Cleveland Gangsters Handle Media Relations 'Old School' Style

We consider ourselves part of the media, but we still enjoyed this 1982 video clip posted on YouTube in which Cleveland gangsters John Calandra and James Licavoli attack newspaper photographers as the two emerge from the courthouse following their conviction on racketeering charges. (They were allowed out on bond.)

I believe Calandra (a member of boss Licavoli's inner circle) is the one in yellow strangling the woman with her own camera cord. I know that because Licavoli is the one swinging the cane at them.

Here is some background from a Cleveland ABC affiliate: [It's] just after the 3:45 p.m. announcement of [Licavoli's and Calandra's] verdicts. A throng of media await the men outside the front doors of the courthouse, including WEWS reporter Paul Orlousky and WEWS videographer Bob Wilkinson. Licavoli and Calandra try to avoid the waiting media by exiting through the rear parking lot of the courthouse on Rockwell Avenue.

Three photographers, Maribeth Joeright for the Associated Press, Diana McNees from The Plain Dealer and our own WEWS videographer Rich Geyser, have staked-out the rear exit and are about to surprise the two convicted mobsters. Having just been found guilty, the men were in no mood to smile for the cameras.

In a Plain Dealer article the next day, Calandra is quoted as saying, "God damn it, what are you doing here?" as he yanked at McNees's camera and camera bag.

James T. "Jack White" Licavoli was 76 years old at the time of his conviction, John P. Calandra was 66, but their ages didn't slow them in their attack on the photojournalists. Licavoli wielded his cane. Calandra pushed, pulled and shoved them as the two headed for their car in the Society Bank parking lot – that parking today is the home of the 57-story Key Bank Tower.

"They were just found guilty and it was their way of venting," said Geyser, recalling the events of nearly 29 years ago. Shortly after the attack, Geyser was told Licavoli had a 17-inch stiletto knife hidden inside his cane.

Now, compare the video clip of those two Cleveland Mafiosi to those well-known clips of John Gotti (Senior) who smirked and nodded for the cameras...even invited a crew of reporters inside the Ravenite to hold court...

"Jack White," or "Blackie," as Licavoli was called, would tap that cane (the one he is seen holding in the video) on the floor whenever he ordered a hit, as if to punctuate his declaration. I have been told about this mannerism by an anonynmous source who spoke with guys who were present many times when such orders came down. (Licavoli may have carried the cane as a result of being shot in the leg in 1928.)

He must have really banged that thing hard when he ordered Danny Greene to be taken out; as anyone who knows his history, or has watched the film "Kill the Irishman," Greene was a giant hemorrhoid growing right out of the crack of Jack's ass.

Licavoli (August 18, 1904 − November 23, 1985) was one of the earliest organized crime figures to be convicted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act).

Licavoli arrived in Cleveland in 1938. He was eventually made and inducted into the Cleveland crime family, quickly establishing control over illegal gambling and the vending machine industry in the neighboring cities of Youngstown and Warren, Ohio.

In 1976, longtime Cleveland family boss John Scalish died without having appointed a successor. By then Licavoli, who had slowly built up his power base and strength over the decades, along with an immense fortune, was considered by many to be the logical successor. He became boss of the Cleveland crime family.

Unfortunately for Licavoli, the Irish gangster Danny Greene commenced trying to take control of Mafia rackets in Cleveland. Mafia associate John Nardi sided with Greene, giving him an advantage over the Cleveland family. This erupted into an all-out war during which many Licavoli supporters were killed. Still, Jack White refused offers of help from both New York and Chicago, knowing full well families from these cities would send crews to muscle their way in before the ring of the last shot had even died out. Licavoli hired an outside hit man, Ray Ferritto, and took care of Greene & Co. on his own -- despite what you saw in the film.

In 1985, James Licavoli died of a heart attack at the Oxford Federal Correctional Institute in Oxford, Wisconsin.


  1. Those guys were probably close to 80 years old!! Still scrapping and taking no shit!!!

  2. Gotti should have taken this approach, but then again he had a big mouth.
    Old School-Anonymous


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