Date: Wednesday, December 10, 1997
Source: John Kass.
Copyright Chicago Tribune
WHERE HAVE ALL OUR MOBSTERS GONE?
TO CIVIL COURT, MAYBE
Some of our most cherished traditions
are being abandoned. Chestnuts aren't roasting on an the open
fire. Department store Santas don't need whiskey to survive greed-crazed
children now that Prozac is available. The Christmas windows at
Marshall Field's now look like they belong in a dime store.
But through all the chaos and culture
wars, there was always one institution you could count on to uphold
tradition. Our own Chicago Outfit.
An organization full of men with interesting
nicknames like Jimmy "Big Nose Hairs" and Tommy "Tiny
Feet" and Pete "I'll Kill You." They were the tradition
holders that helped give Chicago and Cook County its special charm.
They stole political elections, dominated
labor unions and created the game of "Who's that in the trunk?".
They helped the White House plan assassinations
of Fidel Castro and passed at least one chippy to a U.S. president in a token of friendship.
They understood the tensile strength
of meat hooks and why ice picks should be thoroughly cleaned before
and after play.
They were tough.They took care of
their own business. And they didn't rely on lawyers to handle
their public relations.
But things change.
Now the Chicago Crime Commission,
the do-good group that tracks organized crime, is under attack
from several lawyers who are threatening to sue if some reported
wise-guy names aren't removed from its latest mob guidebook: "New
Faces of Organized Crime 1997."
The report adds some new names as
either members or associates of Outfit figures. But the bosses
still retain their charming monikers, including Joey "The
Clown" Lombardo, Angelo "The Hook" La Pietra and
the top guy, John "No Nose"
Actually, DiFronzo has a nose, but
it's a thin one. He got his nickname by stopping a bullet with
his skinny proboscis years ago, but his nose is still there.
In a memo to Crime Commission members,
commission chairman Don Mulak warns that lawyers for some of the
people listed in the report are ready to go to court unless the
commission changes the report. Mulak says the commission will
fight any lawsuits.
Those who want their names stricken include several Laborers Union officials who are sons of mobsters.
Their union is under pressure from
the federal government these days.
Also upset is Betty Loren-Maltese,
who is the town president of Cicero, not a union member, under
an FBI investigation and the widow of a mobster.
Now there was a time when those who
had even the slightest connection with the outfit would keep news
clippings in their wallets out of pride. Some would complain to
reporters if their nicknames weren't tough enough.
But these are modern times.
"We have been contacted by attorneys
who represent individuals named in our new report," Mulak's
memo reads. " . . . They demand a retraction.
Short of a retraction, they threaten legal action on behalf of the following named individuals:
"John A. Matassa Jr, Bruno Caruso,
"We have also received inquiries
from attorneys representing Joe Lombardo Jr. and Joseph Spano,"
Mulak writes of the other union leaders, but adds that "they
have not complained." Spano and Lombardo should get some
credit for not complaining.
Everyone knows it's a sin.
But that got me wondering. How far
are these gentlemen and the lady prepared to go in court? Things
could become embarrassing if they push it.
The Laborers Union, for example, which
represents construction laborers and garbage workers, has a time-honored
connection to our Outfit.
It has a great pension plan and has allowed wise guys to collect a regular paycheck and get health coverage.
It's now under pressure from the federal
government and locked in an internal power struggle with its international
president, which could result in the local bosses getting tossed
out of the union their fathers and uncles built.
Bruno Caruso, for example, is the
local Laborers Union boss. He's the son of a Bruno "Skids"
Caruso. And Lombardo, son of Clown, is also a top union official.
Would they want to sit through several depositions? I tried to reach them, but they wouldn't
But their lawyer, Vincent Connolly
"You want to put a family tree
up there, I'm not going to quarrel with it," Connolly said.
"But I am unaware of any credible evidence that they ever
countenanced or engaged in anything that would be considered organized
criminal activity. We'll decide on legal action after we hear
from the crime commission."
Perhaps the one with the weakest case
is John "Pudge" Matassa of Park Ridge.
He's president of the Laborers Union Local 2. In a 1995 deposition before a committee investigating union ties to the mob, he lists all his friends, killed and living, and talks about where they had lunch and who they were with, including DiFronzo the boss.
"I bought a used Chrysler Fury car from him in the early 1980s," he said.
If that car had trouble starting on
a cold morning, do you think he used a lawyer to complain?