Observations of An Ex-Cop in La La Land
ALUMNI PORTRAIT No. 5
Lucca "Buttface" Micoola
hated cigars, but had a half-smoked stogie stitched to his lower lip
because his idol Edward G. Robinson
always smoked one in gangster films.
Giancana never knew
what 'low profile' meant
By ANDY MURCIA
Sam Mooney Giancana wanted to be a star but he was only a gangster. He could get Frank Sinatra to do what he wanted, he hung out and bedded down with some of the lady stars of the entertainment, political, and business worlds. But he was still only a gangster who publicized himself.
Sam had the best gangster teacher in Tony Big Tuna Accardo, yet he failed gangster media relations 101. Sam went so public that it seemed like he skipped the entire course. I was a teenager growing up in North Miami, Florida and even I knew what he was. I parked cars at the Americano Hotel on Miami Beach. I opened a car door one day--and there was Sam Giancana. Okay, my father was a cop, and we spoke of gangster things in my house perhaps more than you did in your house. But Giancana had been in the newspapers, magazines and on TV. Phyllis McGuire, Keely Smith, Frank Sinatra, and some other stars were photographed with him in the 1950s.
Going public for a gangster could be deadly. There was no excuse for Sam Giancana because as a boy he saw the worst of what going public did to Al Capone and the best in Tony Accardo who was a master scholar at keeping a low profile in the media. And Sam was Accardo's trusted bodyguard. So, why did Sam disregard Accardos teachings when he became Boss of the Outfit? Was he nuts? Maybe so.
Lets go way back. When Antonia Giancana gave birth to Salvatore Sam Giancana on May 24, 1908, little did she know that he would turn out to be the battiest boy in town. Sams wine-breath father didnt help matters any when he brutally beat young Sam on a regular basis. His father must have thought he was beating the meanness out of Sam, but in reality, the whuppings just made Sam more evil.
As a boy, Sam acted loonyhowling at the moon and all. Thats how he got his nickname: Mooney. As a teenager, he threatened to kill his father if he ever hit him againand his father wisely cooled out. Sam took over the family home. He conducted his boyhood gang meetings from the home. Hed ordered his parents out while he did his criminal business. Soon as he convinced his peers on Chicagos Taylor Street in the Patch that he was a killer, they gave him respect. Young toughs like Albert Obie Frabotta, Fifi Buccieri, the Caifano brothers, Fat Lenny and Marshall, and many others from the old 42 Gang threw in with young Giancana. They operated mostly in the Loop, downtown area of Chicago, learning how to do most all types of crimes.
Sam did a couple of juvenile stretches in Charlietown in St. Charles, IL, as the juvenile jail was called back then, for his petty crimes. He met a lot of tough kids from Chicagos black neighborhoods in Charlietown. This was where Sam first heard about the numbers rackets that were pulling in millions from the poor black bettors. The Outfit up until Sams time thought the numbers was only a nickel 'n dime caper and had stayed out of it.
Sam Giancana, center,
When Tony Joe Batters Accardo selected Giancana to be one of his lieutenants, Sam went to work. He organized the numbers racket in Chicagos Afro-American neighborhoodsthe black belt as it was then known. Sam brought in the first oriental gangster, Ken Joe The Jap Eto. He heard that Eto not only was a smooth killer, but knew math very well. Giancana had Eto do a projection of possible earnings from the numbers racket. Eto figured out that the numbers racket was in fact a multi-million dollar business. But it would have to be organized. The tough blacks would not give it up without a fight.
Sam became very good at getting the black crime bosses in Chicagos black belts to pay homage to the Outfit. He sent word to the black gang bosses to pay up or be killed. After a few turned up stiff, Sam was on his way to taking over their numbers racket. This literally brought in millions of dollars to the Outfit, and made Sam a very big player within. He was indeed a rising star.
Sam Giancana soon took over all the major gambling, whore houses, and the juice loan business in the black belt. In time the Outfit cashed in on the giant narcotics business. Yes, dont let anyone tell you that the Outfit didnt approve of selling drugs. The truth is, the Outfit never cared where their money came from as long as it came. Some gangsters may tell their own kids a lie trying to save face, but the truth is the Outfit WAS and IS in the narcotics business. In fact, today it ranks as their biggest illegal money earner ever.
So in 1957, when Accardo voluntarily turned over the day to day operations of the Outfit to Sam Mooney Giancana, nobody was really surprised. They were only surprised that a still fit Accardo was stepping back. Sam had finally graduated and became the Boss of arguably the most violent and successful criminal cartel in the Country. Behind the scenes Accardo still retained the CEO spot for himself, but only as an elder consultant or advisor. Seems Tony Accardo had lots of money and wanted time to enjoy it.
Accardo selected Sam Giancana not only because he had made money for him, but also because he had the respect of the other gangsters. Accardo also knew that Giancana was strong enough to control those who had no respect at all. Sam seemingly had learned his lessons well from the skilled headmaster Tony Accardo. There was one serious character flaw in Sam Giancana that Accardo didnt know about then, and it would later lead to Sams downfall.
One of the first things Sam did after becoming the Boss was to shorten his nickname of Mooney down to Momo. He hated being called Mooney. Sam got a kick out of how the blacks would jive talk ever since he was a kid doing time in Charlietown with them. Sam even enjoyed talking jive to be funny at dinner parties. I recall Giancana talking jive at one of Frank Sinatras dinner parties in the famed Pump Room restaurant at the Ambassador East Hotel. Frank was touring and after a concert one night, he rented half the restaurant, complete with the orchestra, for dancing. Sam had Leo Durocher and Spiro Agnew in stitches. He was telling them a joke about a black kid from the south meeting the Pope in Rome. While I missed hearing the punch line, just hearing a Chicago Italian trying to talk like a southern black kid was hilarious. Sam went on to relate how he once heard a black boss saying he wanted more money. To Sam, it sounded like he said. momo. Sam liked more money so he shortened his nickname to Momo from this slang talk.
Mobster Giancana having a time
with singer Phyllis McGuire
Sam had excellent street smarts, but while he was no Paul The Waiter Ricca or Tony Big Tuna Accardo in the brain department, he was no dummy either. Sam excelled in human nature 101, in that he knew how to entice powerful people to indulge in their vices. Sam learned early on that he could make powerful men cater to him via blackmail.
In his new book, "Mr. S," a fellow named George Jacobs, who claims to have been Frank Sinatras valet, is reported saying Sinatra set up "romantic liaisons for JFK. Further, Jacobs states that he once walked into a bedroom in Sinatras Palm Springs home just in time to see JFK and Peter Lawford snorting lines of coke. For my back pain, George, JFK reportedly told Jacobs. Well, if Old Blue Eyes has the President of the free world in his pocket, and Sam Giancana has Sinatra in his, Id deduce that Sam Giancana was the Boss.
How many men can say that Frank Sinatra sent them a girl? Ill never forget that it was Giancana who put the entire Rat Pack (Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford) on stage at his Villa Venice Chicago nightclub. This was a first for the Midwest. Cops I knew working the Intelligence Unit say Sam sat in the balcony smoking a cigar like a king overseeing his flock.
A bellman named Murphy, who came with the first load of bricks at the Ambassador East Hotel, told me of a meeting he witnessed between Sam Giancana and a disguised Joe Kennedy. Seems Joe Kennedy had reneged on some political favors for New Yorks Frank Costello, and he put a contract out on him. Joe was in Chicago hoping to get Giancana to stop Costello, and make nice between them. Authorities have alleged that Joe Kennedy had to promise Giancana access to JFK, his soon-to-be-president son.
While some access was obtained for Giancana via Sinatra and Peter Lawford, Sam wanted more. Once Sam saved Joes life from Costello, Joe Kennedy failed to produce and the deal broke down in years to come. Many intelligence experts suspect that when both JFK and his brother Bobby Kennedy doublecrossed Giancana by calling him to testify, all deals were off. Bobby grilled Giancana in those public senate hearings and Giancana repeatedly took the fifth. All this made Sam Giancana deadly angry.
Behind their backs, Sam referred to the Kennedy boys as sissies. To this day, some coppers say this public grilling of Giancana is what got JFK and Bobby Kennedy both killed. There are volumes of testimony dealing with these important subjects, but Giancanas relationship with the Kennedys could be described as complex, to say the least. Close associates say that Giancana hated all the Kennedys and was using Marilyn Monroe to set them both up for a public fall of their own. History has recorded this shameful conduct by former President Kennedy and Atty. General Bobby Kennedy. Sam was a determined enemy that nobody wanted to offend.
San Giancana enjoyed the limelight, some say he was even envious of show business personalities. Perhaps this is where he went way wrong. Sam seemed to thrive on his own notoriety in the media.
Tony Accardo had advised Sam on various occasions to keep your head down, as being visible would only bring dangerous attention to the Outfit. Sam would not listen. He was by this time seeing singer Phyllis McGuire of The McGuire Sisters and it was a routine thing to see their photo in a newspaper or magazine on a regular basis. This brought a lot of attention from the Feds. In 1965, Sam was the subject of a grand jury inquiry. Sam again took the fifth, refusing to answer their probing questions, but was soon given immunity. Sam still refused to talk and he was sent to Cook County jail for contempt. He served a year and was released in May of 1966, and headed straight for Mexico. Where he lived until 1974 when the U.S. pressured the Mexican government to stop protecting him. The Mexicans literally pushed Sam across the border into El Paso, TX, into the waiting arms of FBI agents. Sam was brought back to Chicago to wait to testify again. The Grand Jury intended to repeat the process in hopes of putting Sam back in jail, now that he was medically ill. The Outfit did not like either of these events.
Phyllis McGuire was also called before this grand jury and many experts to this day say she never told one tale out of school about Sam. She gave them only surface information, not even if Sam ever got a parking ticket. Phyllis held up.
Sam knew better than to be so visible, but they say he was in love and just couldnt help himself. If you watched HBOs 1995 Sugartime movie, they would have you believe that Sam did it for love. I dont believe that to be true. I think HBO had the right take on the story line, given the fact they had former Chicago FBI agent Bill Roemer involved in the production, had they only followed his version, not their own. Television likes to make most movies deal with love in some way or another, so they tried to sell us unsubstantiated facts, such as:
* Sam Giancana was a loving man.
* Phyllis McGuire was a gold-digging singer, who Sam could get in bed by giving her jewelry.
* The first night Sam and Phyllis went out, he put her in a motel room and he slept in the car and didnt have sex with her. If you believe any of this crap, I've an old bridge to sell you.
Sam was anything but a loving manhis claim to fame was that hed have a guy killed in a second. He had a vicious temper. People feared his reputation. Sam was not a big man in the physical sense. Most bar room sluggers could have kicked his ass on any given Saturday night. But Sam then would have the guy killed.
Phyllis McGuire was not a gold digger when she met Sam Giancana. Phyllis was hot, had hit recordings topping the charts and making long money in personal appearances around the world. But Phyllis was in love. All those in the know say it was Phyllis who could not help herself. She knew better than to fall for a lousy guy like Sam. She didnt need anything from him. Sam was not even a handsome man, so why then? Well, they say love is blind and it could not be truer than with Phyllis's love for Sam. The Sugartime movie depicted Phyllis trying on the bracelet Sam gave her while he ravaged her nude in bed like a dog. HBO put their spin on the movie they wanted to make.
Ive had occasion to speak with the real Phyllis McGuire in the past and I can tell you she is not only a very nice lady, she is a lady in every sense of the word. In speaking with her, I could hear why any man would find her attractive. Phyllis defines the term, stand up meaning one who keeps private things private, not out of fear, but because they inherently know its the right thing to do. Phyllis has never told her story about Sam Giancana and Im positive the studios have offered her large money to tell it--but no soap. If she ever did tell it for real, Id buy a ticket in a second. She knows the truth.
In 1975, Sam was summoned to appear before a Senate Select Subcommittee on Intelligence. Sams poor health allowed him to postpone this initial appearance. A gall bladder operation had him bedridden. Once back on his feet, another subpoena ordered him to appear without fail in Washington, D.C., on June 24, 1975. But, Sam Giancana would never testify. While cooking up a pan of escarole and sausages on the evening of June 19, 1975, in the basement of his home in Oak Park, Illinois someone shot and killed him. Sam Giancana was dead. He had been shot with a .22 caliber bullet through the back of his head and five more make sure bullets into his mouth. There were no signs of forced entry, the killer had been someone Giancana liked and trusted.
Who murdered Sam is still unknown. Some authorities believe that Accardo was involved, fearing that Sam might now talk, given his weak physical condition. Everyone figured if Sam went back to jail that hed never come out alive. Santo Trafficante, a Florida-based drug king and long-time partner of Giancanas could have been visiting Sam. Ironically, the 22 caliber gun identified as the murder weapon was discovered in Florida.
Others think the CIA might have had security issues that Sam could talk about, going back to his Kennedy and Castro dealings. Sams brother and daughter flatly state that because the code of omerta ran so strongly through Sam Giancanas Sicilian veins, that informing would never be his way out.
Whoever killed Sam Giancana put an end to his 50 plus years of crime. It almost seems unimportant that Sam was killed. Its as if someone did us all a favor. What is more important for Gangster 'College' followers is the lessons to be learned from Giancanas life. Number one would be keep your head down.
Those in the know say Sam Giancana subscribed to the philosophy of Live by the sword, die by the sword. So, who was surprised by the way he ended up? Id say Sam should have known that the sword was near him. As it appears, I think Sam Giancana was the only one surprised by his death.
©2003 by Andy Murcia. The caricature of Andy Murcia is ©2003 by Jim Hummel. The gangster cartoon is from IMSI's Master Clips Collection, 1895 Francisco Blvd. E., San Rafael, CA, 94901-5506, USA. The photos are from the author's sources.
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