Showing posts with label Manny Skar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Manny Skar. Show all posts

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Chicago Brothers Discover their Father's Friends were #Mobsters. So, They Wrote a Book #MobAdjacent

Childhood is, or should be, a time of innocence, and for a while that is the way it was for brothers Michael Jr. and Jeffrey Gentile. And then a pistol fell out of a coat.

“We were taking the coats from people who had come over to visit our parents and this gun just dropped on the floor,” says Michael. “For us it wasn’t a matter of, ‘Oh my God, look, a gun!’ but, ‘Hey, we better figure out which coat this fell from and put it back.’”

The brothers were born 14 months apart in the mid-1950s, and grew up in the western suburbs and everything was just fine for a time, or as Jeffrey puts it, “just like episodes of ‘The Wonder Years’ until they started to get interrupted by episodes of ‘The Sopranos.’ ”

As they write in their book, “Mob Adjacent: A Family Memoir”: “Once Michael and I started paying attention, the veneer that wrapped around our family fiction cracked, and there was no putting it back together. One day you’re a kid learning to read; the next you’re reading the newspaper, and there’s an article about the man who came to dinner last week. Pictures, too. Yup, that’s him. The newspaper said he’d been indicted for running a suburban gambling ring and was looking at five years in prison.”

The man who came to dinner remains nameless but the names of many of the others who pepper the book’s pages and frequented the brothers’ lives read almost like an old most-wanted list.

“Through geography and happenstance, our father grew up and knew well the post-Capone generation of Chicago criminals and crime bosses,” says Michael Jr. “They were his friends.”

The names of those people, some with well-known nicknames, pop from the pages: Manny Skar, Richard Cain, Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, Frank “Skip” Cerone and his brother James “Tar Baby” Cerone and their cousin “Jackie the Lackey” Cerone.

The brothers’ grandfather came here as a 2-year-old from Italy in 1896, settling with his parents and siblings in the then heavily Italian neighborhood around Grand Avenue and Aberdeen Street. After he helped a neighbor fight off two men who were attacking him, that man, a crime figure named Vincent Benevento, conferred on him the sort of respect and supplied the connections that can go a long way in Chicago.

He had a son named Michael (in 1929), the father of Michael Jr. and Jeffrey, and together they worked in the produce business. Then the son went to war (Korea) and afterward, with the help of some by-then nefarious childhood friends, opened a bar. He married (a woman named Mary Ann) and started a family. The Gentile brothers have a sister named Lisa.

“My dad was kind of the go-to guy for his friends,” says Jeffrey. “He was always clean as a whistle and good at what he did and so when a place was in trouble, my dad was called in.”

And so it was that in the early 1960s, he was running a place called Orlando’s Hideaway, part of a notorious strip of entertainments along Mannheim Road in the near western suburbs. Those of a certain age are likely to remember the fancy hotels, nightclubs and restaurants of that strip, and perhaps some of the illegal gambling and prostitution activities too, that comprised what was known as “Glitter Gulch,” a sort of mini Las Vegas.

It was at Orlando’s where the brothers met “a small, quiet, balding man, always perfectly tailored.” The boys were told to address him as “Mr. Sam.” He was Sam Giancana, the head of the Chicago outfit from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s.

Giancana, often known as “Momo,” used Orlando’s as a meeting place. The brothers were there when Frank Sinatra came to call and, they write, “We heard an unforgettable explosion as Mr. Sam raged at Sinatra” — about a Nevada casino deal that supposedly involved Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, a Sinatra pal. “We have never seen anyone so angry before or since. Snarling, really. Spitting mad. Literally. Red face. Eyes bulging. Insane. Terrifying.”

That is but one of the lively anecdotes in “Mob Adjacent,” a book that came to life after Michael Jr., who has had a long career in the produce business, produced and hosted a 10-part series of short YouTube videos about his family.

These premiered in November 2016. “I thought that the videos were good but that they were only a half effort,” says Jeffrey. “I always wanted to write a book about our family and so Michael and I began to collaborate, to share memories and stories.”

The foundation for the book was letters and journal entries that Jeffrey had been keeping for decades. To flesh those out the brothers talked, often for more than 14 hours at a stretch, at Michael’s home here and Jeffrey’s in Pasadena, Calif.

“Mob Adjacent” is a fine and lively book, one that gives a solid and not overwhelming history of organized crime in these parts, and offers a very detailed narrative of their family and their own lives. It is frank and honest and surprisingly amusing.

“Our lives are the result of geography and happenstance,” says Jeffrey. Or, as he writes in the book, “Being mob adjacent meant we got the best seats in the house. It also meant we got to go home after the show.”

Their father died in 1995. At his wake, Jimmy Cerone approached the open casket, patted the corpse’s cheek and whispered into the coffin, “You were a good boy.”

His sons do justice to their father’s life and this project has made them appreciate one another. “Writing this book gave us a greater understanding of who we are and where we came from,” says Michael.

It has also given them something of a cottage industry. At their website mobadjacent.com, you will find a way to order the self-published book, see the video segments and purchase all manner of items, from an array of T-shirts to shot glasses, pens and mugs. The brothers have written a pilot episode for a television series that they are shopping around to agents and producers.

“It is a sitcom based on our lives,” says Michael. “But it could also be a drama.”

Thanks to Rick Kogan.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

More Family Secret Murders

The milestone mob case has solved many more Chicago Outfit killings than first thought. When the curtain went up on Operation Family Secrets, authorities said the plot involved 18 old gangland murders. But 18 is just the number of killings that were part of the court case.

The I-Team has learned that federal authorities consider as many as 40 mob murders now solved because of their investigation.

The mob's hit parade has been rolling since 1919 with corpses in cars and alleys; on street corners, sidewalks and alleyways; even in back yards and barber chairs. And in almost 90 years of keeping the stats, just a few Outfit murders have ever been solved.

"Whenever we had an organized crime homicide in Area 4, they were some of the hardest cases to work because even their own family members wouldn't talk to you," said Steve Peterson, Chicago police.
Charles Tyrwhitt
When you're a contract killer for La Cosa Nostra, or the LCN, part of the deal is, you don't get caught.

"This is the first investigation that I can recall where so many murders are charged...it goes to the heart of the LCN and that is a bunch of murderous thugs," said Robert Grant, FBI.

One man was *the* most murderous of the thugs: Nick Calabrese, mob hitman-turned-government informant.

During the summer-long trial, Calabrese admitted that he personally took part in more than a dozen gangland killings. But the I-Team has learned that during months of interviews with Chicago FBI agents, Nick Calabrese identified the Outfit triggermen in many additional murders that were never revealed in court.

"About 20 or so that Nick Calabrese provided information on," said John Scully, Family Secrets prosecutor. "I haven't looked at it in a while, but there are a number of murders beyond the ones that he testified about. Again, that he was not involved in, but through conversations with other mobsters."

Retired federal prosecutor Scully revealed the information during a recent interview about the Family Secrets case. While Scully declined to provide details, the I-Team has learned that the case of one mob murder victim is atop those cleared by Calabrese.

Manny Skar, a mob gambling functionary was mysteriously shot dead in 1965 as he emerged from his car near the garage of this Lake Shore Drive apartment house where he and his wife lived. Skar was about to snitch on the Outfit.

According to FBI interview reports, known as 302's, Nick Calabrese told agents that the hit man who rubbed out Skar was none other than Joseph "Joey the Clown" Lombardo.
Mob investigators believe it was Lombardo's first hit, carried out as a requirement of The Clown's induction into the outfit.

Skar's murder and the numerous other "bonus killings" cleared by Nick Calabrese, will be used by prosecutors at the upcoming sentencing of Lombardo, Nick's brother Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese and "Little Jimmy" Marcello.

"At some point, if they haven't done it already, the FBI will be advising the police departments that have an interest in those murders now that this case is done," said Scully.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice confirms that the bureau is providing local authorities with details of the old mob murders, but he says in some cases, informant Nick Calabrese didn't even know the name of the victim.

However, from court records and law enforcement sources, these are among the secret murders also believed cleared by Calabrese:

-Sam Annerino, 1971. A top south suburban enforcer, taken out by masked gunmen in the middle of an Oak Lawn street.

-Anthony Reitinger, 1975. Mob bookie, gunned down in Mama Luna's restaurant on the Northwest Side.

-Tony Borsellino, 1979. A mob assassin shot five times in the back of the head and dumped in a Frankfort farm field.

-Sam Guzzino, 1981. Outfit bodyguard found mangled in a southwest suburban ditch.

-Ronnie Jarrett, 1999. South Side mob lieutenant ambushed on his Bridgeport doorstep.

Besides Nick Calabrese lifting the veil of secrecy on as many as 20 additional Outfit murders, he has also disclosed details of a number of botched gangland shootings, where the target survived.

Defense lawyers declined to comment on Calabrese' additional statements, saying that his FBI records are still under a court-protective order.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

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