Forgot to tell you. Friday Sept. 5 was the 78th anniversary of the killing of Joe Pinzolo. Who was Pinzolo? Glad you asked. He was the man Joe “the Boss” Masseria put in charge of the Reina (or Rina or Reena, take your pick) family after he, Masseria, ordered the Ice racketeer’s death back in February. Although Reina’s gang accepted Pinzolo as their leader, quietly they planned his overthrow. We get an unglamorous view of Pinzolo from Joe Valachi who met him once when the latter was being looked over for possible membership into the mob. Valachi referred to him as being an ugly “greaseball”, which author of The Valachi Papers, Peter Maas tells us was a term used by the younger Italian gangsters when referring to the older generation Mafioso.
Pinzolo’s actual name was Pinzolo Bonaventura and his criminal career dated back to the first decade of the century when he gained a bit of notoriety in 1908 for being the first black hander ever to be captured in the act of trying to blow up a building. On July 14, of that year he was sent to blow up a tenement building because the owner, Francisco Spinella, had ignored numerous black hand letters demanding $4000. Spinella, who owned other properties that had been bombed by the black hand, turned the letters over to the police. Detective Petrosino and two members of his detective squad were staking out his tenement and at about 11:00pm they saw Pinzolo walk down the street and pass the building twice, then on the third pass after making sure no one was on the street he dashed inside. The three detectives immediately ran in after him and caught him in the act of lighting a fuse to some dynamite. Two of the detectives grappled with the gangster who reportedly “fought like a tiger” while the other doused the lit fuse. In the melee Spinella came out of his apartment with a rifle thinking he was under attack. He wanted to shoot Pinzolo but the detectives intervened and at one point the barrel of a gun was pressed so hard against Pinzolo’s face that it actually went through his cheek. Reports are conflicting as to who inflicted the wound one report says it was Spinella and another says it was Petrosino either way the young gangster was sent off to prison and after his release worked his way up in the mafia becoming a lieutenant to Joe “the Boss” Masseria.
On September 5, (not September 9 as reported in The Valachi Papers) Pinzolo was knocked off in a suite that was leased to Thomas Lucchese, who was one of the late Reina’s lieutenants, but according to Valachi another of Reina’s lieutenants did the actual shooting, Girolamo Santucci, known as “Bobby Doyle”. Who afterwards told Valachi, “I got the break of my life. I caught him alone in the office.” (More on this in Gangster City. Paperback edition coming in March 2009)