Skinny Razor DiTullio, Mentor to Bosses, Gains Newfound Infamy From Scorsese's The Irishman

Felix (Skinny Razor) DiTullio played a crucial role in the lives of many young Philadelphia wiseguys.

Felix Skinny Razor DiTullio owned the Friendly Lounge in South Philadelphia
Friendly Lounge was Skinny Razor's joint...

DiTullio's lounge was a veritable mob college, the place where Wiseguy 101 was taught by the consummate professional. (An awful lot of gangland hits allegedly occurred there, too.)

The Friendly Lounge's most famous graduate likely was mob boss Nicodemo (Little Nicky) Scarfo, who surprisingly wasn't portrayed in The Irishman, and the second, mob boss Ralph Natale.

Skinny Razor also is considered one of the Mafia's foremost assassins.

And now, the new Martin Scorsese film The Irishman, which debuted on Netflix nationwide last week, has given Skinny Razor a much higher profile than he ever had (or would've wanted).

The film is based on the book I Heard You Paint Houses, which purports to tell the story of Philadelphia union heavy Frank Sheeran, who claimed to have killed both James R. Hoffa and Joseph (Crazy Joe) Gallo. Netflix paid $105 million for global rights to the long-gestating gangster epic, which stars Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, and Boardwalk Empire veteran Bobby Cannavale. (Yes, Gyp Rosseti is playing Skinny Razor. That's right; not Crazy Joey.)

Sheeran's "confessions" to author Charles Brandt are not generally considered to be totally truthful (see Peterpiece review) though Sheeran is certainly an enigmatic figure, one of only two non-Italians named by then-US attorney Rudy Giuliani as among the 26 top mobsters (it's the title page of an indictment; see below). Sheeran, a 6 ft. 4 in. tall Irishman told Brandt that the secret to his success as a mob hitman was that, when he did jobs, "I look like a broken down truck driver with a cap on, coming to use the bathroom. I don't look like a mafia shooter."

Blood evidence didn't support Brandt's claims about Sheeran's participation in the murder of Hoffa. That said, more attention ought to be paid to Sheeran's claims to be the shooter who took out Joseph (Crazy Joe) Gallo. Corroborated evidence presented in the book makes a convincing argument that Sheeran did indeed kill Joe Gallo, supposedly on Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino's orders.

 Brandt interviewed an eyewitness to the shooting in Little Italy. A woman who later obtained a journalism degree, she said Sheeran absolutely was the gunman who appeared in Umberto's via a side door. She happened to watch him from the moment he entered the restaurant and had stared at the man even before he pulled out the gun and fired the shots that ended Crazy Joe. She appeared to have a strong emotional reaction (sheer terror) when glimpsing Sheeran's photos from the time period when the murder was committed. Her version of events also seems to align with contemporary news reports about the killing, except for the height. There's additional information to support both the eyewitness and Sheeran's account as told to Brandt.  (On the other hand, the eyewitness account of the murder featured in the 1976 book The Sixth Family by Peter Diapoulos, a Greek mobster who was Crazy Joey's bodyguard, does not corroborate either version, but at the same time, is even more difficult to believe than Sheeran's account, claiming that three gunmen had fired at Gallo's late night/early morning birthday dinner.)

Frank Sheeran, who claimed to be a Mafia assassin
THE IRISHMAN .... Frank Sheeran....

A Daily News report published on April 8, 1972: 

"....The gunman entered through a side door and went directly to behind Gallo’s table.

"The man, described as about 5-foot-8, stocky, about 40 years old and with receding dark hair, fired twice, striking Gallo in the left shoulder and, as the hood fell over, in the left buttock. Diapioulas drove for cover but was also hit in the buttock

"The killer calmly turned and walked out into Mulberry i St. to a waiting car. Diapioulas apparently fired three times at the gunman. Other Gallo hoods ran to the street and began blasting at the car as it sped away. ..."

Skinny Razor owned and operated the Friendly Lounge, located at the corner of Eighth Street and Washington Avenue. Despite its name, it was known to be a violent place, the alleged location of many mob murders, based on what Scarfo later told his nephew/underboss Phil Leonetti. Leonetti later revealed this to Special Agents of the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation. (The Commission's 1992 report on the Mafia noted that following his January 1987 incarceration, Scarfo had initially run the crime family through Leonetti, until his April 1987 imprisonment, when Scarfo selected  Anthony Piccolo to serve as his agent on the street. The arrangement lasted until early 1991, when John Stanfa became the boss.)

DiTullio had been Scarfo's mob mentor, as the investigators noted in a report. Naming him "Scarfo’s first captain," the report added that "because of criminal convictions, DiTullio had his partner, Family member Alfred Iezzi, hold the liquor license for the Friendly Tavern at 1039 South 8th Street in Philadelphia. Iezzi owned the license from December 1955 to December 1966, when it was transferred to DiTullio’s wife. The bar still operates with her license" at the time the 1992 commission report was issued.

Scarfo told Leonetti that the first captain that he was assigned to after being inducted into La Cosa Nostra was Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio. Scarfo said that DiTullio took him all over when he travelled around and introduced him to a lot of people involved in La Cosa Nostra.  DiTullio used to own a bar, which was known as the Friendly Tavern, near 8th and Washington Streets in south Philadelphia.  Scarfo told Leonetti that the Friendly Tavern was used to murder people when DiTullio was still alive.

"I look like a broken down truck driver with a cap on, coming to use the bathroom. I don't look like a mafia shooter." 
--Frank Sheeran, on how he completed the hits he was ordered to carry out

Scott Burnstein, who co-wrote Mafia Prince, Phil Leonetti's biography, noted on Gangster Report that "Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio, "one of the Mafia’s most feared assassins," had taught Scarfo how to kill. Additionally, "DiTullio took an early liking to the young Scarfo and Little Nicky was an eager student. Bonding in bloodlust, Skinny Razor taught Scarfo the art of the mob hit. It was a skill he would cherish, continue to hone and never lose."

Frank Sheeran indictment
Title page of indictment naming Sheeran (Source: Charles Brandt website)

Skinny Razor's son Marco DiTullio sort-of gave the Philadelphia Inquirer an interview (he didn't want to answer the questions) during which he finally said that his father's bar opened “sometime in the ’50s,” and that, after Skinny Razor’s death, he and his brother Dominick took over.

The Friendly is featured in I Heard You Paint Houses. In the book, Skinny Razor is described as the “number two man in Philly.”

DiTullio also appeared in Ralph Natale’s more recent Last Don Standing. In that book, Skinny Razor's bar is described as "a classroom for new Mafia recruits."

Natale also claimed that Skinny Razor was “a legendary mob killer” who earned his nickname because he was known to carry a razor on him.

(Marco outright pooh-poohed that assertion, saying that his father got the handle because “he was skinny, and he dressed sharp as a razor.” However, Marco did confirm that Natale popped in to say hello when he got out of prison.)

Bobby Cannavale on the set of The Irishman in Queens.

In a story that ran on VICE, Larry McShane detailed Natale's mob ties, noting, "Natale's dad was indeed a Philly numbers runner, but it wasn't like he followed the old man into the mob business. He and his father had a relationship that might kindly be described as prickly. Ralph actually wanted to kill his father at one point. His real tutor was a guy named [Felix] John DiTullio, a local bar owner and a legendary mob killer. DiTullio was known as "Skinny Razor" for his weapon of choice. He really took Ralph under his wing and provided an education on life and the mob, often while hanging out after hours inside his Friendly Tavern."

The Irishman is filming now and producers are re-creating places like the Friendly Lounge in Queens, New York, rather than South Philadelphia. (Anyone recall that biopic about Gambino boss John Gotti starring John Travolta? (I've heard something about a July 4 release date and an overseas distributor.) Some may recall it re-created scenes that occurred in Queens in Ohio. The Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky Film Commission announced that the filmmakers were taking advantage of Ohio's revised motion picture tax credit, which reimburses filmmakers for certain expenses.)

The South Philadelphia locals who lived in the neighborhoods around Friendly aren't very pleased about the filmmakers' decision to journey northward to shoot the South Philly scenes.

As per a post recently shared on the Lockport Press:

"So The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s film based on former hitman Frank Sheeran’s story of life in the Philadelphia mob, is being shot not in South Philadelphia (where it indisputably belongs), but a hundred miles up the road in New York.

"Still, by the looks of photos submitted by readers and posted on social media, youse can expect to see some familiar sights. For one, Philly’s only Friendly Lounge — once owned by — has been uncannily reproduced in Ridgewood, Queens.)"

I can't wait to see the Irishman...