Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Making of the Mob: Recap "King of New York," Ep 103

Lucky Luciano becomes "King" of New York's Mob,
organizing the Five Families.

Now that Lucky has killed both Joe Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano, Lucky becomes the King of New York's mob. It's September 11, 1931, Luciano and his crew (Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Bugsy Seigel, and Vito Genovese) send an army of hit men to kill all the old leaders which ended with the murder of 40 men across the country in just two days. They were ruthless killers. This was the biggest purge the mafia has ever seen. He spares a few who he feels are valuable. 

The murders are planned

Lucky calls a meeting with Maranzano's underboss, Joe Bonanno, and offers him the opportunity to head his own crime family. With Bonanno on board, Luciano has eliminated his competition. Luciano decides to prevent future mob wars, they need to be organized and have rules. In Sicily there were 100 crime families and each family has a boss who reports to the boss of bosses, "il capo di tutti capi." They have rules and are organized, it's a system that has worked for 100 years and is known as La Cosa Nostra. Luciano bases the structure of his organization on the Sicilian model. He keeps mafia membership limited to Italians. Lansky will remain Luciano's most trusted adviser. 

Luciano calls for a big meeting in Chicago of all the major bosses in New York and around the country. Until this time, there was no real mafia in America, just individual gangs operating the way they see fit. Luciano tells them he wants to end all the bloodshed and cycles of revenge and organize the American mob the same way the Sicilian mob was run. They may be criminals, but they aren't savages. We have to run our business like a business. He says they will have capos, crews, underbosses, and counselors. He says there will be no more boss of bosses, the days of the "capi di tutti capi" are over. Instead they will have a Board of Directors, a commission run by the heads of the five New York families, who will have final say in all matters including life and death. The members of the Commission are Giuseppe Profaci, Vincent Mangano, Tommy Gagliano, Joseph Bonanno, and Lucky Luciano. "To peace and profit." He creates the modern mafia.

The Commission divides territories and orders hits. It will be like an underworld court. They need to solve their own disputes peacefully to keep law enforcement out of it. They need and enforcement army to carry out any hits from unresolved disputes. Luciano turns to Meyer Lansky to recruit people from the Jewish mafia as hit men. These hit men recruits included: Benjamin "Bugsy" Seigel, Albert Anastasia, Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, and Louis Lepke, dubbed Murder, Inc. by the press. They are told to be like ghosts, nothing is left behind. Law enforcement would not expect Jewish guys to be hit men. They all have their own signature styles of murder. They transformed the art of killing into a science. They prepare for weeks planning their hits and were responsible for 100's of unsolved murders. They averaged one murder every three days. 

Although Luciano has organized the mafia he is unaware that the mob is about to face it's biggest threat from within. Dutch Schultz, a Jewish gangster becomes one of Luciano's biggest earners and not part of the five families. Schultz's numbers racket alone brings in 20 million a year. At this same time, Thomas Dewey, an assistant U. S. Attorney who becomes governor and later runs for president, becomes the mob's number one enemy. Dewey's inability to arrest Schultz causes Hoover to declare him "public enemy number 1." This all stemmed from the mob tampering with elections and, in doing so, Schultz caught the eye of Thomas Dewey. In New York City people were voting multiple times. Dewey went after Lucky Luciano to make a name for himself. He can't get to Luciano so he goes after Luciano's associates, and Schultz in particular. Schultz is their way into organized crime. Dewey declares war on the mob. Dewey has to find a way to prosecute Schultz. 

Years ago, Al Capone was arrested and convicted of tax evasion by Eliot Ness. He was sentenced to life in prison. Tom Dewey found his answer in that criminal case. He goes after Schultz on tax evasion. It takes months because Schultz stays one step ahead of Dewey. It becomes a national embarrassment. It ends up on Hoover's desk. Up until now, Hoover never took on the New York mob. The theory is the mob had pictures of him in dresses and threatened to reveal him as homosexual. But now Hoover decides it's time to go after the mob. Lucky becomes concerned by all the FBI's attention. It's not good for business.

Luciano tells Schultz to turn himself in, in order to take some of the heat off the mob. Luciano says he will get him the best lawyers. Schultz agrees in return for a guarantee from Luciano that he'll do everything possible to help him beat the rap. Luciano hires lawyers who successfully get Schultz's trial  moved 400 miles north to the small town of Malone, New York. There Schultz uses his money and charm to influence the outcome of the trial. He spreads money all over town and throws parties for officials. He actually convert to Catholicism to gain favor. The trial ends and the jury is unable to reach a verdict. Schultz gets off. Dewey is not happy that two years of work was wasted. But, just six weeks later, Dewey pins Schultz as the leader of New York's largest illegal gambling ring and he issues another warrant for his arrest. Schultz goes into hiding. Schultz feels the only way out is to kill Thomas Dewey.

Schultz asks the Commission to order a hit on Dewey, but the idea is shut down by Luciano. They realize Schultz is bad for business, it would bring all of law enforcement down on them. Schultz goes behind the Commission's back and tries to hire Albert Anastasia of Murder, Inc. to murder Dewey for him. He tells Schultz everyone is watching him and it will cost him double. However, Anastasia tips off Luciano, and a hit is ordered by the Commission, but not on Dewey, on Schultz. 

Now that Schultz is dead, Luciano has eliminated the mafia's biggest internal threat, but he has also made himself number one target on Thomas Dewey's most wanted list.

Note: All episodes can be watched on demand on AMC.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Making of the Mob: Recap "Equal Opportunity Gangster" Ep 102

Lucky Luciano takes Rothstein's death hard.

Episode two begins with Arhtur Rothstein, Lucky Luciano's mentor and father figure, having a streak of bad luck. Nothing is going his way. Rothstein loves high stakes gambling. He is addicted to gambling. Rothstein joins a three day poker game with big mobsters from out of town. He loses a great deal of money. He finally gets fed up and leaves the game, saying he isn't going to pay because the game is fixed. He is gunned down and murdered. Meyer Lansky gets the call that Rothstein is dead and has to tell Lucky. Lucky takes the news hard. He decides to put off his hit on Joe Mazaria for the time being. Dozens of gangsters come to New York for Rothstein's funeral. Many gangsters liked Rothstein because he helped everyone.

Rothstein's Funeral

A big problem for the mob takes place when the government raids speakeasies and arrests many gangsters. This is all brought about because of Al Capone, in Chicago, who is ruthless and out of control. He leads the big gangland murder called the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and gets the attention of the Feds.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The Feds get involved and the mob is losing money. Mazaria goes to Luciano, knowing he was friendly with Capone in his younger years. He wants him to rein in Al Capone and keep him under control so his acts aren't publicized and don't attract the attention of the Feds. The Feds are cracking down on the mob. There is a big meeting of the mob, all the important mobsters are invited, including Al Capone. They start complaining that because of Al they are losing business. Al gets mad, and says he isn't turning himself in. Lucky talks to Al and tells him this is about the greater good. The law isn't going to let up on them. Lucky tells him to plea to a minor charge and he will look after his business for him while he is away. He convinces Al to take the fall, and he is sentenced to just a year in prison thanks to mob connections. Lucky earns big points and respect with mobsters across the country.

The Stock Market crashes, worst economic disaster of the country. Luciano sees this disaster as a big business opportunity. They use the money they made in bootlegging during prohibition to give businesses loans at high interest rates. Loan sharking brought in big money. When people didn't pay the loans, gangsters were sent out to beat them. People learned to pay off the mafia. If they didn't pay the mafia, they would take 10% of their business. Luciano was earning 20% interest every week, but still had to give a cut to Joe Mazaria. A surprise attack in May, 1930 leaves one of Joe's warehouses in ruins. It's a rival mob boss from Sicily looking to start a war. They target Joe's operation in New York. Mussolini was doing away with the mafia in Sicily and imprisoning them. They leave Italy to come the United States to establish themselves here. Mazaria talks to his crew and wants them to watch every move the Italian mobster, Salvatore Maranzano, makes. In May of 1930 an all out war breaks out as Mazaria and Maranzano fight to take control of New York. The streets are turned into a battle field and it's called the Castellammarese War. Anyone in the street could be killed. One day the rival mob kidnaps Lucky Luciano as he walks the streets with Meyer Lansky. The sicilian boss, Maranzano, has his men give Lucky a beating and torture him for 8 hours, to send a message to Mazaria and his crew. Luciano is taken to Staten Island where he is dumped and left for dead. Luciano survives against all odds. His quick recovery earns him the nickname "Lucky." Luciano decides that Mazaria has to be removed because he feels he is the better boss and he wants to form an alliance with Maranzano.

Lucky goes to meet with Maranzano. He tells him he respects him and wants to work for him. Maranzano is skeptical because he works for Mazaria. Luciano tells him he will kill Mazaria himself. Maranzano says he respects him and he will give him a "cut" of Mazaria's money. Luciano says he doesn't want a cut, he wants it all. Maranzano agrees. And Luciano says, no more boss of bosses.

Luciano wants to put an end to the Mazaria-Maranzano war by killing Mazaria. Luciano needs to buy the loyalty of Mazaria's bodyguards so they can get close to Mazaria to kill him. There is no loyalty, everyone can be bought for a price. Luciano invites Mazaria to his favorite restaurant in Coney Island. Luciano leaves to go to the bathroom and two mobsters come in and shoot Mazaria in cold blood. Joe "the boss" is dead after running things for 10 years. Luciano inherits the empire, but still has to answer to Maranzano. Maranzano calls a meeting of the most powerful mobsters in New York. He announces the war is over. He wants all the bosses to serve under one boss. Maranzano declares himself to be "capo di tutti capi, the boss of all bosses." Luciano doesn't like this. Soon after the meeting Maranzano becomes paranoid and is convinced the other bosses are conspiring to kill him. He wants to kill everyone around him who he suspects might betray him. First on his hit list is Lucky Luciano.

Frank Costello learns there is a contract out on Luciano. They have to kill Maranzano before Luciano is killed. They have to figure out a way to get to him. Luciano gets an idea. He knows the IRS is investigating people for tax evasion. The IRS is going to be the one who will put gangsters in jail. Luciano, together with Lansky and Seigel, devise a plan. They disguise themselves as IRS agents and pay Maranzano a visit. In no time Maranzano is dead. In less than 5 months Lucky has taken out the two biggest mob bosses in New York and can now take his place as the king of New York.

Picture credit: AMC

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Making of the Mob: Recap “The Education of Lucky Luciano” Ep 101

Lucky toasts to the new and improved Mafia

Last night was the first of a series of an eight episode mini series called, “The Making of the Mob.” This docu-drama tells the history of how the five families of the New York Mafia got its start and it is narrated by Ray Liotta, of “Goodfellows.” Here is what we saw last night . . .

In 1931,  Charles “Lucky” Luciano, one of the most notorious gangsters in America, calls a meeting in Chicago of the most powerful men in the Mafia. He tells them things will be run like they are in Sicily, but there will no longer be a “boss of bosses.” Instead they will have a board of directors, a commission run by the bosses of the five New York families. They will have the final say in all matters. This is when the American Mafia, the most powerful crime syndicate, gets its real start.

Then the show takes us back to 1906, when Charles “Lucky” Luciano’s family arrives from Italy looking for a better life. Lucky’s father can’t find work, turns to alcohol and abuses the family. There are 100’s of gangs on the streets of New York City. The only way to survive is to join a gang and live a life of crime. The gangs terrorize citizens because they are always having turf wars and killing each other in the streets. When Lucky is 15, he develops friendships with two Jewish boys, Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Seigel. Meyer had the intelligence and mathematical ability, Bugsy had a bad temper and was quick to act on it. The three of them together were a force to reckon with.

One day Lucky’s little crew runs into Frank Costello, a gangster who was taking care of someone for his boss, Joe Mazaria. Frank kills the guy, but doesn’t have it in him to remove his gold teeth. Lucky offers to do it for him. Lucky tells Bugsy to take care of it. Frank is impressed and takes the boys under his wing having him do work for him. Frank decides to bring in a new soldier, Vito Genovese.

The U.S. government passes Prohibition with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This is exactly what the Mafia needed to make big money. With the huge demand for alcohol, 100’s of speakeasies opened up and millions of dollars were being earned on the sale liquor. Joe Mazaria becomes “The Boss” and his operation covers half of Manhattan.

One night, Lucky and his crew make the mistake of robbing one of Joe’s trucks. They had no idea it was his truck and have to go into hiding because they know this means certain death for all of them. Finally, realizing they can’t hide forever, Lucky makes the decision to go see Joe Mazaria himself and take care of the problem. Lucky explains that the robbed the truck by mistake and offers to make things right by killing someone for Joe. Joe give Lucky a good beating before taking him up on his offer.

When he returns to his crew, they thank him for taking the blame. Lucky tells them he had to make a deal to save their lives . . . they have to kill Umberto Valentini, one of the most dangerous mobsters in New York City. Lucky and his crew follow Umberto for weeks until they find the right opportunity to make their move. They see him out on the street. Lucky shoots him in cold blood. Joe is impressed with Lucky’s first hit and promotes him, putting him in charge of heroin sales. Heroin becomes a huge money maker for Joe, especially after the government makes it illegal for medical purposes. Lucky is doing well until he is arrested for selling heroin and has to serve six months in prison. While in prison, Lucky has time to think. He is angry that while he is sitting in prison, Joe is making a lot of money. He decides he needs to be his own boss when he gets out.

Meanwhile, while Lucky is in prison, Meyer Lansky makes a new “business” connection with a man named Arnold Rothstein. Rothstein was a very successful business man who was also profiting from the bootlegging business, thanks to Prohibition. Rothstein is also the man who allegedly “fixed” the game that lead to the Black Sox Scandal. He placed bets of his own, winning the equivalent of a modern day 4 million dollars. Meyer takes Lucky to meet Rothstein.

Rothstein likes the two young men and see their potential, so he takes them under his wing. Rothstein believes in selling alcohol to rich people, unlike Joe Mazaria who focused on the poor. Rothstein was making twice as much money. The only problem for Lucky and Meyer is that they have to hand over a big chunk of their profits to Joe. Lucky decides they need to kill Joe and he asks Rothstein for advice. Rothstein tells them it’s a big risk and if they do this they are on their own.

So far I am loving every minute. What did you think of episode one?

If you missed the first episode, you can watch it at The Education of Lucky Luciano and I see they posted episode two as well, so i will be watching that next!