As The Godfather Played, The Mafia Committed a Massacre

 
Albert Gallo
Albert Gallo under arrest.

"Yeah, I left it noisy. That way it scares any pain-in-the-ass innocent bystanders away."

In August 1972 the mob committed one of its worst blunders ever when innocent businessmen were fired on in cold blood at the Neapolitan Noodle restaurant at 320 East 79th Street in Manhattan.

"The Godfather" was still playing in New York theaters five months after its release.

On Friday, Aug. 11, 1972, a hit man from Las Vegas walked into the Noodle during the dinner hour rush.

Mistaking four businessmen at the crowded bar for Colombo family acting boss "Little Allie" Persico and three Colombo wiseguys, the shooter opened fire with two long-barreled pistols, killing two of the businessmen — kosher beef wholesalers from Westchester County and Long Island — and wounding their companions.

The men were old friends celebrating a daughter's wedding engagement. They arrived at the Noodle at the exact wrong time, as the Persico crew had departed the bar to be seated for dinner. Persico and the three wiseguys were saved by blind fate. The hit man, thinking he had Colombs in his sights, shot the four businessmen who unknowingly replaced them at the bar. 

Thus did the Colombo family civil war, which began four months earlier with the assassination of Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy.

The Neopolitan Noodle marked one of the few times in mob history when truly innocent bystanders were deliberately killed—and in what has to be one of the most public Mafia-related shootings in US history.

And it occurred while The Godfather was still in its first theatrical run. (There were other major Cosa Nostra events around this time as well, including what was likely a Commission meeting. A Genovese boss would later be assassinated too.)

The mob was a major mainstream topic during that period as well. Gay Talese's nonfiction book about the Bonanno family, Honor Thy Father, reported that the Mafia had annual earnings exceeding nine of the then-Top 10 Fortune 500 companies combined.

One day after the Neopolitan Noodle killings, New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin condemned The Godfather as "hard-core pornography."

New York Mayor John Lindsay demanded that "the romanticization of the mob must be stopped and the gangsters run out of town."

It took 20 years to accomplish the latter — mob godfather John Gotti's conviction and life sentence in 1992 more or less marked the end of the era when the New York Mafia reigned as an all-powerful and seemingly invincible force in New York's economic, political and cultural life.

As for Lindsay's hope that the public's romantic fascination with an enormous and highly organized outlaw gang of thieves would diminish, the mob's grip on the public imagination is arguably stronger today than it was 40 years ago when "The Godfather" was released.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the film's opening, Paramount Pictures held special screenings of the original, with prints restored by the film's director, Francis Ford Coppola, in theaters across the country in March. And the movie, along with"The Godfather: Part II" and "The Godfather: Part III," played on AMC.

The shooting at the Neopolitan Noodle, by contrast, is hardly embedded in the public mind. The 40th anniversary on Saturday of the dimly remembered killings will pass with little fanfare or commemoration. And the names of the real-life innocent bystanders felled by a mob gunman — Sheldon Epstein, 40, of New Rochelle and Max Tekelch, 48, of Woodmere — will probably remain as they have been all these years, largely forgotten.

Comments

  1. His still selling himself out for every dime and whats up with making a whole chuck of the movie about Jesus's suffering and Crucifixion? One thing that hasn't changed his still a con artist. His father was apart of a similar project back in 2002. He was a associate producer for the film "a thing of ours" , I believe he got it through Micheal since his got ties with the movie industry.

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  2. Supposedly the feds are still keeping an eye on him I heard from one of his relatives. His old man was a pisser, though.

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  3. I didn't know that -- cool factoid!

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