Life being what it is, one thinks of revenge - Charles Baudelaire
It's another one of those images that have stayed with us over the years. Almost sixty. A different time then, in every respect. The little guy dead in his car, engine running, headlights on, slumped back in the seat, left hand clutching the steering wheel, pinky ring, (platinum with blue sapphire insert,) finger cocked, head overflowing into the lap of the beautiful blonde, crunched up by his side, her knees coquettishly braced against the dash, the blue cocktail dress hitched up, a stone marten stole still draped across the shoulder, her head flung back against the passenger-side car window, eyes open, blood pooling out of her mouth. Two in the head for her, three for him. A mob hit with a twist. Two for the price of one. She was what the military call “collateral damage.” It was the little guy they were after.
Anthony Edward Carfano sometimes called Augie Pisano, sometimes Little Augie the Wop, and, by his best friends, Gus, was a hoodlum with a pedigree dating back over forty years. He'd been born in New York towards the end of the nineteenth century. Some sources claim 1897; some 1898 and others 1899. Most newspapers reporting his death, state he was 61 or 62. The day he died is not in doubt-Friday, September 25th, 1959. Late in the evening, around 10:45 pm, in a nondescript, tree-lined suburban street in the Jackson Heights area of Queens, New York.
The dead woman by his side was Janice Drake. At thirty-two, she was young enough to be his daughter. Carfano's only child, son Francis Anthony, was thirty-eight. Anthony and Janice had been out to dinner that night. A gangster dining with Janice was a man in great danger. Once, maybe twice before, she had gone down this track, and her dinner date had died, violently. This night was no exception, except she was unfortunate enough to have to join the party.
Who killed Carfano and Drake is a mystery. Has been since the night the bullets bounced them into eternity. Why Carfano was the target is perhaps not quite so much a conundrum.
A police officer in Chicago once said that mob killings are a work of art. This one was at least a Reuben’s. Maybe a Da Vinci. A perfect pitch of a job that has been a cold case from day one. Whoever killed those two is probably long dead. Whoever ordered it, likewise. The families of the dead are also dead. All that is left are police records (if they exist) a coroner's report filed somewhere (if it still exists) and the images that do exist of a black Cadillac, 1959 vintage, containing two corpses and beyond the car, the two players, frozen in time forever, captured by photographers over the years before that fateful night.
One a young, vibrant, ex-beauty-queen from New Jersey (left), the other a man at different stages of his life, from young to old; from sleek to somewhat decrepit. Like all of us, he aged visibly over the years. She never got the chance. She'll always be a honey-blonde, blue-eyed beauty, south of forty.
Although many sources on Carfano get confused over his birthday, David Critchley, the crime historian, is adamant that he was born Antonio Carfagno, November 9th, 1895, to Giovanni and Concetta Visocchi, both of Naples, Italy.(1) They had moved to New York as immigrants in 1883.
Interestingly, when Carfano was arrested by the New York Police while attending the fights at Madison Square Gardens on the evening of May 31st, 1946, he gave his age as 49. Maybe he was shy about the years going by!
He was one of ten children, the third eldest. There were seven brothers and three sisters in the family who lived on Oliver Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan close to the Brooklyn Bridge interchange. The bridge had been open for two years at the time Anthony came into the world. Half the street, the stretch that led down to the East River, disappeared in 1951 at the Madison Street junction, so the city could build twelve 17 story apartment blocks as public housing, and we will probably never know exactly where was home to the Carfagno family. At some stage, they dropped the “g” and adopted the name Carfano.
There is little to nothing on record regarding Carfano's early life. He probably ran with the Oliver and Cherry Street youth gangs, cutting his teeth on minor crimes, his Italian Spaghettis fighting the Irish Shamrocks, (in 1901 Antonio Renatzo was shot in the leg by the Irish gang. He was seven years old,) and Carfano was twenty-one before he appeared for the first time on a police blotter in Mount Vernon, in Westchester County, north of The Bronx.
From the 1910 Census, we know that the family at some time had left Oliver Street and moved across the East River to live in Brooklyn in the Gowanus area. They settled into a home-- a house or flat-- in a small, six-block area bounded by Union Street, 4th Avenue, Douglas and Nevins Street.
Anthony Carfano (right) was arrested for felonious assault with a gun on that first rap. The case was discharged without conviction. It was the first of eleven charges he would receive over his lifetime, ranging from vagrancy to murder. Augie was a well-rounded hood, working the “hood.” And he beat them all except one, in 1933. It cost him $100. Loose change for a man who routinely carried a cash roll of over $2000 in a silver clip, in his hip pocket.
Mount Vernon became a significant part of the Carfano family's history. The parents moved there in 1913, and four of Anthony's brothers settled in the area permanently. August, the eldest, became a superintendent in the administration of Mayor Leslie Bateman in 1932, although he had obviously fallen on hard times by 1940, as the US Census for that year shows his occupation listed as “bartender.”
A number of sources claim Anthony Carfano boxed as “Augie Pisano,” lightweight, 131 professional fights, but, in fact, that was another Pisano, born Angelo, on Coney Island, Brooklyn, ten years after Carfano. The only fighting Anthony did as a young man, was on the streets of Brooklyn.
On the evening of February 25th, 1915, with snow falling softly out of a charcoal black sky, over a thousand people crowded into the main ballroom of Prospect Hall near the corner of 5th Avenue and Prospect Avenue in Park Slope. They were there to celebrate the third annual ball of The Pleasure Hours Social Club, a major South Brooklyn communal organization. Among the throngs that enjoyed that evening were twenty-year-old Anthony Carfano and one of his pals, Ralph Capone.
Sometime, somehow, in his late teens or early twenties, Carfano became part of a crew of criminals that ran under the leadership of a man called Frankie Yale who was based in Brooklyn. He lived on 14th Avenue and claimed he was an undertaker. Yale was his Americanized name. He was born in Calabria, the toe of Italy, and christened Francesco Ioele. With his family, he had moved to America, arriving in New York around the turn of the twentieth century.
He came into crime via the notorious Five-Points Gang formed in the early 1900s which operated in Lower Manhattan and became one of the largest and most structured street gangs in American history, and was mentored by Johnny Torrio, an astute and cunning criminal who the United States Treasury Department, considered at one time, to be “the biggest gangster in America.” Between 1910 and 1917 Yale was arrested seven times and served two prison sentences.
He was two years older than Carfano, and by his early twenties was leading a gang of young, and not so young toughs, many of whom would work their way through the world of the Mafia down the years to come. Many came to him from the Five-Points, moving seamlessly from one illegal outfit to another.
Men like: Vincenzo and Filippo Mangano, (who would one day run their own Mafia crime family, known today as the Gambinos,) Johnny “Silk Stocking” Guistra, (who according to some sources, would one day kill the biggest Mafia boss in America,) Tullio “Crater Face” Piccone, Anthony “Tony Spring” Romeo, Jimmy Napoli, Alphonse, Frank and Ralph Capone, (Al would move to Chicago and become somewhat well-known in the years ahead,) “Crazy Benny” Pazzo, Frank Nitto, Willy Alteri, Jack “Stick em Up” Stabile. “Frenchie Collins” Carlino, Johnny “Bath Beach” Oddo and more; twenty, maybe thirty street thugs, anxious and willing to earn their spurs on the mean streets of New York.
1921-1931 was a busy decade for the up and coming gangster from Oliver Street. He would have many different addresses, get married and have a son, cross swords with the law on occasions, be a suspect in a least five murders, including a police officer, build a reputation as a major criminal entity in Brooklyn, and lay the groundwork for a career move that would take him through the next thirty years. He would become especially close to two men who would have an impact on the way his life in the mob would develop. One was Giuseppe Dotto, better known as Joe Adonis. He would help influence and shape the future for Carfano. The other was Francesco Castaglia who would change his name to Frank Costello (right) and become, in 1937, head of a Mafia family, and one of Anthony's best and most loyal friends.
He would also be the death of him.
At some time, people started to refer to Carfano as “Little Augie Pisano,” and “Little Augie the Wop.” Why this sobriquet was chosen has never been explained. Pisano could be a colloquial version of paisano which in English means brother or countryman. Some sources claim he took his name from a dead East Side gangster, but the only one of any consequence in the early years of the 20th Century was Little Augie Oregon, a Jewish mobster, shot dead in 1927. Hardly likely to be him. Another story that went around was that as a youngster he was sitting in a barbershop chair in a shop owned by a man known as “Augie.” Someone stormed in looking for the boss, to punch, demanding Augie. A customer pointed out Carfano sitting in the chair and shouted out “that's little Augie,” and the name stuck. The barber may have been Luigi Arturo Formosa who lived on East 26th Street in Flatbush. So are legends and myths created.
Another explanation may be found in etymology, the study of names. Augie as a name is closely linked to August, his elder brother by two years, who along with another brother, Alfred, followed him into the world of crime, although at a minor level, mainly infringements relating to illegal bookmaking in the Mt Vernon area. Carfano may have carried the hypocoristic use of August's name through his life as a form of endearment. His brother was also at times, referred to as “Big Augie” and it's simply possible that as the elder of the two he was Big and Anthony was Little.
As a side-note, the Carfano family actually came to include someone called Pisano when Etta, the daughter of August, on August 14th, 1947, married Louis Pisano, who lived in the Bronx. They would be married 63 years until his death in 2011.
Anthony was also sometimes called, “The Kid.” Presumably a reflection on his small stature, seeing how he stood only five-five, and maybe that was an exaggeration. He always wore stacked-heel shoes to give himself extra inches. The nickname he preferred, which his family and close friends used, was “Gus.”
In August 1921, a strange, almost Kafkaesque event occurred in Saratoga Springs, an affluent town that lies just north of the state capitol, Albany. Carfano, along with Joseph Pastorie and John Shortina were arrested by the superintendent of police. The charge? Picking the pockets of patrons of the Hudson Valley Trolley Company. They were each fined $50 and kicked out of town. The men had been staying at one of the most expensive hotels on Broadway, the main strip in town. Newspaper reports of the day do not disclose if this was simply a drunken prank or if in fact the three men had to, were driven to pick a pocket or two, to paraphrase the British musical, Oliver.
By then, Carfano was running his business interests out of an office on the second floor of 649 Union Street, on the corner of 4th Avenue in the Gowanus district of Brooklyn. His business was crime, and business was booming, although he still found time to get himself into trouble in upstate New York. 4th and Union would be the epicenter of his criminal world. Whenever the cops wanted “Little Augie” this is where they would start their hunt.
On August 13, 1925, along with Thomas O'Neil, Carfano was arrested in connection with an attempted break-in at Newman's Lake House, on Lake Lonely, near Saratoga Springs. During the burglary, the night-watchman, Charles T. Cook was shot and wounded. The investigation dragged on for almost a year, and in June 1926, charges against Carfano were dismissed on the basis of insufficient evidence by Judge McKelevy in Ballatan Spa County Court.
One of the great mysteries that would come to emerge in the early years of Carfano's life was his association with Al Capone and Chicago. There are references all over the place of this, but strangely, no details, no facts that explain the link. Considering that everybody connected into Capone, alphabetically from Accardo to Zuka gets their coverage with spades in the media of the day, radio and newspapers predominately, and that millions of words have filled hundreds of books over the last seventy years, there is no in-depth reporting or checkable references anywhere of Anthony Carfano operating as an aide to Al Capone, in Chicago.
Young Al ran in the Yale crew and would have undoubtedly crossed paths with Carfano. Sometime in 1919, Capone left New York and the gang, and moved to Chicago to work for Johnny Torrio who himself around 1910, had been called in to help “Big Jim” Colosimo in the running of a chain of brothels in the city, that were being extorted by a gang who claimed to be “Black Handers,” Italian criminal extortionists.
Torrio left Chicago in 1925, handing over his interests in the rackets to Capone. It was in 1925, according to testimony given to the Brooklyn District Attorney, George E. Brower on September 5th, 1930, that Carfano claimed he had last seen Al Capone. So was Carfano living in Chicago sometime after 1919 and yet still an active member of the Yale group in Brooklyn? Seems an unlikely premise.
Time Magazine described him as “Al Capone's east coast viceroy,” but never provided hard evidence to back this claim.
David Scot Witwer asserted that Carfano “had accompanied fellow Brooklyn crime figure Al Capone to Chicago and spent some years there working in Capone's organization.” But again, never supports this claim with any proof. (2)
Neither John Kobler or Laurence Bergreen, two of the most respected Capone biographers of the last forty years, mention Carfano as being part of or assisting Capone and his gang in Chicago at any time. (3)
Carfano was married to Lillian De Salvio which brought him a degree of faux respectability, due to her father's municipal connections, and their son Francis Anthony was born in May 1921. This happened in New York. Lillian's father, John, (Giovanni) was a Tammany Hall election captain in the 2nd Assembly District, West, one of the few non-Irish in Tammany Hall, a powerful Democratic politician, and the owner of a successful Greenwich Village nightclub and bar called Jimmy Kelly's at 181 Sullivan Street which he opened in 1921. Billed as New York's Montmartre, here, for a $1.25 you could have dinner and watch the floor show of beautiful girls, dancing the light fantastic. It has been claimed Carfano managed the club in its early days; if so, between that and his other activities within the Yale gang, it's hard to see where he could find the time to flit back and forward to Chicago to help sort out Capone's problems.
What did happen around this time is that Frank Galluccio (right) the man who gave Scarface Al Capone his scarface joined Carfano and his gang. Galluccio had gone to The Harvard Inn, a Yale-owned bar on Coney Island, with his sister, Lena, one night in 1917, and she had been bad-mouthed by Al Capone, who worked there as a waiter and bouncer. Her brother, tanked up on booze and furious at the apparent insult, slashed Capone three times across the left side of his face with a flick-knife. For the rest of his life, Capone tried hard not to be photographed from that side. Galluccio who was identified by mob informant, Joe Valachi, as a soldier in the crew managed by Carfano and then Vincent Rao, outlived Capone by about twenty years.
Violence and Frankie Yale seemed to go hand in hand. Known as the “Beau Brummell of Brooklyn,” and “The Prince of Pals,” at nineteen, he was arrested as a suspect in a murder but subsequently released. It was believed he went to Chicago in 1920 and murdered Giacomo “Big Jim” Colosimo, as a favor for Johnny Torrio and returned in 1924 to help kill Dion O'Banion, this time as a favor for Al Capone. He was arrested for the June 1921 murder of Ernesto Melchiorre whose decapitated body was found on Coney Island but then released shortly after. On July 15th, returning from a night at The Harvard Inn, at 3:00 am, Yale's car was attacked three blocks from the Bath Beach police station, on Cropsey Avenue, and shot up by another vehicle filled with gunmen who fired at least 20 shots from .45 caliber pistols into the vehicle. Passengers Rocco Lawrence and Yale's brother, Angelo, who was driving, were injured. Yale and Carfano along with another rider and member of Yale's gang, Babe Canelle, escaped unharmed.
Yale operated many legitimate businesses in Brooklyn: a funeral home at 66th Street and 14th Avenue, a number of neighborhood laundries, a restaurant, a taxi business, The Harvard Inn, and a company manufacturing cigars, boxed and retailed under his name. He peddled narcotics, ran bootleg booze and managed an extortion ring, mainly within the laundry industry. They were some of his illegal activities. He was making money over and under the counter, until something went wrong for him, badly.
In 1928, Frankie Yale (right), also nicknamed “The Executioner,” was himself executed. By this time, he and his group had come under the shield of Giuseppe Masseria who had set himself up as a major Mafia boss in New York.
Ironically, Yale's killing was triggered by a telephone call, in the same way that fate would deal a lousy card to Carfano thirty-one years into the future. On Sunday, July 1st, Frank was drinking at his bar, The Sunrise Club, on 14th Avenue and 65th Street. About 4:00 pm he gets the call informing him his wife, Luceida has been taken ill and rushes off to join her. It's a fake. Designed to lure him away and into danger.
While driving his new, brown Lincoln along 44th Street in the Homewood section of Brooklyn, he's overtaken by a black Buick sedan which crowded him to the curb. Numerous shots were fired into Yale's car which crashed off the road, narrowly missing a tree, and demolished a brick wall outside number 923, the home of Solomon and Bertha Kaufman who were celebrating their son's Bar Mitzvah. Although Yale's murder became famous as the alleged first mob killing in New York involving a Thompson sub-machine gun, he was in fact killed by pistol bullets and shotgun pellets, according to his autopsy. He had only recently taken delivery of his bullet-proofed car. The problem was that day, he was driving with his side window rolled down. This was the fifth attempt at killing him, beginning February 6th, 1921. It took seven years, but eventually, they got it right. For some reason, Yale left the speakeasy without his driver and bodyguard, James Caponi. Which was, of course, most convenient for the killers. Caponi moved over after Yale's death and worked the same job for Carfano until he moved south to Florida.
Yale's funeral, on July 5th, which Carfano organized and said was “bigger than Lincoln's,” was claimed to be the most extravagant in New York's mob history. There were 24 cars (or 38 depending on the source) just to carry the flowers, (one about the size of a small bungalow, showed a clock with the hands at 4:10 pm, the time he died) and a 100, or maybe 250 vehicles (again, depending on the source) ferried the mourners from the Church of St Rosalia in Borough Park to The Holy Cross Cemetery in Flatbush. His nickel and silver coffin cost $15000. It was claimed that all the speakeasies across Brooklyn had each contributed $200 to the floral arrangements following visits from Frankie's boys. A feared hoodlum referred to only as “Louis the Wolf” who had come from Harlem, rode in the first car behind the hearse.
The Italian colony between Borough Park and Bath Beach declared a holiday. Stores were closed and flags were at half mass. Inspector Edward Shelvey, Deputy Inspector Cornilus Carmody, and Acting Captain Edward Lawlor, of the Bath Beach station, directed the activities of four lieutenants, nine sergeants and fifty patrolmen to control the procession. About seventy-five detectives mingled with the crowd. There were probably more cops than gangsters.
The streets were lined with 100,000 people watching the cortège pass, gawking at the unbelievable ostentatiousness of it all. The Standard Union claimed that 2500 mourners attended the cemetery along with scores of politicians. Two women, both claiming to be his wife, fought over the coffin. 112 men lined the grave, each holding a red rose, that was thrown in as the gravediggers shoveled earth. Or so it was breathlessly recorded. A reporter wrote that the funeral reeked of good taste. All it needed to make it perfect was the Marx Brothers.
Carfano accompanied Yale's second wife to the funeral. His first wife, Marie, finished up working as a seamstress in a clothing factory to support their two daughters. All the money Yale had seemingly generated vanished like a puff of smoke. His declared estate was valued at around $3000.
Everything considered it was a splendid circus of a day. It was estimated the cost of the celebrations came to $52000, close to one million US in today’s terms.
It didn't end so good, though. Following the funeral, Carfano and five of his associates were stopped by a squad of New York detectives led by the immortal two-fisted Johnny Broderick, when their car ran a red light at the junction of the Bowery and Canal Street, in Lower Manhattan. Pulled over at Baxter Street, Carfano's group was arrested and hustled off to police headquarters for questioning.
Later in the evening they were released without charge. Broderick and his unit, “The Gangster and Industrial Squad”, which included the equally famous Frankie Phillips, and Johnny Cordes, no doubt had a more than enjoyable social intercourse with a group of hoods that represented a criminal class they detested and harassed at every opportunity. There would have been more than egos bruised that day for certain.
Following the death of Yale, Anthony Carfano took over some of his business interests, sharing the pot with Giuseppe Profaci who was busy creating his own gang of Mafia-style mobsters in South Brooklyn, made up of kin and close friends who hailed from Villabate near Palermo, in Sicily, Profaci's birthplace. Some of Yale's men, like Johnny Oddo, moved over to work with the new group. Profaci who lived at 8863 15th Avenue in Bath Beach, had arrived in America in 1922, and would come to run not just the fifth Mafia clan in New York, but also The Mamma Mia Co, the biggest importer of olive oil and tomato paste in America.
On October 6th, Michele Abbatemarco, aka Mike Scautz, or Schatz, another close aide to Yale, and a major player in the bootleg business, was himself shot dead while in his car on 83rd Street, near 24th Avenue, in Brooklyn.
He had left a card game in a coffee shop at Union Street and 4th Avenue, in Bath Beach, sometime after 3:00 am and his dead body perforated by gunshots, three in the head and one in the chest, was found slumped over the wheel at 4:15 am outside a house on East 83rd Street in Bensonhurst, about ten miles away, by a pedestrian, Jack Simon, who claimed he'd seen a man get out of the car after hearing the shots fired. The man walked away through the darkness of a vacant lot towards 84th Street. Police discovered a handgun in the weeds which had recently been fired. Carfano was a major suspect in the killing, but the police were unable to locate him, Four months later, police arrested and charged thirty-three-year-old Ralph Sprizza aka “Captain Moon,” of Carroll Gardens, a member of the newly formed Profaci Family, in connection with the hit. There was evidence that he may have left the card game with Abbatemarco, but in due course, charges were dropped. By this time Carfano was back in the neighborhood, living up to his reputation as one of New York's top hoodlums.
Throughout this period of Carfano's life, the United States of America was officially a dry country. Prohibition was introduced through the Volstead Act in 1920 and it would remain in force until repealed in 1933. Bootlegging was a major source of income for criminal groups across New York. Carfano, taking advantage of the huge demand for illegal drinking, set up and ran a speakeasy, opposite the Long Island Railroad depot on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.
New York Police Commissioner Richard E. Enright claimed Carfano and his gang ran rum out of Canada using two boats, Isabella and Betty III which were based at Montauk Point on Long island, always fueled and ready to go, and a fleet of eight limos and five trucks, used to transship the liquor from boats to spots across Brooklyn and Tammany clubhouses across New York. All of this under the protection of corrupt police officers, some of who were employed to act as drivers in the liquor convoys.
Carfano's influence extended beyond the police into city hall itself, Enright claiming, “that Mayor Jimmy Walker was Augie's very good friend.” It was Enright who also suggested that Carfano was Capone's lieutenant on the East Coast, which may well have set off the unsubstantiated rumor that over the years morphed into being accepted as the truth. Enright also claimed in October 1929, that Carfano was running at least 20 gambling dens across Brooklyn.
Giambattista Vico the 17th Century Italian philosopher once said, “Myths have a public basis in truth.” In the case of Capone and Carfano, it seems the exception that doesn’t prove the rule.
It was believed Carfano acted as one of Yale's bodyguards, and, as a result, was an obvious suspect in his murder; he was investigated by the police, but they could not collect enough evidence to indict him. At some time following the killing of his boss, he moved to take on a similar role with Giuseppe Masseria who later in the year was proclaimed Boss of Bosses of the American Mafia, according to Nicolo Gentile, a kind of Sicilian James Boswell who operated in the American arm of the honored society. His biography, published in the 1960s, Vita di Capo Mafia, made him out to also be the Forest Gump of Cosa Nostra. He was seemingly everywhere when anything important happened. His memoir is one of the main sources of reference for this early period in American Mafia history.
During this period, Carfano shared Masseria's apartment at number 65, 2nd Avenue in Lower Manhattan. Just why and for how long, has never been determined. Both men, when arrested on different occasion offered up the same address. A few months after the death of Yale, another powerful mob boss, Salvatore D'Aquilla, was gunned down on a street in the East Village. Maybe Giuseppe Masseria felt the winds of war blowing again and wanted the reassurance of an armed bodyguard by his side, at all times.
In June of 1929, Carfano was arrested in connection with the murder of gangster Gandolfo Curto who was shot dead in Queens on the evening of the 24th. Carfano was taken to police headquarters and interrogated for three hours. It was reported that Curto had borrowed $40000 from Yale and when Carfano went to collect it, he was given the cold shoulder. “Debts die in death” he was told. Carfano drove off in his canary-yellow roadster not believing a word of it. There and then, it would seem highly likely, Curto was “put on the spot”.
Gandolfo Curto, whose real name was Almedo (according to his wife Minnie) better known to the cops and underworld as Frankie Marlow, was a hoodlum with interests in boxing, race horses and, in particular, the nightlife of new York. The police looked on him as a “Broadway Racketeer.” He either owned or had shares in The Silver Slipper Club and The Rendezvous Club as well as the famous Cotton Club based in Harlem, a night spot that only allowed white customers although many of their best acts were black entertainers. He was linked into Frankie Yale, who had allegedly financed him into his gambling operation, taking 25% of the profits. Although the two men had been close, it was reported that they had “fallen out” shortly before Yale's death. At one time, it was reported Frankie had been the bodyguard of Arnold Rothstein the notorious gambler and shady underworld entrepreneur who was shot dead on November 6th, 1928.
Marlow (left) went out to dinner on that Monday evening of the last day of his life. During the afternoon, he had been to the races at Aqueduct Park in Ozone Park, Queens with a group of friends and associates. One of them lost $2700 on a hot tip from Marlow who obviously knew his horses. He joined up with these same five people at a small, Italian trattoria at 252, 52nd Street, in mid-town Manhattan. It was called La Tavernelle and belong to one of the people in the party, Ignatius Coppa. At some stage in the evening, Marlow was approached by one of his bookies, a man called Danny Murray, real name Dominic Piccora, and his guests were witness to a heated argument over money owed. Another interesting episode that occurred during the evening involved someone with the improbable name of Humber J. Fugazy, a sports promoter from Brooklyn, who was dining across the room from Marlow's group. He had been warned not to go to the restaurant as a killing might take place there. He also witnessed Marlow take the telephone call that lead to his death. Fugazy subsequently reported this to the police.
The Marlow group was eating from about eight until nine when Marlow gets the ubiquitous telephone message. He tells his friends he has to leave and walks down to the junction with Broadway where a blue sedan with two men aboard stops and pick him up. One of his dinner guests, a dancer at one of his clubs, Mary Seider, known as “Mickey of the Rendezvous,” walks him down the street and waves him goodbye. The car drives off and its chips for Frankie.
Approximately 45 minutes later he is gone. As the police later reconstruct it, the car pulled up on the roadside opposite the entrance to Flushing Cemetery in Queens. Three shots are fired at Marlow hitting him in the head, jaw, and neck. His body is then tumbled out of the car which drives off into the night and is abandoned on South 4th Street and Marcy Avenue in Brooklyn, about 11 miles away. A few minutes later, a man walking by sees the body lying near some bushes and telephones the police. They arrive and find that Marlow is still breathing, and rush him to a police post on 160th Street at Queens Avenue, where an ambulance comes to collect him. By then, unfortunately, he was dead. A man who seemed to be almost always chronically broke, the police found only $16 in his jacket pocket. Why the killers chose this circuitous death route, all the way out to Queens to do the murder then doubling back to Brooklyn to ditch the car was never explained. Mob hits are strange and mysterious undertakings. The logic of the act will always be based upon a full knowledge of the actions that precede it and the people involved. Most times, an impossible presumption.
Although the NYPD Commissioner, Grover Aloysius Whalen, personally supervised the investigation into Marlowe's death, and 50 detectives were allocated to the case, along with the Detective Inspectors from every borough, like almost every mob hit in New York, the killers were never apprehended. The police commissioner had stated to reporters on June 26th “that he was convinced there would be little trouble in solving this case.” On the 27th, it was announced the police knew the identities of the killers and the hunt was on. They didn't and it wasn't. Well actually, it was, but in all the wrong places, such as Boston and Philadelphia.
More than 1000 gangsters died in New York during the 1920s. Almost all of the killings went unsolved. Frankie's was no exception. Grover Whalen lasted exactly one year as New York's Police Commissioner. Some sources claim he was the most inefficient commissioner in the history of the department and on the take to the mob from his first day in office. One of his noted sayings during this time of Prohibition was “There's plenty of bars at the end of a nightstick.” Maybe his crime-fighting skills were overrated. Maybe he needed to be more circumspect when talking to the press.
Perhaps the only thing the world will remember about Whalen is that he was the guy who invented the “ticker-tape” welcome, still used to this day in New York to greet and honor celebrities.
After the stock market crashed in 1929, Frank Costello was recorded on a wiretap telling his boss, Lucky Luciano, that he had to advance Whalen $30,000 to cover his margin calls on the market. A few seconds later he says, "What could I do? We own him.”
When the police examined the room, Number 1311, that Marlow used at The Hotel Victoria on West 51st Street, among his effects they discovered numerous pawn tickets for jeweler he had borrowed heavily against. He also stiffed the hotel out of a week’s tariff when he checked out on his final night. Although he was known in the underworld as “a nine-karat big shot”, he had been continually short of money throughout 1929 and at his death, left debts exceeding $250000. These included his racecourse betting obligations and debts on his clubs along Broadway. He was also notorious for “welching” on loans. As he did with the one from Frankie Yale.
As was to be monotonously repeated over the years, Carfano, although brought in by the police a second time for questioning, was cleared in the Marlow investigation, as in others, by either lack of evidence or by informants recanting their stories or identification. Throughout his long, criminal career, he would be arrested, indicted, taken into protective custody, or questioned, but never convicted, except on that one $100 beef. The Brooklyn Eagle claimed, “Little Augie Pisano is usually brought in for interrogation whenever an underworld big shot is put on the spot.”
The police did learn, however, that one of the dinner guests, Johnny Wilson, had been or was in partnership with Carfano in a slot machine business and a floating card game based at The Hotel Manger on West 50th Street. Wilson had been a boxer and was managed by Marlow. His real name was Giovanni Panica, born and raised in East Harlem. He had been a school friend of Frank Costello and in 1920, fighting as a middleweight, he became the world champion. The police were also told by an informant, that Carfano had taken over Marlow's Manhattan rackets sometime in late 1928 after he found himself in yet more financial strife.
So, did Marlow die because he owed money and refused to pay it? Or was there some other reason that lead to those two men in a stolen car and a one-way journey for the Broadway gangster? After 85 years, it seems certain we will never know the answer. The one sure thing, though, is somewhere in the puzzle, one of the pieces will be stamped “Carfano.”
In February 1930, the opening shot in a gangland war that would come to complicate life dearly for all Italian-American gangsters in New York resounded through the darkness of a street in the Bronx. Mafia family boss Gaetano Riina was shot-gunned to death as he left the apartment of his mistress, Maria Ennis, on Sheridan Avenue.
The internecine struggle between the four major Mafia families (the newly-emerging Profaci Family stayed clear of the conflict) would continue until September 1931, although the number of fatalities in New York, and its related offshoot machinations in Chicago and Detroit, has been grossly exaggerated over the years. Men were not being shot down daily on the streets as some sources would have us believe. The tally at the end of the eighteen months struggle was between ten and twenty, at the most. Giuseppe Masseria was one of the major casualties, He was shot dead in a Coney Island restaurant in April 1931. Johnny Guistra was one of the suspected killers. Carfano was seen outside the building a few hours before the murder, by a businessman, a successful Brooklyn undertaker, who had been summoned there to make payments in an extortion scheme that had been waged against him by the members of Yale's crew for some years.
On February 13th, 1931, police raided Carfano's office on Union Street, above the barber shop. He, as usual, was absent. He became known in underworld circles as “the man who wasn't there,” for his uncanny ability to evade law enforcement. Whenever there was a police raid, he was somehow else, either in Miami Beach or Saratoga Springs, a place that was now more of interest to him for his interests in race-horsing activities than inconsequential or valueless criminal enterprises that seemed more like the pranks of a teenager.
Law enforcement was trying to clamp down on what they saw as a potential mob war between Carfano's group and another outfit lead by “Johnny “Bath Beach” Oddo, the same one who had left the crew of Frankie Yale following his demise, and moved over to work under Joseph Profaci. Seven of Carfano's crew were arrested under the Sullivan Law, for carrying handguns. The officer leading the police raid was Detective Petrosino, a nephew of the famous Lieutenant Joe Petrosino, the only New York police officer to die on duty outside of America when he was shot dead on a street in Palermo, in 1909.
Read: Sun King of the Mafia
While all this was going on, Anthony Carfano was maybe getting involved in his own killing spree. Although on a much smaller scale.
It started on March 5th, 1931. About 5:00 am in the morning, two police officers on duty in Union City, New Jersey, spotted a car traveling the wrong way down one-way 12th Street. The police car driver, Patrolman John Curry, pulled his vehicle over so Sergeant James Knight could flag down the offending vehicle. Shots rang out from the car, one striking the sergeant in the head. Officer Curry returned fire and was certain he had hit the driver, as the car careered across the street before it straightened up and roared off. Rushed to North Hudson Hospital, Weehawken, Sergeant Knight died there at 10:00 am. About that time, across the small township in Hudson County, in an apartment at 522, 19th Street, a little girl called Janice Hansen, was probably playing with her dolls after an early breakfast.
She would grow up, and one night, many years into the future, take an evening drive out of Manhattan with Anthony Carfano.
The police quickly determined that the three men in the car had been involved earlier that night in a robbery of a local garage, Brusilaur's, on Kerrigan Avenue, stealing a truck containing 20 bales of silk worth $40,000. One of the three was identified as Anthony “Little Augie Pisano” Carfano. For two years, the law tried to pin him to the board on this killing, but ultimately, he escaped the charges. The police believed that a gang of up to nine men had been connected into the theft which also entailed stealing a limousine parked on the premises. Seven were eventually brought to trial and five of them were convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but this was later overturned on appeal. One of the men, Anthony Curto, had identified Carfano as one of the killers, but when called to pick him out at a line-out in Raymond Street Jail, Brooklyn, on April 13th, 1933, wrongly chose Anthony Fantano, who had nothing to do with the crime. Carfano was arraigned for the last time in front of magistrate Sylvester Sabatino in the Flatbush Court on his indictment for the killing of Sergeant Knight, and released on April 21st.
He had beaten the rap. Again.
Charles Maturo was twenty-six, married, and lived in a squalid, gritty, tenement block at 57 Sullivan Street. To-day, it is the oldest remaining house in the South Village, worth about $7 million. In 1931, it was a dump amongst dumps. Maturo had another dump across the East River in Brooklyn. He called it The Wonder Club. It was located at the corner of 15th Street and 3rd Avenue in the Gowanus neighborhood.
For some reason, early in June, he moved the business around the corner to 14th Street. This was into a building at number 91, described by a city newspaper as a “one-story, frame, clapboard shanty.” He also changed the name of the venue to “The Green Cottage Inn.” Here, Maturo and his partner, twenty-three-year-old Angelo Simenitto ran a “home-brew speakeasy” which produced its own beers and did not rely on the local rum-runners for supplies. Bad move.
Both Maturo and his partner had police records, as did their bouncer, Joseph Barberi. Relatively minor: larceny, burglary, petty assaults, that sort of stuff. Their “club” was a noisy, boisterous place that kept the neighbors awake, and the local police busy following up complaints. And then on August 12th, things became very quiet. A probationary police officer, Thomas Wilson, who rented a room opposite the club came home early on the morning of August 13th. His brother-in-law, Henry Zorcyzk, who owned the two-story house, mentioned to him that there seemed something odd about the speakeasy as the place was in darkness. The officer investigated and found the three men who ran it, dead inside. The place was a shambles with all the furniture wrecked and the rooms ransacked. All three had been brutally beaten and hacked to death. A bloodstained blackjack and axe were found on the premises which had obviously been at least two of the weapons used to kill the men.
The area was soon swarming with police and detectives from the 5th Avenue station under the direction of Detective Lieutenant Elmer Josephs. The head of the detective squad was quoted as saying he was certain the men had been killed for refusing to obtain their liquor from the local syndicate. On August 14th, The New York Times reported, “The triple killing may have been the result of a raid by the gang of Little Augie Pisano.” By August 15th, The Brooklyn Eagle was stating that the police were seeking Anthony Carfano to help them in their enquiries.
At one stage in their investigation, detectives interviewed two, young Jewish girls, Gertrude Fink and Anna Sadowski who had claimed they had been molested and sexually assaulted at the club some days previous to the killings. It was thought that their friends had carried out the attack, but police soon discounted this. The closest they got to a solution was an arrest on May 7th, 1932. August Gerald Laietta, right, 26, was taken into custody and questioned by the police, but they were unable to hold him and he was eventually released. August “Jerry Ryan” Laietta would one day become a capo or crew chief in the Genovese crime family, sometime after the murder of Anthony Carfano in whose Bronx crew he served.
Carfano was living at 648 Sackett Street, one block behind his office on Union, when on September 16th, 1931, at 6:00 am, police stopped, and then confiscated one of his booze trucks on Atlantic Avenue, loaded with $50000 worth of champagne and cognac. No doubt he wrote it off as a business expense.
Two men, William Price and Edward Flanagan were found wrapped in potato sacks and stuffed into an automobile in Borough Park on October 7th, 1931. They had been stabbed and strangled. Police investigators believe they were victims of a beer war raging between Carfano and Charles “Vannie” Higgins, a bootlegger from Bay Ridge who was often referred to as Brooklyn's last Irish crime boss. The cops pulled in Carfano and questioned him, which was becoming, increasingly an exercise in futility.
On Sunday, September 11th, 1932, the dead body of forty-five-year-old Gerardo Scarpato was found behind the front seats of an abandoned car, outside 216 Windsor Place, near Prospect Park in the Windsor Section of Brooklyn. The corpse was found stuffed in a Hessian sack. Scarpato had been strangled. He was the owner of the restaurant where Giuseppe Masseria had been shot dead in April 1931. On the previous Friday night, he had been called to a meeting at Carfano's office on Union Street and was last seen with twenty-year-old James Demino walking towards the address. Although all identification had been removed from the body, he was easily identified. His name was tattooed on the inside of his left arm.
Anthony Carfano was summoned on the evening of September 13th by Inspector George Bishop, in charge of the 11th Detective District and questioned for over an hour. As usual, he walked away. He and Scarpato had been childhood friends.
Another corpse turned up, September 20th. This one it would seem, from his actions, had simply been seeking suicide by the mob. Edward “Red” Patterson was a small time gangster burdened with giant size ambition. He was twenty-eight years old and thought he could break the monopoly exercised by Anthony Carfano in the Brooklyn illegal booze market. He had approached various Manhattan non-Italian kingpins in the illegal liquor field asking for their help to break Carfano's hold over the market. They had told him to go ahead and see how many speakeasies he could convert before they would back him.
One night, early in September, while he was drinking in a bar on Bergen Street, in Boerum Hill, three men walked in and started shooting. They wounded Patterson and killed the bartender, Fred Gilles. Patterson had been running afoul of the law since the age of twelve and at the time of his death was on bail on a charge of assault. His record ran from robbery to drug dealing to breaking the Sullivan Law, to homicide. His body, badly beaten about the head and shot four times, was found dumped in the doorway of a lodging house at 51 Concord Street, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. It seems the police did not bother to harass Carfano over this killing. Maybe they were simply accepting the fact that the little guy was inviolable.
On August 6th, 1933, a trial was convened in the Brooklyn Kings County Court. It was a racketeering conspiracy charge involving three men, and their part in a scandal in the laundry industry exposing corruption, extortion and intimidation against laundry owners or operators across the borough. The District Attorney stated, “it is the most vicious, widespread and piratical that has ever operated in Brooklyn.”
The main defendant was Jacob Mellon who The Brooklyn Eagle named “The Czar of the Brooklyn Laundry Racket.” A Russian Jew who immigrated to America sometime prior to 1914, ten years later he was a major power in the laundry industry in the borough. With the death of Yale, who had controlled and intimidated many of the smaller, family laundry businesses across this part of New York, Mellon conceived the idea of incorporating all the borough laundries into the Neighborhood Laundry Association and soon had 177 of them in line, paying dues, and the money was pouring into the NLA. Those that did not toe the line found their business wrecked or burned down. A campaign was waged by Mellon and his partners in crime that was a systematic system of extortion, coercion, intimidation, and sabotage.
The state's star witness, Philip Schlanger, whose laundry had been wrecked by four thugs and his night watchman badly beaten, claimed he had been threatened by a man called Eddie Benson, who the district attorney, William Geoghan, claimed was an enforcer for notorious hoodlum, Augie Pisano. Benson had threatened witnesses it was claimed. Schlanger also claimed he had been physically intimidated by two men and on one occasion had been taken to a 4th Avenue speakeasy where he had been confronted by a man he identified as “Augie.” Trial Judge Alonzo McLaughlin had issued orders to his staff to evict from the courtroom any known “Pisano rods” who might seek to disrupt the proceedings.
The Brooklyn Eagle stated on September 1st, 1933, “The name of Little Augie Pisano, Brooklyn's leading terrorist, figured frequently in the trial.”
The case fizzled out. The three defendants were given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist with a wet cloth. The Brooklyn DA tried, unsuccessfully to resurrect the indictment, and no doubt everyone on the wrong side of the bench heaved a sigh of relief when he failed.
A year later, on August 7th, 1934, two men, Vincent Pisano, aged 22, and Oreste De Robertis, 29, were shot dead while sleeping in their lodging at 714 President Street, in Brooklyn. The men had been trying to muscle in on the policy racket operating in the neighborhood, and Pisano had posed as a relative of Anthony Carfano. Police knew there were two suspect killers, seen fleeing the brownstone in the early hours of the morning, but no arrests were ever made.
There was little doubt who was behind the killings, however. A man The Brooklyn Eagle in November 1933 was then referring to as “The ghostly figure in the Brooklyn badlands. Booze, slot-machines, ponies and politics interest him strongly....... a dapper dandy.”
In 1935, Anthony Carfano appeared twice in the law's major criminal exposure announcements.
On May 20th, the New York Police announced the creation of a special squad of their best detectives and that they had identified the top seven criminal gangs in the metropolitan area. “They would go all out to obliterate them,” thundered the media. Little Augie Pisano was named as one of the gang leaders specializing in laundry racketeering, extortion and whisky hijacking who would fall to the squad's vengeance. Didn't happen.
Then, on November 1st, the New York Police Commissioner released a booklet containing photos and descriptions, this time of the “Big Nine” gang leaders. The manual went out to all precincts with orders to harass and pick up these men whenever spotted. Anthony Carfano was one of the nine. It surely didn't bother him. He probably went off to race his horses in Saratoga, or simply flew down to stay in Miami Beach, a place that had become his second home. Possibly as a result of the influence of a man called Joe.
Around 1909, an Italian family called Doto, from a town near Naples, entered America illegally. One of the sons, Giuseppe Antonio was seven years old. Twenty years later, he was making a name for himself, for all the wrong reasons, He was a criminal and part of Masseria's gang. His speciality was gambling: off track, vending machines, numbers, poker games, any activity where lady Luck was on the side of the house. He became close friends with Carfano and Costello, and also Willie Moretti, Costello's New Jersey-based underboss. He was close enough to Moretti to be one of his daughter's godfathers. Most people came to call him Joe Adonis. It was a nickname he loved, being as how he was something of a narcissist with a deep appreciation and love of mirrors.
In the early 1940s when New York's feisty little mayor, Fiorello La Guardia went on a mission to destroy the gambling industry, that he believed was corrupting the city's youth, Doto seeing the writing on the wall, located across to New Jersey, bought a flash home in Fort Lee on Dearborn Road, and took over running the family's gambling interests in the Garden State. According to Virgil Peterson, ex-FBI agent and former head of The Chicago Crime Commission, Doto (right) up to that point, had, since the death of Frankie Yale been recognized as the boss of organized crime in Brooklyn. He ran his criminal empire from a restaurant he owned on the corner of 4th Avenue and Carroll Street in Brooklyn called Joe's Italian Kitchen, which became a favorite venue for crooked cops and venal politicians. One of his three brothers, Anthony managed the place, and Joe spent $14000 renovating and sprucing the place up. In addition to his criminal activities, Doto became the principal shareholder, director and vice president of the Automotive Conveying Company of New Jersey, a carrier used to transport Ford Vehicles from their plant in Edgewater, New Jersey, which had opened in 1930, to agencies in nine states and Washington D.C. Up to 1940, Ford paid this company $8 million for its services.
Some time earlier, it is believed he and Frank Costello, whose main sphere of illegal activity had always been gambling, convinced Anthony Carfano to do the same thing, but in Florida. There is no known date that confirms this move, (some sources claim he was operating there as early as 1927, although this is unlikely) but by 1938, the FBI identified Carfano as the owner of The Continental Cub in Miami which opened on January 25th that year. One of his eleven arrests occurred in 1933 in Miami where he was found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon and find $100.
He was also a silent partner in the Frolics Club at 13th Street owned by Boston-born gangster and gambler Moe Dalitz, and in 1939, was part of a group including the notorious gambler, Frank Ericson, of New York, who took over the Wofford Hotel at 2401 Collins Avenue. Carfano was listed as the hotel's chief executive. Some reporters would claim that over the next forty years, the mob took over running half of Miami Beach's hotels.
In 1943, the Mafia boss of Cleveland, Al Polizzi, retired and moved to Florida. He became partners with Tatum Wofford, Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky and Carfano in the Sands and Grand Hotels in Miami Beach which at times served as a Florida base for mobsters from Detroit, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. The media came to call Miami Beach “the winter capital of the hoodlum empire.”
Carfano's and his partner's interest in The Wofford became apparent, when in 1950, The Kefauver investigation into organized crime, claimed the largest backroom casino in Miami was located here.
The previous years, The Miami Crime Commission had exposed Carfano “as running The Wofford for the purpose of offering a hangout for some of the nation's most vicious criminals. He was,” said Daniel P. Sullivan, operating director of the commission, “a confirmed, hardened criminal, racketeer, and gangster.”
Miami Beach became a Petri dish of ostentatious hotels, big shows, big numbers operations and sweepstake interests and extensive pari-mutuel gambling in horse racing and dog tracks. It was a playground colossus long before Las Vegas hit the scene. In 1940, forty new hotels opened in the Miami Beach area. Miami City had legalized slot machines in 1935 which helped fuel the demand for gambling activity. Over the next twenty years, Anthony Carfano developed a network of overlapping interests including legitimate and illegal enterprises. Along with Meyer Lansky and Tampa Mafia boss Santos Trafficante, he emerged as a Floridian racketeer par excellence. He would come to spend more and more time in Miami Beach, leaving his New York criminal activities to be managed by Vincent Alo who would himself come to operate in Florida along with Meyer Lansky, the Jewish gambling entrepreneur. It was an open secret in the criminal underworld that Alo “ran” Lansky for the Luciano/Costello/Genovese family. The two men also happened to be close, personal friends.
On February 17th, 1939, Carfano and one of his many partners in crime, the crooked labor schemer George Scalice flew from Miami to Havana for a three-day junket at The Hotel Nacional. Scalice who was allegedly a bodyguard at one time to Frankie Yale had in the past and would in the years ahead, be part of Carfano's union manipulations and shady labor deals. Scalice paid the bill at the hotel for their stay, $177. 97. Westbrook Pegler, the famous newspaper columnist, thought of Scalice as “A criminal of the vilest type that it is possible to imagine. A member of the old mob of Brooklyn.”
The following month, Carfano was a guest at a party hosted by Charley Fischetti at his home in Miami Beach. Fischetti was Al Capone's cousin and was part of the Chicago syndicate until his death in 1951. Joe Adonis, Frank Costello and Mike Coppola, another capo in their crime family, were there along with others from Chicago and New York. Brooklyn-born Fischetti was an old pal of Carfano's. Seven years later they would be partying again, but this time, overseas.
In February 1946, Charley Luciano who had headed up Carfano's Mafia family, after the reformation of the New York Mafia in 1931, was deported from America, back to Sicily, his birthplace.
Eight months later he was heading back, illegally to the Americas. First by freighter to Caracas, then by plane to Mexico City and into Havana, arriving October 29th. He was there to meet up with his closest mob friends and to host a two-day conference, with his associates, just before Christmas. It was a meeting of more than just minds, with Italian and Jewish criminals representing New York, Chicago, New Jersey, Buffalo, Louisiana and Florida. Among the 22 delegate, that included six Mafia family heads, four under-bosses and two counsellors, and five of the biggest Jewish mobsters in the United States, was Anthony Carfano representing one of the ten men from New York. This was an indication of just how powerful and important he had become within the organization.
He had just turned fifty-one.
When the US Government discovered that Luciano had arrived in Havana, strong diplomatic constraint was brought on the Cuban government to have him returned to Italy. It took three months of negotiation and pressure politics from Washington, and on March 19th, 1947, he was deported from Cuba aboard a Turkish cargo vessel, The Bakir, bound for Genoa. He would never return to America. Except in a coffin.
Over the next thirteen years, Anthony Carfano continued to consolidate his position in the Mafia family then controlled by Frank Costello. Sometime in the early 1940s, he met Allan Drake in Florida.
Drake, real name Margulies, was a Jew who was born and grew up in Boston's tough West End.
He had a troublesome childhood and had turned to boxing as a way of working through it. In his early 20s, he moved to Florida and started work as a cab driver for Segal Safety Cabs in Miami Beach. He subsidized his income by fighting in amateur boxing matches on Monday nights.
One evening he picked up Anthony Carfano as a fare who introduced himself and they became friends. Carfano had been impressed with Drake's boxing skills and was surprised to learn that Allan's big ambition was to be a working comedian. He became Carfano's personal chauffeur, “Little Augie's boy,” and gradually, with his help and his many contacts in the show business world started getting gigs at clubs and theatres in Miami Beach.
Trade publication Variety, reviewing one of his early performances said, "Allan Drake (right) has been trying to bring a smile to the world all his life. He is dark and solid and nervous. For a comedian, he's had a poor existence."
His first big date was at The Paddock Club, a burlesque bar on 7th Street and Washington Avenue in which Carfano had major points. He subsequently toured venues in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey and there in 1944 at Palisade Park, he hosted a beauty competition for the most beautiful legs in America, “The Venida Miss Beautiful Legs of 1944,” proclaiming a dazzling blonde, eighteen-year-old, Janice Hansen, from Weehawken, the winner. They were married on August 4th, 1945, with Drake showing his address as “Emcee, Primrose Country Club, Newport, Kentucky,” and soon, Anthony Carfano, whom they and their only child, a boy called Michael, came to call, “Uncle Gus,” was part of their family. For the next fourteen years, the lives of the Drakes and Carfano would be inextricably linked, providing gossip for loose tongues and fodder for law enforcement agencies on a local and national level. It would turn out to be a most dangerous liaison.
Having been ostracized over the years by the media, the police department and the office of the district attorney, as the greatest criminal scourge in Brooklyn, (The Standard Union May 16, 1930, referred to him as “Brooklyn's best known gang leader and on October 14th as “accredited overlord of the Brooklyn alcohol ring.” The Brooklyn Eagle in June 1932 claimed “Augie Pisano the sole survivor of the big shots of the Bay Ridge underworld to-day.” And in July 1933 headlined “Little Augie is immune in Brooklyn.” And in August “the man's name is known to every resident of Brooklyn,” and November “ace racketeer and high on the list of public enemies.”), Anthony Carfano reached the heights of national notoriety when in 1951, the Kefauver Senate Committee Hearings into organized crime named him as “One of the leading criminals in the American underworld.” He was now, truly, a national icon. He was a primer one bad man.
One of his business colleagues, a man he worked with over the years, was almost as bad.
To be continued in part two...
You can read more of Thom L. Jones stories at his Mob Corner at Gangsters Inc.
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