Retired Mobster on Life in 'the Life'

Interview with former mobster regarding
day-to-day life;
Sonny Girard spent nearly 30 years involved with
La Cosa Nostra

Sonny Girard was raised in the Red Hook and Navy Yard sections of South Brooklyn: Mob Country. He has spent the greater part of his adult life a respected associate of organized crime. His heydey ran from the mid 1960s to early 1990s.

Sonny was characterized by the New York Post as "...a middle echelon member" of one of New York's five mob families. Eventually convicted later racketeering, under the R.I.C.O. Organized Crime Statute, by Rudy Giuliani's office, and sentenced to seven years in Federal Prison, Sonny Girard served the max, using his time to write the first of his three novels, "Blood of Our Fathers," which was published by Pocket/Simon & Schuster.

Sonny can be seen on various television and radio shows and print interviews in the U.S., Canada, and Italy. His appearances and interviews include Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" and ABC-TV's "Nightline."

He runs his own website, called Sonny's Mob Club, where you can purchase special autographed copies of all of Sonny's books. If you are a true mob fan, you can lose yourself for hours wandering around the site; it is full of original blog posts, stories, jokes, videos, movie reviews, molls (my favorite), and a truckload of other stuff.

Following is Part 1 of a Q&A we conducted with Sonny.

Describe a typical day in the life of a mobster, from getting out of bed to getting into bed (to sleep!)

It [depended on] what business was going on at the time or where we were hanging out, or who we were hanging out with at the time.  Superiors came and went, death, prison, etc. Since I hated rain, if I woke up and saw it was a miserable day, and nothing was urgent, I would call and cancel my day, then go back to bed.  If it rained while I was in my car, I’d go to a mall with indoor parking, go to a bar or restaurant, and call whoever I needed to see to let them know where to meet.

For one long period, I would shower and dress (suit, shirt, and tie EVERY day) with my tie left open, put a hat on and go straight to the barber shop, which was our central meeting place each day.  I’d get shaved daily, with mudpack massage once a week by one barber, go to the next chair to get my hair styled daily, cut when needed, get my manicure, get my shoes shined in the chair, and if the shoeshine guy wasn’t busy, have him wash my car inside and out.

During that period, I had one encapsulated period where I was doing some stuff with a guy in Little Italy. I’d go from the barber shop to Ferrara’s on Grand Street, then spend part of the day at the jewelry center, having lunch in the area or in Chinatown, then off to meetings or other things.  Some days I’d go uptown to shop, go to movies, or play with toys at FAO Schwarz…or private things.  Certain days were set aside to shop for clothes, cars, etc.

When I had my social clubs, I’d spend afternoons to evenings there, playing pinochle and conducting meetings for whatever activities I was involved in.  Collecting bookmaking, shylocking, or other monies would overlap throughout.  Collecting money was always a number one priority.  Sometimes meetings or “beefs” had to be dealt with, either involving me or others close to me.

Evenings were dinners, either at home or in restaurants, with the latter winning out more often than not. Evenings were for social activities, from movies, to nightclubs and bars, to private engagements, to illegal activities, like hijacking when I was doing that, taking care of people who needed “special attention” for one reason or another, etc.  Sometimes we’d go to after-hours joints or games, like blackjack, poker, or barboute.  I never gambled, so I only went to games I had a piece of or had a meeting at.

The beauty of the life was that everything wasn’t always the same.  Family life, which was important to me, got mixed in with all of that, with Sundays set aside for wife and kids.

How much does the typical soldier earn in a week or a month -- maybe a range -- and what is the biggest way the newly made guys earn  -- loansharking? prostitutes?

Today?  Can’t tell you, since everything is pretty much over and guys will grab for whatever they can. Prostitution and drugs were off limits for our crew, and most other crews.  Guys stepped out anyway.  At least one I knew got killed for it when he was caught dealing drugs; one killed himself.  Most killings involved politics.  Insults and other excuses were reasons, but were usually a front for some political maneuver.  Money earned varied.  Everyone was on their own and had to provide for themselves and send money upstairs.  Money ALWAYS went up, but rarely, if ever, came down.  Everything was supposed to go “on record,” supposedly for protection if a beef arose with another crew, but was for bosses to keep track of money they thought they should get.  Everyone cheated and did stuff off the record.  Today, I assume, with so many higher ups becoming rats, no one goes on the record with anything, which means a disciplinary breakdown, which means the breakdown of the family.  Myths, like having your lawyer or family taken care of if you were in prison, where just that, myths. 

Are there a lot of brokesters in the mob, guys struggling to make a buck -- or do the vast majority make a decent living

Plenty of brokesters; most doing fairly well; few really rich.

Still, a button is not a ticket to automatic wealth, is it?

No, but it’s a license to get away with a lot of shit with those who are not made.  Loyalties are vertical within a family if something involves legit or unattached people, but moves to horizontal with those in one of the families.  In other words, loyalties overlap different families to be favored by rank: bosses and underbosses are more loyal to other bosses and underbosses than captains; captains more loyal to other captains than ordinary goodfellas; everyone more loyal to each other than to those who aren’t made.  Money creates loyalty; guys will fight for those they can personally earn with.

What does it take to succeed in the mob

The same as in any other life: luck…which is preparation meeting opportunity.  Some succeed for fulfilling one kind of opportunity, some another.  There are guys who couldn’t drown a rubber duck, but have good money-making machines, which gives them status.

Where did the guys hang out in your day -- which restaurants, clubs? Why? Was a certain dish especially good at one place -- Monte's ricotta, for example -- or was one club especially good for picking up women?

There were so many places.  Monte’s was important because one segment of the Colombo crew hung out and held meetings there.  Depending on relations with them, guys would either eat there or stay away.  I ate there when I had to be there for something else.  Other places were known for food, but also had guys from crews who were friendly with each other eat there; some bars and nightclubs known for “wiseguy humps,” or girls who loved mobsters, etc.  I’ve been to the lowest class bars and after-hours clubs and to places like the Pierre and King Cole Room, the Copa and Royal Box at the Americana Hotel, the Cocoa Poodle in Brooklyn Chinatown always had 24 hour restaurants, so a lot of mob guys would go there or all night diners when the bars closed.

NEXT INSTALLMENT IN ONE WEEK - Wherein Sonny tells us, "Being whacked is always on the table, as is going to prison.  Some guys worry about it more than others."