The virtues of society are vices of the saint. The terror of reform is the discovery that we must cast away our virtues or what we have always esteemed such into the same pit that has consumed our grosser vices.
A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.
What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered
The virtue in most request is conformity.
The Only reward of virtue is virtue.
Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.
Visit our Shakespeare Blog at the address below
Manqué \mahng-KAY\ Short of or frustrated in the fulfillment of one's aspirations or talents—used postpositively. The etymology of manqué is likely to vex left-handers. English speakers picked up manqué directly from French more than two centuries ago, and it ultimately comes from Latin mancus, meaning "having a crippled hand." But in between the Latin and French portions of this word's history came the Italian word manco, which means both "lacking" and "left-handed." Lefties may be further displeased to learn that manqué isn't the only English word with a history that links left-handedness with something undesirable. For example, the word awkward comes from awke, a Middle English word meaning both "turned the wrong way" and "left-handed." And the noun gawk ("a clumsy stupid person") probably comes from a gawk that means "left-handed" in dialectal English.
THE QUOTABLE SERIES BY LITCHFIELD LITERARY BOOKS
Don’t remind the world that it is sick and troubled. Remind it that it is beautiful and free. Mooji
"To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia." - H.L. Mencken
"Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it...It really is worth fighting for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don't risk everything, you risk even more." - Erica Jong
"Sometimes love is stronger than a man's convictions." - Isaac Bashevis Singer
"Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
"Maybe love is like luck. You have to go all the way to find it." - Robert Mitchum
Death and the Turtle
I watched the turtle dwindle day by day,
Get more remote, lie limp upon my hand;
When offered food he turned his head away;
The emerald shell grew soft. Quite near the end
Those withdrawn paws stretched out to grasp
His long head in a poignant dying gesture.
It was so strangely like a human clasp,
My heart cracked for the brother creature.
I buried him, wrapped in a lettuce leaf,
The vivid eye sunk inward, a dull stone.
So this was it, the universal grief:
Each bears his own end knit up in the bone.
Where are the dead? we ask, as we hurtle
Toward the dark, part of this strange creation,
One with each limpet, leaf, and smallest turtle---
Cry out for life, cry out in desperation!
Who will remember you when I have gone,
My darling ones, or who remember me?
Only in our wild hearts the dead live on.
Yet these frail engines bound to mystery
Break the harsh turn of all creation's wheel,
for we remember China, Greece, and Rome,
Our mothers and our fathers, and we steal
From death itself its rich store, and bring it home.
May Sarton is the pen name of Eleanore Marie Sarton (May 3, 1912 – July 16, 1995), an American poet, novelist and memoirist.
Sarton was born in Wondelgem, Belgium (today a part of the city of Ghent). Her parents were science historian George Sarton and his wife, the English artist Mabel Eleanor Elwes. When German troops invaded Belgium after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, her family fled to Ipswich, England where Sarton's maternal grandmother lived.
One year later, they moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where her father started working at Harvard University. She went to school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating from Cambridge High and Latin School in 1929. She started theatre lessons in her late teens, but continued writing poetry. She published her first collection in 1937, entitled
In 1945 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, she met Judy Matlack, who became her partner for the next thirteen years. They separated in 1956, when Sarton's father died and Sarton moved to Nelson, New Hampshire. Honey in the Hive (1988) is about their relationship. In her memoir At Seventy, Sarton reflected on Judy's importance in her life and how her Unitarian Universalist upbringing shaped her. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958.
Sarton later moved to York, Maine. In 1990, she suffered a stroke, severely reducing her ability to concentrate and write. After several months, she was able to dictate her final journals, starting with Endgame, with the help of a tape recorder. She died of breast cancer on July 16, 1995, and is buried in Nelson, New Hampshire.
Despite the quality of some of her many novels and poems, May Sarton's best and most enduring work probably lies in her journals and memoirs, particularly Plant Dreaming Deep (about her early years at Nelson, ca. 1958-68), Journal of a Solitude (1972-1973, often considered her best), The House by the Sea (1974-1976), Recovering (1978-1979) and At Seventy (1982-1983). In these fragile, rambling and honest accounts of her solitary life, she deals with such issues as ageing, isolation, solitude, friendship, love and relationships, lesbianism, self-doubt, success and failure, envy, gratitude for life's simple pleasures, love of nature (particularly of flowers), the changing seasons, spirituality and, importantly, the constant struggles of a creative life. Sarton's later journals are not of the same quality, as she endeavored to keep writing through ill health and by dictation.
Although many of her earlier works, such as Encounter in April, contain vivid erotic female imagery, May Sarton often emphasized in her journals that she didn't see herself as a "lesbian" writer, instead wanting to touch on what is universally human about love in all its manifestations.
When publishing her novel Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing in 1965, she feared that writing openly about lesbianism would lead to a diminution of the previously established value of her work. "The fear of homosexuality is so great that it took courage to write Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing," she wrote in Journal of a Solitude, "to write a novel about a woman homosexual who is not a sex maniac, a drunkard, a drug-taker, or in any way repulsive, to portray a homosexual who is neither pitiable nor disgusting, without sentimentality ..."
After the book's release, many of Sarton's works began to be studied in university level Women's Studies classes, being embraced by feminists and lesbians alike. However, Sarton's work should not be reduced to 'lesbian literature' alone, as her works tackle many deeply human issues of love, loneliness, ageing, nature, self-doubt etc., common to both men and women.
The New York Philharmonic performs Leonard Bernstein’s music for ‘On the Waterfront.’
By JIM FUSILLI
Leonard Bernstein’s music for “On the Waterfront” was his only original film score, and the film’s director, Elia Kazan, didn’t like it. “I think the music hurt that picture,” he said in a 1974 interview. Its critics found it intrusive and explicit: too much Bernstein, who, when the film was released in 1954, was renowned internationally as a conductor, composer and pianist. His “On the Waterfront” score hadn’t been performed in public in its entirety until last week, when the New York Philharmonic did so to accompany the film as part of its “The Art of the Score” series here at Avery Fisher Hall. The performance illustrated that, though Kazan and the critics may have had a minor grievance, the score is extraordinary and elevates a film masterpiece.
Bernstein’s score is worthy of study and celebration. Steeped in 20th-century classical music as well as jazz and the blues, it‘s built primarily on three integrated themes dubbed “Nobility,” “Mob Music” and “Love” by Garth Edwin Sunderland, who adapted Bernstein’s compositions for the Philharmonic. The three themes stand alone or merge in shifting variations to address both the violence and belligerence of an underclass in the grip of criminal forces, as well as the tender, roiling passion between the film’s love interests, Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy and Eva Marie Saint’s Edie Doyle. The latter storyline emerges after Terry, a former prizefighter controlled by the gangsters who run the docks, unwittingly sets up Edie’s brother to be killed. “On the Waterfront” won eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. (Bernstein was nominated, but didn’t win.)
Bernstein seemed to have approached the assignment as if he were writing an opera with dialogue rather than singing. When his music intrudes, it does so mightily; Kazan’s complaint about the booming timpani of the opening murder sequence seems fair: “[It] puts it right away on a level of melodrama,” the director said. But the charge that Bernstein’s music swallowed up the dialogue devalues his emotionally vivid underscoring. His use of subtly transmuted or superimposed motifs is exquisite, as the live performance revealed—even in a venue whose acoustics are ill-suited for this mix of live and pre-recorded sound.
Prior to last week’s performance, Mr. Sunderland confronted technical challenges. While replacing the soundtrack recorded by the Columbia Pictures Orchestra 61 years ago, he discovered cues Bernstein had written that didn’t match the final film, due to Kazan’s tinkering with the music—in some cases, he seems to have just turned it off—or Bernstein having written cues that were too long for some scenes. Mr. Sunderland made the necessary adjustments. Mr. Sunderland also reduced the density of the underscoring by having fewer musicians among the 91-member Philharmonic orchestra play at key moments, thus reducing the volume.
Presented to a sold-out house that cheered the appearance of Bernstein’s name in the credits, the program was tilted in favor of the music, creating a reality that seemed to endorse the view of critics who saw Bernstein as placing the score in a primary, rather than supportive, role. This distortion was reinforced repeatedly, if inadvertently.
As the opening “Nobility” theme unfolded—a lone French horn ascending, descending, struggling to ascend again, a flatted fifth adding a touch of the blues—the stark black-and-white film hovering above the orchestra seemed at a distance, as if arriving from memory. The sound was out of balance, with the orchestra fully present while the dialogue and ambient waterfront noises appeared to come softly out of a funnel. Thus, Bernstein’s most assertive music swamped the dialogue in a way it doesn’t in a theater equipped primarily for film or even at home. The cues derived from the bold, brassy “Mob Music” theme were close to overwhelming.
Yet for the most part, Mr. Sunderland’s decision to reduce the orchestra’s density created the proper equation, and the underscoring revealed that Bernstein valued dialogue. The film’s most poignant moments are enriched, indelibly so, by his delicate use of the flutes and strings in the “Love” theme and its variations. As the “Mob Music” surrenders to an alto sax and strings, the film’s most famous scene—the “Contender” exchange delivered with heartbreaking realism by Brando and Rod Steiger—profits from the anguished underscoring, as the timpani land like punches and the strings cry. The music by the Philharmonic all but sighed in despair.
In the end, the program endorsed Bernstein’s score as well as the integrity and cohesion of Kazan’s powerful film, though an intermission disrupted its flow. In the greatest tribute to Bernstein’s effort, his magnificent music took its place as an integral part of a cooperative effort that long ago resulted in one of film’s finest achievements, an impression that was reinforced on this night.
Mr. Fusilli is the Journal’s rock and pop music critic. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @wsjrock.
De Niro back with Scorsese for Irish mobster film
Bob and Marty
Robert De Niro says he is reuniting with veteran director Martin Scorsese for a long-planned mobster movie called I Heard You Paint Houses aka The Irishmannext year.
Speaking to UK site Digital Spy, De Niro said: "We are doing it . . . We should be doing it sometime next year. We're slowly, slowly getting it in place."
Al Pacino and Joe Pesci are also tipped to star in the new movie, which is based on a book by author Charles Brandt called I Heard You Paint Houses: The Story Of The Biggest Mob Hit In History.
The book tells the real-life story of notorious mobster hitman Frank 'the Irishman' Sheeran, who will be played De Niro. Brandt explains, "To paint a house is to kill a man. The paint is the blood that splatters on the wall and floors.
In the course of nearly five years of recorded interviews, Sheeran confessed to Brandt that he handled more than twenty-five hits for the mob, and for his friend [Teamsters International President Jimmy] Hoffa."
Speaking recently on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, De Niro said of the project: "We have been trying to do [the film] for the last few years, and I think we will do it. It's about a guy who . . . confessed that he killed [Jimmy] Hoffa and [infamous New York gangster] Joe Gallo. I'm gonna play that character. That's something I'm looking forward to very much."
If you’re going to shamelessly rip off The Godfather, this is the way to do it
By Peter Labuza
The Don Is Dead (1973)
When movie fans think of rip-offs, a likely candidate would be the duplicitous named works of The Asylum (Transmorphers, Lord Of The Elves). However, copying blockbuster hits is a practice as old as Hollywood itself. So when Paramount Pictures made one of the biggest cinematic splashes ever with The Godfather in 1972, Universal responded the next year with Richard Fleischer’s The Don Is Dead.
Make no mistake: The Don Is Dead never reaches for the grand portentousness of Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic work. But under the hands of Fleischer, a longtime studio craftsman with a knack for spectacle, the film has its shares of pleasures. The script begins as a mimic, following an Al Pacino-esque character: Frederic Forrest’s sharp but eventually methodically chilling Tony Fargo as a mafia “handyman” who begrudgingly rises through the ranks during a gang war. The title cites the inciting incident, and the three families meet to discuss how the naïve son, Robert Forester’s Frank Regalbuto, will fit into the crime landscape. But these families are also rivals, so an unknown party in desire of power puts Frank’s blond girlfriend in the tempting hands of Don Angelo DiMorra (a rambunctious Anthony Quinn), and a war breaks out.
Where The Godfather relies on an operatic structure, The Don Is Dead embraces a tone closer to the gangster films of the 1930s, moving from location to location with zippy plotting; there’s no sense of reverence and a good deal of sleaze. (Jerry Goldsmith’s score appropriately imitates the giallo films of Italy with a snappy bass guitar rhythm.) Most essentially, the action—a specialty for the director of Violent Saturday, The Vikings, and The Last Run—is shot with acute precision. Fleischer avoids slowing the tempo, but he adds short beats to allow characters to think and choose where to shoot or run despite the chaos around them. This rhythmic pace makes an alley shootout (complete with a giant fruit stand spill) and a show-stopping demolition particularly thrilling, but it also reflects how the film’s most levelheaded characters survive while the hotheads meet their fate.
One of the first major studio directors to embrace widescreen composition, Fleischer works in a 1.85 aspect ratio here with a neat chaos; there’s always a particular order within the frame, but he provides just enough space for some disorder to peek through. The Don is Dead might not take all its themes of loyalty and family as seriously as its white elephant cousin, but this termite flick demands serious attention for the pleasures of its craft.
Availability: The Don Is Dead is available on DVD from Amazon or possibly your local video store/library. It can also be rented or purchased through the major digital services.
10 Mob Movie Actors With Actual Organized Crime Ties
By Scott Russell
Put simply, a good actor is someone who is convincing—someone who viewers believe is actually experiencing a film’s events. So perhaps that’s why so many actors known for playing gangsters onscreen turned out to be shady characters offscreen, as well. Any film buff worth their salt loves a good mob movie, but these actors love mob movies so much that they’ve (allegedly) lived them. So if a mysterious accident should befall yours truly after this list hits the web, consider the following 10 goodfellas and their unsavory associates your primary suspects. Until then, I’ll be looking over both shoulders, investing in a bulletproof vest, and avoiding Italian restaurants, nightclubs and, for good measure, rowboats. Salud!
1. Lenny Montana, The Godfather (1972)
Lenny Montana is something of a one-hit wonder as an actor, known best (or perhaps only) for his role in Francis Ford Coppola’s gangster classic. Yet it turns out that as the fiercely loyal but—four-decade-old spoiler alert—doomed mob enforcer Luca Brasi, Montana was all but playing himself. The six-foot-six, 300-plus-pound actor and former world-wrestling champion busied himself as muscle for New York City’s Colombo crime family in the ’70s. In fact, it was in Montana’s capacity as a bodyguard for one of the family’s young dons that he found himself onThe Godfather set, where Coppola “fell in love” with the not-so-gentle giant and quickly cast him as Brasi. The director famously once asked Montana if he knew how to spin the cylinder of a revolver, to which the enforcer-turned-actor responded, “You kiddin’?”
“[Montana] used to tell us all these things, like, he was an arsonist,” associate producer Gray Frederickson told Vanity Fair. “He’d tie tampons on the tail of a mouse, dip it in kerosene, light it, and let the mouse run through a building. Or he’d put a candle in front of a cuckoo clock, and when the cuckoo would pop out, the candle would fall over and start a fire.” Bettye McCartt, assistant to producer Al Ruddy, had her own mobster moment with Montana: when she broke her watch, he noticed and asked her what kind of replacement she wanted. “I’d like an antique watch with diamonds on it, but I’ll get another $15 one,” McCartt joked. A week later, Montana gifted her an antique diamond wristwatch, placing it on her desk wrapped up in a Kleenex. “The boys sent you this,” he told her. “But don’t wear it in Florida.”
2. James Caan, The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Another famed The Godfather alum, James Caan is known for his role as the hot-headed and ill-fated Sonny Corleone, the proud owner of arguably the most iconic death scene in gangster film history. Even Sonny’s pop had to admit that “Santino was a bad Don, rest in peace.” Butaccording to The Week, Caan himself turned out to be, if not a good don, then a good friend to one: in 2011, the actor offered to stand bail for Andrew “Andy Mush” Russo, a powerful member of the Colombo crime family, after the mobster was picked up by the FBI. Despite Caan’s offer “to put up anything of personal value that the court would accept for bail” or even “fly in and be present if the court should so request,” the presiding magistrate denied Russo’s bail, branding him “a danger to the community” after hearing the underworld figure referred to as a “representante” (or “boss”) in secret recordings.
Andy Mush was not the only member of the Colombo family whom Caan was close to—the actor also once wrote to Brooklyn’s District Attorney to thank him for investigating a corrupt FBI agent who had jailed Joseph “Jo-Jo” Russo, Andy Mush’s son. “Joseph Russo is a dear friend of mine, and I cannot express enough how pleased I am that your office has taken interest and is in pursuit of correcting this problem,” Caan wrote. Caan’s relationship with the Russos—made especially significant by the fact that Andy Mush is the godfather to Caan’s son, Scott—earned him quite a reputation in New York City. “I won Italian of the Year twice in New York, and I’m not Italian,” Caan, who is of Jewish descent, once said. “I was denied in a country club once. Oh, yeah, the guy sat in front of the board, and he says, ‘No, no, he’s a wiseguy, been downtown. He’s a made guy.’”
3. Anthony “Tony” Borgese, Goodfellas (1990), The Sopranos (1999)
As you see, Tony Borgese (stage name: Tony Darrow) has appeared in two of mob drama’s crowning achievements. The actor was born and raised in Brooklyn, the son of a connected “street guy,” and gravitated towards show business at a young age, getting an early break as an aspiring nightclub singer through a connection of his own. Borgese was a friend of Paul “Little Paulie” Vario Jr.—Little Paulie’s father, prominent mobster Paul Vario Sr., got Borgese a gig at the Bamboo Lounge, a well-known hot spot for local wiseguys. Art imitated life years later when Borgese was cast as Sonny Bunz, that very same nightclub’s put-upon, absurdly named owner, in Martin Scorsese’s mob classic Goodfellas. (Paul Sorvino’s character in the film, Paul Cicero, was based on Vario Sr.) Borgese also played crime family captain Lorenzo “Larry Boy” Barese in 14 episodes of HBO’s The Sopranos, a role not quite as true to his life, though not by much. “I knew John Gotti—I knew all those guys from the neighborhood,” Borgese once told the New York Post. “They always treated me well.”
Unfortunately, the long arm of the law did not treat Borgese quite so well. In 2011, the actor faced a multi-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to extortion—Borgese had a hand in a debt collection turned savage assault, perpetrated by heavies from the Gambino family. “I used extortionate means to collect a debt from a person,” Borgese admitted in Brooklyn Federal Court. The unidentified victim, whose jaw and ribs were broken in the beating, allegedly owed money to a car dealership in upstate New York—the dealer reportedly asked Borgese to help him collect the debt. Borgese then turned around and mentioned the debt to a wiseguy friend of his during a round of golf. “I asked him for a favor,” he later explained. A Gambino goon would implicate Borgese in a recording obtained by the FBI: “So Tony meets them. Shows them where the house is. They go to the house, the guy answers the door, they beat the living shit out of him.” Per The Daily Mail:, Borgese, in true gangster fashion, “showed no emotion and refused to comment as he left the courtroom putting on a pair of mirrored sunglasses.”
4. Jerry Orbach, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight (1971)
Jerry Orbach, who passed away in 2004, is famous for having played Detective Lennie Briscoe onLaw & Order for more than a decade. But regardless of his having portrayed a lawman for most of his career, Orbach makes his way onto this list by virtue of one simple, astounding fact: the actor once infamously upheld the time-honored Mafioso practice of omertà, quite literally taking a mob assassin’s lethal secret to his grave. Orbach was an eyewitness to the 1972 murder of Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo, a New York City mob boss and personal friend of his. Their association began when Orbach played a character based on Gallo in 1971’s The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Members of Gallo’s crew were rumored to have sought revenge against the film’s writers, while Crazy Joe himself, back on the New York City streets after a decade-long prison term, was so furious that he demanded to meet the man who had portrayed him on the big screen—a local cop reportedly helped to set up the sit-down. But instead of coming to blows or bullets, Gallo and Orbach, who was a big name on Broadway at the time, became fast friends.
Legend has it Orbach was eating dinner with Crazy Joe when he was gunned down—the mob boss, killed on his 43rd birthday, Apr. 7, 1972, was a high-ranking member of the Profaci family, who were then at war with the Colombos. Orbach and his wife were reported to have joined Gallo at the Copacabana, where they took in a Don Rickles midnight show and “had a marvelous time.”
Although the Orbachs later contended they went home after the show, it’s believed they actually joined Gallo at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy, where Crazy Joe was whacked by a group of Colombo triggermen in the wee hours of the morning. Despite his friendship with Gallo, Orbach refused to cooperate with investigators—homicide detective Joseph Coffey has insisted he was unable to close the Gallo case because of Orbach’s refusal to name the shooters. “You’d think he would have wanted to help us solve it,” Coffey told tabloid The National Enquirer. “However, when I brought him in for questioning Orbach dummied up.” Despite his penchant for roles on the right side of the law, it turns out Jerry Orbach was a standup guy, keeping quiet about the hit until he, too, breathed his last.
5. Robert De Niro, The Godfather: Part II, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale(1993), Analyze This (1999)
We kid you not—even a movie star as massive as Robert De Niro, who handily transcends the mob drama category, has been unafraid to rub elbows with true-blue wiseguys. De Niro worked closely with late Gambino family heavy Anthony “Fat Andy” Ruggiano in preparation for his role in—of all films—Harold Ramis’ screwball comedy Analyze This. Apparently De Niro, who is well-known for his intense approach to role research, felt he needed to first sit down with a murderous mobster before he could properly portray neurotic, fictitious gangster Paul Vitti. Ruggiano’s reputation as a gangland killer is well-documented, mostly thanks to his own son: Anthony Jr. turned on his father during the trial of a Gambino hitman, testifying that Fat Andy “did a lot of work for the family.” “He killed somebody with a fellow named Joe,” Anthony Jr. explained, per the NY Daily News. “He killed a florist in Brooklyn. He killed three people in a warehouse that was robbing crap games. He killed somebody with me … and they had this guy Irish Danny killed behind the Skyway Motel on Conduit Boulevard.” For those of you keeping score at home, that’s seven murders Ruggiano, who died in 1999, was allegedly involved in—he’s also infamous for having OK’d the killing of his own son-in-law.
Though De Niro’s association with a tough customer like Ruggiano is easily explained away as an exceptional actor’s innocent (if overzealous) due diligence, the secrecy surrounding their now-infamous meeting is not. De Niro and Ruggiano were introduced by actor Anthony Corozzo, who was an uncredited extra on Analyze This and a bit player in A Bronx Tale, De Niro’s directorial debut. Corozzo also happens to be an alleged Gambino associate whose brothers are Nicholas “Little Nick” Corozzo, a high-ranking capo, and Joseph Corozzo, a consigliere of much repute. Corozzo himself has a notable reputation: “Anthony is like a liaison with the acting community,” a knowledgeable source told the NY Daily News. However, his nephew, attorney Joseph Corozzo Jr., denied that Corozzo brought Ruggiano to the Analyze This set, while De Niro claimed—through spokesperson Stan Rosenfeld—that the movie was made so long ago, he didn’t recall meeting with Ruggiano at all. “Bob seldom, if ever, discusses his research techniques,” said Rosenfeld. All we’re left with is the mystery, and of course the legendary De Niro’s mile-long mob filmography.
6. Michael Squicciarini, The Sopranos
Only the most studious Sopranos viewers will recognize Michael “Big Mike” Squicciarini, who briefly played low-level enforcer “Big Frank” Cippolina in the show’s second season. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound actor, who died of natural causes in 2001, was determined to hit it big on the HBO mob drama: “Just give me one year on that show—give me nine or 10 episodes—and I’ll be a household name,” Squicciarini, also known as “Scuch,” told the New York Observer. But Scuch, a former debt collector for the DeCavalcante family—the New Jersey mob crew upon which The Sopranos’ DiMeo family is loosely based—who had spent years in prison behind multiple aggravated assault charges, also had a back-up plan, one that would prove deadly. “Let me put it this way,” Squicciarini told the Observer. “If the movie business doesn’t work out, I always got something to fall back on. I got my mask and gun at home.” True to his word, Squicciarini never quite put his mobster past behind him.
In 2002, the actor was posthumously implicated in a cold-blooded gangland execution that had taken place 10 years prior. According to documents filed by Manhattan District Attorney John Hillebrecht (via The Guardian), Squicciarini and others lured a rival drug dealer named Ralph Hernandez into a Brooklyn nightclub owned by DeCavalcante capo Joseph “Joe Pitts” Conigliaro. Conigliaro, who was wheelchair-bound due to a paralyzing wound sustained in a prior shootout, pulled a piece on Hernandez and shot him in the forehead. The capo was then wheeled over to the dying drug dealer, whom he shot thrice more in the head. Conigliaro’s henchmen rolled Hernandez’s body up in a carpet, dumped it in an abandoned lot nearby and returned to clean the blood-stained nightclub floor. One of these men was likely Squicciarini, though his exact role in the killing is uncertain. Scuch was linked to the crime by sources who knew his nickname, and was ultimately implicated by witnesses who, in an absurd twist of fate, recognized him in aSopranos clips shown to them by investigators. Bada bing!
7. Alex Rocco, The Godfather
The Godfather was Alex Rocco’s big break, and as bespectacled Las Vegas big shot Moe Greene, he made his relatively small role count. Lines like “I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!” made Moe a memorable character in a film full of them. Rocco’s character’s unforgettable death during the film’s climactic christening montage even spawned a gangster film trope all its own: the “Moe Greene Special.” And though the recently deceased Rocco, born Alexander F. Petricone Jr., could not have claimed the criminal underworld clout of, say, a Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, upon whom Moe Greene is said to have been based, he did make a few mobster bones of his own. The Cambridge, Mass., native had a history with Boston’s notorious Winter Hill Gang, the predominantly Irish-American organized crime confederation that lists such infamous gangsters as James “Whitey” Bulger (portrayed by Johnny Depp in Scott Cooper’sBlack Mass) among its members.
In 1961, a young Rocco was arrested in connection to the murder of Bernard “Bernie” McLaughlin, a formidable Irish gang leader from Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood. A witness told authorities that Winter Hill Gang boss James “Buddy” McLean shot McLaughlin down in broad daylight while Rocco acted as the getaway driver. Both men were arrested on suspicion of murder, but a grand jury would decline to indict them. Four years later, McLean was murdered, a casualty of the Winter Hill Gang’s ongoing war with McLaughlin’s gang. Meanwhile, while Rocco was serving jail time for his part in a brawl in a Somerville diner, his wife borrowed new Winter Hill Gang leader Howard T. Winter’s car, somehow escaping injury when a bomb planted in the vehicle exploded. Rocco and his wife divorced, and he left Boston—and his life of crime—behind. “I had to get out of the Boston area, so I flipped a coin and said, ‘Heads Miami, tails California,’” Rocco told the Boston Globe. “I was in my mid-20s and came out here with no training. Acting wasn’t even in my mind.”
8. George Raft, Scarface (1932), Each Dawn I Die (1939)
What we’re going to do right now is go back … way back, to a time when Scarface was in Chi-Town black and white, not South Beach neon. During that faraway era, George Raft was thegangster actor, a mob-movie icon—you know the guy: chewing on a toothpick, flipping a nickel, etc. And as a childhood friend of legendary New York City Irish mobster Owney Madden, Raft brought plenty of authenticity to the archetypical character he created. Before he was an influential actor, Raft was actually Madden’s personal driver, and, oddly enough, a talented dancer—“George did the fastest and most exciting Charleston I ever saw,” Fred Astaire once said. It was just before leaving to go on tour with a traveling show run by Madden that Raft decided to audition for a role in Howard Hawks’ Scarface, which was loosely based on the exploits of crime kingpin Al Capone. Hawks took a liking to Raft’s “unique look” and cast him as Guino Rinaldo, Antonio Camonte’s best friend—the character was based on Capone’s personal bodyguard, Frank Rio. Raft lit up the screen as Rinaldo, the suave yet lethal, coin-flipping triggerman. Scarface was Raft’s first hit, but during the illustrious film career that followed, the actor was never able to escape his shady reputation.
It certainly didn’t help his notoriety that Raft rubbed elbows with a veritable who’s-who of made men over the years, including a pair of organized crime titans in Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. But remarkably, Raft’s mob connections once saved fellow gangster-film legend James Cagney’s life. In his autobiography Cagney on Cagney, the actor claimed his life was threatened by the mob while he was president of the Screen Actors Guild. Per TCM, Raft intervened with his gangster associates on Cagney’s behalf, and was able to have the hit called off. It’s said that Raft also did the same for Gary Cooper after the Western star’s romantic dalliances earned him a spot on a mobster’s hit list. Raft’s fame magnified his influence, making him an idol of many of the era’s actual gangsters. But for his part, Raft did his damnedest to distance himself from the mob in the public eye, insisting that his gangland pals were merely acquaintances. “I’ve never been locked up, I’ve never taken a drink, I never hurt anybody, and I gave all my money away,” Raft said. “So how come I got this bum reputation?” Ill-reputed or no, Raft managed to dodge a life of crime while helping to establish the gangster film as a Hollywood mainstay that endures to this day.
9. Gianni Russo, The Godfather
This record is broken: Gianni Russo, who got his start with a key role in The Godfather, was all kinds of mobbed-up off-camera. It’s safe to say the previously unknown Russo would never have been picked to portray Carlo Rizzi, the gangster who betrays Sonny Corleone, without the help of his organized crime connections. Legend has it that the many unknown actors who hoped to join the Godfather cast opted to boast about their mobster bona fides, rather than highlight their everyday professional credentials, and it was this approach that brought Russo to the attention of the film’s producers. The actor commissioned a camera crew to shoot his own audition tape, in which he acted out the roles of Michael, Sonny and Carlo. “So Bettye McCartt, Al Ruddy’s assistant, tells me that Ruddy loves exotic cars and Oriental women,” Russo later recounted toVanity Fair. Acting on that tip, he enlisted an Asian showgirl to drive his Bentley from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and place his audition video in Ruddy’s hands personally. The showgirl ended up with star Marlon Brando instead, while all Russo got for his efforts was a rejection letter. But Russo got his opportunity when producers were unable to gain access to a Staten Island set they wanted to use as Don Corleone’s home. According to associate producer Gray Frederickson, Russo “talked to a few people, and suddenly the compound was available.” Russo, who was then cast as Carlo, later claimed that Joe Colombo himself had insisted the actor be rewarded with a prominent role.
Russo has no shortage of such claims, and if even half of what he says is true, the man has a personal history deserving of a gangster film all its own. The Gianni Russo story begins with St. Anthony, for whom he lights five candles each day in thanks for having survived polio as a child. The disease left Russo with what he calls “a gimp arm,” leading him to sell ballpoint pens outside a Fifth Avenue hotel. Each day, Irish mob boss Frank Costello—portrayed unforgettably by Jack Nicholson in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed—would pass by, and Costello soon got into the habit of giving Russo a buck or two. One day the gangster gave Russo a cool hundred bucks instead, instructing him to meet him at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel the next morning. “From that day on, I was with him every day,” Russo says. This is just one of the many near-mythical stories in Russo’s arsenal—the actor also claims that his great-grandfather, Angelo Russo, was a famous Sicilian mobster; that he has a close connection to such notorious organized crime figures as John Gotti and Carlo Gambino; that he has slept with more famous women than he can count, including Marilyn Monroe; that he has killed three men, including a member of the Medellín cartel who stabbed him with the shard of a broken Cristal bottle at the now-defunct Gianni Russo’s State Street casino in Las Vegas; that he has beaten 23 federal indictments and “never slept in a jail.” At any rate, Russo blurs the line between fact and fiction, just like so many classic mobster movies.
10. Tony Sirico, The Godfather: Part II, Goodfellas, The Sopranos
Tony Sirico first tasted the big time with small roles in a pair of gangster classics before rocketing to fame as The Sopranos fan favorite Paul “Paulie Walnuts” Gualtieri. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: it’s difficult to tell the factual man from the fictional one, as Sirico’s rap sheet is nearly as extensive as his IMDb page. But judging by a 1990 LA Times profile, Sirico, born and raised in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, was very much a product of his environment. “Where I grew up, every guy was trying to prove himself. You either had to have a tattoo or a bullet hole. I had both,” a grinning Sirico told the Times. Before becoming an actor, he was arrested 28 times, first for stealing nickels from a newsstand at the tender age of seven. Sirico went on to become a notorious stick-up artist, getting pinched time and time again, and serving two prison terms on weapons and armed robbery charges. But all of those run-ins with the law were essentially just auditions, to hear him tell it: “I got 28 arrests and only two convictions, so you gotta admit I have a pretty good acting record,” Sirico boasts. It was during his second stretch inside, while watching a group of ex-con performers, that he decided to give acting a shot: “I watched ’em and I thought, ‘I can do that.’”
It was Sirico’s extensive finger-on-trigger experience that ultimately made him a success as a silver screen gangster. During his armed robbery days, Sirico was a fast-rising associate of the Colombo family, serving under notorious boss Carmine “Junior” Persico, per Cosa Nostra News. (Incidentally, Sirico’s wiseguy nickname was also Junior.) The Sopranos even makes reference to Sirico’s pinstriped past—in “The Blue Comet,” the series’ penultimate episode, Paulie Walnuts recalls, “I lived through the seventies by the skin of my nuts when the Colombos were goin’ at it.” And it’s rumored that Sirico agreed to play Paulie only with the assurance that his character would never become an informant. “Listen, Junior was a genuine tough guy,” says James Caan, a long-standing acquaintance of Sirico’s who ran in some of the same organized-crime circles. “But in a funny way, now that he’s straight, he can behave like a wiseguy. He’s been able to romanticize his past, throw in a few bangles and sparkles and use it as an actor. What you see is really him—he just adds a little pepper, a little cayenne, to spice it up.” Fellow Colombo associate Caan’s words ring true: Paulie Walnuts is nothing if not a fiery, unforgettable, authentic character. “I feel good about what I’ve accomplished,” Sirico says. “I came from another world—and now I’m an actor.”
Who’s your favorite gangster-turned-actor? Leave a comment—take the cannoli.
Scott Russell lives in Atlanta and studies writing at the Savannah College of Art & Design. You can follow him on Twitter and his website.
Was Goodfellas the Last Truly Great Mobster Film?
Twenty-five years later, Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece is unequaled in its understanding of the horrifying realities—and dark appeal—of a life of organized crime.
• DAVID SIMS
Goodfellas, released 25 years ago today, might be the last great mob film: Not only did it help redefine the genre, but it also spawned many worthy successors (and many more pale imitators). Even Martin Scorsese’s follow-ups in the genre,Casino and The Departed, bear obvious debts to his 1990 masterpiece, which upended every concept of nobility and honor in organized crime without undermining its appeal. When Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) tells the audience he “always wanted to be a gangster,” it’s easy to understand why. But as much fun as the movie is, viewers also understand why they don’t want to be gangsters: because they’re merciless, violent crooks.
Scorsese was drawn to the true story of mobster-turned-informant Hill, and the biography written by Nicholas Pileggi, because he thought it captured the life of gangsters better than any filmed depiction. The Mafia’s cinematic language was steeped in The Godfather movies and their knock-offs: stately, operatic, bound up in codes of samurai-like honor. Then came Goodfellas: a story of a Mafia hanger-on, a wise guy who hustled drugs and hijacked trucks, hung out playing cards in Queens clubs, and helped bury the corpses created by the psychopaths he hung out with. There was no sense of honor outside of asking permission to kill certain people. And yet that cinematic world was still alluring, which is what makes a film about unrepentant monsters such a blast to watch again and again, 25 years on.
There’s almost no part of Goodfellas that hasn’t been analyzed to death since 1990. There’s Liotta’s hilariously self-satisfied narration, which offers no apology or remorse as the bodies pile up. There’s the kinetic, disconnected approach to plotting, zipping between vaguely related scenes with an intensity that belies its 140-minute running time. Contrast that with The Godfather films, which were intricately plotted and ended in epic crescendos of violence. Instead,Goodfellas simply follows Henry and his pals Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) as they hang out, occasionally rip off truck and airplane shipments, and attack people, either for business or nothing at all.
Pesci, who won an Oscar for his role, is Goodfellas’s most memorable actor—so much so that nearly every line he speaks has passed into total cliché. But it’s remarkable how all of the film’s dramatic tension is centered around his character Tommy, who can snap at a moment’s notice. Though there are larger stories told in Goodfellas (the most notable being the famed Lufthansa heist), they don’t really matter to Henry’s life and safety. Even when he goes to jail for four years, he eats like a king (who can forget the clove of garlic sliced with a razor blade), and he ends up arrested not because of the millions earned in the Lufthansa heist, but for a cocaine-dealing business he ran on the side.
Henry is the closest thing audiences get to an anti-hero: His mild shock at every pointless murder feels like moral outrage in the mobster world.
It’s all so gloriously pointless, and yet Scorsese makes the mobster’s life feel like that of a god among men. Liotta has probably never been better—wormy (his braying laughter at Tommy’s bad jokes is wonderfully hideous) and yet somehow sympathetic. Perhaps because he’s placed alongside two truly cold-blooded men, Henry is the closest thing the audience gets to an anti-hero in the film: His mild shock at every pointless murder feels like moral outrage in the mobster world. That’s a dynamic David Chase understood when laying out the world of his TV show The Sopranos (the only true Mafia masterpiece produced since Goodfellas): By making his protagonist Tony a slightly more reasonable person than his violent, thick-headed associates, the character seemed infinitely more relatable.
Scorsese has since come back time and again to the world of crime. The Departed, which won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director (Goodfellas was nominated but lost to Dances With Wolves), has the same energetic storytelling style but applies it to a more intricate plot of triple agents and informants. The Wolf of Wall Street comes closest to Goodfellas’s fascinatingly blurry territory of depiction vs. endorsement, and stirred up debate in 2013 for making the life of a homophobic, misogynistic, and heartless white-color criminal look like a luxurious commercial. Goodfellas has the same dark heart, understanding that even as the audience watches on with horror, there’s some tiny part of them that has completely surrendered to the madness and the fun. That was Goodfellas’s original genius and, even in retrospect, it seems impossible to equal.
HOW GOODFELLAS BECAME SCORSESE'S MOST MISUNDERSTOOD MASTERPIECE
BY MATTHEW ENG
It's not Scorsese, it's you.
Written on the occasion of Goodfellas' 25th anniversary.
In 2013, New Yorker television critic Emily Nussbaum posited a provocative but necessary theory on the joyless rise of the "bad fan," i.e. the die-hard viewers who have turned prestige-laden protagonists like Tony Soprano, Walter White, and Don Draper, among other middle-aged, middle-class, and — importantly — white male leads, into cultural idols. If these "bad fans" had their way, Breaking Bad would be comprised entirely of Bryan Cranston taking names and threatening competitors in huskily menacing whisper,The Sopranos would be nothing more than grisly offings and Bada Bing! scenes, and Mad Men would be reduced to an endless loop of Don Draper bedding nameless sixties bimbos in a pillowy cloud of Lucky Strike smoke. (And, needless to say, Skyler, Carmela, and Betty — that astonishing but oft-denigrated triptych of “Difficult” Wives — would be nowhere in sight.) This bluntly "badass" form of idolatry has threatened to scrub out the warts-and-all subtleties of these prodigious shows, diminishing these landmark one-hour classics to empty, reflex exercises in machismo.
Even though the "bad fan" phenomenon has gained traction as a TV mainstay in recent years with the rise of the cable drama antihero, its seeds have been deeply sown and its roots stretch as far back as James Cagney, that original toughie, smacking a grapefruit square into Mae Clarke's face in 1931’s touchstone gangster drama Public Enemy. That notorious scene — played straight but frequently misinterpreted as comedy — can be found on YouTube, with a hotbed of top comments that each grossly summarize typical "bad fan" reactions: "That was supremely funny," "Ah the good ol days hahaha," and, most chillingly, "She'll stay with him. And that's why men rule the world.” At what point does inappropriate appreciation become stomach-turning misogyny?
Of all genres, it is the gangster drama that most often attracts hero-worship of this troublingly hardline variety. Moviegoers have revered the gangster archetype since the dawn of Hollywood: these were the days when a pug-faced character actor like Edward G. Robinson could be a legitimate leading man so long as the role was a snarling heavy and Bogart was still playing the B-movie hood, an unsavory image he never entirely shed and which was indelibly emulated and further solidified by Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless. Viewers, mainly but not solely male, cling to these types as movie-certified masculine ideals, building a bridge that connects Bogie, Cagney, and Robinson to Scarface, The Untouchables, and the lad-land crime comedies of Guy Ritchie’s early oeuvre, not to mention the holy troika of Coppola's Godfathers.
But of all these films—many great, other less so—it’s Goodfellas, Martin Scorsese’s majestic mob masterpiece about real-life hood turned Witness Protected informant Henry Hill, that has gained the most unsettlingly off-base appreciation from some of its most avid loyalists, the type who know every named mobster’s nickname and can recite them in the order they’re introduced.
Goodfellas is one of my favorite films, a stylish, daring, and endlessly engaging tour de force that maybe isn’t Scorsese’s finest masterpiece — and with a résumé like that, who’s complaining? — but which nonetheless draws me in and reveals a little more of its nasty, hypnotizing self with each and every new viewing. ButGoodfellas is also the Scorsese masterpiece whose enduring pop cultural legacy leaves me the most frustrated, as many of its (loudest) fans continue to regard it as something like a pure comic diversion, which it occasionally is, but often connotatively so, as in that brilliantly sick non-sequential opening sequence, which acquires deeper, darker, and sharper significance once we catch up to it within the chronological frame of the film. Even worse than the straight-out comedy label, though, is the irksome tendency to view Goodfellas as nothing more than an “ultimate male fantasy.”
At least that’s the attitude that was assumed by New York Post film critic Kyle Smith, who back in June penned an infuriating piece entitled — and, honestly, I feel my eye twitch just thinking about this title — “Women are not capable of understanding ‘Goodfellas.’”Excusing the fact that the film was actually cut and shaped by awoman (that would be Scorsese’s longtime collaborator and editing legend Thelma Schoonmaker), Smith’s article basically suggests that what Sex and the City was for women (i.e. escapist, wish-fulfillment art, which it wasn't), Goodfellas represents for men, a dunderheaded argument so hoarily out-dated that I’m pretty sure it would make a caveman groan. It’s not a novel opinion and — to an extent — I understand it. What could be more desirous to the standard male viewer than a glitzy-gritty vision of virile power involving guns, gals, and an endless cascade of cash, unencumbered by care or consequence?
That’s an entertaining movie, but it’s also not Goodfellas, which fans like Smith seem intent on branding, with misplaced nostalgia, as some sort of “OG male buddy flick,” as though Goodfellas were a precursor to The Hangover or Scorsese had made Diner, but with whackings and wiseguys. Smith enthuses that, to guys, Goodfellas’ central trio of conspirators — Ray Liotta’s Henry, Robert De Niro’s Jimmy Conway, and Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito — are “heroes” and “[rulers] of the roost,” buying into the myth of lawless heroism that these men ascribe to themselves rather than what is being suggested with more subtlety by the filmmakers. This is Bad Fan Behavior 101. When it comes to reactions like Smith’s, one must always inevitably wonder if the director (or showrunner) is to blame for these dubious takeaways, as Breaking Bad mastermind Vince Gilligan recently had to answer for when actress Anna Gunn become the target of death threats over her intensely divisive performance as Skyler White, or when Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev claimed that the show had taught him to, among other things, successfully dispose of a body.
In instances like these, it’s hard to blame an artist like Gilligan, whose show never fully fed into the outlaw adulation that its fans so passionately projected on to Walter White and who can hardly be accused of creating a violent provocation, much less a criminal instruction guide. Scorsese, too, doesn’t warrant the blame for the chauvinistic vein in which Goodfellas’ bad fans have appropriated the film’s legacy to fit the superficially cool story they’d like it to be. (And between Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ, Scorsese has infamously seen his share of director-shaming misinterpretations.) Scorsese is, quite simply, far too talented and too intelligent a filmmaker to have made the movie Goodfellas is labeled as. In his eyes and in the eyes of those searching for more than just compulsive entertainment, which Scorsese provides in spades, Goodfellas is — in its most basic form — a gutsy and rigorous immersion into the life of a desperate, cantankerous man who continually goes to great and often dangerous means to achieve his all-consuming desire of money, power, and glory, which is a narrative that could be applied to any number of American movies, from Citizen Kane to Birdman.
There has always been a certain level of ornamental excess toGoodfellas and Scorsese’s filmmaking in general (that tracking shot! that soundtrack!) that often threatens to gloss over the ethical decrepitude that dwells at the film’s core with pop-colored, bullet-riddled grandeur. But Goodfellas isn’t a party. As Roger Ebert, who "got" Goodfellas and Scorsese better than almost any critic and famously trumpeted the film over The Godfather as a different but more accomplished depiction of organized crime, noted in his originalreview, “[The] camaraderie is so strong… But the laughter is strained and forced at times, and sometimes it’s an effort to enjoy the party…”
Even as Goodfellas coats a glittering sheen over most of Michael Ballhaus' marvelously multilayered images, Scorsese delves pretty deeply into the foolishly warped mind of Henry Hill, whom he pegs almost instantly as a craven, class-A manipulator. Liotta, who is truly the unsung hero of Goodfellas' success, is Scorsese’s invaluable accomplice in this regard. There is far too much bugginess in Henry’s eyes and too much flop sweat that accumulates on Liotta’s forehead throughout the film to make Henry a hero, not to mention the fact that he’s an abusive and unfaithful husband to his persistent wife, Karen (Lorraine Bracco), who isn’t merely the emasculating “ball-buster” that Smith pins her as, but rather a spunky, idealistic woman who unravels under her husband’s carelessness before realizing that blithe ignorance and casual culpability are her only possible options. Meanwhile, Henry’s relentless pursuit of criminal aims allows him to become the type of made man he deified as a boy, a transformation that is firmly rooted in the heroic images of his departed youth, when he was initially recruited into mob society. In many ways, Henry is the prototypical Goodfellas bad fan.
From there, Scorsese and co-writer Nicholas Pileggi are ultimately less interested in creating heroes than in deconstructing Henry and his friends. Tommy, the volatile live-wire immortalized by an Oscar-winning Pesci, has become Goodfellas’ iconic character, for better and for worse. Pesci’s classic “Funny how?” interrogation can be recited with stunning alacrity by any number of fans, who quote it like a comic routine when it’s a really a self-conscious tantrum.
Pesci’s character is always cited as “unpredictable,” but Scorsese and Pileggi patently delineate Tommy’s violent outbursts (the aforementioned monologue, the murders of Billy Batts and “Spider”) as excessive defense mechanisms against potentially humiliating forces that seek to call his authority into question. “Jimmy the Gent” is one of De Niro’s most understated characters, whom we too often misremember as a coolly elegant portrait of gangsterdom, even though Jimmy’s clearly enough of a frantic creep to gutlessly set up Karen near the film’s finish. And Liotta gets saddled with what has to be one of the most pathetic sights in cinema history, as Henry and Karen shrilly sob on their bedroom floor after the latter throws out some leftover cocaine that was their only source of profit. It’s an extended scene that Scorsese makes purposely uncomfortable, forcing an audience tempted to root for Henry to see what such “heroism” looks like in the harsh light of reality.
Scorsese possesses and expresses razor-sharp ideas about his characters and their riskily illicit circumstances, their despicable behavior, and their frequently self-imposed stresses, but he has never been a filmmaker particularly interested in passing decisive judgment on his characters, or, more specifically, gravely moralizing their actions so as to make his story totally edifying or disciplinary, which perhaps explains why so many viewers have frequently latched onto Goodfellas’ surface appearance, ignoring the ironic value beneath it all. In an essay appreciation of Pietro Germi’s Divorce, Italian Style, in which Marcello Mastroianni’s Sicilian sad sack attempts to off his suffocating wife, Scorsese described Germi's pitch-black comedy of errors, manners, and re-marriage as “a very moral film, but there’s nothing superior about it because it’s criticizing a whole culture rather than an individual,” a particularly trenchant task that Scorsese’s film also boldly tackles.
Underneath the polished photography and jukebox palette ofGoodfellas, lies a penetrating critique of the extremes of estrangement, chauvinism, cruelty, criminality, erotomania, and regression that certain communities, cultures, and countries will allow their men as they ceaselessly chase after their own selfish desires. It’s a brutally urgent analysis that I suspect will continue to be ignored by the film’s biggest and most oblivious admirers. Then again, maybe they aren't oblivious at all to the movie's permeating message. Maybe they’re just unnerved by how true it still rings.
Why Do We Admire Mobsters?
BY MARIA KONNIKOVA
In 1947, when Elaine Slott was sixteen, she travelled with her mother and sister to visit her aunt and uncle in Florida. The day after they arrived, however, Elaine and her aunt boarded another plane by themselves. Elaine soon found herself speeding to Cuba, where the family had business interests. Elaine remembers that night well. After they landed, she and her aunt left Havana and drove for several hours into areas that seemed increasingly remote. It was very late and very dark when they finally arrived at a stately house. Along with a few guests, a number of family members, including Elaine’s uncle, had gathered there for a dinner party. Their host, who had been cooking pasta, emerged from the kitchen wearing a white apron. He introduced himself to Elaine as Charlie.
Over dinner, Charlie was charming. He personally brought out and served all of the food. After appetizers came the pasta, and Elaine found herself staring down at a plate she had assumed was meant to be shared by everyone at the table. “I could never eat all this!” she declared. Charlie laughed and proposed a wager: he’d give her two dollars if she ate it all. Another guest immediately joined in: another two dollars for the girl. Elaine had no pocket money, and wanted to buy some souvenirs for her sister, who was still back in Florida. So she ate the whole plate. There were cheers. She was paid in full. On her way home, she bought the souvenirs. She didn’t give it another thought.
Several weeks later, a photograph in a newspaper caught her eye. It showed a man who seemed intriguingly familiar. Above it was a headline about the infamous Charles “Lucky” Luciano. He’d been captured in Cuba and was being deported to Italy. “Ma, why didn’t you tell me who it was?” Elaine demanded. “It’s not important that you know everything,” her mother replied. Elaine shouldn’t have been too surprised: the uncle she visited in Florida was Meyer Lansky. That night, he’d sent his niece and his wife to see his best friend.
A few weeks ago, Slott, a diminutive, delicate octogenarian, recalled those days wistfully over steak at the première of AMC’s “The Making of the Mob,” a docu-drama about the early years of organized crime, when Lucky, Meyer, and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel ruled the land. She remembers Charlie as a gentleman and her uncle as a charismatic, loving person who cared deeply for his family. Meyer Lansky’s grandson, Meyer Lansky II, a fifty-eight-year-old former casino operator who was sitting at the same table, said that he felt the same way. He remembers walking with his grandpa on the beach in Miami and listening to his business advice. His granddad was a kind, peaceful man—and, Lansky II is quick to stress, he never got his hands dirty. (Or so it’s said.)
It’s no surprise that family members paint idyllic pictures of their mobster ancestors. Every mobster was also a father, brother, uncle, or grandfather, and—at least theoretically—his villainy didn’t spill over into those roles. The real question is why so many other people feel the same way. We don’t glamorize all violent crime; no one holds the Son of Sam or Charles Manson in high regard. (It’s hard to imagine their descendants gathering for a celebratory dinner at a steakhouse.) So why are Al Capone, Lansky, Arnold Rothstein, Luciano, and their ilk held up as mythic figures, even heroes of a sort, not just by their families but by the general public? Why are members of the Italian mafia treated more like celebrities than unsavory criminals?
Part of the answer is historical. According to James Finckenauer, an emeritus professor at Rutgers University and the author of “Mafia and Organized Crime: A Beginner’s Guide,” the glamorization of the mob started with Prohibition. In the early years of the twentieth century, mobsters were just small-time operators. Then came the Volstead Act, which outlawed alcohol. “One of the side effects was to solidify organized crime and create a real, international organization out of what was, in essence, small criminal groups,” Finckenauer told me. Because Prohibition was hugely unpopular, the men who stood up to it were heralded as heroes, not criminals. “It was the start of their image as people who can thumb their noses at bad laws and at the establishment,” Finckenauer said. Even when Prohibition was repealed and the services of the bootleggers were no longer required, that initial positive image stuck. Books like Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather” communicated the idea that mobsters were men who cared about the happiness of their communities and who lived by their own codes of honor and conduct, impervious to the political whims of the establishment.
The specific immigrant identities of the original mobsters also made them easier to admire. With the significant exceptions of Meyer Lansky and Arnold Rothstein, the original high-profile mafiosos were, by and large, Italians. And, even as late as the nineteen-twenties, Italians and Italian-Americans were often considered “other” by much of the rest of the country. In fact, many people subscribed to what criminologists call the alien conspiracy theory of organized crime—the idea, as Finckenauer puts it, that “Southern Italians came to us with evil intent to create criminal enterprise on our shores.” (Today, Donald Trump advances a similar theory about immigrants from south of the border.) That outsized sense of Italians’ otherness, combined with the idea that the mob’s rigid rules precluded the involvement of outsiders, made mobsters less threatening. “By and large, people are under the impression that if they don’t have any dealings with stuff the mob deals with—no drugs, no borrowing money, no illegal gaming—they have nothing to fear from organized crime,” Finckenauer said. Because their violence seemed directed at their own communities, not anyone else’s, it was easy to romanticize.
Social psychologists have long distinguished between “in-groups” and “out-groups.” Out-groups come in different guises. There are some with whom we feel absolutely no affinity; often, we separate ourselves from them by putting them down. But other out-groups are enough like our in-group that, although their identity remains separate from ours, they seem like less of a threat, It is to this second category that the mafia belongs. People who see themselves as “all-American” can be fascinated by Italian mobsters, and even admire them, without worrying that their lives will come into contact with mobsters’ lives. It’s no coincidence that the other glamorized mob figures in the U.S. are Irish: from “The Departed” to the forthcoming Whitey Bulger biopic “Black Mass,” they’re presented as similar enough for sympathy, yet different enough for a false sense of safety to creep in. For reasons of language, culture, and race, members of the Chinese and Russian mob have proven harder to romanticize.
Ultimately, the mob myth depends on psychological distance, a term coined by the New York University psychologist Yaacov Trope to describe the phenomenon of mental distancing that takes place when we separate ourselves from events, people, emotions, or concepts. In some cases, that distance comes naturally. As painful events recede into the past, our perceptions soften; when we physically remove ourselves from emotionally disturbing situations, our emotions cool. In other cases, we need to deliberately cultivate distance—to “gain perspective.” Trope likens it to the old cliché of missing the forest for the trees: you can wander around in the trees forever or, through training or external intervention, realize that you need to step back to see the full vista.
Once attained, psychological distance allows us to romanticize and feel nostalgia for almost anything. It provides a filter, eliminating some details and emphasizing others. We speak of the good old days, hardly ever of the bad. Psychological distance is, among other things, a coping mechanism: it protects against depression and its close cousin, rumination, which pushes us to dwell too long on unpleasant details from the past instead of moving forward. When, instead, we smooth the edges of the past, remembering it as better than it was, we end up hoping for an equally happy future.
But psychological distance doesn’t require time. Under the right conditions, it can flourish in the moment. The psychological distance provided by “otherness” mimics the distance provided by time. It’s not a phenomenon unique to the mafia. It’s easy to glamorize warfare when there is no draft, or to idealize anyone whose life style seems risky and edgy without putting you, personally, at risk—spies and secret agents, rebels without a cause, the beatniks of Jack Kerouac’s “On The Road.” As long as there isn’t an easy-to-recall, factual reminder that brings us down out of the clouds of romanticism, we can glamorize at will. The lives of serial killers offer those concrete reminders: they lurk in neighborhoods like ours, threatening people who could be us. The mob is more abstract: it’s a shadowy, vague “organization” whose illicit dealings don’t really impinge on us. Abstraction lends itself to psychological distance; specificity kills it.
We grant mobsters dignity because we enjoy contemplating the general principles by which they are supposed to have lived: omertà, standing up to unfair authority, protecting your own. Those principles are what you see and hear when you watch Lansky and Luciano’s golden years reënacted in the “The Making of the Mob,” or when you follow Whitey Bulger’s takeover of Boston in “Black Mass.” In the same way, when Meyer II or Elaine Slott speaks to me about the past, I hear echoes of greatness—of lofty ideals and grand ambition, of important principles that the cold world didn’t always uphold. That dinner in Cuba is recalled as an illustration of friendship and family: Lucky was just a man making good, torn from the people he loved so the U.S. could make a political statement. Because they’re related to him, Lucky Luciano’s familiars see him as a principled man worthy of our admiration instead of a criminal deserving of our disdain. Psychological distance allows us to see him this way, too. It makes us part of the family.
HERE'S MY LATEST BOOK.....
This is a book of short stories taken from the things I saw and heard in my childhood in the factory town of Ansonia in southwestern Connecticut.
Most of these stories, or as true as I recall them because I witnessed these events many years ago through the eyes of child and are retold to you now with the pen and hindsight of an older man. The only exception is the story Beat Time which is based on the disappearance of Beat poet Lew Welch. Decades before I knew who Welch was, I was told that he had made his from California to New Haven, Connecticut, where was an alcoholic living in a mission. The notion fascinated me and I filed it away but never forgot it.
The collected stories are loosely modeled around Joyce’s novel, Dubliners (I also borrowed from the novels character and place names. Ivy Day, my character in “Local Orphan is Hero” is also the name of chapter in Dubliners, etc.) and like Joyce I wanted to write about my people, the people I knew as a child, the working class in small town America and I wanted to give a complete view of them as well. As a result the stories are about the divorced, Gays, black people, the working poor, the middle class, the lost and the found, the contented and the discontented.
Conversely many of the stories in this book are about starting life over again as a result of suicide (The Hanging Party, Small Town Tragedy, Beat Time) or from a near death experience (Anna Bell Lee and the Charge of the Light Brigade, A Brief Summer) and natural occurring death. (The Best Laid Plans, The Winter Years, Balanced and Serene)
With the exception of Jesus Loves Shaqunda, in each story there is a rebirth from the death. (Shaqunda is reported as having died of pneumonia in The Winter Years)
Sal, the desperate and depressed divorcee in Things Change, changes his life in Lunch Hour when asks the waitress for a date and she accepts. (Which we learn in Closing Time, the last story in the book) In The Arranged Time, Thisby is given the option of change and whether she takes it or, we don’t know. The death of Greta’s husband in A Matter of Time has led her to the diner and into the waiting arms of the outgoing and loveable Gabe.
Although the book is based on three sets of time (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the diner is opened in the early morning and closed at night, time stands still inside the Diner. The hour on the big clock on the wall never changes time and much like my memories of that place, everything remains the same.
In 1962, six year old John Tuohy, his two brothers and two sisters entered Connecticut’s foster care system and were promptly split apart. Over the next ten years, John would live in more than ten foster homes, group homes and state schools, from his native Waterbury to Ansonia, New Haven, West Haven, Deep River and Hartford. In the end, a decade later, the state returned him to the same home and the same parents they had taken him from. As tragic as is funny compelling story will make you cry and laugh as you journey with this child to overcome the obstacles of the foster care system and find his dreams
January 4 - Fender Musical Instruments Corporation is sold to CBS for $13 million.
January 12 - Hullabaloo premieres on NBC. The first show included performances by The New Christy Minstrels, comedian Woody Allen, actress Joey Heatherton and a segment from London in which Brian Epstein introduces The Zombies and Gerry & the Pacemakers.
Gerry and the Pacemakers were a British beat music group from Liverpool and were managed by Brian Epstein. Gerry Marsden formed the group in 1959 with his brother, Fred, Les Chadwick and Arthur McMahon. They rivaled the Beatles early in their career, playing in the same areas of Hamburg, Germany and Liverpool, England under the Band’s original name was Gerry Marsden and The Mars Bars (They were forced to change this when the Mars Company, producers of the chocolate Mars Bar, complained.) Brian Epstein signed them with Columbia Records, a sister label to The Beatles' label Parlophone under EMI. They began recording in early 1963 with "How Do You Do It?", a song written by Mitch Murray that Adam Faith had turned down and one that The Beatles chose not to release (they did record the song but insisted on releasing their own song, "Please Please Me"). The song was produced by George Martin and became a number one hit in England, the first by an Epstein Liverpool group to achieve this on all charts, until being replaced at the top by "From Me to You", The Beatles' third single. Gerry Marsden began writing most of their own songs, including "It's Gonna Be All Right", "I'm the One", and "Ferry Cross the Mersey", as well as their first and biggest US hit, "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying", which peaked at #4, and which Gerry Marsden initially gave to Decca recording artist Louise Cordet in 1963. She recorded the song but it flopped. By late 1965, their popularity was rapidly declining on both sides of the Atlantic. They disbanded in October 1966. The group’s drummer Freddie Marsden died on December 9, 2006 at age 66.
January 17 - The Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts' book, Ode to a High Flying Bird, a tribute to jazz great Charlie Parker, is published.
January 21 -The Animals' show at New York's Apollo Theater is canceled after the U.S. Immigration Department forces the group to leave the theater.
The Rolling Stones and Roy Orbison travel to Sydney, Australia to begin their Australian tour.
January 23 - "Downtown" hits #1, making Petula Clark the first British female vocalist to reach the coveted position since the arrival of The Beatles.
January 24 - The Animals appear a second time on The Ed Sullivan Show.
January 27 - Paul Simon broadcasts on BBC radio for the first time, on their Five to Ten show, discussing and playing thirteen songs, twelve of which would appear on his May-recorded and August-released UK-only solo album, The Paul Simon Song Book.
February 6 – Donovan (Above) performs the first of three performances on the British television program "Ready, Steady, Go!". This presents him to a widespread audience for the first time.
February 12 - NME reports the Beatles will star in a film adaptation of Richard Condon's novel A Talent for Loving. The story is about a 1,400-mile horse race that takes place in the old west. The film is never made.
February 24 - The Beatles begin filming their second fil, Help!.
June - Producer Tom Wilson, (Simon & Garfunkel) records a heavy backing band onto the song "The Sounds of Silence", without the knowledge of Paul Simon, for release on a 45 rpm single, and the B-side, "We've Got A Groovy Thing Goin'" . The single will go on to hit #1 on the Billboard charts in 1966.
March 6 - The Temptations have their first hit, "My Girl", written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, from Motown records.
March 18 - The Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Bill Wyman are fined five pounds for urinating on the wall of a London gas station. The band had asked to use the restroom, but it was out of order.
March 20 - The 10th Eurovision Song Contest in Naples, Italy, is won by 17-year-old France Gall, representing Luxembourg, with the Serge Gainsbourg-composed "Poupée de cire, poupée de son".
March 21 - The Supremes have their fourth number one single, "Stop! In The Name Of Love", written by H-D-H.
April 11 - The New Musical Express poll winners' concert takes place featuring performances by The Beatles, The Animals, The Rolling Stones, Freddie and the Dreamers, the Kinks, the Searchers, Herman's Hermits, The Anita Kerr Singers, The Moody Blues, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Donovan, Them, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield and Tom Jones. Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien OBE (16 April 1939 – 2 March 1999), known professionally as Dusty Springfield, was a British pop singer whose career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s. At her peak, she was one of the most successful British female performers, with 18 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 from 1964 to 1970. Her career began in 1963 with the upbeat pop hit, "I Only Want To Be With You" (1963). Among the hits that followed were "Wishin' and Hopin'" (1964), "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself" (1964), "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" (1966), and "Son of a Preacher Man" (1968). Springfield's biographers and journalists have suggested she had two personalities: shy, quiet, Mary O'Brien—and the public face she created in Dusty Springfield. In the 1970s and early 1980s, during a time when her career had slowed down, she succumbed to alcoholism and drug dependency (which she later battled successfully). She was hospitalized several times for self-harming (by cutting herself) and was diagnosed as suffering from manic depression. In the 1970s and 1980s, Springfield became involved in several romantic relationships with women in the U.S. and in Canada. Springfield died of cancer in March of 1999,
April 21 - The Beach Boys appear on Shindig! performing their most recent hit, "Do You Wanna Dance?"
April 26 - Leopold Stokowski conducts the first complete performance of Charles Ives' Symphony No. 4, more than ten years after the composer's death
May 5 - Alan Price leaves The Animals, to be replaced temporarily by Mick Gallagher and permanently by Dave Rowberry.
May 6 - Keith Richards and Mick Jagger begin work on "Satisfaction" in their Clearwater, Florida hotel room. Richards came up with the classic guitar riff while playing around with his brand new Gibson "Fuzz box".
May 9 - Bob Dylan performs the first of two concerts at London's Royal Albert Hall, concluding his tour of Europe. Audience members include The Beatles, and Donovan.
May 30 - The Animals appear a third time on The Ed Sullivan Show.
June 6 - The Supremes have their fifth consecutive number one single, "Back In My Arms Again, written by H-D-H, from Motown Records.
June 12 - The Beatles are appointed Members of the British Empire (MBE) by the Queen. Since it was unusual for rock stars to be appointed as MBEs, a number of previous recipients complained and protested.
July 25 - Bob Dylan plays Newport Folk Festival, is booed for playing electric set with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Joan Baez and Donovan also play sets.
August 6 - The Small Faces release "Whatcha Gonna Do About It", their first single.
August 6 - The Beatles release the soundtrack to their second movie Help!
August 15 - The Beatles play at Shea Stadium, the first rock concert to be held in a venue of that size. The concert also set new world records for attendance (55,600+) and for revenue.
August 27 - The Beatles visit Elvis Presley at his home in Bel-Air. It is the only time the band and the singer meet.
September 30 - Donovan appears on Shindig! in the U.S. and plays Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier".
October 15 - Guitarist Jimi Hendrix signs a three year recording contract with Ed Chaplin, receiving $1 and 1% royalty on records with Curtis Knight. The agreement will later cause continuous litigation problems with Hendrix and other record labels.
October 17 - The Animals appear a fourth time on The Ed Sullivan Show.
November 5 - The Small Faces release their 2nd single "I've Got Mine" featured in film Dateline Diamonds.
November 14 - The Supremes have their sixth number one record, "I Hear A Symphony", for Motown Records.
November 26 - Arlo Guthrie is arrested in Great Barrington, Massachusetts for the crime of littering, perpetrated the day before Thanksgiving in the nearby town of Stockbridge. The resultant events and adventure would be immortalized in the song "Alice's Restaurant".
December 3 - The Beatles release their groundbreaking album Rubber Soul along with the double A sided single Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out.
The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)", the first popular recording to include a sitar, which is played more like a Western instrument than an Indian one. Many bands of the British Invasion and American psychedelic rock groups begin using a sitar elements of Indian music, to add a touch of exoticism to their recordings, creating a field sometimes called raga rock.
Bob Dylan's performance with a rock and roll band at the Newport Folk Festival is a controversial landmark event in the American roots revival and the development of folk-rock,238 with many commentators pointing to it as a landmark in the decline of the American folk revival. The show carries Dylan into the "openly commercial arena of the popular sphere, where a family of idioms soon to be known as 'rock' music was developing out of rock and roll.
This year also saw the departure of folk band The Byrds for a more rock-oriented style.
James Brown's "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" is a breakthrough recording that showcases Brown's move from "conventional song structures and toward a new emphasis on movement and dance", paving the way for the development of funk".
Jam band the Grateful Dead begin their career, as The Warlocks, performing at an acid test in San Francisco.
Barry McGuire's "Eve of Destruction" becomes a "hugely popular" protest song.
Country Joe & the Fish release "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die-Rag", the "most memorable anti-war song of the decade".
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. He is the author of numerous non-fiction on the history of organized crime including the ground break biography of bootlegger Roger Tuohy "When Capone's Mob Murdered Touhy" and "Guns and Glamour: A History of Organized Crime in Chicago."
His non-fiction crime short stories have appeared in The New Criminologist, American Mafia and other publications. John won the City of Chicago's Celtic Playfest for his work The Hannigan's of Beverly, and his short story fiction work, Karma Finds Franny Glass, appeared in AdmitTwo Magazine in October of 2008.
His play, Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public performance at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play.
DON'T YOU JUST LOVE POP ART?
HERE'S SOME NICE ART FOR YOU TO LOOK AT....ENJOY!
I LOVE BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOS FROM FILM
William Klein, Gardien à Cineccita, 1956.
WHY THE WORLD NEEDS EDITORS.....................
THE ART OF PULP
THE ART OF WAR...............................
Photographs I’ve taken
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, also known as the Saint Louis Cathedral, is a cathedral of the Roman Catholic Church located in the Central West End area of St. Louis, Missouri. Completed in 1914, it is the mother church of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the seat of its archbishop, currently Robert James Carlson. The cathedral is named for Saint Louis and was designated a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1997.
The cathedral was built as a replacement for the previous Cathedral of St. Louis located along the Mississippi River. Although workers began clearing ground for the building on May 1, 1907, dedication of the Cathedral and its first mass did not take place until October 18, 1914, when the superstructure was complete.
Consecration of the church took place more than a decade later on June 29, 1926.
The church is known for its large mosaic installation (which is one of the largest in the Western Hemisphere), burial crypts, and the addition of an outdoor sculpture to promote racial harmony.
ST. CHARLES (MO)
DON'T YOU WANT TO SEE THE ENTIRE WORLD?
Beaugency, Loire Valley, France
Budapest, Hungary (by maro310)
Little Speck in Garnered Fruit, A short story by O Henry
The honeymoon was at its full. There was a flat with the reddest of new carpets, tasselled portieres and six steins with pewter lids arranged on a ledge above the wainscoting of the dining-room. The wonder of it was yet upon them. Neither of them had ever seen a yellow primrose by the river's brim; but if such a sight had met their eyes at that time it would have seemed like--well, whatever the poet expected the right kind of people to see in it besides a primrose.
The bride sat in the rocker with her feet resting upon the world. She was wrapt in rosy dreams and a kimono of the same hue. She wondered what the people in Greenland and Tasmania and Beloochistan were saying one to another about her marriage to Kid McGarry. Not that it made any difference. There was no welter-weight from London to the Southern Cross that could stand up four hours--no; four rounds--with her bridegroom. And he had been hers for three weeks; and the crook of her little finger could sway him more than the fist of any 142-pounder in the world.
Love, when it is ours, is the other name for self-abnegation and sacrifice. When it belongs to people across the airshaft it means arrogance and self-conceit.
The bride crossed her oxfords and looked thoughtfully at the distemper Cupids on the ceiling.
"Precious," said she, with the air of Cleopatra asking Antony for Rome done up in tissue paper and delivered at residence, "I think I would like a peach."
Kid McGarry arose and put on his coat and hat. He was serious, shaven, sentimental, and spry.
"All right," said he, as coolly as though he were only agreeing to sign articles to fight the champion of England. "I'll step down and cop one out for you--see?"
"Don't be long," said the bride. "I'll be lonesome without my naughty boy. Get a nice, ripe one."
After a series of farewells that would have befitted an imminent voyage to foreign parts, the Kid went down to the street.
Here he not unreasonably hesitated, for the season was yet early spring, and there seemed small chance of wresting anywhere from those chill streets and stores the coveted luscious guerdon of summer's golden prime.
At the Italian's fruit-stand on the corner he stopped and cast a contemptuous eye over the display of papered oranges, highly polished apples and wan, sun-hungry bananas.
"Gotta da peach?" asked the Kid in the tongue of Dante, the lover of lovers.
"Ah, no,--" sighed the vender. "Not for one mont com-a da peach. Too soon. Gotta da nice-a orange. Like-a da orange?"
Scornful, the Kid pursued his quest. He entered the all-night chop-house, cafe, and bowling-alley of his friend and admirer, Justus O'Callahan. The O'Callahan was about in his institution, looking for leaks.
"I want it straight," said the Kid to him. "The old woman has got a hunch that she wants a peach. Now, if you've got a peach, Cal, get it out quick. I want it and others like it if you've got 'em in plural quantities."
"The house is yours," said O'Callahan. "But there's no peach in it. It's too soon. I don't suppose you could even find 'em at one of the Broadway joints. That's too bad. When a lady fixes her mouth for a certain kind of fruit nothing else won't do. It's too late now to find any of the first-class fruiterers open. But if you think the missis would like some nice oranges I've just got a box of fine ones in that she might--"
"Much obliged, Cal. It's a peach proposition right from the ring of the gong. I'll try further."
The time was nearly midnight as the Kid walked down the West-Side avenue. Few stores were open, and such as were practically hooted at the idea of a peach.
But in her moated flat the bride confidently awaited her Persian fruit. A champion welter-weight not find a peach?--not stride triumphantly over the seasons and the zodiac and the almanac to fetch an Amsden's June or a Georgia cling to his owny-own?
The Kid's eye caught sight of a window that was lighted and gorgeous with nature's most entrancing colors. The light suddenly went out. The Kid sprinted and caught the fruiterer locking his door.
"Peaches?" said he, with extreme deliberation.
"Well, no, Sir. Not for three or four weeks yet. I haven't any idea where you might find some. There may be a few in town from under the glass, but they'd be hard to locate. Maybe at one of the more expensive hotels--some place where there's plenty of money to waste. I've got some very fine oranges, though--from a shipload that came in to-day."
The Kid lingered on the corner for a moment, and then set out briskly toward a pair of green lights that flanked the steps of a building down a dark side street.
"Captain around anywhere?" he asked of the desk sergeant of the police station.
At that moment the captain came briskly forward from the rear. He was in plain clothes and had a busy air.
"Hello, Kid," he said to the pugilist. "Thought you were bridal-touring?
"Got back yesterday. I'm a solid citizen now. Think I'll take an interest in municipal doings. How would it suit you to get into Denver Dick's place to-night, Cap?
"Past performances," said the captain, twisting his moustache. "Denver was closed up two months ago."
"Correct," said the Kid. "Rafferty chased him out of the Forty-third. He's running in your precinct now, and his game's bigger than ever. I'm down on this gambling business. I can put you against his game."
"In my precinct?" growled the captain. "Are you sure, Kid? I'll take it as a favor. Have you got the entree? How is it to be done?"
"Hammers," said the Kid. "They haven't got any steel on the doors yet. You'll need ten men. No, they won't let me in the place. Denver has been trying to do me. He thought I tipped him off for the other raid. I didn't, though. You want to hurry. I've got to get back home. The house is only three blocks from here."
Before ten minutes had sped the captain with a dozen men stole with their guide into the hallway of a dark and virtuous-looking building in which many businesses were conducted by day.
"Third floor, rear," said the Kid, softly. "I'll lead the way."
Two axemen faced the door that he pointed out to them.
"It seems all quiet," said the captain, doubtfully. "Are you sure your tip is straight?"
"Cut away!" said the Kid. "It's on me if it ain't."
The axes crashed through the as yet unprotected door. A blaze of light from within poured through the smashed panels. The door fell, and the raiders sprang into the room with their guns handy.
The big room was furnished with the gaudy magnificence dear to Denver Dick's western ideas. Various well-patronized games were in progress. About fifty men who were in the room rushed upon the police in a grand break for personal liberty. The plain-clothes men had to do a little club-swinging. More than half the patrons escaped.
Denver Dick had graced his game with his own presence that night. He led the rush that was intended to sweep away the smaller body of raiders, But when he saw the Kid his manner became personal. Being in the heavyweight class he cast himself joyfully upon his slighter enemy, and they rolled down a flight of stairs in each other's arms. On the landing they separated and arose, and then the Kid was able to use some of his professional tactics, which had been useless to him while in the excited clutch of a 200-pound sporting gentleman who was about to lose $20,000 worth of paraphernalia.
After vanquishing his adversary the Kid hurried upstairs and through the gambling-room into a smaller apartment connecting by an arched doorway.
Here was a long table set with choicest chinaware and silver, and lavishly furnished with food of that expensive and spectacular sort of which the devotees of sport are supposed to be fond. Here again was to be perceived the liberal and florid taste of the gentleman with the urban cognomenal prefix.
A No. 10 patent leather shoe protruded a few of its inches outside the tablecloth along the floor. The Kid seized this and plucked forth a black man in a white tie and the garb of a servitor.
"Get up!" commanded the Kid. "Are you in charge of this free lunch?"
"Yes, sah, I was. Has they done pinched us ag'in, boss?"
"Looks that way. Listen to me. Are there any peaches in this layout? If there ain't I'll have to throw up the sponge."
"There was three dozen, sah, when the game opened this evenin'; but I reckon the gentlemen done eat 'em all up. If you'd like to eat a fust-rate orange, sah, I kin find you some."
"Get busy," ordered the Kid, sternly, "and move whatever peach crop you've got quick or there'll be trouble. If anybody oranges me again to-night, I'll knock his face off."
The raid on Denver Dick's high-priced and prodigal luncheon revealed one lone, last peach that had escaped the epicurean jaws of the followers of chance. Into the Kid's pocket it went, and that indefatigable forager departed immediately with his prize. With scarcely a glance at the scene on the sidewalk below, where the officers were loading their prisoners into the patrol wagons, he moved homeward with long, swift strides.
His heart was light as he went. So rode the knights back to Camelot after perils and high deeds done for their ladies fair. The Kid's lady had commanded him and he had obeyed. True, it was but a peach that she had craved; but it had been no small deed to glean a peach at midnight from that wintry city where yet the February snows lay like iron. She had asked for a peach; she was his bride; in his pocket the peach was warming in his hand that held it for fear that it might fall out and be lost.
On the way the Kid turned in at an all-night drug store and said to the spectacled clerk:
"Say, sport, I wish you'd size up this rib of mine and see if it's broke. I was in a little scrap and bumped down a flight or two of stairs."
The druggist made an examination. "It isn't broken," was his diagnosis, "but you have a bruise there that looks like you'd fallen off the Flatiron twice."
"That's all right," said the Kid. "Let's have your clothes brush, please."
The bride waited in the rosy glow of the pink lamp shade. The miracles were not all passed away. By breathing a desire for some slight thing--a flower, a pomegranate, a--oh, yes, a peach--she could send forth her man into the night, into the world which could not withstand him, and he would do her bidding.
And now he stood by her chair and laid the peach in her hand.
"Naughty boy!" she said, fondly. "Did I say a peach? I think I would much rather have had an orange."
Blest be the bride.
O. Henry was the pen name of American writer William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910). O. Henry's short stories are well known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings.
William Sidney Porter was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. His middle name at birth was Sidney; he changed the spelling to Sydney in 1898. His parents were Dr. Algernon Sidney Porter (1825–1888), a physician, and Mary Jane Virginia Swaim Porter (1833–1865). They were married April 20, 1858. When William was three, his mother died from tuberculosis, and he and his father moved into the home of his paternal grandmother. As a child, Porter was always reading. He read everything from classics to dime novels. His favorite work was One Thousand and One Nights.
Porter graduated from his aunt Evelina Maria Porter's elementary school in 1876. He then enrolled at the Lindsey Street High School. His aunt continued to tutor him until he was fifteen. In 1879, he started working in his uncle's drugstore and in 1881, at the age of nineteen, he was licensed as a pharmacist. At the drugstore, he also showed off his natural artistic talents by sketching the townsfolk.
Porter traveled with Dr. James K. Hall to Texas in March 1882, hoping that a change of air would help alleviate a persistent cough he had developed. He took up residence on the sheep ranch of Richard Hall, James' son, in La Salle County and helped out as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook and baby-sitter. While on the ranch, he learned bits of Spanish and German from the mix of immigrant ranch hands. He also spent time reading classic literature. Porter's health did improve and he traveled with Richard to Austin in 1884, where he decided to remain and was welcomed into the home of the Harrells, who were friends of Richard's. Porter took a number of different jobs over the next several years, first as pharmacist then as a draftsman, bank teller and journalist. He also began writing as a sideline.
Porter led an active social life in Austin, including membership in singing and drama groups. Porter was a good singer and musician. He played both the guitar and mandolin. He became a member of the "Hill City Quartet," a group of young men who sang at gatherings and serenaded young women of the town. Porter met and began courting Athol Estes, then seventeen years old and from a wealthy family. Her mother objected to the match because Athol was ill, suffering from tuberculosis. On July 1, 1887, Porter eloped with Athol to the home of Reverend R. K. Smoot, where they were married.
The couple continued to participate in musical and theater groups, and Athol encouraged her husband to pursue his writing. Athol gave birth to a son in 1888, who died hours after birth, and then a daughter, Margaret Worth Porter, in September 1889. Porter's friend Richard Hall became Texas Land Commissioner and offered Porter a job. Porter started as a draftsman at the Texas General Land Office (GLO) in 1887 at a salary of $100 a month, drawing maps from surveys and field notes. The salary was enough to support his family, but he continued his contributions to magazines and newspapers.
In the GLO building, he began developing characters and plots for such stories as "Georgia's Ruling" (1900), and "Buried Treasure" (1908). The castle-like building he worked in was even woven into some of his tales such as "Bexar Scrip No. 2692" (1894). His job at the GLO was a political appointment by Hall. Hall ran for governor in the election of 1890 but lost. Porter resigned in early 1891 when the new governor was sworn in. The same year, Porter began working at the First National Bank of Austin as a teller and bookkeeper at the same salary he had made at the GLO.
The bank was operated informally and Porter had trouble keeping track of his books. In 1894, he was accused by the bank of embezzlement and lost his job but was not indicted. He now worked full time on his humorous weekly called The Rolling Stone, which he started while working at the bank. The Rolling Stone featured satire on life, people and politics and included Porter's short stories and sketches. Although eventually reaching a top circulation of 1500, The Rolling Stone failed in April 1895, perhaps because of Porter's poking fun at powerful people. Porter also may have ceased publication as the paper never provided the money he needed to support his family. By then, his writing and drawings caught the attention of the editor at the Houston Post.
Porter and his family moved to Houston in 1895, where he started writing for the Post. His salary was only $25 a month, but it rose steadily as his popularity increased. Porter gathered ideas for his column by hanging out in hotel lobbies and observing and talking to people there. This was a technique he used throughout his writing career. While he was in Houston, the First National Bank of Austin was audited and the federal auditors found several discrepancies. They managed to get a federal indictment against Porter. Porter was subsequently arrested on charges of embezzlement, charges which he denied, in connection with his employment at the bank.
Porter's father-in-law posted bail to keep Porter out of jail, but the day before Porter was due to stand trial on July 7, 1896, he fled, first to New Orleans and later to Honduras. While holed up in a Tegucigalpa hotel for several months, he wrote Cabbages and Kings, in which he coined the term "banana republic" to describe the country, subsequently used to describe almost any small, unstable tropical nation in Latin America. Porter had sent Athol and Margaret back to Austin to live with Athol's parents. Unfortunately, Athol became too ill to meet Porter in Honduras as Porter planned. When he learned that his wife was dying, Porter returned to Austin in February 1897 and surrendered to the court, pending an appeal. Once again, Porter's father-in-law posted bail so Porter could stay with Athol and Margaret.
Athol Estes Porter died on July 25, 1897 from tuberculosis (then known as consumption). Porter, having little to say in his own defense, was found guilty of embezzlement in February 1898, sentenced to five years jail, and imprisoned on March 25, 1898, as federal prisoner 30664 at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. While in prison, Porter, as a licensed pharmacist, worked in the prison hospital as the night druggist. Porter was given his own room in the hospital wing, and there is no record that he actually spent time in the cell block of the prison. He had fourteen stories published under various pseudonyms while he was in prison, but was becoming best known as "O. Henry", a pseudonym that first appeared over the story "Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking" in the December 1899 issue of McClure's Magazine. A friend of his in New Orleans would forward his stories to publishers, so they had no idea the writer was imprisoned. Porter was released on July 24, 1901, for good behavior after serving three years. Porter reunited with his daughter Margaret, now age 11, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Athol's parents had moved after Porter's conviction. Margaret was never told that her father had been in prison - just that he had been away on business.
Porter's most prolific writing period started in 1902, when he moved to New York City to be near his publishers. While there, he wrote 381 short stories. He wrote a story a week for over a year for the New York World Sunday Magazine. His wit, characterization and plot twists were adored by his readers, but often panned by critics. Porter married again in 1907, to childhood sweetheart Sarah (Sallie) Lindsey Coleman, whom he met again after revisiting his native state of North Carolina. However, despite the success of his short stories being published in magazines and collections (or perhaps because of the attendant pressure that success brought), Porter drank heavily.
His health began to deteriorate in 1908, which affected his writing. Sarah left him in 1909, and Porter died on June 5, 1910, of cirrhosis of the liver, complications of diabetes and an enlarged heart. After funeral services in New York City, he was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina. His daughter, Margaret Worth Porter, died in 1927 and was buried with her father.
O. Henry stories are famous for their surprise endings, to the point that such an ending is often referred to as an "O. Henry ending." He was called the American answer to Guy de Maupassant. Both authors wrote twist endings, but O. Henry stories were much more playful and optimistic. His stories are also well known for witty narration. Most of O. Henry's stories are set in his own time, the early years of the 20th century. Many take place in New York City, and deal for the most part with ordinary people: clerks, policemen, waitresses.
Fundamentally a product of his time, O. Henry's work provides one of the best English examples of catching the entire flavor of an age. Whether roaming the cattle-lands of Texas, exploring the art of the "gentle grafter," or investigating the tensions of class and wealth in turn-of-the-century New York, O. Henry had an inimitable hand for isolating some element of society and describing it with an incredible economy and grace of language. Some of his best and least-known work resides in the collection Cabbages and Kings, a series of stories which each explore some individual aspect of life in a paralytically sleepy Central American town while each advancing some aspect of the larger plot and relating back one to another in a complex structure which slowly explicates its own background even as it painstakingly erects a town which is one of the most detailed literary creations of the period.
The Four Million is another collection of stories. It opens with a reference to Ward McAllister's "assertion that there were only 'Four Hundred' people in New York City who were really worth noticing. But a wiser man has arisen—the census taker—and his larger estimate of human interest has been preferred in marking out the field of these little stories of the 'Four Million.'" To O. Henry, everyone in New York counted. He had an obvious affection for the city, which he called "Bagdad-on-the-Subway,"] and many of his stories are set there—but others are set in small towns and in other cities.
Among his most famous stories are:
"A Municipal Report" which opens by quoting Frank Norris: "Fancy a novel about Chicago or Buffalo, let us say, or Nashville, Tennessee! There are just three big cities in the United States that are 'story cities'—New York, of course, New Orleans, and, best of the lot, San Francisco." Thumbing his nose at Norris, O. Henry sets the story in Nashville.
"The Gift of the Magi" about a young couple who are short of money but desperately want to buy each other Christmas gifts. Unbeknownst to Jim, Della sells her most valuable possession, her beautiful hair, in order to buy a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch; while unbeknownst to Della, Jim sells his own most valuable possession, his watch, to buy jeweled combs for Della's hair. The essential premise of this story has been copied, re-worked, parodied, and otherwise re-told countless times in the century since it was written.
"The Ransom of Red Chief", in which two men kidnap a boy of ten. The boy turns out to be so bratty and obnoxious that the desperate men ultimately pay the boy's father $250 to take him back.
"The Cop and the Anthem" about a New York City hobo named Soapy, who sets out to get arrested so he can avoid sleeping in the cold winter as a guest of the city jail. Despite efforts at petty theft, vandalism, disorderly conduct, and "mashing" with a young prostitute, Soapy fails to draw the attention of the police. Disconsolate, he pauses in front of a church, where an organ anthem inspires him to clean up his life — and is ironically charged for loitering and sentenced to three months in prison.
"A Retrieved Reformation", which tells the tale of safecracker Jimmy Valentine, recently freed from prison. He goes to a town bank to check it over before he robs it. As he walks to the door, he catches the eye of the banker's beautiful daughter. They immediately fall in love and Valentine decides to give up his criminal career. He moves into the town, taking up the identity of Ralph Spencer, a shoemaker. Just as he is about to leave to deliver his specialized tools to an old associate, a lawman who recognizes him arrives at the bank. Jimmy and his fiancée and her family are at the bank, inspecting a new safe, when a child accidentally gets locked inside the airtight vault. Knowing it will seal his fate, Valentine opens the safe to rescue the child. However, the lawman lets him go.
"After Twenty Years", set on a dark street in New York, focuses on a man named "Silky" Bob who is fulfilling an appointment made 20 years ago to meet his friend Jimmy at a restaurant. A beat cop questions him about what he is doing there. Bob explains, and the policeman leaves. Later, a second policeman comes up and arrests Bob. He gives Bob a note, in which the first policeman explains that he was Jimmy, come to meet Bob, but he recognized Bob as a wanted man. Unwilling to arrest his old friend, he went off to get another officer to make the arrest.
"Compliments of the Season" describes several characters' misadventures during Christmas.
Friends in San Rosario, about embezzlement, a bank audit and loyalty to an old friend, bears poignantly upon Porter's real-life prison experience.
Porter gave various explanations for the origin of his pen name. In 1909 he gave an interview to The New York Times, in which he gave an account of it: It was during these New Orleans days that I adopted my pen name of O. Henry. I said to a friend: "I'm going to send out some stuff. I don't know if it amounts to much, so I want to get a literary alias. Help me pick out a good one." He suggested that we get a newspaper and pick a name from the first list of notables that we found in it. In the society columns we found the account of a fashionable ball. "Here we have our notables," said he. We looked down the list and my eye lighted on the name Henry, "That'll do for a last name," said I. "Now for a first name. I want something short. None of your three-syllable names for me." "Why don’t you use a plain initial letter, then?" asked my friend. "Good," said I, "O is about the easiest letter written, and O it is."
A newspaper once wrote and asked me what the O stands for. I replied, "O stands for Olivier the French for Oliver." And several of my stories accordingly appeared in that paper under the name Olivier Henry. Writer and scholar Guy Davenport offers another explanation: "[T]he pseudonym that he began to write under in prison is constructed from the first two letters of Ohio and the second and last two of penitentiary."
The O. Henry Award is a prestigious annual prize given to outstanding short stories, and named after Porter. Several schools around the country bear Porter's pseudonym.
In 1952, a film featuring five stories, called O. Henry's Full House, was made. The episode garnering the most critical acclaim was "The Cop and the Anthem", starring Charles Laughton and Marilyn Monroe. The other stories are "The Clarion Call", "The Last Leaf", "The Ransom of Red Chief" (starring Fred Allen and Oscar Levant), and "The Gift of the Magi".