Chicago Outfit Initiation Ceremony, October 1983

In comments to the previous story, it was noted that there was a general belief that the Chicago Mafia family held no formal initiation ceremony.

This photo of Family Secrets Tour Chicago is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Unfortunately, I can't find my copy of Jerry Capeci's Complete Idiot's Guide to the Mafia or I'd quote what he writes. 

With direct evidence absent, a school of thought emerged that since Al Capone wasn't Sicilian, perhaps he left the Sicilian stuff behind with the Five Family Cosa Nostra in New York. That theoretical framework made some sense --but only prior to the landmark Family Secrets trial. Once federal prosecutors gave their opening statement in June 2007 -- and especially when Frank Calabrese Jr 's tape recordings of his father were played, and when Nicholas Calabrese took the witness stand, supposedly the first made “uniform” to flip for the feds -- it was revealed that in Chicago, they not only made members, but the ceremony was actually more than the symbolic ritual it is in New York. In New York, getting made is mostly a formality after one's name has been passed around and one has been accepted. (See story with Big Jack Falcone, former undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family.) 

Indeed, in the Outfit there was no attempt to mitigate the burn on the hand from the burning picture of the saint. The ceremony was crafted to serve as a kind of test of one's mettle: As Frank Calabrese Sr told his son, "they look at you to see if you’d budge … while the pictures are burning. And they, and they wait till they’re getting down to the skin.”

I actually spoke with Frank Calabrese Junior a few years back and must admit, to this day, I'm somewhat baffled by something he told me during the three-hour phone call. He  didn't seem to believe what his father had said on tape in prison in 1999 about the initiation ceremony. But he may have been testing me, and based on my prior knowledge of the Outfit (or, I should say, my lack of knowledge about the Chicago Outfit) I'm sure I failed if he was. Frank was intelligent, philosophical, and extremely busy with his restaurant at the time, as I recall. 

Here's something else that baffles me: Frank Calabrese Sr. praised The Godfather for its authenticity. “(W)hoever wrote that book, either their father, or their grandfather, or somebody was in the organization." I think it's much more likely Frank Sr had seen the movie and had not read the book. Still, to my recollection, book or film, there's no making ceremony depicted in the what the hell was Calabrese  talking about?

On Sunday, October 9, 1983, brothers Nick and Frank Calabrese Sr. were driven together to a closed restaurant on Roosevelt Road, west of Mannheim Road in Cook County.

Their driver was Jimmy LaPietra, then-capo of the Twenty-Sixth Street crew, aka the Chinatown crew, which was the crew the Calabrese brothers were part of. The vehicle had dealer plates and had been taken from an Outfit-associated lot. The entire day's events were planned with secrecy the foremost priority. That said, if certain people in the know had witnessed LaPietra driving a car, suspicions would've been aroused. High-level members of the Outfit supposedly never drove,  and never cruised around in a car they outright owned on paper, supposedly ever since back in the 1940s when Teets Battaglia and Marshall Caifano were pulled over in a car Teets was driving and Chicago police found a small arsenal hidden in the vehicle.

They parked in the restaurant's lot and the occupants got out and headed toward the restaurant. Frank Sr. and Nick walked into the kitchen. Waiting there for them were Jimmy Marcello, Tony Zizzo, Rocky Infelice, Johnny “Pudge” Matassa, Albert Tocco, and others, including representatives from several Outfit crews.

 Al (the Pizza Man) Tornabene, a member of the Outfit’s Chicago Heights crew, escorted each initiate into the dining room, one at a time. Each would be made separately and alone. While  Al left the kitchen with an initiate, the rest waited.

Eventually, Nick Calabrese was brought into the dining room and made to stand before a table where Joey Doves Aiuppa, boss of the Chicago Outfit, sat. Capos from various crews sat at the table with him. Joey the Clown Lombardo, capo of the Grand Avenue crew, was not in attendance that day because he was serving a prison sentence.

Among those in attendance: Dominic “Toots” Palermo from the Chicago Heights crew, who’d driven Tocco that day. Sam Carlisi of the Melrose Park crew had brought Marcello and Zizzo, Vince Solano from Rush Street had brought Matassa and a “Frank Belmonte.” From Elmwood Park was John “No Nose” DiFronzo who had arrived alone.

Nick stood there and faced Joey Doves and the capos. A gun and a knife were on the table where a candle also stood. (Nick, in testimony, from which this story is largely taken, couldn’t recall exactly what was said in the preamble to his initiation, though it seems there was discussion about never talking about Outfit business with outsiders.) He was asked a question that he answered with a reply about him not being brought up that way.

Aiuppa held a holy card with the picture of a saint on it. He  stood and walked around the table  to where Nick was standing. He lit it the card and dropped it onto Nick’s open hand. Nick held the burning card, trying to evince an emotionless face. He mentally separated his hot palm from the rest of his body doing his best to ignore the burning sensation that gradually worsened as the picture curled around in the fire on his hand.  Aiuppa told him that it was time for him to take his oath.

He was told to repeat three times the following: “If I give up my brothers, may I burn in hell like this holy picture.”

Then the card was removed. Joey Doves used a pin to prick one of Nick’s fingertips and a drop of blood arose from the skin. His blood was not his own any longer, he was told

Aiuppa and the capos congratulated him and LaPietra shook his hand.

Nick Calabrese

The brothers had been called two days prior and had been told to go to Angelo’s home in Bridgeport. They were sitting in his basement at a table when he told them he had recommended them both and that it was there’s if they wanted it. “Yes,” was their reply. Nick wondered what would’ve happened there in the basement if they had said no.

Only those who had committed one or more murders for the Outfit were invited in. They had to be full blooded Italians. It was a lifelong commitment. You also were expected to carry yourself a certain way.

The Outfit went five years before another initiation ceremony.

Interestingly, Nick Calabrese was among the men who participated in the murder of the Spilotro brothers who were set up partly with the  ruse that Michael was to be made. So there were hints... hiding in plain sight.

And as in New York, in Chicago, two made members need a third made member to introduce them. So there's commonalities, though the entities in the Northeast and Midwest evolved slightly differently from each other over the course of the 20th century.