When The Chicago Outfit "Feuded" With Milwaukee Family

In 1961, Tony Accardo, the then boss of the Chicago Outfit, likely came close to ordering a hit on longtime Milwaukee boss Frank Balistrieri after Balistrieri sanctioned the murder of a nightclub operator and raised so much heat from law enforcement that "the hoodlum element couldn’t get away with anything and aren’t making any money."

Tony Accardo, the "Big Tuna" of the Chicago Outfit.

This is according to newly released information from FBI records that are now part of the Chicago Sun-Times’ The FBI Files database, as the newspaper recently reported.

Of course Sam (Mooney) Giancana was the front boss of the Outfit in 1961, as Accardo, for decades, used front bosses to shield himself from law enforcement.

Balistrieri defused the situation with Chicago -- and continued breathing until natural causes finally ended his life in 1993 at age 74. Accardo died the year before at age 86. Giancana, who rose to  the top in the 1950s, was murdered in 1975.

"On April 19, 1961, confidential informant T-6 advised that the Chicago hoodlum faction under Tony Accardo is feuding with the Balistrieri faction in Milwaukee,” according to the FBI records.

Milwaukee’s organized crime family, which Balistrieri led for several decades, was one of the Midwest crime families that was historically under the Chicago Outfit's aegis.

"According to the informant, the reason for this quarrel goes back" to the murder of nightclub operator Izzy Pogrob "more than a year ago, which was allegedly ordered by Frank Balistrieri."

"The Chicago faction, according to the informant, did not want Pogrob’s murder and did not agree with his being killed," the records show. "They are also angry because as a result of this murder police vigilance has increased to the point where the hoodlum element couldn’t get away with anything and aren’t making any money."

Balistrieri was "saved from the Chicago group this long because he is the nephew of one of the big hoodlums in Kansas City and because [name blacked out] had apparently tried to talk the Chicago group out of doing anything" to Balistrieri.

The FBI records — publicly available because Balistrieri is dead, though with numerous redactions — delve into the Milwaukee mob’s connections to Accardo and the Chicago mob and show Milwaukee’s place in the grander organized crime syndicate that was a powerful force in America for the better part of the 20th century.

An informant “advised that the Milwaukee organization is under the direct supervision of the Italian Organization in Chicago, which is headed by Tony Acardo [sic]. He added that Acardo [sic] attends the yearly meeting of the Milwaukee organization,” according to the documents.

See THE FBI FILES of the Chicago Sun-Times....

Balistrieri also promoted boxing events in Milwaukee, and Accardo “has a piece” of those “interests,” an informant told federal investigators. Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio, a Chicago gangster, also was “a partner in just about everything that Frank Balistrieri has,” an informant told authorities in 1965.

Balistrieri’s business interests over the years included bars, restaurants and “strip tease” operations. He distributed “coin operated devices” including jukeboxes. He maintained veto power over large robberies and burglaries and sold stolen items, sometimes in Chicago, records show. He muscled legitimate businesses and individuals.

Balistrieri also oversaw gambling in southeast Wisconsin and some of Chicago’s far north suburb...

See the Chicago Sun-Times ....

Credit: The Brass Rail Files

Izzy Pogrob was found on January 9, 1960, bound and blindfolded in a ditch with nine bullets in him.

 He reportedly inked his death warrant when he went to the police about a shakedown attempt by Louie Fazio...

Pogrob was the colorful owner of the infamous Brass Rail, a venue for local and national jazz acts, which opened in 1956 on 3rd and Wells in downtown Milwaukee. It was located next door (and, it’s been said, connected by secret entrance to) the Princess theater, a former 900 seat movie palace that fell from grace to become a XXX adult film theater.

After his murder, Frank Balistrieri became the off-the-record owner of the club, which was torn down in 1984.

As for the murder of Pogrob (the following is from the blog Tea's Weird Week:):

On Wednesday, January 6, 1960, around 3 am Izzy was closing the Brass Rail, along with his employees. These included bartenders Vito Aiello and Henry “Hooks” Hanscher, and master of ceremonies Hugh Patton. He decided to take them all out to breakfast down the street at the Belmont Hotel. Izzy was 320 plus pounds, and eating was his favorite thing to do next to flashing his giant roll of cold hard cash. It was reported that Izzy “loved the feel of money.”

Frank P. Balistrieri

Accounts of what type of person Izzy was vary. “He was a desperado, but he and his brother always made a good living. He was a character,” says Simie Fein, owner of Fein Brothers restaurant supply store on King Drive. “I knew his brother, Irv, better than I knew Izzy. Irv had a pawn shop, about a block away (from the Brass Rail). We used to hang out there in the back room and play cards.” Fein says the Pogrob brothers also managed a liquor store in the same area.

“I remember him. Oh man. He was a fucking idiot. I hate to say it. He was big, dumb. Tried to be a bully. He was obnoxious,” says Manty Ellis, a jazz guitarist and pianist that frequented and played the Brass Rail. “He was like 6’7, 6’8. And he must have weighed like 550 pounds. 400 hundred or 500 pounds [he’s actually reported to be about 320 pounds]. Couldn’t keep his mouth shut!” Ellis recalled with a laugh.

It’s just after 3 am and he was eating and flashing his roll of cash (about $1500 worth) at the Belmont Hotel’s cafe, while a mysterious man with “long dyed blond hair”, sat near the group, eavesdropping. The man then conferred with two men sitting in a booth nearby, the waitress working that night reported to the Milwaukee Journal.

After eating, Izzy crawled in his huge white Cadillac and headed home. It was the last he was seen alive.
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The next day the Cadillac was found splattered with blood.

Later Izzy was found, too. He was blindfolded, shot 9 times in the head and neck, and dumped in a drainage ditch, off highway 167 in Mequon. The murder has never been solved.

Izzy’s death wasn’t the first murder with ties to the club. Christina Calligaro was a “22-year-old, thrice married exotic dancer” according to a 1959 Milwaukee Sentinel report. She stripped under the name “Brenda Baye” at the Brass Rail for eight weeks in fall of 1959, and worked other strip clubs as well. On Dec.20, 1959 she was found shot four times on a gravel road outside of Peoria, WI, dressed in her “dance costume.” Pogrob and Calligaro were murdered about a year apart, both shot and ditched, both unsolved.

Izzy’s brother Irvin Pogrob took over the Brass Rail after Izzy’s death, but by all accounts wasn’t as flashy as his brother. He eventually sold the business to someone better suited for it, like “Mr. Fancy Pants” aka “Mr. Slick” aka the sharply dressed Frank P. Balistrieri, head of the Milwaukee mafia. Among other things, he ran casino skimming and vending machine rackets. One of his reported favorite methods of disposing of someone was by car bomb, which gave him the nickname “The Mad Bomber.

Read more about this at The Brass Rail Files....
We wrote about Balistrieri in Wiseguys Should NEVER Keep Written Records