Friday, February 8, 2013


2/8/1932 - One of the most famous hits in Mob history takes place at the London Chemist Drug Store in New York City when Irish badman Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll is gunned down in a public phone booth.

                                                            Mad Dog

Funding his war against the forces of Dutch Schultz by kidnapping for ransom powerful underworld characters like Owney Madden, and by taking freelance hit assignments that have him at odds with crime figures like Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky, Coll is a walking target with a $50,000 death bounty on his head (and the public also is more than ready to get rid of him too after the gangster's errant bullet kill five-year-old Michael Vengalli in 1931, but a jury acquits him of the crime) as he moves through the winter streets of New York City.  Schultz has even walked into the Bronx police station and offered to buy a "house in Winchester" to any cop that kills Coll.  Actively hunted, on February 1, 1932, tipped off that Coll might be present, four gunmen seeking the bounty burst into a Bronx apartment and open up with machine guns and pistols on its occupants, killing two Coll associates and a luckless visitor, along with wounding three other people.  Coll shows up thirty minutes after the shooting, fortunate to have been out when the gunmen came calling.  It is the last luck the twenty-three-year-old mobster will experience! 
                                                         The Dutchman
                                                Owney "The Killer" Madden

Randomly moving about town so his hunters can't find him, Irish blood boiling thinking the triggermen were in the employee of Owen Madden, a week after the massacre Coll ventures into a drug store at 8th Street and 23rd Street in the Bronx and places a threatening phone call to his enemy.  Unhinged, Coll rants, raves, and swears at Madden, a soliloquy of malice in which he offers to not kill or kidnap the gangster's brother-in-law for the cool blackmail sum of $50,000.  Madden, irate himself, but not as stupid, offers up just dialogue of his own to keep Coll talking long enough for the call to be traced.  

                                                The Bronx drug store

Minutes of his life ticking away, Coll is still yelling at Madden when at 12:30 in the afternoon a car pulls up in front of the drug store containing three gunmen ... Dutch Schultz gang member Bo Weinberg stays with the vehicle, from the sidewalk hitman Anthony Fabrizzo covers the bodyguards Coll has left outside, and killer Leonard Scarnici enters the business.


Pulling a machine gun from under his overcoat, Scarnici tells counterman George Scott, "Keep cool now."  Scott, and the gentleman he is serving, Dr. Leo Katz, do as they are told and watch as the gunman walks over to the phone booth and from a distance of only a couple of feet, fires a burst of .45 slugs into its occupant.


Surprised and trapped, unable to pull his weapon and fight back from the cramped confines of the booth, Coll does the only thing he can ... and becomes a bloody, multiple holed corpse.

                                                             The death trap

Overkill!  Taken to the morgue, Coll will have fifteen rounds removed from his leaking body ... and the doctors don't even both with counting the number of holes caused by bullets that pass all the way through the gangster and lodge in the phone booth or the walls of the drug store.

                                                     Off to the morgue

Problem eliminated, the death though is also a window into the future of most of the participants in the murder.  In 1932, Fabrizzo screws up a hit on Bugsy Siegel and does not survive the gangster's wrath when he discovers who has sent him to the hospital.  Scarnici is juiced in the Sing Sing electric chair in 1935 for the murder of a police detective.  The curtain comes down on Weinberg when he crosses his boss once too many times, and wearing cement boots, he is sent to the bottom of the Hudson River by Schultz.  And Schultz himself is clipped in 1935 in New Jersey on orders from Lucky Luciano and other top members of The Syndicate for refusing to give up his plans to assassinate New York Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey.  Only Owney Madden escapes the typical mobster death ... sensing it might be a good time to relocate to a less dangerous environment, the gangster moves to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he opens up a casino and supper club that underworld types from across the country begin using when they need a vacation, or safe haven from law enforcement, a lucrative business that allows the mobster to remain rich, and die in his own bed at the age of seventy-three in 1965.  

                                               The planting of Mad Dog

As for Coll, not a well liked man, he is buried on a cold and rainy day in a funeral attended only by his wife, his sister, and a handful of friends.  Dead, buried, but not gone ... a variation on his death is featured in the Warner Brothers hit, Angels With Dirty Faces, starring James Cagney, and his trigger-happy madness will linger on in songs, poems, and movies, with even Academy Award actor Nicolas Cage modeling the character he plays in The Cotton Club after the young gunman.  Gone, but not quite forgotten! 

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