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

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

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.

Colombo
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

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

Capone
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

Luciano
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

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Last Sit-Down

The Last Sit-Down is a limited edition mixed media canvas painting that is a stunning work of art romanticizing the Italian-American mafia's most glorious years in history. Thirteen of La Cosa Nostra's most notorious members transcend the different eras in which they lived and together feast in a setting fit for a Don. From left to right, Joe Bonanno, Sal Maranzano, Vito Genovese, Joe Masseria, Frank Costello, Lucky Luciano, Al Capone, John Gotti, Paul Castellano, Joseph Colombo, Carlo Gambino, Albert Anastasia, and Gaetano Lucchese await your arrival to "The Last Sit-Down".

The Last Sit Down

Crime Family Index