Mafia & Trump

by Jeff Costello, September 27, 2017

Sammy "the Bull" Gravano has been released from prison. He's the one who turned snitch and brought down John Gotti, then head of the Gambino "crime family." Gotti was part of the conspiracy to kill Paul Castellano, who was shot dead outside a steak house in New York. I had recently read "Underboss," about Gravano's life in La Cosa Nostra. Unlike Donald Trump's book, Gravano's ghostwriter is not only acknowledged but named on the cover.

During much of Sammy the Bull's career as a hit man and underboss, the Boss was Paul Castellano. Not exactly a Vito Corleone type, Castellano nonetheless embraced "legitimate" business. According to Gravano, the Boss "loved the construction business." To this end Castellano managed to get control of nearly all the concrete used for building in Manhattan.

A note here about my own experience with or close to the "Mafia." I worked as a musician in two clubs owned by a man who used a fake name in public but signed his real name, one you might well recognize, to the checks. He was the most straightforward, honest club owner I had worked for, and got on well with him. I had free reign in the kitchen and was welcome to make myself sandwiches any time. He also paid the band very well. I was also personally acquainted with a "hit man," who was married to my ex-wife's friend, the sister of a famous - now deceased - California singer and songwriter. This guy was soft-spoken, very polite and friendly. His job, as they said in the Godfather, was business, not personal.

Lest I create an overly benign impression of these folks, I hasten to add that their treatment of you depended entirely on your treatment of them. Back in the 60's there was an entertainment/red light sort of district in downtown Boston locally known as the Combat Zone. It was, in SoCal terms, pretty gnarly. Most or all of the nightclubs were mafia-run. One place employed a popular singer called Roger Pace. Pace was a heroin addict and sometimes showed up for work too stoned to go on.

If so, the owners kept a barrel of ice cubes handy and would beat Pace's face into the ice until he was ready to perform. The Combat Zone, according to a friend back there, is no more.

Paul Castellano loved the construction business and controlled most of the concrete used in Manhattan buildings. Hence, Trump. I can't imagine his not dealing with Castellano, nor Castellano not enjoying a deal with fellow "big shot" Trump, who I suspect paid his concrete bills on time.

Of course this is not proven, anecdotal at best, or maybe inevitable given the known elements. I suspect that business in New York city could not be done at the Trump level without the Italians.

One Response to Mafia & Trump

  1. Delmar Bolshi Reply

    October 1, 2017 at 5:06 am

    As an innocent kid I worked for a bookie in Hollywood – the bookmaking was part of a legitimate liquor store… It was Hollywood in the 60’s… And, they say, A “Mr Z” ran the bookies for Mickey Cohen… Z’s paint company was just down the street. His kid got into show-business, I hear. The Jewish Mafia (division?) ran the bookies, and the dope too, I heard.

    Anyway my own experience on the west coast was in a small way with the Jewish Mafia – and they were simply the best and most honest and decent men I have ever worked for. They were honest, because they lived outside the law, as Dylan told us long ago…

    Bless their memory. Criminals today do not measure up. Standards have fallen. Alas!

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