Changing of The Guard

"All we have to fear is fear itself."
-- Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Within a month after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Momo was on his way to Joliet Prison, not for that crime but for what he considered a paltry burglary in the Patch. Never one to let a mere three-year sentence undermine him, he immediately fell back in with his Capone cronies upon his release on Christmas Eve, 1932. He was 25 years old.

A lot had happened since his incarceration. The nation was now reeling in the depths of a depression, the stock market having tumbled to Hades in October of 1929. American dinner tables were empty, farmers were tossed from their lands, and once- prosperous corporations were laid to waste. All except the business of the Outfit. Although shoe-in presidential nominee Franklin Roosevelt promised an end to Prohibition, the prophetic mobs had moved into other enterprises such as unions and narcotics. Capone had finally been wrestled to the mat by the Justice Department -- if for tax evasion, if little else -- and was Leavenworth bound for nigh a dozen years. But, his replacements weren’t too sad to see him go. Like Colosimo before him, his visions had been short sighted and now men like Paul Ricca, who took control, saw the world -- not just Chicago-- as their domain.

So strong had the Chicago Syndicate become that when the town’s new mayor, Anton Cermak, refused to play their brand of ball game, he was killed while riding in an open motorcade alongside Roosevelt in Miami. Gangland PR convinced the American public that the killer, Joe Zangara, was a radical determined to shoot the chief executive -- another John Wilkes Booth, of sorts. But actually, Momo learned, Zangara had been a Ricca-controlled stooge who owed the mob money and was made to understand that to play his "madman" role was far better than being tortured to death.

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Paul Ricca

If the Outfit had learned one thing from Capone, it was to avoid high publicity; flash, pop and glamour that had been Scarface Al’s undoing. A more tenuous hierarchy was now in place. While Ricca was the real Wizard of Oz for the Chicago mob, Frank Nitti performed well as the focal munchkin, keeping the Wicked Witch of a government misled and its eyes off Ricca. Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (his moniker rooted in his early days as a waiter at Esposito’s Bella Napoli Restaurant) had acclimated successfully to the new way of running a syndicate; he made sure his boys paid taxes and owned legitimate businesses with records suitable for federal inspection at any time. But, they would be able to lap up the cream that came in through the back door.

Fat and odorous Jake Guzik, whom Momo called "a smart Hebe," continued to handle their books as he did for Capone, but even more adroitly. With advice from Murray Humphreys, a skimmer-wearing entrepreneurial and crafty Welshman, the mob leaders now offered American businesses a variety of "protection" -- which really meant, :"To protect yourself from our wrath you better buy our protection."

.Momo was impressed. With the aggressiveness and with the logic. Invited back with open arms, he returned to his control over Little Italy and was given jurisdiction over many South Side concessions. Even though Prohibition was gasping, Momo headed an enterprise that continued to produce bootlegged whiskey but sell it under established labels. The booze-thirsty American public never knew the difference. Between running his assorted businesses, he was often summoned by Ricca to persuade either a store owner to become a client in their protection scheme or to remind a factory worker that it was probably smart to vote for a union he may not have ordinarily wanted. In these endeavors, he was assisted by the his old Patch friends, "Needles" Gianola and Fat Leonard" Caifano, as well as an assortment of other colorful scoundrels like "Mad Dog" DeStefano or "Teets" Battaglia.

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Ange & Sam Giancana
Somehow, Momo also found a chance to court a lady. Her name was Angeline De Tolve, a dark-eyed beauty from the Patch. She was the kind of female who, in true Sicilian tradition, loved her man and didn’t ask questions, not even when she suspected him of continuing to visit the whorehouses in the Levee District. After the blessing by an obliging papa, Momo and "Ange" wed on September 23, 1933. (Their first child, to be born almost two years later, was a girl named Antoinette who would grow up to write the insightful autobiography, Mafia Princess.)

Married life didn’t keep Momo indoors anymore than before. He continued to see the trollops and he continued to stay out late with the guys, playing pool or shooting dice. But, business always came first -- before the playtime and before his marriage.

In fact, he was at his best when acting as "justice of the peace" at his makeshift court, the back room at Louie’s Gas Station on California Avenue. Here, he continued to mediate internal mob squabbles, assigned hits, dealt out booty and paid his men in cash for jobs well done. Sometimes he would agree to hear out neighborhood men plead for more time to pay back a loan. More often than not, he assigned "Fat Leonard" to take the suckers for a one-way ride.

Very infrequently, he took care of a job himself. One such incident involved his brother-in-law, Tony Campo, who had whelped his wife once too often. In a scene reminiscent from the film, The Godfather, Momo visited Campo to tell him that if he ever laid another brutal hand on his sister Lena he was a dead man. He made Campo promise. And Campo, with the barrel of a .38 shoved down his throat, did more than promise. He wet his pants.

1. Fondless Memories

2. Born in Hell

3. Killin' for Capone

4. Changing of the Guard

5. Moving Up

6. Eyeing the World

7. Kennedy Connection

8. Wayward Politics

9. Betrayal

10. Marilyn Monroe

11. Nov. 22, 1963

12. Downfall

13. To Die in Hell

14. Bibliography

15. The Author
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