The Life and Legacy of Lucky Luciano

He downsized, he restructured and he used Standard & Poor’s as much as Smith & Wesson to change forever the face of organized crime
Time Magazine

 Born and deceased in Italy, Salvatore Lucania is considered the innovator of organized crime in America. Once immigrated to America he reinvented himself, more commonly then known as Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Then, he reinvented the mafia. Along with his childhood friend Meyer Lansky, they’d come to change to face and future of the Mafia in America. Luciano’s rise to power however was not an easy one. Granted with gifts of ambition and intelligence, Luciano worked his way to the top. Between his knack for business and ruthlessness he forever changed his face and the face of organized crime. Growing up in Manhattan’s Lower East Side he became one of the first bosses of the American mafia that grew up in the States. However like all good things, Luciano’s dominance also came to an end after a series of unfortunate events that led to his arrest and eventually his death in 1962.

When Luciano was 10 years old he immigrated to New York City. At 14, Lucky dropped out of school and got a job delivering hats throughout all five boroughs earning $7 per week. School just was not for little Sal Lucania. But it was down on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that Luciano first met his friend and later lifetime associate, Meyer Lansky, a young Jewish boy also living in Manhattan. This during the time was unusual. Mixing of races back then was frowned upon and not accepted by many Italians. This small example is only a taste of Luciano’s perspective for the greater picture. He wasn’t old school; he didn’t care about how the old bosses ran things. Luciano was after one thing and one thing only, money. Luciano never saw color or race as a problem and knew that business was business. His philosophy was simple, “There’s no such thing as good money or bad money.There’s just money” (SearchQuotes). Allegedly, after winning $244 in a game of dice, Luciano quit his hat delivery job and turned to the streets for money. It was this street sense that separated Luciano from the rest.

While still in his teens Lucky started his own crew. Unlike other groups of kids during that time, Lucky didn’t deal with the small petty crimes to make money. Lucky and his crew offered other gangs Italian, Irish and Jewish protection for ten cents per week. It was from this crew that his friendship with Lansky grew and where both became well known in Manhattan’s neighborhoods. It wasn’t long until Lucky became a key player in New York’s crime syndicate at the head of the Genovese crime family.

During the United States’ Prohibition Era, the American Mafia thrived to its peak in the 1920s. Bootlegging operations ran from Chicago to New York, New York to Philadelphia, down to Tampa Bay, Florida and everywhere in between. Various sources say that in 1925, at age 28, Luciano was making around $1.2 to $12 million dollars per year from his illegal activities that ranged from bootlegging, racketeering, gambling, waterfronts, unions, food marts, restaurants, bakeries, textiles, loan sharking, extortion, narcotics, fraud and prostitution (Time Magazine). Their operations slithered their way into every aspect of society, politics, legitimate businesses and law enforcement. During his time, Luciano was one of six major bootleggers, between Meyer Lansky, Louis Buchalter, Jacob Shapiro, Long Zwillman and Bugsy Siegel, they ran the alcohol trade all along the East Coast (Biography.com). In 1929, Luciano finally got his nickname after surviving a violent stabbing, leaving him with the characteristic droopy right eye. Who ordered Luciano’s stabbing was rumored to have been his former boss Joe Masseria. However a year later, Luciano, with rival boss Salvatore Maranzano’s blessing would have his revenge when he killed and replaced Masseria in April of 1931. By June of 1931, at age 34, Luciano was sitting at the same table as infamous mobsters such as Joe Profaci, Vincent Mangano, Tom Gagliano and Joe Bonanno. With the world in Luciano’s young hand, Maranzano quickly saw Luciano as a threat after the death of Masseria and wanted Luciano dead. However, little did Maranzano know that Meyer Lansky’s loyalty to Lucky was greater than his loyalty to him. The Luciano-Lansky duo led to the death of Salvatore Maranzano a month later in September of 1931. Both assassinations taking place methodically and thoroughly. After Luciano took out Masseria and Maranzano, he was now the boss of all bosses. His new position, the head of the Genovese crime family, now allowed him to make the changes that forever immortalized him in the history of the American Mafia.

Luciano is considered the father of modern organized crime in America for structuring the five New York City crime families along with other families all across the United States. By creating a hierarchical council and chain of command, he revolutionized not only the Mafia in New York City but also that of all the United States. With a unified council or panel of leaders from every family, the Mafia was now efficient and organized. Luciano saw that war was bad for business and after seeing the effects of the mafia wars, Luciano sought peace. This council, which was named the Commission, was a conglomerate of families that comprised the American mafia. After enjoying years at New York’s luxury hotels, the famous “Waldorf Astoria in Waldorf Towers, custom tailored suits and chauffeurs;” Lucky’s luck was running out (History.com).

The special prosecutors name was Thomas E. Dewey. In 1935 he was ordered to look into New York’s organized crime activities. Following his investigations, Dewey found Bronx mobster Dutch Schultz involved in many illegal activities and was planning to convict Schultz. However, when Schultz came to find out that the detective was on his tail, he planned to murder Dewey to prevent his investigation from continuing, but there was a problem. Realizing that this murder would cause a major crackdown in the mafia’s activity, the Commission ordered Schultz to stand down. When Schultz decided to disregard the Commission’s decision, the Commission murdered Schultz in a New Jersey tavern. With his suspect dead, Schultz’s murder only led Dewey straight to the Commission and ultimately Charlie Luciano. With Dewey nipping at anything he could get on Luciano, in 1936, he caught his break. Luciano’s luck ran out when he and some of his men were brought to trial and convicted of prostitution and extortion. The trial started in June and by May of 1936 Luciano was sentenced to 30 to 50 years in prison.

During the 1930s, while the mafia ran the streets of New York, the United States had also entered World War II and was storming the beaches of Normandy. With the next Allied advancement heading for southern Europe, Sicily was to be their first stop. Seeing an opportunity in the situation, Luciano offered help with his contacts in the New York waterfronts as well as over in Sicily in exchange for a conditional release from prison. Time Magazine also cites this exchange with Meyer Lansky taking a key role in Luciano’s release in reference to his involvement in the Allied Operation Husky:

Stymied intelligence agents turned to the underworld for help. Lansky, known in the ’30s for breaking heads at pro-Nazi meetings, acted as liaison and was allowed to visit Luciano. Lucky put the word out to cooperate, and formerly mute dockworkers,          fishermen and hoodlums became the eyes and ears of naval intelligence. Soon eight German spies, who had landed by U-boat, were arrested, and explosives, maps and blueprints for sabotage were seized (Time Magazine).

So in exchange for important information and local cooperation, Luciano was released with parole and banned from US soil. Briefly after his deportation, Luciano couldn’t stay away. He traveled to Cuba months after his deportation to Sicily to rendezvous with old associates. There Lansky and Siegel met him and helped him continue running his operations. Unfortunately for Lucky, after the war in 1947 the United States government pressured Cuba into sending Luciano back to Italy. With the ability to keep a better eye over him, he was forced to stay in Naples by the US government. His time in Naples ultimately led to his demise on January 26, 1962 due to a heart attack. Even though Charlie “Lucky” Luciano’s last days were spent in Italy, his body was allowed to be returned to St. John’s Cemetery in Queens, New York where his parents buried him in their family vault (Time Magazine). However here, he was laid to rest under his birth name; Salvatore Lucania.

Charlie “Lucky” Luciano was not a model citizen. He made the best of his situation with the cards he was dealt and used his talents to the best of his abilities but simply in the wrong world. Luciano’s legacy will forever continue and forever be known as the architect of the American Mafia. He will be remembered not only for his ingenuity and cunning but also his ruthlessness and understanding for a greater perspective.

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Bibliography

Buchanan, Edna. “LUCKY LUCIANO: Criminal Mastermind.” TIME.com. TIME Magazine, 07             Dec. 1998. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.    <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,989779,00.html&gt;.

“Charles “Lucky” Luciano.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2013.             <http://www.history.com/topics/lucky-luciano&gt;.

DAILY MAIL REPORTER. “The Moment ‘Lucky’ Luciano’s Luck Ran Out: Black-and-white    Pictures of Notorious Mob Leader and the High Class Prostitutes Who Led to His 1936          Arrest.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd, 28 May 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.            <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2151027/Black-white-pictures-mob-leader-   Charles-Lucky-Luciano-high-class-prostitutes-led-1936-arrest.html>.

“Lucky Luciano Biography.” Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.             <http://www.biography.com/people/lucky-luciano-9388350?page=2&gt;.

“Lucky Luciano Quotes.” Lucky Luciano Quotes. SearchQuotes, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2013.             <http://www.searchquotes.com/search/Lucky_Luciano/1/&gt;.

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Get me to the Greeks.

Greece.

Probably the longest I’ve been on a boat, about 15 hours later and a transfer of ferries it was definitely worth it. Once we got the the island of Corfu we were picked up by a pink bus that brought us to the Pink Palace. The first day we went on an ATV tour of the island, beautiful views, crystal clear water and some fun on 4 wheels. We rode through towns, dirt roads and main streets, all the way down to a beach for lunch. No casualties just a lot of inept female drivers, what else is new. That night we had a makeshift Halloween party with a pretty included dinner.

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Day 2 consisted of the “booze cruise.” Throw 85 people on a small wood hull boats with no life jackets and beer and wine and that’s what we had. The captain was in a hat, typical captains shirt and whitey tighties, classic. What went on, on that cruise will forever be held secret by many. Unfortunately not for here, this is another ask in person clause. During the cruise we pulled up to a formation of rocks in the water, what they called cliffs. So, jump off the boat, swim to a jagged rock formation in the middle of the water, climb up the jagged rocks in my Nike flip flops, because you know, impossible is nothing, get to the top and then pencil dive 60 feet into blue Greek water. That shit was no joke, some people that landed wrong got bruised and really shaken up. 1 casualty- female, 20, fractured back due to jump & still in Greece due to needed surgery (prior to jump had scoliosis; aka shouldn’t have jumped). After the booze cruise it was nap time. Then time to get into your pink toga and bust a move. Toga party was a success, dancing was hilarious. Overall good time. Next day presented itself with a hangover worth of putting out a large horse. However I rallied and joined a trip to Corfu town. Cool little town, cool Venetian fort, typical small island town. However would hate to live there. They still have cars from World War II, like, I was surprised the palace had wifi. Overall great trip “saw some great views.” Once in a lifetime chance to see the worlds most famous hostel.

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That’s all folks. Thanks again for reading, hopefully you’ll want more and come ask me a few questions!

Stay classy & Yamas!

M

10 Days | 5 Cities | 4800 km

Ello folks. Hope all is well. Just dropping in again.

Two weeks ago now I finished my 10 day 5 city tour of Western Europe. 42 hours of bus and 4800 kilometers later and I’ve seen more than 99% of the world has. This is going to be a brief overview of everything I did and saw with a little of my 2 cents of each city. My trip started in Berlin. Berlin was very unique. The mixture of history and German modern architecture/fine engineering made Berlin so memorable. One of my first stops was the historical Reichstag which for a long time in German history simply represented a false promise of democracy. The phony parliamentary building was barely put to actual use during its early years when Germany was still ruled by monarchs. It was used slightly during the Weimar Republic but then was burned down and bombed during the rise of Nazi Germany. During the reconstruction of Berlin after World War II it was reconstructed with meaning and symbolism. It now stands with a steel and glass dome. In this building now, visitors can freely walk up and around the dome, which is situated directly above the elected German parliament. A symbol not only of transparency but also the people standing over the government. This is just a taste of this historical but modern Berlin. Other than that, I visited the Brandenburg Gates, the Holocaust Memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall and a myriad of other memorials, gardens and monuments. To sit here and give you a history lesson would be boring and lame so if you’re that interested, let me know and I’d be glad to fill you in. Berlin and most of northern Germany in general has a big rave and metal scene. Your stereotypical guys in black skinny jeans, chains and ridiculous Mohawks are common pedestrians. Likewise goes for nightclubs, they’re your typical stone arch basements with sketchy huge bald bouncers. We went to the most well known club in Berlin named Matrix. Entry is sort of hard but we managed. Place is pretty big. On a packed night, all 7 dance floors are shuffle room only,no room for the Holy Spirit out here boys and girls, and every room is playing a different genre of music. Pretty sick and a must if you can in Berlin. Nonetheless prepare yourself for a good time & try to stay away from the insanely attractive hookers.

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My next stop was Amsterdam. Amsterdam was one of a kind, filled with thousands of canals, it is a unique city. With an aspect of magic and beauty with a splash of mischief in its coffee shops and Red Light District. It’s one of a kind and for stories, you’ll just have to ask me in person. Amsterdam I noticed had an interesting demographic as well, I’m  assuming because it’s government is so tolerant and opens its arms to refugees seeking asylum because I felt like a Dutch person was 1 in 6 people I saw. Possibly due to being in the more touristy areas of the city, nonetheless, just an observation. Last note about Amsterdam, definitely visit the Heineken factory and don’t be out in the Red Light too late, scene gets sketchier than it already may seem. Overall, great impression. Its Europe’s city of sin.

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After the mischief of Amsterdam we headed out for Brussels. The center of the European Parliament, the grand palaces, Belgian waffles and their renown pommels frites (since saying French fries wouldn’t make any sense in Europe). Brussels was everything I expected. Clean, wealthy with a whisk of sophistication in the air, everything you’d expect from a country stuck in between France and Germany, the best of both worlds.

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My trip only spent half a day in Brussels, plus everyone was anxious for Paris. So that afternoon we shipped off to Paris. After another long and uncomfortable bus ride, we arrived in Paris. We stayed in the Montmartre quarter and to my surprise the bus dropped us off literally right in front of the famous Moulin Rouge. Montmartre is an interesting neighborhood, originally not even a part of Paris it sits on a hill with a beautiful white church (Sacre Croix) on top. From that church you had a beautiful view of east Paris. In Paris I visited Notre Dame, many of the palaces in the city, the famous lovers bridge covered in locks, of course the Eiffel Tour, the Louvre, the Arch of Triumph, the famous Champs Élysées, all of the gardens in between and Versailles. Knowing I wouldn’t have enough time to calmly see the Louvre, I decided to leave that for another time, figuring I wouldn’t do it justice if I rushed through it. Versailles however was impressive, it’s immensity and grandeur was as expected. I was impressed more with the gardens than the actual structure. Versailles interior has been renovated several times, with the possible exception of the famous bedrooms of King Louis, his queen and mistresses. So a lot of the inside simply didn’t seem original. My favorite room was the Hall of Battles, a long hall with huge paintings of Napoleon’s battles. Lastly I noted that the city of Paris, more so the city center, is extremely clean but as soon I stepped outside of the city, that standard completely disappeared. Oh and one more, you wonder why they picked a rat to be the animal cooking in Ratatouille? Because in Paris these things are everywhere and they’re f-$&/&:?! huge. I fed a few under the Eiffel Tour and my God they put New York’s to shame.

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Next stop, Barcelona. Off to the Catalan hub and home of Lionel Messi. After doing the walking tour of Barcelona, seeing the Olympic Park, Gaudi’s Segrada Familia, the Gothic District and all the sites, we had some free time. I ate paella for lunch and hung out by the port and beach, it was much hotter than I expected but it didn’t matter, I was in Barcelona. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Barcelona but it surely didn’t let me down. The first night we went out to a couple well known bars and ended up at club Opium right on the beach, the place was awesome(warning, the drinks are 10-15€ right off the bat so heads up) but the DJ absolutely killed it. We literally couldn’t leave the dance floor because the next song was always the best. It was absurd, we were out until 7 am where we then exited the back of the club and sat on the beach to watch the sun come up. Got back to the hostel around 8:30 and passed out until 2ish. Woke up and had a day to ourselves. I got up and checked out the port a little more but then got in contact with an old high school buddy studying there in Barcelona. Lucky for me, I come to find out il Classico was going on that night, in Barcelona! I don’t use exclamation points that much but, it was a big deal. After meeting my buddy studying there we went to a bar, grabbed an early table and watched the biggest rivalry game in Spain surrounded by Barca fans. It was glorious, granted I wasn’t at the stadium, it was still great. I mean when the game at the bar you’re at is on a projector and there are people on the second floor leaning over the balconies waving Barca flags and cheering, that’s as close as you can get without dropping €350 on a ticket to actually go to the game. However, final result, Barcelona 2 – Real Madrid 1. With one questionable non call for Cristano Ronaldo in the box, Barca fans got away with a 2-1 win over their rivals over in Madrid. After the win we all went to Piazza Catalunya to celebrate. Slightly partial to Barcelona I joined right in. It was unbelievable, wouldn’t have changed a thing. Good company good time, great timing.

 

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And that was my night, called it an early one after stopping in at a bar with a couple of my roommates and then got up for the last 12-15 hour voyage back to Florence.

 

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There you go, a small taste of my fall break. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thanks for reading.
Stay classy

M