Saturday, December 15, 2012

Chicago Cops and the Ambulance Chaser
Here's another great post by Ken Skaggs in his Driver Story Magazine Blog. You can link to his site below or in my side bar. He has some very interesting posts on old Chicago corruption!

Chicago 1981: I had been an ambulance chaser for a while and was already popular with most of the cops in 16th district. But this one incident will always stay etched on my mind because I was beaten for no reason. It worked out in the end because I got the car, but only thanks to a good friend. I can’t remember the cop’s name, and even if I did I wouldn't tell you.
I didn't always chase with a tow truck, I was usually in a car, but on this day I happened to be driving one. I was just cruising around, listening to a police scanner, when I came upon an accident. In fact, I saw it happen. It was on Montrose, between the Edens Expressway and the viaduct- a head-on collision.
Since I was right there and a witness, i jumped out of my truck and made sure everyone was OK. They were relatively unharmed, and the driver at fault (always my favorite to get, because then you can usually get the other car too) asked me to tow his car before I could even suggest it. Of course, I said yes, and waited for the cops to come and fill out their report.
I was standing there with the driver when the cop’s pulled up. Now, in most cases, I’d tell the cop I would “take care of him” if I got the car, but in this case I thought I’d try to get the car without talking to the cops- big mistake.
One of the cops motioned me to the side and said I couldn’t tow this car, that he already had a guy on the way. I said I knew this guy, and he already said I could. The cop insisted I leave the scene immediately, but I remained, and told him I knew my rights, as did the driver, and I was a witness as well. Again he insisted I leave before he arrested me for solicitation. I assured him I would “buy him lunch” but that just pissed him off.
The cop then grabbed by beeper off my belt and smashed me in the head with it a few times. I blocked most of his blows, and that just infuriated him even more. He slapped the cuffs on me and put me in the backseat. As I sat down, since I was handcuffed and couldn’t block, he smacked me a few more times with my now-broken beeper, then dropped in on the squad-car floor at my feet.
I sat there for a while, stunned at what just happened, and tried to figure out what I did wrong. Like I said, I knew most of the cops, but I didn't know this clown.
Just then, a good friend, and fellow chaser showed up. Now this friend (who shall remain nameless) was a very well connected chaser who had been at it for a generation- in fact, he was the guy who took me under his wing early on and taught me the ropes when I first started.
I watched from the squad-car as he shook hands with the cop, and made casual conversation. It seemed like forever before I could get his attention. Finally, my good friend noticed me in the backseat of the cop-car. He said, “Hey, why do they have you in here?”
I answered, “This cop just beat the crap out of me because I wouldn't leave- and I was a witness.”
My buddy told the cop I was “cool” and that he should let me go. The cop opened the door and took the cuffs off me, and apologized, saying he didn't know.
I wound up towing both cars, paying the cop $100 ($50 each car), and made a new “friend” at 16th district.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Strar Trek)
Remember Star Trek and the actor who played Lieutenant Uhura of the crew of the Enterprise? Her real name is Nichelle Nichols and in her autobiography described a couple of brushes with the Chicago and Milwaukee mobsters that could very well have put her in an early grave! 

Part two follows, Part one was posted last night:
Nichelle, born in 1932, studied in Chicago as well as New York and Los Angeles. Her first big break came in an  appearance in Kicks and Co., Oscar Brown, Jr.'s highly touted, but ill-fated musical. Although the play closed after its brief try-out in Chicago, she attracted the attention of Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, who was so impressed with her appearance that he booked her immediately at his Chicago Playboy Club. While still in Chicago, she performed at the "Blue Angel", and in New York, Nichols appeared at that city's "Blue Angel" as a dancer and singer.  Between acting and singing engagements, Nichols did occasional modeling work.
While making a name for herself in the Chicago clubs, she received a two week offer to open a posh new supper club in Milwaukee. It was a dream job, headliner status, a two week contract with options for up to six, and great pay. The newly remodeled club was magnificent with a spacious stage that was a performer’s dream. She met the musicians, chorus-line dancers and Laura, a singer whose specialty number was a scintillating bolero. Everyone seemed like one big happy troupe.
The first week went very well, with great reviews and packed houses, but she sensed something peculiar about the place. The dancers would giggle nervously between acts, then dash from the stage, dress in a flash, and head upstairs to mingle with the customers after each show.
From Nichelle’s basement dressing room, she would hear Louie the bartender snapping at the girls, “all right, let’s move it. Ya know, Mr. B. don’t like nobody bein’ late. Let’s go!” Within minutes, they’d be gone. What these pretty young girls were doing was going upstairs to “B-drink”. This was an old practice where the girls mixed with the audience to encourage male customers to run up large bar tabs. If you were B-drinking with a customer, you might order
a glass of champagne, then the bartender would pour you a ginger ale. The customer, who probably ordered champagne, also, got billed for two champagnes. This allowed the club to make a fantastic profit on the bar and also created an atmosphere conducive the other business of prostitution. Of course, in the better B-joints, prostitution was not openly practiced, but many a girl made her “dates” on the side. Nichelle was sitting in her dressing room one evening when Louie the bartender came banging on the door. “ Miss Nichols! You’re wanted upstairs!” She replied “Thanks but no thanks. I’m getting ready for my next show.”
“Look,” he replied firmly, “I’m not askin’ ya, I’m tellin’ ya: You’re supposed to be upstairs. NOW.”
Nichelle: “Excuse me? Who do you think you are talking to?” Louie’s mouth dropped as she closed the door in his face!
When Nichelle got a chance to talk to Laura, the bolero dancer, she found out what was going on. “This used to be a strip club” she said matter-of-factly. “Leopards don’t change their spots, they just change the decor”. Nichelle: “You mean it’s the same owner who owned it when it was a strip joint?” “Yeah replied Laura, “we were the strippers. Or did you think we were all legit?” She then realized that this was probably a mob connected joint that she was working.

The Meeting
The next night the club’s owner came to the dressing room, Frankie Balistrieri. Nichell described him as small, stocky, yet always impeccably dressed. “I understand from Louie that we’re having a problem.” Nichelle: “I don’t have any problems, I go upstairs every night, do my two shows, then I go home.” “Yeah, I know,” he said patiently, then proceeded to explain to me what my job really was. “So you see, that’s how we do it here.”
“I’m sorry”, Nichelle replied. “I don’t B-drink and I don’t play B-bars. My agent told me this was a legitimate supper club.” “But I want you should do this,” he said gently as he calmly cracked each knuckle.
After going back and forth for awhile, with Nichelle asserting that she was raised by good parents, didn't drink, didn't smoke and had a young son to raise, she threatened to leave if that’s what Frankie expected of her.
Frankie stood there silently, looking at her. “Okay,” he said at last. “You’re bringing in lots of customers. They like you, so it’s okay. You always mind you mother and father, you will not go wrong. Anybody tells you anything, you tell ‘em to talk to Frankie Balistrieri. I like ya. You got class kid.” “Thank you”, said Nichelle.
Note: Mobsters seldom take no for an answer. They just think of another way to get to you! This was in the mid-1950’s and Frankie was not yet the “godfather” of the Milwaukee mob, that wouldn't happen until 1961, but he was training hard for it!

Nichelle knew she had to get out of there and was counting the days until her two week contract was up. A couple nights before what was to have been her last night came another knock on the door from Louie. “Oh, uh, Miss Nichols,” he said in his cretinous voice, ”by the way: Frankie wants ya here anuddah two weeks.”
Frankie exercised that first two week option with a raise, then another bigger one, by which time, Nichelle was dying to leave. She began to get the idea that Frankie was fond of her when he invited her up to visit his family. His wife and children were said to have never been seen at the club before.  While staying at a very nice hotel around the corner and up the block from the club, she began hearing stories about Frankie and the local rackets. He was not yet the Midwest Don he would become, but was working hard at it. His gang and his rivals were entrenched in a turf dispute, and right before she left, a stripper at another club was shot on-stage and killed by a rival mob. They had no compunction about making sure that their girls never got away. The implied threat of a savage beating or a shattered nose kept all the girls in line. Nichelle became increasingly afraid and more determined than ever to get away. Ironically, her show was growing increasingly popular and for the first time in Frankie’s career, one of his shows was reviewed in the local paper. The better she got, the deeper the hole she was getting into.
  When finally marshaling the nerve to tell him she was leaving, she first saw the dangerous glimmer in Frankie’s eyes. “You know,” he said menacingly, “nobody quits on Frankie Balistrieri.”
Scrambling to find an excuse, she blurted out “But it’s my dad. He’s had a heart attack and my family needs me back home. I have to go.” It was the performance of her life. “Your dad, huh?” Frankie considered as he eyed her carefully, her thinking that he knew she wasn’t telling the truth, but he “seemed” to go along with it.
Remember, they just start thinking of another way to get to you!

“Okay, here’s what we’re gonna do: You leave and go care of your father. I respect you. That’s beautiful. Then you come back here and bring your little boy. We’ll find you a nice apartment. You’ll love it here!”
Smelling the trap, Nichelle responded, “I’m not bringing my son here. And I’m not moving to Milwaukee. I’ve been here 10 weeks and I’m dying inside. I’ve got to go.”
Frankie’s response was a statement, not a question: “Okay, go home, and come back, and you’ll give me six weeks. Then you’re free.”   Nichelle went home for a couple of weeks and told her parents some, but not all of what was going on. Her father had enough experience with the mob that he also knew she couldn't just walk away. She had observed Frankie carefully and started to formulate a plan. So did Frankie. Thinking that if she stayed the whole six weeks, he’d be able to convince her never to leave, he started turning up the heat. Enter Frankie’s lawyer, Dominic Frinzi or Mr. F. as everyone at the club called him. In his $1000 silk suits, he was slick, suave and cunning as a snake. He tried to buy her with a key to an apartment, fur coat and jewelry, which Nichelle had to continually refuse.
It was now time for Nichelle’s plan. Three or four weeks into her run, she contacted a reporter that had written a great review of her. She told him she had a real scoop for him and proceeded to enthusiastically reveal how because of the terrific exposure she’d gotten working for Balistrieri, she was on her way to New York! She told of how she owed everything to Mr. B, she gushed, because he was so kind to feature me in his club. The writer ate it up and when Frankie read the item in the paper, he did too! “Why dincha tell me you were going to New York?” he asked proudly. Whether Frankie really believed that she really believed that he had discovered her, or was simply saving face and deciding to give her a break, we’ll never know. Frankie went around for years boasting that he discovered her. Nichelle’s engagement was mercifully shortened a couple of weeks and she finally got away. However, not before a girl from another club was found dead one morning, her body disposed of in a trash can!

Credit and thanks to Nichelle Nichols and her 1994 book Beyond Uhura. The book is still available at Amazon (link provided below) and is a very good read, especially if you were a Star Trek fan!

More of my posts about the Mob:
The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Remember Star Trek and the actor who played Lieutenant Uhura of the crew of the Enterprise? 

Part One:
Her real name is Nichelle Nichols and in her autobiography described a couple of brushes with the Chicago and Milwaukee mobsters that could well have put her in a very early grave twice!
Nichelle was the daughter of Samuel and Lishia Nichols and was born in 1932 in Robbins, IL, a small town about 30 miles southwest of Chicago. Her father, Sam was the town  mayor and chief magistrate.
Earlier that year came a headline in the Chicago newspaper “Capone Gin Mill Smashed: Small Town Busts Mobster’s Booze Factory”. The small town that the gin mill was in was Robbins! As soon as Sam read the paper, he knew he was going to get a visit. He sat on his porch all day waiting, a long black limousine finally appearing and proceeding up the driveway. Sam told his wife to get the kids and go into the the house. “Sit the kids down and don’t make a sound”. She sat down on the sofa with a pillow in her lap and hugged her youngest child, Frank, sitting next to her.

As the limo came to a stop, four men exited the car, all wearing black camel-hair coats and black fedoras. One of them opened a back door and a fifth man emerged wearing a pearl-grey silk suit, white silk shirt, and tie.
“You Sam Nichols?” he asked. “Yes, I’m Sam Nichols and the mayor of this town” was the reply.
The man then asked Sam if he knew who he was and Sam replied “I know why you’re here. I read the newspaper. I just don’t know why you’ve come to me”. The stranger said “Well you’ve got a problem Sam, my name is Mr. Capone and I’m here because my brother Al is very displeased with you.” Sam asked “Can we talk privately in my study? My wife is pregnant, and you’ve frightened my children. No need for them to witness this, is there?” “Lead the way” replied Capone.

One man remained outside as the other three following Sam and Capone into the house. Two posted themselves in the parlor with Lishia and the children, while Capone, the other goon and Sam went upstairs to the study. Lishia, hugging the pillow tightly, stared straight ahead.
Sam offered Capone a brandy, which he accepted, and began “I know your mill was raided by one of my officers. He was a rookie and thought he’d make a good impression.”
“He made a helluva impression, Sam” snorted Capone. Sam: “Yes. Well. What I don’t understand is why you’re here to settle your displeasure with me. I didn’t even know your mill was in my township.” Sam knew by the look on Capone’s face that he didn’t believe him. Sam: “I know you’re here to kill me. But I ask two things: One, why hold me responsible, and two, whatever you do to me, don’t harm my family-please.”
Capone snarled “For five big ones a week is why you’re responsible, Sam” He set his glass down, rose from his chair, turned and softly commanded to his bodyguard: “Be quick and clean.” As Capone had his hand on the doorknob Sam firmly stated, “I never received a dime of your goddamned money!”
The gangster turned and ordered “Explain, Sam”. “YOU explain", said Sam, "I should at least know why I’m about to die! Who did you give money to?” Capone exploded “What are you, pazzo?” “Your police chief, Sam! Two for him and three for you, in cash, on time, every week for the last 18 months. Now, I’ve had it with this game. Arrivederci!”
Sam jumped from his chair. " I never received a dime from that weasel,nor did he ever approach me about it! He knew if he had, I’d have handed him his head on a platter. I’d have never let you put your gin mill in this township! This is a clean, honest town and I’d rather die before I’d help it be corrupted, dammit!”
Capone and his goon exchanged a quick glance before relying, “You almost did, Sam. I’ll tell you what, we’ll check out your story. It checks, we won’t be back.”

They then went downstairs and Capone crossed the room and patted Lishia’s shoulder, and said “You can relax sweetheart. Sam’s OK. For now.”
For the first time, Lishia’s eyes met the visitor’s, and as she stared through him, slowly removed the pillow from her stomach to reveal a pearl-handled six-shooter, fully loaded. The children gasped and Sam held his breath. “It’s a damn good thing he is”, she hissed.
Startled, Capone’s goons all drew their guns, but their boss gestured for them to relax. “You had this all the time?, he asked incredulously. “Why didn’t you use it?”
“You hadn’t done anything,” she answered icily. “, You were guests in my home.”  Capone’s nervous guffaw crashed the silence. “You’re all pazzo!” Turning to his bodyguards, “Out of here, you goombas!”.
Turning at the door, Capone said, We won’t be coming back Mrs. Nichols.” Then to Sam, “ You've got yourself one helluva lady there, Mr. Mayor.” Capone and his henchmen then drove off and never bothered them again.
And where was Nichelle Nichols? Under the pillow, next to the gun, inside Lishia, waiting to be born!

Had Sam been killed that day in his study, it’s frightening to think of what would have happened next. It’s highly unlikely that Capone would have intended not to harm Sam’s family. That would have left witnesses who could have put him away for life! Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow. It’s the story of Nichelle’s encounter with the Milwaukee Mob and leader Frankie “Mad Bomber” Balistrieri!
Link to Part II below!
Beyond Uhura "Star Trek and Other Memories" by Nichelle Nichols
Good reading, and highly recommended, especially if you are a Star Trek fan!

Other of my related Mafia Posts:



Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the New York Mob!

Tummy Ache Merchants linked to the Bonanno Mob Family of New York! 
This is almost an unbelievable story and enough to turn your stomach! If you've ever had any sympathy for the American Mafia and their way of life, consider this great American meat scandal from the early 60’s.

Wisconsin is home to a huge dairy industry. One of the problems dairy farmers have always had, is what to do with old, sick and sometimes already dead cows, known in the trade as “downers” (because they literally drop down in the fields).
Mink ranchers need a constant supply of low grade meat, as minks are carnivorous and if not kept well fed, will start to eat each other. This is not good for the mink ranchers bottom line, and that meshes perfectly with the dairy farmer’s problem. Wherever there are a large number of dairy farms in an area, there tend to be mink ranches. And with a lot of mink ranches, you have businesses specializing in processing “downers” for mink food.
If you’ve never been to a rendering plant (I have), it’s a nasty place where dead cattle, horses and other animals (as well as mink carcasses after skinning) are processed (stink and stench with millions, if not billions of flies!). These animals can be used in any number of ways, being turned into soap, animal feed or pet food, as well as raw, boned, meat for carnivores like mink or zoo animals. The New York Mob boys back east, with their control and influence over the meat packing industry also found a use for this “stinger” meat. They “arranged” for  processors on the east coast to buy it and grind up with good beef to mix in with their sausages, hamburgers and processed meats!
In 1964, a federal meat inspector walked into a meat warehouse in Ohio and almost keeled over from the smell! He opened a box of meat and handled it, later saying that he couldn’t get the smell off his hands for two weeks. The meat was traced to a plant in Wisconsin that was licensed to process animal food for mink ranches and zoos.
Problem was, not only were they selling their product to local mink farmers, but also to Charles Anselmo, who was an associate of one of New York’s notorious Mafia families, the Bonannos. Mr. Anselmo was then re-selling this “product” to mob controlled meat processing companies back east. Anselmo knew - as the Wisconsin processor(s) must have known, that they were feeding people, not minks. The meat was being held over in warehouses en route east, often treated with formaldehyde to get rid of the stench and discoloration, then repackaged for human use. Formaldehyde is the chemical that morticians use to preserve human bodies, also used as an insecticide, fungicide and general disinfectant. Eating can make you sick, but, toxicologists say, it won’t kill you in small doses - unless you have a heart condition, in which case it can kill you! The Mob certainly wouldn't forgo a lucrative business just because a few people have heart conditions.
Detectives located one of the Wisconsin dealers by grabbing a truck driver (Joseph Hasenberg of Jim Falls, Wi) who hauled the meat east from Wisconsin. The driver was offered a deal if he would help collect evidence against the mink food supplier, Orland “Buster” Lea of Alma Center, Wi, who had a firm called Lea Brothers and was secretary treasurer of the LaCrosse Rendering Corp. Thomas C. Barr, 49, of Cameron, Wis., owner of the Tom Ban Meat Ranch hauled meat for Lea.
Hasenberg, the trucker, earned his escape from prosecution by steering Lea into several tacit admissions, while wearing a wire. Lea knew that the meat was going to New Jersey and that the deals were handled with haste, surreptition and cash. There were no bills of lading and he knew that higher than standard trucking rates were charged. Lea admitted to having met Charles Anselmo (associate of the New York Bonanno crime family), bringing him sixty animal skins from Wisconsin as a present because Anselmo had said he wanted a fur coat for his wife.
Where's the beef?
The other major supplier for “stinger” meat was Dominick Gerace of Utica, NY, where in a surprise raid at his business turned up horse meat, sub-par beef and counterfeit U.S. Department of Agriculture stamps.
Whatever “dirty” meat came in to New York was mixed in with good meat and sold to not only supermarkets, but other customers including the New York City school system, state hospitals and prisons, the Army, the Air Force, restaurants and hotels. In fact, if you happened to attend the New York World's Fair in 1964 and bought a hamburger or cheeseburger, you just may have sampled their product! What’s really disgusting is that several meat company executives were getting increasingly concerned about getting caught with horse meat in their products. Diseased beef, which might cause serious illness or even kill people, was a nuisance they could handle. But horse meat would capture the public’s attention, and bad publicity could kill the business. Nat Lokietz, an executive of the Merkel Co, overheard in a wiretap, was trying to persuade Charles Anselmo not to send any more horse meat.  Anselmo would not be specific to the question of whether the next shipment contained horse. In frustration, Lokietz finally posed the question this way: “Does it moo?” “Well”, said Anselmo, “some of it moos and some of it don’t moo”.
Another disturbing side to this story, due to legal maneuvering, New York corruption and mob influence, most of those convicted in this scandal literally got a slap on the wrist with very minimal sentences and probation. Most of these criminals were right back in the same industry within a year or two. “Buster” Lea and Thomas Barr pleaded guilty with Lea being sentenced to six months, serving five. Barr served one month and both stayed on probation for two years. Both remained in their respective businesses. Three federal meat inspectors were also indicted. Not one of them was convicted, although it sure seems to me, the evidence against them was overwhelming! The book goes into great detail of what evidence was obtained and how the indictments came down.
The kingpin of the operation, Charles Anselmo (Bonanno mob associate)  received an 18 month sentence, of which he served four and a half months! Never mind that he risked mass poisoning for profit. He was scarcely out of prison before he had set up a new meat brokerage in the Fourteenth Street market called the Kaylo Trading Company. Ahh, the sweet life of a New York Mobster! What are you going to think about the next time you have a bite of fresh kielbasa? Next in this series, stay tuned: The Mob in the Wisconsin cheese business!
Credit to and recommended read:
Vicious Circles by Jonathan Kwitny
A very good book, written in the late 1970’s that goes into much more detail than what is posted here, well researched with a wealth of information, over 400 pages and a very fascinating read.

Other of my related Mafia posts links:

The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss - Our Pediatrician!

composite photo by pat migliaccio
I sometimes wonder how many good and decent Italian Americans were affected by the vast criminal mafia network in this country. The history of the American Mafia is fascinating to me, as I have tried to learn about it over the past couple of decades. After finding out many years later that some of the people I dealt with back in Milwaukee were connected (see “Related Posts” links below), I have been doing a lot of research.
Being a franchised gas station operator back in 1970’s Milwaukee, I decided to start up a side business making and selling ice wholesale, installing freezers at various businesses and selling the owners ice to retail to the public. Thank God, it wasn't a vending business, as I had no idea at that time, it was tightly controlled by Frank P. Balistrieri, who happened to be the leader of the Milwaukee Mob! In 1978, the FBI sent in an undercover agent by the name of Gail T. Cobb to set up a fake vending business, was being tailed and very nearly killed by a couple of Balistrieri's thugs. He was a ruthless and disgusting man and I have no sympathy for mobsters in the least. But we all have family, and if some of your family is connected, it can’t help but affect you in many negative ways, whether you participated, tried to ignore, or were just aware of.

After getting Gavin Schmitt’s new book a few weeks agoMilwaukee Mafia (Images of America), I sat down to read it. I had been eagerly awaiting the release of the book for months and had pre-ordered it. The book contains about 125 pages of fascinating photos from back in the mob days that really bring out the rich history of Milwaukee. I highly recommend it.
As I was reading through and looking at the photos, I came across a familiar name that caught my eye. That name was “Dr. Joseph E. Vaccaro” as I looked at a caption of a photo from the early 50’s. Looking more closely at the picture, I couldn't believe my eyes. The man looked so familiar and I realized I was looking at a photo of our old pediatrician from back in Milwaukee! I was born in 1952 and this was the doctor who made house calls to our home when my younger brother and I were sick! I thought  “this guy was a doctor and what the heck is he doing in a book about the Milwaukee Mafia?”.

Dr. Vaccaro was the pediatrician for all of my brothers and sisters and my parents used him all the through the 50’s and into the 70’s! Of course after the first few years, it became impractical for a Doctor to make house calls and my parents would take the kids to his office. What follows is what I have been able to piece together from more research the last few weeks:

After getting his medical degree in 1940, Joseph started his practice as a pediatrician. In 1947, it was announced in the Milwaukee Journal that he was engaged to a Carmen Migliaccio. Carmen just happened to be the daughter of a high ranking Milwaukee mob member by the name of Pasquale Migliaccio. Migliaccio and Joseph Vallone were immigrants from the same small village of Prizzi, Sicily.

milwaukee mafia 'images of america"
  • Together, they formed a business, Migliaccio & Vallone Wholesale Grocers on N. Broadway in Milwaukee. Migliaccio (back row, far left in the picture) was Dr. Vaccaro’s father-in-law.
  • Migliaccio's business partner, Vallone, ran the Milwaukee mob from 1927 to 1949.
  • Notorious mobster Nick Fucarino, who had a lengthy arrest record, was employed by Migliaccio & Vallone.
  • Salvatore Ferrara (front row, far left in the picture) was the Milwaukee mafia boss from 1949 to 1952. The Chicago “Outfit” forced him to step down in ‘52 and John Alioto then replaced him as the Milwaukee "Godfather".
  • Dr. Vito Guardalabene (back row, far right in the picture) was the grandson of Vito Guardalabene, who was the mob boss in Milwaukee from 1918 to 1921.
  • “Chico’s Bar-B-Q" (the restaurant they are at) was owned by Frank La Galbo, well known by police and the FBI as an active mobster, once having beaten a murder rap, the reason being "lack of evidence".
  • The dinner was in celebration of Rocky Graziano’s boxing victory (that is Graziano sitting front row, third from left in the picture)!
  • Dr. Joseph E. Vaccaro (back row, second from left in the picture) our family's pediatrician, standing next to Pasquale Migliaccio, his father-in-law!

Seems to me that Dr. Vaccaro married a troubled woman and they were separated at least three times before going through a very nasty and public divorce in 1956. Dr. Vaccaro claimed that his wife was bad tempered, abusive and was always accusing him of affairs. In a complex situation, there were three lawsuits going on at the same time. Vaccaro counter-sued his wife, mobster father-in-law and his nurse for $100,000 claiming that they were trying to extort money from him. Eventually, Carmen was granted a divorce,  getting the house, a car and alimony from Vaccaro.
During the trial a woman was accused of trying to tamper with the jury. One witness claimed that she had been seen at Como’s, a restaurant that Migliaccio owned at the time! The judge demanded that she step up to the bench for questioning and she fled the courtroom, getting away.
Also, during a break in the settlement hearing, Dr. Vaccaro walked up to Migliaccio in the hallway, extending his hand to shake. Pasquale yelled something to him and punched him in the face. Vaccaro declined to press charges. (Don’t think I would either!)
There are court records from the mid 70’s indicating that Dr. Vaccaro and Carmen were still fighting over the divorce settlement.
Born in 1916, Dr. Joseph E. Vaccaro died in 2001 at the age of 85 at his home in Fountain Hills, Az. (presumably of natural causes!)
More interesting bits and facts: 
  • Migliaccio kept a low profile and I can find no record of any arrest, but he was certainly connected to the mob. The FBI believed he was a high ranking member.
  • In 1944, Migliaccio & Vallone Wholesale Grocers were sued by the Office of Price Administration for overcharging on sugar and processed foods.
  • Frank La Galbo, owner of Chico's Bar-B-Q, lived in constant fear for his life. He would never enter his restaurant from the street, always going in and out through a back door. He had a cottage in Peshitgo, Wi that was described as a fortress, with dogs patrolling the property, surrounded by an electrified fence. La Galbo died in 1976 at the age of 68 of a gunshot to the head, "as he was getting into his car in the driveway!". The DA ruled it a suicide.
  • Dr.Vito Guardalabene's (seen in the picture) father and grandfather both ruled the Milwaukee mob at different times.
  • Pasquale Migliaccio died in 1961 at the age of 74.
  • At some point after the divorce, Carmen remarried and took the last name of Sehulster.

Credit and thanks to:
Gavin Schmitt, his new book, Milwaukee Mafia "Images of America", available at Barnes & Noble.
The Framing Business - Rise of the Milwaukee Mafia, 1892-1961
Archives of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

You can read more of my mob related posts by clicking the links below:

The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Milwaukee Gas Station Robbery - The New Normal!
In November of 2011, my wife and I were able to take a few days and fly back to Wisconsin during Thanksgiving week. The most economical airfare had us flying into Milwaukee, which worked out well as we got to spend a couple days with my brother and his wife and then drive up north to Crivitz. Although after being born, raised and spending my first 29 years in Milwaukee, I consider Crivitz my adopted “hometown”, having lived there 12 years, and any trip back to Wisconsin has to include some “actually most” of our time there.
Anyone who has grown up living in Milwaukee would know that the city, itself, has had a troubled past. There have been distinct neighborhoods that were settled by different ethnic groups. For instance, a lot of Polish immigrants settled on the south side, Italians more on the eastern part of the city, etc. There were German, Irish, Jewish neighborhoods, you name it, Milwaukee had it. 
In the 1970’s a federal judge ruled that the Milwaukee public schools were segregated and African American students were not being given equal opportunities to receive a quality education. His “brilliant?” plan of recourse? He ordered that students start being bused all over the city, from north to south, east to west to achieve a “balanced” mix of ethnicity in every school! Students were forced to spend enormous amounts of time riding around in buses all over the city to get to class. So began the “white flight” exodus from the city to the suburbs which has been going on for more than 40 years. Most of the rest of the country outside of Wisconsin would be shocked to know what Milwaukee homeowners pay in property tax, much of which goes to support the failed public school system! Now, most all of the system is in ruins and responsible parents that do not have the means to leave are almost forced into paying for private school educations for their kids. My own brother and his wife felt they had to do this with all three of their daughters (and it was a financial struggle!).
My point in the preceding is that a lot of the city has been in a downward spiral with many areas not safe to be walking around in at night “some, you better stay away even during the day!”.  A lot of crime, violence, drugs and gangs are the newer norm. Gas stations and takeout pizza joints in many neighborhoods have cashiers behind bulletproof glass with a sliding tray to pass items through. Not everything is that bad, some areas of the city have been rebuilt and revitalized, like the downtown area, but much of Milwaukee is not in good shape.
I spent a couple years as a gas station attendant and about 12 years as a franchised gas station operator from the late 60’s to early 80’s in Milwaukee. During that time, I was robbed twice, once with a knife and once with a gun. Two of my employees were held up. I was also involved in a knock down, no holds back street fight with some punk one night at the station (that’s another story). The thing is, it was a big deal back then when you were robbed. Police came from everywhere, business stopped, and you put everything on hold while they investigated.
So from that long winded perspective, I began my day on Sunday, November 20, 2011. My wife and I awoke at my brothers house on Milwaukee’s northwest side that morning. Our plan for the day was to leave for Crivitz (a 3 hour drive) while listening to the Packer game (of course, the Packers won!), go to my buddy’s house and get to Shaffer’s Resort for their amazing chicken that evening. If you’ve ever had Shaffer’s chicken, you know what I’m saying, my mouth waters at the thought. See the link for the John Shaffer story below.
Packing our stuff into the rental car, we decided that we needed to bring a lunch along so that we didn’t need to stop during the game, which started at noon. Just so happens, one of my favorite all time sub shops “Suburpia” from back in the 70’s is still operating with a store at 108th and Bluemound Drive. So, we decided to drive down there, pick up a couple subs to eat on the way north. As, I wasn’t happy with their drink menu (Pepsi), I decided to stop at the Citgo gas station on 104th and Bluemound to get a couple bottles of the “real thing” (Coke) to take with us.
So, I turn into the station and park the car. After asking Mary what she would like to drink, she hesitated and I said to come in and look. We entered the station, chose our drinks and as we turned to go to the cashier station, the door burst open and a uniformed police officer came storming in. The cashier, who looked to be of Indian descent with a strong accent was engaged in a casual conversation on the phone with someone as he was taking payment from a customer. The police officer looked at him and asked if he had just called in a robbery. I couldn’t believe it as he nodded his head yes and waved the officer to the side while he stayed on the phone and continued working the cash register! As the stunned cop stood there, a couple of other squad cars came screaming into the station with tires squealing, looking for suspects. Meanwhile we were standing next to the first cop when he just lost it, loudly stating something to the effect “ Sure! I’ll just stand over here in the corner while you do your business and when you get a minute, we’ll talk!” I was half expecting to hear some racial comments come out, but he refrained from doing that, although I wouldn’t have blamed him! He was kind of muttering something under his breath and I could see the anger in his face. There had just been an armed robbery! The dumb ass cashier just continued taking money and talking on the phone, so I gave him our cash while looking at the cop and shaking my head. The other two cops came storming in and I can only imagine what took place afterwards as we turned and got the heck out of there!
Seeing what those officers went through that day sure gave me more reason to be happy I don’t live there anymore. I left that city in 1981 and have never regretted it! Of course, I have some good memories of good times and there are many good people living there. Having lived in Salt Lake City for the past 19 years, comparing the two cities, the good people of Milwaukee deserve so much better! To really see how bad a city can get, click the link to the Detroit post below. It's an unbelievable scene of desolation and waste!
Link to the Shaffer story:
Tribute to John Shaffer and his Chicken
Link to a post on the city of Detroit:
Detroit - A Dead City!
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
“A Hard-hearted She-wolf who Resembled Elizabeth Taylor on a Bad Day”

Sally Papia, known as  the “Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime” owned and operated Sally’s Steak House, a highly rated restaurant located in the Knickerbocker Hotel in the 1970’s. Her restaurant was a frequent meeting place for politicians and businessmen. Sally could usually be found at the hostess stand, impressively dressed and working her patrons. Years later, at the time of her death, she also managed the Savoy Room, a main floor upscale restaurant at the Shorecrest Hotel, which was owned by Joseph Balistrieri, son of Frank. Frank Balistrieri took power in 1961 as the “Godfather”, leader of the Milwaukee mafia or La Cosa Nostra.
As described by Gary Magnesen in his book Straw Men: “Sally was a raven-haired firecracker of a woman who resembled Elizabeth Tayler on a bad day. She was the girlfriend of a Chicago Outfit member “Big Frank” Buccieri in the ‘70s and had assembled a loyal crew of employees who were mobster wannabes”.
“As the boss of the Milwaukee Mafia, Frank Balistrieri resented Papia’s restaurant’s success and thought she was a threat to his power, as she brought Chicago "Outfit" guys to his town, where they often dined at Sally’s place and never bothered to pay their respects to him. Balistrieri was once heard describing her as “an Outfit wannabe in a friggin’ skirt”. It was rumored that he once considered having her killed, but thought better of it.” Frank had to answer to the Chicago Mafioso and he and Sally had a very tenuous and uncomfortable relationship for many years. Later on, Frank was known to say that Sally was the only regular visitor while he was in prison and kept him informed of the Milwaukee Mob business being run temporarily by Franks’ brother, Peter Balistrieri. There must have been some kind of love, hate thing going on, it was reported that Frank was at Sally's Steak House very late on Christmas Eve, 1968. Frank's wife called Sally and warned her to stay away from Frank.

“Sally saw herself as a big shot but was in reality, a hard-hearted she-wolf.” After paying for the advanced schooling of one of her chefs, the chef decided to leave Sally’s and start up his own restaurant called the Northridge Inn. Sally was livid about it and in retaliation, had the place burned down. “But Sally, ever vindictive, wasn’t satisfied with torching the restaurant. She also ordered the crushing of the cook’s hands”. A confidential informant tipped off the FBI and they notified the Milwaukee Police. “Two detectives were on their way to interview the victim that evening when they spotted a car cruising slowly in the area of the chef’s residence. The cops pulled the suspicious vehicle over and began questioning the two occupants, when they spotted two baseball bats partially hidden under the front seat of the car. The men were immediately arrested for having concealed weapons and for suspicion of attempted assault.” One of the men, Jack Schlecter decided to cooperate with police and started wearing a wire. Indictments were returned on September 24, 1975. Sally, along with five of her employees were arrested and a trial ensued. "The trial of the Queen Bee and her co-conspirators was covered by all the Milwaukee media outlets, and Sally's name and face were flashed on television screens and in newspapers day after day." Sally ended up being represented by Frank Balistrieri’s lawyer son, Joseph! She and her crew were all found guilty and sent to prison for extortion and conspiracy.

Sally’s long time maitre d’ and convicted felon, Max J. Adonnis was found murdered in 1989.
In 1990, a grand jury hearing led to another indictment against Sally. She was tried for making illegal payments to Local 122 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders Union in an effort to keep employees from becoming union members. She was sentenced and did eight months in a federal prison in Kentucky in 1991.
On a January day in 2005, Sally, age 75, was a passenger in a car with her daughter Candy driving. Candy, age 51, drove off a slippery road head on into a tree killing her instantly. Sally died a few days later from her injuries. One of Milwaukee’s most colorful figures had died. She had dated a high-profile lawyer, a Chicago mobster, a cop, a banker and was friends with Senator Herb Kohl and numerous judges. Headline from Bill Janz, longtime columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in his his 2005 piece, “Papia’s Life Revolved Around Restaurants and Mobsters”. He did a very interesting column on her after her death, you can read it at the following link.,3180851
Link to Gary Magnesen's book "Straw Men" is below.

Related Posts:
The Beef That Didn't Moo - Wisconsin Ties to the Mob
Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men!
Married to the Daughter of a Milwaukee Mob Boss-Our Pediatrician!
The Milwaukee Queen Bee of Organized Crime
Tale of a Failed Milwaukee Mob Hit!
Lieutenant Uhura (of the Starship "Enterprise") - close encounters with the Chicago and Milwaukee Mob!
Part Two: The Milwaukee Mob and Lieutenant Uhura (Star Trek)
"Mr. Fancy Pants" Balistrieri - Tracking Milwaukee's most dangerous mobster