes would resort to violence as their modus operandi. But their cavalier acts of viciousness are nonetheless shocking. Thus, when Vito Genovese falls in love with a married cousin, he apparently has her husband strangled to death so he can marry her.

Or when Lucchese thugs believe that one of their own, Bruno Facciolo, is talking to authorities, they shoot and stab him to death. They then murder two of his mob buddies, Al Visconti and Larry Taylor, to prevent them from retaliating. Visconti is deliberately shot several times in the groin because the Luccheses believe he is a homosexual and has shamed the family.

Although ''Five Families" detours outside New York to chronicle aspects of the Cosa Nostra story, New England's Patriarcas, who deferred to New York's Gigante family, rate only passing mention. Summarizing how officials view Cosa Nostra's once-thriving 20-odd families around the country, Raab reports that those in New York and Chicago retain a ''semblance of [their] organizational frameworks," while the others, including Patriarca's, are ''in disarray or practically defunct."

Raab has much to say about what he regards as the possible involvement of a Florida mafioso, Santo Trafficante Jr., in President Kennedy's assassination. Raab theorizes that Trafficante -- who lost his organized-crime base in Havana when Fidel Castro took over and who loathed Kennedy for not unhorsing the Cuban revolutionary -- may have conspired to kill Kennedy.

Exhibit A is the confession of a gravely ill Trafficante, four days before his death in 1987, that he had had a hand in Kennedy's murder. Raab's source for the purported confession was Trafficante's longtime lawyer, Frank Ragano. Raab collaborated with Ragano on a book, ''Mob Lawyer."

Of course, any mob role in Kennedy's assassination remains a speculative matter, as Raab concedes. But in ''Five Families," he notes that ''Ragano's assertions are among the starkest signs implicating Mafia bosses in the death of President Kennedy." To buttress his theory, Raab might have mentioned that the Mafia was at or near the apex of its power in 1963, the year of Kennedy's murder.

Reviewed by Joseph Rosenbloom

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

MAFIA-PEDIA - The Government's Secret Files on Organized Crime

The government has opened an old treasure trove of information on some 800 gangland goons who wielded power during the Mafia's Golden Age - a virtual Social Register of the worst sociopaths to have packed a silenced pistol, wielded an ice pick or driven a getaway car in a sharkskin suit.

The dossiers, complete with black-and-white photos, chronicle the backgrounds of wiseguys ranging from mob bosses Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, Sam Giancana and "Crazy Joe" Gallo to lesser lights like Al Capone's two-bit hoodlum brothers.

The files read like single-page snapshots of the mobsters' lives - their aliases and detailed physical descriptions, from distinguishing scars, tattoos and facial tics to styles of dress, home addresses, arrest histories and family trees - and even the names of mistresses.

Also revealed are the legitimate businesses they owned and their preferred leisure haunts - racetracks, prizefights, nightclubs and favorite restaurants - as well as an overview of the criminal status each man held within the larger Mafia firmament.

The 944 pages of material - featured in the book "Mafia: The Government's Secret File on Organized Crime,"from HarperCollins - was mined from the raw intelligence gathered by agents of the U.S. Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics, a forerunner of today's Drug Enforcement Administration.

The cavalcade of hoods includes two men named Frank Paul Dragna, the son and nephew of one-time Los Angeles Mafia kingpin Jack Dragna.

The first Frank is known as "One Eye," the second "Two Eye," to distinguish the cousin with the glass right eye.

Entrants are listed by state, and New York, with more than 350 wiseguys, overwhelmingly leads the pack. A multitude of others resided in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and Michigan. There are groupings of gangsters from Canada, France and Italy, as well.

The index cross-references each racketeer by nickname, many of them hilarious.

There's "The Old Man" (there are, actually, three), "The Bald Head," "Hunchback Harry," "Schnozzola" (he has a large nose), "Mickey Mouse" (he has large ears), "Slim," three people dubbed "Cockeyed," as well as four "Fats" and a "Fat Artie," "Fat Freddie," "Fat Sonny" and "Fat Tony" for good measure.

There's "Big Al," "Big Frank" (two), "Big Freddy," "Big John," "Big Larry," "Big Mike" (two), "Big Nose Larry," "Big Pat," "Big Phil," "Big Sam," "Big Sol," "Big Yok" - even a "Mr. Big."

Thanks to Phillip Messing

The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld

Joey Gallo died at 43, though not before leaving an indelible imprint both on New York and on American culture. In “The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld”, Tom Folsom deftly evokes a wacky world populated by the sort of characters celebrated by Jack Kerouac.

“The only people for me are the mad ones,” Kerouac once wrote, “the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn.”

Mr. Gallo fit the definition, and Mr. Folsom, who in an earlier book creditably re-created the world of the drug dealer Nicky Barnes, does the same for a man mythologized by cultural trailblazers from Bob Dylan to Gay Talese.

Thanks to Sam Roberts

The Mob Mentality that Tried to Shut Down the Filming of The Godfather

Death threats, shootings, strikes and bomb-scares ... John Patterson explains how - and why - the mafia tried to shut down the filming of The Godfather

On June 28, 1971, Francis Ford Coppola was putting certain finishing touches to his costly, controversial adaptation of Mario Puzo's million-seller The Godfather.

That day Coppola was shooting parts of the film's famous climactic massacre, in which Michael Corleone takes power of the New York mob by executing his rivals in a blizzard of machine gun-fire and Eisensteinian cross-cutting.

As Joe Spinell, playing one of Michael's button-men, pumped six slugs into a fictional New York mob boss trapped in a midtown hotel's revolving door, a for-real, blood-on-his-hands New York mob boss called Joe Colombo Sr, was being gunned down at an Italian-American rally in Columbus Circle, not four blocks away from Coppola's location.

The hit was the opening salvo in a vicious gang war declared by a newly released mafia upstart and criminal visionary named Joey Gallo. But it was the end of the strange connection between Colombo (who lingered in a coma until his death in 1978) and The Godfather, a movie that couldn't have been made without Colombo's say-so.

As detailed in C4's documentary The Godfather And The Mob (which borrows heavily from Harlan Lebo's The Godfather Legacy), Colombo had insinuated himself between the producer of The Godfather, Al Ruddy, and his own home turf of Little Italy, promising that the mob would take tribute from the movie, or not a frame of celluloid would be shot. Knowing that the movie would lose all its authenticity if shot on studio backlots, Ruddy had no option but to acquiesce, and once the media got hold of the story - a sit-down, handshake deal with the devil - they flayed him with it for months.

All this was, of course, great grist for the movie's publicity mill, and some commentators like Carlos Clarens, in his landmark 1980 study Crime Movies, recalled certain time-tested publicity-agent gambits: "the filmed-under-threat routine had worked wonders back in the days of Doorway To Hell (1930: Jimmy Cagney's second movie)." If nothing else, Lebo's book and The Godfather And The Mob prove beyond a doubt that none of this strange tale was concocted by press agents.

The details are toothsome and delectable. The Godfather was written by Puzo, an Italian-American who grew up in Hell's Kitchen but who had never met a bona-fide mafiosi. Puzo learned his mob folklore mainly from croupiers in the golden age, 1960s Las Vegas of Moe Dalitz and the Rat Pack. That didn't prevent him from achieving such an impressive degree of authenticity that by the time the movie was a runaway hit, many real-life mafiosi had begun comporting themselves according to the rituals solemnised by Puzo and Coppola - the cheek-to-cheek kisses, the quasi-papal pledging of fealty to the Godfather's ring.

The total-immersion experience of the movie - achieved by the goldfish-bowl effect of keeping the audience emotionally intimate only with mobsters, by the subterranean browns and golds of its colour scheme, and by its period, ethnic and socioanthropological authenticity - traps us in 1945, and even now it is hard to imagine that a block away from the border of the set, it was 1971 and the real New York mob was undergoing the same upheavals as everyone else in those Martian times. Although The Godfather And The Mob hints at much of this, it has no real grasp of the richness and complexity of this period in mafia history.

Colombo was the head of what had earlier been the Profaci crime family, which he had inherited in the mid-1960s only because Joey Gallo was in prison for 10 years.

In Goodfellas' famous circularshot of teenage Henry Hill's "introduction to the world" in 1955, Hill's narration says, "It was a glorious time, before Appalachin and before Crazy Joe started a war with his boss ..." Appalachin referred to a famous FBI raid of the upstate New York estate of a leading crime boss in 1957. A mob summit was taking place and agents chased dozens of top mafiosi through the snow as they dumped guns, jewels and thousands of dollars in cash (the incident is alluded to in the final episode of season five of The Sopranos, as Tony escapes the Feds, but New York boss Johnny "Sack" Sacrimone does not).

Joey Gallo, meanwhile, saw drugs as the coming bonanza for organised crime and in the teeth of stiff opposition from the abstemious old "Moustache Petes" of the Corleone/Lucky Luciano generation, he had no compunction about forging distribution partnerships with black criminals in Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant and shipping major product.

The war that ensued in the late 1950s (obliquely alluded to in Godfather II - "Not here, Carmine!"), tore the mob apart, grabbed headlines, and encouraged new Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to prosecute the mob unmercifully after 1960 - focusing on such figures as Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and the mafia bosses of Chicago, Tampa and New Orleans (who may later have helped assassinate his brother John). So it was an exhausted, much harried New York criminal fraternity that greeted Coppola and Ruddy in 1971.

It was also a community that had little taste for publicity. At the movies, the words "mafia" and "cosa nostra" were rarely ever heard before The Brotherhood in 1968 (which sank faster than Johnny Rosselli in his concrete-filled oil-drum). Even J Edgar Hoover downplayed the importance of the mafia throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s - while exaggerating the moribund red menace - probably because the mob's financial genius Meyer Lansky (Hyman Roth in Godfather II) had, presciently, blackmailed Hoover over his homosexuality as early as 1935.

Still, in an era highly conscious of matters racial and ethnic, Italians like Joe Colombo found a way to express their sense of ethnic grievance, too. Although the Italian community was well served by social groups like the Knights Of Columbus and the Order Of The Sons Of Italy, Colombo became involved in a new outfit, heavily mob-influenced and called, in the spirit of the times, the Italian-American Civil Rights League. And The Godfather's arrival in Manhattan gave the group a chance to raise its profile.

The league demanded consultation rights and got them from Ruddy in exchange for access to locations. Frank Sinatra - probably not pleased at Puzo's oblique references to the manner in which he secured his comeback role in From Here To Eternity - headlined a league fundraiser at Madison Square Garden, and local politicians attended the league's first rally in 1970, decrying anti-Italian prejudice (one hears the echo of Joe Pesci's plaintive wail in Goodfellas: "She's prejudiced against Italians. Imagine that - a Jew broad!").

They had a point - up to a point: Gangsters in the movies before 1970 were redolent of grotesque and venerable stereotypes about unwashed Italian immigrants pouring off Ellis Island. On the other hand - tell it to Sidney Poitier.

Or consider a contemporary figure like Anthony Imperiale, "the White Knight of Newark", namechecked by Tony Soprano in series four. Imperiale rose in the aftermath of the 1967 Newark riots as a streetcorner agitator exploiting Italian-American fears about black encroachment on hitherto white neighbourhoods - which he patrolled after dark with carloads of excitable, albeit unarmed young men.

Imperiale disavowed any racist intent, indeed he merrily hijacked the language of the real civil rights movement, despite talking of "Martin Luther Coon" and invoking a feral, spectral "them" whenever he mentioned blacks. You can breathe this toxic atmosphere of neighbourhood insularity and racism throughout Robert De Niro's A Bronx Tale, also set in those years.

A hunger for headlines and flashbulbs seemed to be part of Joe Colombo's motivation in entangling himself with the league and the Godfather shoot. It was to be his undoing. His secretive, camera-phobic criminal cohorts got fed up with him. Working in partnership with capo di tutti i capi Carlo Gambino, Joey Gallo, free again and no less crazy, had a black criminal associate, one Jerome Johnson, gun Colombo down at the Italian-American League's second annual rally at Columbus Circle.

A black triggerman in a mob hit was then unheard of, and totally alien to the mafia's modus operandi, but no one was fooled. Johnson was gunned down in seconds by an assailant who immediately vanished, but everyone suspected Gallo because of his Harlem connections.

By the time Gallo himself was killed a year later - gunned down in a Mulberry Street clam house while celebrating his 43rd birthday - he had acquired his own taste for publicity: he was feted by writers (he'd read Camus and Sartre in the can), and was pimping his own memoir, A-Block. After Joe Colombo's fatal experience with The Godfather, you'd think Gallo might have learned his lesson. As it turned out, he died the same way as Virgil "The Turk" Sollozo at the hands of newly-minted murderer Michael Corleone, in an explosion of blood and clam sauce - just like in the movies.

Thanks to The Guardian

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Great Red Hook Mafia Wars

Murder, gang wars and Mafia dons all appear in Tom Folsom's book, The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld.

A look at the real-life Gallo family — a gangster clan that inspired Bob Dylan's song "Joey" as well as The Godfather — The Mad Ones looks at Larry, Albert and "Crazy" Joe Gallo as they war against established crime families and take over the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn in the '50s and '60s through a variety of colorful and brutal means.

Folsom co-authored the book Mr Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of the Black Godfather, about drug kingpin Nicky Barnes; his film credits include The Road to Gulu for Showtime, The Lost Generation and Ernest Hemingway: Wrestling with Life for A&E Biography and Neo-Noir, a short film for the Sundance Channel.

Listen to an interview with author Tom Folsom.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

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

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

Thanks to Bild

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mafia Names You Should Know and Remember

No conversation about the history of baseball is complete without mentioning the last names Ruth, Mantle and Bonds, just as no conversation about American politics is complete without saying the names Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. The Mafia is no different; it’s got its legends, its hall-of-famers, if you will. I know there are a lot of my readers who love to learn about the history of the Mafia. So, for those of you who love Mafia history, pay attention (and the rest of yous, shut your traps and just read the article). So here’s a history of Mafia names you should know and remember if you think you’re a true Mafioso.

The Colombo family is one of the five families of New York. Before it was called the Colombo family, it was known as the Profaci family. The name changed in 1963 when Joseph Colombo became the capo. Joseph Colombo was unlike any capo before… or since. He didn’t shun the spotlight one bit. When the FBI began scrutinizing his activities, Colombo responded by calling it harassment against Italian-Americans. He even went so far as to organize the Italian-American Civil Rights League. His group began doing demonstrations such as picketing outside of the New York FBI building. He attracted the likes of government officials, as well as prominent entertainers like Frank Sinatra, to help his cause, and he received a lot of national attention. It was at one such Italian-American rally that Joe Colombo approached the podium and was shot three times in the head by a man named Jerome Johnson. A second gunman appeared and shot Johnson and disappeared into the crowd. To this day, nobody knows for sure who was really behind Colombo’s death. Many argue that is was Joey Gallo, a member of the Colombo family and critic of Joe Colombo’s. Others argue Carlo Gambino set it up.

"The Attorney General hates our guts. I think the President is behind it. I want to make the League the greatest organization in the country, the greatest organization in the world, so that people will be proud of us no matter what we do, where we are -- even if we are in prison."
- Joe Colombo


Gambino is the name of one of the five crime families in La Cosa Nostra in New York. Gambino has become synonymous with Mafia life since the 1950s. At times, the Gambino family has been the most powerful of the five families of New York, and there was one man that made that happen: Carlo "Don Carlo" Gambino. To this day, the family still calls itself by the name of its greatest boss. Don Carlo ruled the outfit from 1957 to 1976, and eventually became the boss of bosses. During this time, his outfit was the most profitable it had ever been; he had at his command over 1,000 Soldatis and is said to have had rackets worth $500,000,000 per year. Gambino is most remembered for his ability to keep himself out of the press and out of jail -- he never spent a day behind bars.

“Judges, lawyers and politicians have a license to steal. We don’t need one.”
- Carlo Gambino

No list of famous gangsters would be complete without talking about Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone. He was known as “Scarface.” In his youth in New York, he insulted a sister of a Mafioso named Frank Gallucio. Capone apologized and said it was a misunderstanding, but Gallucio slashed him three times across the face, and that’s how he got his nickname. In 1921, Capone moved to Chicago and joined the Chicago Outfit. The rest is history, as they say. Capone became famous for the way that he completely took over the city of Chicago, including its police officers, judges and city officials. They were all on his payroll, and they all took orders from Capone. He lived in the Lexington Hotel, which the Chicagoans called Capone’s Castle. He didn’t need to shy away from the spotlight because he controlled just about everything in Chicago. Because of his power in Chicago, he caught the eye of the FBI. They called him a public enemy and began looking for ways to take him down. It was in 1931 that they got Capone for income-tax evasion, and Capone’s empire fell once and for all.

“This American system of ours -- call it Americanism, call it capitalism, call it what you will -- gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if we only seize it with both hands and make the most of it.”
- Al Capone

Charles “Lucky” Luciano is one of the most famous and best-remembered of all gangsters. He is like the Joe DiMaggio of the Mafia. He got his name “Lucky” when he was kidnapped and attacked by three assassins in 1929; they beat him and stabbed him multiple times and left him to die on the beach in New York. He survived the ordeal, which is why they called him “lucky,” but he received the scar and droopy eye that he became famous for. What Luciano did from there is what makes him famous: he plotted to kill his capo, Joe Masseria, with Salvatore Maranzano on the condition that Maranzano make Luciano an equal capo when Masseria was gone. After he took out Masseria, Maranzano went back on his word; he declared himself the capo di tutti capi (the boss of bosses) and demanded payments from Luciano. Luciano tolerated this until he found out that Maranzano was plotting to whack him. When Luciano heard this, he sent his men to Maranzano’s office dressed as FBI agents, so they wouldn’t receive any resistance, and they mowed Maranzano and his closest men down, including the man that was supposed to assassinate Luciano. From this point on, Luciano ruled as the capo of the Genovese family. He is remembered by some to be the father of organized crime.

"I learned too late that you need just as good a brain to make a crooked million as an honest million.”
- Charles “Lucky” Luciano (born Salvatore Lucania)

Thanks to Mr. Mafioso

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Mad Ones to Hit Tinseltown

Friends of ours: Joey "Crazy Joe" Gallo, Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo, Larry Gallo

The Weinstein Co. has optioned film rights to develop and produce Tom Folsom's nonfiction Mafia book, "The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld," with its Weinstein Books division nabbing North American publication rights.

"Mad Ones," set to hit U.S. bookshelves in 2009, chronicles the lives of the Gallo brothers, three infamous 1960s-era Brooklyn gangsters: Joey "Crazy Joe" Gallo, Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo and Larry Gallo. It traces their attempt to overthrow the local Mafia and Crazy Joe's travels in the Greenwich Village counterculture scene.

The Weinstein Co. also acquired TV and home video rights to the project in the pre-emptive deal.

Folsom's credits include writing and directing documentaries for A&E and Showtime. He co-authored Nicky Barnes' autobiographical mob book, "Mr. Untouchable: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of Heroin's Teflon Don," and was an editor at Rugged Land Books.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Crazy Joey Gallo's Widow Reflects on being Married to the Mob

Friends of ours: Joey "Crazy Joey" Gallo, Joe Profaci, Albert Anastasia, Jackie “Mad Dog” Nazarian, Joe Colombo, Bobby Bongiovi, Sam Wuyak

When gunfire erupted in Umberto’s Clam House, Sina Essary watched her husband of three weeks throw over the dinner table, absorb three bullets to his frail body and stumble out into Mulberry Street to die. It was April 7, 1972, in New York’s Little Italy, and Sina’s husband was no ordinary victim. He was Joey Gallo—“Crazy Joey,” they called him—an intellectual and charismatic kingpin of the New York rackets.

Today, largely unknown among her neighbors, Sina lives on a small farm in rural Leiper’s Fork, surrounded by a barn full of horses and rescued dogs and cats. Most people know her, she says, only as “that crazy woman from New York who keeps all those animals on her place.” Now 65, she has an elfin stature and a rich, resonant voice that carries just a trace of a New York accent. She is a commercial photographer by trade—trained at New York’s famed New School for Social Research—and she keeps her life very quiet and private. But in the early 1970s, at the height of gangster chic, the petite woman with the snapping dark eyes was at the center of a maelstrom. She was both a celebrity and a target. As the wife of one of New York’s most feared—and most glamorous—mob bosses, she lived among superstars and triggermen in a cosmopolitan jungle where wealth and power went hand in hand with bloody retribution. The tabloids took her picture when she became a bride. Less than a month later, they took her picture when she became a widow.

Now, safely sequestered among the peaceful hills of Williamson County, 35 years after her husband’s murder, Sina has decided for the first time to tell the story of her life with Joey Gallo. “I haven’t told it before,” Sina Essary laughs, firing up a Benson & Hedges and fending off her three-legged cat, “because I’ve been too busy wiping horses’ asses on the farm. But I’ve been writing my memoirs in my head while I’m shoveling manure!”

Sina began her adventurous life as a pregnant nun. No kidding. She attended Catholic schools and entered the convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph when she was only 18. “I was very, very religious as a youngster,” she says. While Joey Gallo was growing up to join the New York syndicate, Sina was preparing to take her final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Outside the convent walls on a sick leave, however, she got together with an old boyfriend. “Before you knew it,” she says in her deep chuckle, “I wasn’t a virgin anymore.” She became pregnant from that single encounter and her short life in the convent was over.

Sina married the old boyfriend, had a child with him, divorced him and found herself a single mom working in a jewelry store. But her daughter, Lisa Essary, now a Hollywood casting director, was a theatrical prodigy. She soon became a child star on Broadway, changing Sina’s life for the better.

As Lisa’s career grew, Sina fell in love with Lisa’s music coach, a man who was destined to become a conductor of the New York City Opera and the Houston Grand Opera. She wanted desperately to marry him—she still calls him “the love of my life”—but she adds with a laugh, “What I didn’t know was he was gay!”

With a track record like that, it was perhaps inevitable that the nun would become a gangster’s moll.

Joey Gallo was a Brooklyn kid, the son of a loan shark and would-be rumrunner. A 1973 book by Harvey Aronson, The Killing of Joey Gallo, chronicles his violent rise through the ranks of the mob. He became a career criminal at a very early age, and though he was arrested many times as a youth, he was never sent to prison. He was convicted only once—for burglary in 1950—but when a court psychiatrist declared him paranoid-schizophrenic, Joey received a suspended sentence.

Joey had flair. In 1947, he saw Richard Widmark in the film Kiss of Death, and with his drowsy, heavy-lidded appearance Joey began to pattern himself after Widmark’s giggling psycho Tommy Udo. He began to dress and act like Udo and could recite long passages of the movie’s dialogue. But despite his theatrical posturing, Joey was still a violent and deadly man. Writing after Joey’s death, the legendary New York Post columnist Pete Hamill said of the young Joey:

“He might have been a fresh twenty-one-year-old kid dressed in a zoot suit, but the eyes were ancient…eyes devoid of time or any conventional sense of pity or remorse…. [H]e would joke with the cops and smile for the reporters, but the eyes never changed…tormented eyes.”

In 1957, Joey became a “made” man in the Joe Profaci organization by (it was said) assassinating Albert Anastasia, one of Profaci’s enemies and boss of the notorious “Murder Incorporated.” According to witnesses, Anastasia was having his hair cut in a Sixth Avenue hotel when two disguised gunmen rushed through the hotel lobby. They shot Anastasia dead in his chair and escaped into the crowd. No one was ever charged with Anastasia’s killing, but the story on the street was that the shooters were Crazy Joey and an accomplice named Jackie “Mad Dog” Nazarian. Tommy Udo would have been proud.

Profaci’s business was run by coercion, and Joey was his top enforcer. Multiple beatings and murders were attributed to Joey during the late 1950s, and Time magazine claimed that he stabbed one target to death with an ice pick. But nothing against him was ever proven. The Mafia code of omerta—silence—protected Joey among his own.

In time, though, Joey became disenchanted with the way Profaci was dividing the family profits. So along with his two brothers and several other Profaci henchmen, he converted a Brooklyn warehouse into a fortress and launched a revolt. As the 1950s came to a close, a gang war raged between Joey and Profaci. It was an onslaught of killings, beatings and kidnappings. It was also successful. In the end, Joey succeeded in wresting away a significant part of Profaci’s holdings.

Joey built his winnings into a small empire based on violence and extortion. For years he evaded punishment. But finally, in 1961, he was taken down for threatening to kill a Brooklyn bar owner. He was convicted of extortion and sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison. The judge who sentenced him said that Joey “[has] an utter contempt for the law and is a menace to society.”

Joey’s time in prison was marked by the Attica riots, which he helped to settle, and at least two mob attempts on his life. But he spent most of his time profitably. He set out on a project of self-education, becoming a fine painter and reading history, art, politics and philosophy.

Then in 1971, after serving almost 10 years, Joey was released and began parlaying his newfound education and refinement into a fresh image around New York. Tommy Udo was gone. In his place—as far as the outside world could see—was a well-mannered and intelligent man.

That’s when he met Sina.

Even though she grew up in a large Italian American community, Sina knew very little about the Mafia. Born into a close-knit family in Ohio, she grew up in comfortable circumstances. She attended private Catholic schools. She lived a somewhat sheltered life.

Sina’s maternal grandfather had come to America from Bari, Italy, an old city on the Adriatic coast, and developed a thriving Italian grocery business. Her maternal grandmother became famous in America for hosting a popular radio show called The Italian Hour—all Italian opera and popular songs—every Sunday afternoon.

Her aunt Dorothy attended Juilliard and later sang with the San Francisco Opera. “I was raised listening to opera,” Sina says. “My earliest recollection as a baby was hearing my aunt sing ‘Un bel di’ to me in my high chair. Even today I keep Live From the Met and WPLN playing in the barn to keep the horses company.”

Sina’s only exposure to organized crime came from a family legend she heard from her grandparents. After her grandfather’s business began to prosper, she says, figures from a local syndicate came to him and demanded that he surrender part of his business as tribute. He refused. As a result, both he and Sina’s grandmother were beaten. Her grandfather stood firm, however, and eventually the gang gave up. He had a strong temperament, and Sina inherited it.

In due course, Sina and Lisa moved to New York and quickly became well known on Broadway. Lisa landed big parts in a number of plays, and the two of them became friends with some of the biggest names in show business. Soon Lisa was attending private schools, and they moved into the penthouse of an upscale apartment building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 15th Street.

Life was good. Sina never dreamed she was about to meet, and marry, a man like Joey Gallo.

While Joey was still languishing in prison, his old enemy Joe Profaci died. Control of the Profaci mob passed to Joe Colombo, one of the “new” Mafia dons who knew something about politics and public relations. He formed an organization he called the Italian American Civil Rights League and used it to rally support against the FBI’s claim that he was a mobster. With the league as his mouthpiece, Colombo maintained that there was no such thing as “the Mafia” and that he was “just an honest businessman.” The league was hugely successful and so powerful that Colombo was able to win concessions from the producers of The Godfather about the way Italian Americans were portrayed in the film.

The Profaci organization’s racketeering remained profitable too, but many of Colombo’s subordinates were bridling at the way he ran the business and divided the spoils. To his hardened street enforcers, Colombo was a lightweight and a publicity seeker. Dissension in his family was building.

Into this unsettled world, Joey arrived fresh from prison, bearing a 10-year grudge against the Profaci family. Joey might have been flashing his new cleaned-up image in public, but in secret he was re-energizing the Gallo gang. He planned to depose Colombo. Less than six weeks after his release from prison, Joey demanded a $100,000 tribute payment from Colombo as a condition for staying away from his business. Colombo refused to pay. Instead, he placed a contract on Joey’s life.

On June 28, 1971, just four months after Joey’s release from prison, Colombo held a rally of his Italian American Civil Rights League in Columbus Circle, just off Central Park. Thousands of people attended the noontime affair. But as Colombo began making his way to the dais to speak (along with the mayor and several other luminaries) he was shot and severely wounded by a black man later identified as Jerome Johnson.

No one ever discovered who Johnson was working for. As fate would have it, he was immediately shot and killed by yet another never-identified gunman. Colombo was left in a near-vegetative state and was off the board as far as the rackets were concerned. The event made the cover of Time magazine the following week.

Joey claimed that the FBI was behind the Colombo attack, but most reasonable minds concluded that Joey had engineered it himself. He had a clear motive, and he was certainly capable of pulling it off. While the police and FBI looked for clues, the heirs to Colombo’s power renewed the contract on Joey’s life. By July 1971, one month before he met Sina, Joey had less than a year to live.

The obvious question is why a respectable former nun like Sina Essary would fall for a mobster with a price on his head. Sina chuckles and says, “The story is kind of complicated.”

Sina first saw Joey on her apartment building’s elevator. She lived in the penthouse and Joey happened to live in an apartment downstairs. Joey was smitten by Sina, but she was not immediately attracted to him. The first few times she encountered him, with his retinue of bodyguards, she says he appeared “extremely frail and pale. He looked like an old man. He was a bag of bones.” What Sina didn’t know was that Joey still bore the marks of 10 years in prison.

Still, Sina says, Joey had an attractive aspect. “You could see the remnants of what had been a strikingly handsome man in his youth,” she remembers. “He had beautiful features—beautiful nose, beautiful mouth and piercing blue eyes.”

Joey also had a special charisma, she adds. “People were mesmerized by him,” she says. “He had that quality that attracted people to him, no matter who they were. He was extremely intelligent and he could talk about anything. He could talk about art, theater, politics, philosophy—all the things he had been reading about in prison.”

Joey launched an immediate pursuit of Sina, even though he had recently remarried his former wife, Jeffie. “She looked like a movie star,” Sina says. But nothing stopped Joey, and during the following weeks he began to win Sina over with gifts and plates of Italian food. Before long, their children were playing together and Sina was having dinner at Joey’s apartment. Because Joey was married, Sina felt safe from a more complicated relationship.

Sina gradually learned of Joey’s past, but he told her he wasn’t in the rackets anymore. He still carried bodyguards out of necessity, he said, but he was no longer strong-arming anybody. “It didn’t bother me much that he had been in the Mafia,” Sina recalls. “He told me he was through with the mob. I thought, so what, this is New York, so he’s in the mob, big deal. I didn’t realize who he actually was until I married him and had my picture in the newspaper!”

What Joey really wanted, Sina says, was to get into show business. Several years earlier, Jimmy Breslin had written a comic send-up of the Mafia called The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, supposedly based on Joey and his gangland pals. The book spawned an equally popular movie starring Jerry Orbach—that’s right, the same Jerry Orbach who played Lenny Briscoe on Law & Order—as a Joey-like character named “Kid Sally Palumbo.” Joey didn’t like the way the film portrayed him, but he liked Orbach and wanted a meeting. They quickly became friends, as did Sina and Orbach’s wife Marta.

From that point forward Joey was hooked on celebrities, and before long they were hooked on him too. There was an aspect of danger about Joey that appealed to show business people. Being with Joey gave them a vicarious sense of living the romantic life depicted in The Godfather, which had just opened to acclaim and unprecedented box office. The movie ushered in an intense new public fascination with the underworld. Joey exuded excitement, and people loved it. “He loved walking into Sardi’s,” Sina recalls. “You could hear a pin drop when he came in.”

In addition, many people knew about the Colombo hit and the possibility that Colombo’s soldiers might try to kill Joey. That gave his relationships with friends an unusual intensity. Orbach told Time magazine, “Joey compressed time with us because he knew…he might not have much time, that he could go at any minute…. [A] minute talking to Joey was like an hour spent with someone else…. It was startling to talk with him.” Women were particularly drawn to Joey’s fatal aura. “Joey was a terribly sexy person,” Marta Orbach admitted to Time. Even highbrow critic Susan Sontag wanted to meet him.

Pretty soon the former nun and the gangster became lovers. Sina was a beautiful 29-year-old, and Joey had just spent 10 celibate years behind bars. For Sina’s part, she says, “Part of me was craving that sexual thing which I hadn’t had for 10 years. I’d been divorced for 10 years and all the men I ever hung around with were gay!”

Joey soon began insisting that they get married and, after Joey sent Jeffie packing, they did. The wedding was held in the Orbachs’ apartment in March 1972. “The ceremony was performed by the same pastor who had married Tiny Tim and Miss Vicky on the Johnny Carson show,” Sina says, laughing. Joey’s best man was the comedian David Steinberg, and the small ceremony was reported the next day in the pages of the New York Post and the New York Daily News. But in three weeks Joey would be dead.

Not long after the ceremony, Sina began to realize that Joey was not entirely free of his past. On April 5, 1972, three weeks after the wedding and two days before Joey died, the apartment building’s doorman buzzed Sina to say that a deliveryman was in the lobby with a package for her. Sina told the doorman to send the man up, but when Joey overheard her he got angry. At his instruction, two of his bodyguards intercepted the deliveryman at the elevator and attacked him, pulling a gun and choking him. “Joey feared that the package contained a bomb,” Sina says, “but it turned out to be a Tiffany ice bucket for me from the producer Bruce Jay Friedman.”

Joey blew up at Sina, throwing her into a chair and raging at her. He screamed at her never to do something like that again, with a ferocity that Joey’s associates in the mob knew well. For Sina, it was an abrupt and terrifying wake-up call. “I didn’t know this was part of the deal,” Sina says. “I realized there was something I didn’t know about going on, there was something bigger than me. That was the day I knew it was over, that I couldn’t live like that.” So she threw Joey out of her apartment. “If this is what my life with you is going to be,” she told him, “you have to leave.”

The following day, however—April 6, 1972—was Joey’s 43rd birthday, and there was a celebration planned at the Copacabana with the Orbachs, Steinberg, comedian Don Rickles and Joey’s usual crowd of celebrities and hangers-on. Still intending to leave Joey, Sina nevertheless relented and agreed to go to the party with him.

Late on the evening of the 6th, Joey’s group picked Lisa up from her performance in Voices at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (she had third billing behind Julie Harris and Richard Kiley), and they drove to the Copa. It was a great night. Rickles introduced Lisa from the stage, and everyone sat and drank champagne until almost 4 a.m. Then the Copa closed and they all went in search of breakfast.

The party now consisted of Joey, Sina and Lisa, along with Joey’s sister and a single bodyguard, Pete “The Greek” Diapoulos. Another bodyguard, Robert “Bobby Darrow” Bongiovi, had left earlier in the evening with a woman from the Copa. By then, it was early morning, April 7, 1972.

The search for breakfast took them to Umberto’s Clam House at the corner of Hester and Mulberry streets in Little Italy. No one in the party had been to Umberto’s before, but it was the only place open at that hour. “We were all sitting around a big heavy table, with Joey facing the door and Lisa and I sitting next to the wall,” Sina remembers. “Joey thought the food was excellent and ordered seconds for everybody.”

Without warning, several gunmen burst through the door and began firing. Accounts vary as to how many shooters were involved, but Sina swears there were five. Colombo’s wiseguys had apparently seen Joey going into the restaurant and had rounded up some of Colombo’s soldiers to put him away.

When the shooting started, Joey turned the table over to protect the others while Sina dragged Lisa to the floor and covered her with her coat. In a matter of seconds, more than 20 shots were fired. Joey was struck three times—in his arm, his spine and finally in his carotid artery. He staggered out the door, followed by his assailants’ fire, and collapsed on the pavement. When the shooting stopped, there were 17 bullet holes in the wall behind Sina’s and Lisa’s chairs. Joey lay dying in the street.

“Joey had an intense sense of destiny,” Marta Orbach says. “If he was truly marked for dying, this old-fashioned way—in style—would have been a point of honor with him. Joey’s death would have appealed to his sense of drama.” Pete Hamill called it “a supreme New York moment.” But for Sina, huddled with her daughter on the floor of a restaurant filled with shells and screams and blood, it was anything but supreme.

“I thought I was observing all this through the eyes of death,” Sina says today. “In fact, I thought I was dead.” Her next thought was an irony that struck her in light of their earlier fight. “Fancy that,” she thought, “somebody was trying to kill him. My God, he wasn’t kidding!”

Today Sina tells her stories in the living room of her modest farmhouse, surrounded by photographs of her family and friends. These include a prominently placed picture of Joey. At 65, she still retains her classic Italian beauty and charm. She lives alone and maintains only a few close friendships. Hearing her relate her stories in the quiet of her living room or outside her sunny barn is a surreal but wholly believable experience.

Sina came to Tennessee in 1991 to get away from her notoriety. She says she had become almost a novelty in New York. “I wasn’t introduced to people as Sina Essary anymore,” she says. “I was ‘Joey Gallo’s widow.’ I had become like a stop on a sightseeing bus, like the Statue of Liberty or something.” She was besieged with requests for interviews in New York, all of which she declined. She even turned down an invitation to appear on The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.

But she had good reasons to keep quiet. One, she says, was the possibility that she herself might be marked for murder. She had been a witness to Joey’s shooting, after all, and might have identified the killers. For a long time afterward, she was followed by FBI agents, the NYPD and members of the Gallo gang in what she calls “an unholy alliance” to protect her from the Colombo crew. After a while, it all became too much for her.

For Sina, the attraction of Tennessee was its entertainment business. “I felt I could practice my photography in Nashville,” she says. “I had been in the business of photographing celebrities in New York, so I figured I could do it in Tennessee too.” She is presently planning a retrospective show at the Nashville Design Center in Melrose, where she intends to represent the large portfolio of pictures she has amassed over the years. In perhaps the richest irony of all, she photographed a young actress who would play the most famous Mafia wife of all: Edie Falco, who stars as Carmela on The Sopranos.

Sina admits that her move to Tennessee was also an act of “menopausal madness” which in some respects she still regrets. “I had always planned to go back to New York,” she says. “I had my box at the Metropolitan Opera, my rooftop rose garden and, of course, all my friends. For three years after I moved here I kept my apartment on Fifth Avenue, thinking I might go back. But when I bought my first pregnant mare, I fell so in love with her baby foal that I knew I could never leave. I still love New York, and I cry when I think about it, but I love my horses more.”

Sina has no fear from the Mafia today. Those days have passed, and the principal actors have died. She still speaks and corresponds every month with the only remaining member of the Gallo gang she knows, Bobby Bongiovi, the bodyguard who left early on the night Joey was killed. Bobby, movie-star handsome in his youth, is old, sick and now serving a life sentence in Dannemora for the murder of another mobster, Sam Wuyak, the year after Joey died. Bongiovi denies killing Wuyak, but he told Sina, “There is plenty of other stuff they could have sent me up for.” According to press accounts, when Bongiovi received his sentence at the hearing, Sina Essary was there, brushing away tears.

Joey’s life has been written about a number of times, but the accounts have not always been consistent. Some facts are hard to come by, and arguments about Joey still simmer among scholars of the Mafia life. Perhaps the most comprehensive treatment of Joey’s career is the Aronson book, though Sina says that it too contains errors. But Joey’s death only hastened his passing into myth. In 1974, Italian director Carlo Lizzani made a biopic called Crazy Joe starring the young Peter Boyle as Joey, with Eli Wallach, Paula Prentiss and even Henry Winkler in supporting roles. It was a spaghetti-Western take on gangland life, but critic Jerry Renshaw called it a gem—“a rawer Scorsese without the polish or panache, relying instead on pungent dialogue and gritty performances.”

By 1976, the fallen mobster had been rehabilitated as the romantic hero of “Joey,” from Bob Dylan’s 1976 album Desire—a combination Tom Joad and Pretty Boy Floyd whose “closest friends were black men ’cause they seemed to understand / What it’s like to be in society with a shackle on your hand.” In 1993, soon after Sina’s move to Nashville, Dylan even paid a visit to her home. They spent an afternoon discussing life in New York, shared acquaintances—and, of course, Joey.

More measured accounts of Joey’s life have revised the romantic image he carried while he was alive. He was a man capable of ruthless, and remorseless, brutality. His war with the Colombo family continued for a long time after he died, and several more killings took place, including those of two innocent people. The ferocity of the gang war caused Jimmy Breslin to change his thoughts about the rackets, writing that he considered The Godfather “hardcore pornography” and his own The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight “the product of demented thinking.”

Still, Sina has no regrets about marrying Joey. “It’s part of life,” she shrugs.

Joey’s funeral was huge, front-page news in all the papers. Pictures showed Sina and Lisa, grieving, standing on the steps of the church. The local parish priest refused to bury Joey—whether for doctrinal reasons or fear of Colombo mob reprisals was never made clear. So Sina arranged for a substitute priest to fly in from Cleveland to conduct the service.

Along the route to the cemetery, the sidewalks were jammed with people paying their respects to Joey Gallo. They strained to catch just a glimpse of his gleaming copper casket. Because of the attendance of so many gangland figures, police lined the streets and the rooftops to head off further violence.

Looking back, in the faraway seclusion of her Williamson County farm—a lifetime ago from the vendettas and tangled allegiances of Little Italy—Sina Essary says the procession would have appealed to Joey’s sense of show business. Tommy Udo was dead, and Sina says, “You would have thought the Pope was passing by.”

A former nun should know.

Thanks to Wayne Christeson

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"JP" Helps the Syndicate

Friends of ours: Gambino Crime Family, Albert "The Blast" Gallo, Genovese Crime Family, Colombo Crime Family, Crazy Joe Gallo, Larry Gallo, Vincent "Chin" Gigante, Frank "Punchy" Illiano

On your "Gambino Crime Family" profile chart you list Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo as a Friend of Ours. He's actually a made member of the Genovese Family. He started with the Colombos in the crew run by his brothers--Crazy Joey and Larry Gallo. He went through the Gallo-Profaci War with them. He was supposedly a favorite of Vincent "Chin" Gigante until The Chin died this past December.

Then Albert "Al the Blast" Gallo Jr. (his full name and I don't think he uses the "Kid Blast" nickname anymore) switched allegiance to the Genovese Family in the mid-1970s after Larry died of cancer and Joey was hit in 1972 at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy. Nearly the whole crew switched to the Genoveses.

Former Gallo crew member Frank "Punchy" Illiano is now a capo in the Genovese Family and Al Gallo is a made guy in his crew (or it could be the other way around, Gallo's the capo and Illiano's the top member of his crew--reports are conflicting on exactly who the capo of the crew is).

Thanks to "JP" who emailed this information to me.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Taste of Mob Life at Little Italy in New York

Friends of ours: Soprano Crime Family, Corleone Crime Family, Tony Soprano, Vito Corleone, Al Capone, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, "Crazy Joe" Gallo, Mickey Cohen, John "Dapper Don" Gotti, John "Junior Gotti

Once home to New York's huge immigrant Italian population and a hot-bed of mafia activity, Little Italy still draws crowds fascinated by mob life.

Now a popular tourist destination, there is little in Little Italy to back its violent history and visitors are unlikely to encounter anything more unusual than the smell of fresh garlic wafting from family-owned restaurants. But a recent exhibition, "Made In America, the Mob's Greatest Hits," gave fans of fictional mobsters Tony Soprano and Vito Corleone a taste of what the community used to be like with curator Artie Nash in talks to take the show elsewhere.

The exhibition housed in a small museum in Little Italy, featured a collection of original photographs and arrest warrants of some of the most notorious Mafiosos, including Al Capone and Charles "Lucky" Luciano. Luciano was the Italian-U.S. mobster behind the explosion in the international heroin trade on whom the character of Vito Corleone in "The Godfather" was loosely based.

Nash, curator of the exhibition, spent the best part of 15 years putting the collection together piece by piece, from both police department sources and from the estates of some of the most famous figures in organized crime. "I am mainly fascinated by the relationship that the American public have had with organized crime. It really has, over the last 75 years, permeated our popular culture to such a great degree," Nash told Reuters.

The mob enjoyed its hey-day during the backbreaking years of the Great Depression and Prohibition in the 1920's and 30's, when gangs all over the country carved out an existence in bootlegging, drug-dealing, blackmail and racketeering.

New York and Chicago were home to some of the most active branches of the mob and violent rivalries between different Mafia "families" often resulted in bloodshed.

Hollywood and the media have contributed in large part to glamorizing the life of the mobster, often depicted as fiercely loyal foot soldiers who struggled to protect their families.

The exhibit has attracted a wide variety of visitors, including students, high-ranking police officers, and even some current crime figures, Nash said.

Actor Leonardo Di Caprio even took a tour of the collection to check out the real "Gangs of New York," the 2002 Martin Scorsese film in which he played a gangster in the blood-soaked turf wars set in the 19th century in the notorious "Five Points" slum in what is now downtown Manhattan.

Popular items include a fedora worn by "Crazy Joe" Gallo, a ruthless Brooklyn-born killer, the day he was shot on Mulberry Street and a collection of silk pajamas from the lavish wardrobe of diminutive dapper Los Angeles don, Mickey Cohen.

The collection also features a series of gruesome photos of the victims of "Murder Inc," a crime organization that carried out hundreds of hits on behalf of the Mafia in the 1920's.

Public interest in the Mafia has been revived in recent years by hit TV drama "The Sopranos" and real-life events such as the trial of accused mob boss John Gotti, son of the late John J. Gotti, former head of New York's Gambino family.


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