Rare Photo ofAlbert Anastasia

We had to delete the pic because of Adsense violations...

Initially, we included in our Cosa Nostra News logo the iconic 1979 photograph of Carmine Galante taken by the enterprising news photographer positioned atop a roof that overlooked the outside patio of Joe and Mary's Italian American Restaurant in Bushwick, Brooklyn. (The restaurant went out of business following the murder on a dreadfully hot New York summer day.)

The well-known image.

But one image we happened across today gave us lengthy pause. We immediately knew we'd never seen the black-and-white photo before. Yet a familiarity was indeed there, likely due to the barber chair beside which the lifeless, blood-spattered gangster had collapsed after his infamous lunge at the mirror. A fatally shot mob boss, his dying brain's synapses misfiring, had mistakenly perceived his assassins to be standing in front of him. He'd been deceived by a reflection.

We knew we were looking at a photograph we'd never seen before of the feared, ruthless Five Family crime boss Albert Anastasia.

We have seen numerous photographs of Anastasia in death -- but always under a sheet. Even film footage captured the sheet-covered body carried on a stretcher toward an ambulance.

"The vivid image of a helpless victim swathed in white towels was stamped in the public memory," former New York Times reporter Selwyn Raab wrote in Five Families: The Rise, Decline, and Resurgence of America's Most Powerful Mafia Empires, a book we continue to recommend highly.

In the stark image, a purloined memento from decades ago, the former "Lord High Executioner" of Murder Inc. who earlier in his crime career avoided the death penalty by killing every witness, has collapsed onto the barbershop's floor on his right side, his white dress shirt wrinkled, untucked, speckled and blotted with blood, shapeless trousers, tie spread across the body's side. His left arm is bent at the floor in an unnatural position, as if a dying Anastasia sought to make one final defiant gesture with his last breath. A similarly contorted limb wrings shrieks of pain from the living.

The photo doesn't reveal the shock, pain and horror as do photographs of, say, Gambino boss Paul Castellano.

Interestingly, what put us onto the picture was a Google alert somehow triggered by a March 9, 2011 Las Vegas Sun story concerning the Mob Museum's then-latest acquisition, the barber chair Anastasia resided in when he was murdered in 1957.

The chair in which Anastasia was groomed and, famously, clipped is the latest artifact added to The Mob Museum set to open in December in the old Federal Courthouse and Post Office at 300 Stewart Ave. in downtown Las Vegas.

The picture, see directly below, caught our attention more than the barber chair exhibit did.

The picture was included in the Sun story that reported the Mob Museum acquisition.

The article noted:

The story behind the chair was that on Oct. 25, 1957, Anastasia was murdered in the Grasso Barber Shop at the Park Sheraton Hotel in New York City, which today is the Park Central Hotel. The barbershop itself is now a Starbucks, so the spot where Anastasia was gunned down is still serving double shots (ba-da-bum).

The crime has never been solved, making it one of the great mysteries of mob lore. Anastasia, boss of the Gambino crime family, was the overlord of Murder Inc., which is reported to have enacted 400 to 700 murders. Anastasia’s was a rare “hit” in that it took place during the day, in a public forum and was the result of a leadership “dispute” between the Genovese and Gambino crime families.

According to "museum-maker" Kathy Barrie, it is a challenge to verify that such pieces of memorabilia are authentic. This chair was easy to track, given that the collector in St. Louis kept accurate records, and Youngman held the chair for decades. But museum officials have bemoaned such tantalizing artifacts as a cane purportedly used by Lucky Luciano that was manufactured more than 10 years after his death.

''These are odious criminals. But organized crime has earned almost a reverential standing with portions of the American public," Arthur Nash said.

“We really cannot say enough about the importance of having connoisseurs and experts connected with our museum,” Kathy Barrie said. “We can guarantee that the artifacts we have are authentic. Just as you might imagine, there are ersatz and not really up-to-snuff artifacts out on the market.”

The chair has been refurbished with new chrome and upholstery--Anastasia's blood is no longer there, in other words.

It is the real deal, passed along by a St. Louis collector to legendary comedian Henny Youngman (himself an active memorabilia collector) and finally sold to noted New York mob artifact collector Arthur Nash who out of the goodness of his heart gave it, free of charge, to the Mob Museum. Of course, we kid you here.

''These are odious criminals. But organized crime has earned almost a reverential standing with portions of the American public," Nash told the New York Times, which of course asked him to explain "the odd appeal" of collecting mob artifacts.

Among other things, Nash operates the New York City Gangland website, which features some a 200 rarely viewed images. Many were provided to Nash by law enforcement sources, as well as private photo albums.


  1. He was trying to get up til his last breath. Thanks for sharing Ed.

  2. Talk 'bout a bad haircut....


Post a Comment