The American Gangsters Website Capitalizes on a Uniquely American Genre

As a society most people are fascinated by living a different lifestyle than they live. Whether it's a famous ballplayer, an actor or even a musician -- we all sometimes muse about living the life of another.

Many of us also fantasize about being infamous mobsters--thugs, hit men and even godfathers. Whatever their station within the mob, these are men who chose this lifestyle -- and they are known as American Gangsters and they left their mark on history.

Capone, Siegel, Luciano, Gotti and others lived by their own rules. Whether you’re a fan or a critic we can’t deny that their legacies have enchanted millions of us. And, they have served as examples later followed by legitimate business: The booze-running days of Prohibition brought us NASCAR as we know it today, and from the illegal gambling halls came the bright lights and casinos that today glow along the Las Vegas strip. Even the numbers rackets served as a forerunner, to today's state lotteries and scratch-off cards.

American Gangsters will give you a glimpse of these men, the lifestyles they lived and the footprints left behind from their journey across the American landscape of history.

--Adapted from the American Gangsters website

David Brooks is proprietor of American Gangsters, a website that sells fans a range of products featuring images of famous mobsters in American history.

"I came up with the idea after seeing how popular the Mafia was becoming again. I wasn't aware of how popular the Mafia had become among the American public," Brooks told us, adding that he began to learn of "the mob" when he was 10 yeards old. "The first name I ever heard was Benjamin Siegel but what sparked the interest was that my grandfather worked for Siegel. My grandfather passed away before I was born--but I know he wasn't involved with organized crime and that he just worked for Siegel.

Around 2013 Brooks first got the idea for a website selling products that offer Americans interested in gangsters a place where they could buy a piece of this specifically American genre.

"I started to do a few shirts at a time. My first shirt was none other then a Benjamin Siegel. I felt it was fitting since he was the first I learned about."

Currently American Gangsters offers about 15 shirts but Brooks is working on many more designs for the future. "I have been lucky to have some amazing people helping me out with this adventurer with out them it would still be just and idea on paper," he told us.

Who is the most popular gangster in American history, according to what Brooks has been selling through his website? None other than Al Capone, who is the most popular mobster among the general public, Brooks said.

However, if you refer to the subset of Americans who can be termed as true gangster aficionados, Brooks believes Lucky Luciano is the most popular.

Interestingly, both are ongoing characters on the running HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

"I have found some people love certain gangsters from different American historical eras. The TV shows and Hollywood films have inspired people to learn more about mobsters, even obscure ones. 

"Take William Bentvena, know as Billy Batts. I don't know how many people know he was a mobster, but we all know the famous line from Goodfellas (Now go home and get your f*@king shine box)," Brooks said.

Batts was the character and real life figure who was allegedly killed by the characters played by Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. His death was a pivotal scene in the film -- it led to Tommy (Pesci's character) getting whacked when he thought he was going to get made. It stopped Jimmy Burke -- err, Conway, in the film -- on his path to power by having a made man as his best friend.

The best-selling product on American Gangsters right now are shirts with Luciano on them, according to Brooks. "People are really starting to like his style. I would also think much of the interest comes from Boardwalk Empire," he said.

Have any real-life gangsters ever approached Brooks? Not yet, he said.

"I haven't had any mobsters reach out to me yet. I have had a few family members reach out to me. Most of them have thanked me for keeping their family names alive and have told me to keep up the good work. I continue to talk to some of them and it's been a privilege.

"I have reached out to a few myself and my favorite was Deirdre Capone, who I at a book signing. She was an amazing person to talk to. I am hoping I can meet Johnny Fratto next."