Showing posts with label suicide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label suicide. Show all posts

19 March 2017

74 years ago: Chicago boss suicide

On this date in 1943, Chicago Outfit leader Frank Nitti responded to news of a federal indictment by sending his wife to pray a novena, getting himself drunk and then firing a bullet into his brain. 


Chicago Daily Tribune, March 20, 1943.
The indictment was not entirely a surprise. Chicago mob bosses were well aware that their plot to extort millions from the motion picture industry and theater projectionists had been exposed. Willie Bioff - hand-picked by Nitti to oversee the racket - and Bioff's more visible partners had already been convicted in federal court. And it was clear that federal investigators were not done. News from New York suggested that some mob big-shots in Chicago were likely to be indicted. It seemed certain that Bioff was aiding the investigators, but the extent of the damage was not known until March 19, 1943.

Chicago Daily Tribune
Oct. 25, 1941
That's when authorities in New York announced that indictments for racketeering conspiracy and mail fraud had been returned against Frank "the Enforcer" Nitti (real name Nitto), Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (DeLucia), Louis "Little New York" Campagna, Philip D'Andrea, Charles "Cherry Nose" Gioe, Ralph Pierce and Francis "Frank Diamond" Maritote. Bioff's betrayal had been complete.

Nitti had bet his reputation - and, likely, his life - on Bioff's reliability. When the extortion plot first came to light with complaints that mobsters controlled the International Alliance of Theatre and Stage Employees (IATSE), Outfit leaders contemplated severing their most dangerous connection to IATSE by murdering Bioff. Bioff reportedly survived only because Nitti opposed the idea.

On the morning of March 19, attorney A. Bradley Eben (a former assistant U.S. attorney) called the Nitti home at 712 Selborne Road in Riverside, Illinois, and provided his client with news of the indictments. Nitti made arrangements to meet with Eben at his law office that afternoon, but the mob boss actually had other plans.

Nitti told his wife of nine months, Antoinette (known as "Toni") Caravetta Nitto, to begin a prayer novena at Our Lady of Sorrows Church on Chicago's west side. (The Sorrowful Mother Novena was an enormously popular service at the church from the late 1930s into the 1950s.) She left the house at 1:15 that afternoon.

Nitti was next seen by railroad employees at about three o'clock, as he staggered along the Illinois Central tracks near Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road, less than a mile from his Selborne Road home. As the railroad men called out to him, the intoxicated Nitti leaned back against a chain-link fence, drew a handgun and fired it twice, sending bullets through his hat. Positioning the weapon more carefully, he then fired a third shot. The slug entered the right side of his head near his ear and traveled upward, lodging in the top of his skull.

Chicago Daily Tribune, March 20, 1943.
When police arrived, they found Nitti's driver's license and Selective Service draft card - both made out in the name Frank Nitto - in his pockets. The documents gave his birthdate as Jan. 27, 1886. The draft card contained his Selborne Road address. The license, however, showed an address of 1208 Lexington Street in Chicago, which belonged to Lucia Ronga, mother of his first wife, the late Anna Theresa Ronga Nitto.

Toni Nitto returned home about a half hour later. "The first I knew of what had happened was when [the police] came and told me he was dead," she later told the press. "I knew something was wrong. There were always strange men watching our house. He knew something was up, too. Frank wasn't well - it was his stomach, nerves I think. They were always after him. They wouldn't let him alone. They made him do this."

Toni's brother Charles appeared at the coroner's inquest to testify that Nitti had been dealing with a number of issues: "He was suffering with a heart ailment and he had stomach trouble. I think he was temporarily insane." Some sources indicated that Nitti was also suffering with physical pain from a serious gunshot wound suffered back in 1932 and with lingering emotional pain from the death of his first wife in November of 1940.

A federal informant provided a more direct explanation for Nitti's suicide: "It was that or be killed. [The Outfit] held Nitti responsible for the problem. Bioff has been his man and it was Nitti who had persuaded the group to withdraw the original 'hit' order on Bioff. It was felt that if they had killed Bioff earlier in the investigation, his death would have silenced most prospective witnesses."

Nitti's estate was valued at greater than $74,000. That was divided between the widow Toni and Joseph, Nitti's son by his first marriage.

What happened to Willie Bioff? Click here.

Sources:
  • World War II draft registration card, serial no. U2138.
  • Yost, Newton E., "La Cosa Nostra," FBI report, file no. 92-6054-683, NARA no. 124-10208-10406, July 22, 1964, p. 18.

  • Fulton, William, "5 aliases bob up to haunt Bioff at extort trial," Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 30, 1941, p. 2.
  • "List gangsters who prey on Chicago unions," Chicago Daily Tribune, March 18, 1943, p. 1.
  • Wiegman, Carl, "Nitti kills himself!," Chicago Daily Tribune, March 20, 1943, p. 1.
  • "Gang leader Nitti kills himself in Chicago after indictment here," New York Times, March 20, 1943, p. 30.
  • "Nitti long held business chief of underworld," Chicago Daily Tribune, March 20, 1943, p. 6.
  • Geserick, June, "Nitti sent wife to church at hour of suicide," Chicago Daily Tribune, March 20, 1943, p. 6.
  • "FBI hunts new clews bearing on Nitti suicide," Chicago Daily Tribune, March 21, 1943, p. 3.
  • "Nitti's widow once was secretary for slain Edw. J. O'Hare," Dixon IL Evening Telegraph, March 22, 1943, p. 7.
  • Wiegman, Carl, "Schenck bares Bioff threats; cash paid here," Chicago Daily Tribune, May 26, 1943, p. 2.
  • "Swears Nitti was treasurer of movie union," Chicago Daily Tribune, July 3, 1943, p. 6.
  • "Bioff reveals tributes paid by movie firms," Chicago Daily Tribune, Oct. 8, 1943, p. 15.
  • "Frank Nitti leaves $75,000 estate," Bloomington IL Pantagraph, Oct. 12, 1943, p. 1.

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

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.