Friday, September 25, 2015

THE CAR DEATH OF CARFANO

9/25/1959 - Worried that he might be killed for cost over runs that have taken place building The Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, real estate developer Del Webb was once told by mobster Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, "Del, don't worry, we only kill each other." Only each other?  True enough for Mr. Webb, but sadly the validity of that fib is shot to pieces during a mob hit that takes place near La Guardia Aiport in Queens, New York ... or is it?
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Murder Scene

Future New York gangster Anthony Carfano (also known as Little Augie Pisano) is born to Giavanni Carfagno and Dongetta Visocchi, immigrants from Naples, Italy, in Manhattan, New York, in 1895.  As a teenager he becomes a thug for killer Frankie Yale's south Brooklyn crime empire ... and then a member of the Masseria Mafia family when Yale's operations are absorbed.  In 1928, when Yale is killed, Carfano takes over as a caporegime, group leader, for the family. And he is absorbed again when Lucky Luciano orchestrates the removal of the two most powerful gangsters in New York City, Masseria, and Masseria's rival, Salvatore Marazano.  An important earner for the Luciano Family, in the late 1930s he is sent south by mobsters Frank Costello and Joe Adonis to expand the family's rackets into Florida.  A success, by the 1950s, Carfano is in charge of a multi-million dollar gambling operation in South Florida ... one that other mob leaders are jealous to control.
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Teenage Thug & Adult Mobster 

Whether as a result of supporting Frank Costello over Vito Genovese for control of the Luciano Family (Lucky has been deported and is in exile in Italy), or because Meyer Lansky doesn't care for Carfano's desire to expand his Florida gambling operations into Cuba, in 1957 someone gives Anthony "Tony Bender" Strollo the order to hit "Little Augie."
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Lansky & Genovese
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Strollo in Hat - 1952

In New York to show his support for Costello, unaware that there is a contract on his head, sixty-one-year-old Carfano accepts an invitation from fellow caporegime family member Strollo to see a show at the famous Copacabana night club, and then have dinner at an Italian restaurant on Lexington Avenue called Marino's.  At the Copa, Carfano runs into a friend ... enjoying a night out on the town while her husband Alan (Carfano is a mentor that helped get the comic started as an entertainer) performs a gig at a club in Washington D.C., thirty-one-year-old Janice Drake and her girlfriend, Madeline Unger (they are at the Copa because earlier plans to meet friends elsewhere for dinner have fallen through) are quite pleased to hang with rich gangsters willing to pick up the tab for the night's entertainments ... and Carfano likes having the curvaceous blonde, a former Miss New Jersey and winner of the title of "Most Beautiful Legs In America," on his arm too (there are rumors the two are actually having an affair, a calumny the Drake Family is quick to deny afterwards).
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Sinatra & Alan Drake
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Janice Drake

All seems well until the group, now joined by Drake's and Unger's friend, stockbroker Irving Segel, leaves the Copa and begins dinner at Marino's.  Enjoying his meal, Carfano is called away from the table to take a mysterious emergency phone call (many crime hstorians believe it is a call from Costello warning his friend that their are plans in motion to hit Carfano).  When he returns, he tells the party that he and Drake must leave, and without further explanation beyond stating "urgent business" before he leaves, that is exactly what the pair does, with Carfano planning to drop Drake off at her apartment (where her 13-year-old son Michael is sleeping, along with her Welsh terrier Gussie) before proceeding to the airport to get a flight back to the safety of Miami.  That is the plan. but unfortunately for the pair, in Carfano's haste to get on the road and out of town, he and Drake fail to notice the hitman hiding in the back seat (or they pick up the wrong person shortly after leaving Marino's) of his 1959 black Cadillac.
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Costello

Shortly after 10:30 that night, about 45 minutes after the pair leave Marino's, police are called when the Cadillac comes to stop on Ninety-Four Street with one of its wheels up on the curb, lights on, and motor still running ... inside, the bodies of Carfano and Drake are discovered on the front seat, Carfano crumbled on to Drake's lap.  A classic mob style killing, Carfano takes slugs to the back of the head and through his left cheek, while Drake is murdered by bullets through the back of her neck and into her right temple.  No one is ever arrested and convicted for the twin murders.
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Death Car
Check The Back Seat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the aftermath of the killing, Lansky will take over Carfano's gambling interests, Genovese will solidify his hold on the Luciano Crime Family, renaming it after himself and becoming one of the most vicious mob bosses in criminal history, Costello will abdicate his unofficial title of "The Prime Minister of the Underworld" and retire to his home in Manhattan, dying in 1973 at the age of 82, and Strollo begins his stay in Hell three years later when he leaves his Fort Lee, New Jersey residence and is never seen again, fish food.  Years later, Bonanno Family caporegime, Anthony "Tony" Mirra will confess to be the killer in the Cadillac ... and in 1982, he goes out like Carfano, for introducing special undercover FBI agent Joseph "Donnie Brasco" Pistone into the family, Mirra, the murderer of between 30-40 individuals, has a pistol unloaded into his head at point blank range ... by the only man he trusts after getting out of prison, his cousin, Joseph D'Amico.
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Mirra

Getting the news of the tragedy at the Lotus Club where he is performing, Allan Drake grabs a car and immediately drives to New York, where he vomits upon identifying his wife at the morgue ("She can't be dead!  She wasn't born to die!").  Devastated by his loss, he attends his wife's funeral(Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin will send flowers), returns to performing comedy, and eventually ends up in Canada doing shows.
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Canada Show
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Drake

Wrong place at the wrong time ... or was Bugsy actually correct.  If not a mob associate of some sort, Janice Drake was certainly a bad talisman to be around as a mobster ... in 1952, after going on a date with Drake the night before, "garment district playboy" and clother power broker Nathan "Nat" Nelson is murdered, in 1957, after an evening of socializing with Drake over dinner, Albert Anastasia, the "Lord High Executioner" of Murder, Inc., is murdered the next morning while getting a shave in the barber shop of the Park Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan ... and then in 1959, there is her murder end moment with Carfano.
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Anastasia

The mob violently adjusts its leadership again ... why today mattered ... 9/25/1959.
Drake
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Carfano
Drake & Carfano

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