Sex and the Mafia

Sex and the Mafia
Sex and the Mafia

A sort of mystique has built up around the members of the Mafia and organized crime on the matter of sex—licit or illicit. Mafiosi have three advantages most men do not enjoy: 1) they have considerable money to lure women with; 2) if married, their work keeps them out to all hours of the night or even away from home for days at a time, with alibis; 3) they rarely need alibis anyway since their wives are expected to ask no questions.

Much of the conversations picked up by police wiretaps concern sexual matters. Mafiosi are accomplished sexual gossips. Longy Zwillman may well have been properly labeled by the press as "the Al Capone of New Jersey," but whatever his accomplishments in organized crime, and they were many, he was regarded as quite the stud. His romance with budding actress Jean Harlow made him much celebrated within the mob and it was said the high point of a gathering of the boys would come when Longy fished out of his wallet what he claimed was a lock of Harlow's pubic hair.

Although there are rules in the Honored Society that prevent a mafioso from violating another member's wife, the imposition of the death penalty for sexual offenses is rather unheard of. The real purpose of the rule on sexual behavior is to cut down on "matters of honor" that could inhibit the orderly activities of the crime family.

Still, sexual charges are sometimes brought. One involved a highly ranked member of the Gambino family, Carmine Lombardozzi, who was brought up on charges by a lower-ranking member, Sabato Muro. Lombardozzi was ordered to put things right after he became involved with Muro's daughter. Carmine did what was required of him by divorcing his wife of 27 years and marrying the younger woman.

Prudery within Mafia circles is common when it applies to the female members of a mafioso's family. Walter Stevens, one of the most dependable hit men employed by Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, was a terror on the matter of sex. He censored his children's reading material, ripping out pages of books that he considered immoral.

His daughters were not allowed to wear short skirts or use lipstick or rouge, and he screened what movies they could attend. In fact, Torrio was himself probably the greatest mob prude of all. After a quarter of a century dealing with the mob's prostitution and other sex rackets, he could rightfully claim to have never touched even one of the women.

Torrio had a morbid fear of venereal disease and maintained a strict loyalty to his wife. His protégé Capone had no such compulsion and so developed the syphilitic affliction that would eventually end his life. The same was true of top New Jersey mobster Willie Moretti who finally had to be shot in what other mafiosi considered to be a "mercy killing" because they feared his mental health, affected by advanced syphilis, would cause him to blab mob secrets.

Moretti, also known as Willie Moore, tended to hold others to a higher standard than himself. Thus when gossip columns started to report that singer Frank Sinatra was going to divorce his wife Nancy to marry actress Ava Gardner, he shot off a telegram to Sinatra to whom he had long been a patron: "I AM VERY MUCH SURPRISED WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING IN THE NEWSPAPERS BETWEEN YOU AND YOUR DARLING WIFE. REMEMBER YOU HAVE A DECENT WIFE AND CHILDREN. YOU SHOULD BE VERY HAPPY. REGARDS TO ALL. WILLIE MOORE."

Another don operating on the double standard was Chicago boss Sam Giancana. As a reading of Mafia Princess by Antoinette Giancana and Thomas Renner makes obvious, Giancana was capable of jumping out of the bed of his mistress if necessary to commit murder, if he suspected any man of trifling with his daughters.

Sex for gangsters is looked upon as normal recreation, and, despite the rules, almost any peccadillo is permitted if the women are "outsiders." Thus it really was quite all right for Vito Genovese to have a man killed because he wanted his wife for himself. There is a mob rule against killing for personal reasons but affairs of the heart can at times be excused. Similarly, sex capers that produce no heat are acceptable.

No one seriously objected when some of the boys in Detroit's Purple Gang got a little too involved in fun and games at the LaSalle Hotel one hot summer night and the body of a beautiful girl came hurtling down some 10 stories to the street. Since the Purples at the time enjoyed considerable official cooperation, police took one look at the victim, who was bound and gagged, and decided it was a classic case of suicide.

Mobsters are expected to pamper their wives and take them away for trips, cruises and the like. However, it is not at all uncommon for the boys to stash their old ladies in Deck A and their broads a deck below. The custom is known as "bringing both sets."

An exception to this rule is Christmas time when tradition dictates fidelity to the wives. For years when the Copacabana flourished as a secret Frank Costello operation, the Christmas rule at the Copa was mob wives only—no girlfriends allowed.

Promiscuity is regarded in Mafia circles as an expression of manliness. Thus it was never clear whether Lucky Luciano was more angry that Thomas E. Dewey convicted him on prostitution charges or that the prosecutor brought on a parade of hookers who indicated Luciano was impotent.

Sex also represents a condemned man's last wish, even though he may not know it. When Tommy Eboli was violently removed from his post of acting boss in the Genovese crime family, the assassins knew he was on his way to see a lady friend in Brooklyn.

He could have been popped on his way into her apartment building but it was apparently decided that Eboli was entitled to the "respect" shown a boss. They let him have his evening of joy even though that meant hanging around for hours. Then they shot him to death as he came out.