The Chicago Syndicate: Meyer Lansky
Showing posts with label Meyer Lansky. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meyer Lansky. Show all posts

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba ... And Then Lost It to the Revolution

Cuban writer Jose Lezama Lima's description of Havana - "an unnameable feast" - fits the city's last great era like the flawless suits from Pepe Sastre fit the best-dressed mobsters of the glittering casino years.

Here was a posh gambling scene not glimpsed outside James Bond flicks, with hot dance music, seductive showgirls, fast cars, naughty pleasures and, if you cared to look, serious culture, all set in a beautiful city some called "the Paris of the Caribbean." But, as we know, all was not well. Even as revelers rumbaed in the nightclubs an escalating syndrome of rebellion and repression bloodied the streets, triggered by an illegitimate government's corrupt relationship with ruthless gangsters from "el norte." A firebrand politico put on fatigues, set himself and his guerrilla fighters in the mountains at the opposite end of Havana, and that unnameable feast headed for a hangover that would last at least half a century.

T. J. English's engaging book "Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution" about the era covers the same ground as such novels as Mayra Montero's masterful "Dancing to Almendra" and Ace Atkins' intriguing "White Shadow," as well as films by Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Pollack and Andy Garcia. A scene that bad was just too good to pass up. But English's brand of narrative is history, and he aims to set the record straight, even pointing out artistic liberties taken in "Godfather II."

Meyer Lansky, for example, was not the venerable old man of the underworld portrayed in the movie but frisky enough to carry a serious and atypical romance with a Cuban woman (an important aspect of Montero's novel). Still, Coppola was on point: gangsters from the United States set up business in Havana in cahoots with Cuban strongman Fulgencio Batista.

These mobsters were protected from U.S. law enforcement in Havana, but, even so, a cautious Lansky never appeared on the casinos' books as anything other than a minor administrator. And it was in Havana that U.S. organized crime got organized, English explains, becoming a de facto government in what was meant to be the first stage of a serious international empire. But in its nationalistic zeal, the Cuban revolution wrecked the mob's plans, as casinos, associated with government corruption, were first ransacked and finally closed down. The gangsters never recovered.

What English calls "the Havana mob" was composed, at different stages, of such gangsters as Santo Trafficante, the dapper Tampa kingpin whose experience with Spanish and Cuban culture in his native city gave him an insight his colleagues lacked. The mob also involved key figures in Batista's government, including the putative president himself.

A parade of characters moves through "Havana Nocturne": George Raft, who came down as a casino "greeter," acting out in real life the mobster roles he made famous on film; Frank Sinatra, already a mob favorite; Marlon Brando, a party animal loose in the greatest party city; John F. Kennedy, indulging his taste for orgiastic sex courtesy of his unsavory friends; Nat King Cole, Eartha Kitt and other top black entertainers. Also striking is the story of the lesser-known but fondly remembered showgirl who, in a strike of promotional genius, publicized her upcoming performance by parading through Havana in a transparent raincoat and little else.

English makes clever use of period pop-culture highlights, such as "La Enganadora" (The Deceiver), a hit song about a curvaceous woman who drove the street guys wild until people learned her form was nothing but cleverly placed padding. "I am not La Enganadora," the raincoat beauty told the authorities when they stopped her, claiming truth in advertising trumped indecent exposure.

"Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution" is thoroughly researched. English's list of sources is impressive, and each chapter is as heavily footnoted as a doctoral thesis. Fortunately, the book doesn't read like one. English, the author of "Paddy Whacked" and "The Westies" and a college professor of organized crime (!), keeps the motor running on his narrative, in one case acknowledging an early nickname for the mixed-blood Batista, "el mulato lindo" (the pretty mulatto), and then using it instead of his name at different points to flavor the story.

Describing Raft's role in the Havana mob, English uses the phrase "gangster chic." Although there is plenty of ugly violence in the book, those words characterize the era's continuing appeal. Bad things ended with the downfall of the mob. But tropical architecture, the glamour of the Caribbean's most sophisticated city and bespoke tailoring would never be the same.

Thanks to Enrique Fernandez

Only Daughter of Meyer Lansky, Writes Tell-All-Memoir "Daughter of the King: Growing Up in Gangland"

In this tell-all memoir, the only daughter of the man who was considered the "brains of the Mob" opens the door on her glamorous—and tragic—life. Sandi Lansky Lombardo, daughter of Mob boss Meyer Lansky, was raised in New York City in upper-class Jewish splendor and spent her childhood in the undeniable glitz of Havana and Las Vegas in Lansky's heyday in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. She dined out with her father and his associates when she was six and was introduced to Frank Sinatra when she was eleven. She knew Bugsy Siegel and Uncle Lucky Luciano and met Howard Hughes and Joseph Kennedy. She was the Paris Hilton of her day: partying until dawn at El Morocco and the Stork Club, married at sixteen, romanced by Dean Martin at nineteen. She was pampered and protected, but her life was also full of tragedy: her mother was mentally ill and her eldest brother severely handicapped, and Mob violence repeatedly invaded the world of their friends and family.

Daughter of the King: Growing Up in Gangland, Sandi recounts for the first time the grandeur—and heartbreak—of her life as the daughter of one of the most powerful mobsters in America. Sandi takes listeners back in time to tell the story of her life—one lived in a glamorous but troubled world where nothing ever turned out to be quite as it seemed.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

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

Dark Harbor - The War for the New York Waterfront

For most of us, knowledge of the crime-ridden New York docks in the years following World War II comes largely from Elia Kazan's film On the Waterfront, with its violence, murders, beatings, graft, and kickbacks.

In the movie, we saw how the rampant lawlessness made a few people very rich and very powerful while providing those willing to serve their crooked aims with comfortable, if precarious, lives. But for most working the piers, forced to make daily kickbacks even to get a job, existence was a succession of hardships, barely allowing them to scrape by from one uncertain payday to the next.

According to Dark Harbor: The War for the New York Waterfront, none of this was cinematic exaggeration, and in fact, according to one newspaper reporter of the day, "the waterfront of New York produces more murders per square foot than does any other one section of the country."

Nathan Ward, a former editor at American Heritage and Library Journal, begins his account of these urban badlands with the 1939 disappearance and murder of Peter Panto, a worker on the Brooklyn waterfront who had run afoul of Emil Camarda, the mob-connected boss of the International Longshoremen's Association local that ruled the Brooklyn docks.

The Panto killing and its aftermath begins a grim narrative of the dark side. The menace of such union bosses as Camarda in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn and, most especially, Joseph P. Ryan, the outwardly charming "President for Life" of the ILA's New York local, fought to keep challengers to their rule at bay through intimidation, payoffs, and, if those failed, disappearances.

Their clout was achieved through threats, but it was maintained by the "shape-up" system, "the main source of the outlaws' power over the men who worked the docks." Whenever there was a ship to be loaded or unloaded, a crowd of potential workers would show up, their ultimate selection determined by who they knew or who they paid and, probably most especially, by how few questions they asked.

The crookedness of the "shape" led to a pattern in which, as Panto himself explained to a labor lawyer friend shortly before his murder, dockworkers "had to . . . have all [their] haircuts at a certain barber shop . . . [and] buy their wine grapes from a designated dealer at lush prices, whether they planned to make wine or not."

Panto also said that that "many longshoremen paid out almost half their wages in kickbacks to qualify for work." So pervasive was the mob coercion in the port of New York that, during World War II, the Office of Naval Intelligence enlisted Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, and other gangsters to guard the harbor against sabotage and enforce a labor peace that allowed convoys to sail to Europe, threatened only by German submarines.

Some workers protested from time to time and some even talked to investigators, but mostly the real situation on the docks remained only a suspicion until a reporter on a dying newspaper, acting on an editor's hunch, began looking for facts behind the rumors.

The New York Sun, which had begun life in a blaze of glory in 1833 as the city's first successful penny newspaper, had fallen on hard times by 1948 and was then eighth in circulation among Manhattan's nine dailies. Still, it had editors who were curious and reporters who were talented, and when one of the former heard of the murder of a hiring boss in northern Manhattan, he was reminded of a similar event in Greenwich Village the previous year and dispatched one of his star reporters to investigate.

What Mike Johnson uncovered after many months of digging both on the docks and through the files of frustrated prosecutor William Keating was a whole host of similar events and a culture of crime and intimidation that stretched far beyond the waterfront to the highest reaches of the political and commercial establishments.

The investigation was aided most of all by a few heroic dockworkers fed up with the corruption they saw around them, but also by Keating's records, and by Father John Corridan, "the waterfront priest," who, in his righteous fury, called the struggle for the soul of the harbor "a fight with no holds barred, and sometimes you've got to knee and gouge and elbow in the clinches."

When they appeared in the Sun, the stories (which earned Mike Johnson a Pulitzer Prize in 1949) set off a firestorm of investigation and accusation, for until the series put names and dates to it, criminal activity around the port had been long assumed but rarely challenged. Suddenly, politicians from the state and city of New York to the U.S. Senate began their own probes, all eager to take credit for cleaning up the waterfront mess.

The reaction of the dock bosses to all this activity was to accuse the reporter and his allies of being Communists, a strategy that had succeeded in keeping Harry Bridges and his radical West Coast longshoremen's union from Atlantic ports.

This time, though, the red-baiting didn't work quite so well and the investigations continued, with the ultimate result of breaking much of the stranglehold of mob influence and causing the ILA to be temporarily expelled from the American Federation of Labor in 1953.

The long, bumpy road that brought the New York waterfront toward the light is one well traveled by Ward. Although written in a sometimes repetitive style that suggests a series of loosely connected articles rather than a seamlessly flowing narrative, Dark Harbor captures the troubling essence of a particularly bleak chapter in the history of both organized crime and organized labor.

Thanks to James Polk

Friday, January 03, 2014

Trouble in Paradise Mob Movie is Now in Production

“Trouble In Paradise,” a period crime thriller set in the tropical hotbed of 1950's Havana, brings the story of Meyer Lansky, the brains behind the mob, to life. High stakes gambling and political intrigue are the backdrop for the rise and fall of the most notorious mafia empire in U.S. history.

Fast paced and taut, it follows in the tradition of The Godfather Trilogy, Casino, and Goodfellas.

“Trouble In Paradise” with five major stars attached is scheduled to go into production in Puerto Rico in 2014.

Synopsis: 
The saga plunges deeply into the high octane brew of criminals and political intrigue, ON SALE: Caribbean Escapes! Get $15** OFF Flights & Hotels with Promo Code CARIBBEAN. BOOK NOWbringing alive the lust for gambling and the quest for power. Meyer Lansky, Cuba’s gambling czar, pursues his dream, remaking Havana into the world’s premier tourist destination. Meyer plans “The Grand Havana” from a most unlikely spot…the Saratoga County jail. Serving a ninety day sentence for a minor gambling violation, he makes the best of a bad situation. At a high cost to Meyer, his jail cell is a customized suite with telephone and all the amenities. Taking over the reins in Havana, Meyer begins developing the world’s most lavish gambling mecca. But he faces a worthy adversary in Santo Trafficante, former gambling czar ousted for running crooked casinos that kept the high-rollers away. Meyer looks at Santo with disdain, a common criminal in a thousand dollar suit and himself as a renaissance man, without peer in the world of organized crime. Meanwhile, rogue FBI Agent Sean O'Brien, harbors a personal vendetta against Meyer, pursuing him with a vengeance from New York to Havana. He vows to nail Meyer Lansky at any cost. Meyer needs the financial support of men who understand the casino business... He summons an elite group of Mafia Dons from the hubs of organized crime: New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Las Vegas. But the Vegas mob bosses feel Meyer’s Havana dream will cut into their gambling revenues…So there’s trouble in paradise. When the threats and bullets start flying, Meyer calls on an ex-CIA operative known for his creativity. Trained in undercover assaults, his elusiveness makes him the ultimate weapon against Santo. Meyer survives two attempted hits and sends his family to Miami for safety. Then begins a deadly game of cat and mouse. As the tension mounts, Meyer falls for a beautiful Cuban National. His passion for her grows as his enemies draw closer. President Batista remains Meyer's only link to political protection, but his regime is on the verge of collapse. If Havana falls, Meyer’s dream crumbles with it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Las Vegas Mob Museum Covers American Jewish History

In the mid-20th century, a cadre of tough Jews, shedding the bookish bearing of exile, went forth to create a new society in a forbidding desert. Armed to the teeth, they lived outside the law and built their outpost by any means necessary. Against all odds, despite implacable enemies, the desert bloomed.

Think you already know this history? Think again. This is an American tale told by the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, in downtown Las Vegas. Open since February, and already better known as “The Mob Museum,” it is essentially an American Jewish history museum by another name.

The museum tells the story of American organized crime, from its birth in the ethnic slums of established cities like Boston, New York and Chicago to the city the mafia itself begot, the Mojave metropolis of Las Vegas. The institution is the brainchild of Oscar Goodman, the flamboyant Philadelphia-born mafia attorney whose clients included Meyer Lansky, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal and Herbert “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein. Goodman went on to serve as mayor of Las Vegas from 1999 until 2011.

While the exhibit only breaks the code of omertà about Jewishness at the beginning of its chronological display — noting the Jewish immigration wave alongside the Irish and Italian — as visitors move through the 20th century they see a pantheon of mosaic Murder Inc. veterans, including Moe Dalitz, Gus Greenbaum and Moe Sedway, on a progression from street toughs to casino magnates to pillars of the community. The museum doesn’t pussyfoot around the brutality of Jewish mobsters’ methods; indeed, one 1930s photo shows the brutalized body of a Catskills resort slot machine operator on a gurney after he had been caught skimming profits. But it treats the mafia as an institution of immigrant social mobility, a shortcut to the American Dream.

The presentation makes it hard not to sympathize with Prohibition-era “Boys From Brooklyn” (as the Jewish goodfellas called themselves) as they are hounded by bigoted G-men and hard-drinking hypocrites in Congress. A 1939 FBI “Wanted” poster seeking fugitive Murder Inc. boss Louis Buchalter notes his “Jewish characteristics — nose large… eyes alert and shifty — has habit of passing change from one hand to another.”

Bootlegger Dalitz is celebrated for getting the best of a congressional anti-mafia probe with zingers like, “If you people wouldn’t have drunk it, I wouldn’t have bootlegged it.” And when asked about his illicit moonshine fortune, he said, “Well, I didn’t inherit any money, Senator.”

By the end of the exhibit, having built a world-famous city from scratch with their underworld capital, Sedway is receiving letters from Jewish establishment figures saluting his fundraising efforts for United Jewish Appeal, Dalitz is being presented with the key to the City of Las Vegas and Lansky is living the life of a retired real estate magnate in Miami Beach. Buchalter, for his part, has been sent to the electric chair at Sing Sing (an object that is also part of the collection). But even his death has a Horatio Alger twist: He set the record for the richest man ever executed in America.

The museum’s official slogan is, “There are two sides to every story,” and the feds are given their due. The former special agent in charge of the Las Vegas office of the FBI, Ellen Knowlton, outranks even Goodman on the museum’s board of directors. As in real life, though, it is the glamour of gangster glitter — like Benjamin Siegel’s glitzy watch, labeled “Bugsy’s Bling” — that catches the eye. Beyond a reasonable doubt, the goodfellas steal the show.

Not everyone is thrilled with such laudatory portrayals of the Jewish criminals the museum dubs “the other people who built America.” Jenna Weissman Joselit, Forward columnist, director of the program in Judaic studies at George Washington University and author of “Our Gang : Jewish Crime and the New York Jewish Community, 1900-1940,” (Indiana University Press, 1983) thinks the temptation to glamorize the mob ought to be resisted. Museum curators, she said via email, should “attend to America’s abiding fascination with crime with the same rigor and discernment that’s applied to other cultural and historical phenomena.” But Rich Cohen, author of “Tough Jews : Fathers, Sons, and Gangster Dreams” (Simon & Schuster, 1998), understands the appeal of Jewish mobsters — especially when contrasted with the loathsome, privileged Jewish criminals of today, like Bernard Madoff. “These were people who grew up in certain neighborhoods where [the mob] was one way to get ahead,” Cohen said via telephone from Hollywood, where he’s advising “Magic City,” a new TV drama about 1950s Miami mobsters. “These were very tough guys in a very tough world, in a time when Jews were being beaten up and even killed — and they weren’t taking s–t from anybody.”

Cohen is unperturbed by the museum’s family-friendly marketing efforts, which include offering discounted admission to children as young as 5. “I have little kids, and I try to teach them right from wrong,” Cohen said. “I don’t think there’s a danger of people coming out of a museum and it making them gangsters.”

As a whole, American Jews are probably more conflicted than Cohen about the community’s historic mob ties. When Cohen told his grandmother he was working on a book about Murder Inc., her response bespoke this communal schizophrenia. “A Jew should never be a gangster. It’s a shande,” she told him, using the Yiddish word for “a disgrace.” “But, if a Jew should be a gangster, let him be the best gangster!”

For his part, booster-in-chief Goodman, who bequeathed to the museum his “gelt bag”— a large briefcase in which his clients, wary of having their bank accounts frozen by the Feds, paid him in cash — zealously defends the institution’s unconventional take on the history of his city and his people. “These are our founding fathers,” Goodman said of Meyer, Bugsy and the gang. “We [Las Vegans] come from the mob.”

But even Goodman recalls that when he first proposed the museum a decade ago, he faced some pushback from constituents who complained that it would stereotype a particular ethnic group. “Apparently they meant the Italians,” Goodman offered, with his perennial grin and Borscht Belt timing. “I thought they were talking about the Jews!”

Thanks to Daniel Brook

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Did Richard Nixon Have a Gay Affair with Mob Connected Crony?

He carpet-bombed Cambodia, spewed out anti-Semitic slurs and crude misogynistic jokes in the White House and smeared his political opponents with ruthless 'dirty tricks' campaigns. And, of course, he lied to his country about his involvement in the Watergate scandal and went down in history as America's shiftiest, darkest President.

Given everything that Richard Nixon has been accused of, it's difficult to believe there could be any more skeletons left in his cupboard. But it seems there are.

A new biography by Don Fulsom, a veteran Washington reporter who covered the Nixon years, suggests the 37th U.S. President had a serious drink problem, beat his wife and — by the time he was inaugurated in 1969 — had links going back two decades to the Mafia, including with New Orleans godfather Carlos Marcello, then America's most powerful mobster.

Yet the most extraordinary claim is that the homophobic Nixon may have been gay himself. If true, it would provide a fascinating insight into the motivation and behaviour of a notoriously secretive politician.

Fulsom argues that Nixon may have had an affair with his best friend and confidant, a Mafia‑connected Florida wheeler-dealer named Charles 'Bebe' Rebozo who was even more crooked than Nixon.

The book, Nixon's Darkest Secrets: The Inside Story of America's Most Troubled President, is out next month — by coincidence at the same time as the UK release of a new film directed by Clint Eastwood about another supposed closet gay among Washington's 20th-century hard men. But while FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, played in Eastwood's film by Leonardo DiCaprio, allegedly had an affair with his squeaky-clean deputy Clyde Tolson, Nixon's supposed secret paramour was a very different character.

Bebe Rebozo was a short, swarthy, good-looking Cuban-American businessman with a history of failed relationships with women and close alliances with Miami's Mafia chiefs.

The veteran TV newsman Dan Rather recalled how Rebozo 'transmitted the sense of great sensuality', paying tribute to his 'magnetic' personality and 'beautiful eyes'.

Fulsom uses recently revealed documents and eyewitness interviews — including with FBI agents — to shed new light on long-standing suspicions among White House insiders that Nixon may have been more than just good buddies with Rebozo.

He claims Nixon's relationship with Pat, his wife of 53 years, was little more than a sham. A heavy drinker whom his own staff dubbed 'Our Drunk', Nixon used to call his First Lady a 'f***ing bitch' and beat her before, during and after his presidency, says Fulsom.

The pair had separate bedrooms at the White House — and in Key Biscayne, the exclusive resort near Miami where Nixon holidayed, Mrs Nixon didn't even sleep in the same building. Rebozo, however, was in the house next door.

Fulsom claims one of Nixon's former military aides had a secret job 'to teach the President how to kiss his wife' so they would look like a convincing couple.

How much of this can we believe? Nixon died in 1994 and his reputation is pretty much irredeemable. As with Eastwood's Hoover film, there is no definitive proof, but plenty of 'supporting evidence'.

Fulsom quotes a former Time magazine reporter who, at a Washington dinner, bent down to pick up a fork and saw the two holding hands under the table. It was, the reporter judged, sufficiently intimate to suggest 'repressed homosexuality'.Another journalist related how, loosened up by drink, Nixon once put his arm around Rebozo 'the way you'd cuddle your senior prom date. Something was fishy there'.But who exactly was Bebe Rebozo, and how did a shady Florida businessman of unclear sexual leanings end up as the bosom friend of one of the most paranoid and buttoned-up political leaders of the 20th century?

Born two months before Nixon in 1912, Charles Gregory Rebozo was the son of a Cuban cigar-maker and, as the youngest of nine, was stuck with the nickname 'Bebe'.

He came from poverty but worked his way up through property speculation and then banking. According to the FBI, he had close links with Mob bosses such as Santo Trafficante, the Tampa Godfather, and Alfred 'Big Al' Polizzi, a stooge of Meyer Lansky, the Cosa Nostra's financial brains.

By the 1960s, an FBI agent was describing Rebozo as a 'non- member associate of organised crime figures'. He bought land in Florida with a business partner who was believed to be a front for some of the most powerful Mafiosi.

When Rebozo started his own bank in Florida in 1964, Nixon — then a lawyer — wielded a golden shovel at the ground-breaking ceremony and became its first depositor.

According to Mafioso Vincent Teresa, the bank was used by the Mob to launder stolen cash. It hardly seems possible that Nixon, who pledged to make fighting organised crime a priority of his presidency, could not have known of his best friend's Mafia links.

Nixon had just won one of California's U.S. Senate seats when he first met Rebozo in 1950. Fearing Nixon was facing a nervous breakdown, fellow Senator George Smathers suggested a holiday in Florida and enlisted his old school friend Rebozo to show the socially awkward Nixon a good time.

Their first jaunt together — in Rebozo's 33ft fishing boat — did not go well. Rebozo later complained that Nixon just sat reading papers and, according to his host, barely said half a dozen words to him.

Smathers said Rebozo later told him: 'Don't ever send that son of a bitch Nixon down here again. He's a guy who doesn't know how to talk, doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't chase women... he can't even fish.'But Rebozo persevered — and according to a cynical Smathers, Nixon's rising stardom in Washington and the potential influence it offered 'had a lot to do with it'.

In months, the pair were inseparable, holidaying with Nixon's wife Pat — and without her. Rebozo became an 'uncle figure' to the Nixons' two daughters, Tricia and Julie. The dapper Cuban-American chose Nixon's clothes and even selected the films he watched at the White House.

On Nixon's solo visits to Key Biscayne, they swam and sunbathed, indulging in their shared passions for discussing Broadway musicals and barbecuing steaks.

Both men were also extremely secretive, and their relationship — described as the 'most important unsolved mystery in Nixon's life' — was kept so discreet that the New York Times did not mention it for nearly 20 years.

Observers noticed their intimacy became most apparent when they were drunk. An aide recalled them playing a game called King of the Pool at Key Biscayne: 'It was late at night, the two men had been drinking. Nixon mounted a rubber raft in the pool while Rebozo tried to turn it over. Then, laughing and shouting, they'd change places.'

They were seen together at the same British-themed hostelries in the Key: the English Pub, where they drank beer from tankards engraved with their names, and the Jamaica Inn, where they ate at a discreet booth.

Both spots were owned by another businessman with Mob links and the secret service asked Nixon to find another place to eat.

Why the President's minders didn't raise alarms about Rebozo's Mafia connections has puzzled experts, but they probably didn't dare. When a New York newspaper investigated Rebozo's Mob links in the 1970s, its staff suddenly found themselves under secret service surveillance.

A White House aide once dismissed Rebozo's role as 'the guy who mixed the Martinis', but he was far more important than that.

When Nixon became President, Rebozo got his own office and bedroom at the White House, and a security clearance that allowed him to go in and out without being logged by the secret service. Using a false name, says Fulsom, Rebozo even got into Nixon's hotel suite during a trip to Europe.

The President's closest colleagues complained at the way Rebozo monopolised Nixon's time. General Alexander Haig, his last chief of staff, is said to have imitated Rebozo's 'limp wrist' manner and joked that Rebozo and Nixon were lovers.

According to Fulsom, Henry Kissinger resented the way Rebozo would fly on Air Force One, the Presidential plane, wearing a blue U.S. Navy flight jacket bearing the President's seal and with his name stitched on it.

Away from Nixon's side, Rebozo surrounded himself with glamorous women and threw Miami parties that descended into orgies, but was it all a front?

Aged 18, Rebozo reportedly enjoyed an 'intense' affair with a young man, Donald Gunn. He later wed Gunn's teenage sister. The marriage lasted four years and, according to his wife, was never consummated.

Rebozo didn't marry again until middle age, when he entered what Newsweek magazine described as an 'antiseptic' alliance with his lawyer's secretary. 'Bebe's favourites are Richard Nixon, his cat — and then me,' the lady complained later. A fellow Miami resident told Nixon biographer Anthony Summers that Rebozo was definitely part of the city's gay community.

Summers and co-writer Robbyn Swan, however, question whether there is enough evidence to suggest Nixon was gay. 'They held hands on occasion, and both men had problems with consummating physical relationships with women, but we found no evidence that Nixon was actively homosexual,' Summers told me this week.

Physical or not, Nixon's attraction to Rebozo has struck many as politically reckless. Nixon expert Professor Fawn Brodie couldn't understand how he would be 'willing to risk the kind of gossip that frequently accompanies close friendship with a perennial bachelor'. After all, she added, Nixon was, in public, a virulent gay-hater.

When Walter Jenkins, a trusted aide to President Lyndon Johnson, was caught providing sexual favours to a retired sailor in a YMCA lavatory, Nixon denounced him as 'ill'. People who suffered this 'illness', he added, 'cannot be in places of high trust'.

Rebozo was certainly in a position of 'high trust', and not only because he was a key fundraiser. He was with Nixon when he announced his successful run for President and again in June 1972 when Nixon learned that five men hired by the White House to break into the Watergate building had been arrested.

'We were swimming at Key Biscayne in front of my house,' Rebozo recalled. 'They came out and told him. He said: "What in God's name were they doing there?" We laughed and forgot about it.'

Rebozo also ended up being investigated by the Watergate committee, which found that a £64,000 cash contribution from the industrialist Howard Hughes that was meant for the Republican Party was actually in Rebozo's safe deposit box.

It also emerged that both Nixon and Rebozo's personal wealth had soared during Nixon's first five years in the White House, Rebozo's rising nearly seven-fold from £432,000 to nearly £3million.

Rebozo escaped prosecution — allegedly because of a White House deal — and he stood by his disgraced friend. He was at Nixon's bedside during his final days.

When Rebozo died in 1998, he left more than £12million to the Nixon memorial library, whose executive director eulogised him as a 'consummate gentleman' on whose 'wise counsel, shrewd political insight and ready wit' Nixon relied.

Typically, Nixon had been rather less charitable — he always described Rebozo as just a 'golfing partner'.

Thanks to Tom Leonard

Monday, April 04, 2011

Entertainment and Family History Mixed at Las Vegas Mob Experience

Mobster Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, infamous for his brutality, once reportedly squeezed a man's head in a vice until his eyes popped out of their sockets.But when he wasn't carrying out brutal interrogations or fulfilling contract killings -- duties required of him as a made man for the mob -- he was playing the role of dutiful father.

Spilotro and other mobsters with a Las Vegas connection all had softer, gentler sides that have rarely been acknowledged, says Jay Bloom, founder and managing partner of the Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana.

Bloom hopes the new attraction changes that by showing publicly the soft guy side that Spilotro, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky possessed.

The Las Vegas Mob Experience celebrated its grand opening Wednesday. It is not to be confused with the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, popularly known as the Mob Museum, which is scheduled to open later this year in downtown Las Vegas.

The Mob Museum will concentrate more on the law enforcement perspective, says Michael Unger, chief executive officer of Eagle Group Holdings, the parent company of the Mob Experience, while "we will focus on the bad guys."

The "show-seum is a little bit entertainment, a little bit excitement and a little bit history all rolled together," Unger says. "We expose the human side of these men, if you will. Siegel was a great father. Same thing with Spilotro. They were good family men."

Several family members of the infamous men, including Millicent Siegel Rosen, daughter of Siegel; Spilotro's son, Vincent, and his widow, Nancy; Meyer Lansky II and Cythina Duncan, grandchildren of Lansky; and Giancana's grandson, Carl Manno, donated or loaned more than 1,500 artifacts to be displayed. Among them are Spilotro's baby shoes and his handguns; Siegel's home movies, furniture and love letters; and Lansky's golf clubs and personal diaries.

"It's quite a showcase," says 80-year-old Rosen. "People have been after me for years to do something about my father, but I never wanted to get involved in anything. But when I met Jay, his ideas were different. I was very impressed with the way he treated my father."

Visitors to the attraction will get to watch home movies shot by Siegel while learning about how he built the Flamingo and helped popularize Las Vegas as a vacation destination. He wouldn't like today's Vegas, Rosen adds. It would be much too corporate for his tastes.

Don't go in expecting to hear the whole story of the mob, though. The Mob Experience covers prohibition and gaming apart from the family history.

"The narrative they're telling seems to have some problems," says David Schwartz, director of University of Nevada, Las Vegas' gaming studies. "It seems to skip over some of the stuff organized crime did in America."

And though the artifacts may have historical value, it may be difficult to understand why, because many of them are out of context, Schwartz adds.

Attraction organizers chose to focus strictly on mob figures who played a role in the rise and spread of casinos, Unger says.

In addition to the artifacts, the Mob Experience offers a pseudo-mob "experience" in which guests can become a made man, a snitch, get whacked or have a shootout. At the ticket counter, guests give their names and some personal information in exchange for a mob nickname and a badge embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID.

The Mob Experience is divided into three acts: the immigration of the mob figures, the rise of the mob, and the decline and fall of the mob. A three-dimensional guide accompanies visitors through, offering facts and helping to navigate the mob. As a guest enters each area, computers sense the RFID badge and greet each person by his or her mob nickname.

Actors portraying various mob characters are situated throughout the 26,000-square-foot attraction and interact with guests. Your response to each character plays a role in your fate at the end, Bloom says.

Thanks to Sonya Padgett

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mafia Princess Dethroned in Las Vegas

The Las Vegas Mob Experience is pleased to announce that Carl Manno, grandson of infamous Chicago crime boss, Sam Giancana, and son of the self proclaimed Mafia Princess, Antoinette Giancana, has joined the project as a consultant representing the Giancana family.

Last week, the Las Vegas Mob Experience terminated its consulting agreement with Antoinette Giancana, daughter of Sam Giancana, citing her gross misconduct and breach of contract. Problems with the Princess however, were brewing for months before she was finally given the boot.

Ms. Giancana alienated all of the other "family" members involved in the project, as well as the operational staff, to the point that several months ago, being deemed too difficult to work with, she was instructed not to return to the company's corporate headquarters.

According to Jay Bloom, Managing Partner of the Mob Experience, "Ms. Giancana was always resentful of the fact that The Las Vegas Mob Experience highlighted numerous famous individuals related to the history of organized crime and the role they had in the building of Sin City. She wanted this attraction to be the Sam Giancana show, with her as the spokesperson and shining star."

Bloom went on to explain that the attraction is not about one person, "We are privileged to have the involvement of the family members of many relevant historical figures including Meyer Lansky, Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel, Tony 'The Ant' Spilotro, Al Sachs, Jimmy 'Blue Eyes' Alo and Allen Smiley."

Mr. Manno, when asked about his mother's conduct stated "I have spent my life apologizing for my mother's erratic and unpredictable behavior, and I find myself having to do it again here."

Mr. Manno went on to say that he is "Excited to be a part of this extraordinary project at Tropicana Las Vegas, joining the other family members in bringing additional artifacts and personal stories about my grandfather."

They say, that in the Mob, one should never assume their status is secure because there is always someone waiting to take the place of the fallen.

The Las Vegas Mob Experience opened its doors to the public for previews on March 1, 2011, with its formal Grand Opening scheduled for March 29, 2011.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mafia Memorabilia War Heats Up

There is a Chicago mob war underway, but it is unlikely to result in bloodshed. But the fight is actually 1,800 miles away from Chicago.

From 1955, when the reign of Mayor Richard J. Daley began, through today with his son, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago has shunned any official recognition of the city's gangland past. But Las Vegas -- for decades controlled by the Chicago Outfit -- is embracing its rich organized crime history.

With not one but two Mob museums planning to open this year, a fight for Chicago Mob memorabilia is now on.

On one end of the famous Las Vegas strip will be the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, also known as the Mob museum. It is Mayor Oscar Goodman's $50 million pet project in a former federal building, much of it funded by tax money. After countless delays, the official Mob museum is set to open late this year.

At the other end of the strip -- and in direct competition -- is the privately owned and operated Mob Experience. It will fire the first shot with preview parties next week and a grand opening in early March, with interactive holograms of Hollywood Mob figures leading tourists through the exhibits.

"We are not setting out to glorify the Mob by any mean, and nobody in Las Vegas is looking to glorify the mob. But at the same time we are not looking to vilify these people either. I think in the process of collecting these artifacts and being exposed to the stories of the family members, we've been given the greatest Mob story never told," said Jay Bloom, Mob Experience partner.

The late Chicago Outfit boss Sam "Momo" Giancana is among those depicted in exhibits. His daughter Antoniette is among the family members of major Mob figures hired as paid contributors to the Mob Experience. And she is happy to deliver her father's glory days in Vegas.

"It was glorious. I wished he were here now. We were treated like kings, queens and princesses and princes. There was nothing that Sam needed or wanted in this town, it was given to him gladly with love and respect," said Antionette Giancana, Mafia princess.

The Mob Experience will feature memorabilia from the Giancana family along with personal mementos from Bugsy Seigel, Meyer Lansky and others, including Chicago's long-time Mob emissary to Las Vegas Anthony "Tony Ant" Spilotro.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Monday, January 03, 2011

Las Vegas Mob Moss, Davie Berman, Started in North Dakota

The mob boss of the Las Vegas syndicate, who built the city into the gambling capital of the U.S., grew up in North Dakota.

Davie Berman learned how to be tough and enterprising at his father’s farm near Ashley when he reasoned that he would need to become the primary breadwinner for the family because his father’s farming venture failed.

Berman ran the Las Vegas gambling enterprises for the mob from 1947 until his death in 1957. Most of the people who knew him at the casinos liked him and thought of Berman as a very successful businessman. After Berman died, it was said that he had “the largest funeral Las Vegas had ever seen.”

Donald “Davie” Berman was born Jan. 16, 1903, to David and Clara Berman in Odessa, Russia. In 1905, David Berman was threatened with conscription into the Russian army and fled to America. After working at a laundry in Manhattan, he learned that a special fund had been set up to help young Jews get land grants in North Dakota. He sent for his wife and three young children.

In the winter of 1907, the family arrived at Ashley. for? It looks like Siberia.” On Dec. 26, 1907, the Bermans took possession of their 160 acres between Ashley and Wishek. David Berman knew nothing about farming, and it seemed like everything he tried had failed.

Davie Berman excelled in school but was frequently in trouble because of fights. In January 1910, their house burned down, and the Bermans sold their farm for one dollar and moved to Ashley. David Berman got a job at the creamery, but the family continued to live in poverty. Davie Berman said they should move to Sioux City, Iowa, because he had learned that young boys could sell newspapers. In 1912, the family packed their belongings into a buggy and moved to Iowa where they hoped to make a new beginning.

Davie Berman got a job as a newsboy and, to increase his earnings, slept in the print shop of the Sioux City Journal so that he could get an early start hawking newspapers. He organized the Jewish boys selling papers so that they could keep other boys from selling papers in their territory.

At the time, Sioux City was called Little Chicago because “gangsters from Chicago used to move there when the heat was on at home.” Davie Berman soon noticed that gamblers had a lot of money, and he became friendly with them. He helped talk people into participating in card games and learned how to cheat with marked cards and loaded dice. By the age of 14, he organized a group of young people to beat up individuals who did not cover their losses at gambling.

With Prohibition, Berman got into bootlegging. He drove his car north on Highway 75, now I-75, to Winnipeg, Manitoba, and loaded up with whiskey. On his return south, Berman would make deliveries in Minnesota and the Dakotas. By the age of 16, “he was the biggest bootlegger in all of Iowa.” He also hired people to make home brew on which he slapped fake labels for resale.

While still a teen, Berman turned to robbing banks. He moved his operation from Sioux City to Chicago and then to New York City. In 1927, Berman was arrested for a post office robbery in Wisconsin. He refused to name any of those involved in plotting the heist and was sentenced to 7 ½ years in Sing Sing Prison.

When he was released from prison, Berman was called to a meeting with gangsters Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Moe Sedway and Lucky Luciano. In appreciation for keeping quiet, Berman was offered $1 million. He turned the offer down and instead said he wanted permission “to run Minneapolis.” His request was granted.

By the mid-1930s, Prohibition was abolished, and Berman focused his attention on bookmaking and other forms of gambling. The top mob boss of Minneapolis, when Berman arrived, was Kid Cann. As his operation grew, Berman eclipsed Cann. When World War II broke out, Berman tried to enlist but was turned down because of his criminal background. He then traveled to Winnipeg and enlisted with the 12th Manitoba Dragoons regiment. At the conclusion of the war, Berman returned to Minneapolis to resume his gambling operation.

In 1945, Hubert Humphrey was elected mayor with a pledge to break up the rackets. Berman knew where he wanted to move next. In 1940, he had made a trip to Las Vegas and saw that it held great potential for gambling. In 1945, Berman purchased three downtown clubs — the El Cortez, the Las Vegas Club, and the El Dorado (later called the Horseshoe).

He was also working with Bugsy Siegel to build the new, elegant Flamingo. After the Flamingo opened, the mob suspected that Siegel was skimming off the top. On June 20, 1947, Siegel was assassinated at the Beverly Hills home of his mistress, Virginia Hill. The murder was never solved. The next day, Berman and his associates walked into the Flamingo and took over operation of the club. Later, Berman sold the Flamingo and purchased the Riviera.

On June 18, 1957, while on the operating table at a Las Vegas hospital for a glandular operation, Berman suffered a heart attack and died.

Thanks to Curt Eriksmoen

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mobsters in South Florida Use New Ways to Face New Rivals

Ever since the ruthless Chicago mobster Al Capone bought a mansion on Miami's Palm Island in 1928, South Florida has been a destination for organized crime figures who want to relax and do a little business.

The rackets have evolved over the years — loan-sharking, extortion and gambling have largely given way to stock scams, money laundering and white-collar fraud — and the Italians and Jews of yore have been joined by rival contingents from Russia, Israel and South America. But the culture of greed and violence has remained a constant.

Mobsters generally prefer to keep a low profile hereGangsters of Miami: True Tales of Mobsters, Gamblers, Hit Men, Con Men and Gang Bangers from the Magic City, but La Costa Nostra — "this thing of ours" — is once more in the headlines, this time connected with Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein.

Upon his return from Morocco last November, Rothstein reportedly went to work for the FBI, even as agents were dismantling his $1.2 billion investment fraud.

Roberto Settineri, the alleged Sicilian mobster whom Rothstein is credited with bringing down this month, appears to have the same short fuse and propensity for violence, according to a Miami Beach police report, that has marked mob behavior for a century.

As Settineri lunched at Soprano Cafe on Lincoln Road in January, he got into a heated argument with a security guard, stood up, and pulled back his leather jacket to reveal a black semi-automatic pistol.

"I will put this gun in your f------ mouth now. I know where you live. I'll go to your f------ house and kill you and your family," Settineri told the guard, according to his arrest report.

The pending aggravated assault charge against Settineri, 41, is the least of his concerns. Federal prosecutors allege he was a key intermediary between a crime family in Sicily and the Gambino crime family in New York City.

Settineri and two of his reported associates — security firm operators Daniel Dromerhauser, of Miami, and Enrique Ros, of Pembroke Pines — were indicted March 10 on federal charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice for reportedly shredding two boxes of documents at Rothstein's request and laundering $79,000 for him.

The Mafia's traditions in South Florida date to the 1930s gambling heydays in Broward, when Meyer Lansky and his associates came south to claim a piece of the action in dozens of "carpet joints" — classy casinos that operated around Hallandale under the beneficial eye of a crooked sheriff.

"It goes back to the 1920s and Al Capone. Capone had a house on Palm Island … and that was his alibi for the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre," said Richard Mangan, a 24-year Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

"Back in the 1940s and 1950s, Hallandale was Las Vegas Southeast," said Mangan, who now teaches a class called "Organized Crime and the Business of Drugs" at Florida Atlantic University's School of Criminology. "Clubs like La Boheme were operating. A made [formally inducted] mob member named Anthony "Tony" Plates would set up shop in the Diplomat Hotel during the winters, plying politicians with booze and hookers."

The gambling generated so much cash that the gangsters suppressed their violent natures.

"The Mafia had an understanding that there would be no killings in Broward County because it was such a lucrative business," said Robert Jarvis, a professor at Nova Southeastern University Law School and a gambling-law expert.

By the early 1950s, government scrutiny forced the mobsters out of their illegal casinos but not the county. They still had their hands in local dog and horse tracks and jai lai frontons, as well as in shakedown schemes. They expanded their gambling ventures to Cuba under the tutelage of Lansky, who lived for years in a canal home in Sunny Isles, a popular mob neighborhood.

"Many of the mob people — Chicago, New Orleans, New York — would come down here because they owned casinos in Havana, and [Cuban leader Fulgencio] Batista was more than happy to take bribes," Mangan said.

Hundreds of them made Broward their second or retirement home.

New York's five organized crime consortiums — the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Colombo and Lucchese families — have always considered Florida to be "open," with no one family claiming exclusive rights to operate in the Sunshine State. "This is open territory for anyone with the mob for whatever they want to do," said Nick Navarro, a 30-year law enforcement official who was Broward's sheriff from 1984 to 1993. "It's a beautiful part of the country and this is where they like to come down."

With the dramatic expansion of air conditioning in the 1950s and cheap jet flights, Florida had a commercial building boom over the next decades, drawing more mobsters.

"The Mafia has long been involved in the rigging of construction contracts," Jarvis said.

By 1968, a state crime commission concluded, "South Florida, especially Dade and Broward counties, has become a haven for many known Mafia figures and associates, though their activities know no local boundaries within the state."

In more recent years, "The Teflon Don," Gambino boss John Gotti, maintained a residence in Fort Lauderdale. So did Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo, the brutal head of a Mafia family operating in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

Underbosses, consiglieres and soldiers from all the families are well represented, from Palm Beach Gardens to the Keys.

They still get involved in gambling, loan sharking, strip clubs, prostitution, drug dealing and extortion, but have gravitated toward more sophisticated crimes — such as stock and Medicare fraud — that don't carry the same risks.

They have faced increased competition from Israeli organized crime and Russian mobsters.

"The biggest change has been the Russian mafia," Mangan said. "The Russians started moving in after the fall of communism. They primarily set up in South Beach. They started opening banks in Antigua and Aruba."

Federal prosecutors roll out indictments against the Italian Mafia every year, charging everything from murder to money laundering, but younger Mafiosi come up the ranks to fill the voids left by the prison sentences and old-age deaths of top family members.

"It's a funny thing — it's always said that the Mafia has been destroyed and all the old chieftains are dead or in jail; but every time you turn around, there is a story about the Mafia," Jarvis said.

"To the extent that the Mafia exists anywhere, it would have its hand in South Florida because it still has all the attributes that made it so attractive in the 1930s — warm weather, a lot of wealth, a lot of opportunity. Why wouldn't the Mafia be here? Everyone else wants to be in South Florida."

Thanks to Jon Burnstein and Peter Franceschina

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GANGSTERS OF MIAMI: True Tales of Mobsters, Gamblers, Hit Men, Con Men And Gang Bangers from the Magic City

Rising from a swampy flatland a little more than a century ago, Miami has grown to become a trend-setting metropolis known for tourism, fashion, nightlife and style. Miami is also the city of Hollywood's "Scarface" Tony Montana, television's Miami Vice and popular culture's "Cocaine Cowboy." Ron Chepesiuk's Gangsters of Miami (Barricade Books, November 2009) digs beyond the headlines and fantasy to provide a close up look at the real role that mobsters, gamblers, hit men, drug lords, con men and other gangsters have played in making America's youngest city also one of its most fascinating.

Known as the Magic City, Miami has always been the home for a colorful variety of gangsters. They include the notorious smugglers of the Prohibition era, such as Gertrude Lythgoe, Bill McCoy, James Horace Alderman, the Ashley Gang, and Red Shannon; famous mobsters like Al Capone and Meyer Lansky who helped make Miami a gambling Mecca, the Cuban Mafia and its syndicate, La Compania, led by godfathers Jose Battle Sr. and Jr.; the marijuana traffickers of the early and mid 1970s, most notably the legendary Black Tuna Gang; drug lords of the Medellin and Cali cartels and master minds of the cocaine explosion, such as Griselda Blanco, the so-called Black Widow Blanco, Pablo Escobar, the "King of Coke" and Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela; the Russian Mafia with colorful characters like Ludwig "Tarzan" Feinberg, who came to America after the fall of the Soviet Union; and the street gangs that plagued Miami after the advent of crack cocaine in the mid 1980s, led by such vicious gang bangers as Anthony "Little Bo" Fail and Corey "Bubba" Smith.

The book also provides details of headline making cases and characters like the tourist murders of the early 1990s, the Operation Swordfish money laundering investigation; the Yahweh Ben Yahweh investigation, the Don Aronow and James Callahan murders, the Andrew Cunanan murder of noted fashion designer Gianni Versace, and the rise and fall of Chris Paciello, the so-called "King of South Beach." Gangsters of Miami also investigates the police and governmental corruption that has plagued the Magic City since its early days.

Gangsters of Miami is a lively and well-documented account of Miami's gangs and gangsters, showing that fact can be more riveting than fiction. The praise for the book has been lavish:

Steve Morris, Publishers of the New Criminologist web site, said "Chepesiuk's aptitude for revealing the inner workings of organized crime within a community is once again on display here as the reader is cast into Miami's bloody underbelly. A remarkable achievement by the author."


Scott M. Dietche, author of The Silent Don: The Criminal Underworld of Santo Trafficante Jr. calls the book "one of the most complete looks at crime in South Florida."


Lew Rice, Former Special Agent in Charge, DEA and author of DEA Special Agent: My Life on the Front Line hailed Gangsters of Miami as a "must read for anyone interested in an historical and colorful account of crime in the Magic City."


Ron Chepesiuk, an award-winning investigative journalist, has been described as "the master of high octane journalism." He is the author of Gangsters of Harlem and Black Gangsters of Chicago, Drug Lords, a Fulbright Scholar, an adjunct professor in the journalism department of UCLA's Extension Division and a consultant to the History Channel's Gangland documentary series. He has also been interviewed by the Biography Channel, Discovery, the History Channel, Black Entertainment Television, and NBC's Dateline.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Mafia Princess Plans for Grand Opening of The Las Vegas Mob Exhibition

Plans for a Mafia exhibit in Las Vegas would include artifacts that lift the veil on how Mafia bosses really lived -- down to their favorite chairs, fancy china and shotguns.

The Las Vegas Mob Exhibition could find a home at a fancy hotel on the Strip as soon as next year, says Antoinette "The Mafia Princess" Giancana, the project spokeswoman and daughter of notorious Chicago Outfit boss, Sam "Momo" Giancana.

"We've got my father's things. All the living room furniture from when my mom and dad were married in 1933," she said. "Crystal and flatware. We've got a slot machine and one of his rifles. He used to hunt."

Similar artifacts that belonged to Bugsy Siegel and Meyer "the Mob's Accountant" Lansky also will be on display, Giancana said.

Of course, the exhibit will face competition from the government. Las Vegas mayor, former high-profile mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, has his city backing a $50 million mob museum in the works called the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.

Giancana said she's not worried about competition.

"That place will be more documentary and police-oriented," she said. "Our exhibit will be more about family."

Thanks to Mark J. Konkol

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Video Clip Reveals the Real Story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The American Mob began at the turn of the 20th Century as immigrants from Europe began pouring into cities along the East Coast, particularly New York City. Poor and isolated, these immigrant Jews, Irish and Italians banded together to develop their own version of the American Dream. A unique form of business called organized crime.

Through newspapers and film, the leaders of organized crime became household names, often lionized in the mold of true American heroes, the rugged frontier individualists of the past. These names included Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky.

This series, Hollywood vs. The Mob - Fact vs. Fiction, will reveal the truth behind the myth of the American Mob and its godfathers.

The following video clip will reveal The Real Story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (2/14/1929) was Al Capone's attempt to dispose of organized crime rival 'Bugs' Moran. Five of Bugsy men were killed, but the one man Capone wanted dead wasn't there.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mob Museum Taking Some Hits

Las Vegas’ proposed mob museum has taken some hits of its own in recent weeks, targeted on late-night talk shows and Capitol Hill as an absurd showcase for the likes of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Meyer Lansky and Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro.

Museum backers say the critics don’t get it. This won’t be some sideshow exhibit celebrating the mob’s role as a storied part of Las Vegas’ past. Rather, it will offer a serious examination of organized crime and law enforcement’s efforts to combat it.

During this episode, the underlying message received by those planning the museum was clear: As they move forward, they need to be ever careful about the museum’s image.

“We want it to be serious and we want it to be balanced, but we need it to have appeal,” said Dale Erquiaga, a museum board member. “It’s always on our minds as planners that we stay right on that line,” said Erquiaga, formerly an advertising strategist with R&R Partners. “It’s in every conversation we have.”

Most cities, it’s fair to say, would have cringed at the contemptuous national attention the mob museum received. Stand-up comedian Lewis Black said on “The Daily Show” on Jan. 14: “A mob museum? I thought Las Vegas already was a mob museum!”

And yet, the museum may have been aided by the dust-up, which Mayor Oscar Goodman and other museum proponents boasted likely resulted in more than $7 million worth of free publicity.

Several of the 13 board members of the 300 Stewart Avenue Corp., the nonprofit group working with the city on the project, likewise said in recent interviews that they are pleased with the museum’s progress, in terms of fundraising, collecting exhibits, and simply raising awareness of the museum’s mission.

A big part of that awareness-raising, as several board members pointed out, is making sure the public knows that the museum will be going out of its way not to glorify the Mafia.

“You have a very significant number of people in town who don’t want to glorify the mob. I count myself among them,” said board member Alan Feldman, senior vice president of pubic affairs for MGM Mirage. “There isn’t a sympathizer, if you will, among us,” he said, including fellow board member Goodman, a former attorney who zealously defended several vicious local figures.

According to Feldman and other board members, the marketers for the museum are doing everything they can to straddle the line between avoiding the mob’s glorification and keeping the museum and its exhibits interesting and entertaining. That struggle was reflected in a rough-draft museum brochure, which will be used to raise funds, garner exhibits or both, Feldman said.

On one page, the words “City Planner or Gangster?” were superimposed over a large black-and-white photo of mobster Bugsy Siegel. On another, “Tax Revenue or Skim?” is written over a photo of a spinning roulette wheel with gamblers in the background.

Feldman said that struggle was also reflected in the museum’s naming, which was finalized last spring at a meeting in City Hall.

After a long debate, consensus was reached on both a brand name — the mob museum — as well as the longer, more complete institutional name — The Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement — which was to show that the museum’s purpose was equally to tell the story of the police and G-men who chased, and ultimately brought down, the mob.

“My motivation for volunteering on this project was to ensure that law enforcement, in particular the FBI, would be fairly and accurately represented,” said Ellen Knowlton, head of the 300 Stewart Avenue Corp., and the former special agent in charge of the local FBI field office, in a statement. “I also wanted to make sure that the lifestyle of those involved with organized crime would be accurately depicted and not ‘glamorized.’ ”

Though Goodman said that he wanted as much federal stimulus money as he could get for the museum, plans for the project shouldn’t be altered if none is forthcoming, officials say.

According to city officials, the museum has raised about $15 million so far, including $3.6 million in federal grants and another $3.5 million in state and local grants.

The museum has a $50 million price tag. Ultimately, according to a museum fact sheet, that will include $7 million in grants and $8 million in city funds, with the remaining $35 million to come from bonds from the city’s redevelopment agency.

Construction on the interior of the city-owned museum building — the old three-story post office and federal courthouse building downtown — is set to kick off this spring. The city is hoping for an opening date of sometime in 2010.

Looking at some of the exhibits the museum has lined up, it’s difficult to say whether preventing the mob’s glorification will be something easily achieved.

At a charity auction in June at Christie’s in New York, a mob-museum-contracted designer spent $12,450 to purchase four artifacts from the blockbuster HBO series “The Sopranos.”

Included among the items was the black leather jacket, knit shirt and black slacks Tony Soprano wore in one of the series’ final episodes, “The Blue Comet.”

In the episode, actor James Gandolfini wore the outfit as he went to sleep clutching an AR-15 machine gun that his brother-in-law, Bobby, who had just been shot to death, gave him as a birthday present.

Thanks to Sam Skolnik

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Will Chicago's Mob History and Clout Mentality Follow Obama to the White House?

The city of Chicago is one of the few major metropolitan areas that runs away from its past at every opportunity. Yet, indeed, the very construction of the city led to the term “underworld.” And with rampant corruption controlled by infamous individuals like “Big Jim” Colosimo, Al Capone, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca, Murray “The Camel” Humphrey and Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, Chicago can hardly bury its past — no pun intended.

Since the turn of the 20th century, what Carl Sandburg referred to as the “City of Big Shoulders” was perhaps the center of organized crime in the United States. Though New York had its Syndicate and Detroit had the Purple Gang, many believe true power in America’s underworld was concentrated in something called the Outfit.

With the election of Barack Obama will come a great deal of history-laden baggage, which will make the movie “The Godfather” seem like a Walt Disney cartoon.

From David Axelrod, who was nurtured on the Daley Machine, to the political organizing, which Barack Obama so proudly claims a lineage, Chicago’s brand of one Party politics may be a model for the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.

It is no mistake the president-elect joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s South Side Chicago church. Obama wanted to learn the ropes of power politics and how it was played in the Windy City. There were no better teachers than Mayor Daley and his cadre of obliging aldermen who responded to the cracking of the political whip. A failure to do so would quickly leave them on the outside looking in — without protection from the media, the law and any other threat which loomed on the horizon.

The question is not whether Obama will use the lessons he learned in Chicago as president. The question is: How much of that lesson will become the modus operandi for the Obama adminstration? Some say it might become Chicago on the Potomac, when referring to the political mechanism Obama may surround himself with. If so, it will be our nation’s darkest nightmare come true. And combined with the Clinton-brand of Arkansas politics, there may truly be a new day in our nation’s Capitol.

But how did the Daley Machine take root in Chicago? A book titled, The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern Americawritten by Gus Russo and published in 2001 gave Americans a frigthening glimpse into the Daley Machine and how it got its start.

After Capone left power, due to his conviction on tax evasion charges in the early 1930s, it was Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo who truly called the shots in what many refer to as the Mafia. Even “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky, originators of organized crime in New York, would not make a move without consulting the Chicago Triumvirate whose innovation and power criminologists say was matched by none.

Since the hay-days of mob activity in Chicago, the city has done everything possible to shed its dark past. But its reputation lives on — despite the efforts of the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. In the early century, individuals like “Big Jim” Colismo controlled gambling and prostitution in the city. With the advent of Prohibition, organized crime found its true calling through the sale of bootleg alcohol, combined with the pandering trade. Added profits were topped off by a very lucrative illegal gambling racket.

After Capone’s departure, the mob moved into the numbers game — which had made millions for underworld entrepreneurs in the African-American community. Union corruption — which was master-minded by Murray “The Camel” Humphrey — brought great fortune to the Outfit as well. Eventually, the mob moved into the illicit drug trade. Until the early 1960s, the Chicago Outfit was ruled with an iron hand by Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo.

Though in later years, more flamboyant underworld figures, such as Sam “Mooney” Giancano and lesser players, including Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa, and the Spilotro Brothers of the movie “Casino” fame, controlled organized crime in Chicago, the FBI virtually wiped out mob activity in the city — although remnants of the Outfit still exist today.

Chop shops and vending machines (poker, cigarettes, etc.) are still reported to be controlled by criminal entities. But the glory days of the Chicago Outfit are said to be long gone. Yet, the public doesn’t have to look far to find reminders of those wild times gone by.

Indeed, Chicago’s current mayor may not hold that office if not for the influence the Outfit had when it came to the election of his father, Richard J. Daley. Perhaps the Daley link with organized crime is one of the reasons why the city does all it can to obscure Chicago’s dark and corrupt history. You will not find city-sponsored tours of famous gangland hang-outs. Even historical landmarks, like the site of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre at 2122 N. Clark St., though an empty lot, are nagging reminders of a bygone era which City Fathers would rather forget.

The Outfit played a significant role in Richard J. Daley’s coming to power. Hizzoner "The Boss" was the protégé of 11th Ward Committeeman, Hugh “Babe” Connelly whose ties to the mob go way back to the days of the “Moustache Pete’s” who included prominent underworld figures like Johnny Torrio who first brought Capone to Chicago. Daley took over Connelly’s 11th Ward seat in 1947. In league with people like 11th Ward Ald. “Big Joe” McDonough, by 1955 the Mob was grooming Daley to be Mayor and, with the help of the Outfit, his election became a reality.

For example, in the very mobbed-up 1st Ward, Daley won a plurality of votes by a staggering margin of 13,275 to 1,961. After his election, Daley moved to solidify the Outfit’s power in the city. In 1956, Daley disbanded “Scotland Yard” an intelligence unit which had compiled reams of detailed records about Chicago crime figures. All this was to the grief of the Chicago Crime Commission who believed Daley’s election had set the city back a decade -- as far as the prosecution of organized crime.

Perhaps Richard M. Daley received much of his education from his father whose political coffers were stuffed with mob cash, according to the FBI. And perhaps the free rein given to organized crime by the Father implanted ideas in the mind of the son regarding possible revenue expansion through alternative sources. It’s possible today’s Chicago mayor learned a very important lesson from Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, who secretly financed the Rivera Hotel in Las Vegas in 1955, the same year Richard J. Daley was elected mayor. For nearly a quarter of a century afterward, the Chicago mob skimmed literally hundreds of millions of dollars out of Las Vegas casinos while operating with near impunity in Chicago, their home base.

Richie Daley had to see the unlimited amounts of cash that could be directed into city coffers through the expansion of gambling in Chicago. And though most of what used to be underworld crime has been incorporated into white collar America, gambling becomes even more seductive, no matter what memories of Chicago’s past may be dredged up in the process.

Forensic Psychology programs can give you a great insight into the minds of the mob and also lead to a great career.

Thanks to Daniel T. Zanoza

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rumors of the Kennedy Family's Ties to the Mafia

Rumors of ties between the Kennedys and the Mafia go back to John F. Kennedy’s father, Joe Kennedy, who reportedly earned much of the family fortune as bootlegger and had connections to mobsters like Meyer Lansky. When JFK faced Hubert Humphrey in the Democratic primary in 1960, many claimed that the Kennedy clan called on their mob connections to ensure a favorable vote, and similar accusations were made during the presidential election against Richard Nixon, which Kennedy won by a slim margin.

Several theories tie JFK’s assassination to the Mafia. Jack Ruby, the man who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK’s accused assassin), was a known mob associate. One theory attributes motive to the Mafia through the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. The Mafia reportedly hated that Cuba was in the hands of Fidel Castro, who had thrown them out of their lucrative Cuban casino businesses when he came to power. The invasion was an utter failure attributed by some to Kennedy’s refusal to approve air support.

Another theory points to JFK’s brother, Robert, whom JFK appointed to the position of attorney general after he was elected president. Once appointed, Robert Kennedy immediately began a Mafia crackdown. Robert also died from an assassin’s bullet.

Another rumor plays on suggestions that JFK kept several mistresses and girlfriends, some of whom were known to associate with mobsters. Some evidence, including federal wiretaps, shows that mobster Sam Giancana may have set JFK up with various women, all the while recording proof of the President’s extra-marital affairs. Conspiracy theorists have speculated that it was hit men sent by Giancana who murdered Marilyn Monroe, one of JFK’s supposed girlfriends. Giancana himself was murdered shortly before he was due to testify on the Mafia/Kennedy connections.

Thanks to Nicks Free Info

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chicago Outfit and New York Families Stretch their Connections Beyond Las Vegas to San Diego

On August 31, the Union-Tribune printed an obituary on the death of Allard Roen, one of the original developers of Carlsbad’s La Costa Resort and Spa. He was living there when he died August 28 at age 87.

The U-T’s obituary was a typical, dutiful encomium. It did not mention the background of one of Roen’s major partners in La Costa and other projects, Moe Dalitz. He was among the 20th Century’s most notorious gangsters, as the Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, known as the Kefauver Committee, pointed out in 1950 and 1951. In fact, a book that is now a best seller, T.J. English’s Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution, notes that Dalitz, then 47, attended the famed Havana Conference at Cuba’s Hotel Nacional in late December 1946. According to English, a select group of 22 dignitaries caucused to strategize the American mob’s plan to make Cuba a Western Hemisphere vice haven. The group included Giuseppe (Joe Bananas) Bonanno, Vito (Don Vito) Genovese, Meyer Lansky of Murder Inc. and the Bugs and Meyer Mob, Charles (Lucky) Luciano, Luciano’s sidekick and “Prime Minister of the Underworld” Frank Costello, Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante Jr., Joe Adonis, and Tony (Big Tuna) Accardo, former bodyguard for Al (Scarface) Capone and later head of the Chicago mob. The book points out that Dalitz had been a partner with Lansky in the Molaska Corporation.

Timothy L. O’Brien, author of Bad Bet : The Inside Story of the Glamour, Glitz, and Danger of America's Gambling Industry, writes that Dalitz had run “the Cleveland branch of Charlie ‘Lucky’ Luciano and Meyer Lansky’s nascent Mafia.” Decades later, Dalitz was known as the caretaker “of underworld investments in Las Vegas.”

A Federal Bureau of Investigation official said in 1978, “The individual who oversees the operations of the La Cosa Nostra families in Las Vegas is Moe Dalitz,” according to James Neff’s Mobbed Up: Jackie Presser's High-Wire Life in the Teamsters, the Mafia, and the FBI.

After Prohibition’s repeal knocked out his bootlegging business, Dalitz went into the illegal casino business in southern Ohio and Kentucky. He then became the Big Boss in Vegas, arranging casino financing from the mob-tainted Teamsters Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Fund and keeping track of the books at such spas as the Desert Inn, where Roen was also a key figure. In the late 1940s, Dalitz resurrected crooner Frank Sinatra’s sagging career by giving him gigs at the Desert Inn.

Roen, who in the 1960s pleaded guilty in the United Dye and Chemical securities fraud, joined with Dalitz, Irwin Molasky, and Merv Adelson to build Las Vegas’s Sunrise Hospital with Teamster funds. They tapped Teamster funds for other investments. That Central States fund was essentially a piggy bank controlled by Jimmy Hoffa.

The fund played a key role in San Diego. It loaned $100 million to San Diego’s Irvin J. Kahn, a mobbed-up financier who used the money to develop Peñasquitos. He also got a concealed loan of $800,000 from a tiny Swiss bank named the Cosmos Bank, which made other mob-related loans before being closed up by joint action of the United States and Switzerland in the 1970s.

But the Central States Teamster fund’s big investment was La Costa. The interim loans were made by U.S. National Bank, controlled by C. Arnholt Smith, named “Mr. San Diego” by the Downtown Rotary Club and “Mr. San Diego of the Century” by a reporter for the San Diego Union. Following the interim loans, the Teamster fund would assume the U.S. National loans. There was a cozy relationship. Frank Fitzsimmons, who became head of the Teamsters after Jimmy Hoffa was exterminated, used to come down to watch the Smith-owned minor-league Padres play. And Fitzsimmons would play golf in San Diego with politician Richard Nixon.

The Union-Tribune’s recent panegyric to Roen mentioned that in 1975 Penthouse magazine ran an article charging that La Costa was a hangout for mobsters, and the founders sued for libel. Here’s how the U-T summed up the result: “A 10-year court battled ensued until La Costa accepted a written apology from the magazine.” This is a rank distortion. A joke.

“San Diego leadership has a tendency to fall in love with people with big bucks who come into town,” says Mike Aguirre, city attorney. The La Costa founders “were one of the first big-bucks boys who rode into town, and the welcome wagon was driven by C. Arnholt Smith.” The U-T then, and to this day, protects the roughriders who bring their sacks of money to San Diego.

Aguirre was one attorney representing Penthouse in the suit. He and his colleagues parsed every sentence in the article. The Penthouse trial lawyer rattled off to the jury the names of those who had shown up at La Costa, including Hoffa, Dalitz, Lansky, and many other hoods. And here is the key: the jury exonerated the magazine, agreeing that it had proved that everything it said was true.

It turned out that the judge, Kenneth Gale, had formerly been a lawyer for Jimmy “the Weasel” Fratianno, a notorious mob hit man who had begun cooperating with the government. Fratianno was to testify for Penthouse about the mobsters who habituated La Costa. Gale wouldn’t let the magazine’s lawyer question Fratianno. Judge Gale had also previously represented an infamous union racketeer, as related by Matt Potter in a 1999 Reader story.

After Gale threw out Penthouse’s victory, the magazine thought it could win a retrial, but after ten years and $8 million in legal expenses, Penthouse issued an innocuous statement, saying that it “did not mean to imply nor did it intend for its readers to believe that Messrs. Adelson and Molasky are or were members of organized crime or criminals” (italics mine). Note that Dalitz and Roen were not included in that statement. The magazine praised Dalitz and Roen for their “civic and philanthropic activities.”

Then La Costa owners lauded Penthouse for its “personal and professional awards.” It was a détente sans sincerity.

Dalitz died in 1989 at age 89, leaving a daughter in Rancho Santa Fe. She is involved in many peace and politically progressive activities. Her attorney was once San Diego’s James T. Waring, who didn’t last long as Mayor Jerry Sanders’s real estate czar.

The information on Waring ran in detail in the Reader in early 2006. San Diego’s leaders, always friendly to moneybags, didn’t appreciate the story.

Thanks to Don Bauder

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