Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tales of the Milwaukee Mob and Two Cigarette Men - REVISED!

expressmilwaukee.com
northbynorthside.blogspot.com


Revised and updated 
6/30/2013 - The Mafia's control of the cigarette and candy vending business in Milwaukee.



Back in the 1970’s, I was a franchised gasoline station dealer with Clark Oil and Refining Corp. While still in high school, I obtained a job pumping gas for a Clark dealer named Chuck. He was a great guy to work for and actually helped several of his employees, including me get their own stations. My station was on Santa Monica Blvd and Hampton Ave. in Milwaukee. In those days, nearly one third or better of our business profits came from selling cigarettes to the customers right on the fuel island. Customers would drive in, roll down the window and not have to get out of their car for cigarettes. All the Clark Station dealers had a cigarette 'jobber' or vendor that would come by once a week and keep us stocked.  There were two main competitors for most of the Clark Stations being run by independent dealers. When I got my station, I used the cigarette man that my former boss used, a man by the name of Ted Stroiman (Since all the principals are now deceased, I am using real names). My best friend, Bob, who had another Clark Station on Teutonia Ave, after a while, started using an Italian vendor by the name of Joseph Frank Alioto. Joe was trying to grow his business and was offering twice a week delivery, so the dealer had less inventory to carry. I was early into my 20’s at that time, and had no idea until many, many years later of how closely intertwined the Milwaukee Mafia was in the cigarette and candy vending business!
Typical Clark gas station in the '70s
Because the vendors were so competitive and wanted to retain our business (Clark stations sold a very high volume of cigarettes) they would give us dealers a sort of 'under the table' kick back of free cigarettes, which you either smoked them up or put them into inventory and took out the cash for your pocket! It wasn't much, maybe 10 or 14 free packs on an order of 70 or 90 cartons. Of course, this was not legal, but back then, it didn’t seem like a big deal to us.
As I mentioned, Ted Stroiman was my cigarette man. His father, Jack was born in Russia and came to Milwaukee as a boy in 1912. For several years, he ran a small laundry and in 1917 founded Jack Stroiman & Son, a candy and cigarette vending firm. His firm was one of the first in Milwaukee to use automatic vending machines. Ted took over the business after his father had a stroke in 1956 and at some point renamed it 'Stroiman Vending'.  Ted was a good guy and I haven’t seen him since about 1980. I remember he used to bring his wife 'Ruth' along with him on his route. They were both very friendly and outgoing people. His obituary said he ran the business for over 40 years, so he would have retired about 1996 or 1997 at about the age of 70.
Joe with his wife at their wedding, 1970 or 71. In the middle
is George, founder of Upper Crust Pizza around the corner 
from my station

My friend, Bob was getting his cigarettes from Joe Alioto. I found out many years later that Joe was a convicted felon, who in 1970 had to sell his business 'Alioto Distributing' to his sister Jane Alioto because Joseph could not own a license. According to Joe’s nephew, the felony was related to some 'gambling pinches'. A cousin by the name of John Balistrieri was appointed manager. Turns out that John was the lawyer son of the reputed leader of the Milwaukee Mob. It has been well documented that Mr. Frank Balistrieri took over the leadership of the Milwaukee Mafia from his father-in-law, John Alioto in 1962. Knick-named 'Frankie Bal' and 'Mad Bomber', Frankie ruled the Milwaukee underworld, with control over loan shark “book”, sports betting and large scale control of the vending business. The vending business was very attractive for the mob, as all the proceeds are cash and very easy to hide. Besides the fact that you have a ready market for bootlegged cigarettes! His tentacles reached all the way to Las Vegas as he was receiving regular skim payments from the old Stardust and Fremont Casinos. (The movie 'Casino' with Robert De Niro was loosely based on Balistrieri's exploits with the Teamsters, Kansas City Mob and Vegas Casinos) The FBI had Frankie on tape saying that it was time for his regular monthly flight to Las Vegas to get his “transfusion”!
I have spent quite a bit of time over the years trying to read and research as much as possible. These people were pretty secretive and only recently learned about the felony that Joe Alioto was convicted of, thanks to his nephew. The following is my opinion of what I think most likely occurred!
Joe Alioto, was the nephew of the man that ran the Milwaukee Mob and because of his felony conviction, had to make a deal. Joe’s sister, Jane, had a full time job and was unable to run the business. John Balistreri was 'Frankie Bals' son and a lawyer. They wrote up the sale with a man by the name of Herb Rahn running the day to day and John Bal running the back end, according to Joe’s nephew.
Joe worked hard to grow the Clark Station business and was competing with Ted Stroiman. In 1976, Joseph Frank Alioto died suddenly at the age of 39 of a massive heart attack. His funeral was held at the Guardalabene & Amato funeral home on Holton St. According to Gavin Schmitt's book, "this funeral home was the primary business of it's type used by members of the mafia, their families and close associates". A friend of mine, Karl, who was a Clark station dealer at that time and attended the funeral wrote: "Joe looked like he was stuffed into a casket that was too small for him." Shortly after his death, control of Alioto Distributing went to the Balistrieri's. They actually went to the Clark gas stations that Joe had been selling to and informed the dealers that they no longer were going to service their businesses! As you can imagine, they wanted nothing to do with invoices and checks, they were only interested those vending machines that fill up with cash!
This is certain: 
  • Joe died in 1976 with the Balistrieri family in control afterwards.
  • In 1977, a Paul La Galbo sold his firm 'Midwest Vendors' to Alioto Distributing for $4100. 
  •  In 1978, undercover FBI agent Gail T. Cobb was told by a New York gangster (Benjamin Ruggerio) that he could not operate a vending machine business in Milwaukee without “sharing” the business with Frank Balistrieri. 
  •  In 1979, a man by the name of Leo Dinon sold his cigarette distributing company to Alioto Distributing for $8000 to  $9000.
  • In 1984, Jane Alioto testified at John Balistrieri's extortion trial that she bought Alioto Distributing from her brother in 1970, and had given Balistrieri “the power to run it for me”.  As far as I knew, it sure seemed to me that until Joe’s death, in 1976, he was the one running the business. Jane testified that Balistrieri was her cousin, advisor, and legal counsel and that she trusted him to manage the company. But not her own brother? 
  •  Also in 1984,Peter Picciurro testified that in 1979 he had asked John Balistrieri to "take over" management of his vending company, Pitch's De-Lish-US Distributors.
  • And on Monday, April 10,1984, Frank P. Balistrieri, described by the FBI as the head of organized crime in Milwaukee, was convicted of extortion for trying to take control of a vending machine business run by an undercover FBI agent Gail T. Cobb. Also convicted were his two sons, Joseph, 43 and John, 35! Joe and John each received a prison sentence of two years for extorting a vending machine businessman. 'Frankie Bal' got four years.
Back to Ted Stroiman. He and his father ran that cigarette and vending business for a combined total of about 80 years! I wish Ted were still alive, I bet he would have some stories to tell. Ted and his father were of Jewish faith and I wonder now whether he was able to insulate himself from the mob boys all those years, or if he wasn’t forced into 'sharing' with 'Frankie Bal' and the Milwaukee mob! I have the feeling that since Ted was well established, with a long history, running a small business, they probably left him alone. However, there could be a related taped remark from 'Frankie Bal' in the paragraph below. I can find no record of Stroiman Vending today. I don’t know if he sold the business or just liquidated it. He had a couple sons, but they live in different states. By the time Ted retired in the mid to late 90’s, the Milwaukee mob was a shell of it’s former self and pretty powerless. From the information I can gather, what’s left is now controlled by the Chicago Outfit. 'Frankie Bal' died of natural causes in 1993 at the age of 74. Son, Joseph Balistrieri died in October, 2010 at the age of 70. Interesting note: Ted's funeral was held at the Goodman Bensman funeral home right across the street from my old Clark station in 2010!

Please note, before reading this paragraph, in no way am I trying to impune or question the character of Ted Stroiman. I do not know for a fact who Frankie was referring to and just because you may be called to testify before a grand jury does not mean you are guilty of anything! You could be called for many reasons. I firmly believe that Ted was a man of good, moral character.  One government document used during Balistrieri’s trial refers to a taped conversation of a meeting on Sept. 13,1978 in which Frank stated he was worried “about the Jew who had been subpoenaed”. The reference was not clarified. It added that Balistrieri stated: “Neither the Jew nor the Jew’s attorney would indicate what was going to be said to the grand jury and he did not know whether or not the Jew had taken the fifth amendment”. The document said “Frank Balistrieri stated that he was always concerned when there were Jews involved because you can’t trust those Jew bastards”. The meeting was at 'Snugs' restaurant and those present were Frank, his two sons, Frank's brother Peter, Benjamin (Lefty Guns) Ruggerio and Steve DiSalvo. Ruggerio was affiliated with the Bonanno crime family of New York and had been involved in introducing the undercover FBI agent to Balistrieri.
I have read numerous transcripts of Frank Balistrieri's taped conversations and as you can read, he was ruthless and I think a very disgusting man. In his second book, "Unfinished Business" Agent Joe Pistone described how "it was disconcerting the way Frank Balistrieri treated his brother and sons. They bowed down to him like the Don that he thought he was. There was no feeling of fatherly or brotherly relationship. He barked at his brother in front of us like his brother was Fredo in The Godfather, and his brother took it."

More interesting facts,
In the early 70's, my friend Bob and his wife, my brother and I, lived in a four unit apartment building at 4381 N. Green Bay Ave in Milwaukee. 'Frankie Bal's Captain and right hand man was Steve DiSalvo and he was employed right across the street from us at Universal Builders (4380 N. Green Bay Ave). In 1973, Frank Balistrieri, Steve DiSalvo and Henry Nechy (president of Universal Builders) were subpoenaed to testify at a grand jury hearing in Miami! Of course the proceedings were secret and their testimony remains unknown. In September of 1974 the Wisconsin Justice Dept went to court and asked that Universal Builders be dissolved due to improper reporting procedures. The court was informed that Nechy and DiSalvo were known associates of Frank Balistrieri and the business was the subject of a criminal investigation.
In April of 1987 DiSalvo (while already in prison for the 1984 conviction with Frank Balistrieri) was questioned by a Federal grand jury about the unsolved 1963 murder of Kenosha vending machine dealer Anthony J. Biernat.

Quote from former undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone from his book "Donnie Brasco"
In 1978, New York undercover agent "Donnie Brasco" trying to introduce Milwaukee undercover agent "Tony Conte" to "Lefty Guns" Benjamin Ruggiero in New York. "Lefty Guns" was a made member of the Bonanno mafia crime family of New York. Brasco is telling "Lefty" that Conte is trying to start a vending machine business up in Milwaukee.
Lefty: "Where'd you say he was?" Brasco "Milwaukee". Lefty "Milwaukee! Is he connected?" Brasco "No, He don't know anything about the mob." Lefty "He's crazy. Doesn't the f***ing guy know you can't operate a vending business without connections? Especially, Milwaukee. They're crazy out there. It ain't like New York, where they may just throw you a beating to chase you out. Out there they're vicious. They answer to Chicago. They blow people up. If this guy's a friend of yours, you better tell him to get the hell out of that town. Tell him to move the business back to Baltimore. Baltimore is controlled by crews from Philly and Jersey. They're easier to deal with."
After an incredible 6 years of Joe Pistone “Donnie Brasco” being undercover, the FBI ended the operation in New York and Florida on July 26, 1981. Agent Pistone took the next available flight to Milwaukee to testify at a grand jury hearing on the Balistrieri case, which had been held in abeyance until the operation was wrapped up. On July 28, 1981 three FBI agents visited Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano in New York and informed him of the operation. “Sonny” was a captain in the Bonanno Mafia crime family and was killed by the mob shortly thereafter for his maleficence. They found his bullet riddled body in a trash bag with his hands cut off! "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The FBI sting resulted in over 100 Mob convictions and gutted the Milwaukee leadership, which, hopefully is near extinct!

Quote, from Former FBI agent Gary Magnesen's book, Straw Men
"Soon after being assigned as case agent, I followed Frankie Bal to the apartment of John(sic) Alioto, nephew of the former boss, small time bookie and straw man for Alioto Distributing." He got the name wrong in the book and had to be referring to Joe Alioto.

More, thanks to Joe Alioto’s Nephew,

"In 1983 or 84 there was a Sentinel article written about Alioto Distributing and its ties to organized crime. In the article unbeknownst to my parents, that my mother and father were officers of the company. Jane who was at our house just about every Sat and Sun until my mother passed away in 1994, had added their names. After that article came out, our neighbors who were already scared of us, were then really on pins and needles. We didn't know if it was because of the article or the screaming and yelling my father unleashed on poor Jane."

"Joe Alioto had the nickname ‘Minnow’. This is how he came by it, My uncle and Joe Balistrieri were busboys and uncle Joe started acting like a big shot, barking orders to the other busboys. The mater'd caught my uncle's big shot act and sternly told him that there was only one big fish in the joint and you are just a Minnow."

"When I returned from the service I went to my cousin Joey Balistrieri, who had been my juvenile attorney. I chose the service at 17 over a career path that held no promise. I wanted to work in the vending business and Joe discouraged me and told me that I could have a legitimate career or start my own business since I had done very well for myself in the army. And that's what I did."

"Joe gave me the best advice ever and Joe & John included me in their revitalization of the La Societa di San Giuseppe (sicilian men's organization)."
"Did you know Joe drove a school bus for a time before the vending business?
The bus, Minnow and his father Angelo would be at our house on Oakland ave in Whitefish Bay daily."

Update 1/17/2013  The following are additional comments that were received in the past month or so by a contributor who wishes to remain anonymous. He knew Steve DiSalvo (Balistrieri's second in command) and his family well during those years and has some very interesting stories!
Enjoyed your article, very informative. I knew the DiSalvo family very well. They lived a modest life in a home in back of Segals junk yard in Cudahy Wisconsin. Steve senior was quite a nice guy who treated his 3 kids well. My family went to school with all his kids.We were all shocked when he was arrested. We were walking toward his home when the FBI and who ever closed in. Pretty wild! Steve was very good looking fella and always reminded me of Bob Deniro. He was very generous man. He often give us all money to go out on but I think he was trying to get us out of the house. He did buy me a new pair of shoes and a suit when his son got married. Well I just thought I comment some. Hope I didn't bore you.

I do have quite a few stories. That is if I can remember them. Vince was Steve's oldest son and a hell of a nice guy. He had another son Rick and a daughter whose name I don't recall. None of them were involved in the family business. It was said that Steve did the hit on Anthony Biernat, the pinball man because he wouldn't cooperate. They found him in a shallow grave out at Bong air force base. But I don't think it was ever proven. I had relatives in KC and would fly there often and would see the Milw gang going there, more that once. One time I saw Steve walking with his group and approached him and came close to getting shot by one of the group. Last time I did that!  My brother-in law was good friends with Frankie Bel “not Ba” and tended bar for him in one of the downtown strip joints he owned. I think one was called the "Brass Rail". My friends and I went down to see my brother in-law on occasion and would run into Frankie Bel in the Bar. He always had two women with him or two men who sat on each side and two more hoods sitting in the booth behind him for protection. The first time my brother-in law introduced me I went to shake his hand and one of the hoods waved me off. He wasn't a very pleasant guy, but you never had to buy a drink while he was there. Getting back to Steve DiSalvo, when his son got married the reception was at that then fancy Hotel across from the airport. Every mob boss in the country was there. None of them with their wives. They were with some of most gorgeous young women I ever saw in my life. I'm sure the FBI had all our pictures'. Gifts were in the form of hundred dollar bills and the groom couldn't fit them in his pockets. I hope you found this interesting. Sorry about the earlier name error but its been a long time.

Frank picked his bartenders carefully because he was afraid he could be taken down easily by anybody in his position. Although he trusted my brother-in-law he would sometimes order drinks and make the girls drink them first. I forgot to mention something strange about Steve DiSalvo. When he died in prison and his body was sent home the mortician said he had a hole drilled into his head to which there was no explanation. The family was very upset to say the least!

I was good friends with a number of Milwaukee cops and also someone higher up in the County Sheriff's Dept. during the 60's. I also know of quite a few relatives of the Mafia gang. Some liked that their older family members were gangsters but most would have just as soon forgot it. Steve's family I think was the latter. His son and I ran together and got in some trouble, but minor compared to his Dad. I'm surprised he didn't mention Steve's brother Jack. He owned a restaurant in Cudahy that I'm sure it was a Mafia hangout. It was raided once by the FBI for gambling and they caught the Mayor and Police Chief and a few more big shots in it.

Steve seemed to be a main figure in the mob. I know for instance that Frank’s nick name was Bell not Bal. Where he got that I don't know. And the Cudahy police chief at the time of Franks reign wasn't who he pictured but was Fred Schleater. Oh well! All in all your blog is great and I will keep an eye on it. If I run across something interesting I will let you know. Thanks for the Info.

Angelo Lonardo's testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on April 4, 1988.
He explained why the Cleveland Mob got a piece of Las Vegas:

"[Maishe] Rockman told me the skim started when Allen Glick approached Frank Balistrieri about Glick's obtaining a Teamsters Pension Fund loan so that Glick could purchase a Las Vegas casino." Balistrieri was the boss of the Cosa Nostra Milwaukee family.

"Balistrieri talked to Nick Civella, boss of the Kansas City family, since he controlled Roy D. Williams, who was a high official with the Teamsters Union. Civella told Balistrieri he found find someone in Cleveland that could talk to Bill Presser."

"Glick told Balistrieri that in return for the Teamster pension loan he, Glick, would give the Milwaukee, Kansas City and Cleveland families a piece of the casinos. ... Our family averaged about $40,000 a month from Vegas and 25 percent of the Youngstown rackets, which would average about $5,000 per month."
He said Cleveland and Kansas City Teamster leaders each got about $1,500 a month from the skim. He explained how the Mafia dictated the choice of Williams as president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and decided on a replacement when the Feds closed in on Williams.
"When it appeared that Williams, who had been indicted, was going to be likely to be forced to step down from his position, Rockman and I made a second trip to Chicago to get Chicago Cosa Nostra Outfit's support for Jackie Presser as president of the IBT, because he was Maishe's protege, and it would increase the Cleveland family's prestige and respect."


Many thanks and credit to the “Writings of Gavin C. Schmitt” for much of the information obtained. A link to his site follows as he put together an excellent chronological history in two parts. “Rise of the Milwaukee Mafia, 1892-1961” and “Milwaukee Mafia, the Balistrieri Years: 1962-present” also thanks to the archives of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. Link to them below. Also to Joseph Pistone and I highly recommend his book "Donnie Brasco". Gary Magnesen's book "Straw Men" was also an excellent resource
http://www.framingbusiness.net/archives/2245
http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19840330&id=6nobAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6k4EAAAAIBAJ&pg=6732,6656648

Reprinted from the Milwaukee Journal Obituaries of August, 2010
Theodore “Ted” Stroiman of Glendale died on June 11. He was 84.
He was a Milwaukee native who graduated from Washington High School. He was the owner of Stroiman Vending for more than 40 years. He was a member of Congregation Sinai. According to his family, he won numerous awards for his volunteer work at places that included the Milwaukee Jewish Home, the Milwaukee Protestant Home, and Columbia Hospital. He also enjoyed playing poker.
He is survived by his wife Ruth (nee Pories); daughter Mindy Stroiman of Glendale; sons Marty Stroiman of San Diego and Jeffrey Stroiman of Newport Beach, Calif.; step-daughters Linda (Bill) Ross of Whitefish Bay and Judy (Michael) Hamrell of Yorba Linda, Calif.; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Goodman-Bensman Whitefish Bay Funeral Home handled arrangements. Rabbi David Cohen and Cantor Rebecca Robins officiated at the funeral on June 12. Burial was in Mound Zion Cemetery. The family would appreciate memorial contributions to the Wisconsin Parkinson’s Disease Association.

Reprinted from the Milwaukee Journal Obituaries of 7/8/1961
Jack Stroiman, one of the first cigarette and candy vending machine jobbers in Milwaukee died of pneumonia at the National Convalescent home Saturday. He suffered a stroke about four and a half years ago and had been in the hospital for two weeks. He lived at 2913 N 76th St, Milwaukee.
Mr Stroiman was born in Russia and came to Milwaukee as a boy in 1912. For several years, he ran a small laundry and in 1917 founded Jack Stroiman & Son, a candy and cigarette wholesale firm. The firm was one of the first in Milwaukee to use automatic vending machines.
The firm is now operated by a son, Theodore from the 76th St address. His father was active in the business until his stroke. Mr. Stroiman was a member of e Beth Jehudah congregation. Surviving besides Theodore are Mr Stroiman’s wife Rose, another son Harry, Milwaukee: a daughter Mrs. Eve Kitner, Montreal Que. and a brother Bernard Stroyman, Indianapolis. Burial will be in Mound Zion cemetery.
gangster76skyrock.com
Frank Balistrieri with sons Joseph and John

More of my related mafia 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

43 comments:

  1. Wow, you sure did your homework. Very interesting and informative!

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  2. I remember going to the "Alioto's" bar in about 1977, located east of my townhouse rental on Good Hope Rd. and Teutonia. Any connection?

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    1. I don't know about the bar, but there was a restaurant named Alioto's that was definitely connected to the mob. It may have been owned by John Alioto from whom Frank took over the leadership of the mob in 1962. I'll see if I can find out where it was. Dan

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  3. Alioto's restaurant was and is located at 3041 N. Mayfair Rd, Wauwatosa. As of 2012, it is still in business as "Aliotos" even though John Alioto died in 1972 at St. Michael's hospital. His funeral was monitored by the FBI and attended by every known member of the Milwaukee mob at that time. John was under constant suspicion from the FBI, but they never were able to charge him for any serious offense!

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  4. PS Forgot to mention, John Alioto was "Frankie Bal"s father-in-law, from whom Frankie took took control of the mob in 1961.

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  5. Here's another update. In the early 70's, my friend Bob and his wife, my brother and I, lived in a four unit apartment building at 4381 N. Green Bay Ave in Milwaukee. "Frankie Bal"s right hand man was Steve DeSalvo and he was employed right across the street from us at Universal Builders (4380 N. Green Bay Ave). In 1973, Frank Balistrieri, Steve DeSalvo and Henry Nechy (president of Universal Builders)were subpoenaed to testify at a grand jury hearing in Miami! Of course the proceedings were secret and their testimony remains unknown.

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    1. Very interesting Steve and Jack are my grandmother's brothers. My mother was never allowed to hang out with those cousins or go to their house. My grandmother never talked about what happened so as I was doing a family tree with my son it was interesting to read about. Thanks

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    2. Thanks for your comment! To find out what was really going on at that time and the reason for your mom's restriction is intriguing. To find out how close our ties were in those days to the American mafia is fascinating to me.

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  6. Dan, it's a small world indeed.

    My name is John Gagliano. I worked for a short time as an attendant for a man named Bob, in 73 or 74 at the Clark on Teutonia & Villard.

    Better yet Joe Alioto or " Minnow Joe" as he was called was my mother Madeline's only brother and Jane Alioto, my aunt. Minnow Joe was married to Connie who Jane called Queenie, because she was a pain in the ass and had no children.
    Jane is still alive and has lived at the Shorecrest for years.

    Minnow Joe did indeed die of a widow maker heart attack in 1976 at his home in Elm Grove. I had just been discharged from the army in Sept 76 and he passed shortly thereafter.

    As far as Alioto distributing, yes Minnow was a felon due to gambling pinches.

    Did you know he drove a school bus for a time before the vending business?

    The bus, Minnow and his father Angelo would be at our house on Oakland ave in Whitefish Bay daily.

    When I returned from the service I went to my cousin Joey Bal., who had been my juvenile attorney. I chose the service at 17 over a career path that held no promise.
    I wanted to work in the vending business and Joe discouraged me and told me that I could have a legitimate career or start my own business since I had done very well for myself in the army. And that's what I did.

    Jane was the front for minnow since his felony conviction precluded his holding of the license.

    You may not know this, but Aunt Jane worked at Wisconsin Gas company and could not run the business. Herb Rahn ran the day to day and John Bal handled the back end. Jane was paid a salary and furnished a leased car.

    In 83 or 84 there was a Sentinel article written about Alioto distributing and it's ties to organized crime. In the article unbeknownst to my parents, that my mother and father were officers of the company.

    Jane who was at our house just about every Sat and Sun till my mother past away in 94, had added their names.

    After that article came out, our neighbors who were already scared of us, were then really on pins and needles.

    We didn't know if it was because of the article or the screaming and yelling my father unleashed on poor Jane.


    So to recap, Minnow Joe was not rubbed out.

    Joe and John did not attempt a hostile takeover of Alioto distributing.

    Joe gave me the best advice ever and Joe & John included me in their revitalization of the La Siocieta di San Giuseppe (sicilian men's organization).

    BTY, Joe Bal told me how Minnow Joe got the nickname.

    My uncle and Joe Bal were busboys and uncle Joe started acting like a big shot, barking orders to the other busboys.

    The maitre d caught my uncle's big shot act and sternly told him that there was only one big fish in the joint and you are just a Minnow.

    Thank You for filling in some of the blanks concerning my uncle and if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.

    Sinisterly,
    John Gagliano
    milwlimo@hotmail.com

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    1. I am looking for history and info on a 1949 Cadillac Limo once owned by the Balistrieris. Frank’s son, John sold the car in 1990. It has been restored and is in a museum in Michigan.

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  7. That is great information that you have provided John and thank you so much. You have helped me to fill in the blanks! I'd like to make this as historically correct as possible! Thanks again, Dan

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  8. i grew up on teutonia n villard. born in 1980. while in milwaukee id hear mention of an enforcer for frank bal by the name of "big joe" any info on him? or the car bombing of "auggie" or any of their relatives?

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    1. I answered Big T in a private email. I'm still researching the "Auggie" bombing. If anyone has additional info, please feel free to comment. Dan

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  9. I grew up on the East side of Milwaukee and knew John Balistrieri, the Alioto family, Maniaci's, and the Librizi. Being a neighborhood kid and growing up with many of them I was treated kindly by them and their families. In my early twenties I went to all of the clubs and restaurants owned by them. I knew they were mafia connected, but never knew what their activities actually were. It seems strange to hear about this side of them having know them in a very different way. How interesting life can be.

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    1. Great comment! Thank you.

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    2. I am looking for history and info on a 1949 Cadillac Limo once owned by the Balistrieris. Frank’s son, John sold the car in 1990. It has been restored and is in a museum in Michigan.

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  10. Don @ pasingas@gmail.comSeptember 2, 2012 at 4:20 PM

    I also ran a Clark station after being mentored while in high school by Chuck.It didn't last long because I got a "yearning" to go to CA.Wish we would have remained friends, but it wasn't easy to communicate long distances back then.I actually worked for a brief time for Joe Alioto before I went west.I always thought it was very sad to read about the ensuing legal troubles between Clark and its dealers.You and I could have worked together on Port RD.By the way, I've got 40 years behind the wheel, the last 18 in a chemical tanker.Enjoyed your article....Don

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  11. Thanks for the comment, Don! I'll respond in a private email for more info!

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  12. Dan,

    Enjoyed your article, very infomative. I knew the Disalvo family very well. They lived a modest life in a home in back of Segals junk yard in Cudahy Wisconsin. Vince senior was quite a nice guy who treated his 3 kids well. My family went to school with all his kids.We were all shocked when he was arrested. We were walking toward his home when the FBI and who ever closed in. Pretty wild! Steve was very good looking fella and always reminded me of Bob Deniro. He was very genrous man. He often give us all money to go out on but I think he was trying to get us out of the house. He did buy me a new pair of shoes and a suit when his son got married. Well I just thought I comment some. Hope I didn't bore you.

    A Friend

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    1. Heck no! You didn't bore us. Thanks for the great comment! I'd be interested in any information or stories you may have. I take it that "Vince" was Steve's father? It amazes me the separate lives those connected with the mob could lead. Generous and decent to friends and family, but totally ruthless when it came to "business"!
      Thanks again for your contribution.

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    2. I am looking for history and info on a 1949 Cadillac Limo once owned by the Balistrieris. Frank’s son, John sold the car in 1990. It has been restored and is in a museum in Michigan. Thanks, Dan

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  13. I do have quite a few. That is if I can remember them.I made and error, I meant to say Steve not Vince, Vince was Steves oldest son and a hell of a nice guy he had another son Rick and a daughter whose name I don't recall.None of them were involved in the family business. It was said that Steve did the hit on Anthony Bienate the pinball man because he wouldn't cooperate. They found him in a shallow grave out at Bong air force base. But I don't think it was ever proven. I had realtives in KC and would fly there often and would see the Milw gang going there, more that once. One time I saw steve walking with his group and spproched him and came close to getting shot by one of the group. Last time I did that! My brother-in law was good friends with Franke Bel not Bal and tended Bar for him in one of the downtown strip joints he owned. I think one was called the Brass Rail. My friends and I went down to see my brother in-law on occaation and would run into Franke Bel in the Bar. He always had two women with him or two men who sat on each side and two more hoods sitting in the booth behind him for protection. The first time my Brother-in Law introduced me I went to shake his hand and one of the hoods waved me off. He wasn't a very pleasent guy, but you never had to buy a drink while he was there. Getting back to Steve DeSalvo when his son got married the reception was at that then fancy Hotel across from the airport. Every mob boss in the country was there. None of them with their wifes. They were with some of most gorgous young women I ever saw in my life. I'm sure the FBI had all our pictures' Gifts were in the form of hundred dollar bills and the groom couldn't fit them in his pockets. I hope you found this interesting. Sorry about the earlier name error but its been a long time.

    A Friend

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    1. Very interesting! Thank you! Did you see the related post I did about Nichelle Nichols, one of the actors on "Star Trek"? She performed at one of Frankie's clubs, but didn't name which one. The club had been remodeled into a fancy place and they hired her out of Chicago to entertain, initially for a couple weeks. Frankie became fond of her and tried to take control of her. This was in the mid-fifties, before Frankie was anointed the "godfather of Milwaukee". She told of a bartender who was very stern about what she was supposed to do, I wonder if it may have been the Brass Rail where your brother-in-law worked? There's a link to the post above and thanks again!

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  14. It very well could of been. Frank picked his bartenders carfully because he was afraid he could be taken down easily by anybody in this position. Although he trusted my broyher-in-law he would some times order drinks and make the girls drink them first.I forgot to mention something strange about Steve DeSalvo. When he died in prison and his body was sent home the mortition said he had a hole drilled into his head to which there was no expanation. The family was very upset to say the least.

    A friend

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    1. Thanks again, I've had a hard time trying to find much info on Steve. At one time I tried to find out when and where he died, but was unable to. I didn't find anything about his family and whether or not he had kids. I think the spelling of his last name gets mixed up and that doesn't help (DiSalvo, DeSalvo, Di Salvo, etc). You have some great info and I appreciate your sharing! Take care, Dan
      Feel free to email me at the address in my sidebar, Dan

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    2. Hi again, I've been doing some further research. Your brother-in-law wouldn't happen to be either Joseph Enea or Rudolph Porchetta? They both worked as bartenders fro Frank at the Downtowner. I don't expect you to reveal personal information, if you are not comfortable with it. Thanks.Dan

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    3. By the way, there is a photo of Steve DeSalvo's house in Gavin Schmitt's new book called "Milwaukee Mafia". It doesn't give the specific address, just says it's on 82nd Street.There are lots of great pictures in it. Dan

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  15. I don't recall a house on 87th unless it was when he was single. I only know of the one home. I intend on buying the book. The two bartenders are not related to me. The name Joseph Enea sounds familiar, I may have met him.Got in alot of trouble with Steves son when we got older. I'll maybe share some of stories some time. Did you know anything about Steves brother?

    A Friend

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  16. No, I know next to nothing of Steve's family. Just a note, Gavin Schmitt's book "Milwaukee Mafia" is mainly full of great pictures of old Milwaukee's third ward and the mob hangouts. About 130 pages. It is very interesting and Gavin has an excellent pretty complete chronology of Milwaukee Mob information you can read for free at his website. Just google his name "the writings of Gavin Schmitt". He has two parts, the old Milwaukee mob previous to 1962 and a second part that covers Balistrieri's reign as boss. There are references to Frankie and Steve in both. And I'd love to read your stories! Thanks, Dan

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  17. Dan,I got the book in the mail today and read it.It cost me $22. As you said it was pretty much all pictures. I found it interesting but disappointing. As the author noted Steve DeSalvo was Franks right hand man but he had very little information on him. I know more about Steve than this fella. Being a excop I expected at least Steves picture. After all he was arrested a few times.I was good friends with a number of Milw. cops and also someone higher up on the Sherrifs Dept.during the 60's,I'll see if I can find out anything about this author.I also know of quite a few relatives of the Mafia gang. Some liked that their older family members were gangsters but most just as soon forget it. Steves family I think was the latter. That Milw. address was possible for him. Its possible he didn't want his family anywhere to close to him or he and his wife may had been seperated but that's not where I would see him. His son and I ran together and got in some trouble but minor compared to his Dad.I'm surprized he didn't mention Steve's brother Jack. He owned a resturant in Cudahy that I'm sure it was a Mafia hangout. It was raided once by the FBI for gambling and they caught the Mayor and police chief and a few more bigshots in it. This author I guess didn't think that was worth printing, allthough he put the Chiefs picture in his book. No spell check so you will have to live with my mistakes.

    A friend

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    1. I am so sorry, I have to take the blame for not explaining that the book was mainly of pictures. Gavin has done a lot of research and has an excellent chronology of events in Milwaukee Mob history that you can read for no cost at his website. Just google "writings of Gavin Schmitt". He really has put a lot of work into it.
      I have found that their hasn't been a lot written about Milwaukee mob, unlike Chicago and other cities. So far, I have been really focused on Frankie but I will try to find more on Steve.
      Once again, thanks for your input and I apologize if I misled you. Personal stories like yours are the very most interesting!
      Thanks, friend!

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  18. Dan, you have nothing to apologize for. It was worth 20 bucks, I just don't think the author did much research 0n Steve who seemed to be a main figure in the mob. I know for instance that Franks nick name was Bell not Bal. Where he got that I don't know And the Cudahy police chief at the time of Franks reign wasn't who he pictured but was Fred Schleater.Oh well! All in all your blog is great and I will keep an eye on it. If I run across something interesting I will let you know. Thanks for the Info.

    A Friend

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  19. I am surprised there is no mention of "Centre Stage" in your writings. I was a Bartender for Frank at both the "Brass Rail", "Centre Stage" and "Sassy Fox", i remember much about the family and knew them well. They always treated me well and had many dinners at "Snugs". I ended my employment with them as Manager and Booking agent for them, changing "Centre Stage" from Dinner Theatre to Concert venue. I booked acts like Rick Nelson, Mel Tillis, Billy Crash Craddock, Charley Pride, Dolly Parton etc. for over two years. Just wondering why this part of the story is left out? Frank was never anything but nice to me and I of course knew there were things going on that i did not get involved in and he always treated me with respect. Was nice to read some of these stories, but there was a kind side of the family also. A Friend of the Family.

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    1. Great comment and thank you so much! Did you read the post about Nichelle Nichols "Star Trek" and her dealings with Frank in the 1950s?
      http://dbridgerhot.blogspot.com/2012/12/part-two-milwaukee-mob-and-lieutenant.html
      I'll bet it was the Centre Stage where she performed! I've been trying to find out, maybe you can fill in the blanks. I'd love to get more info. We'd love to hear your story, thanks, Dan

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    2. I am looking for history and info on a 1949 Cadillac Limo once owned by the Balistrieris. Frank’s son, John sold the car in 1990. It has been restored and is in a museum in Michigan. Remember anything? Thanks, Dan

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  20. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the leisure here! Keep up the excellent work.Also visit my page

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  21. Very interesting blog! I think I got more information from this than from any other source on the web about the Milwaukee Mafia. Do you know anything about Joseph "Camel" P. Caminiti, who has supposedly been the Milwaukee mob boss since 1997? I know the mob in Milwaukee is pretty much extinct but I was interested in his story as he currently lives right down the street from me in Menomonee Falls. He drives a big Cadillac. :)

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I don't have any information on the transformation of power after Balistrieri and his sons were sent to prison, but I'm always doing research and have not gotten to the later years as of yet. But, I'll be posting whatever I can find out, thanks, Dan

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  22. Are there any restaurants or bars where there is still a presence of the members or relatives of the "old mafia" in Milwaukee? Libby's? Angelo's?

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  23. From the research I have done it seems Steve DiSalvo and Frank Stelloh were the "muscle" of the Milwaukee LCN. However, not much is known or written about these two.

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  24. Does anyone know what happened to Jack's son, Michael Desalvo? Is he a movie producer out in LA?

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  25. Are you referring to Steve DiSalvo's son? In the comment section above, a reader stated that he knew DiSalvos's 3 kids Vince, Rick and a daughter. Didn't know a Michael.

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