Showing posts with label Lucky Luciano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lucky Luciano. Show all posts

26 January 2017

55 Years Ago Today: Lucky Luciano's Death

January 26, 1962. Charles 'Lucky' Luciano suffers fatal heart attack.
Having just endured yet another session of police interrogation (this time was about a drug ring), Lucky Luciano was exhausted but determined to keep a scheduled meeting with would-be biopic producer Martin Gosch.  The latter was arriving from Spain, where he'd taken up a home-away-from-home in the late 1950's. Gosch had been meeting with Luciano periodically since at least 1960.  Both wanted a movie made, although Lucky and movie producers historically had great differences of opinion in storyline.

The pair did in fact meet at the Capodichino airport in Naples on January 26, 1962. Gosch's plane arrived just after 4:00 pm, and he was greeted by Lucky and an English-speaking police officer named Cesare Resta (Luciano invited Resta to help prove he was not making drug deals). Inside, Lucky sipped on a fruit drink, chatting with Gosch. Shortly after 5:00 pm, as they were walking toward Lucky's car in the parking lot, the aging gangster stumbled, uttering the last words, "Martin, Martin."

Gosch knew Lucky had a heart condition, but it was too late (when onlookers saw the producer trying to place a pill in the fallen man's mouth the foundation for conspiracy theories was inadvertently laid).  The airport's on-staff physician arrived, placed a stethoscope to Luciano's chest, then clearly stated the finality of situation, albeit in a laconic, matter-of-fact way - "This man is dead."

Prior the the official autopsy report, rumors of 'poisoning' were published.  Once the autopsy was revealed to the public (months later) it showed the true non-dramatic reality... Lucky Luciano had a bad heart and that bad heart gave out..  Still, there continued to be whispers of assassination, carried out to silence the once great mob boss ( be it for the proposed movie, or his alleged drug ring). Despite the media misreporting, conspiracies, and - even if it was true - the 'International Drug Ring' implications that dogged him for decades... Lucky Luciano got to have his day, because soon he would be going home. 
1962, Naples Italy. Mourners pay last respects to Lucky Luciano at the Cemetery of Poggioreale.


"No solemn funeral service can be celebrated for someone who lives in 'obvious concubinage'." - Don Guido San Martino, officiating priest of the Most Holy Trinity Church of St. Joachim.

On January 29th, Don Guido San Martino, priest of the Most Holy Trinity Church of St. Joachim, gave requiem mass for Luciano.  The priest publicly stated the mass would be "without special pomp" and he felt great discomfort knowing the deceased party's 'live-in' relationship with twenty-four year old Adriana Risso (sometimes identified as Rizzo).  As for the whole 'gangster' element, the priest apparently wasn't quite as concerned, stating the service was - "For his soul and has nothing to do with what his life may have been."
video

Well, the service contradicted the priest's plans, yet surely unfolded just as the hordes of cops (American and Italian, plainclothes and uniform) expected.  There was pushing, shoving and verbal threats, mostly all aimed at the estimated one-hundred and fifty reporters present. Among those in attendance who were not press or police:  Lucky's brother Bartolo, nephew Salvatore, girlfriend Adriana Risso, a few American wiseguys, and although confined by law to remain in the town of Avellino's borders,  another deported gangster/friend, Joe Adonis, sent a wreath adorn with the phrase, "So Long Pal."

"Be quiet or I warn you I am going to knock someone on the head." - Unidentified elderly mourner threatening a photographer.

Luciano's mahogany casket left the church in an ornate hearse pulled by eight horses. Brother Bartolo had been trying secure permission to bring Lucky's remains back to New York for burial in the family mausoleum, so in the interim the casket would be kept in the chapel of the Cemetery of Poggioreale.  On February 7th, 1962, Salvatore 'Charlie Lucky Luciano' Lucania officially came home.  Without any religious service this time, Luciano reached his final resting place - St. John's Cemetery in Queens, New York.  He purchased the mausoleum in 1935 (reports of the pricetag vary in range from $25,000 and $30,000), and was designed with capacity for up to sixteen coffins.




A few interesting things that happened within the weeks and months and years following Lucky Luciano's death:

  • Bartolo Lucania evicted Adriana Risso from Lucky's apartment.
  • The official autopsy report was released that June, debunking the 'poison' theories.
  • Cameron Mitchell, the American actor who agreed to play the role of Lucky in Gosch's planned movie production, received multiple death threats, presumed to be from Italian Mafia.
  • Gosch never made a biopic, but did collaborate with Richard Hammer to create the highly-contentious book 'The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano.'
  •  Gosch was actually working for producer Barnett Glassmen, according to a 1975 New York Times 'Letter to the Editor.' The letter further claims Luciano didn't particularly like Gosch and basically discussed a 'fictional' story, not memoir.
  • Adriana Risso, Lucky's last love interest, was one of five beneficiaries listed to receive royalties from the book's sales.
  •  
Sources:

Tension Marks Lucky's Funeral. Reuters. New York Post, January 29, 1962, p. 20.
Luciano's Funeral is Today. AP. The Kingston Daily Freeman, January 1962, p. 1.
Cipollini, Christian. Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend, Strategic Media Books, 2014.
Summers, Anthony & Robbyn Swan. Sinatra: The Life, Vintage, 2006.
Rick Porrello's American Mafia
Scaduto, Tony. Letter to the Editor. New York Times. 27 April 1975.

02 January 2017

3 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Lucky Luciano

Charlie Lucky Luciano cracks a smirk in 1946.


Books and movies and hearsay... oh my!  A century's worth of material has been written on the life and crimes of Salvatore Lucania, the fella we better recognize as Lucky Luciano, but still his story is filled with as many holes as some of the gang war victims he once caroused with.  The 'mystery' that surrounds Lucky is ultimately the kind of thing researchers, historians and mob history aficionados live for, because we all love discovering a new clue or factoid that better paints the true picture. History itself, no matter the realm or subject matter, never ceases to amaze; there's always, ALWAYS something more to discover.  And with that said, here are three cool little facts about Charlie Lucky that you may have not known:


3. Gun Control

Not all RAP Sheets (record of arrest & prosecution) are created equal, keep that in mind especially when studying organized crime of the early twentieth century. Besides the facts that law enforcement entities obviously didn't have many options of technology to share information, and, most mobsters adopted an alias or two (and some literally juggled dozens of aka's) which made identification difficult enough in that era, rap sheets were often innately cryptic, and absolutely subject to human error and/or omissions.Some legal infractions just didn't get listed.

"Eight Gun Permits Ordered Revoked When Probe Shows Wholesale Falsifications" - The Troy Times, July 15, 1933.

Luciano was known to pack heat, as referenced when he (along with an ensemble of notable gangsters including Joe 'The Boss' Masseria and Bugsy Siegel - who was using an alias) was booked in Miami on gambling charges on February 28th, 1930, but the gun wasn't a big issue. Miami authorities only fined him for the gambling violation, although he was required to register with police if and when he ever returned to the city.  A few years later though, Lucky got into a little more gun-related trouble, but oddly it wasn't the weapon he was caught with.

The murders of several witnesses in a case against racketeer Waxey Gordon in 1933 is what prompted authorities in Troy, New York to investigate an unusual common denominator in the slayings - most of the witnesses were known gangsters and possessed gun permits issued in Troy.  Furthermore, many of the permit holders were from out of town (NYC, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles), and all of their permit 'sponsors' had apparently falsified documents. That discovery led to the questioning of  individuals issuing those permits, who incidentally had very groggy memories of why, exactly, they approved the permits.
FBI Record Charles Lucania

On July 15th, authorities revoked eight gun permits, and published the names of both permit holder and the individuals who sponsored them. Among those stripped of a license to carry was of course Lucky Luciano, who almost always used his real surname on official documents. Charles Lucania of 226 Hill Street; vocation listed as 'salesman' on the application. His address in Troy (and Lucky was known to maintain multiple addresses at the time) was less than an hour drive from his old pal Legs Diamond's home in Acra.  Interestingly, within the following two years, Lucky had instituted a contingency plan by securing the bodyguard services of  Lorenzo 'Chappy' Brescia, a big guy who carried a gun and a permit.


2. Inked Up

From comic book series LUCKY
Tattoos, even Lucky Luciano had some.  He was however quite meticulous in hiding epidermal decorations from public view, hence why very few images of his ink have ever surfaced and why little has ever been mentioned in historical accounts.  Despite his efforts to keep the ink under wraps, the tattoos were noted and described - sometimes in great detail - by a handful of eagle-eyed journalists, and of course by police.

"He constantly mopped his neck with a handkerchief as we talked, then shed his suit coat and drew back his shirt sleeves, revealing faded tattoos on each forearm.There was a nude on the left arm and a crest with the face of a jack on the right. If the tattoos clashed with his immaculate attire, so did his language. His soft-spoken conversation was flavored with Brooklynese, and the "youse guys" kept creeping in." - Jack Anderson, 1959.

Here's the lowdown on Lucky Luciano's skin art:

Tattooed Gangster
He acquired the tattoos as a teenager, the year was 1913 to be exact.  The right, inner forearm featured a 'Sailor's head' (though the design could easily be confused with a 'Jack'), stars and a heart, the word 'Lucky', and the date '1913'.  The left, inner arm was adorn with a bawdier imagery: a topless pinup girl, kneeling with her arms placed behind her head, and two banners reading, respectively,  'True Love' and 'Forever'.


Lucky took particular care to shield the pinup girl tattoo from photographers, but glimpses of the larger inkwork, located on his right arm, can bee seen in a few accessible press photographs, while far more detailed representations are present within the very-rare-yet-very-much-existing personal photo albums of he and his close friends (*even in personal photos he was methodical in keeping the pinup girl out of view).

"These tattoos...I got them when I was seventeen." - Luciano's reply to journalist Oscar Fraley's question, 'Regrets?' 1960.




1. Television Interview... With SOUND

It was no secret that Lucky hated being exiled to Italy. Although the press (and police) had hounded Lucky relentlessly with questions, flashbulbs ( and even some silent film footage) ever since his headline-making vice trial in 1936, it wasn't until around 1949 that Lucky had begun to willingly accept the occasional interview request - particularly from visiting American journalists (and usually with the caveat of no audio or motion picture recording). Some have suggested it was Luciano's way of connecting with a home he'd never get to visit again, and his interviews became more frequent through the 1950s.
Lucky gives interview in 1949


"It has-gotten so that every time a columnist gets within feet-wetting distance of the coast of Italy he owns to two objectives: the interviewing either of Luciano or Ms Ingrid Bergman, on the basis that they provide provocative copy." - Columnist Whitney Bolton, 1952

In early 1952 NBC dispatched newsreel photographers Charles and Eugene Jones to Europe. The brothers - known for traveling the world equipped with a state of the art camera - had gained notoriety for their coverage of the Korean War and their films were often featured during NBC's Camel News Caravan. In sending them to Europe, the network basically wanted the twenty-five year old twins to get stories on anything relevant, from politics to society. Gene's wife Natalie accompanied them on the European trek, and she would become a groundbreaking history-maker in her own right.

Stopping in Naples, Italy that April, the Jones trio became aware of Lucky Luciano's presence, so they took a room in the same hotel and set out to request an interview. Lucky refused at first, though he invited them to the track and to dine. Surprisingly though, the Jones's convinced Lucky to do an on-camera interview, sound included. Besides the significance of the interview being the only known audio/visual combo recording of the exiled gangster, the interview was conducted by Natalie Jones - and this was a time in history when the phrase 'Good Ol' Boy Network' applied to many segments of society, not the least of which being television journalism.

Luciano's mere agreement to do such an interview made the newspaper columns back in the States, which included teasers of the conversations viewers would soon see and hear. Some reports of the exclusive interview were straightforward, others quite scornful. Regardless of the opinions, this was to be a pretty big television event it seemed and the Jones family had more locations, personalities and subjects to cover before returning home at the end of the year.  When they returned, brothers Charlie and Gene had a book published - Double Trouble: The Autobiography of the Jones Twins and Natalie had become a staff foreign correspondent and then in the 1970's - an Academy Award nominee.

Now for the disheartening part of this all...

As of this writing, the author (me) had tried, in vain, for several weeks to locate the Lucky Luciano recording. Upon contacting NBC,a representative of the NBC News archives expressed that while the footage may still exist somewhere, the odds are it doesn't anymore. All things considered, the mission is now in full effect... let's find this piece of history, shall we?!



28 November 2016

Blonde Ambition - The Tale of Galina Orloff: Broadway Starlet, Gangster's Girlfriend - Part Three


Gay Olova, 1940.
This is the 3rd & final chapter...

Back to Part 2

As 1934 faded, the new year began with Gay Orlova completely enamored by Charles "Lucky" Luciano. She promptly dropped the stockbroker boy toy who funded her wardrobe and spending allowance, and as for the husband back home in New York - Edward Finn - well, he wasn't even an afterthought. The cigar-smoking showgirl/scarred-face gangster duo quickly became close, and Orlova basically moved into Lucky's luxurious Waldorf Astoria pad. Everything was looking good for both, but the party was about to end through a series of legal entanglements that would consume each of their lives.
"Carroll, a judge of female flesh
without equal, stated unequivocally Gay was the most beautiful
bimbo who ever worked for him.." -Lee Mortimer, 1959.

New York City had a new District Attorney, Thomas E. Dewey. He was a crusader (be it for righteous reasons or political gain - that's debatable) set on taking out the 'big fish' of Gotham's underworld.  Arthur 'Dutch Schultz' Flegenheimer was number one on that list. The Dutchman got whacked though (and many believe Luciano was very much behind the assassination) and therefore Dewey had to pick a new target.  Lucky Luciano fit the bill.  Charlie Lucky earned the Public Enemy No. 1 spot immediately after Schultz's death.  Investigators were very anxious to 'speak with' Lucky and Johnny Torrio (Al Capone's former mentor), but the two were conveniently 'resting' in Florida when the Dutchman got nixed.  Dewey went to work, and with the help of his staff, found a way to put a case together against Luciano - Prostitution.
 "The most dangerous and important racketeer in New York City if not in the country" - Thomas E. Dewey, characterizing Lucky Luciano, 1936
Upon hearing of Dewey's intention, Lucky fled to gangster-friendly Hot Springs Arkansas.  Gay Orlova spent a great deal of time with him there as well.  Still, Dewey diligently continued putting together a case against Luciano because sooner or later... he'd get the gang boss back to New York.   That moment of truth arrived in spring of 1936 when - after much legal back and forth battles - Luciano's luck ran out. Unlike how the government generally went after top mobsters, the DA's angle wasn't the tried and true Tax Evasion charge. Dewey had him extradited and charged with Compulsory Prostitution. He proclaimed Lucky the head of nationwide vice ring, and knew that of all vices... the sex trade would likely gain him no sympathy in court and the court of public opinion.

Orlova became the target of both prosecution and defense teams.  "I don't want her mixed up in this case," Lucky told his lawyers. When she was called into Dewey's office, the staff were both shocked and awed. Gay Orlova was adorned in diamonds, a fur coat, but most of all - spoke to the prosecution team as if they were the the shocking ones.  To Orlova, the expensive accoutrements were the norm, and she was not one to filter her thoughts. As for helping the DA, that wasn't going to happen. She continually spoke of Lucky with admiration, albeit a bit unorthodox in using the word 'sinister' as a compliment!

Lucky Luciano, 1936.
Luciano went to trial and was made an example of.  The judge sentenced him to a 30-50 year term! Meanwhile, Orlova began feeling paranoid.  Word spread that 'people' had been following her ever since Lucky was extradited to New York.  Plus, she still had to deal with her husband, whom she hoped would just divorce her. Simply put, a divorce wouldn't effect her citizenship.  Edward Finn had, by the time Lucky Luciano had become a household name from the sensational vice ring trial, become aware of his bride's love affair.  He was going to do something, but not divorce.
“Oh, I’m infatuated with Lucky. He’s so sinister.” - Gay Orlova, 1935.
1937 should have been a welcomed change, considering how tumultuous her life had been the previous year.  However, Orlova's worst was yet to come.  First, she outright told husband Finn to "get a divorce" as she boarded a ship to France. Her plan was to get some dancing gigs and photo shoots in Paris, a city she felt comfortable and safe in.  Finn, on the other hand, took a trip straight to the courthouse and requested an annulment.  Upon pleading his case, Judge Cohalan remarked, "Have we reached a point where we should dissolve marriages because a woman won't support a man?" The court's discontent took a backseat to further convincing testimony, and Edward Finn got the judgement.

Gay Orlova denied entrance to United States, 1937.
Back in Paris, the now-brunette Gay Orlova had no idea of what husband Edward had been up to. On August 11, she boarded the liner Normandie and sailed for New York (ironically, the Normandie was seized by the United States during WWII, and while being converted into a troop ship - caught fire. Suspicions of Nazi sabotage led to the government enlisting the help of the mob to protect New York's harbor, the imprisoned Lucky Luciano being a pivotal figure in the mix).  Upon arrival, authorities denied her entrance. Contrary to many news reports of the time, Orlova was not deported, but she did have to remain on the ship and sail back to France. Had Finn filed divorce, Orlova would have retained citizenship; annulment did exactly what it was designed to to - made it like she'd never been married, and no citizenship.
"He was lovely to me. I even gave up my broker friend just for him. Then I was with Lucky a lot in New York." - Gay Orlova, 1936.
Back in Paris she continued to model and dance.  Then, opted for wedding bells once more, this time with a French Count whom she'd allegedly met some years prior. Three weeks after the marriage Gay divorced the Count, yet the pair remained quite close, that is until WWII interfered. Late September 1939, the French nobleman was called to duty near the Maginot Line. Orlova, always persistent when she wanted something, journeyed the northern border of France. The two reunited, but military police were extremely suspect of the flamboyantly dressed woman hiding out in a deserted village. Both the Count and Orlova were taken into custody and interrogated for hours. The word 'spy' had been muttered, and Gay knew what happens to spies - firing squad.  Finally the truth of their former marriage (and of course who they both were) reached the officers; both were set free. Orlova told to return to Paris immediately, which she did.
Gay Orlova, 1940. Photo courtesy of Christopher Jones

“All those headlines about the reunion Gay Orlova planned with Lucky Luciano came as a complete surprise – not to say shock – to him. He hasn’t heard from her in many years.” - Dorothy Kilgallen, 1946.


Over the course of several more years, the American press would periodically 'check in' on Gay Orlova, or perhaps better stated - would publish brief and unflattering grapevine gossip. Lucky's sentence got commuted and he was exiled to Italy 1946. Upon such news, whispers a purported 'reunion' soon emerged. True or merely conjecture, such a meeting never transpired.  Sadly, the most disheartening rumors were often quite true. After the apparent dissolution of any further relations with the French Count, Orlova spent time in Spain, where she met and began an affair with Pedro Eyzaguirre, the Chilean Secretary of Legation. He wasn't the only man in her life, but certainly the one she envisioned a future with. Wishful thinking again, plans were not going to materialize as she'd hoped. Gay Orlova wanted marriage. Eyzaguirre, a married man, was unable, or unwilling to get a divorce. Some reports circulated that she was destitute, others that she was depressed.  The latter was unfortunately true. 

Walter Winchell's 'On Broadway' column, 1948.

In 1948, Galina Orloff, aka Gay Orlova, turned on the gas inside her Paris apartment.  Her death went largely unnoticed, save for a single brief, inconclusive and cold mention in Walter Winchell's syndicated column on February 28th. According to Patrick Modiano (novelist and 2014 Nobel winner in literature), in his memoir Pedigree (published in 2015) Orlova (who he stated had an affair with his father) carried out her suicide on February 12th, and was interred in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois (the Russian Orthodox section of Cimetière de Liers).


That same year, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, found the love of his life while living in exile. Her name was Igea Lissoni, a former ballerina with whom he spent the better part of a decade with until her death (breast cancer) in 1958.  Lucky granted interviews to a number of American reporters who visited Naples. He was usually quite cryptic in responses to the questions regarding actual crimes and the subject of Gay Orlova. To the former, a jaded tongue lashed out at corrupt politics. To the latter, he never spoke in any detail, only addressing the time frame of their affair, and generally only mentioning how he spent a lot of money on material things and women.


www.ganglandlegends.com



Sources:
Cipollini, Christian, Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend, Strategic Media Books, 2014, p. 57-69.
Donati, William, Lucky Luciano: The Rise and Fall of a Mob Boss, 
Modiano, Patrick, (translated by Mark Polizzotti), Pedigree: A Memoir, Yale University Press, 2015, p. 13.
Raines, Robert K, Hot Springs: From Capone to Costello, Arcadia Publishing, 2013, p. 56-57.
"Luciano's Ex-Sweetheart Escapes Death as a Spy," The Philadelphia Enquirer, October 24,1939, p. 2
"Another Lucky Escape for Unlucky Lucky's Girl," Albuquerque Journal, December 24, 1939, p. 15.
"Lucky's Dear Friend," The Morning Herald, April 24, 1936, p. 1.
Sell, Robert. “Another Lucky Escape for Unlucky Lucky’s Girl.”
Norman, Charles, "Prosecutor of New York Rackets Strings Bow for "Big Shots" Only," The Florence Times, August 10, 1936, p. 5.


Lait, Jack. “Broadway and Elsewhere: Opium, Politics, Love.” St. Joseph Gazette, 1949 2-September: 4.

Winchell, Walter, "Broadway," Albany Times Union, September 23, 1940, p. 4.
Winchell, Walter, "Broadway," St. Petersburg Times,  February 24, 1948, p. 32

22 November 2016

Blonde Ambition - The Tale of Galina Orloff: Broadway Starlet, Gangster's Girlfriend - Part Two

Part Two in a Three-Part Series on the true story of Gay Orlova - Read Part One


Gay Orlova, from Vanities Photo book, Ninth Edition
The immigrant Russian girl with big dreams of Broadway fame had achieved success within the first five years of entering the United States. Now calling herself Gay Orlova she earned a coveted spot in Earl Carroll's Vanities show, and received regular hype from the press. By 1932, Carroll even gave her a few speaking roles in sketches opposite Andre Randall (Ironically, Orlova was never a top billed cast member in any of Carroll's productions).  Even her mother Antolina adopted the 'Orlova' surname. On the surface, life was grand.
"Earl Carroll, famed nudie tycoon of the-girl-in-the-bathtub episode." - The Philadelphia Inquirer, 1935.
Despite the high times of life in the fast lane, a lingering concern had apparently been haunting her.  Though barely out of her teens, Orlova was worldly, savvy and street smart. In order to avert any immigration problems that could arise, the dancer determined a quick marriage would automatically make her a U.S. citizen.  Edward Finn, the nineteen year old, second balcony usher of the Majestic Theater was her mark.  To the dismay of his friends and mother (who warned the situation was a 'gold brick'), Finn accepted Orlova's proposal and the two were married on March 1, 1934.  There was to be no honeymoon bliss though, as Orlova insisted Finn immediately go inform his mother of the marriage. "You must go home and spend the night with her and square yourself," she commanded.  Finn agreed but suggested they spend a few hours together before her show that evening, to which his bride quickly dismissed -"I'm going shopping with a girlfriend."  Orlova explained they'd have little time to meet up at the show, handed him a ticket so he could at least attend, and closed the conversation with - "Call me up tomorrow."


"If you had to marry an usher, why from the second balcony?" - Earl Carroll, in a memo pinned to backstage bulletin board, 1934.


The following day, Mrs Finn sailed for England, telling hubby she'd see him in a few months. Odd as the entire situation seemed, Finn reminded himself how thoroughly incredible, unbelievable really, that someone of his status - $10 a week salary earner - could be wed to this stunning superstar. She had indeed assured him the arrangement would be worthwhile.  Then he recalled Gay's comforting promise, "That doesn't matter," she cooed. "You move right In here with me. I have Influential friends who will get you a Job with big money."  It was a statement young Finn would not forget, and one that would come back to haunt Orlova. Oh, and as for those 'friends?'  Yes, she already had one on her arm, stockbroker J. Theus Munds.  Like the men before him, Munds would not last.  Orlova's breathtaking allure could only be matched by someone with a truly sinister charm.  She was about to meet him... in Miami of all places!

Gay Orlova had returned from several months of performances at the Dorchester Hotel in London, summer of 1934 had morphed into fall and still Edward Finn's marriage to her was, as the press mocked, "Kiss-less." Earl Carroll had been planning to take his Murder at the Vanities show on the road, and promised to be all the flash and grandeur one would expect from his troupe of chorus girls.  Orlova was on the roster, and headed south to perform a 'fan dance' for the grand opening of Carroll's Palm Island Revue, scheduled to open on New Year's Eve. Tagging along... the stockbroker boyfriend.

"3/7/1930. Operating a gambling device. Ten deputy sheriffs conduct a raid within a resort hotel in Miami. Upon entering the top floorof the hotel, they discover tables filled with gamblers and cash. A total of $73,575.05 was collected. Sheriffs took $60, 090 from one gambler and a pittance of twelve cents from another. Deputies identified two of the gamblers as Joe “The Boss” Masseria and Charles Lucania. Lucky was allegedly the ‘banker’ and the only person armed. He had a revolver. All were charged with vagrancy and gambling. Lucky was fined $1000 and released." - Christian Cipollini, Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend.

Palm Island... also the location of Al Capone's grandiose estate.  The significance of this real estate factoid?  Al's house was a frequent winter getaway spot for several of the nation's top gangsters. Call it fate, but on December 28th, Charles "Lucky" Luciano arrived in Miami to hang out with Al's brother Ralph 'Bottles' Capone.  Because Charlie had been arrested in Miami in 1930 (he was in possession of a revolver, but charged only for gambling), he was required to register with police, which he promptly did.  He and Ralph decided they would attend the Earl Carroll show to ring in the New Year. 
Al Capone's Palm Island Estate, circa 1930.
Continue on to read Part Three


http://www.ganglandlegends.com/


Sources:
Cipollini, Christian, Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend, Strategic Media Books, 2014, p. 57-69.
Donati, William, Lucky Luciano: The Rise and Fall of a Mob Boss, 
Modiano, Patrick, (translated by Mark Polizzotti), Pedigree: A Memoir, Yale University Press, 2015, p. 13.
Raines, Robert K, Hot Springs: From Capone to Costello, Arcadia Publishing, 2013, p. 56-57.
"Luciano's Ex-Sweetheart Escapes Death as a Spy," The Philadelphia Enquirer, October 24,1939, p. 2
"Another Lucky Escape for Unlucky Lucky's Girl," Albuquerque Journal, December 24, 1939, p. 15.
"Lucky's Dear Friend," The Morning Herald, April 24, 1936, p. 1.
Sell, Robert. “Another Lucky Escape for Unlucky Lucky’s Girl.”
"Arabian Nights Adventure of the Poor Theater Usher." The American Weekly, June 13, 1937, p. 3.
Henderson, W. J., "In Vanities," New York Sun, 1932, p. 26.

20 November 2016

Blonde Ambition - The Tale of Galina Orloff: Broadway Starlet, Gangster's Girlfriend - Part One

Galina Orloff
Galina Orloff, aka Gay Orlova
aka 'Gay Orlova'
Born Petrograd Russia, 29 January 1915
Died Paris France, 12 February 1948

The stunning Broadway dancer, best known by stage name 'Gay Orlova,' lived a life filled with 'tragic comedy.' Propelled into infamy for her scandalous affair with New York's 'Public Enemy Number 1' during the spring of 1936, Orlova's fairy tale life was only just beginning to unravel. A newsmaker long before the Lucky Luciano affair, and sadly - fodder for gossip columns for some years after, the shapely and sharp-tongued beauty never secured 'true love' and cycled through a series of jobs, lovers, failed marriages that ultimately ended in tragedy.

"Until her meeting in the south with Luciano the shapely Russian was one of
the most popular of the Vanities line and, although Ziegfeld's (Follies) is the more illustrious name, Broadway connoisseurs' rate Carroll as his peer in picking beauties." - Robert Sell, 1939.

Sinai Ship Manifest, 1929.
Galina's life began in an era of turmoil, marked by a world war and a revolution within her homeland.  Her father Sergei died in 1927 and within two years she and her mother Antolina would pack up and move about Europe.  France is where the teenage Orloff developed a love of dance, but mother and daughter were still in transition. America was their chosen destination.  Antonina and Galina (on a student visa) boarded the Sinai in Constantinople on March 17, 1929, and arrived in Rhode Island on April 6. The pair soon settled in Brooklyn, but Galina had no intention of pursing a traditional education in the United States.  Her heart was set on Broadway.



The dream came true. By 1931 Galina Orloff, barely sixteen years old, had adopted a pseudonym, began showing up at casting calls, and caught the attention of producer Earl Carroll. Gay Orlova  landed a role in  Carroll's Vanities, and subsequently drew the attention of entertainment writers who were equally captivated by the catchy name and striking looks. The papers would fawn over her, but with a tinge of snarky mocking. Then again, there's no such thing as 'bad' publicity, or is there? And then there were the would-be suitors that salivated over the lot of seductive starlets. Orlova - a cigar smoking femme fatale - equipped with a larger-than-life personality and charm  - cast a spell upon men of all makes and models, from lowly ushers to highfalutin businessmen. 

"So they delve into the classics and the name books, encyclopedias and probably even dictionaries, to find such nom de theater... The prize winner in this category is Gay Orlova."  - Paul Harrison, 1934.

Charles "Lucky" Luciano, 1936
Orlova had also continued jaunting across the pond from time to time, which presented a potential problem.  She was still in the United States on a student visa, which doesn't last forever.  Desperately trying to avert the possibility of deportation, Orlova hatched a diabolical plan while performing at the Majestic Theater in New York, and it focused with laser accuracy upon one very young, naive theater worker named Edward W. F. Finn.  She had noticed how the nineteen year old usher couldn't keep his eyes off her, and so it began... the showgirl extraordinaire made her move.  Gay Orlova flirted briefly before going in for the kill, ultimately requesting Finn's hand in marriage.  Oh yes, he did indeed say, 'Yes!'

"Lucky's a perfect gentleman and I don't know why they say such mean things about him." - Gay Orlova, 1936. 




Little did young Finn know that his bride-to-be was already the mistress of the man District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey would label, "America's Greatest Gangster."

Continue on to read Part Two -


http://www.ganglandlegends.com/


Sources:
Cipollini, Christian, Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend, Strategic Media Books, 2014, p. 57-69.
Donati, William, Lucky Luciano: The Rise and Fall of a Mob Boss, 
Modiano, Patrick, (translated by Mark Polizzotti), Pedigree: A Memoir, Yale University Press, 2015, p. 13.
Raines, Robert K, Hot Springs: From Capone to Costello, Arcadia Publishing, 2013, p. 56-57.
"Luciano's Ex-Sweetheart Escapes Death as a Spy," The Philadelphia Enquirer, October 24,1939, p. 2
"Another Lucky Escape for Unlucky Lucky's Girl," Albuquerque Journal, December 24, 1939, p. 15.
"Lucky's Dear Friend," The Morning Herald, April 24, 1936, p. 1.
Sell, Robert. “Another Lucky Escape for Unlucky Lucky’s Girl.”
Albuquerque Journal, 1939 24-December: 15.

09 November 2016

Behind the Mug: The Bug & Meyer Mob's 'Group Arrest'

Cipollini/Ganglandlegends Collection
Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel, 1928
The cliche is true: A picture is worth a thousand words. As such, why not kick off a periodic series that looks behind the still photos and hopefully reveals a few more gangland goodies in the process.

Let's begin with the 'Bug & Meyer Mob' - circa 1928.


Voicing a Grievance to the Wrong Crowd

John Barrett (police also identified him under the alias Elliot Muggins) had some 'issues' with the way fellow gang members were divvying up the profits earned from their stolen goods racket (specifically furs and other garments). Barrett voiced the problem aloud; some say he went so far as talking to law enforcement, or stole back a little cash in retribution.  Whether or not Barrett had any ground to stand on was, ultimately, quite irrelevant and dangerous.  See, Barrett was part of a gang run by, and associated with, an ensemble of hoodlums who would become the future wave of organized crime royalty.  Barrett, to put it bluntly,  was a nobody that had a beef with a somebody. That somebody was known to police as 'Little Meyer.'

Bang, Bang... You're Not Dead

Around 5:30 pm on January 29th, 1928, John Barrett arrived to a residence on Forty-Fourth Street in Sunnyside Queens. Louis 'Lepke' Buchalter was the host, and although Barrett would later call the gathering a 'party,' it was more likely organized as a 'sit down' type of event. A group of individuals hailing from both the Bug and Meyer Mob and Lepke's gang commiserated for several hours. Accounts of what exactly took place during and after the gathering are varied, one of which suggests Lepke, technically being from a separate gang, would make a good arbitrator, albeit a bias one.  Barrett plead his case and/or defended his actions. Lekpe, ironically a man who some would later refer to as the 'Judge,' allegedly sent Barrett out of the room so a decision could be made. We can all pretty much assume what that verdict entailed.

Sometime close to 8:30 pm, Barrett was coerced or forced into an automobile, where he was told to sit shotgun. Next to him was the driver; behind him were three other men.


Meyer Lansky, 1928.

The quintet traveled only a few blocks when someone in the back seat drew a pistol and fired at Barrett. The round struck Barrett in the back of the head (he later described feeling like he was hit with a blackjack). Immediately realizing he was being 'taken for a ride,' Barret claimed he kicked Siegel's foot off the gas, and leaped from the vehicle.  The would-be victim, bleeding but very much alive, did in fact make a run for it and successfully hailed a taxi.  The cab driver, however, had no idea where the nearest hospital was located, so Barrett opted for a trip to his parents' house at 523 Grand Street in Manhattan, just a few doors down from his own residence.

To his mother's horror, Barrett arrived bloodied and frightened, so she quickly summoned an ambulance from Gouverneur Hospital. Police from both Manhattan and Astoria became involved after the hospital reported Barrett's injury.  From his hospital bed, Barrett had no reservations in divulging the identities of his assailants to detectives. He explained where he had been, that he was trying to collect $5000 owed to him by some of the attendees, and who was in the vehicle - specifically naming twenty-three year old Meyer Lansky, of 125 East Third Street, Brooklyn, as the shooter. Initially, Barrett told police the driver was Benjamin Siegel, and the two other passengers were Joseph Benzola (aka Benny the Gambler, Bennie Benzola) and Samuel 'Red' Levine.  That story changed over time, quite dramatically. 

Memory Loss, a Common Underworld Ailment

March 7, 1928.  Three of the four men originally named as 'assailants' by John Barrett had already (and willingly on the advice of their attorney) turned themselves in to police. The defendants were Meyer Lansky, Joseph Benzola and Samuel 'Red' Levine (Siegel had not been arraigned). All of the aforementioned had rap sheets that, combined, consisted of assault, narcotics and robbery charges. None of the trio admitted to any wrongdoing of course, but were facing Felony Assault charges in the Long Island courtroom of  Magistrate Benjamin Marvin. Barrett, however, suddenly succumbed to an ill the judge had witnessed time and time again. 'Not them,' Barrett told the judge; the accused were not his attackers. Barrett didn't know who tried to kill him, but it wasn't the three standing before him in court. Magistrate Marvin was appalled and threatened Barrett with a charge of perjury. The effort was futile; Barrett wouldn't budge. After spending two weeks recovering in the hospital, and a couple weeks thereafter in the care of his parents, Barrett completely recanted his accusations.

"They have had so much experience in courts that it's a waste of money to get lawyers," the aggrieved magistrate proclaimed. "This is the best drilled thing I ever saw."

With that verbal condemnation, the judge dismissed Lansky, Levine and Benzola. As the trio began to exit, Manhattan detectives were ready in wait to take custody of all three, as suspect in a robbery investigation (Siegel was also picked up again).  And as the suspects were led away, the dispersing courtroom audience garnered some colorful description by a reporter from The Daily Star.

"Fully half of those present followed them (Lansky, Levine, Benzola) out," the newspaper remarked. "Shifty-eyed men hurrying from the courthouse and disappearing in different directions when they reached the sidewalk."
Joseph Benzola Sing Sing, 1930.


What Happens in a Hospital Room...  It Doesn't Stay There, Apparently.

Decades after the Barrett incident, another Bug and Meyer 'associate' revealed what took place between the time Barrett was shot and when the Magistrate heard the case.  These 'revelations' were made during the INS deportation attempts against Meyer Lansky.  Daniel Ahearn, the teller of the tale (serving a thirty year prison sentence at the time), spoke at length on the subject, detailing an elaborate and sinister scheme hatched by Lansky and Siegel, one that would put Barrett in the grave for good. The plot involved Ahearn himself who, as a trusted Barrett friend, was to bring a chicken dish to the hospital. That chiboni was poisoned, and as fate or common 'mob' sense would have it - Barrett declined the food. Barrett had the chicken examined and sure enough it was laced. Allegedly, he spoke aloud, pointing the finger directly at Lansky's Italian friend - Charles "Lucky" Luciano"That's Luciano's way," Barrett hissed. "They kill sneaky." Later, while continuing recovery at his parent's home, Barrett instructed his mother to allow nobody access, no friends were permitted to visit (though a few made attempts).  The entire situation did however encourage Barrett to back-peddle when the case went to court. And, Lansky chose not to retaliate any further, assuming (or so it has been said) that Barrett learned his lesson and would be loyal from then on out.

Aftermath Anecdote

Back to Ahearn though, his motivations for bringing up the thirty-year old case was likely two-fold; he may have been hoping for some leniency in the thirty year incarceration he was enduring, and, perhaps bad blood still ran through his veins. After the Barrett incident, a feud developed between Ahearn and Bugsy Siegel directly, with Lansky indirectly (he always sided with friend Siegel).  That feud led to drive-by shooting (allegedly carried out by Siegel) of which Ahearn -hit by several rounds - narrowly survived.


Sources:

Lacey, Robert. Little Man: Meyer Lansky and the Gangster Life, Little, Brown & Company, 1991, p. 56-59.
Nash, Jay Robert, The Great Pictorial History of World Crime, Volume 2, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2014, p.570-573
"Wounded, Blames Others in Auto," The Brooklyn Standard Union, January 30, 1928, p.3. 
"Swears Accused Are Not Ones Who Attacked Him," The Daily Star, March 8, 1928, p. 3.
FBI, Subject: Meyer Lansky, File Number 92-2831 Sub A, p. 15.
FBI, Subject: Meyer Lansky, File Number 62-97928, p. 2-8.

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