Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mobsters: Coming face-to-face with a hit man

It was a haven for mobsters and corruption beginning in the Strip’s early years through the 1980s. By the time Saturday’s speaker, Frank Cullota, co-author of his autobiography Cullotta: The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster and Government Witness, moved to Las Vegas from Chicago, the Strip was lined with casino/hotels, mostly under the control of the mob. There were a myriad of rackets in the city, and murder was the final payoff for those who didn’t follow the code.

Bugsy Siegel once famously said of Syndicate members, “We only kill each other.” Then he was murdered in 1947.

The Mob Chronicles is a new series of talks featuring real stories from the people who lived them. The subject and design of the show holds a morbid fascination for many, and Las Vegas is a ripe source of personalities and stories. Because there is a certain mystique, a curious romance attached to these things, the general public wants to hear what was behind the glamorized accounts in books and movies.

Those who lived it will tell you that the glitz surrounding such a life had a dark underbelly. The reality could mean being arrested, doing time, even killing lifelong friends or being murdered by them yourself. It was a life that was mostly dangerous, but also had humorous moments.

Frank Cullotta told the audience how he grew up in a life of crime, embarking along the path his father walked when he was only ten. He reeled off the crimes he had committed like a grocery list: 300 burglaries, 50 armed robberies, arson and then the chiller—2 murders and 2 attempted murders. As he spoke in a flat voice, devoid of emotion, it was obvious that to him it was just business.

He said he and Tony “the Ant” Spilotro became boyhood friends in Chicago. After Tony learned who Cullotta’sfather was, an unbreakable bond was created. Apparently Cullotta’s father had once saved Spilotro’s father’s life. Photographs flashed on the screen as he spoke, starting from the time they were boys until Cullotta moved to Las Vegas at Spilotro’s request and became the infamous mobster’s lieutenant. He headed a cartel of swindlers, arsonists and killers known in town as the Hole in the Wall Gang. One of the captions on the screen said it all… Tough guys grow up fast. http://www.examiner.com/x-24363-Las-Vegas-Writing-Examiner~y2010m5d10-Coming-facetoface-with-a-hit-man