Strip Clubs, Gambling & His Own TV Show!
Strip Clubs, Gambling & His Own TV Show!
By: Bill Hutchinson
Date: November 4, 2005
About the Author: Bill Hutchinson is a regularly contributing journalist working for the New York Daily News. With a daily circulation of more than 700,000, the New York Daily News is one of the most widely circulated newspapers in the United States. Well known for its tabloid layout and hard-hitting New York style, the New York Daily News has been in operation since 1919.
The Italian Mafia, popularly referred to as the mob, has become a favorite subject of American popular culture. The film The Godfather, based on the mob-themed novel by Mario Puzo, is regularly cited as a favorite of movie lovers. The television series The Sopranos has received similar popular acclaim. Despite the association that the Mafia has with organized crime, society in general seems to find the mob's dedication to family and honesty coupled with violence and crime an ideal combination for entertainment.
While family-oriented organized crime groups exist among many ethnicities, the Italian Mafia, which originated in nineteenth century Sicily, is, undoubtedly, the best known. When large numbers of Italian immigrants began to arrive in the United States, the Mafia made its presence felt in the Italian neighborhoods of the major cities. Although the major mob operations originated in Chicago, by the latter half of the twentieth century the five leading Mafia families were based in New York.
The Mafia structure is based on an adherence to strict loyalty to the family; traitors typically are punished by death. At the head of the family is the Don, who served as the figurehead, with the operations and daily activities falling upon his soldiers, or made men as they are called. The Mafia's income derives from ownership and management of businesses. Stereotypically, certain industries, like sanitation, restaurants, and construction, have been associated with the Italian Mafia and have been highlighted in popular culture's portrayal of the mob.
In recent decades, the activities and scope of the Mafia have been sharply curtailed through the efforts of federal law enforcement authorities to clamp down on organized crime. Many of the key figures have been prosecuted and imprisoned as a result of these investigations. With the gradual assimilation of the Italian community into the broader society of the United States, and as the older generation of Mafia figures has begun to die off, the mob's influence has dwindled. At the same time, its operations continue in the major American urban centers, and its influence has expanded around the world. The Italian mafia still remains the largest operator of organized crime in the United States.
The son of murdered mob boss Joe Colombo is putting a new twist on house arrest—one where strip clubs, fancy restaurants and card games are part of his "confinement."
Chris Colombo, 44, isn't just sitting around his Orange County home polishing his ankle bracelet. He's pushing his legal limits for an upcoming TV show that he hopes will be a hit without violating his bail restrictions.
"How do I feel? I've got a guy filming the top of my head … and I'm about to go to the Blue Moon [topless club] that's known for the ugliest girls in the world," Colombo says in a snippet from his HBO program, aptly titled "House Arrest."
The show is scheduled to debut Thanksgiving night, well in advance of Colombo's federal trial next year on charges of loansharking, extortion and gambling.
"I always try to look for the good side of things, the funny side," Colombo told Ganglandnews.com reporter Jerry Capeci. "I'm like a human anti-depressant, always have been."
Colombo's attorney, Jeremy Schneider, said yesterday that his client knows his critics will likely include FBI agents looking for missteps to nail him.
"He does know that he can't do anything to violate his parole. He knows that," Schneider told the Daily News. "Is a strip club against the law? As far as I know, it's not."
Under conditions of his bail, Colombo is free to leave his luxurious Blooming Grove home at 7 a.m. daily. But he must be back at his 9-acre estate by 9 p.m.
He must have his electronic monitoring device attached to his left ankle at all times, and make sure he doesn't break the law.
"This could be a violation of my bail restriction," Colombo says in a scene from the show in which a pal uses a credit card to try to open the locked door of a church so Colombo can confess his sins.
Colombo hopes the show, which HBO calls a "docucomedy based on reality," will lead to bigger on-screen gigs.
"I always wanted to host 'Saturday Night Live,'" he told Ganglandnews.com, "and play my father in a movie about his life."
HIS DAD DIDN'T SHY AWAY FROM SPOTLIGHT
Many old-time mobsters tended to shy away from publicity, but Joe Colombo embraced it—and that's likely what got him whacked.
The late Godfather of the Colombo crime family—and dad of soon-to-be HBO TV star Chris Colombo—took the pledge of omertà, but fashioned himself as an outspoken civic leader.
He became a made man in the late 1950s in the Profaci crime family and graduated to capo in the 1960s. At age 48, Colombo ascended to boss of the crime family that would take his name.
Colombo, who was raised in Brooklyn, was the founder of the Italian-American Civil Rights League.
As a self-styled civic leader, the charismatic Colombo got the words "Mafia" and "Cosa Nostra" banned from Justice Department reports and from "The Godfather" movie.
But while leading a rally in Columbus Circle in 1971, Colombo was shot three times in the back of the head by a gunman who then also was gunned down.
Colombo lingered in a vegetative state until his death in 1978 at age 64.
The Mafia in the United States has always enjoyed a relationship with law enforcement of elusiveness and antagonism. This article, in highlighting one mobster's effort to stretch the law to its limits, directly addresses this phenomenon. The choice of this subject—chronicling the day-to-day activities of a member of the Mafia while awaiting his trial—for a television show points to the overwhelming interest that the American public has in characters associated with the Mafia.
This article also attempts to promote the image of the mobster as a carefree character who enjoys frequenting strip clubs and gambling joints, with little concern for whether the authorities will catch him or what might be the broader repercussions of his actions. Programs of this type and Hollywood's image of the Mafia portray these characters as people who, if it were not for their criminal activities, would be highly likable. The mobster's dual personality, which is discussed in detail in this article, has always been an aspect of these figures that the general public finds appealing.
Unlike many other criminals, Mafia leaders are often well integrated into their surroundings and are involved in civic and community affairs. They have a strong appreciation for their Italian heritage and work to advance causes that improve the image of Italians in American society. Many believe that although the Mafia is involved in violent crimes and murder, its members aren't a threat to individuals unless the mob's trust is violated. For this reason, the mob is rarely portrayed as an evil entity by popular culture, but rather as an entertaining one, with a unique set of values. As this article indicates, Joe Colombo, who served as the head of the Colombo crime family until his death, was actively involved in efforts to erase the gangster conception of Italian Americans and worked to promote the more positive aspects of Italian Americans to the larger American society.
By becoming involved with a television program that highlights the lighter side of the Mafia, Chris Colombo is helping to fuel the public's fascination with all things related to the mob.
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