Philip “Chicken Man” Testa

Philip - Chicken Man - Testa
Philip “Chicken Man” Testa
Few American cities acknowledge their mafiosi as freely as Philadelphia, the City of Mafia Love. Mafioso watching has long been considered a fine spectator sport. A restaurant in the city noted as a feeding place for the Mafia, Cous' Little Italy, even sported a hamburger called the Testa Burger, named after a godfather of the early 1980s, Philip "Chicken Man" Testa.

The Wall Street Journal, a publication much impressed with effective methods of salesmanship, cited the pitch for the Testa Burger, "If you didn't eat it, you'd get your fingers broken."

It was a gag, but Phil Testa, in his criminal activities, was no laughing matter. Classified by the FBI as one of the most violent members of the Angelo Bruno crime family, Testa was also its underboss.

Bruno, known as "the Gentle Don," was assassinated in 1980, almost certainly by New York Mafia crime families seeking to take over Atlantic City's new and enormously valuable crime concessions (flowing from now-legal casino gambling). The consensus among crime specialists was that Testa would be a tougher man to down than Bruno and that he would fight for what the Philadelphia mafiosi regarded as their turf.

Testa, in fact, was considered a man who would fight almost anybody over almost anything. Testa operated from the cover of a chicken shop on Christian Street. One time a rookie FBI agent, doing a routine check on a federal job applicant, wandered into the place to question the proprietor. Testa had four of his brawny enforcers heave him out into the street.

With Testa running the mob, a local newspaper thought it would be wise, considering the great public interest in local mafiosi, to have its resident astrologer study the Testa future in the stars. "With Neptune in exact conjunction with his retrograde Jupiter," the horoscope proclaimed, "no matter what's going on, Testa will come out in a better position than he started."

It was at best a short-term forecast. In March 1981, almost a year after Bruno's rubout, Chicken Man Testa got his. He was blown to bits when a shrapnel-filled remote control bomb tore up his house and porch as he returned there in the middle of the night.

Mob boss Angelo Bruno (right), 58, and underboss Philip Testa (left), 44
Mob boss Angelo Bruno (right), 58, and underboss Philip Testa (left), 44

Most theories lent themselves to the likelihood that the New York mobs had struck again. But the once-homogenous Philly mob was indeed coming apart. Rivals within his own organization had eliminated Testa, and the two decades of peace in Angelo Bruno's Philadelphia Mafia was over. Bruno's and Testa's deaths demonstrated that with bloody certainty.

(The night after Testa was blown up, Cous' Little Italy stopped serving the Testa Burger.)