Why Made Men Kiss

Why do made men kiss? Traditionally, I believe it's just slightly more than the "air kiss," popular among the Social Registry types -- a lip brush on both cheeks, not a full lip-to-lip smack. (That would be the kiss of death, according to either Mario Puzo or Mafia tradition; who can tell the difference?)

Jimmy Breslin, in his great book The Good Rat, explains exactly how this tradition started: It involves a chance meet between Sonny Franzese and  Joey Brancato on Lorimer Street and Metropolitan Avenue, right near where I recently was visiting a new apartment building for a real estate story I was writing.

The rest of this post, apocryphal or true, is excerpted from the prologue to Breslin's book, The Good Rat:

What I'm doing, I'm kissing the mirror, and I'm doing it so I can see myself kissing and get it exactly right. ... This way I can go into the club house and kiss them on the cheeks the way I'm supposed to. That's the Mafia. We kiss hello. We don't shake hands. We kiss.

I am at the mirror because I'm afraid of lousing up on kissing. ... This is real Mafia. For years cops and newspaper reporters glorified the swearing- in ceremony with the needle and the holy picture in flames and the old guy asking the new guy questions, like they all knew so much. The whole thing added up to zero. The kissing is different. It comes from strength and meaning. If you kiss, it is a real sign that you're in the outfit. You see a man at the bar, you kiss him. You meet people anyplace, you kiss them. Like a man. It doesn't matter who sees you. They're
supposed to see.

It all started when John "Sonny" Franzese and Joey Brancato, both big guys in the Colombo outfit, bumped into each other one day on the corner of Lorimer Street and Metropolitan Avenue in Greenpoint, which is in Brooklyn, and they kissed each other on the cheeks. The only thing anybody on Metropolitan Avenue knew was that they had never seen it done before. The moment the men kissed, it became a street rule. This was at least fi fty years ago. Immediately they were doing it on 101st Avenue in Ozone Park and Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach. Soon even legitimate citizens were doing it.

Sonny Franzese was born in Italy, brought here by his family when he was two. The family settled on Lorimer Street, which is made of two- story frame houses, home built, and a bakery and restaurant. At a young age, Sonny failed to behave. In school he also fell short. Even in the army for a brief time, he received a poor report card. He sparkled on local police reports and his name got stars on FBI sheets.

The feds soon realized all they had to do was follow guys who kiss each other and they'd know the whole Mafia. Still nobody stopped.

Some guys said that Sonny Franzese had nothing to do with it. "Italian men always kiss," they claimed. But my friend Anthony — Tony Cafe — who is the boss of Metropolitan Avenue, says that when Sonny Franzese and Joey Brancato kissed it was the start of a great way for tough guys to know each other. It's like a password, only it's more personal.


  1. Breslin is a giant, an old time reporter who mingles with those he writes about. Sonny Franzese is also a giant. A man whose legend is from deeds, not press clippings, and whose peers respect and fear him. As Machiavelli advised rulers in " The Prince"

  2. klein the lawyer was brelin's great creation. in the one character breslin captured the full scope of doing business on queens blvd. the small professionals and even smaller wiseguys. funny how the true king of queens, sonny, got taken down by a former shyster, jake the snake, given a black robe and a lifetime pay check by ike. jake never outgrew the blvd, while sonny came to run all of li and a good part of manhattan

  3. Nothing against Sonny, but that story is complete BS! Although, I am sure that was told to Breslin, it's just not so. But then again, that guy knows everything about the life,just ask him.


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