Allan May, Crime Historian
Allan May is an organized crime historian, writer and lecturer. He teaches classes on the history of organized crime at Cuyahoga Community College. Contact him at AllanMay@AmericanMafia.com
The Number of Made Men
By Allan May
This is one of those columns where I know I’m going to take a beating, but here goes.
I am always seeing posts on the Forum where people are asking how many made members does this family or that family have? Who cares? More importantly, who really knows? What is so significant about the number of formally initiated members a family has?
First off we know that Chicago, which has traditionally had one of the most powerful organized crime families – known as the “Outfit” – has never been big on initiating members in the manner that was first introduced to many of us by Joseph Valachi’s testimony. Wayne Johnson of the Chicago Crime Commission told me recently, “As far as the making of members here, I feel it holds no real meaning other than some associates feeling their roots.”
Al Capone, probably through the nurturing of Johnny Torrio, worked with many men who were not of Italian or Sicilian decent. This has been a trait of the Chicago Outfit for years. A few of the bigger names in this category include – Jake “Greasy Thumb” Guzik, Murray “the Camel” Humphreys, Lenny Patrick and Gus Alex. So it goes without saying that if there are made members of the Chicago Outfit it is very low in number. Does that make them any less important? Any less powerful or ruthless? Hardly!
Although I don’t have all the facts to back this up, I believe the making of American members of organized crime was carried over from the Sicilian Mafia and became a popular rite somewhere along the way for most families. I’m not sure that all of the original five New York families carried out this tradition. Even though Lucky Luciano was Sicilian I never read where he, Frank Costello, Joe Adonis or Vito Genovese were ever initiated into the Mafia. Having studied Costello closely I just can’t imagine the “Prime Minister” standing in a circle of men, pricking his unused trigger finger, and giving out kisses in the candlelight. This is not to say that it wasn’t practiced later on by what evolved into today’s Genovese Family. We know from the testimony of people like Valachi, Angelo Lonardo of Cleveland, and many other “Mob Rats” that the ceremonies do indeed take place. In New England the FBI caught one whole initiation rite on tape.
How many people become made and how often is the question.
The mob does a lousy job when it comes to the record keeping of made members. I seriously doubt that any family boss today could honestly tell, even if he wanted to, who all the made members in their family are. Take any of the New York families. There are members who are now old and decrepit or in prison. If for instance someone asks the strength of the Lucchese Family. What if the number of made members is 50. What does that tell you? The breakdown could mean 15 members are over the age of 70, 15 members are serving prison terms, 10 members are sick of the life and are doing other things, 5 active members are out doing business on the street, and 5 members are in the witness protection program.
If you go out of “this life” feet first, are you still a made member even if you are a “Mob Rat?”
In the “Crime Inc,” video documentary series Joey Cantalupo talks about made members and states something to the effect “they opened the books, they have these tremendous books.” Wouldn’t that be something…if it were true!
Can you imagine each family having a newsletter that announced newly made members? I can envision the following article in the “Colombo Family Newsletter”:
Colombos Announce New Members
“Last Thursday night Joey Fabites and Sonny Linguini were welcomed into “Our Thing.” The two former associates whacked Tommy Smith, a greedy rat bastard, after the scumbag came up short on vig owed to Alphonse Persico two weeks in a row. Sonny, who knew Tommy and his family since grade school, convinced Tommy to go with him and Joey to chase broads in Brooklyn. Joey slid into the backseat behind the unsuspecting Tommy and put two .38s in the back of his low-life skull. The two members-in-waiting then stuffed Tommy’s ass in the trunk of his own car.
“Due to Persico’s recent legal problems he was unable to attend the ceremony. Aging capo Tony “the Fist” Marino, 87 years old, handled the induction rite. Marino had trouble remembering the oath. Sonny, who couldn’t understand Italian, looked confused as he listened intently, dressed in a new navy blue jogging suit.”
“This brings the number of made members to 80. Two of “Our Thing” passed away recently; Louie “the Hammer” and Billy “the Vig King.” Louie died in the federal medical facility in Springfield at the age of 79 while doing a 20-year stretch. God rest their souls, especially Louie who was a standup guy and obeyed omerta all of these years.”
Wow, if we could only get on the mailing list for this gem.
During the 1950s the always enterprising Albert “the Mad Hatter” Anastasia, the “Lord High Executioner” of Murder, Inc., supplemented his income by selling Mafia memberships for $40,000 to $50,000 a piece. When this side business was revealed to commission members, Anastasia pointed the finger at his chief lieutenant, Frank Scalise, who was promptly whacked. Did these people get to keep their Mafia membership? If not, did they get a refund?
Ray Ferritto, the Mob informant credited with the murder of Cleveland mobster Danny Greene, told British journalist Martin Short during the taping of the “Crime, Inc.” documentaries, that by killing Greene he would then become a made member and share in the profits. At the time of Cleveland boss John Scalish’s death, Cleveland had very few made members left, and most of them were old men. I believe the reason for this is like Ferritto said, you become made and you get to share in the profits. The math goes like this; the fewer made members to share the profits, the bigger the cut. Even when the bombing war broke out in the mid-1970s and the Cleveland Family decided to make new members, did they initiate younger men like Eugene Ciasullo, Allie Calabrese, or Butchie Cisternino? No they initiated John Calandra, who was 60 years old, and Anthony Libertore who was 56.
My point is, I just don’t understand why people feel that the number of initiated mob members is so important. It’s like asking how many members of the Cleveland Indians are Latino. To me it would seem that the overall strength of a gang should include all members – made members, as well as those considered associates. Are we not to consider associates equally important members of the gang? Look at people over the years who have fallen into this category: Jimmy “the Gent” Burke, who Robert DeNiro made famous in “Goodfellas,” Alex “Shondor” Birns in Cleveland, “Fat Herbie” Blitzstein in Las Vegas, Joe Barboza in Boston, and Jesse Stoneking in St. Louis, to name a few.
Even the counting of associates is difficult. What constitutes an associate? How does one become an associate? Do I just have to slap someone around? Do I have to shoot someone? Do I have to do prison time? How long do I have to be associated before I become an associate? Do I have to be an income producer, or can I just murder someone?
I don’t think there is any intelligent answer to these questions. Even the estimated numbers of family members by the FBI and law enforcement are just that…estimates.
However for the sake of not letting my readers down, I will try to obtain these numbers. The following letter is being sent to the heads of the five New York families.
Dear Boss (or Acting Boss, Underboss, or who ever is out of prison that can answer this),
My audience on the AmericanMafia.com Forum would like to know the number of made men and associates that make up your crime family. We promise not to share this confidential information with the FBI, local police or any rat bastards.
Please provide us with the following information about your membership:
Name of Made Member:
Inmate Number (if applicable):
Years of Service:
Who did he whack to make his bones:
Also, please provide the same information, where applicable, for your associate members and let us know if your family has a profit sharing program for these associates.
Allan R. May
Just kidding Forum folks. Go easy on me.
Copyright A. R. May 2000