Showing posts with label gangster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gangster. 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.

29 December 2016

Behind the Mug: Lucky Luciano's 1931 Arrest... There's more to the story!

Charles 'Lucky' Lucania, 1931.
Charlie Lucky’s name and reputation had certainly garnered the attention of some media entities and law enforcement by spring of 1931, yet to the public and many police departments outside of Manhattan - he was still largely an unfamiliar figure. Lucky's infamy began to grow exponentially following the events that unfolded later in the year.  Our story today addresses an incident that occurred just two months before he kick-started that career-boosting rise in notoriety (we are of course talking about the underworld housecleaning of sorts (which included the murder of Joe 'The Boss' Masseria April 15, 1931 and Salvatore Maranzano on September 10, 1931)

On the evening of February 2, all hell broke loose in Manhattan, or so it has been implied, when two Jersey cops decided to spend their day off in Big Apple, and crossed paths with one Charles Lucania, aka Lucky.

No News is Good News?

To jump forward a bit, the altercation ultimately provided one of the baddest of badass mugshots the world of organized crime had seen to that point, but oddly – very few details of the incident have ever surfaced to accompany the sinister picture. So then, what happened?  If one were to fill in some blanks with their own theories, then perhaps it's safe to say that fate, destiny, and possibly a lot of mouth-running and temper-flaring led to an physical altercation, subsequent arrest, unusual dismissal, and most peculiar - barely a damn thing ever mentioned in the media. Therefore, this little anecdote is rife with theoretical possibilities. Here's the lowdown on facts, hearsay and outlying oddities:

As Luciano's lengthy rap sheet clearly discloses, he was arrested on February 2, 1931 and charged with two first-degree felony assaults. On February 4, he stood before Judge Joseph F. Mulqueen in the Court of Common Sessions, whereby both felony indictments were discharged; case dismissed.Seems fairly cut and dry, but here's where it all gets interesting...


A sinister photograph with an elusive tale lurking behind it.  The 1931 mugshot of Charles 'Lucky' Luciano hadn't been publicly displayed until 1935, when the press began circulating it (in lieu of current photos, which did not exist) following the murder of Arthur 'Dutch Schultz' Flegenheimer in 1935. Luciano and John Torrio were considered 'of interest' to investigators following the murder.


Fight Club...

Lucky's arrest came at the hands of the two aforementioned off-duty New Jersey police officers, but not before some serious ass-kicking took place, and according to one so-called 'in the know' reporter of the time - it wasn't Luciano on the receiving end of said ass-kicking.  Hickman Powell, author of  'Lucky Luciano: The Man Who Organized Crime, shed a little light on the melee, albeit brief and underscored by era-commonplace journalistic over-sensationalism.
 

"Lucky was accused of participating in a vulgar street brawl, beating up two Jersey City policemen who had ventured across the river into Manhattan." - Hickman Powell, from Lucky Luciano: The Man Who Organized Crime

Back of mugshot. Luciano's chosen alias of the day was 'Charles Reed'.

Further adding intrigue to the entire scenario was the controversial judge who dismissed the charges.  Joseph Mulqueen had chalked up a high number of dismissals during his time on the bench, which was certainly an issue raised by his detractors.  That fact, paired with a documented denial of gang existence, makes for all the more conspiratorial fun and conjecture.

Notwithstanding the Judge's record and often-contentious reputation, the case may have been in Luciano's favor simply because the two  out-of-town, off-duty cops may have rather saved some face than explain why they were involved in a fight in the first place. Or perhaps the duo of Officers Phillips and Henshaw did appear in court and Mulqueen heard the explanation, dismissing on principal.  The answer we do not know... yet.  Rest assure, there's one crime historian who's definitely going to dig for the facts, and hopefully divulge a 'part two' to this little underworld mystery.


www.ganglandlegends.com

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01 November 2016

Paul is Dead

No not that Paul, but Paul Robinson said to be a Los Angeles gangster, who was bumped off on this date back in 1932. Initially police believed that he was involved in some sort of  gangland feud. This stemmed from the fact that Robinson's bullet riddled corpse was found in a recently dug ditch near a San Mateo golf course.

Police determined that Robinson had been killed in San Francisco and his body taken to the golf course and dropped into the ditch. (I suspect a "hole in one" joke is applicable here so if you have one, by all means leave it in the comments) After Robinson's body was deposited his slayer fired ten more shots into him. The dead man's auto was then parked near San Francisco's Presidio district and set on fire.

Subsequent investigation showed that Robinson had left L.A. along with a confederate named E.P. Andrews alias Gene Shelton, whom the authorities felt was the one who did in Robinson. On the following December 8, Andrews was traced to the town of Banning where he escaped in his wife's car amidst a shootout with police. He didn't bother waiting for his wife who was taken into custody.

Andrews didn't remain free long, he was arrested on April 1, 1933, in St. Louis under suspicion of robbery.