Mobster in training meets Tony…

For those of you who’ve been coming to this bar almost since day one (and I thank you!), you know about my friend and colleague… the man I call Tony. Tony’s that wonderful, one-of-a-kind character right out of Damon Runyon, who makes Yogi Berra seem like a linguist (Yokohama for Yarmulke, perennial vision for peripheral, etc.) who is eighty six years old and still going strong. And given his toughness and unique slant on life he clearly elicits, “We’ll never see his likes again.” And I mean that.

Raised in the real Hell’s Kitchen back in the 1920’s and 30’s, he’s seen it all, done it all, and doesn’t appear to be anywhere near slowing down. After his time at the track each day he still drives himself in from Yonkers… at least a forty minute trip … and he still takes his place at the door where he charms our customers. He’s now our official greeter, seater and story teller. And what stories there are! Just mention people like Frank Sinatra, Al Capone or the great Rocky Marciano, and Tony will have a connection and a tale to tell. In fact, speaking of the latter, Tony’s mother used to cook for Rocky at his training camp. Go figure!

Anyway, for a trip down memory lane, here’s one of Tony’s stories that’s one of my favorites…

When Tony was a youngster, his family had sent him to Turin, Italy with the hopes of giving him a proper education in a seminary.  A noble thought and a hell of a long way from Hell’s Kitchen! Well, without going into detail here (and no surprise to anyone) after a couple of years and a yeoman’s effort the concept simply didn’t take, and Tony eventually found himself back in New York. Some things are not meant to be and this was one of them.

Now cut to his first day of school at this point (back in “improper” Hell’s Kitchen), where he promptly was given a Hell’s Kitchen welcome by promptly getting his ass kicked up and down the street. Why? Well, not just because he was the new kid in town, even though he’d lived there before, but because in the European schoolboy tradition he’d made the  mistake of wearing short pants and knee socks. And at that time, in that neighborhood, and in front of that gang of toughs, he might as well have worn a skirt and a fucking tiara. Pow! Bang! Boom! Welcome home, Tony!

Okay, so now it’s day two. Tony has to make his way back to school but this time to ease the heckling he put on long pants. But it didn’t matter. For as he rounded the corner to where the gang was (picture the “Dead End Kids”), “Sissy!” got shouted again with menace and again the gang formed a circle to have some fun with him. But just as Tony had dropped his books and readied himself for a fight (Tony was far from a sissy, I assure you), a new guy by the name of Vinny stepped to the fore. He put his arm around Tony, walked him off to the side of a building where they both exchanged words in Italian, and just like that the whole dynamic changed. Vinnie then walked Tony back to the gang, gathered the crew around him, and uttered these words which Tony will never forget. “See this kid here, you’se guys? I wanna’ tell you somethin’. Nobody, I mean nobody ever lay a hand on him again. You’se got that? I mean never or you’ll have to deal with me!”

Well, whatever it was they’d said in Italian a simpatico had instantly formed, and Tony was now in the “witless” protection program. For the boys dared not defy young Vinnie…  later to be known as “The Chin”…  the eventual head of the Genovese mafia family. That’s right, this was the young Vincent Gigante, all of maybe thirteen years old, already having what it takes to muscle a gang. A mobster in training!

By the way, for those of you not familiar with “The Chin”, this was the guy in the 1990’s dubbed by the press “The Oddfather” for wandering around in a bathrobe and PJ’s muttering to himself incoherently, feigning senility for FBI surveillance til in 1997 he was finally tried and convicted. He died in custody in the year 2005.

“Chin” was also the blatant inspiration for Uncle Junior doing the bathrobe thing on The Sopranos. Remember?

Anyway, as far as our happy ending goes here, after Gigante had cleared the path Tony never again had a problem in The Kitchen… but just to make sure his pants always touched his shoes!

It’s not only fun but a privilege, dear reader, to work with this guy named Tony, his adventures are endless and so is his zest for life. I can learn from that!

Over and out from bar-land… see ya’ next week-end. (You’se guys got that?)

14 Responses to “Mobster in training meets Tony…”

  1. 1 Ken July 24, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Hi Scrib: Hailing as I do from a state that was a regional home office for The Mob, I can’t get sentimental about these guys, even the old ones who knew Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson, personally. That said, the fact that Tony is still employed and going to the track indicates he wasn’t a real wise guy. He was just a man who made it his business not to know other people’s business. He sounds like some of the old timer pols I got know when I was up and coming in that line of work. I loved a few of those old guys, and the youngest of the lot, the one who was still working, became my greatest mentor.

    Scrib, it must be a coincidence that you penned this the day after Turner Classic Movies showed a Bowery Boys marathon. I thought the misadventures of Slip (Leo Gorcey) and Sach (Huntz Hall) were hilarious when I was a eight years old. I now know like Tony, they are monuments to a Manhattan that is both gone, but never was.

  2. 2 Petro July 24, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    Another one for the archives. It’s great that you’re laying these tales down.

    You gonna show Tony what you’ve done for him?

  3. 3 scribbler50 July 24, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Ken: I never intimated that Tony was a “wise guy”, the title referred to the young Vincent Gigante. In fact, so no one else gets that impression I just changed the title to “Mobster in training meets Tony”. So thanks! And it was a coincidence that the Bowery Boys aired, had I known I would’ve watched them I assure you. Love those guys!

    Petro: I have lots of his stories I’ll share down the road and yes I’ve filled him in that I’m laying them down. He loves it!

  4. 4 Anonymoustache July 25, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Great stuff, Scrib50….I’ll be chuckling all day over “witless protection…”
    Also, as to what Tony said to Vinnie the Chin in Italian….sounds like Tony made him an offer he couldn’t refuse….;-)

  5. 5 physiobabe July 25, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Zio Tony, is that you? 🙂

    Another masterpiece, scrib. Blowing kisses your way.

  6. 6 Mikey C. July 25, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Great Story. I would imagine The Rock had a prodigious appetite. It seems like Tony has a lot more knowledge of the world than his lingual skills or background would entail. You can’t judge a book by its cover, or even the first few chapters. It seems, in Tony’s case that he could fill a shelf.

  7. 7 scribbler50 July 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Anonymoustache: Figured you’d jump on the play on words in there. Thanks. And as to the conversation… according to Tony, they just talked about stuff in general like everyone does when they meet for the first time, it’s the fact it was in Italian that drew them together. At least for that day, Tony never hung with the guy after that.

    physiobabe: I don’t know if he’s your Tony, you’ll have to stop into the bar someday and see. And thanks for the smooch!

    Mikey C.: The Rock DID have a prodigious appetite… pasta, pasta, pasta! And yes, Tony’s knowledge of the world could fill a shelf, this was just one tale of many.

  8. 8 Jager July 25, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    A pal of mine in Boston worked building swimming pools in the summer while in college. He did a rush job on a pool for a guy in Revere they knew was connected. When they finished, the guy took my friend aside and gave him his card and said, if you ever need anything, call. A couple of years later, my friend and his brother had a band and got stiffed by a club owner. My pal was pissed (so broke he didn’t have gas money much less rent) he called the guy. A half hour later, a black Buick pulled up and two big dudes got out, pounded on the back door of the club, a couple of minutes later they walked over to my friends car and handed him double what he was due for the gig.

  9. 9 scribbler50 July 25, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Jager: They do get things done, problem is… then they may call on you for a favor. And on it goes…

  10. 10 Jager July 26, 2010 at 1:22 am

    Scrib, they did have to do favorss! His little band played plenty of after hour gigs for the guy at private parties, “social clubs” etc. The tip was was always good, but getting done in Cambridge at midnight, driving to the North Shore, then playing until 4 or so sucked so much they folded the band…when he told the guy they were quiting music, the guy said “you know, I can probably get you a record deal”…my pal said no thanks, I’ve got a teaching job.

  11. 11 Jim Certa July 26, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Another terrific Vincent “The Chin” nugget was when he knew he was being surveilled by The FBI and would take a shower with an umbrella.

  12. 12 scribbler50 July 26, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Jim Certa: Hah! Hadn’t heard that one. That’s more than a nugget, that’s the mother load! Funny thing is, if Uncle Junior had done that on The Sopranos, people would’ve said, “You’re going too far. Too cartoon-ish!” (Truth stranger than fiction!)
    Thanks, Jim.

  13. 13 d-a-p July 29, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    ….great story..just saw the “chin’s bio the other day…long live tony..

  14. 14 scribbler50 July 30, 2010 at 7:47 am

    d-a-p: And I just saw an article in the New York Daily News the other day which reported that the lawyer who had defended “The Chin” way back when… who bought and sold the fact that Gigante was insane… was he himself recently declared insane. Irony of ironies!

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