The name of this post has been changed to reflect the naming convention of this blog
I got along well with the Italian crowd, being that Donato, Vito (Jerry) and Antonio were all Italians that knew me. There was this one club I played that was a local watering hole for seemingly mobsters. Sometimes Donato would also attend with his brother Gino. A lot of the attendees liked the Latin flavor I added to the music, and would sit up front with their girlfriends on Friday nights. Then on Saturday night they’d bring their wife’s.
A couple of big time spenders would tip me, because they liked my sound and said it reminded them of when they use to party at the casinos in Havana before Castro took over. They were outwardly torqued about Castro’s regime and were resolved to return the island to it’s former posture.
One number they really liked was Mambo Italiano, the hit by Rosemary Clooney. Donato also had a sister named Gina, who’d often swing through and sing the lyrics from a bootlegged cheat sheet. The video inset is indicative of the happenings during that time, except we were intermingled with an older crowd.
The following is a YouTube video of Mambo Italiano (3:07 mins):
The big tips would come on Friday nights, because they wanted to impress their girlfriends. On Saturday nights the tips were less, since they had no need to impress their wives. I motioned to Antonio and informed him about the tips I received. He said, “That’s the way they are. They’re good-fellas.” A few years later I found out those good-fellas were wise-guys, better yet mobsters. I should have known by the way they acted and conducted their affairs. In any case, whatever they were called, the tips were welcomed.
This region in upstate isn’t as disciplined as one would be inclined to think. Endicott, NY, were I worked, was definitely the wrong side of the tracks. The neighborhood consisting of Italian immigrants was called the Nob. There was a group of men that engaged in a variety of illegal activities, including gambling, extortion, prostitution as well as threats to legitimate enterprises. They were tagged the Mob on the Nob. For a view of the article The Mob on the Nob click here.
A few miles west on Route 17, is where there was a roundup of underworld figures at the 1957 convention at Joe Barbara’s Apalachian Estate—known as the Big Barbecue or the Mobfest. According to the above article the following occurred during their attempt to escape:
…two mobsters got to a neighboring house and asked the housewife to use the phone to call a cab. When questioned later, the woman adamantly refused to believe that the men were criminals. “Dangerous!” she said, “I don’t believe that. They were such well-dressed gentlemen, polite and soft-spoken.”
The meeting was attended by roughly 100 Mafiosi from the United States, Canada, Sicily and Italy. It was this raid that revealed the existence of the cooperation between all five major crime families and most of the smaller families; thus, resulting in the historical exposure of organized crime. The map below shows the relative distance from Apalachin (green balloon A), and the IBM Endicott Lab where I worked (green balloon B). As can be seen, It was a stone’s throw away—just over the hill. Binghamton is a few miles off to the east, and can be viewed by shifting the map to the left.