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|
, 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:
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?!