Welcome back to my blog, lieblings! Yeah, yeah, I know I said I was gonna do this twice a week so mea culpa – I promise to get my shizzle together ASAP. Anyways, today’s rant will continue my theme of dispelling yet another bullshit Hollywood myth – i.e., that you have to commit a contract murder to get badged (formally inducted) into the Honored Society of the Italian-American Mafia.
And in all fairness, many of my favorite true-crime mob writers have made the same mistake. Many a vaunted scribe, both living and (sadly) deceased, have insisted that cold-blooded murder is the only to get your button, badge, or wings. Take, for example, the late, truly great author Philip Carlo, who writes in The Butcher: Anatomy of a Mafia Psychopath (William Morrow, New York, 2009):
“Murder is the one thing all mob guys have in common, a secret bond. There is no statute of limitations on murder, and anyone who kills is culpable in the eyes of the law no matter how long after the crime. Thus, it was easy to understand why La Cosa Nostra demanded blood on the hands of anyone who took the oath of omertà.” Id. at p. 68.
In another of his outstanding Mafia bios, Gaspipe: Confessions of a Mafia Boss (HarperCollins, New York, 2008), Mr. Carlo offers another reason for this prerequisite: “To be inducted into any borgata, the inductee must kill somebody; he has to show that he can kill without second thought, without remorse.” Id. at p. 274.
Similarly, in my all-time favorite book about the mob, Murder Machine: A True Story of Murder, Madness, and the Mafia (Onyx, New York, 1992), grandmaster investigative reporters Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain describe the June 12, 1976 murder of Vincent “Vinnie the Mook” Governara (for breaking the nose of powerful Gambino capo Anthony “Nino” Gaggi 12 years earlier!).
The authors explain that by participating in the murder, Gaggi’s nephew, the hapless Dominick Montiglio “had made his bones – helped kill someone. Usually only men who had taken part in a murder were made because this made it impossible for undercover cops or federal agents to infiltrate the family.” Id. at p. 212.
Many years later, however, Mr. Capeci himself corrected this popular myth in his book Mob Boss: The Life of Little Al D’Arco, the Man Who Brought Down the Mafia (St. Martin’s Paperbacks, New York, 2013) (written with fellow investigative journalist Tom Robbins) by quoting Little Al:
“The press pushes all that stuff. They write how you’ve got to make your bones before you can get made. Nah, it doesn’t hurt to have done it, but guys also get made because they earn, or because they’re smart. We had a guy in our neighborhood, his father owned half the parking lots in downtown Brooklyn. They gave him his button. Who’d he ever kill? He was rich, so they wanted him.’’ Id. at p. 280.
True-crime writers Joseph D. Pistone (aka “Donnie Brasco”) and Anthony M. DeStefano (arguably the most prolific LCN writer working today) both offer in their books the example of Joseph D’Amico. “Joey the Mook” only got upped in the Bonanno Family because his mommy, who was a loanshark and hitman Tony Mirra’s sister, bribed self-proclaimed godfather Carmine Galante himself $211,000 in today’s clams. Grazie mille, mama mía! Christ, the best thing many wiseguys got from their mothers was breast milk….
Anyways, former Gambino Family associate Andrew “Good News” DiDonato (who was with powerful skipper Nicholas “Little Nicky” Corozzo’s crew, confirms this sorry state of affairs in his sublime autobiography Surviving the Mob: A Street Soldier’s Life Inside the Gambino Crime Family, written with Dennis N. Griffin (Huntington Press, Las Vegas, 2010).
“Contrary to popular belief, money and politics lay a big part in whose names get submitted and who gets their badge. I know of people who had lots of money and bought their way in. I’m talking about guys who never broke an egg, much less shot or killed anybody. You’d be surprised at how quick tradition goes out the window when a wannabe dangles a hundred thousand dollars under a boss’ nose. But these types want the prestige of being made.
“When I was doing time in a federal prison in 1997, a Lucchese capo named Georgie Conte was inside with me. He told me about how one guy tried to get around that requirement. Another Lucchese capo wanted to get his son made, but the kid had never committed an act of violence. So the son was assigned to participate in a murder. A few days before the hit, the kid went to Georgie’s home. He admitted that he couldn’t go through with the murder. He wanted Georgie to do the killing for him for fifty thousand and give him the credit for it. Georgie turned him down and the kid didn’t go on the hit. But his father had enough clout that he got made anyway.
“John Gotti bent the rules to get his son made. So in the modern-day Mafia, you can get your badge if you’ve got enough money, know the right people or are a big enough earner.” Id. at pp. 83-85.
And therein lies the rub, pendejos – as long as you earn with both fists, you can get badged. After all, there is rarely a shortage of mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging stunads who are willing to whack people.
Hell, depending on the Family and circumstances, you might even be able to buy your way into the Secret Society, not unlike a country club membership. Case in point: in the ‘50s, mob boss Albert “the Mad Hatter” Anastasia’s underboss, Francesco “Frank” Scalise was surreptitiously selling buttons for fifty thou apiece and pocketing the dough. As soon as Anastasia heard about it, he had Scalise whacked (on June 17, 1957).
Indeed, this problem of selling wings had become so pervasive that it was directly addressed five months later on November 14, 1957 at the infamous Apalachin meeting that took place in upstate New York. There, all the bosses, underbosses, consiglieres, and key capos from all twenty-six Families agreed to close the books and place an indefinite moratorium on future inductions.
And so the books would stay officially closed until after Don Carlo Gambino peacefully croaked in his sleep on October 15, 1976. (The ultra-cunning and ruthless Gambino, who was clearly Marlon Brando’s inspiration for Don Vito Corleone, had his predecessor Anastasia whacked three weeks before Apalachin.) However, a handful of well-connected rising mob stars had been quietly badged during the preceding two years. Look, people – I’m as disgusted as you are about this pathetic decline in recruiting standards. Peace out, ‘yatches.