The Mob's Grip on New York's Nightlife

The Friends of Ours blogger is offering for 99 cents a Kindle ebook that is such a worthy addition to your library of books about the Mafia, I feel dutified to promote it. (Did I just invent a word?)
John "Johnny Boy" D'Amato, who supposedly won the position thanks to Gambino boss John Gotti
John Gotti, in a surveillance video. Source

The author raises questions some mobsters most likely are uncomfortable discussing publicly. Which is putting it mildly.

It should come as no surprise that mobsters were killed over mere allegations of homosexuality. According to what one Mafia capo said in testimony, the mob has a law that goes something like:  If you're found to be gay, you die. Interestingly, the capo said that during his induction ceremony, he'd been instructed about many rules, though that specific one was never mentioned.

The Mafia and the Gays details the history of the Mafia's infiltration of New York nightlife, which included its exploitation of nightclubs frequented by homosexuals.

This area of Mafia history has been largely overlooked in recent decades, though back in the conformist years of the company-man 1950s, some tabloid journalists savored the novelty of juxtaposing the iconic "ultimate tough guy" against a "daffodil den" background.

To excerpt from chapter two:

It was an open secret that the hoodlum underworld was behind gay bars, and in the 1950s Lee Mortimer had a field day in bringing the relationship to the general public. Mortimer was a crime reporter and gossip monger with extensive law enforcement ties -- including to J. Edgar Hoover’s right-hand man Clyde Tolson -- who penned the syndicated column New York Confidential which took a walk on the Big Apple’s wild side. The intrepid muckraker had a field day when he discovered that the wise guys were behind the so-called “daffodil dens.” Although a homophobic tone is pervasive throughout his writing -- Mortimer obviously relished coining terms by which to slur gays -- the clear target was the mobsters. Indeed, Mortimer was a consistent crusader against the Mafia, and throughout his journalism career exposed a number of its rackets.

The book details how the postwar boom that fueled America's general prosperity (creating, for the first time, a stable middle class that has since been smashed to smithereens, just like the Mafia has) also brought prosperity to the Mafia families based in New York and New Jersey, which since Prohibition had worked to firmly entrench itself within the nightlife. As highlighted in the YouTube video about the Gambino crime family posted below, the mob discovered a quite profitable niche to inhabit.

As Vice noted in a Q&A With the author, "there was a whole new audience who wanted to go to a bar or nightclub to experience the then luxury of being among other gay people... a new underground scene developed, and naturally the Mafia wanted in on the action. What followed was years of pimping, financial exploitation, the NYPD completely ignoring the LGBT community's concerns, and gossipy FBI files speculating about certain mobsters' sexualities."

Read the entire Q&A by clicking here.

The mob's position on gays was pretty much what one would assume. Holding a  position in a crime family's hierarchy didn't necessarily save one, either. Case in point: The New Jersey DeCavalcante crime family's acting boss, John "Johnny Boy" D'Amato, who supposedly won the position thanks to Gambino boss John Gotti's secret maneuvering, was murdered in 1992 after a meeting during which it was claimed he was homosexual.

Johnny Boy D'Amato
D'Amato was promoted to capo in the 1980s and grew to become heavily involved in major labor and construction racketeering operations with some prominent New Jersey mobsters. D'Amato belonged to the DeCavalcante's powerful Elizabeth, N.J., faction, which was once headed by family's official boss, Giovanni "John" Riggi, as capo.

When Riggi was indicted in 1989 for labor racketeering and extortion, Gotti worked to expand the Gambino crime family's reach by attempting to take control via maneuvering his pal, D'Amato, into the family's acting boss role.

The New Jersey family was eager to do anything for New York to rid themselves of the stigma of being the family comprised of members rejected by New York's Five Families.

Part of this effort, apparently, was the slaying of D'Amato, based on testimony provided in a federal racketeering trial in New York.

"Nobody's going to respect us if we have a gay homosexual boss sitting down discussing business with other families," said mob turncoat Anthony Capo.

D'Amato's two girlfriends told Capo that D'Amato was gay. Though a married man, they told Capo, D'Amato went to sex clubs for couple swaps and sometimes had sex with men.

Capo was extremely close to D'Amato, who in fact had served as his mob mentor.

"It shocked me," he said. "I knew John [D'Amato] for a long time. He was the boss of an organized crime family. He was a leader of men."

Capo learned of D'Amato's secret life shortly after Gotti's 1991 arrest. The media had broken a news story regarding the bugging of the Ravenite club.

D'Amato, based on the Ravenite news, feared he'd be arrested because he'd discussed at least one hit while inside the social club once located on Mulberry Street.

So he took off for Florida.

This gave Capo the opportunity to tell the DeCavalcante crime family bosses about D'Amato's "secret life."

They decided his murder was mandatory following Cosa Nostra rules.

"That is a rule," Capo said. "When I got straightened out, they didn't tell me, 'Don't be a homosexual,' but that was a rule."

Stefano Vitabile, then 76, was serving as the family's consigliere, and was the one who ultimately gave the order to kill D'Amato.

Capo said he did the job in the back of a friend's car: "John got in the car, sat in back. He said, 'Let's go eat,' and as we pulled away, I turned and shot him. Twice. He said, 'Oh s---.'  Victor DiChiara said, 'Hit him again.' I shot him twice more."

Vincent "Vinny Ocean" Palermo gave the FBI thousands of pages of detailed intelligence about the state of the Mafia after he flipped. The New York Daily News obtained those FBI notes and reporter Greg Smith wrote a 2003 story that revealed "a highly unusual event" had occurred following the July 1992 D'Amato murder.

New York's Five Families called for a meeting with the DeCavalcante crime family in a hotel in New York City.

"At the meeting, it was said that the DeCavalcante family could no longer make any New York guys soldiers or capos in their family," the notes state. The Colombo and Gambino representatives "were very vocal about this."