Carmine DiBiase went out on Christmas Day and got drunk. Very drunk. Very, very drunk. And then he shot and killed someone.
Not just any old someone, but a best friend someone. A guy who had stood by Carmine at his wedding, as his chief attendant. Been godfather to one of his children. Was his business partner.
A man who was also so drunk, he never even saw the bullets coming.
Carmine then became famous not so much for shooting dead his best friend. More for being a celebrity of sorts. The Federal Bureau of Investigation sorts.
They chased him and tried to nail him down for years. Even put him up on their Top Wanted List on May 28th 1956, at number ninety-eight, where he would remain for two years. He may well have been the one and only Italian-American mob guy who graduated into this eccentric catalogue of most wanted criminals (at least until the inclusion of Cleveland’s Anthony Liberatore twenty-one years later) and then stayed there longer than most of the common or garden thugs, serial killers, robbers and traditional malcontent anarchists that traditionally populated its archives.
He also hit it big twenty years later when he was, it seems, the shooter, or at least one of them, who sent Joey Gallo, the Hamlet of organized crime, off on his last journey into the great unknown, after scungilli marinara as appetiser, followed by a dessert of .32 and .38 caliber bullets.
And then, just like in the years before, after killing his best friend, Carmine did a runner. But this time, he never came back. As far as we know. Except maybe once.
Carmine stood five eight and weighed in at two hundred and ten. So he was big without being tall. He had wavy black hair and brown eyes, a Bodhisattva smile and a police record that dated back to 1940 when he was eighteen.
On October 5th, Di. Biase and a close neighborhood friend, Salvatore Granello who would grow up to be a mobbed up guy, and known throughout his life as Solly or Sally Burns, tried to rob a tailor, Mike Bakalian, at 558 Hudson Street. The attempt failed, and even this early in his life DiBiase illustrated his propensity for violence by pistol-whipping the victim eight times.
Carmine was arrested and convicted of attempted robbery and sentenced to a serve a term in the State Vocational Institution at Coxsackie. He came out, but didn’t get any better at his chosen profession.
According to police reports he was known in his neighbourhood as a thug and a bully, with a vicious temper; he hung out at the local bars around Mulberry, Elizabeth, Hester and Mott Streets, his preference as a tipple being a good Scotch whisky. A flashy dresser, he was known in the area as a ladies’ man. He had a scar on his left temple and upper lip, and above his wrist on one arm, a tattoo: Pinto 1949.
He dressed like a text-book hood: open-neck shirt, in silk of course, gold necklace on display over hairy chest, pointed-toe featherweight Italian shoes, highly buffed, silk socks and monogrammed underwear. A macho guy who dressed like a gay hairdresser, but who hefted a roscoe instead of a blow-dryer.
He may also have displayed classic psychopath tendencies - charm, narcissism, egotism and manipulation. Probably a standard set of personality traits for anyone hoping to be successful in the murky world of the New York Mafia.
Pete Diapolous, the bodyguard of Joey Gallo claimed:
He was no big earner or mover. Sober he was nothing, but drunk, he would blow your head off.
In February 1944, he was back inside again, this time at Elmira State Reformatory, starting another five years for the same kind of crime. He came out again, and seemed to either get somewhat improved at his job, or gave crime away, for the time being at least. The cops in New York thought of Carmine as a peanut punk, the kind of hood who would probably never amount to much. He’d been arrested eight times, including the two that sent him away. Maybe it was in prison that like Joey Gallo, a man to whom he would be forever linked, Carmine DiBiase became a voracious reader devouring books by Flaubert, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Franz Kafka , among others.
His parents, Gustave and Lena, were first generation immigrants from Italy, and he lived with them and his brother Gaetano, in Little Italy in Lower Manhattan.
He got married, had two children, and worked as a machinist, or a millwright, and then sometimes as a painter and a plumber’s helper, a salesman and once, as a shipping clerk. For a while he became of all things, a tailor. Like almost every guy in the underworld trade, he had a nickname. Many in fact. At times he called himself Carmine De or Carmine Vincent, or Ernest Pinto or just plain Sonny. But to most people in the underworld of New York, he was simply Sonny Pinto. In his early days, he had a look somewhat of the well-known movie star of the period, Victor Mature.
Insert here image of Carmine DiBiase as a young man 1950s.
Then came Christmas, 1951.
Carmine had taken over the lease on the first floor of a building at 167 Mulberry Street, along with Michael Mikey Evans Errichiello, his best friend. They turned it into a bar and meeting place, calling it The Mayfair Boys Civic and Social Club. Like most of these places that dotted the streets of New York, it was a den that catered to crooks, thieves, vagabonds and workers of the night. It never obtained a liquor license, but served booze to its clients until the wee small hours of the morning. It had battered tin ceilings, a bar, a pool table, and tables and chairs scattered around the scarred wood-planked floor. The Copacabana it was not.
Errichiello was a convicted gambler, with a string of arrests for assault, robbery and vagrancy. Peas in a pod were Carmine and Mikey. Until something went very bad in their relationship.
A few days before Christmas, the two friends had an argument. A big one and a bad one according to witnesses. People walking on the street past the club heard the two men shouting and yelling at each other. No one knew for sure just what it was about, but the word going around was that Mikey Evans had been cheating some of the guys playing cards in the club, and worse - had been siphoning off money collected by the club’s poker machines. More for him, less for Sonny. Everything went wrong. Hard to fix. It was like shaking a box of old watch pieces and hoping to pick out a Vacheron Constantin.
It never happens.
The events that unfolded in the early hours of December 26th are based on the testimony of a young, sixteen year old street kid called Joey Luparelli, and the evidence gathered by the police at the scene of the crime, as well as court documents.
Luparelli, known by his street name of Joe Pesh, would grow up to be a criminal associate of the New York Mafia Colombo Crime Family and be present, by some strange quirk of fate at another shooting, twenty-one years into the future, and a block and a half south of The Mayfair Boys, again involving Carmine DiBiase.
Carmine claimed he had spent Christmas day at his home, an apartment at 110 Grand Street, then he had gone to his mother-in-law’s where he stayed until late, before returning to his own place. About 1:00 am he had gone uptown to meet some friends at The Town Crest Bar and Grill. He stayed there for some time, before heading back to Little Italy and the club. There, he found his friend Michael Errichiello dead, and called the police. He claimed he was so drunk he could not remember anything about that night.
The cops came and did what cops do. They looked at the body, slumped in a chair, perforated three times, measured up the place, flashed the pics and took statements from any witnesses still around this time of the morning.
Joe Luparelli, sixteen, lived in an apartment across the street from the club with his mother and sister. His parents were first time immigrants, into New York from Sicily. There were seven kids in the family. The father died when Joe was still a boy, and he grew up wild on the streets like so many of his friends. He got to know the mob guys who infested the area like cockroaches on the hunt. Always on the hunt for something.
In Joe’s days they used to call them gangsters and they all lived by the same code:
Mind your business. Close your eyes. See nothing. Hear nothing.
Joe claimed he was a good kid, as in good at cheating and stealing rather than being good-behaved. That’s what the mob guys were looking for in the street kids.
Christmas Eve, 1951, Joe Luparelli spent at home with his family, then went to the movies with some of his friends. Gene Kelly, the great Irish-American song and dance man in An American in Paris, pure escapism on the most diversionary night of the year. He went back to Mulberry Street about three in the morning and decided to visit the club. This early, there were only three people there. Rocky Tisi who owned a nearby tavern was playing pool with a guy known as Pretty Willie, who worked at the clubhouse, and Errichiello, who was asleep at the bar, his head resting on his folded arms.
Joe hung around watching the pool game and then the door opened and Sonny Pinto looked in, caught Joe’s eye and beckoned him to come outside into the street. He asked Joe to go to a nearby apartment at 13 Elizabeth Street, and wake up one of his gangster friends, a man called Alphonse Sonny Red Indelicato and get him to bring down to the club the guns Sonny Red was holding for him.
In due course, twenty year old Indelicato arrived at the address with a paper bag containing two revolvers, and he and Sonny Pinto went into the club. The two men playing pool, dropped their cues and ran for the door. Carmine DiBiase started shooting at his sleeping friend, hitting him three times, in the head, stomach and the heart, killing him instantly. As Rocky and Pretty Willie scrambled to get of the doorway, Indelicato fired at them, but his aim was off, and he only managed to wound Tisi in the ankle by clubbing him with the gun.
Luparelli (right), the young boy of the streets, Joe Fish to everyone in Little Italy, the kid who ran errands for Mickey and Sonny, found himself trapped in a vortex of necessity. Carmine DiBiase’s future would depend on Joe Luparelli’s silence, and Joe’s life would depend on the premise that Sonny would trust Joe to keep his mouth shut.
When the homicide detectives started looking for DiBiase, he did a runner, and disappeared for seven years. The New York Police department listed him as their number five on the Top Ten List the city kept, and it was on May 28th 1956 that he made the F.B.I. most wanted list.
The newspapers were less than kind in the coverage they gave Sonny Pinto. One called him a rat-face, bowlegged thug, and another referred to him looking like a roast suckling pig.
Tisi eventually rolled and gave the New York police details about the two Sonnys and their involvement in the shootings at the clubhouse. The police placed Rocky into protective custody and he stayed there for seven years, a New York record which still stands to this day.
Indelicato was subsequently tried and convicted for his part in the murder of Mickey Evans and sentenced to twelve years, to be served in Sing Sing Prison.
Carmine DiBiase was indicted for the murder of Michael Errichiello in 1952, but was long gone. The F.B.I. put out a bulletin on him referring to him as a man who will kill without provocation.
He lived in some kind of self-imposed exile, either in New York or somewhere else for seven years, and then in August 1958, accompanied by his lawyer, the famous Maurice Edelbaum, he handed himself into the New York police. At one stage in his absence, he had allegedly lived with Rusty Rastelli, a soldier in the Bonanno Mafia family.
Following his surrender, Carmine DiBiase reportedly made the following statement:
I am getting older and accomplishing nothing having to stay away from my wife and children, mother and father. I am glad it is over. I had to come in.
Edelbaum, a short, fat man, always seemingly dressed in a rumpled suit, represented whole dynasties of Mafia executives including Vito Genovese, Natale Evola, John Franzese, Carmine Perisco, Joseph Bonanno and Vincent Gigante to name a few, and also played a major role in defending the hierarchy rounded up at the great Mafia gabfest at Apalachin in 1957. He was one of the best and most expensive, but even he could not save Carmine, although in a way, in the end, he did.
DiBiase came to trial, was convicted on May 3rd 1959, and sentenced to death in the electric chair by Judge Michael D. Schweitzer. All death penalty convictions in New York were subject to mandatory appeal and his was heard a year later, in February, 1960 and decided that April.
One of the judges hearing the appeal stated:
I turn to the other ground for reversal. Some years after he had been indicted, the defendant was surrendered by his lawyer to the authorities in New York County. Under our system of law and justice, an indictment must be followed by
arraignment and trial and, in the present case, it is obvious that the defendant's voluntary surrender was designed to assure him a prompt arraignment, with all of its consequent advantages. The defendant had a right to the effective aid and assistance of the attorney who represented him. The fact that his attorney surrendered him for such arraignment in court could not possibly be regarded as a consent or invitation to secret interrogation by police or prosecutor or a waiver of fundamental rights. It matters not, therefore, that the defendant did not object to being questioned or insist on the presence of his lawyer. The damaging statements made by the defendant during the course of his illegal interrogation by the police and District Attorney should not have been received in evidence.
In essence, having surrendered to the law, Carmine DiBiase should have had his lawyer present when any statement or evidence was taken from him by the arresting police officers. By being absent, Maurice Edelbaum effectively guaranteed his client grounds for appeal, which in fact is what happened. Whether by luck or cunning, the lawyer won his client’s appeal, and Carmine DiBiase was granted a new trial.
The records of this are archived and not obtainable, at least to this writer, but the defendant walked from court a free man on March 1st 1961. It was a remarkable about-face. A man convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, two years later after a re-trial left the courthouse a free man, ready to go back onto the streets and do what he did best-be a criminal.
It was claimed that Matty Ianiello, a powerful crew boss in the Genovese family had helped Carmine DiBiase when he went on the lam after shooting Michael Errichiello, and that Ianiello had paid the attorney fees for Sonny.
Harold Konigsberg, a Jewish, freelance hit man for the mob, claimed that DiBiase and Joe Yacovelli had staked out and killed Ali Waffa, the fearsome Arab bodyguard of mobster Joey Gallo, when Ali returned from a sea journey to the Hoboken docks, in July 1963.
A confidential informant notified his FBI handler that DiBiase had been involved in the murder of Michael Granello, who was the son of his boyhood crime capers partner, Solly Burns.
Michael was found shot dead in an auto on 86th Street and Riverside Drive, in 1968. A drug addict, he had been holding up and robbing made men, including on one occasion beating almost to death, with a baseball bat, a mobster called Caserta. Solly, who had allegedly headed up the mob’s enforcement arm overseeing their casino interests in Cuba prior to Castor’s revolution, swore vengeance against his killers. He disappeared in 1970 and was also presumed murdered.
Granello's body found in car 6 Oct 70 at East River Dr. & Hudson St. He was last seen on the 24th September; the FBI claimed he was killed on the 25th at an Elizabeth St. coffeehouse (between Hudson & Prince, perhaps the 8th Ward Pleasure Club, 2623-264 Elizabeth) by Vince Generoso for Thomas Eboli. Granello and Eboli, it was alleged, were at one time competing to succeed Vito Genovese, the boss of the family until his death in prison in 1969, and it was Eboli who ordered the December 1968 hit on Michael Granello for dealing in narcotics, not for his activities in robbing and beating Casserta. The FBI suspected Salvatore Granello was set up by one Jim Corallo and that the garrotted and shot body was allowed to be found because he was on bail. This information would almost certainly have been passed onto the FBI by one of their many CI’s.
There is an FBI report from 1969 that shows DiBiase was a suspect in running an illegal card game venue at 209 West 79th Street, in partnership with some men who were well know to the police department in New York - Victor Tramaglino, Charlie Blum, Hugh Mulligan, Stanley Ackerman and Spanish Raymond Margques - a hotchpotch of the New York underworld - Italian, Irish, Jewish and Hispanic - a mini United Nations of crime.
Tramaglino was listed as a close friend of Carmine Sonny Pinto DiBiase in an earlier, February 5th 1963 FBI internal memo which lists 347 suspected Mafia members operating in New York requesting individual investigations to be carried out on them.
There were other FBI reports that indicated Carmine DiBiase was working under Matty Ianiello and Anthony Strollo a close confident of Vito Genovese.
DiBiase was now a made man in the Genovese Mafia crime family and was still listed as such in a Congressional report on organized crime in 1988, although most sources claim he was part of the Colombo crime family..
According to Luparelli, Carmine dabble in drug trafficking, heroin being his narcotic of choice for sale. He was also involved, according to Luparelli, in the murder of Joseph Visconi, a bouncer in The Wagon Wheels Bar on Broadway who had carried out a robbery on a man called Frank Yacovelli who just happened to be the brother of Joe Joe Yack Yacovelli, a high ranking member of the family administration in the Colombo crime family. Thinking he was going to buy discounted stolen American Express cheques, he was ambushed and killed in an apartment in Little Italy, on Elizabeth Street, by a group of men that also included Sonny Indelicate, DiBiase’s co-conspirator in the killing of Mickey Evans.
By the end of the 1960s, DiBiase and his wife were living in an apartment in Southbridge Towers at 90 Beekman Street in the South Street Seaport District in Lower Manhattan.
He was also involved in a particular brutal and sordid double-murder that took place on the last night of 1970.
On New Year’s Eve, Joseph Fatty Russo held a party at his home on Packanack Lake, in Wayne County, New Jersey. An affluent crook, he was connected into the New York Mafia by an uncle who was a member of one of the five crime families. Fatty himself grew up around Mulberry Street and had allegedly generated his considerable wealth through drug trafficking. He had known Sonny Pinto most of his life.
Sometime after midnight, the party went badly wrong.
Russo had hired two black people to wait on his guests. One was Charles Shepard, a local man, thirty-one year old part-time musician and bar tender. The other, was his common-in-law wife, Shirley Green, who worked as a waitress, and lived in Manhattan. There were over thirty people attending, including children. The party was held in the large basement area of the property. By the end of the night, Russo was either drunk or stoned or a combination of the two, and he noticed that Shepard was drinking his booze, and even worse, dancing and trying to make out with the wife of his nephew.
Incensed, he stormed upstairs into his bedroom where he kept a loaded .38 calibre hand gun, came tumbling back down the stairs and in front of the entire party, emptied the gun into Shepard, killing him instantly. The chaos that erupted must have been electrifying. While some of the guests held a struggling and screaming Shirley, Russo then staggered back to his bedroom, found his ammunition box, re-loaded the gun and went back down to the basement where he shot Shirley six times in the head.
The guests were hustled away to their homes, and along with three of his remaining friends, Russo carried the two bodies to a car which was driven to Pine Brook Road in Montville about fifteen miles away, and the two dead bodies were dumped unceremoniously into snow drifts that lined the street. They were discovered there the first day of January, and the New Jersey police mounted an investigation.
By the time the detectives assigned to the enquiry had traced the shooting to Russo’s home, he had moved to Florida. As the police dug deeper, they discovered that all the guests present that night in New Jersey were also in Florida, on an expense-paid holiday, courtesy of Fatty. Also down for the sun and R & R was Sonny Pinto.
When Russo was finally arrested and charged with the murders of Shephard and Green, he turned to Carmine Persico, a powerful capo or crew boss in the Colombo family, who assured him that the case could be fixed through the family’s connections and control of crooked law enforcement and judicial officers.
Russo was in fact tried twice for the double murders, but was acquitted on both occasions. Federal Organized Crime Strike Force investigators had tapped telephone calls between Russo, Joe Yacovelli, and Carmine DiBiase, which indicated that Russo was being offered help and assistance to evade or avoid prosecution in the murders.
On August 8th, 1972, Federal warrants were issued against all three men on charges of conspiracy. On November the 13th, all of the men were indicted for conspiring to enable Russo to avoid prosecution for murder. In September 1973, a mistrial was declared in the case of Russo and Persico. By then, both Yacovelli and DiBiase were fugitives from justice.
Less than a year down the track, Sonny Pinto would find himself in another murder conspiracy. One that would echo a lot more loudly across the canyons of New York than the sordid killings in New Jersey.
Joseph Gallo was a mobster who transcended the gun and the knife and became, literally, a legend in his lifetime. An unlikely mover in the counterculture revolution of the early 1970s in New York, he went where no gangster had gone before. He fancied himself as an artist and Greenwich Village intellectual, hanging out with beatniks, show business celebrities, poets and artists, talking Existentialism and Marxism, and taking on the establishment which in his own peculiar universe was something called the Mafia. Out of Radical Chic bloomed Mafia Chic with Joey Gallo becoming something of an above-ground social entity.
He was Tommy Udo, the giggling psycho, writ large. The Kiss of Death morphed from a celluloid nightmare into a real life one, dark suit, white tie and all, who stalked the streets of Brooklyn and gave his brethren in the Joseph Profaci mob crime family a big dose of heartburn.
As one commentator put it:
Joey had a terminal case of the twofers - too far, too fast.
Crazy Joe, sometimes called Joe the Blond was a pain up the ass of the Brooklyn based Profaci Mafia clan. Its management hated his loud mouth, louche attitude, polemical approach and egregious manners. In a word, he was their nemesis, and had to be sorted.
One of his own brothers had nicknamed him Crazy Joe (right) and it stuck. A skinny little runt at five six and one forty five pounds, he went off like fireworks when the wrong kind of thing lit him up. It seemed that in order to earn a livelihood he had to be a lively hood. One of his best friends and his bodyguard, Pete Diapolous, referred to him as a vicious, immoral killer possessed of a certain kind of charm when in a good mood, but undeniably dangerous.
New York Post reporter Pete Hamill saw him as dressed in a zoot suit, but the eyes were ancient…eyes devoid of time or any conventional sense of pity or remorse…. He would joke with the cops and smile for the reporters, but the eyes never changed…tormented eyes.
His second wife, Sina Essary, a former nun, recalled that You could see the remnants of what had been a strikingly handsome man in his youth. She remembers, He had beautiful features—beautiful nose, beautiful mouth and piercing blue eyes, that seemed to range from the colour of slush to the colour of fogged blue steel.
Always the eyes. Everyone noticed that about Crazy Joe. They watched everything, according to Hamill.
Jimmy Breslin the New York crime historian, reporter and novelist, wrote a book about him, called The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, which was made into a movie that starred Broadway star Jerry Orbach, who one day would become a good friend of Joe; Bob Dylan wrote a song about him in 1976, and two years after his death, a movie called Crazy Joe came out with Peter Boyle portraying him. It seemed somehow that Joey simply overdosed on the public’s perception of his fame and reputation, alive or dead.
An editor at Viking Press wanted him to write a book. It would be a sensation the publisher said. Joey said, There's something suicidal about publishers paying a lot of greens for the big nothing. Perhaps he thought it was too much work. Perhaps while ploughing through his ten books a week while in prison, which had included Sartre and Camus and Nietzsche, he had noted what Robert Louis Stephenson had said about young writers having to read like predators and there was so much more to do in whatever years he had left.
Born in June, 1929, in Brooklyn, to Albert Gallo and Mary Nunziato, he had two sisters, and two brothers-- Larry and Albert. They grew up on East 4th Street in Brooklyn, between Ditmas Avenue and Cortelyou Road in Kensington. The brothers were to be gangsters just like Joey. They worked together and ran a street crew called The Cockroach Gang terrorizing the neighbourhood of 4th Avenue and Sackets Street.
Donald Goddard saw him as a circus freak dressed in gangster’s clothes.
In an interview with him, Joey stated that he had travelled with bums from the time he was nine. At eleven, he was running a crap game, and when he was thirteen, running his gang. They were his people, and he lived on the streets. And then, they were giving him the slips and he’s running numbers, and then people were getting to hear about Joey’s floating crap game.
His first wife, Effie, thought he was too feeling, too humane. He wasn’t very good at what he did….his instincts were all clouded up.
After numerous scuffles with the law, although he was only arrested once for burglary in 1950, and had never been in prison, Joey joined the navy at seventeen, but was out in six months, discharged as being emotionally immature, egocentric and demanding.
He became a protégé of a mobster called Frank Frankie Shots Abbatemarco, a Bensonhurst-based big league bookie and the major policy banker in the crime Mafia crime family headed by Joe Profaci who was based in South Brooklyn and had headed up his clan since the late 1920s.
Larry was already in Team Frankie Shots, and Joey and his two brothers using the clout and protection of Abbatemarco, gradually built up their own street gang of thugs and extortionists pushing their jukeboxes into bars and cafés across the teeming streets of the second biggest city in America and running extortion scams across the boroughs. It became known in the New York underworld as The International Mob, and consisted of a Greek, two Syrians, an Egyptian, a Jew, a Puerto Rican, an Irishman and by necessity, some Italians. It also at one time included a dwarf called Armando Mando Illiano, and if we believe the legend, a lion called Cleo who was kept in the cellar of Armando’s café. He was apparently a great discourager to late payers on the vig they owed the gang on their street loans.
Sometime in the 1950s, the elder brothers (Albert was the kid in the group) were inducted into the Profaci family; according to FBI informant Greg Scarpa, around 1956, becoming made men, their mythical buttons proudly displayed to those who understood the solipsistic rhythms of the streets of New York. A mob guy was like a paladin, an advocate of the benefits of bad over good. Their guiding philosophy may well have been, to quote Oscar Wilde: The best way to overcome temptation is to succumb to it.
Scarpa claimed they were introduced into the Profaci family by Johnny Scimone, an old time mob guy. Charlie Lo Cicero, the family consigliere opposed them from day one, considering them too much trouble (and he was certainly proved right in that respect) but he was overruled as it was perceived that they were good earners, perhaps the most paramount quality in prospective mob members.
Joey and his gang were often used by Profaci for the dirty work that was required from time to time around the mob in Brooklyn, and it was alleged he once stabbed a man to death with an ice pick. In October, 1959, the squad was put to use in the killing of Frankie Shots himself.
Profaci had a reputation as a tight-fisted wad and a boss who would use you then kill you. Pete Diapolous claimed he was more feared in the ranks of the New York Mafia than even the Mad Hatter himself - Albert Anastasia.
Profaci demanded off all his men a share of their revenue, maybe as much as a third from his capi, and when Frankie Shots reneged on the demand, Profaci had him whacked. Frankie and his crew were raking in up to seven thousand dollars each and every day and he had no intention of sliding over 30% of the net to the boss. The Gallos used their little, fat and fearsome torpedo, Joseph Joe Jelly Gioielli for the job, and he and a partner (probably his closest friend, Vincent The Sicilian Gugliaro) shot Abbatemarco nine times, leaving the victim sprawled in careless confusion on the floor of his cousin, Anthony Cardiello’s Tavern, at 256 4th Avenue and Carrol Street, late on the day of November 4th, 1959.
Following the killing of Abbatermarco, Joey and his gang assumed Profaci would allow them to take over Shot’s massive policy bank as a reward for doing Joe‘s dirty work. It didn’t happen.
Profaci was angry that Joey had not arranged to killing of Abbatermarco’s son, Tony, who he considered a threat to the family’s stability on the basis that he would probably seek revenge for the death of his father, and as a result, by-passed the Gallos and passed the numbers business over to his underboss and brother-in-law, Joe Magliocco.
The Gallos decided to resolve the problem the only way they really know how to - with violence. A maverick in his strange underworld and a cowboy with attitude, Joey had no intention of kneeling in respectful supplication at the feet of the elderly Mafiosi who controlled his destiny. As John Tuohy wrote it, to the Gallos, it was going to war over cash and common respect.
Although their group never numbered more than twenty to twenty-five, they went up against Joe Profaci and his Mafia family, an entity of over two hundred made men and hundreds more associates. This Mafia war raged across the streets of Brooklyn from 1960 until late in 1963.
The first audacious move on the part of the Gallo gang was to kidnap Joe Profaci. But as he was in Florida when they made their play, they had to settle instead for four of his senior men - Joe Magliocco, John Scimone, Profaci’s personal bodyguard, Profaci’s brother, Frank and a relatively unknown capo called Joe Colombo. The men were eventually released on the basis of promises made by Profaci, none of which materialized.
On August 21st 1961, Larry Gallo was ambushed and almost murdered in the Sarah Lounge on Utica Avenue, his life being saved by the timely arrival of NYPD Sergeant Meagher, patrolling the area with officer Melvin Blei. Sometime either just before or after the abortive hit on Larry Gallo, Joe Jelli the gang’s ace hit man, disappeared and was presumed killed and dumped at sea. His wife notified the police of his disappearance on August 31st. His killer may have been Salvatore Sally D D'Ambrosio, who himself was probably murdered eight years later. He disappeared from a Bensonhurst social club, although his bloodstained shirt was later found there by police investigators.
The war dragged on for over two years with car bombings and shootings filling the New York newspaper headlines. In January, 1962, Joey Gallo was indicted, tried and convicted on extortion charges and sentenced to up to fourteen years in prison. The judge at sentencing stated that Joey Gallo has an utter contempt for the law and is a menace to society.
Later in the same month, seven members of the gang, leaving a restaurant, saw smoke coming out of a window at 72 President Street. Rushing into the building, the group which consisted of Albert and Larry Gallo, Frank Punchy Illiano, Anthony Abbatermarco, Alfonso Peanuts Serantonio, Leonard Dello and John Commarato, found six children in a smoke filled apartment on the top floor and rescued them. No one was injured and for a few brief days, the Gallo gang were front page news and local heroes. They even made it into Life magazine. When interviewed by the press, Albert Gallo said:
We only did what any red-blooded American boys would do.
Five months later, Joe Profaci died of cancer and in due course his crime family was taken over by Joseph Colombo, the obscure capo who had been one of the group kidnapped by the Gallo’s early in 1961.
In March, 1971, Joey came out of prison, divorced his wife Jeffe, met another woman called Sina Essary, a dental technician, who was an ex novice nun, married her, moved from Brooklyn to Greenwich Village, immersed himself in the counter culture revolution, socialized with actors and writers and artists and on April 6th 1972 celebrated his last birthday, his 43rd in the process becoming an entry on a New York Police blotter: Homicide GUN at 5:20.
While imprisoned in Attica, Joey had been diagnosed as suffering from pseudo psychopathic schizophrenia. His response to the doctors report was typical Joey:
Things are not right or wrong anymore. Just smart or stupid. You don’t judge an act by its nature. You judge it by results. We’re all criminals now…..Things exist when I feel they should exist, okay? Me, I am the world!
Joey Gallo may well have suffered from what the German’s referred to as machbarkeitswahn: fantasies of omnipotence.
Wayne Christeson of Tennessee, wrote in an article on Sinna Essary:
……While Joey was still languishing in prison, his old enemy Joe Profaci died. Control of the Profaci mob passed to Joe Colombo, one of the “new” Mafia dons who knew something about politics and public relations. He formed an organization he called the Italian American Civil Rights League and used it to rally support against the FBI’s claim that he was a mobster. With the league as his mouthpiece, Colombo maintained that there was no such thing as “the Mafia” and that he was “just an honest businessman.” The league was hugely successful and so powerful that Colombo was able to win concessions from the producers of The Godfather about the way Italian Americans were portrayed in the film.
The Profaci organization’s racketeering remained profitable too, but many of Colombo’s subordinates were bridling at the way he ran the business and divided the spoils. To his hardened street enforcers, Colombo was a lightweight and a publicity seeker. Dissension in his family was building.
Into this unsettled world, Joey arrived fresh from prison, bearing a ten year grudge against the Profaci family. Joey might have been flashing his new cleaned-up image in public, but in secret he was re-energising the Gallo gang. He planned to dispose Colombo. Less than six weeks after his release from prison, Joey demanded a $100,000 tribute payment from Colombo as a condition for staying away from his business. Colombo refused to pay. Instead, he placed a contract on Joey’s life.
On June 28th, 1971, just four months after Joey’s release from prison, Colombo held a rally of his Italian American Civil Rights League in Columbus Circle, just off Central Park. Thousands of people attended the noon time affair. But as Colombo began making his way to the dais to speak he was shot and severely wounded by a black man identified as Jerome Johnson.
No one ever discovered who Johnson was working for. As fate would have it, he was immediately shot and killed by yet another never-identified gunman. Colombo was left in a near-vegetative state and was off the board as far as the rackets were concerned. The event made the cover of Time magazine the following week.
Joey claimed that the FBI was behind the Colombo attack, but most reasonable minds concluded that Joey had engineered it himself. He had a clear motive, and he was certainly capable of pulling it off. While the police and FBI looked for clues, the heirs to Colombo’s power renewed the contract on Joey’s life…
Something that has not been widely investigated in the shooting of Colombo is the link between Charles Shephard shot dead by Joseph Fatty Russo just six months previously. Jerome Johnson and Shephard had both lived close to each other in the same area in northern New Jersey and may well have been connected by friendship or some other link. It’s quite possible that Johnson was driven by a desire to avenge his black brother and knew of the link between Russo and the Colombo family members and how they had helped him avoid prosecution for the double killings.
Joey had become friendly while in prison with Harlem dope dealer Nicky Barnes, and it was widely rumoured that through his prison connections into the black criminal fraternity he was intending to recruit black gangsters into his own organization. This never eventuated and may well have been simply street gossip, but the Mafia family under Colombo, seemed certain that Gallo was behind the shooting of their boss. He was a target for them from that day at Columbus Circle according to some crime researchers, although it was not that obvious to police observers who were tracking the activities of the Mafia underworld. They believed that having done his time in prison, the feeling was to leave him alone to get on with his life.
The Gallo gang themselves did their own research into the shooting of Colombo and decided the man behind Johnson was probably Tony Abbatermarco, son of the late Frankie Shots.
He was the biggest numbers guy in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a black ghetto in Brooklyn and tight with a lot of black criminals. He’d held a grudge against the Profaci family since the killing of his father, was mad at Joe Colombo for squeezing money from him and had hated Joey Gallo who he knew had been behind the hit on his father.
He had guessed, quite rightly that the shooting of Colombo would automatically be construed as an act by Joey Gallo.
Joey had left prison deeply disturbed by the way time had left him by. He was a train wreck in waiting, searching for a displaced point on the lines of his life. He was returning to streets that were very different from when he prowled them. Following the death of Joe Profaci and the installation of Joe Colombo as the family boss in 1963, there had been some changes in the family’s structure of command.
Joe Yack Yacovelli, Carmine Persico and Larry Gallo had been promoted to capo status. But Joey, languishing in his prison cell, stayed a soldier and this burned away at him like an ululating cancer.
On his release, he had demanded a cash testimonial from Colombo to guarantee the boss his fealty. He also wanted all his old rackets back-- the policy banks, the loan shark operations and vending machine companies-- and demanded that a least ten of his crew be made into the family.
On May 22nd he had tried again to kidnap the boss of the family, this time Joe Combo,
But the attempt was botched, dissolving into no more than a street brawl. But the message was loud and clear. The Gallo-Profaci war was on again.
None of Joey’s demand were ever going to happen. The Colombo family at a meeting on December 20th 1971, officially rejected all of his demands.
Joe Yacovelli, who would become a major player in the administration of the Colombo crime family, wanted to kill him where he stood, but this was vetoed by the Commission, the Mafia’s board of arbitration. They did not want another Gallo war on their hands.
According to Donald Frankos, a Greek-American criminal who had served time in prison with Joey, Gallo owned several night clubs on 8th Avenue, and two or more sweatshops in the garment district. He also ran dice and card games and was into extortion rackets and trafficking cocaine and heroin, and through black criminal associates was running criminal enterprises in Gary, Indiana and Steubenville, Ohio.
Just three weeks before Joey’s final birthday party, he and two of his men had gone to the San Susan nightclub in Mineola, Long Island, threatened the manager and told him they were taking the place over. A place that just happened to have John Franzese as a silent partner. John Sonny Franzese was one of the more terrifying dangerous mob bosses in New York and had been part of the Profaci/Colombo crime family for most of his working life. A psychopath in his own right, a stone-killer, whose father Carmine The Lion had allegedly disposed of his victims in his bakery ovens. Franzese was not a man to trifle with.
Then on Easter week-end 1972, Ferrara’s Pastry Shop on Grand Street in Lower Manhattan, was broken into and it was reputed over $50000 was stolen from the safe. Ferrara’s was not just any old café, although it was old, dating back to 1892, it was also a venerable landmark and meeting place of many of the senior mob figures in New York, including Carlo Gambino, allegedly the biggest Mafia boss in America.
It was an egregious move, an insult to the old Don who would have given his guarantee to the owners that their place of business was safe and protected by the strength of his reputation. To compound matters, Ferrara’s was a place often used by Vincent Aloi, who may have taken over the management of the Colombo Mafia family after boss Joe was gunned down at Columbus Circle.
The word went around that Joey had given his approval to two of his men--Gennaro Ciprio and Richie Grossman--to do the job. Both men were subsequently murdered, Ciprio, who was Sonny Pinto’s godson, was blasted to death in a hail of bullets in front of his sister, as he left the restaurant he owned in Brooklyn, on 86th Street.
Five days after the break-in at Ferrara’s Joey Gallo was dead.
In the end, it didn’t matter what the trigger was--the shooting of Colombo, the muscle attempt on Long Island, the theft from a mob sanctuary, the disrespect he had shown the men of the Colombo Mafia family--he was a victim of the system, and the politics of cosa nostra.
In essence, since the day he left prison he was a dead man walking.
Joey had moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan on his release and rented Apartment 8A in a bland, twenty-one story apartment building at Seven West 14th Street, a block away from Union Square. Sina, the woman he was to marry, lived with her young daughter in a penthouse apartment in the same building, paying almost twice the rent that Joey did. When he queried this apparent show of wealth by a dental technician, one of his friends shrugged and mentioned something about the dentist she worked for.
After a classic whirlwind courtship, Joey and Sina married, and three weeks later they would celebrate his 43rd birthday.
On the evening of April 6th, Pete Diapolous, driving a black Cadillac, arrived at the apartment building with his gummare, Edith Russo, and along with Joey’s sister Carmella Fiorello, Sina, her ten-year old daughter Lisa, and Joey spruced up and sharp in a pinstripe suit, headed off for a night at the Copacabana at 10 East 60th Street, just across from Central Park. They arrived about eleven, in time for the second show which starred Don Rickles.
Sometime after four the next morning, they left the club and drove south into Little Italy. Although they had wined and dined, Joey insisted they needed more sustenance, and he was determined to find a favourite Chinese restaurant, Su Lings, in Chinatown. When they arrived, it was closed. Trolling the rain-washed streets, they found themselves crawling up Mulberry. There, on the corner of Hester, they saw arches and square windows all lit up, a new place on the block, called Umberto’s Clam House.
It had been opened in February by Umberto Ianiello, the thirty-five year old brother of Matty The Horse Ianiello, a capo in the Genovese Mafia family. There was a group of men standing talking on the corner, including Matty, who was acting as the manager this night, as Diapolous pulled the Cadillac to halt. The windows wound down, and Pete and Joey chatted to the men, one of whom was Joe Luparelli.
Joe Pesh Luparelli had led a less than auspicious life as a gopher and associate for the Colombo and Genovese crime families in the years since the killing of Mickey Evans. Using a luncheonette on 11th Avenue between 60th and 61st Street as a business base, he worked under Dick Fusco and Joe Gentile and was at one time a drive for Joe Yacovelli, a job he had been instructed to do by Sonny Pinto. Up to this point his mob career had revolved around the Westside, the term by which the underworld referred to the Genovese Mafia family. He’d been in prison on two occasions, and made his money by being a safe man, strong-arm goon, fence, loan shark and in the numbers business.
Encouraged by their comments, Joey Gallo decided they would eat here, and as Pete parked the car, the small party moved into the restaurant.
Fishing nets and plastic life preservers bedecked the walls, and the floor was tiled white. The tables scattered around were butcher-block design and there was a serving counter-type bar at the back of the seating area, running the length of the restaurant from the Hester Street end to near the kitchen.
There are conflicting accounts as to whether or not there were other customers in the place. Some sources say it was empty, others that four men in work clothes were sitting around a table; that there was an Asian couple in the corner, two college-type girls sitting together and a few night people scatted about at tables and at the bar.
There are only two recorded eyewitness accounts of the events which happened in the early hours of that morning, April 7th: the one reported by Joe Luparelli who was outside, and by Pete Diapolous who was inside. Sinna Essary, almost forty years later, did pass on her very brief recollection of the shooting, but it was blurred by time and no doubt distorted by the sclerotic panic she found herself in.
Luparelli recounted his involvement approximately two weeks after the shooting went down, and Diapolous his presence at the killing of Joey Gallo in a book he co-authored about four years later, so their memories would have been fresh and their recollections much clearer.
The Gallo party ordered and enjoyed a fish and pasta meal and were so impressed, they ordered up seconds. In the meantime, Luparelli had left Umberto’s and hurried down Mulberry, crossing over Grand and into the King Wah Chinese restaurant at number ninety-one. Although closed to the public this time in the morning, it was open to the mob. It had in fact at one time been a Mafia social club and was currently owned by Dominick Dickie Pallatto who ran it with his Chinese wife, Mona. Pallato would be found dead in mysterious circumstances in 1977--drowned in three feet of water in his swimming pool on the island of Grenada. It was deemed he had drowned due to cramp!
Sitting at the bar were Sonny Pinto and a soldier in the Colombo crime family called Philip Fat Funghi Gambino (right), a distant cousin of the don, Carlo Gambino. Luparelli told them that Joey Gallo was eating up at Umberto’s and Sonny decided this was the time to hit him. There were also two other men who were brothers, at the bar. Luparelli only ever knew them as Cisco and Benny. Sonny went to a telephone in the restaurant and rang Joe Yacovelli, who gave his immediate approval to clip Joey. The brothers went out to fit-up and returned with two .38 and one.32 calibre revolvers.
Because Luparelli was walking with the aid of a cane as he had damaged his knee some weeks earlier, his job would be to drive one of the two cars the hit squad would use. As Fat Funghi was on parole, he would drive the other. Sonny, Benny and Cisco would go into Umberto’s.
The two cars headed north up the narrow, one-way street and sometime after 5:00 AM parked either side of Hester Street. Armed up, the three gunmen went into the restaurant.
Over the years the story of the killing of Joey Gallo has been retold endless times. . The stories say he died on Mulberry Street when in fact he was actually declared dead in the Beekman Hospital after he was driven there by police officer Felix Agosta who stopped his patrol car outside Umberto‘s just after the shooting.
That everyone under the sun did the hit, the latest disclosure being that of Frank Sheeran, a mid-west killer who claimed on his death-bed that he went into Umberto’s and did the shooting. Frank must have been the only three-handed man on the planet because the New York Police Engineering Unit carried out an evidence survey of the crime scene and found the remains of at least twelve shots that had been fired--three .32 calibre, five .38 calibre from two different guns, three of unidentified calibre and one .25 calibre and this did not include the three that actually connected with their target. A total of fifteen rounds fired in all.
The other factor that makes his involvement in the shooting impalpable is just how did he know where to go to do the job? The Gallo party themselves had no idea where they were heading when they left the Copacabana. The hit on Joey was the result of coincidence or fate or simply sheer bad luck. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a Titanic looking for the iceberg in the dark, inhospitable sea of the mean streets of Manhattan.
Henry Miller said We create our fate every day we live. If he was right, Joey Gallo was going in the wrong direction from the day he was born.
On December 13th, 1972, a Manhattan Grand Jury identified one Carmine DiBiase in an indictment handed up on the killing of Joey Gallo. There was no mention made of one Frank Sheeran.
Pete Diapolous, a man who had spent most of his working life on the streets of New York, states categorically in his book The Sixth Family;
I saw Sonny Pinto wide and dark coming in……I made Sonny Pinto and two other guys.
Diapolous had met Sheeran a few hours earlier at the Copacabana so knew exactly what he looked like. There was no way Pete the Greek would have mistaken Sheeran for Carmine DiBiase.
Insert here image of Pete Diapolous
Joey and his group had been enjoying their food (no drink as Umberto’s was so new it was not yet licensed) when, to coin the hackneyed expression enjoyed by writers of thrillers, All Hell broke loose. At approximately 5:10 AM Pinto and his crew burst into the restaurant guns blazing, slugs going all over the place. Pushing over tables to protect the women, Joey then ran away from their area, drawing the fire of the gunmen who pinged away as he raced towards the corner door at Mulberry and Hester. Diapolous, struggling to clear his .25 Titan semi-automatic, took a round in his backside as he tumbled over the tables.
Chasing the gunmen out of the restaurant he fired repeatedly at their cars as they drove off.
Joey Gallo shot in the elbow, the buttocks and the back collapsed onto the sidewalk, and lay motionless until Pete Diapolous and the police officer bundled him into the patrol car and screamed off to the hospital a five minute journey to the south.
And that was that. With his death, the Gallo war drew to a close.
The Neapolitan Noodle was a restaurant located at 320 East 79th Street in Manhattan. In August 1972, it was the scene of one of the worst mistakes in Cosa Nostra history. Albert Gallo was determined to avenge his brother Joey’s death and laid down a hit to be carried out on some of the Colombo family’s top administration.
On Friday, August 11th, the Gallos found out that Yacovelli, Allie Persico, brother of Carmine, Jerry Langella and Charlie Panarella would be at the bar of the Neapolitan Noodle. Robert Bongiovi aka Bobby Darrow a long time member of the Gallo gang was earmarked to spot the targets for the killers. A few minutes before their hit man arrived however, the mobsters had moved to a different table. In their place were five meat traders with their wives celebrating the engagement of one of their daughters to the restaurant’s manager. As the party moved to their table, the shooter, dressed in a loud Hawaiian shirt and wearing dark glasses and a long, black wig, opened up with two guns, firing nine shots, killing Sheldon Epstein and Max Teklech and wounding two of the other men. The killer, allegedly brought into New York from Las Vegas, escaped and was never found.
No one was ever prosecuted for the killing of Joey Gallo which Pete Hamill referred to as A classic New York moment full of tradition, an endorsement of certain eternal verities, one that brought immense joy to the life of newspaper editors.
The only one who did time was Pete the Greek. He got a year in Rikers for illegal possession of an empty firearm.
Joey was buried in a half-ton $5000 casket in Green-Wood Cemetery, in Brooklyn, in Lot 40314 alongside his brother, Larry who had died of cancer in 1968. He shares the cemetery space with luminaries such as Boss Tweed, Leonard Bernstein, Lola Montez, William S. Hart and George Catlin, a lawyer who changed professions and became a painter of the Indians in the wilderness of America. He had died only a hundred years before Joey, although in terms of the way America had changed, it could well have been a million.
His funeral was a circus, with hundreds of people crowding the sidewalks to try and catch a glimpse of the coffin, and police and FBI agents mingling with the crowds to prevent any potential acts of gangland retribution that might erupt.
Sina Essary remembered the procession would have appealed to Joey’s sense of show business. Tommy Udo was dead, and as she remarked, “You would have thought the Pope was passing by.”
As a former nun, she would have known better than most.
Joey Gallo was a complex, confounding figure whose brief life seemed to have been overshadowed by an almost pathological desire to prove to everyone how much smarter he was than they. As Charles McCarry commented, he “saw things with the joyful clarity of the incurably insane.” It’s easy to picture him pleading with Sina not to rob him of the credit for destroying himself.
Like Othello, he would play the swan and die in music.
Three weeks before he was shot dead in a restaurant, The Godfather, believed to be the seminal Mafia movie of all time, previewed in New York. It featured a scene of a Mafia man being shot dead in a restaurant. The coincidence no doubt helped cement fable and reality in the public‘s consciousness. Maybe Mafia gunmen as well.
Following the shooting at Umberto’s, Joe Luparelli, Carmine DiBiase, the two brothers and Philip Gambino went back to the Chinese restaurant down the street and had a few more drinks. Benny and Cisco eventually left to dispose of the guns, then Joe, Carmine and Gambino travelled out of New York and stayed for a number of days at an apartment provided for them by Joe Yacovelli in Nyack twenty miles north of the Manhattan boundary.
In due course, Luparelli afraid for his life, fearing that Yackovelli was going to have him killed to silence him as a witness, fled New York and travelled to Los Angeles. He subsequently surrendered to the government and became an informant.
Philip Gambino disappeared from New York and was arrested by authorities near his home in Palm Beach, Florida, in May 1972, and charged with violation of his parole condition by consorting with known felons.
Benny and Cisco, whoever they were, merged back into the crepuscular landscape that hid them as though they had never existed.
Joe Yacovelli also went on the lam, and eventually, on February 27th, 1974, accompanied by his lawyer, David Markowitz, surrendered to the police in a radio station in New York. He was charged as a material witness in the killing of Joey Gallo.
On April 9th, two days after the murder of Joey Gallo, Carmine DiBiase met up with a man called Charlie in a lot in Engelwood Cliffs, New Jersey and left with him by car, heading somewhere.
And so, Carmine DiBiase (right) disappeared from New York, again.
It would be the last time that he and the police or the Federal Bureau of Investigation would cross paths. Sonny fought the law, and the law won, insofar as his actions that night on the corner of Mulberry and Hester sent him straight past go and back into oblivion. Away from his beloved streets where the action was. Away from the excitement and lure of the clubs, and the broads and the endless scamming and deal-doing that had filled his days.
Joe Luparelli claims that Carmine did however come back to New York one last time, in the summer of 1975.
On June 30th, there was an altercation on the corner of Prince and Elizabeth Streets in Little Italy. A card sharp had set up a Monte game and suckered in three passing men who lost a considerable amount of money before they realized they were being fleeced. One of these men was Gaetano, the 26-year-old son of Carmine DiBiase.
When they remonstrated with the dealer he ran off, jumped into a car and sped off. Gaetano and another man chased him in their car, stopping the dealer’s car a block away on the corner of Houston Street.
Gaetano DiBiase, dressed in a white suit, pulled his car over and ran up to the dealer, pointing a gun and shouting:
“Give me the money.”
An off-duty police officer at a gas station across the street saw what was going down and ran over, drawing his handgun. He shouted at Gaetano that he was a police officer, and then a fire-fight erupted. The police officer shot DiBiase twice, who staggered over to his car, which then drove off at high speed. The car travelled as far as 11th Street and 7th Avenue in Greenwich Village, stopping in front of St. Vincent’s Hospital. Gaetano rolled out of his car and collapsed on the sidewalk. The car disappeared. Rushed into emergency, surgeons operated but were unable to save him. He died three days later.
The police staked out the wake and the funeral hoping to apprehend Carmine DiBiase, but he never showed up. At least during the day. Luparelli claimed Sonny Pinto visited the funeral parlour late one night to pay his last respects to his son. It was also alleged that he put out a contract on the officer who had shot his son. Senior officials of the New York Police Department visited the heads of each of the five families and promised a massive retaliation against the mob if anyone tried to fill it. The contract was eventually withdrawn.
Carmine DiBiase was in the wind again. His life deracinated by actions he embraced with almost a libidinal enthusiasm, was corkscrewing him away once more from
his home and family and the life he knew.
It was rumoured he had moved to Hartford, the state capital, a small, relatively nondescript city in the bucolic reaches of Connecticut, nicknamed The Insurance Capital of the World.
And here, is where the trail runs cold.
If this is where he landed, his final years are not unlike the man himself: an enigma, maybe wrapped in a riddle and even possibly shrouded by mystery, to paraphrase Winston Churchill.
Did he start again? Form new relationships? Get married, albeit bigamously? Heaven forbid, get a job? He obviously kept deeply under the radar, as his name never crops up again in any police report or judicial system north, south or west of New York.
It was as though he had simply vanished off the face of the earth.
Maybe in the twilight of his life he would wander down to the south side, the Little Italy of Hartford, where he could find the food and drinks that perhaps reminded him of the Lower Manhattan version of the mythical neighbourhood, the place the amici nostra would gather on street corners to talk and smoke and reflect on their day’s endeavours. As Stefan Kanfer recalled it “with its gritty avenues and rude wit, its hard-nosed gin joints and occasional grace notes.”
The teeming, crowded alleys and tenements where the Mafia had begun sometime towards the end of the nineteenth century. The Mustache Petes of the old Honoured Society - Giuseppe Morello and Giouse Galluci and Ignazio Lupo and Joe Fontana and even for a brief period, none other than Vito Cascioferro, the big boss from Sicily - had all played their part in putting down roots and helped grow the biggest most far-reaching criminal conspiracy America would ever experience.
And he had been part of it.
One of the thousands of unknown mobsters who had made up this criminal enterprise. A phenomenon born of the hopes and aspirations of the poor, uneducated working stiffs born out of the years of Italian Diaspora into the biggest city in America. Men whose lack of education, and cultural background, branded them as misfits in the brave new world and whose only chance for survival and progress was under the umbrella of a secret society that held the city and country to ransom for generations.
Perhaps as he sat drinking a coffee, watching the world go by, he remembered images of his life; a montage of memories filled with Grand Street, and the Mayfair Boys and card games and fenced jewellery and shylock loans and deeds done darkly for the boss man and most of all, a bleak, wet early morning in April, the arches and square windows of Umberto’s reflecting the cold yellow light, shaking to the echo of gunfire, people shouting and screaming as he like some Jedi Knight, brought order back onto the streets in a wild and lawless city in a universe far, far away.
And, of course, that is what all of this is - all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs - that song, endlessly reincarnated - born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 - same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness.
- Nick Tosches: Where Dead Voices Gather
I would like to thank Jim Ruffalo for passing on information I had missed in my research.
Read more of Thom L. Jones' articles and stories on the Mafia at his Mob Corner.
© Thom L. Jones. 2012