Posts Tagged ‘Albert Anastasia’

diptic-748195645

On October 25, 1957, Albert Anastasia’s murderous reign in the New York underworld closed under a barrage of bullets from two assassins at the Park Sheraton Hotel barbershop. As reporters swarmed and cameras flashed over Anastasia’s bloodied corpse, speculations began running rampant on the causes behind the first public execution of a Mafia boss in over 30 years. Was another conflict on the level of the 1931 Castellammarese War brewing? Was this related to the shooting of another tenured mob boss, Frank Costello, five months earlier? As expected, dozens were brought in for questioning. Perhaps most surprising among them was a tough local lightweight boxer named Johnny Busso.

Busso had turned pro in 1952 and built a strong following in the Northeast by being a tough out for any opponent. In June 1957, Busso scored an upset 10-round unanimous decision win over Larry Boardman, but then suffered an immediate setback in dropping a decision to Ralph Dupas in August. Busso’s next bout was scheduled for October 25 against Gale Kerwin at Madison Square Garden. The night before, Busso had a room booked at the Park Sheraton Hotel with his manager Andrew Alberti.

andrew_alberti

Andrew Alberti (NYC Municipal Archives)

Boxing manager wasn’t the only professional title Alberti had. The 37 year old was a member of the Mafia and associated with the Anastasia crime family. Busso would later tell the NYPD that he received a call in his room the morning of October 25 from Alberti, who requested he come down to the hotel lobby to meet some colleagues. Alberti would later admit to authorities that he and Busso ran into Anastasia in the lobby and discussed Busso’s fight that night against Kerwin. However, Busso stated Alberti introduced him to “numerous” people and he could not recall if one of them had been Anastasia.

1957 was the year the underworld had enough of Anastasia’s antics. The former “Lord High Executioner” of Murder Inc. was rumored to have set his sights on becoming the fabled “Boss of Bosses” in the Mafia. He had begun meddling in the financial interests of other bosses, most notably wanting a piece of the Cuban gambling rackets held by Santo Trafficante and Meyer Lansky. With the sheer amount of soldiers under Anastasia, there was a fear that the Brooklyn boss was growing too strong.

“Albert Anastasia was doing so much wrong and it was up to his family to act,” Mafia informant Joe Valachi would recall years later.

******

The plan for Anastasia’s removal allegedly went into motion from his underboss Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese and Joe Biondo. According to an FBI report dated 1/3/63, Biondo and Alberti recruited a heroin trafficker, Stephen Grammauta, as the lead shooter. Organized crime writer Jerry Capeci would identify an Arnold “Witty” Wittenberg as the second assassin, and mobster Stephen Armone as an additional conspirator.

Anastasia’s movements had been tracked for months. The surveillance yielded the opening the conspirators had been waiting for — Anastasia ventured out twice a month to the Park Sheraton Hotel barbershop for haircuts. The hit team arranged for the weapons, .38 and .32 caliber handguns, to be placed in Johnny Busso’s hotel room before the hit.

At 10:20 am on October 25, Anastasia was at ease in the barber’s chair. He failed to notice two men enter the room clad in black gloves, fedoras and aviator shades. Anastasia’s back was to them as they flanked both sides of the chair and discharged their weapons. The 55 year old kingpin jerked out the chair as bullets ripped through him. A shot to the back of the head would be the coup de grace.

anastasia_dead

 

Anastasia’s organization would be renamed the Gambino Family as it remains today. The murder would inadvertently lead to the national exposure of the syndicate when police broke up a Mafia summit meeting held in November 1957 at the Apalachin home of Joseph Barbara. One of the topics to have been addressed was the reallocating of Anastasia’s various criminal enterprises.

anastasia_dead1

No one was ever charged in Anastasia’s slaying. Andrew Alberti’s suspected role was enough for the New York State Athletic Commission to suspend his license as a boxing manager. In 1964, he committed suicide with a shotgun over being called to testify before a grand jury in a case involving fellow Mafia figure Carmine Lombardozzi. Stephen Armone passed away in Sicily in 1960. His younger brother Joseph would go on to become a caporegime in the Gambino crime family before passing away in 1992 at 74. The second shooter’s history, Arnold Wittenberg, becomes elusive after Anastasia. However, a public record does list him as passing away at 74 in 1978. Stephen Grammauta is reportedly still a Gambino family caporegime and will celebrate his 100th birthday on December 6.

The night of Anastasia’s death, Johnny Busso won a competitive 10-round decision over Gale Kerwin. Despite the story of the murder weapons being stashed in his hotel room prior to the crime, police were satisfied their interrogation showed Busso was not involved. Busso would achieve his greatest success in 1958 with decision wins over future Hall of Famers Carlos Ortiz and Joe Brown. He would lose rematches to both, including a 1959 decision to Brown in his only lightweight title opportunity.

Busso retired in 1961 with a record of 36-12-1 (15 KOs). He died at age 66 in 2000 following a long battle with cancer.

johnnybusso_boxer

Sources

NY Municipal Archives, Box 2, Anastasia Files 1957

New York Daily News, October 26, 1957

New York Times, November 10, 1964

Mob and The City, Alexander Hortis

Gangland News, October 1, 2001, Jerry Capeci

The Valachi Papers, Peter Mass

 

 

Advertisements

The grandson of notorious Mafia figure John Gotti is criticizing Miami rapper Rick Ross for appropriating his grandfather’s media-given nickname.

Carmine Agnello, who uses the name Carmine Gotti as a musician, believes that Ross is being disrespectful by using the moniker for entertainment when it defined his grandfather’s life.

“My grandfather paid his dues for that nickname. That was my grandfather’s life,” he told the NY Daily News. “He should have asked permission. A standup, respectable guy would come and ask ‘If I could use the nickname.'”

Teflon Don is the title of Ross’ latest album which hit stores Tuesday (July 20). The LP is the second consecutive  project to borrow heavily from Mafia influences. Several months ago, Ross released a mixtape titled The Albert Anastasia EP after the murderous leader of Murder, Inc. Known as the “Lord High Executioner,” Anastasia was the head of the Gambino crime family until his own murder in 1957.

The Teflon Don name itself derives from New York press outlets that coined the term following John Gotti’s ability to beat cases. The streak came to an end when he received a life sentence for murder and racketeering in 1992.

Carmine Agnello thinks highly of Ross as an artist, but believes the fact he has gone this far using a fictional stage persona proves the absurdity of celebrity in America.

“I think he’s a great artist, but you can’t just start calling yourself that to sell records,” he explained. “He wants to go for that whole image, but hey, be yourself. Only in America can you go from being a corrections officer to calling yourself Teflon Don.”

Earlier this month, Ross successfully won a case against former drug trafficker “Freeway” Rick Ross, who tried to block the Teflon Don album release and has accused the rapper of stealing his image for the past two years.

Society overall has a bizarre fixation with killers and criminals. It’s one thing to study those figures historically and psychologically, since many of them lead dual lives as devoted family men while destroying others. But it’s another thing to venerate and celebrate their “achievements,” especially if you are a person of color.

Many people focus on the Iran-Contra controversy and the CIA’s role in bringing drugs into black communities during the 80s. But there is considerable neglect to the previous decades of damage done by La Cosa Nostra, who pumped narcotics into the black community while keeping their own neighborhoods clean. This sentiment was captured perfectly by Francis Coppola in the original Godfather, where one of characters sums up the Mafia’s feelings on people of color.

“I also don’t believe in drugs. For years I paid my people extra so they wouldn’t do that kind of business. Somebody comes to them and says, “I have powders; if you put up three, four thousand dollar investment, we can make fifty thousand distributing.” So they can’t resist,explained character Zaluchi with clear disdain. “I want to control it as a business, to keep it respectable. [slams his hand on the table and shouts] I don’t want it near schools! I don’t want it sold to children! That’s an infamia. In my city, we would keep the traffic in the dark people, the coloreds. They’re animals anyway, so let them lose their souls.”

And in the real world Gotti himself was no better.

“Being a nigger is an embarrassment. Being John Gotti’s grandson is an honor,” he spat from prison regarding his grandson’s behavior.

It’s long overdue that rappers stop adoring people who not only despise them, but had a heavy hand in the destabilization of their communities.