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