Mob Week

As luck would have it this week, a regularly scheduled revival of Mafia tales by the press was enhanced with a real life mob rub-out on New York City’s Staten Island. Or, was it a rub-out?

The gunning down of Francesco Cali in front of his home now appears to be just a crime of passion. The man police accuse of the murder is 24-year old Anthony Comella who reportedly tried to date Cali’s niece but was told to stay away.

What made this more than local news was Cali’s reputation (“Franky Boy”) as the “reputed” new boss of the late-John Gotti’s Gambino “crime family.” That title and nickname were enough to send the national press and television into ecstasy – the Mafia had risen again, just in time for Easter.

Quickly mobilizing their standby Mafia experts, pre-scripted mob stories, mob nicknames, and the secret Hollywood yeast that quickly inflates any Italian American crime to a full Godfather soufflé, the media managed to squeeze this whacking onto a front-page already cluttered by jetliner crashes, a New Zealand massacre, and Trump outrages.

Among the casualties in this rush to defame are the residents of Staten Island. The baton of infamy has been passed to Staten Island from Howard Beach and Bensonhurst in Brooklyn and from John Gotti’s Ozone Park in Queens.  Across the Verrazzano Bridge the “reputed” fake news media has dutifully carried its fearless crusade to follow stereotypes wherever they lead.  In 2016, a Brooklyn pizzeria owner who lived on Staten Island was murdered by a drug-addicted Hispanic.  At first, that too was deemed by the media a mob hit related to victim Louis Barbati’s secret pizza sauce recipe.  The mob apparently fights over tomatoes as well as turf.  A great media scoop…that wasn’t!

I noted above that this was a week of Mafia tales. The day before Francesco Cali was murdered, the NY Times had a front-page and two giant inside pages devoted to an obituary for Carmine Persico.  Who?  Shouldn’t we all know the reputed capo of the Colombo “crime family?”  Wasn’t he El Chapo’s boss?  Didn’t Bernie Madoff split his take with him? Of course not!  But, this is the Hollywood yeast I’m talking about – all wise-guys get star treatment, just like in the movies.

During the very same week, Time/Life Magazine republished its issue: “The Mob: Inside the Brutal World of the Mafia” (pictured), on sale at all supermarkets.  Americans around the country, including Third World immigrants and their Americanized children, get to see who really runs the rackets in their adopted country.  It will only remain at the cashier’s check-out until May 17th, so get your copy soon.

What didn’t make the front page or cashier check-outs last week was the death of Robert DeProspero, 80, the Secret Service guard for Presidents Johnson, Ford, Carter, and Reagan. He headed the presidential guard after Reagan was attacked and introduced tougher innovations to protect our leaders – they are standard procedure now.   He was an Italian American from West Virginia.

The Times didn’t notice the 110th anniversary on March 12th of the assassination of Lt. Detective Joseph Petrosino by the real Mafia in Palermo, in 1909.  A ceremony was held in Sicily by Long Island, NY members of the Petrosino Association made up of NYPD officers and Italian dignities.  It was Det. Petrosino who help create the NYPD Bomb Squad, the Intelligence Bureau, and the Canine Unit.  No small feats, and capped with his sacrifice in the line of duty.

We know from decades of witnessing how America works that organized crime is not the true monkey on our back. Rather, it is a dramatized version of it that Hollywood has perpetuated.  As retired PBS journalist Robert MacNeil wrote in his landmark book, The Story of English, “that [criminal vocabulary] – in the minds of many – now comes with Italian accents, is to do with the power of the media not the Mafia.”

Reflect on the fact that he wrote this in 1986. Nothing has changed. -JLM

5 thoughts on “Mob Week”

  1. Most of the networks had extensive coverage of the Staten Island mob hit. All of the media hype confirms to the public that The Mob is alive and well, and continues to be the unchallenged supreme perpetrator of most crime in the U.S. (forget all of the other crime groups, which now actually dominate). Italian Americans have become an integral part of Americana, although not in the way our immigrant ancestors would have expected or hoped for. Our five-century history in America has been a truly inspiring one, but that history has in large measure been obliterated by the specter of criminality fostered by the media. One can only imagine the outrage if a publication similar to “The Mob” had been distributed in supermarkets coast-to-coast about Latino, Asian or Russian crime groups – a moot point, because it would never have been printed in the first place. This is just another blatant example of the media’s assessment of the predictable lack of action by our impotent IA organizations, which are clearly not up to the job.

  2. I strongly urge readers to join their organization or other Italian American anti-defamation/pro-Columbus initiatives such as the Commission for Social Justice of the Order Sons of Italy in America and the Anti-Bias Committee of UNICO National, and keep up with the Italic Institute’s Media Watch initiatives so that we can more effectively serve as an una voce (“one voice”) against this array of assaults on Italian cultural dignity.

    1. Patrick, you are right. What is needed is a coalition of IA organizations, which operates on the principle that a combination of awareness, communication, intellectualism and, above all, courage is the only effective means of countering defamation and negative stereotyping. United we stand, divided we fall.

      1. 3-19-19

        To my esteemed colleagues above: That has been tried, it was–and still is–called (if memory serves) CIAO (Coalition of Italian American Organizations). But the elephant in the room is that many of these organizations either a) revere Italian American “mobstar” actors and honor them at their galas or b) dismiss any anti-defamation activities as peripheral and give them no funding.

        In 2002, the NIAF (National Italian American Foundation) honored Robert De Niro , an actor who is only one-quarter Italian but who has made his career perpetuating the Neanderthal male/gangster stereotype we so decry. At that time, Don Fiore, one of the Italic Institute’s board members, wrote an Op-Ed in Fra Noi (Chicago’s Italian American Newspaper) challenging the absurdity of this decision, likening it to the NAACP honoring Stepin’ Fetchit.

        The NIAF’s then-chairman fired back with a blistering denunciation of Mr. Fiore’s essay. In short, the chairman “killed the messenger.” Fiore’s eloquent plea for common sense was ignored.

        BTW: After accepting his NIAF award, De Niro’s next project was “Shark Tale” (2004), an animated cartoon FOR CHILDREN featuring “killer gangster-sharks” with Italian surnames and exaggerated mannerisms. Did the NIAF ever rescind De Niro’s award? We are still waiting.

        Until ALL Italian American organizations get on board and recognize the importance of restoring sanity and balance to our media image—which includes shaming “mobstar” actors, as well as using our (incredible) wealth to promote positive projects—things will remain “status quo.”

        1. Amico Bill, yes that is truly a great challenge. I once naively thought that the 21st century would mark the easement of Italian American defamation and stereotyping. Clearly I was wrong. If anything, it has ramped up. Maybe the IA organizations are finally beginning to get it (hope springs eternal, as the old saying goes). We are clearly not united, and we are clearly falling at warp speed.

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