FEATURES 2015 Spring Edition
Lisa M. Figueredo Owner & Publisher
Scott M. Deitche
Senior Writer & Managing Editor
The Greatest Mafia Boss
The Mafiaâ€™s Miami Man
The American Mafia
20 The Devil Looks After His Own
Tampa Mafia Magazine
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26 The Bag of Bones Murder
The Mob Lounge
why we picked Tony Soprano as the Greatest mafia Boss Ever! f ictional
There have been many great mob bosses on screen over the years. Brando, pacino, and DeNiro–the holy trinity of movie mob bossestook the characters in The Godfather into pop culture immortality. Their mob bosses were bigger than life, often above the fray and distant from the mundane of day to day life. who could forget the old school power of Brando’s Vito corleone taking meetings with guests at his daughter’s wedding, parsing out favors, advice, and beatdowns? pacino’s turn as Tony montana in Scarface was the complete opposite of the quiet power he exuded as michael corleone. montana was brash, abrasive, and steamrolled his way to the top. one of our other favorite hot head mob bosses was Harold Shand, expertly portrayed by the late Bob Hoskins in the 1980 English gangland classic the Long Good friday. So why do we at Tampa Mafia Magazine think Tony Soprano was the best fictional mob boss? well to start, the fact that The Sopranos was on television for many years allowed a depth of character development that couldn’t be matched in a two-hour movie. all Tony Sopranos strengths and flaws were on display as he got older, his kids grew, his family fell apart and came together again, and his crime empire waxed and waned through shifting alliances and turncoats. Tony Soprano was both nuanced and over-the-top. Gandolfini’s performance showcased a man often at the end of his rope both physically and mentally, but strong enough to maneuver the world of the New Jersey mob. He was a ticking time bomb at one turn, and charming at another.
2015 SUmmER EDiTioN 9
Cocktail Noir: From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets
There are a number of coktails that are named after mobsters. I explore the intersection of gangsters and libations in my forthcoming book, Cocktail Noir: From Gangsters and Gin Joints to Gumshoes and Gimlets. From the depth of Prohibition through the current cocktail revival, mob nicknames have been both the inspiration and direct result of cocktails. Here are a few of my favorites:
Al Capone Saveur magazine printed this recipe, from Brooklyn bartender John Bush. The Al Capone is a close cousin to the Boulevardier, itself a takeoff the classic Negroni.
Meyer Lansky Sour Named after the legendary Jewish mobster, this cocktail is found on the menu of the DGS Delicatessen in Washington D.C. While inspired by Lanksy’s name, the real Lanksy probably would not drink it. He was a Scotch man.
3 oz. rye whiskey 1½ oz. vermouth ½ oz. Campari Orange zest, to garnish In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake the whiskey, vermouth, and Campari. Strain the mixture into two tumblers, and garnish each with an orange twist.
2 oz. gin 1 ½ oz. Meyer lemon juice 1 dash orange bitters Simple syrup Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled glass.
The Red Italiano I created the Red Italiano after the gingerhaired Tampa mobster, who fled the Cigar City during the early 1950s mob war and lived the last years of his life in Mexico. The dirnk brings together Campari, signifying Red’s Italian heritage, with the southern staple of moonshine (corn-based white whiskey).
The Lucky Luciano (Recipe from Saveur magazine, April 2014) This drink is an after-dinner cocktail. It’s suave and sophisticated, just like Lucky Luciano, partner of Meyer Lansky, and one of the fabled architects of modern organized crime. 1½ oz. Benjamin Prichard's Rye ½ oz. Mancino Vermouth Rosso ½ oz. Mancino Vermouth Secco ¼ tsp. Fernet-Branca 1 Griottines or Luxardo cherry, for garnish Stir rye, vermouths, and Fernet-Branca in a mixing glass filled with ice; strain into a chilled eggcup or small cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry. 10 www.Tampamafia.com
1 ½ oz corn whiskey
(for a real Florida feel, you can use Bear Gully, made in Winter Haven, FL)
1 oz Campari 1 oz dry vermouth Dash of orange bitters Orange slice Mix ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into glass with ice. Garnish with orange slice.
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By Scott M. Deitche
carole cortland Russo has a story to tell. part hers, and part her uncle’s. She was close to him, a daughter really, and got to see the man behind the name and the reputation. Her uncle was Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” alo, an influential mobster for most of the 20th century. carole was ostebsibly Jimmy’s niece. But her relationship became much deeper. “i was not just his niece, but i was his surrogate daughter. alo was childless. my aunt and my mom were sisters. i spent most of my life with my uncle.” He had brushes with the spotlight (the character Johnny ola in The Godfather part ii was based on alo), but he never became a household name like many of his close friends (e.g. meyer Lansky). “my uncle was lucky. as well known as he was in the circles he traveled in, he didn’t become the well known character that meyer did.” 12 www.Tampamafia.com
The book is called Jimmy Blue Eyes, The Last of the Gentle- pire. They had interests from miami to Havana, and out to man Gangsters. it’s finished; carole is now searching for a Las Vegas where they had pieces of casinos” florida became a cash cow for the transplanted New publisher. She hopes that the book will give readers a glimpse inside a life that to the outside world was shaped Yorker. “Though he maintained a home in New York cityby what others said about him. She hopes to dispel myths on Riverside Drive on 107th street (later moving to 55th St perpetuated by newspapers and books. “my uncle was a between 5th and 6th ave.), he built a house in Hollywood, fascinating character. He was much maligned in the press florida in 1946.” “He was involved with so many top places like La Boand i wanted to tell the truth about my uncle and meyer. i get sick and tired of people talking about them and they heme, at the very end of Hallandale Beach and The plantation on Hallandale Beach Blvd. He never met any of these people. The was involved with The colonial amounts of money attributed to inn, and very glamorous and gorthem is nonsense. They made a lot geous nightclub. There was also and gave a lot away. Easy come the Green acres, which was a ruseasy go. my uncle paid for peoples tic place on the west side of the funerals, paid for our gardener fuDixie Highway, out in the forest.” neral. They didn’t hold on to “He also had gambling mamoney.” chines. Everywhere you went, Vincent alo was born in East every drug store–there were slot Harlem, New York in 1904. Back machines. The authorities looked then East Harlem was a thriving the other way. it was good for italian neighborhood (some veseverything and everyone was tiges of the neighborhood still exist, making money.” including the famous Rao’s restauThroughout it all, meyer Lanksy rant). alo got job as an apprentice remained one of alo’s closest on wall Street at age 14. friends and confidants. “my uncle “He worked there for four to five and meyer were the closest of years and he was still one of only friends. They were lifelong friends italians working on wall Street and and partners. Everything was he was always passed up for prodone together. They were both motions. He quit and told me ‘after Julian “Potatoes” Kaufman very highly intelligent men, soft that i never had another job’. Hung around a few guys in a pool hall and one day they decided spoken, natural leaders, and well-read. They would have been successful in any walk of life, but they came out of a to rob a jewelry store.” alo got caught with the jewels and the police tried to get time when Jews and italians were looked down upon. There him to roll on his partners. alo refused and was sent to Dan- was limited opportunity for people with a lot of ambition. nemora prison. carole said, “Because he was rebellious, meyer and my uncle met at Singapore Resort motel every they threw him into solitary constantly. and beat him. after day for lunch. They would talk about politics and world af5 years he came out as “a good criminal”–Just in time for fairs.” as the seventies came, things started to change and alo prohibition.” “prohibition was filled with psychotic people like Dutch looked for a way out. “when Howard Hughes started buySchultz. if you entered into that word you needed to be a ing up Vegas, my uncle and his friends sold the Sands. my tough guy and my uncle was a tough guy. i don’t know uncle got his share and he told meyer–lets retire and lead a what he did during those years but that reputation stayed quiet life.” after Lansky’s death in 1983, Jimmy pulled further back with him. He was respected and loved because he was also very fair, especially in disputes. fair, logical, and calm. But from day-to-day mob activities. “i’m sure money was still coming in from other things–numbers in the Bronx (he origyou wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.” after prohibition, Jimmy was looking for other money- inally came from the Bronx), stuff in Europe that brought in making opportunities. florida came onto his radar. “my some money. But he wasn’t doing a lot. He lived his last uncle came to miami in 1935. He had a friend, Julian “pota- nine months in my house.” Jimmy Blue Eyes died on march 9, 2001 at 96 years old. toes” Kaufman from chicago. potatoes brought alo to the Hollywood/Hallandale area to visit some sawdust gam- “He was really the last man standing. His life was like a bling joints. He saw potential and went back and told meyer Damon Runyon story. it was colorful and fascinating. There about it. They both came down and created a gambling em- was a dark side. But that’s part of everyone’s life.” 2015 SUmmER EDiTioN 13
Just as women notice physical and emotional changes when estrogen starts to decline, many men experience notable changes when testosterone production dips, although they may not attribute it as readily as women to hormonal changes. Symptoms of “Low T” include hot flashes, fatigue, moodiness, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating and less interest in sex. all of which may sound a lot like menopause. But menopause marks the end of fertility in women- which is not necessarily the case with men- so there really isn’t such a thing as male menopause. Testosterone has a big job to do in the body. it affects so many systems. That’s why it’s considered a fundamental hormone and should be in the appropriate range. it starts declining in a small proportion of men as early as their 30s. By the time they reach their 60s up to 25% of american men have “Low T”, but it doesn’t always cause symptoms. Routine health checks find nothing wrong but sometimes doctors have never checked testosterone levels. Diagnosis of “Low T” is based in part on a simple blood test. But the results are anything but simple to interpret. a normal level of testosterone ranges anywhere from 301-1100 ng/dL. So it’s no wonder the doctors differ on how to interpret these test findings. in other words, a normal range could be normal for an 80-year-old to an 18-year-old. i find that a man with symptoms would go to their family doctor who checks his testosterone and if it falls anywhere within that range they just say you’re getting older and it’s Normal. The key to diagnosis is asking a lot of questions about lifestyle and performance-on the job, and the gym, and in the sack. i treat the symptoms and not the lab values. if blood testosterone is 350 to 400, for example, but the patient has no energy, is irritable, can’t lose weight, lack of multitasking like he used to be able to and has lost interest in sex, he might benefit from testosterone therapy.
Signs and Symptoms of LOW TESTOSTERONE ✓ Decreased sex drive. ✓ Erectile dysfunction. ✓ Reduced energy level. ✓ Sleep problems. ✓ Reduced strength and endurance levels. ✓ Increased breast size and tenderness. ✓ Emotional problems including sadness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and depression.
The classic presentation is a guy in his 40s with low libido, the symptoms vary, and can include issues with memory, concentration, problem solving, lack of motivation, or depression. it may just be one symptom, so patients may ignore it and think you’re working too much or getting older. and that’s a shame because there is a viable treatment available. 90% of the time “Low T” is just simply a result of aging but don’t rule out the 20-30 year-old with “Low T” that can occur from lack of exercise, sleep and the ability to manage stress. when you sleep less you produce lower amounts of hormones in your body, including testosterone. Testosterone therapy has the added benefits of increasing muscle mass and bone density, which can keep men active and prevent fractures as they age. a testosterone check isn’t usually included in routine blood testing. it might be a good idea to get baseline checks as young as in your 20s because of the stressful life we lead today. Experts do agree, however, that men should avoid products sold over-the-counter, online and by mail order that promise to improve symptoms of low testosterone, in particular those emphasizing sexual function. at best, they are likely a waste of money and some could be potentially dangerous and have been pulled from the market. So the best way to get started is to simply get a blood test by your physician and followed with an aDam Questionnaire and see where your levels are in relationship to your symptoms. You could be on the start to a brand new life, one in which you will look better, feel better, and perform at your best. Here’s to your health!
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Sam Giancana arriving to court, June 1, 1965.
Gambling has always been the American Mafia’s “bread and butter.” After controlling illicit gambling across the United States, the mob upped the ante by turning Las Vegas into Sin City, a gambler’s paradise. But in true gambling spirit: It was never enough. In the decades that followed the mob expanded abroad and set up casinos across the globe in Cuba, Mexico, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. As the quote goes, “Always the dollars, always the fuckin’ dollars.” 16 www.Tampamafia.com
The American Mafia bets on the world and wins big By David Amoruso
A Chicago mob boss’ fall from grace Despite becoming an outcast, it was clear to all involved “always the fuckin’ dollars.” That’s also what must’ve that you are never really out of the mob. You are either in or gone through the mind of Sam Giancana as he arrived at you’re dead. Giancana’s days of relaxing in the mexican sun chicago’s o’ Hare airport. Looking disheveled and poor, had come to an end. Local authorities agreed. They arrested the former chicago mob boss showed none of the moxie he Giancana for being in the country illegally and put him on displayed years earlier when he commanded one of the a plane back to the United States. The fallen mob boss armost powerful mafia families in the United States. at the rived in chicago on July 18, 1974. Eleven months later, he airport, he was greeted by fBi agent william Roemer, who was shot to death in the basement of his home in oak park, later wrote about the meeting, “Giancana was undoubtedly chicago. the wealthiest man on that plane, but he looked like some italian immigrant landing at Ellis island, destitute and frail.” “Bigger than U.S. Steel” He was done with his life of crime, Giancana allegedly By the time of Giancana’s murder, the american mafia’s told Roemer. He had spent the previous years traveling gambling empire was firmly entrenched worldwide and around the world, booming as never anywhere from Eubefore. Decades of rope and the middle experience were East to central and paying off royally. South america, inLa cosa Nostra’s vesting in lucrative solid structure and gambling endeavorganization proors. He had settled vided the backbone in cuernavaca, and muscle that enmexico, from where abled business to he coordinated his run smoothly withglobal operation out interference or and enjoyed the milthreats from outlions of dollars flowside. The mob’s ining in. Until word of tricate knowledge his riches reached of the gambling the bosses back in world was a guarchicago. antee for untold Giancana began profits at casinos On July 19, 1975 Giancana let a friend into his house, and made him and his guest some his journey around dinner. His friend shot him in the head and fled the scene. and games everythe world in 1966, where. They were after he had been kicked out of the chicago family by bosses professionals and ran their businesses accordingly. paul “The waiter” Ricca and anthony “Joe Batters” No man embodied this professionalism more perfectly accardo. Now that they heard about his foreign gambling than Jewish crime boss meyer Lansky. Ranked officially as successes, they wanted a piece of the pie. when Giancana a mere “associate,” he meant much more to La cosa Nostra refused to pay tribute, they allegedly sent mob associate than many of its “made” members. it was Lansky’s sharp Richard cain to mexico to, as accardo told cain, “explain mind and business acumen that revolutionized the mob’s the facts of life to him.” The powerful mob boss emphasized, gambling operations. as author Selwyn Raab points out in “i mean the facts of life, do you understand what i’m his book Five Families, “Lansky’s illegal gambling clubs, commonly known as ‘carpet joints,’ were more upscale, with saying?” 2015 SUmmER EDiTioN 17
fine food and drinks, and better furnished than the ordinary all the while, Lansky was covering for his friend, keeping grimy parlors run by the mob in New York and other big impatient investors at ease, buying him more time to turn cities.” his dreams into reality. Unfortunately, the odds were not in Lansky realized gambling was about more than placing a Siegel’s favor. in its first two weeks The flamingo lost bet or rolling the dice, it was about having a good time. $100,000 dollars and Siegel decided to close it down to do when people enjoyed themselves, they were more likely to some more work on it. His investors were not amused. on stick around and spend more money gambling. and if they June 20, 1947, a sniper blew Siegel’s eye out while he was lost, they at least had a fun sitting in his Beverly Hills time and were more likely mansion. for good measure, to come back. the assassin fired one more it was that same mindset bullet in his face and two in that led Lansky’s close his chest. childhood pal Benjamin There was nothing Lan“Bugsy” Siegel to build The sky could do. This was part flamingo Hotel and casino of the cost of doing business in Las Vegas. Siegel had a in “the life.” a high cost, but vision for Vegas no one else the return was worth the had. Back in the 1940s, Nerisk. The mob made more vada was just a desert with money than any legitimate legalized gambling. You corporation ever could. or, played craps and roulette as Lansky allegedly said in in dusty saloons surthose days, “we’re bigger rounded by hicks. Siegel than U.S. Steel.” envisioned a city built on gambling, a luxurious parA Few Good Men adise where visitors could while Siegel was focusrelax and enjoy theming solely on Las Vegas, selves. Gambling was just Lansky had his eyes on one of the many attraccuba. During the 1930s, he tions on offer. had developed a fruitful Never one to miss out on friendship with cuban a possibly lucrative opporleader fulgencio Batista, tunity, Lansky backed his one that paid off handfriend financially and got somely when Batista seized other gangsters to invest as power after a successful well. But things didn’t go military coup in march of as planned. Siegel lived up 1952. Though, Lansky and to his nickname and was the mob had been active on making bad decisions durcuba for decades already, ing the construction of his after Batista crowned himTop: 1928 New York Police Department mugshot of Benjamin “Bugsy” beloved hotel and casino. self ‘presidente,’ they were Siegel and below, shot to death in June of 1947. “Bugsy” wanted the very welcomed back with open best of everything. Every bathroom had its own sewer line, arms and given full access to the local gambling scene. he ordered the best imported woods and marble, which, cuba turned into the Latin Las Vegas, with plush casinos considering that these were the post war times, were hard popping up all over the place. Lansky and Batista pooled and expensive to come by. Siegel’s contractor couldn’t pro- their resources and built The Riviera Hotel at a cost of $14 duce all the necessary building materials. as a result Siegel million dollars. The island became known for its gambling, spent large amounts of money and bought the materials on exotic surroundings, and wild, hedonistic parties. cuba was the black market. costs ballooned from 1.5 million dollars the new place to be if you were a gambler. The mob organized to 6 million dollars when The flamingo finally opened its frequent gambling junkets from New York and miami, flying gamblers back and forth in a constant stream airplanes. doors to the public on December 26, 1946. 2015 SUmmER EDiTioN 19
Everything ran like clockwork. Through the years, Lansky had assembled a strong, reliable crew of brothers to work the casinos for him. Dino, Eddie, Bobby, and Goff cellini grew up in Steubenville, ohio. it was in this town filled with steel mill workers that they honed their gambling skills running dice games in the back of cigar shops. further up north, in Youngstown, they perfected their game and came in contact with powerful mobsters who put the brothers to work at their casinos. Born in 1914, Dino was the oldest and, subsequently, leader of the bunch. Lansky and the mob had complete faith in him and his brothers, which was exemplified when they put them in charge of several casinos in Havana, cuba.
Still, as far as La cosa Nostra was concerned, these men were all just associates. They were not initiated. in meyer Lansky’s case he could never become a member of the mafia as he was not italian. This meant that no matter how powerful and rich Lansky got, he would never have more say than a “made” guy. in an underworld dominated by made members of the italian american mafia associates needed a protector. Lansky and the cellini brothers had one in Genovese crime family soldier Vincent “Jimmy Blue Eyes” alo. Lansky had been introduced to alo by their mutual friend charles “Lucky” Luciano in 1929. alo’s niece carole cortland Russo recounted what happened since that day in an interview with the Huffington post, “Uncle Jim and meyer took to each other, instantly. from that day on, they were the best of friends for the rest of their lives. They were similar in many ways; bookish, calm, soft-spoken. Uncle Jim once said he admired meyer more than any human being he had ever met.” alo was another example of an italian mobster who could’ve become a cEo of a fortune 500 company, but went 20 www.Tampamafia.com
the other route when he came up against racism. “as a teenager,” carole cortland Russo explains, “Uncle Jim got a job on wall Street. He worked for five years until he realized he wasn't getting promoted. why? He was italian. There were no italians working on wall Street. He said ‘to hell with this’ and wound up getting involved in a jewelry store heist where he was caught holding the bag. He was sent to Dannemora prison for five brutal years. when he came out, he said he had learned to be a good criminal, and never had a job for the rest of his life. He got involved with prohibition and that's when he met charlie and meyer.” He would become a gangland legend in his own right, but it wasn’t until francis ford coppola’s The Godfather that he was immortalized as ‘Johnny ola.’ played by actor Dominic chianese–who went on to stardom playing Uncle Junior on The Sopranos–ola had a minor part in the screenplay, a stark contrast with the role “Jimmy Blue Eyes” played in real life. Greener Pastures for eight wonderful years the mafia won big in cuba. with the government as its partner the sky was the limit. as usual, these good times did not last. an uprising led by fidel castro overthrew Batista’s regime and ousted the mob from cuba. it was time to find a new gambling paradise. Lansky and his associates found one north of cuba. Under British rule since 1718, the Bahamas offered the same tropical surroundings as cuba, and, more importantly, a similar corrupt government that was open to working with the american gangsters. Despite the fact that the island country had prohibited gambling in the 1920s, the current government, The United Bahamian party, dished out a license to financier wallace Groves’ Bahama’s amusements Limited for operating an unlimited number of casinos there. Thus, its monte carlo casino opened its doors in January of 1964. The casino was promoted as being exclusively European with no links to the american gambling scene. ostensibly to ward off any suspicions of mob involvement. if that was the plan, it failed miserably when an american journalist recognized Dino cellini as the casino’s supervisor and saw over twenty other Lansky henchmen throughout the monte carlo. a short three months later, Dino would head a top ten list of cosa Nostra gangsters who were barred from entering the island. after reporters dug up more dirt about the corrupt dealings of Bahamian politicians and businessmen, the people let their votes do the talking, putting the progressive Liberal party in power and eventually ridding the island of La cosa Nostra’s influence. it was all water under the bridge for the mafia’s gambling
czars. They were working so many angles and odds that they simply moved on to the next jackpot.
ternational scale. for men like him, Vincent alo, meyer Lansky, Sam Giancana, and Dino cellini the United States was just a starting point. The whole world was theirs. and back then, there were many more men like them. powerful bosses like Santo Trafficante Jr. from Tampa and angelo Bruno from philadelphia were heavily invested in the global gambling boom as well. it was a huge moneymaker and there was no end in sight. This led the cellini brothers to continue streamlining their organization by setting up a school in London to train casino personnel. why invest in foreign casinos when the local dealers and croupiers would rob you blind? it’s better to put your own people in there. who was going to refuse such an offer?
London in the Swinging Sixties pure class with a bit of Hollywood glamour sprinkled on top. That’s the experience the american mob offered British gamblers as they entered the colony club, a casino located at Berkeley Square in west London’s mayfair district, in the 1960s. Upon entering the plush gaming club they were welcomed by none other than George Raft, a movie star whose tinsel town career had taken a dump in the 1940s and who was now using his waning fame working as a front man for the mafia. Raft took his new job seriously and had no illusions about the men he worked for. He knew exactly how they Amsterdamned dealt with rowdy patrons or in 1974, the same year Gianballsy rivals. former English cana was deported from mexico strongman micky fawcett reto the United States, a mafia delcalled one such time when legegation arrived in amsterdam, endary London crime boss the Netherlands, to inspect the Ronnie Kray wanted to have a local gambling market for posgo at a father and son who were sible investment opportunities. arguing a bit loudly at the among the visitors were Vincasino. “Ronnie jumped up and cent alo and Dino cellini. in was all for going over to sort amsterdam, the mobsters partthem out. George Raft calmed nered with maurits “Zwarte Actor George Raft him down. He told him they Joop” de Vries, a hulking man were customers and it would with a full black beard who ran be alright,” fawcett says. various rackets in the city’s famous Red Light District. But that wasn’t the end of the story for Raft who pulled when one visited his office, you looked straight at a photo fawcett aside, asking him, “Has Ronnie met The Blade yet?” of De Vries’ bloody back after he had been stabbed numerous ‘The Blade’ being Genovese mobster and stone killer times during a street fight. The doctor was so impressed De charles Tourine, who was the highest ranked wiseguy there. Vries was still alive and standing that he had taken a photo. fawcett: “it was obvious to me that Raft thought that Ronnie De Vries framed it and hung it at his office to show visitors could become a problem.” he was not one to trifle with. Something the mafia could apa problem that The Blade could solve. preciate. charles “The Blade” Tourine was born in 1906 in with De Vries as their local protector, the mob invested $1 matawan, New Jersey, and earned his ominous nickname million dollars into the cabala, the first professional casino for the way he dealt with debtors who refused to pay and in the Netherlands, which opened its doors in 1976 with Dino tough guys who stood in his way. He combined his pen- cellini as manager. The mob brought in its experienced perchant for violence with a knack for gambling and would go sonnel to work with the Dutch casino employees and show them the ropes. a smart move, but things did not go as on to help run casinos in cuba, Las Vegas, and Europe. Tourine was one of the good ol’ boys of the american smooth as planned. The Dutch didn’t like being told what to mafia, a network of american mobsters operating on an in- do. as one former cabala-employee told a Dutch journalist, 2015 SUmmER EDiTioN 21
“it was a head-on collision between two different cultures. and indeed, club 26 turned out to be everything the mob Think about it: in their own country the cellinis were used feared. it attracted a lot of attention from law enforcement to being driven around in limousines and people holding and was raided a year after its opening. when a disgruntled open the door for them. cellini was a big name in the States, employee set fire to the place in December of 1983, burning still is, but over here no one had ever heard of him.” down both club 26 and cabala and killing thirteen people The biggest insult came when one of the Dutch enforcers who were inside, De Vries’ empire lay in ruins. He died a threw a paper ball at Goff cellini’s head while he was fixing broken man on July 13, 1986. one of the slot machines. Goff demanded that De Vries take some kind of disciplinary action, but was surprised when End of an Era the Dutch boss only gave his underling a verbal reprimand. as the Dutch casinos were still smoldering, many of the “if you had done this in my country,” Goff snarled at his men responsible for their inception were already long gone. bully, “you would have been a dead man by now.” Dino cellini died from a brain tumor in 1978, meyer Lansky Despite the cultural differences, the partnership became a died from lung cancer in 1983, “Jimmy Blue Eyes” alo had success. cabala made a yearly multi-million-dollar profit officially retired, and though cellini’s relatives carried on which was split his inheritance evenly between both starting up casinos parties. as money in africa–the loss of was pouring in, De these men was a Vries already had big turning point in the plans for a second american mafia’s and even larger domination of the casino named club foreign gambling 26. it was the crown world. on De Vries’ work. La cosa Nostra club 26 was a had enough busicasino, nightclub, nesses and problems and gym all in one to focus on at home. and was to cost 18 prosecutors were million dollars. He becoming more asked and received a tenacious with their mob investment of use of the Rico law ten million dollars and surveillance by through Vincent alo, law enforcement though the Genwas a constant ovese mobster was worry. not as enthusiastic Besides, most of about the new casino these international as his Dutch partnergambling czars were in-crime. getting old and Gambling was still tired. They were reMaurits “Zwarte Joop” de Vries illegal in the Nethertiring to florida to lands and even enjoy their wealth though De Vries had rather than risk it all paid off police, his new casino was bound to attract more for a few more dollars. They had bet big and won even bigattention from not just gamblers, but the media and politi- ger. for several decades, a select group of american mobcians as well. cabala was a much smaller venue and brought sters ruled the gambling scene in many parts of the world. in enough cash for everyone. why risk that? No doubt alo That’s not a bad legacy to leave behind. had flashbacks to the time “Bugsy” Siegel was busy buildGet Mobbed Up with ing his hotel and casino in Las Vegas, a dream that turned Tampa Mafia apparel at into a nightmare.
The Devil Looks after His own THE CHARLIE WALL STORY
A rare photo taken of Charlie Wall as a young man with his gang. april 19, 1955. almost every squad car in Hillsborough county, florida lined columbus Drive in Ybor city. a crowd of men, women and children stood anxiously in the yard of the only mansion of Ybor city, waiting to hear if the rumors of another gang slaying that had spread throughout the city were true. while gang slayings had become the norm in Tampa, the latest being the 21st in the last 23 years, this one was different. This murder was especially brutal. The victim’s head was caved in with a bat and his neck was sliced from ear to ear. most importantly, though, was the identity of the victim. He was not just any mafioso or gang member, the victim was one of the most colorful and notorious men in the history of Tampa, the man known as the “white Shadow”–charlie wall–the tall, anglo, retired crime lord who ruled Tampa through both love and fear for most of the early part of the 20th century. 24 www.Tampamafia.com
charlie wall–the name elicits powerfully excited responses from those in Tampa who remember him from their childhood years in Ybor city or whose parents and grandparents told them stories of him. He was the white Shadow, Tampa’s original crime lord, Tampa’s answer to al capone, John Gotti, and Lucky Luciano. He was Ybor city’s Godfather. it seems everyone who was alive during charlie wall’s reign as Tampa’s underworld kingpin has a romantic story to tell about the gangster–how he thumbed his nose at the life of luxury he was born into to go into business with the dregs of society; how he gave candy and money to the neighborhood children; how he survived multiple assassination attempts; how he’d stroll down Seventh avenue in his pristine white suit, flipping a coin in the air; leaning on his cane and tipping his hat to every beautiful woman he passed; and, of course, how he ran Tampa’s illegal lottery, bolita.
But, outside of these general tidbits, few know the whole story of charlie wall and the detailed facts behind his life and reign over Tampa, which is a shame, considering that few individuals had a larger influence over Tampa’s history than charlie wall. He fixed countless elections in Tampa for over three decades. He financially backed the cigar workers during the famous strikes. He turned Tampa into the Southern version of the wild west, with whorehouses and gambling parlors on seemingly every corner in Ybor city and west Tampa and shootouts in broad daylight. He owned politicians, law enforcement officials, and judges. The romantic stories people remember about charlie wall always revolve around how he controlled Tampa’s underworld, which highly underestimates his life. He owned more than the underworld. for over three decades, charlie wall owned Tampa. charlie wall’s roots can be traced back as early as the mid-1840s to his grandfather, perry wall, a pioneer who migrated south during the second Seminole war. perry wall settled in the highlands of Hernando county just north of Brooksville and went on to establish a successful career, first as a probate judge and later as postmaster. perry wall’s children all grew into successful adults, but none more successful than John p. wall. wall became a doctor and served for the confederacy during the civil war. He was not in favor of the confederacy’s cause, but felt he couldn’t turn his back on wounded soldiers simply because of their political beliefs. when the war was over, he turned to research and in 1873 became the first american doctor to conclude that yellow fever was carried by mosquitoes. He later founded the first hospital focusing solely on serving yellow fever patients. wall was also a successful writer and politician. He was associate editor of the Sunland Tribune, which later became the Tampa Tribune; served as mayor of Tampa from 1878–1880; mapped out many of the routes through the florida wilderness that are used by the florida highway system today; and assisted Vicente martinez Ybor in establishing Ybor city. with such credentials, it’s easy to see why wall was able to win the heart of matilda mcKay, a member of the famous mcKay family, one of the richest families in the state of florida and a founding family of Tampa. wall and matilda mcKay were married in 1872. Shortly thereafter, matilda mcKay’s sister married into the Lykes family, another of Tampa’s founding families, uniting three of Tampa’s most powerful families–the walls, mcKays, and Lykes. John and matilda gave birth to one son–charlie, in march 1880. with his family’s money and credentials behind him, charlie wall had the world at his feet. Unfortunately, his would-be perfect life took a turn for the worse early on. matilda passed away in 1893 and John p. wall married his housekeeper, Louise williams, just six months later. wall’s career as a doctor and politician often took him away from home for extended periods of time, leaving young charlie with his new stepmom, a woman he grew to hate for her lavish spending of his father’s money. Then, in april 1895, John p. wall passed away. Louise williams was now charlie wall’s official guardian. Upon inheriting a portion of the wall fortune, her lifestyle became even more extravagant–she’d wear ostrich-feathered hats and would bedeck herself in jewels. The more she spent the more obstinate young charlie became towards her.
charlie wall’s father, John p. wall in order to avoid her altogether, young charlie began staying away from home for days and weeks at a time, sleeping in ditches by night and hanging out in saloons, gambling houses and whorehouses–the only places that would allow a young runaway to stick around without lecturing him. Some of the criminals who were regulars at these establishments of ill-repute grew fond of the scrappy young kid who hung around the adults. They began teaching him their trades, and, with that, charlie wall’s life in crime began. at the age of 12, tired of his stepmother, he shot her with a .22 rifle and wounded her. His uncle sent him to Bingham military School in North carolina. a romanticized story about young charlie claims he was expelled for hanging around gambling and whorehouses in North carolina. while he was expelled during his first year at the military school, according to school records, it was for the unromantic crime of cheating on a test. Upon expulsion, he returned to Tampa and, with no consistent parental supervision, also returned to the seedy establishments that took him in prior to his stint in military school. By the age of 14 or 15, young charlie was dealing craps in a casino in fort Brooke and running numbers for some of the larger bolita dealers in Tampa who saw great potential in a criminally minded boy with white collar ties. with the last name of wall, charlie could get into places common criminals could not–country clubs, five-star restaurants, upscale bars and even city Hall–and sell bolita numbers. 2015 SUmmER EDiTioN 25
charlie wall’s bolita parlors and brothels to operate, unbothered. and, if there was an illegal operation in Tampa not backed by charlie wall, he’d have the police shut it down, forcing almost every gambling parlor and whorehouse in Tampa to give charlie wall a portion of their business. Some bolita parlors brought in $57,000 on a good night with charlie wall taking home half of it. To add to his riches, charlie wall would have bolita games fixed to ensure a highly wagered-upon number wouldn’t win. Bolita dealers would fill balls with lead so they would sink to the bottom or freeze a ball so it would be easy to find in the bag. charlie wall’s home located on columbus Drive in Ybor city. of course, with great power comes great risk. He Though he lacked a formal education, charlie wall was an refused to live his life in fear, though. Rather than building a intelligent businessman, even as a teenager. He saved every home in the countryside, away from the danger, he built a penny he could and as his bankroll grew, he ceased working mansion in Ybor city, which made him an easy target. Hitmen as a runner for bolita dealers and began bankrolling bootleg would drive by his house and take shots at him as he sat on his liquor operations and his own bolita games. porch or pulled into his driveway. He wasn’t an idiot, though. Bolita was the illegal lottery of Tampa, a prelude to today’s He didn’t just build a mansion. He built a fortress. His porch, legal lottery. one hundred little wooden or ivory balls where he liked to sit and read the paper on a nice day, had two numbered 1 thru 100 would be placed in a bag and gamblers giant pillars built into it, large enough for him to safely duck would bet on what number or three numbers would be pulled. behind when shots were fired. and his garage had a metal with a payoff of 85-1, a winning number would pay big tunnel leading from it to his house. if hitmen were following dividends to the winner. Everyone in Tampa was playing–the him home, all he needed to do was escape into his garage and rich and poor; black, white and Latin; men and women. in he could safely make it into his home, where third-floor 1927, over 300 bolita parlors were located in Tampa and an windows were adorned with gun racks so he could return fire. estimated 1,200 bolita parlors infiltrated every segment of assassination attempts became a regular part of the workday Tampa. in 1927, over $20 million was played on the game. Bolita for charlie wall. Tales of his exciting escapes from sure death was able to flourish in such a way because the police and are legendary in Ybor city. He once dove behind a car as a politicians allowed it–and the reason they allowed it was hitman unloaded clips of ammunition at him, and escaped any because of charlie wall. serious injury. on another occasion he ducked under his charlie wall’s major play came in 1910 when the cigar steering wheel as bullets ripped through his car seat, whizzing workers went on strike in Tampa. Supportive of their cause, just inches over his head. His most famous escape was when charlie wall financially backed the struggling cigar workers. his car was pinned between two hitmen on Nebraska avenue, He bought them food and paid for their medical bills so they one in front of the car and one on the side. in order to escape, could continue the strike. Though in the end they lost the his driver and bodyguard, Baby Joe, stood on the car’s running strike, the cigar workers of Tampa forever after had an undying board and returned fire while driving backwards through love for charlie wall. traffic. They escaped unharmed. Knowing he had the full support of the blue collar men and But there was one enemy charlie wall’s bodyguards couldn’t women of Ybor city and west Tampa, charlie wall made his protect him from–himself. addicted to morphine, charlie move. He began backing political candidates, promising them wall’s arms were covered with puncture scars. one of his he could deliver the votes of west Tampa and Ybor city. His drivers, “Scarface” Johnny Rivera, used to tell tales of neighbors many supporters would vote for whomever he told them to, calling him late at night, informing him that charlie wall was and would look the other way when charlie wall had the ballot stumbling around the neighborhood in nothing but his night boxes stuffed or had individuals vote for his candidates up to shirt. Rivera would always hurry over and bring his boss 10 times. in return for his support, candidates had to allow home. 26 www.Tampamafia.com
in 1928, one of charlie wall’s former companions, isabella city leaders. No longer protected by the city and no longer Knowles, went to him in search of morphine, complaining of untouchable, other criminal syndicates were allowed to withdrawal pains. charlie wall wrote a note for her to bring to flourish, specifically the Sicilian mafia. one of his lieutenants, George “Saturday” Zarate, asking in 1938, charlie wall’s good friend and business partner Tito Zarate to give her what she wanted. Unknown to both of them, Rubio was gunned down in front of their gambling parlor, the Knowles was working as a federal informant. Both Zarate and Lincoln club. charlie wall knew the police would have to visit charlie wall were arrested and charged with selling narcotics. the club as part of their investigation. His friends and supportBut, he had one addiction he could never kick–his addiction ers begged him to clean out all the gambling equipment and to power, an addiction that blinded him to a shut the club down. He refused, stating he hoped that by keepstark reality–there is only so far you can ing it operational the murderer would return to come after push the limits of corruption before him. The murderer never returned to the club. when the someone is forced to push back. police arrived to investigate the scene of the murder and His downfall began in 1934. found the Lincoln club still operating, they arrested claude pepper and park Trammel were competing in an election for state Senate and charlie wall was backing Trammel. whether Trammel asked for this support is that charlie wall was stumblingunknown. what is known is that charlie wall’s support guaranteed Trammel would win Ybor city and Tampa. The only question was how many votes would charlie wall allow pepper to receive? in one particular district in west Tampa, charlie wall decried that pepper would only receive two votes. when all the votes were tallied statewide, pepper lost the election by 3,000 votes. in Ybor city and west Tampa, he lost by 6,000 votes. it was wall’s high water mark–he’d won a statewide election for a candidate. The state of florida was embarrassed by this incident and vowed to not allow another corrupt election to occur in Tampa. The following year, 1935, D.B. mcKay and Robert E. chauncey were embroiled in a heated election for mayor of Tampa. in order to squash any corruption, the National Guard was called in to guard the ballot boxes. Even when faced with the military weapons, charlie wall’s supporters tried to stuff the ballot boxes and total bedlam erupted throughout the city. men and women were beaten to death in riots, poll workers were threatened, and on april 19, 1955, charlie wall was found murdered in the bedroom of his home. dozens of men were arrested for repeat voting, including charlie wall’s old friend, George “Saturday” Zarate. During the election charlie wall and charged him with running an illegalmadness, a hurricane rumbled through florida with winds gambling establishment. exceeding 100 miles per hour. By the time the election turmoil charlie wall was again acquitted, but not before he promised and the hurricane winds finally died down, the city of Tampa to tell the grand jury everything they wanted to know about was in ruins in terms of infrastructure and reputation. Tampa’s underworld. He claimed that by doing so, he hoped The election made national headlines. Embarrassed, the city it would help the police find his friend’s murderer. The murfinally decided it had to end the corruption. To do so, it derer was never found and when word got out that charlie replaced the paper ballot system with lever machines. Unable wall had sung to the grand jury, his support dwindled evento stuff the ballot boxes, charlie wall could no longer handpick more. 2015 SUmmER EDiTioN 29
By 1940, charlie wall’s power was usurped by the Sicilians. around 1942 a powerless charlie wall left Tampa for miami and faded into retirement. for a man accustomed to living in the public eye and being treated like a king wherever he went, his new life of obscurity was a tough pill to swallow. Then, in 1950, the Special committee to investigate organized crime, better known as the Kefauver committee, steamrolled through the nation. in an effort
Returning to the public eye for the first time since leaving Tampa, the now retired and powerless charlie wall took the stand and openly discussed his former life as a crime lord in Tampa during the earlier part of the century. His quick wit, engaging personality and intriguing stories about fixing bolita games and escaping assassination attempts kept the city of Tampa hanging on his every word throughout his testimony. The next day, charlie wall was the talk of the town and back in the limelight. He moved back to Tampa full time and, though he had little power, discovered he could again be the center of attention simply by telling his old stories. while the residents of Tampa loved his stories, Tampa’s Sicilian mafia grew angry because when charlie wall began drinking, he’d cease telling old stories and turn his attention to running down the way the Sicilians operated their illegal activities. This went on for four years. charlie wall’s friends continued to tell him to keep quiet or he’d soon be dead. He never listened and on april 19, 1955, he was found murdered in the bedroom of his home. His head was bashed in with a black jack and a bat and his neck was sliced from ear to ear. on the dresser in his bedroom where he was found dead was Estes Kefauver’s book, crime in america, which was a summary of his findings during the crime hearings throughout the nation. while the police had a few suspects, including charlie wall’s former drivers–Baby Joe and Scarface Johnny–no one was ever charged. it is believed, though, that the murderer was someone who charlie wall knew. There was no forced entry into the home, so charlie wall had to have let the killer in. There was also no sign of struggle in the house, meaning charlie wall trusted the killer enough to allow him into his bedroom. it’s been nearly five decades since the murder and it remains a mystery, but, the legend of charlie wall has endured. charlie wall used to say that he survived as Joe “Baby charlie wall’s former body guards. Left, long as he did because the “devil looks after ” Rivera. Joe” Diez and right, Johnny “Scarface his own.” and, for over three decades, the devil kept a close watch on charlie wall, during which time to end the organized crime racket that he controlled the city of Tampa in a way that no individual was taking over every major city in the had done before or has done since. But on april 19, 1955, United States, Senator Estes Kefauve- the devil must have found someone else to look after, and formed a committee that travelled the the life of one of Tampa’s most colorful figures came to a nation, stopped in the nation’s most dark end. Traces of charlie wall’s legacy can still be found in every corrupt cities, subpoenaed that city’s most notorious individuals, and corner of Tampa–in the halls of the city’s municipal buildquestioned them under oath ings through the names and photos of the countless city about the criminal syndicate in leaders he secretly helped to elect; in Ybor city’s social the city. most of the individuals clubs through the games of bolita still thrown for special called to the stand denied their roles in any events; or in bookstores throughout the city in novels he corrupt activities. But, when the committee came inspired. Throughout the city of Tampa, if you look closely to Tampa, one individual gladly testified about at those places where the sunlight doesn’t shine so bright, his role in the Tampa underworld–charlie you’ll still see traces of charlie wall’s shadow–the white Shadow. wall. 30 www.Tampamafia.com
ORGANIzED CRIME ON TRIAL The Kefauver Hearings By Scott M. Deitche
political corruption was another hotbutton issue that Kefauver wanted to explore. The Tampa press was now railing on a weekly basis against the lax enforcement of gambling laws and the indicative stain of bribes and political influence from the underworld. investigative reporters were one-upping each other with exclusive stories of suburbs under the thumb of organized crime, and how far the mob’s tentacles reached within Tampa city government. The Kefauver committee agreed, finding a “customary policy of outright bribery that has channeled substantial amounts of money into political campaigns, manifestly for the control they can exercise over law-enforcement officers.” along with the witness testimony, they brought out a chart depicting the many gangland killings that had rocked Tampa for 20 years, from the killing of Norris mcfall in 1928 to the daytime slaying of Jimmy Lumia, just a few months before the committee came to town. Low level gangland figures and business associates spoke of payoffs to the sheriff and mayor, while detailing the buying of votes. charlie wall testifying at the Kefauver Hearings But the star witness was charlie wall. By 1950, the aging gambling kingpin was The Kefauver hearings arrived in Tampa in December no longer a factor in Tampa’s criminal underworld. wall of 1950. Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver started his regaled the committee with stories of his wayward youth traveling hearings to uncover the deep well of official running craps games and hanging out in opium dens. He corruption that had allowed organized crime to grow and detailed his rise to the top of the gambling rackets, and thrive in america. The commission was surprisingly how Santo Trafficante Sr effectively pushed him out of well-informed on organized crime activities, despite fBi business by 1945. His willingness to talk may have been Director J. Edgar Hoover’s admonitions that the mafia did spurred by a third assassination attempt on wall’s life in not exist. The hearings were front page news items in 1944. every major daily, and when the local TV stations in New when the Kefauver committee left town, it left an York city broadcast the hearings, a visibly shaken frank indelible stain on Tampa. But it also brought about costello, sweating under examination by committee political reform, and shone a light on the nefarious aspects members made for one of television’s earliest milestones. of bolita, Tampa’s illegal lottery. wall lived unscathed for washington sent out subpoenas to many of the major five years following his testimony. But his big mouth mob figures in Tampa; but the Trafficantes, Diecidues, and caught up with him. He was murdered in his house in Salvatore “Red” italiano all ducked the process servers. 1955. on his nightstand was a copy of Estes Kefauver’s as the final report reflected, “The committee could not crime in america, a summary of the committee’s make an adequate investigation of the mafia background findings. of these murders because all suspected mafia adherents vanished from their homes and usual haunts when it became known that the committee intended to investigate their activities.” 2015 SUmmER EDiTioN 31
By Scott Deitche
Louis “Babe” Silvers.
on april 9, 1961 a 17 year old boy was walking around the shoreline of Kobe Lake, near 118th Terrace in miami, looking for an ideal place to fish. His attention was diverted by a two men in a pickup, driving near the waterbody. They dropped a canvas bag into the water and took off. The youth ran over to where the bag was dumped, reached down and brought it up. curious as to its contents, he opened the bag and discovered a skull, an arm and leg bones. The next morning, attorney Joseph Gassen was skimming through the Miami Herald at breakfast when he came upon the story of the bag of bones. Having a gut feeling that the bones may be that of his client, Lila Silvers, missing husband, he called the police. The next day, dental records con32 www.Tampamafia.com
firmed that the skeleton was indeed Lila’s husband, Louis “Babe” Silvers. Silvers had disappeared on January 24, 1960, and his wife hired Gassen to have her husband declared dead to collect on the estate. She did not have a role in the killing, but she knew that when men like Babe disappeared, they rarely came back. She knew that her husband, part of the burgeoning underworld scene in South florida, rubbed elbows with some of the biggest mobsters in the country. Lou Silvers, known as “a notorious shakedown man from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn”, was born January 20, 1915. in 1932 he was arrested for the first time for robbery and spent a couple years in a reformatory. Upon his release,
Silvers tried his hand as a professional middleweight fighter. He went 2-2 in his short career. when he got out, Silvers started running with a loose-knit gang of bookmakers tied to Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, the notorious gangland figure. when Buchalter was put to death on January 21, 1944, (for the murder of candy store owner Joseph Rosen), the gang was already in disarray. Some reports said that Lou Silvers was looking to make a move into a leadership role. on the evening of June 11, 1944, Silvers got into an altercation with bookmaker Jack “The ox” finkel outside a flatbush nightclub. He pumped four .32 slugs into finkel. another bookmaker, Bennie “The Book” Greenfeder saw the shooting and grabbed the gun from Silvers, hitting him in the face with it. Silvers and his then girlfriend Lila fled the scene, but later went to a local hospital to have his face checked out. police arrived and Silvers was arrested and charged with finkel’s murder. The outcome of the finkel charges are lost in time, but it’s apparent from follow up cases that Silvers either beat the charges or took a plea for a reduced charge. Just two years later, in 1946, Silvers was charged with extortion of a Bay Ridge Brooklyn businessman. He pled guilty and served a few years in prison.
Tony Soprano named The Greatest (fictional) Mafia Boss Ever!