Chicago gangster Ted Newberry says: "He must have done something. They don't kill you for nothing." Ted was rubbed out on January 7, 1933

Arrest of Francis 'Two Gun' Crowley

Meet Kiki

Thursday, December 31, 2009

There was a crooked man

Hello and Happy New Year. Long time no chat. The Legs Diamond book is shaping up nicely, am waiting on a few documents but should be done in a few months if not sooner. Hopefully you'll have a copy sometime in 2010.

I wish you all a safe and Happy New Year and whatever your plans are whether rocking in the New Year with whats left of Dick Clark, drinking at your favorite watering hole or waltzing at Grand Central Station take a moment to remember gambler Louis "Crooked Neck" Levine who never made it to midnight on this date back in 1931

“Crooked Neck”, so called because of a physical deformity,(that had to do wonders for his esteem) appeared at a mid-town club known as the Pups Kennel Yard, which was basically a private speakeasy where members, who needed a card to enter, could drink and gamble.

Through out the evening Levine was called away from his poker table three times to take phone calls. During his last call he was over heard saying, “No, I won’t meet you. I’m going to stay here.” “Crooked Neck” returned to his table and once again commenced to playing cards. At about 4:00am, as Levine sat behind his approximately $400 in chips, three men arrived at the club.

The men were not members of the club and in lieu of cards showed the doorman their pistols and were granted immediate entrance. Recognizing Levine from behind (Always face the door Louis!!!) the men walked up and fired three bullets into the back of his head.

Gunmen and patrons alike fled the premises helter skelter and, like Crooked Neck (or Mush Head now), the Christmas tree toppled. Police arrived but, well, you know same old same old.

Here's to a swell New Year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

S'long Jackie

Bang bang Maxwell's* silver bullets crashed into his head.
Bang bang Maxwell's silver bullets made sure that he was dead.
*Who Maxwell was is open to interpretation.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Anyone out there in DGIS land related to or know anybody who knew New York Daily News journalist John O'Donnell? Worked for the paper from the 1920's-1950's?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

La Barbera La Bootlegger

Eighty-seven years ago today forty-year old Ignacio La Barbera was walking down his street with another man about a block away from where mafia boss Umberto Valenti was killed the month before. As the duo strolled along two men fell into step behind them. When the two trailing men got close enough they each pulled out a pistol and fired into La Barbera’s neck and back. Mortally wounded La Barbera fell to the sidewalk. The man who was with La Barbera ran away as did the gunmen.
The police found a key on La Barbera and used it to open the store over which he lived and found a large copper still and thirty-nine five-gallon jugs filled with alchohol. Since La Barbera lived and died in the same proximity as Umberto Valenti, let's start a rumor that he was bumped off on orders from Joe Masseria as well.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

That's for taking my cab!

Way, way back in 1921, on a day very much like today, ok, actually it was the same date. A cab pulled up in front of the house of a young Irish feller named Vincenzo Verducci*. Inside the cab were three of Verducci's friends, one of whom was toting a bottle of champagne. Verducci climbed into the cab to join his partying compadres when suddenly a man darted out of a nearby doorway, jumped onto the cab's running board and fired two shots. One hit Verducci in the cheek, and even worse, the other blew apart the bottle of bubbly. The gunman and everyone else without a bullet hole in their face jumped from the taxi and ran away leaving the driver to transport Vincenzo to the hospital. Apparently the only fatality was the Champagne, sniff sniff.

* I don't know if he really was Irish, I was just judging by the name.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dropper gets dropped

Eighty-six years ago today. New York City lost it's most notorious gangster of the time. Nathan Kaplan a.ka. the Cisco Kid...wait thats not right, it's Kid that's an Elvis movie; let me check my notes....ah, there it is Kid Dropper! That's it, the prime suspect in yesterdays murder, and the terror of the Lower Eastside, was gunned down as the exited the Essex Market Courthouse by a young punk named George M. Cohan...wait thats not right. It was singer/author Leonard Cohen...hold on let me check my notes....Louis Cohen, thats it! Louis Cohen was put up to the job by Kid Droppers arch nemesis Little Feet, I mean the Little Rascals, oh hold on, I really should prepare myself better....Little Augie Orgen thats it. With the demise of the Dropper, Little Augie rose to the top of the lower Eastside gangster heap, but you already knew that.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dropped by the Dropper?

Eighty five years ago this evening Seventeen-year-old Alex Schnite told his father that he had a date and left the family flat at dusk. Around 11:00pm he was standing against a wall on the lower eastside when three men approached him. While Schnite was looking in the opposite direction one of the trio shot the teen twice in the back and the side. Schnite fell to the ground and another of the guys unclasped a knife and slashed his jugular vein. Schnite rolled over to shield himself from another blow and the knifeman stabbed him in the back before escaping with the others in a waiting taxi.

Numerous people were in the vicinity when the crime took place and some ran to Schnite’s home and informed his parents. Alex was removed to the hospital where he arrived DOA. His father said that his son had told him he was going on a date and then breaking down he mentioned that Alexander had told him that he had had some trouble with members of “Kid Dropper’s” gang.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Felix' folly

Felix Deegan's family said he wasn't a gangster but when he was found dead 85- years ago today they said that the two bullets pumped into his head and the other two fired into his chest were the result of a gang feud. Odd? Oh, and he also had a .38 on him.

Deegan was last seen alive at 10:30pm when a cop came across him and five other guys and they were all arguing. Deegan was drunk so the cop told him to go home whilst shoeing away the other guys. Deegan didn't go home though, instead Felix the cat hungout and regrouped with the five men. An hour later the cop responded to four gunshots and saw the five amigos pile into a cab and drive off leaving Deegan knocking on Heaven's door. Heaven answered on the way to the hospital.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by.

Twenty-five year old Peter Whalen was a Brooklyn rum runner with a police record dating back to when he was eleven. When he was fifteen he got busted for stealing pigeons (even back then the bird was the word) before moving up to grand larceny by the time Prohibition rolled around. Eighty-seven years ago today Peter was standing on a corner when a man appeared in a doorway and unleashed a volley of bullets at him. With one of those bullets in his heart Peter ran a block before dropping dead.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Labor rackets

You'd think that only gangters made up the criminal organization knows as Murder Inc. but not according to their death certificates.

For example on March 4, 1944 the state of New York electrocuted, not organized crime figures, but a hat salesman and clothier by the names of Emanuel "Mendy' Weiss and Louis Buchalter.

The blue collar sect also lost a couple of their own when "laborers" Harry Maione & Frank Abbandando were executed on 2/19/42. This hard working pair had no distinct skill but would work in "any" industry. Sounds like a couple of guys just trying to make ends meet.

the I.B.E.U. lost one of their own when electrician Martin "Buggsy" Goldstein was, ironically killed by electricity, along with apparent slacker Harry Strauss whose occupation was "unknown."

Not one gangster in the group. Unless, perhaps they lied? Which is possible but if you're going to be executed aren't you gonna come up with a whopper of an occupation?

Harry Strauss
Horse Whisperer

Harry "Happy" Maione
Disc Jockey - Morning Zoo with Happy & the Dasher

Emanuel Weiss
Rain Maker

Louis Buchalter

Martin Goldstein
G in MGM

Frank "the Dasher" Abbandando
Disc Jockey - Morning Zoo with Happy & the Dasher

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Johnny got his gun

Tonight in Chicago hundreds will gather at the Biograph theater to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of John Dillinger’s execution. Chances are there would be a lot more if the film Public Enemies didn’t...well, much like the Grinch, stink, stank, stunk. In addition to the story itself, below are a few of the problems I had...

Spoiler alert

Why did they bother having Homer Van Meter and Harry “Pete” Pierpont, and could anyone tell the difference between the two?

Who was the guy in the car with Van Meter and Nelson after the escape from Little Bohemia who got killed when it crashed? Speaking of Nelson what was the direction for that actor, “Do the stereotypical psychotic Nelson, just turn it up a notch.”

Did we really need the whole Frank Nitti Chicago mob angle?

I can appreciate using actual dialog but only when it furthers the story otherwise it falls flat. Historical accuracy already went out the window when you had Floyd killed early on so why bother with the whole Crown Point courtroom seen. It was pointless, also the actor playing Piquett?? What was his direction, “Ok take what was originally a P.T. Barnum/ Patrick Henry courtroom performance and do it like an aluminum siding salesman” Same with Depp after the break out, I may be wrong but I suspect when the real Dillinger was singing “the last round up” it didn’t sound like a funeral dirge.

Ok, that’s enough complaining. On a positive note I did like the guns. I thought they seemed very authentic, although I’ve never seen or heard an actual BAR or Thompson machinegun fired, I suspect that’s what they would have sounded like. Although the character was extraneous, the guy who played Karpis was good.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

G-Men in New York Part III

After the run in with the law in Philly Mais, Legenza and two gang members fled to New York City. On December 17, Legenza was checked into the Presbyterian hospital and Mais took an apartment at 8 Manhattan Avenue. Their two cohorts Edwin Gale and Martin Farrell took rooms at a midtown hotel.
Back in Philadelphia G-Men were trailing one of the gang’s molls named Marie McKeever. They followed her to New York City and over the course of a few days they established the whereabouts of each of the remaining gang members. On January 18, 1935 the law made their move. The first two captured were Gale and Farrell, who were picked up at their hotel. Next they swung by the Presbyterian hospital where they took Legenza without any trouble. McKeever was also there so they arrested her to since they didn’t need her anymore. Finally it was time for Mais, he had proved in the past that he wouldn’t think twice about killing or shooting his way out of trouble. Together G-Men and detectives from both the NYPD and Philadelphia police department gathered at no. 8 Manhattan Avenue. All exits to the building were covered and a raiding party smashed there way into the room. Fortunately for the authorities Mais was a sleep and they were able to pounce on him before he had a chance to grab the loaded pistol or knife, that were resting near his pillow. Realizing that resistance was futile the killer meekly gave in.
Both Mais and Legenza were returned to Richmond where they kept their date with the electric chair three weeks later on February 3. Hoping to by his way out of the electric with good grace gang member Farrell led police to the body of kidnap victim William Weiss.
Though the Tri-State gang is little remembered today, no doubt in part to the efficiency of the G-Men and detectives who brought them in without any fanfare, they like Dillinger and his cohorts did get the Hollywood treatment. In 1950 a movie was made about their exploits called Highway 301. Robert Stack’s Elliot Ness also went up against them when they got their own episode on the Untouchables TV show titled of course “The Tri-State gang”.

Monday, June 29, 2009

G-Men in New York part II

Like so many of the Public Enemies Mais and Legenza had people on the outside who were willing to help them. Guns were smuggled into the prison and on September 29, 1934 both were able to shoot their way out. One guard was killed and two others wounded in the process.
Back on the outside the first order of business was to re-arm themselves. Like the Dillinger gang and others of that ilk, this was accomplished by raiding an armory. In the case of Mais and Legenza it was the government arsenal at Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Well armed they returned to Philadelphia to commence with their crime wave. They started with a $4,000 robbery of the Philadelphia Rapid Transit Company that October and that same month moved into kidnapping by snatching a Philadelphia big shot by the name of William Weiss. The Victim was a former bootlegger, who after Repeal became a “Nightlife character.” On the twenty-sixth Weiss returned home from his nightly rounds and after he parked his car in the garage the Tri-State gang snatched him before he could get inside his house.
The gang demanded a hundred thousand dollar payoff. After a little while they received $8000 from some of Weiss’s friends. Letters were continually sent to his family and then they abruptly stopped. For some reason Mais and Legenza had a change of heart, perhaps the case drew to much heat, anyways Weiss was shot to death and his body weighted down in a creek beneath a bridge.
The gang was planning another kidnapping. This time the victim was going to be a Pensylvania distiller named Simon Neuman. The Distiller learned of the plan however and surrounded himself with bodyguards. Next Mais was planning on snatching another underworld sort named Sam Lazar but before they had a chance to put the plan into effect things got to hot for them.
On December 13, the local Feds and the Philadelphia police located the gangs hideout and went in. Once again Mais tried to fight but was wounded. He did manage to escape along with Legenza, who subsequently broke both his legs jumping down an embankment. Seven members of the gang however, and the weapons were captured.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

G-Men in New York - Part I

With Public Enemies opening next week I thought it would be fun to look at the FBI's New York office during the gangster era. While Melvin Purvis and the G-Men of the mid-west were chasing the likes of Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson, the G-Men of the east coast were pursuing their own desperados. Though they didn’t get as much publicity as their Midwest counterparts the New York G went up against equally dangerous men. One of the reasons that their story hasn’t been told is because the New York City bureau was able to accomplish their missions without bloodshed.
On January 18, two days after Florida G-Men killed Fred and “Ma” Barker in a dramatic gunfight in Florida, the New York City office was going to get it’s chance to bring in a Public Enemy. His name was Robert Mais and he was called “Pennsylvania’s Public Enemy #1”. Twenty-nine year old Mais was co-leader of the Tri-State gang, so called because they committed their depredations through out eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
Over the previous six months the FBI had been bringing down Public Enemies all across the Midwest. There was one constant in each FBI encounter, the Public Enemy was killed and in some cases, like that of Baby Face Nelson, so were G-Men. On July 22, 1934 Dillinger was killed in Chicago. In October it was Pretty Boy Floyd’s turn. He was shot down while running across an Ohio farm. The following month Baby Face Nelson got his but took two agents with him. On January 16, 1935 it was Freddie Barker who went down in a hail of lead. Now while Fred and Ma were still on a slab it was New York City’s Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Francis X. Fay’s turn.
There was every reason to assume that, like the previous run-ins with the Public Enemies, the capture of Mais and his gang would result in much shooting. The FBI had been on the Tri-State gangs trail since the previous winter when on March 8, 1934 Mais and his chief partner, forty-one year old Walter Legenza, robbed a postal truck in Richmond, Virginia that was carrying money from the Federal Reserve. Letting himself into the rear of the truck Legenza shot down one of the truck handlers in cold blood. The gang grabbed the mail bags and took off. Mais and Legenza’s information had been wrong however. All they stole was cancelled checks.
The following summer authorities were able to trace the Tri-State gang to a house in the Baltimore suburbs. Together with local police, G-Men raided the house and a gunfight unfolded. While shooting at the invaders Mais took a blast from a Tommy gun to the stomach. Seeing his partner drop with six bullets in the abdomen Legenza surrendered. The hoodlums were returned to Richmond where they were found guilty of murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair that November.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Downey's Wild Review

When I was offered a chance to review the new book, Dillinger's Wild Ride by Elliot Gorn my first thought was that it was going to be a hastily thrown together book aimed at cashing in on the release of Public Enemies. I figured my initial thought was confirmed when I read the acknowledgements. In them Mr. Gorn states that he approached his friendly librarian and said, "I'm getting interested in crime in the '30's; what have you got?" So he made a pretty quick jump from interested party to author.

Flipping through the photo section this became apparent as he presents a fraudulent wanted poster. The picture is Dillinger's mug shot taken after his Tucson arrest and the poster states that he may be in the company of Harry Pierpont and Charles Markley[sic]. It also says that if you see Dillinger you should notify your local police or the FBI. As all Dillinger students know, Pierpont and Makley were arrested with him in Tucson and the FBI wasn't known as the FBI until 1935, the year following Dillinger’s death. A novice mistake, which again made me think, if you let that slip by should you really be writing a book on Dillinger?

So, not expecting much I started reading the book. Turns out I enjoyed it. It is a concise history of the Dillinger story and Mr. Gorn hits all important events and then describes the national reaction by quoting from newspapers from around the country. Some editorials pictured Dillinger as Huck Finn who fell in with a bad crowd while others thought him a cold hearted killer. This aspect was interesting for a while but by the end I didn't really care what the Zanesville Times or the Bismarck Tribune had to say. I did find the Hollywood, Will Hayes response to the subject interesting.

As an academic Gorn also offers some analysis of both the subject and the America of his time. Why he was loved/loathed. I found his analysis of John's letters and what it said about the bank robber the most interesting. The final chapter, Dillinger's ghost, follows the bandit in popular culture over the past 75 years, in my opinion a little to much time was spent on the ballads written about him in the 1930's but that’s a small criticism.

As for just trying to cash in on the summer of Dillinger; Mr. Gorn tells us that he wrote the book over the course of 2005-06, and his book is different from all the others because he, “…seek[s] to explain how the Dillinger story was created, interpreted, and reworked, how Americans felt about his exploits, and how we have come to remember him.” [Hence four pages about ballads as opposed to a paragraph] Other than the wanted poster snafu, which isn't a big deal, all authors make mistakes, it appears that the publishing gods smiled down on Mr. Gorn and his book was released a few months before the world gets to see Johnny Depp go gangbusters with a tommy gun. So no it isn't a hastily thrown together tome meant to cash in on Public Enemies. It is a well written account of Dillinger meant to cash in on Public Enemies. (note to self, consider Oxford University Press for next book, they are on the ball.)

So, if you are looking for a quick read with an academic bent to bone up on Dillinger before the movie opens, or if you want to know more about the story but don't want to invest the time in reading Public Enemies by Brian Burrough (which I strongly suggest you do) or a full blown Dillinger bio than by all means pick up Dillinger's Wild Ride -to repeat, it is well written and not a hack job. However if you are already a Dillingerphile this book won’t really tell you anything that you don’t already know about Johnnie. It will however shine a light on society's reaction to the bank robber.
(note to self: You ain't no academic, forget about Oxford University Press)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bad news for tradional publishers

Of those who responded to the "Would you buy a self published book" poll, . 63% have no problem with it and 36% said only if they were familiar with the author's work. However 100% would buy a self published book. Very interesting, thank you to all who took the time to answer.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sometimes fake money can be the root of all evil

Eighty-nine years ago today, New York detectives found the bodies of Joseph and Batiste Vultaggio in the apartment above their Brooklyn grocery store. Both men had been shot to death and it turns out that groceries weren't the only thing the Brothers dealt in. During the subsequent investigation police learned that both Joseph and Baptiste were members of a small time counterfeit ring that made phony 50-cent pieces and they believed that they were killed as a result of a fight over profits. The murder was "solved" when police arrested fellow counterfeiter Vito Grillo at a public bath and proceeded to beat a confession out of him

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book stuff

Looks like the re-release of Gangster City has been pushed back once again, to July. Haven't heard from the publisher just going by what I saw on Amazon. As I see the light at the end of the tunnel on the Legs Diamond manuscript, and by that, I mean nearing the end of a first draft so have miles to go before I sleep...Any how, as I near the end I am considering self publishing.

My question is, as a reader of gangster books, would you be apprehensive to buy a self published book as opposed to a traditionally published book? Please answer the poll and let me know. Feel free to comment here as well.


Thursday, April 16, 2009


Turns out Al Capone was a song writer. Who knew? (Probably Mario Gomes)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

April showers bring gangland flowers

The paperback release of Gangster City has been pushed back to May.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just came across this on Amazon

Product Description

It remains one of the most enduring mysteries in gangland lore: in 1941, while Abe Reles and three other key informants were under round-the-clock NYPD protection, the ruthless and powerful thug took a deadly plunge from the window of a Coney Island hotel. The first criminal of his stature to break the underworld’s code of silence, he had begun “singing” for the courts—giving devastating testimony that implicated former cronies—with more to come. With cops around him day and night, how could Abe have gone out the window? Did he try to escape? Did a hit man break in? Or did someone in the “squealer’s suite” murder him? Here’s the gripping story, packed with political machinations, legal sleight-of-hand, mob violence—and, finally, a proposed answer to the question: How did Abe Reles really die?

Murder mysteries:
Why didn’t police investigate the mysterious sounds they heard on the night that Reles died?

Why did the lead investigator fail to gather crucial evidence at the hotel—or follow police procedure for interviewing witnesses and securing the crime scene?

What do previously classified FBI documents reveal about Brooklyn DA William O’Dwyer, who had plans to run for mayor of New York?

Why was the note “Withhold information by order of D.A.” scribbled on Reles’s autopsy report?

Why was Abe’s widow so bitterly opposed to reopening the case?

Why doesn’t the official story add up?

About the AuthorEdmund Elmaleh was born in New York City and currently works for the Chicago Board of Trade. He is affiliated with the International Association of Crime Writers and the Organization of American Historians. This is his first book.
has anyone read this yet? If so let us know how it is.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Perhaps he and the Big Bopper Jr. should have lunch

Al Capone's 'grandson' wants DNA samples
Man who claims to be mobster's relative may push for body to be exhumed

CHICAGO - The lawyer for a Boston man who believes he is Al Capone's grandson has filed a motion for an attempt to get DNA samples so he can prove his familial tie to the famous Chicago gangster. Attorney David M. Hundley filed a legal motion Thursday on behalf of Christopher Capone, formerly Christopher Knight, in Cook County Circuit Court asking that Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery and the Archdiocese of Chicago guarantee Al Capone's body remains undisturbed pending possible disinterment.

The 37-year-old Christopher Capone, author of "Son of Scarface: A Memoir by the Grandson of Al Capone," had his name legally changed six months ago.
The real estate investor has tried without success to obtain DNA samples from known male descendants of the man known as "Scarface." Capone said he may request exhumation of the mobster's remains from Mount Carmel in the Chicago suburb of Hillside.
"He hopes to proceed through less invasive means but wants to keep disinterment as a possible option should those fail," Hundley said.

Hundley said his client's quest was like a search for birth parents by an adopted person.
Capone's publicist, Jeremy Marin, said Capone never knew his paternal grandparents and that his father, William Knight, told his son conflicting stories about his parentage before his death in 1974. Knight's age at death was listed as 59, which would have meant Al Capone was 16 when his son was born. But William Knight's birth certificate is known to be a forgery, meaning his true age is unknown, Marin said.

Al Capone was suffering from syphilis when he had a stroke and died of cardiac arrest in 1947. He was first buried in a Chicago cemetery, but his body was transferred to Mount Carmel three years later.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

fireworks in Chinatown

Back on this date in 1908 a gunfight between warring Tong members broke out in Chinatown when ten members of the Hip Sing invaded a laundry that doubled as a hangout for the rival On Leong. The gunmen entered the shop with guns blazing sending their enemies out into the street, the owner, Lee Kay, escaped with bullets in the back and arm. Hearing the ruckus other On Leong came to the rescue with their guns a barkin' and chased the Hip Sings back to their territory dropping one of their foe with a bullet in the back.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where's the "Brotherly love?"

Eighty-two years ago this morning at roughly 5:00am Philadelphia gangster Mickey Duffy exited a speakeasy with his wife and his body guard, John Bricker. As the club's doorman was helping Mrs. Duffy into their car a sedan sped by and machinegun fire erupted from the back seat. Mrs. Duffy hit the deck while the three men all took some lead. The doorman was slightly injured while Duffy took six not fatal shots to the body. Bricker caught a lethal dose in the neck and expired.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A sit down with Mob writer Tom Hunt

After much ado I was finally able to snag an interview with the prolific Mafia expert Thomas Hunt (first introduced to DGIS readers on August 19, 2008). Tom is the co-author of Deep Water: Joseph P. Macheca and the Birth of the American Mafia. He is the editor and publisher of Informer: The Journal of American Mafia History, he has three websites relating to the Mafia and has authored numerous articles on the subject.

This interview has taken awhile because, well to be blunt, Tom seemed a bit paranoid. For some reason he didn’t want to come out to the DGIS studio. So after much back and forth we agreed to meet at an old Italian restaurant in the Bronx. It was very quaint, even had one of those old fashion toilets with the pull chain. Feeling a little paranoid myself I had an old friend of mine, a cop name Captain McCluskey, tag along. Since I hate taking notes I, as usual, brought the tape recorder. Here is the transcript.

Captain McCluskey: How’s the Italian food in this restaurant?

Dead Guys In Suits: Good. Try the veal. It’s the best in the city.

CM: I’ll have it.

DGIS: I’m gonna speak Italian to Tom.

CM: Go ahead.

DGIS: Parla inglese?

Tom Hunt: Si. Parla inglese?

DGIS: Si. Ok, I guess we’ll speak English then. So Tom, books, articles, newsletter, websites. Haven’t you ever heard of YouTube, Guitar Hero II or the Game Show Network? There are other things to do with your time why the Mafia?

TH: Don’t ask me about my business. I’ve told you never to ask me about my business.

DGIS: Well then I’m afraid you’re going to have to pay for your own meal.

TH: Well, all right, I’ll talk to you about my business just this one time. I’ll have a cup of pasta fagiole and a glass of water. OK… “Why the Mafia?” A number of factors contributed to my interest in the subject. Being born two weeks before JFK’s assassination into a family that adored the Kennedys probably had something to do with it. By the way, I entered the world just a few blocks from here, over at Misericordia Hospital. My mother’s side of the family is a mix of Sicilian and Neapolitan, and stories passed through the generations of encounters with racketeers. It probably also helped that my dad regularly brought home copies of the New York Post. That tabloid’s coverage of the underworld often caught my eye. More recently, my interest has been fueled by the interest of others. Personally, I’m fascinated by all aspects of history, from the founding of civilization to last week’s weather. But I’ve come to grips with the fact that there’s very little market for last week’s weather. (I’m not sure there’s much of a market for the Game Show Network either.)

DGIS: Speaking of the Game Show network lets play a little Match Game. “Albert Anastasia was so crazy he once blanked a guy just for blanking.

TH: I can tell by the smiles on Brett Somers’ and MacLean Stevenson’s faces that either they know this answer or one of them has just passed wind. The answer is: Albert Anastasia was so crazy, he once pantsed a guy just for putting the wrong fingers in his mouth when whistling for a taxi.

DGIS: Let’s go to the panel,
Brett Somers? Pantsed for putting the wrong fingers…
Mclean Stevenson? Pantsed for putting the wrong fingers…
Fannie Flag? Pantsed for putting the wrong fingers…
Richard Dawson? Pantsed for putting the wrong fingers:
Charles Nelson Reilly? Pantsed for putting the wrong fingers…
John Wesley Hardin? Once shot a man just for snoring.
Five out of six, not bad.
Tell us about your book Deep Water. What is it about and how did you come to write it?

TH: Deep Water tells the story of 19th Century New Orleans businessman Joseph P. Macheca and his relationship to the fledgling American Mafia. It was written over a period of about four years in partnership with a descendant of the Macheca line, Martha Macheca Sheldon... Chandler’s Brothers in Blood first brought Macheca to my attention. There were a number of statements in that book that seemed terribly unlikely, so I started to investigate. I shared my work online through a website. Martha was doing some genealogical research online and bumped into the site. We exchanged emails and quickly decided to work together to set the Macheca historical record straight… I believe we were both surprised at the wealth of material we found in local, state and federal archives. As we pieced things together, we came to understand that organized crime and organized politics in late 19th Century New Orleans were very much the same thing… I’m very happy at how well Deep Water has been received and very proud of the silver medal we won in the regional nonfiction category of the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards. At this point, Martha and I are looking for a publisher for a revised second edition of the book.

DGIS: Is there another book in the works?

TH: I recently completed a concise (21,000 words) history of the American Mafia for an organized crime reference work to be published by Millennium House. The book will also include sections on the Sicilian Mafia and other criminal societies… Researcher Michael Tona and I continue to work together. We have written a few well-received articles on Mafia history for the On the Spot journal and my website. Lately, we’ve been working on a more substantial project. Mike is an extraordinary researcher and also a frighteningly thorough editor... Louis Cafiero and I are in the research stages for a possible biography of New York Mafioso Saverio Pollaccia... Hey, that veal looks and smells terrific. I feel like an idiot with this little cup of soup. They didn’t even give me any crackers.

CM: In case anyone was wondering, I’ve frisked a thousand young punks.

TH: He did a very thorough job. I don’t think I’ve been checked out that closely since my last prostate exam. You really have to admire a guy who has so much enthusiasm for his work.

DGIS: Note to self: insist on being frisked on the way home. Now, for those who don’t want to wait for the periodic Mob book release you have Informer. Why don’t you tell us about that.

TH: Informer is a quarterly journal devoted to American Mafia history and current events. It exists primarily as an outlet for Mafia historians - there are very few publication options for responsible historians who wish to explore subjects in some depth. Of course, it’s helpful that people are interested in reading it and advertising in it… Rick Mattix, who publishes the On the Spot journal, inspired me to start the Mafia publication… I have a fairly extensive background in journalism and launched a short-lived weekly newspaper years ago. So the problems related to publishing have been in the back of my mind for a while. It occurred to me that the Internet, combined with electronic document formats, document sharing services and print-on-demand publishing, has resolved many of the old problems. And the September 2008 launch of Informer was far more successful than I had hoped.

DGIS: In the old days if the mob killed somebody they trussed them up and put them in barrels or stuffed them in sacks. We don’t really see the same commitment these days. How do you account for that?

TH: There will always be some homicidal maniacs who take pride in their craft. For example, Gambino Crime Family member Roy DeMeo got very involved in his work in the 1970s and 80s. I think a lot of these guys are committed... A lot of them should be committed.

DGIS: Speaking of barrels and sacks. I see that the Morello-Terranova clan scored their own website. Are they of special interest to you?

TH: Yes they are, though I am actually in the process of folding the website back into my broader Mafia history website at My specific interest is in Ciro Terranova. Targeted by underworld enemies and law enforcement for so many years, Terranova managed to avoid assassination and prison and to serve as a mentor to guys like Charlie Luciano... Thinking about Terranova’s 1938 death in relative obscurity calls to mind the end of that old gangster movie, The Roaring Twenties. Remember the line? A policeman asks Panama Smith about the dead guy on the church steps and she responds, “He used to be a big shot”… Before Deep Water came along, I hoped to write a book about Terranova and his extended family. But that project has been pushed repeatedly to a back burner. I’m glad to see that authors like Pat Downey, Dave Critchley and now Mike Dash are giving the Morello-Terranova family its due.

DGIS: One of my favorite mob nicknames is Hop Toad. Do you have any favorites?

TH: There are so many great ones: Three-Finger Brown, Abbadabba, Zopo, Louie Lump-Lump, Benny Eggs, Louie Bagels, Joe Bananas, Big Tuna, Johnny Sausage… Of all the nicknames, the one name that guys seem to admire most is “Matty the Horse.” If I had to have a gang nickname, I think I’d want to be known as “Tommy the Horse.” But I suspect I would end up as “Tommy Sneakers,” “Tommy Salami” (my nickname in grade school) or “Three-Finger Typist.”

DGIS: Did you ever notice that your initials are Hop Toad reversed?

TH: Yeah, and I’m sure that’s not a coincidence. “Hop Toad” also has the same number of letters as “Tom Hunt.” Something to think about.

DGIS: It is, we missed that one. Someone is getting fired.

CM: Ok, maybe it wasn’t thousands. Hundreds, definitely hundreds of young punks.

DGIS: What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Mafia?

TH: Lately, I’m bothered more by blind revisionism than by all the gangland myths. We can at least be sure that there is a kernel of truth somewhere within a myth, no matter how deeply it’s buried. The revisionist tendency to discard these legends because of the presence of incorrect details does us all a disservice. Historians must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

DGIS: Just curious, why do you think so many authors lie about the death of Frank Nitti? They all say he killed himself but thanks to Hollywood we now know that Eliot Ness threw him off a Courthouse roof.

TH: Well, all seriousness aside, Nitti had it coming to him after he killed Sean Connery! … It’s obvious that Hollywood moviemakers, like many salesmen, politicians and news commentators, suffer from an inability to tell the unvarnished truth. It’s also obvious that Mafia moviemakers have access to vast quantities of varnish. Fortunately, in the case of the Untouchables movie, the script was so fictionalized that no reasonable person would expect any part of it to be true.

DGIS: It wasn’t? I mean, oh yeah, right…Ok, so book, websites, newsletter, articles. What media will Tom Hunt bring the mob to next?

TH: How does a Broadway musical sound? I see Nathan Lane as “Fat Tony” Salerno and Christopher Lloyd as “Vinny the Chin” Gigante in kind of an “Odd Couple” with bullets. The conflict is introduced as prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani (Rick Moranis) attempts to figure out which of them is actually the boss of the Genovese Crime Family.

DGIS: How do I invest? Well Tom, I guess that about covers it. Anything else you want to add before you excuse yourself and go to men’s room to get that gun?

TH: Yeah…, if McCluskey isn’t going to eat that last piece of veal, could I have it?

CM: Ok, I admit it. I never frisked a punk in my life. I was a desk jockey.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Eighty years ago this morning the aforementioned seven gents you met over the course of this past week, and Highball, all converged in the Northside gangs garage at 2122 North Clark Street. As the gang, and Schwimmer, hung out in the back by the trucks what looked like a police car pulled up front. Two uniformed cops got out and went inside. Assuming it was a simple police raid the Northsiders followed the order to line up against the wall. While facing the brick two more guys armed with machine guns entered and all four gunmen blew the Northsiders into history.
In honor of the 80th Anniversary of the St. Valentinetine’s Day massacre we thought we would celebrate by interviewing the one man who knows more about the massacre, and Chicago gangsters in general, than anyone else alive, Al Capone. But since he’s dead we got the next best thing, Mario Gomes. Mario is the owner and host of and the internationally recognized authority on Prohibition Era Chicago gangland. Mario has appeared on the History Channel’s Home & Bunker/ Al Capone as well as Man, Moment, Machine/ Al Capone, numerous other programs and newspaper stories and made it three rounds in season four of American Idol.

Dead Guys In Suits. Thank you very much for stopping by the studio Mario. So let’s start at the beginning. About six billion years ago there was an explosion, six billion years later you are the go to guy for Al Capone and Chicago gangster information. How’d that happen?

Mario Gomes. Well, I went to see The Untouchables movie with Robert DeNiro and was amazed by his powerful screen presence so I thought what's the real Capone like? I went to the library and picked up Kenneth Allsop's the Bootleggers and here we are!

DGIS: Today marks the 80th Anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. There have been numerous theories on who the killers were. Personally I believe it was the wives and girlfriends of the victims themselves, POed because, on what is supposed to be a day for lovers, they chose to hang out with Reinhart Schwimmer instead. Am I close?

MG: Could have been plausible as victim Frank Gusenberg was found to be married to two dames at the same time. Actually ,Capone's killers for hire were ballistically linked to the crime.

DGIS: Thanks to the soft rock band Paper Lace there has been much confusion about Capone and Chicago. The books say that Capone paid off the police and the politicians and therefore was able to operate, yet according to Paper Lace “…A man named Al Capone tried to make that town [Chicago] his own. And he called his gang to war with the forces of the law.” Who is right?

MG: Paper Lace were good musicians, but full of sh&* as historians. Capone never fought the law, just other gangsters.
Paper Lace also states "Daddy was a cop on the East side of Chicago"???? Where was his beat? in the freaking lake?

DGIS: You have quite a collection of Al Capone artifacts in your museum. Among other things, you have his phone, his fountain pen, a signature. I heard that you actually went out and contracted syphilis and left it untreated just so you could experience the “full Al” is that true?

Editors Note: After gazing forward for eight straight minutes with glassy eyes, lips slightly apart and gob of drool hanging down to the second button of his shirt Mario finally answered.

MG: DUUUUH? Who are you? I don't know no Potsy Downer!! Book Good! Me know how to read, PFFFFT!!! French Canadian bean soup aaaaaaaaahhhhhh Isn't that Dutch?
Okay, I'm better! Nothing a little bismuth can't fix. Now just what the hell were you talking about?

DGIS: Al Capone once said, “Nobodies gonna Zuta me.” I got Zuta’d once in Tijuana, it wasn’t that bad. What’d Al have against it?

MG: In Zuta's case it meant being plugged full of holes. This was the new term for Zuta.

DGIS: Back to the SVDM. Now that was the hit with the highest body count. What is the second largest body count from that era?

MG: Probably the Fox Lake massacre of 1930. Three gangsters in one swoop.

DGIS: Oh, before we continue, is it true that you Zuta everyone that signs your guest book?

MG: Only the negative reviews. I have everyone's ip and track them down.

DGIS: Let’s play word association. We will name some infamous Chicago characters and you say the first thing that comes into your head. Here we go- Frank McErlane

MG: Psychopathic nutcase!

DGIS: Spike O’Donnell

MG: Mr. Showman

DGIS: Hymie Weiss

MG: Mr. Spontenaiety

DGIS: Bob Newhart

MG: The Bob Newhart show. Did you know that the guy who played Michael on that show (Peter Scolari) was a porn star in the Swedish Erotica series??

DGIS: We did not know that. But now that we do he is our favorite Bosom Buddy. Ok, seeing that you are Mr. Chicago, the staff here at DGIS decided to put you to the test. So lets see how you do with our quiz.
The Four Deuces stood on South Wabash. What was the address?

MG: 2222 South wabash

DGIS: The next one is multiple choice. Complete the sentence. “They pull a knife, you pull a gun. They send one of yours to the hospital you send one of theirs to the ____.”
A) Zoo
B) Movies
C) Morgue
D) Worlds Fair

MG: C- Morgue

DGIS: What song was Jack Zuta playing on the nickelodeon when he got Zuta’d?

MG: Good for me, bad for you

DGIS: What are the odds of a guy named Zuta getting Zuta’d?

MG: Very likely. He was a whoremaster and very disliked. Moran had to associate with him to fight Capone, but I'm sure good old George could have cared less when he heard of his demise.

DGIS: Last quiz question. Capone once killed a man with the last name Howard. What was his first name:
A) Moe
B) Curly
C) Shemp
D) Joseph

MG: Joseph L. Howard

DGIS: There was a third Gusenberg brother. Why do you think the Capone gang didn’t bother taking him out as well?

MG: Henry Gusenberg was low level hood and worked as a projectionist and dabbled a little in unions.
The Capone gang didn't bother you if you didn't threaten or speak of retaliation.
Did you know that one of the Gusenberg nephews was a peeping tom? He got caught because of his big feet.

DGIS:Sounds like a story for another blog. Is it true that whenever the Circus gang traveled somewhere they all crammed into one little car?

MG:Yes, and they wore clown outfits. They had KILLER gags!!!

DGIS: To your knowledge did Scarface ever see the film Scarface and if so, what did he think?

MG: Before it was in production, Al sent some goons to see what it was going to be about. They wanted to make sure it didn't ressemble to much like Al's life. He didn't get to see it when it was released in 1932, as Al was already in the Atlanta State pen.
He did okay Fred Pasley to write his bio. Al knew the public wasn't stupid. He knew they saw him as a gangster.

DGIS: Though known as Scarface to the public his real nickname amongst friends was “Snorky. It is our opinion that a gangster film called Snorky probably wouldn’t have worked. Your thoughts?

MG: No, people would confuse it with deep sea diving ala Jacques Cousteau.

DGIS: In your view, what is the biggest misconception about Al Capone?

MG: Hollywood has tagged alot of crap to Capone. In the Untouchables movie, there is a scene where a little girl gets blown up by a Capone gang bomb. This never happened! Al would personally kill any thug who would hurt a woman or child. I just hate when they lump him with the likes of Hitler, Dahmer, Jim Jones etc... He didn't kill women or children. He fought rival gangsters and they fought him. Both sides knew the rules. They had a certain respect back then. They didn't kill their foe, if he was with his family. Today they blow pretty much everyone up just to get their prey.

DGIS: And finally, does crime pay?

MG: As the great Bill Helmer once said "Crime does not pay, but it can lead to immortality." So there!
DGIS: Thank you Mario, here let me wipe that droop for you.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Give a pat on the head to Highball

Highball was a Northsider by proximity. A german shepard owned by mechanic/truck driver John May whom you met previoulsy this week.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Introduce yourself to Reinhart Schwimmer

Artist rendition

Reinhart wasn't a gangster. He was an optician, who inherited his fathers business then lost it. As of now he was being supported by his mother. Though not a gangster he sure loved hanging out with them. O'Banion, Moran, the Gusenbergs. The more the merrier.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Shake hands with Al Kachellek

Al went by the name James Clark. Another North Sider, Al had a record dating back to 1905. He was also one of the gunmen with the Gusenberg brothers when they killed Pasquale Lolordo back on January 8, 1929.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Exchange greetings with Albert Weinshank

Al Weinshank(er) was a speakeasy proprietor as well as the North Side gang's man in the cleaning and dying racket.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Allow me to introduce Adam Heyer

Adam was a paroled robbery who acted as the Northside gangs business manager. In addition to running Bugs Moran's dog track he also held the lease on the gang's garage at 2122 North Clark Street.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Say hello to the Gusenbergs

Frank Gusenberg and Pete Gusenberg
The Gusenberg brothers were two of the Chicago Northside gangs top guns. Pete was the elder and had a record dating back to 1902. Frank followed in his big brothers foot steps with an arrest in 1909. More recently they had nearly killed Capone shooter "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn in a phone booth and succeeded in killing Capone friend Pasqualino Lolordo ---a house call none-the-less---, on January 8, 1929.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Meet John May

John was a failed robber and safe cracker who worked as a truck mechanic for Chicago's Northside gang. In addition to maintaining the gangs fleet of trucks for $50 a week, John would sometimes ride along on deliveries.

Monday, January 5, 2009

# 1

The distinction of being the first gangland victim of 1931 went to twenty-four year old Thomas Diorio. He had been released from the prison at Elmira a few months earlier after having served three years for robbery. Either late in the night of January 5 or the wee hours of the sixth he was taken for a ride and a bullet deposited in his head. A man walking to work would find his body at 5:30 am.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

I hope you had a pleasant holiday season. I spent the time between Christmas and New Years putting about 700 miles on my car in pursuit of Legs Diamond info. Spent a day in Albany at an archive and didn't remember I only had a donut to eat on the Thru-way on my way out until about 4:00pm. Luckily a local took pity on me and lead me to shelter and victuals. During my excursions I also met a woman whose aunt sold pies to Legs and another whose father used to get candy from him. Hopefully the result of these trips will be between two covers later this year.