The Day Anastasia Was Murdered in Manhattan's Park Sheraton Hotel


On this date in 1957, New York mob boss Albert Anastasia was shot to death in the Park Sheraton Hotel's barbershop.

Born in Tropea, Calabria, Italy, on Feb. 26, 1902, "Don Umberto" was murdered in New York City after spending more than seven years as boss of one of the Five Families.

And it wasn't the Gallo brothers or a crew affiliated with Raymond Patriarca or anyone else who killed one of the Mafia's most ruthless members, as has been speculated. According to Michael "Mikie Scars" DiLeonardo, Jerry Capeci was partially correct when he identified the shooters years ago in an exclusive story.

Anastasia supposedly met with Santo Trafficante Jr. in New York City to discuss Cuban-based casinos (the fiery-tempered Anastasia wanted a piece of the action there) before casually heading over for his regular shave and haircut. Trafficante was questioned about Anastasia's murder, along with allegations that he'd participated in a CIA-engineered conspiracy to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Trafficante was among the nearly 60 "alleged mobsters" arrested in Apalachin, N.Y., on Nov. 14 of the same year. The charges he faced for attending the meeting, a last-minute summit, were later dropped.

In April 1951 Vincent Mangano, previous boss of the crime family, disappeared. Around the same time his brother Philip was found by a woman in a fishing boat. Shot twice in the face and once in the neck, Philip's body was sprawled in a marshy area of Jamaica Bay, in Brooklyn's Bergen Beach.

"AIDE OF JOE ADONIS IS FOUND SHOT DEAD," ran the New York Times headline reporting the murder. "Waterfront Racketeer 'Taken for a Ride, Then Dumped Out in a Brooklyn Marsh Glasses Spattered With Blood."

Vincent's body was never found. His underboss, Anastasia, who formerly ran the mob's prewar hit squad known as Murder Incorporated and had lived a notoriously violent life of crime in Brooklyn, took over the crime family.

A Calabrian in what was then primarily a Sicilian criminal organization, he named as his underboss Carlo Gambino, who lead the family's strong Palermo Sicily-oriented faction.

Anastasia earned mostly from lucrative waterfront labor racketeering, with brother "Tough Tony" running the docks for him, Anastasia lived in a luxurious mansion located in Fort Lee, New Jersey. He had a beautiful wife who'd borne him a son.

There's much speculation regarding the underworld alliance behind the hit.

Who the actual shooters were also has never been proven.

It's believed that the hit resulted from a two- or three-pronged alliance consisting mainly of Vito Genovese, who'd sent Frank Costello into retirement after creasing his skull with a bullet; Anastasia's ambitious underboss Gambino; and a faction of mobsters with strong gambling interests in Cuba, including Trafficante and Meyer Lansky.

Anastasia had been a strong ally of Costello's and supposedly was poised to ignite a mob war over the shooting ordered by Genovese. He reportedly made vague threats at a meeting with Genovese using language similar to what The Chin told John Gotti decades later following the Paul Castellano hit. Someone someday might have to answer for this...

Joseph Bonanno in his self-indulging memoir claimed he alone had kept the peace following Costello's shooting. He very well may have, as it would explain why Anastasia had otherwise inexplicably left himself so unguarded at a time when tempers of some very violent men, himself included, had previously been flaring. (Or Bonanno had successfully convinced Anastasia to believe that he had created a Pax Bonanno, only as part of the Genovese-led setup or  he together with friend Profaci maybe chose to simply sit back  and let rival non-Sicilians (Genovese and Anastasia) kill each other.)

Gaetano "Thomas" Lucchese was Anastasia's only ally at the time, it's believed.

The actual hit likely resulted from Carlo Gambino's machinations involving Gambino-affiliated drug dealers from Manhattan's Lower East Side. Gangland News's Jerry Capeci reported this based on his sources.

Michael "Mikie Scars" DiLeonardo offered information that supports two-thirds of Capeci's story.

"The shooters on the hit team were Steve Armone, Stephen "Stevie Coogan" Grammuata and another guy; I don't know his name."

In a clarification nterview, DiLeonardo said he learned this while still an active capo in the Gambino crime family.

Jackie D'Amico told him as Michael was being introduced to Grammuata.

"This is Stevie," Jackie told him. "He was one of the guys who took care of Albert," or words to that effect.

Obviously Michael didn't ask Coogan any additional questions about the storied hit, nor had it occurred to him to ask.

Arnold Wittenberg was the third shooter as per Capeci's story.

 DiLeonardo said "I never heard that name."

He does believe the hit team had to include additional people.

"To take out a boss you're gonna use two, three people? Doesn't work that way."

According to Capeci, Gambino ordered Joseph "Joe the Blonde" Biondo and Stephen Armone to murder Anastasia. Armone reportedly chose his brother Joseph to join them. But he'd been arrested on drug charges and was being held, so Grammauta joined the hit team.

Mikie Scars couldn't confirm the part about Joseph Armone being an intended shooter. It's something that never came up while he was on the street.

I tend not to believe the Gallo brothers theory, although when Murder Inc was disbanded the outsourcing of Commission-sanctioned hits supposedly was given to Profaci's crime family.

Anastasia, in any event, gave his enemies lots of incriminating material to use against him. Aside from a button-selling scheme and the Arnold Schuster murder, The Mad Hatter supposedly had tried to get his piece of the Cuban gambling action, soon enough a moot point, though in 1957 the Mafia viewed the island nation off Florida's coast as shiny new frontier, a potential goldmine.

Around 10:20 on the morning of Oct. 25, 1957, Anastasia entered the Park Sheraton Hotel's barbershop (Arnold Rothstein had been slain there decades earlier) owned by Arthur Grasso.

That morning he sat back in the fourth chair of the shop's dozen. Joseph Bocchino administered to the crime boss, placing a hot cloth over Anastasia's face when two masked gunmen burst in and levelled handguns -- a .32 and a .38 caliber -- at the Don's covered supine shape. (See coroner's report, below).

They opened fire on Anastasia, bullets piercing his head, back, hip and hand.

The 55-year-old Anastasia lunged from his chair straight into the mirror, as if attacking his killers' reflection. He fell lifelessly to the floor amid a growing puddle of blood.

His widow returned to Canada. Comedian Buddy Hackett purchased Anastasia's former home on Bluff Road in the Palisade section of Fort Lee.