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FRANK COSTELLO –PART 2

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With Luciano’s conviction in 1936 and Genovese fleeing to Italy due to murder charges, Costello became “Boss” in 1937 – albeit reluctantly. He had not been idle while waiting in the wings. Cementing ties in the crime world he was instrumental in organizing the first nationwide crime-syndicate meeting in 1929 in Atlantic City – bringing in crime bosses from around the country.  Legend has it that during this meeting – just months after the St. Valentines’ Day Massacre – Costello pulled Capone aside to offer some advice. He chided Big Al for drawing attention to the “family business” with the killings and strongly recommended Capone turn himself into authorities to quell both the public outrage and law enforcement attention. Capone reacted as expected – unfavorably - but just weeks later did just as Costello suggested, surrendering to authorities in Philadelphia on a gun possession charge and serving nine months in jail beginning in August 1929.

Costello had also continued to grow his political network. He attended the 1932 Democratic National Convention with NY City Mayor Jimmy Hines and met Presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt. When FDR took office and repealed Prohibition Costello was prepared, having diversified into gambling, numbers and slot machines - pulling in millions of dollars a year. When Fiorella LaGuardia became NY City Mayor in 1934 and very publicly went after organized crime and specifically Costello’s slot machines, Costello had a contingency plan - specifically a Louisiana politician he had met under less than auspicious circumstances. At a gala several years earlier, Costello had entered the Men’s Room and found a very drunk Huey Long, who frustrated at the single toilet facility was attempting to relieve himself by urinating between the legs of the gentleman if front of him. Inevitably a heated if not dampened fracas began, but Costello – living up to his nickname “The Prime Minister” - was able to calm both parties before any serious trouble ensued. Now in 1934 he contacted Long, who greeted him with open arms and Costello moved his slot machine operation to the state of Louisiana. So without missing a beat and partnering with Lansky and Siegel, the three now built a gambling empire that stretched down to Louisiana, Florida, then Las Vegas and Cuba.

If accommodation and the velvet glove didn’t work, Costello could also rule with an iron fist when necessary. When Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, a hit man and part of Murder, Inc, was arrested and then began talking to authorities, Costello acted both characteristically and decisively. After talking to the authorities Reles was holed up in a Coney Island hotel under a 24 hour guard. On November 12th, 1941, two of the policemen outside Reles’ door “fell asleep” and Reles fell six stories out of his hotel window to his death. Luciano later claimed it cost Costello $50,000, Lansky claimed twice that, regardless, Reles became known as the canary that could sing but couldn’t fly and the problem was solved.

As we’ve seen Vito Genovese returned to the county at the end of World War II and began scheming to get Costello’s job as “Don”. Costello was both respected and well liked by his underlings so Genovese had to be both patient and smart – not two of Don Vito’s foremost traits. By this time – 1946 - Costello was conservatively making a million dollars a year, had removed himself from the day to day operations of the crime family and was investing in non-criminal activities and assets – further frustrating Genovese. Costello was looking for respectability in high society and allegedly began seeing a psychiatrist – a la Tony Soprano – for assistance in dealing with conundrum.

In 1950-51 Costello’s hopes for respectability came crashing down with Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver’s hearings on organized crime. Costello was called to testify – broadcast on national TV - and he and his reputation never recovered. Soon after the hearings Genovese had Costello’s right hand man, Willie Moretti, assassinated – for “talking” before the Senate Committee.  Costello soon found himself embroiled in one court battle after another, including a contempt charge, the result of walking out of the Kefauver Hearings. He served 14 months, was released, and then rearrested on tax evasion charges in 1954. He served 11 months, was released on appeal and then rearrested in 1956, sent to prison again and released in 1957 on appeal.

On the sidelines Genovese continued plotting against Costello, forming alliances with threats and bribes. On May 2nd, 1957, and just after Costello’s release from prison, Vincente “The Chin” Gigante – on Genovese’s orders – met Costello in the lobby of his Manhattan apartment building and shot him in the head. Miraculously Costello survived with a painful scalp wound, but it was enough for Costello. He turned over the reins to Genovese while keeping his gambling and legitimate interests intact – which is probably all Costello wanted at that point.

The Prime Minister of the Underworld now “retired” to his Waldorf Astoria penthouse in Manhattan but was regularly visited by the likes of Carlo Gambino and Tommy Lucchese. His old friend Meyer Lansky - who had his own problems with the law - stayed in touch but less openly. Costello’s experience and wisdom were still valued by the underworld and his opinions respected. He died at the age of 82 of a heart attack on February 18th, 1973.



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Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 08:54  

Comedy Clips of the Week

KEVIN SPACEY

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Producer, director, screenwriter and Oscar award winning actor Kevin Spacey Fowler was born on July 26, 1959 in South Orange, New Jersey. He has starred in such movies as The Usual Suspects, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, L.A. Confidential and American Beauty. One of his many talents is uncanny impersonations of famous people. The clip below is from Inside the Actors Studio as he runs through his repertoire for James Lipton. Highly entertaining and what a mind Mr. Spacey has.

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HERMAN CAIN IS A VERY FUNNY FELLOW….RIGHT!

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If nothing else Mr. Cain has a future in improvisational/sketch comedy.

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Sports

JESSE OWENS

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On August 3rd, 1936 Jesse Owens won the 100 meter sprint in the Summer Olympics held in Berlin. This was the first of his four Gold Medals, which included the Long Jump, 200 meter sprint and as a member of the 4x 100 meter relay team. A record that wasn’t equaled until Carl Lewis did it in 1984.

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JOHNNY EVERS

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Second baseman John Joseph Evers was born on July 21st, 1883.  Known as “The Crab” for his style of play in the field, Evers is also remembered as one of the smaller players to make it in the major leagues, weighing in at 100 lbs as a rookie and never topping out at more than 130 lbs during his career.

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Classic Movies

UNFORGIVEN

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Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Jaimz Woolvett and Saul Rubinek, the film Unforgiven premiered on August 7th, 1993. So often with classic movies the plot here is a simple one, an aging and retired Old West outlaw/gunslinger takes on one more “job” to avenge the brutal beating and disfigurement of a prostitute.

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HANG ‘EM HIGH

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Directed by Ted Post and starring Clint Eastwood, Inger Stevens, Ed Begley and Pat Hingle, the film Hang ‘Em High premiered on August 3rd, 1968. Fresh from filming the Dollars Trilogy with Sergio Leone in Europe and known to the American TV viewing public from his time on Rawhide, Clint made this movie – which really wasn’t much of a stretch. Playing a man wrongfully lynched – he’s rescued by a US Marshall just in the nick of time – Eastwood goes to work for the “local” judge, (Hingle), as a Marshall with the goal of “finding” the men who strung him up. This theme of frontier revenge/justice one that Clint would “revisit” several more times in his career. In this movie we meet Alan Hale, Jr. – the skipper from Gilligan’s Island – and a young Bruce Dern and Dennis Hopper. And even this early in his career Eastwood had an eye on the future; this movie was the first to be produced by Eastwood’s Malpaso Company.

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Dates In History

GULF OF TONKIN RESOLUTION

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On August 7, 1964 Congress passed what is now known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Lyndon Johnson “the power to take whatever actions he deems necessary to defend Southeast Asia, including the use of armed force.”  Although not a formal declaration of war, the Resolution was used by the Johnson Administration as the legal basis for the future conduct and escalation of the war in Vietnam.

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PT-109

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On August 2nd, 1943 the Patrol Torpedo boat skippered by future President John F. Kennedy was rammed and split in half by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri. The PT-109 sank within minutes taking two of its crew with it. The remaining 11 survivors grabbed what they could and began swimming the 3.5 miles to the deserted Plum Pudding Island - in the Pacific among the Solomon Islands. Two of the crew members were badly injured, Kennedy towing one to safety by taking the injured man’s life preserver strap in his teeth while swimming. The crew was rescued six days later after a coconut with the crew’s location carved into it was passed along to a Solomon local who passed it along to the US Navy. The coconut with its SOS message was preserved and adorned the JFK Oval Office as a paperweight.

 

Music

LOUIS ARMSTRONG

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One of the founders of jazz; musician, singer, entertainer, and trumpeter extraordinaire, Louis Daniel Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Much has been written and said about “Satchmo” – genius, friend to many but close to few, comical, optimistic – whatever – to appreciate the man and his legacy listen to his music. Louis Armstrong was one of a kind.

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ADAM DURITZ

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Lead singer and founding member of The Counting Crows, Adam Duritz was born on August 1st, 1964 in Baltimore, Maryland. The son of two Jewish doctors Adam admits he is “impersonating African-Jamaican”, starting with the dreadlock hair extensions. In articles I’ve read Adam described as morose, tortured, melancholy and pretentious. And maybe he is. All I know is that when he and his band mates get together and make music something happens and it’s a good thing. The Counting Crows are still one of the best bands to see live for my money.

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Political Clips

HUNTER S. THOMPSON

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Hunter S. Thompson, the father of gonzo journalism, counter-culturalist, iconoclast, and someone who seemingly took Richard Nixon’s existence on this earth personally, was born on July 18, 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky. He was a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, it was his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that combined all that made Thompson either loved or reviled – Drugs, alcohol, guns and contempt for authority – as the protagonist and his attorney make their way through Sin City. His follow up book, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign trail ‘72, tracked that year’s Presidential election and Thompson’s ever growing hatred of President Nixon.

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NOT THAT JOE WALSH …THE CRAZY ONE

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I’ve mentioned our local (Illinois) collective Congressional embarrassment before –

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