Over years of ghost-writing, I’ve spent time with some intriguing personalities. To name-drop a few: Bob Newhart, Kim Novak, Billy Crystal, Matthew Broderick, Don Adams, and assorted Ambassadors & Cabinet members. But one of the most intriguing is a name I can’t drop. Why? Because he was once a member of the Chicago Mob whose members advised me to “forget everything you know about him!”
Their advice is why I never wrote the authorized biography his gutsy granddaughter had asked me to do. One surprising day she told me, “Just because of all those murders and things, grandpapa was very misunderstood; and I think it’s time people know the real story to this sweet man.” To which I replied: “I’m not sure I’m qualified….” “You’re Sicilian, aren’t you…?” “Yes…” “Then I say you’re qualified!”
That was the offer she made me that I didn’t think I could refuse. Only before she set plans to fly me to Naples for “background information,” the elders in her family learned of her hopes. They quickly made me a counter-offer that I would have been even crazier to refuse. Let me elaborate…without names.
Lydia gave me some of the basics at our first [and last] meeting. Grandpapa was born in Naples…went to seminary because that’s what the first son in this family did…while there, one of his five brothers was killed by a rival Neapolitan gang…papa came to the seminary asserting that his time there was now over, for the family honor required he take blood-for-blood….which he did…soon discovering he was so good at this, he eventually found himself in New York City as one of the best guns in the East Coast Mafia.
Lydia proudly ribbon-ed her story with full-hearted anecdotes about how kindly grandpapa always took time between murders to care for his family, help the poor in his neighborhood, and donate to the local Church. By the time I left Lydia’s house I felt I had just spend an hour in ‘Godfather I’ with grandpapa as Marlon Brando’s most loyal killer-son. But wait a minute — I write for CEOs not assassins! How the hell did I get into this?
Even before the warning call from the family elders, I was sure I didn’t really want to know any more family secrets.Turns out grandpapa’s story has never been written anywhere else except in the crime pages of the national press, which dutifully reported grandpapa had been jailed in 1948, later commuted by President Harry Truman, then quietly faded from public sight.
Bottom line — I wrote no bio, earned no commission, and have happily kept on living even with a Sicilian name.
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