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Thats what Papa and Uncle Lou told me! By Dominic Caruso
Posted: Sunday, September 04, 2011
Last edited: Thursday, September 08, 2011
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In researching my fathers case and preparing to write "No More Tomorrows" these are some of the notes and stories I ran across. The first time I brought up the New York Times articles on dad, 15 years after I had started, I got sick to my stomach, it was hard to deal with.
October 12, 1972
“ That’s what Papa & Lou told me…”
To be included in No More Tomorrows.
As a young boy I recall hearing about dad not only meeting Enrico Caruso but also singing with him. The singing part is quite possible and probable, but I do not have any verification of it except for my Uncle Lou’s acknowledgement. Dad was the kind of man to be forward and very aggressive and I've been able to confirm that so many times about him, it is likely that what he told me was not fabricated. He was involved in so many things when he first came into this country that I believe him as well as Uncle Lou.
In 1964 while living at New York I had occasion to speak to him about it, by phone and by visits. The following year 1965, once again, my Uncle Louis Privitera came to the Bronx to visit mom and his other sister Josephine and I was once again able to question him on different occasions about the things dad had told me and further.
This is what Dad told me.By 1917 he and Salvatore D'Aquila (first boss of what is now known as the ‘Gambino crime family’ of New York/New Jersey) were close friend, having met in 1911. In 1924 my dad named my brother Sal after D'Aquila. Salvatore D'Aquila was constantly trying to have dad join him in the Mafia, which dad would graciously refuse. It was through Salvatore that dad met Enrico Caruso. It was common for the great singer to buy tickets in bulk for his own shows only to give them to poor people who were not able to pay to see him. This is a little known fact but for Caruso historians.
Dad told me that he had many Irish friends over the years. He told me that he did much rum running and mom confirmed it to me in his presence. She said she was always worried about him. Once he came home shot in the back of his leg and another time he was stabbed in the hand. The Italian Mafia did not have control of the rum running at New York until around l92O.The rum running was controlled by the Irish mob. Starting in 1920 with prohibition the Italians did take over rum running. It's through running rum for the Irish mob that dad became close friends with O'Mally. Starting at about 1915 the Irish mob was run by Charles Vannie Higgins. This explains why dad had to write a note of introduction for O'Mally to D'Aquila after he, dad surrendered to the Brooklyn police. O'Mally besides being a Brooklyn cop was working for Higgins and the Irish mob. D’Aquilla would and did ask O’Mally if he was associated with the Irish Mob at that meeting as dad had said he would.
This is what Uncle Lou told me.Uncle Lou was one half of the world-renowned Ballroom dance team of Leta & Lechard. They had been dancing together since 1914; one year after Louand his family entered the United States. They retired from dancing in 1929 for the most part because of their association with the Mafia. Many engagements for stars were in the presence of mob officials because they owned/ran all of the big clubs. After the shows, many times their company would be requested of the mob.
This meant that they had to sit with them, dine and drink with them. Over a period of years, Leta started drinking heavily and became an alcoholic, which caused the break up of the team. Lou refused to take on another partner. But they loved each other and stayed married to the end.
On their travels as a dance team they had more than once come in contact with Enrico Caruso and had the highest regard for each other's talents. Greetings passing through Lou on behalf of dad and Caruso were common. This is my only verification. When mama was pregnant with Joey in 1921' dad was confused as to what he would name a son. Dad wanted to name him Enrico but because of the untimely death and the part dad played in his father death, he decided to name a newly born son, Joseph after his father. Enrico Caruso died in 1921.
It was uncle Lou's understanding that D'Aquila had ties with the Chicago mob and that's how Clarence Darrow was enlisted for the appeal of dad's 1927 conviction for first-degree murder. Clarence Darrow as well as Enrico Caruso was a regular at a popular nightclub where Lou and his wife dance at in Chicago and Chicago society often met. It was called Colosimo’s Café. It was owned by Big Jim Colosimo.
Among the notables and celebrities that frequented Colosimo’s Café’ were
Flo Ziegfeld, Sophie Tucker, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, NY Gov. Al Smith, Warden Lewis Lawes (Sing Sing), Enrico Caruso, al Capone who had his own booth. This is the short list.
Colosimo’s murdered was ordered by Torrio who was Al Capone's mentor. Torrio moved from Brooklyn to Chicago bringing Capone with him. In 1925 an attempt was made on Torrio's life. It was serious enough for him to retire to Sicily and to give the leadership of the Chicago mob to Al Capone.
In 1927 when dad murdered a doctor and was found guilty, Salvatore D'Aquila requested of the Chicago Mafia to arrange a visit to New York by world famous defense attorney Clarence Darrow, ‘Scopes Trial’ ‘ Leopold and Loeb trial’. At this time nothing happened in Chicago without Capone knowing, So surely this would have had to go through Al Capone.. Darrow Came to the Belmont Hotel on Manhattan supposedly to give a speech on the law and it was back stage that Alexander Marky (Chairman of the Francesco Caruso defense fund) met and spoke to him on behalf of D'AquiIa.
Since dad was incarcerated immediately after the murder, none of this would have been known to anyone including dad without Uncle Lou telling us. I was told by Uncle Lou that immediately after dads release from prison in 1934, he told him everything D’Aquila and other had done for him.For this I am eternally grateful to my Uncle Lou. Thank you Lou…