THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
This is such an important post that I'm featuring it again today in memory of all those brave men and women who gave their lives for our country...
Over 50 years ago I lost my civil rights. But like millions of other felons, I'm still an American. If someone talks bad about my mother or country, either black or white, it makes my blood boil. So to anyone who says, "God damn America," I say get out.
William "Slick" Hanner
Friday, May 23, 2008
Being brought up as a nice little middle-class white chick in a northern Chicago suburb didn't help much when it came to learning about Slick's world. But a few memories served me well. I actually visited the neighborhood where Slick lived at Outfit headquarters on Ohio Street. By the time I was there, the Devonshire and Berkshire hotels were long gone. But there were still remnants of the flavor of Slick's era hanging around. In fact, my brother tended bar at several mob-run nightclubs and bars and I remember him talking about Jimmy Allegretti, the Outfit guy who figures prominently in THIEF and who ran the Loop for the mob. Even remember looking inside one of the State Street strip joints when I was about 16. What atmosphere! The bump-and-grind music and smokey interior sent my young imagination on a roll.
But vague memories can only get you so far. I needed concrete material so I did a lot of research. Slick took me to some of his old haunts that were still standing like the Fountainbleau Hotel and some of the Jewish delis in Miami and the Stardust and Landmark casinos in Las Vegas, plus many scenes from the book in Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas.
By far the hardest part was learning what made Slick tick, his motivations and quirks. That took years of watching him in different situations...like around my wealthy friends. If I didn't trust Slick to refrain from conning my friends, I never would have introduced him or brought him over to their homes. There is one friend in particular, a very lovely woman, who considers Slick a dear friend. He was often an overnight guest at her house and her boyfriend's beautiful ranch. The boyfriend considers Slick a good friend too. Being excellent judges of character, they felt they could trust Slick, a convicted felon. And they weren't disappointed.
If I'd been much wiser in the ways of researching, I would have asked Slick questions like "Did you run into any problems on your jobs?" or "Where did you learn to crack a safe?" Instead I pretty much picked up info as we went along. Slick jotted down the most basic stories and I slowly fleshed them out.
As prominent One Flew Over the Cockoo's Nest screenwriter Dale Wasserman said, "...you reach that point when every additional person tends to confirm what you've already learned, and when you can be a full participant in shop talk among people in the area you're exploring."
That's exactly what happened to me. I was nearing the end of the manuscript and talked with one of Slick's cronies about a certain incident using the words I picked up from Slick. The guy said, "Wow! It's like you were there." That was the biggest compliment I'd ever had to that point.
About a year after the book hit the stands, I was seeing this Italian guy from New York who I later found out had mob connections. One day when I was telling him about writing THIEF he blurted out, "You know, I'm about 80% convinced your an FBI informer."
I looked at his face and realized he wasn't kidding. Then it dawned on me how I'd evolved into something of a mob "expert" after 9 years of research. I stopped seeing him after that...
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
On the show, the couple would answer questions about Elissa Wall's painful life as a member of the polygamous sect, part of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and her subsequent testimony that put LDS leader Warren Jeffs in prison. Jeffs forced Elissa to marry her first cousin when she was only 14.
The following excerpt is from ABC News Website http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3673963&page=1:
Wall is also pursuing a civil case against Warren Jeffs. She said if she's awarded any money, she will start an organization and safe houses to help other girls escape polygamy.
...U.S. polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to rape for arranging a marriage between an unwilling 14-year-old girl, Walls, and her 19-year-old first cousin, Allen Steed. Jeffs faces five years to life in prison for each of the two felony charges of accomplice to rape. Steed was charged with rape in an arranged marriage to his 14-year-old cousin was released on bail Thursday.
[Lamont] Barlow said Jeffs should spend the rest of his life in jail. "I think if he was to receive one month in jail for every family he destroyed, and I mean a family unit, I think he would spend the rest of his life in jail," Barlow said. "I don't want to come across as vindictive and hateful, but there are a lot of people who have been extremely displaced and harmed by this man."
Friday, May 16, 2008
Today I'm posting the excerpt from our book THIEF! where Slick talks about MM being taken out by the mob. In the excerpt, Slick is at the Hawthorne Racetrack in Chicago. He bumps into Mousie, a mob hit man:
“Hey, how ya doin’?” I said, silently checking out the guy he [Mousie] was with. It was Mugsy Tortorella. Even other mob guys feared Mugsy because he’d do absolutely anything for a buck. Mugsy was tight with an old friend of mine [Leroy Smolen] who introduced us when I lived in Chicago. We exchanged greetings, then Mugsy wandered off to place a bet.
“Yeah, he worked with a couple of friends of mine,” I answered.
“Did those friends know that Mugsy thought Marilyn Monroe’s ass was the best he’s ever seen?”
Now, any ordinary outsider would have said to himself, “Where did that remark come from?” But I knew how mob guys talked. Mousie was testing me, but he had to do it in a roundabout way. He couldn’t come right out and ask, “Do you know Mugsy was the guy who killed Marilyn Monroe and put dope up her ass to make it look like she died of an overdose? No. Mousie and I both would have been hit—him for talking and me for knowing too much. So, Mousie used this indirect way of finding out how much I knew. I’d heard about Marilyn being taken out by the mob from some extremely reliable sources, but I never let on to anyone. Okay, there was only one way to play this if I wanted to live a few more years.
“Gee, I never heard that one.” I managed to sound like maybe Mousie was making a joke and I didn’t get the punch line.
He glanced at me with those watery eyes that seemed to take in my every thought. Apparently he was satisfied I didn’t know anything because he let the subject drop. I was itching to ask a ton of questions like, was the FBI in on it? …and were they afraid she was getting too close to JFK? ...but I just nodded. The less you said to these Outfit guys the better. And the fact that I didn’t pump them, made them trust me and want to open up about stuff. I first noticed this with Sammy the Rock. The more I kept my mouth shut, the more he talked. I guess it’s a natural instinct with people who know a lot of stuff they can’t talk about in public. They get the urge to show what a big guy they are. My one real slipup had been when I asked Dominic’s goons what was in the bag they were wrestling aboard the Knot Guilty. I had to be more careful.
I welcome any comments you care to share with other visitors. A response will appear ASAP.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
The story below was posted on the Website: www.ChicagoSyndicate.blogspot.com a few days ago. (The bold is mine.) In the post, the author states that mob hit men Frank Schweihs and Tony Spilotro are reported to have killed Marilyn Monroe. However, in our book THIEF!, my co-author Slick Hanner states on pages 244-245 that Mugsy Tortorella really killed Marilyn.
At the time of publication, Slick's close friend Leroy Smolen, who was on Mugsy's crew, was still alive. So Slick didn't want to mention his name in the book. Years before the Giancanas book, Double Cross, came out, Smolen told Slick the details of that famous hit. Slick just reminded me that Leroy Smolen met Mugsy when they were both doing time in Stateville Prison.
Slick also says, "If you lived at Chicago Outfit headquarters (Berkshire & Devonshire hotels) like I did, you really knew what happened. Those who weren't there just guess."
Please read on:Thursday, May 08, 2008
Was Marilyn Monroe Whacked by the Chicago Mob?
The I-Team looked into one of Chicago's most feared mob hit men, Frank "The German" Schweihs and whether he was behind the mysterious death of Hollywood legend, Marilyn Monroe in 1962. Frank Schweihs' cancer kept him from being tried with the rest of the family secrets clan last summer. But on Thursday morning in federal court, prosecutors will proceed with their plans to try Schweihs this fall on charges of mob crimes and murder. There won't be paparazzi nor any mention of Marilyn Monroe, even though her death and the death of a Chicago manicurist have been pinned on Schweihs.
In Chicago in 1962, the Dan Ryan Expressway opened. Mayor Richard J. Daley was in his second term. Integration started in the Chicago schools. The Cubs lost 101 games. And Frank Schweihs was a rising star in the Outfit, living in the west suburban home of his Outfit boss. By '62, Schweihs had been arrested as often as his age - he was 32 years old - for crimes from burglary to homicide. But he seemed to carry a get-out-of-jail-free card.
Even though he was German, Schweihs hung out in Greektown and it may have been during a night out there that he met a tall, slender 18-year-old manicurist, Eugenia Pappas. They called her Becca. They began to date to the dismay of her family." My sister came to see me eight days before she was murdered and I said, 'Please don't be involved with anyone like that because when you die, they just step over your body,'" said sister Diane Pappas.
It was advice not taken. Becca's body was found floating in the Chicago River. She had been shot through the heart, according to police, while sitting in the passenger seat of a car. Chicago detective Richard Cain, who led that investigation, was himself secretly on the mob's payroll. Schweihs was questioned but never charged.
Diane Pappas said she doesn't know what Schweihs' motive would've been."I wouldn't know. She was a naive 18-year old girl and that's all I know. She was smitten with him," Diane Pappas said.The Pappas family cringed at reporting that Outfit bosses had ordered Schweihs to silence Becca because he had told her about his role in another murder.
A 1993 book about Marilyn Monroe, written by an L.A. private eye, concludes that "Eugenia Pappas found out about Marilyn Monroe," from Schweihs, who was then ordered to kill her. Whether that is true, Monroe's death was never officially ruled a suicide due to lack of evidence. Many investigators believe Monroe was *murdered* by the Chicago Outfit because of her connections to the Kennedy family and Chicago mob boss Sam "Momo" Giancana.
A police informant reportedly stated that Giancana deployed Schweihs and Anthony "Ant" Spilotro to kill Marilyn Monroe and make it look like a drug overdose. John Flood spent 41 years in metro-Chicago law enforcement, most with the Cook County sheriff's police. He is now retired in Las Vegas and is considered an Outfit expert. Flood says there's a possibility they were involved because of the close relationship of Giancana, the Chicago boss, and Frank Sinatra. They would meet in Reno.
Flood says Schweihs, or Schways as he knew him, was the prime suspect in dozens of gangland hits."A cold-blooded, tough killer who would murder anyone if ordered to," Flood said of Schweihs.
In 1989, Schweihs was convicted of shaking down porno store owners and was recorded on an FBI tape boasting that he was the boss and no one else. When the Family Secrets indictments were handed up in 2005, Schweihs went into hiding and was finally arrested in a Kentucky apartment house at age 76, living with a girlfriend, while his long-ago girlfriend can never rest in peace.
"How is that justice? Walking around for 45 years doing horrible deeds like he's always done? That's very unfortunate," said Diane Pappas. "I hope he goes to jail for the rest of his life and suffers pain with the cancer."
And after 45 years, Diane Pappas heeded the suggestion of her late husband, a career Chicago cop, not to be too public in accusing Frank Schweihs. A crotchety, bad tempered hoodlum, Schweihs has never buckled under the weight of authority and will likely take to his grave, whatever he may know about a Hollywood death that stunned the world and a Chicago murder that has divested a family.
Thanks to Chuck Goudie
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Posted by Joe Batterz on 5/08/2008
Tomorrow I'll publish the relevant excerpt from THIEF!
Who Are These Guys, is a unique true crime novel with each chapter reading like a mini novel. Each chapter is a story in itself. It is about a young, ambitious, Angelo Bedami, head of a crew, whose ancestry stems from Sicily and has taken root in Tampa, Florida. Joe Bedami Sr., Angelo’s father, a prominent member of the Tampa community, owned at least five legitimate businesses. He paid his taxes, and made employment possible for honest citizens so that they in turn could support their families. He was Angelo’s mentor. On the dark side, Joe Bedami Sr., was a made member of the Trafficante family. He was "the" enforcer.
In August of 1968, Joe Bedami Sr. disappeared and was presumed murdered. That’s when Angelo took over the responsibilities of supporting his family and true to form he did it by the book, his father's book. Only Angelo’s way of earning a living wasn’t by enforcing, as was his father's way. Angelo’s interest laid in drug smuggling-large scale drug smuggling. Not supplying neighborhoods, but states and countries. Angelo created clandestine airstrips which were referred to as underground terminals throughout the state of Florida. A few of these terminals were located on the ranches of well known members of the community, such as: Kellogg and Kellogg, Johnson and Johnson, and the ranch of the governor at that time, Governor Graham, now State Senator. Planes landing at these terminals ranged from, DC-4s to Cessnas. Once, Angelo actually purchased from General Noriega himself, a Convair paid in cash. Fifty thousand dollars that found its way into Noriaga’s cache.
Angelo was doing a fine job of supporting his family. Surprisingly he forbade violence. Once a buyer owed him a hundred thousand dollars. When asked by an associate what he was going to do about it , Angelo, said, "nothing". He didn’t want a scared enemy around who would eventually run to the cops and blow his whole operation. Instead he stole a Convair from this potential rat, had his boys’ pick up a load in South America and brought back 15 thousand pounds of pot. He figured that covered the hundred thousand dollar loss.
Once, two of Angelo’s pilots were fished out of the Atlantic ocean after dropping a load of drugs and dumping the plane in the water. As a matter of fact, it was the Convair stolen by Angelo. During interrogation one of the pilots wouldn’t talk, the other wouldn’t shut up. The one who wouldn’t shut up actually had nothing to say. He was in the dark. He didn’t know where he took off from, didn’t know where he landed to pick up the load, and didn’t even know where it was unloaded. Two baffled customs agents were overheard, one saying to the other, "who are these guys?" Hence, the title.
The above appears on the book's Website: http://www.bookmasters.com/marktplc/02031.htm
"What starts out as four young Tampa guys taking over a small Hippie pot operation, turns into one of the biggest drug smuggling cartels in the world. And it’s all true. Along the way, Angelo Bedami and his cohorts find themselves in a heap of harrowing circumstances, but manage to survive through shear ingenuity laced with humor. It’s all there...dangerous South American drug lords, American politicians who reek with corruption and a group of crazy hoodlums hell-bent to make “boo-coo” bucks and have the time of their lives in Anthony Mendola’s Who Are These Guys? Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a riveting read."--
Cherie Rohn, Co-Author THIEF! The Gutsy, True Story of an Ex-Con Artist Barricade Books, 2006
Monday, May 12, 2008
In 1996 after months of grueling practice at A.C.E.S. casino dealer's school, I broke in as a blackjack dealer at a northern New Mexico Indian-run casino. At that time, all casinos in the state were run by the Indians. Each tribe (everyone of which was a separate sovereign nation) had a compact with the state.
The Ohkay Casino owned by the San Juan Indians was nothing more than a small glorified tent near quaint Espanola, NM. My shift consisted of 20 minutes of fear that I'd screw up while dealing interspersed with long periods of boredom standing at a dead table.
Then a disastrous event occurred after 4 months. I was renting a small adobe house in a quiet area. Being a non-Hispanic woman and an outsider in this clannish town that traced its ancestors back to Spain, I kept a low profile and minded my own business.
I came home after my shift one evening to find my front door standing wide open. Someone had broken in through the tiny bathroom window, the only entrance that didn't have bars on it. (Later I learned it was drug dealers.) They took my Southwest jewelry, clothing and even furniture, but luckily the computer with months of Slick's story on it was safely stowed in the trunk of my car!
I resigned and returned to Albuquerque. At least I was no longer a break-in dealer. Ha! you could say that in spades!
Now an Indian casino just south of Albuquerque was advertising for a BJ/roulette dealer so I decided to go over and fill out an application. With paperwork complete, the pit boss said, "Listen, it's pretty dead out there. Let's put you on a table and see what you can do." This wasn't a question. It was an order.
I tried desperately to weasle out of the audition, knowing I'd be in real trouble out there. I stuttered, "Gee...I don't have my audition uniform with me." (Black dress pants and white formal shirt with black bow tie are standard.) "Let me come back another day."
"Naw," he said. "We're not too formal here. I'll just let security and the eye-in-the-sky know."
With that, he dialed a couple of numbers, then took me out to a BJ table with 3 players at it.
I tapped out the current dealer and took his place, trying to make my voice sound friendly and calm, but I was shaking so badly I could barely get out the words, "Hi. How ya doin'?"
One player looked at me with disgust and said, "Sure hope you don't kill me like that last dealer." I managed a weak smile.
Here's why I was so nervous. I wore some fake press-on fingernails for a jewelry commercial I auditioned for that morning. It's tough enough dealing anyway, so you can imagine my handicap wearing fake nails that bent every which way. And there was no time to peel them off before I started shuffling the 2 decks. It must have looked awfully strange to see the nails bend slightly backward each time I shuffled the deck. I managed to get out a couple of hands, determined to make the cards land just where I wanted...not too bad, I thought. Then the most horrible thing happened.
I pitched a card to one of the customers. He reached up. "What's this?" he said, examining the small red thing that had landed squarly on his forhead.
Before I could answer, the pit boss called in another dealer and yanked me off the table. "All right," he said. Let's see if you can redeem yourself on the roulette wheel." His pleasant smile had turned to a grimmace.
By this time, I prayed for a swift end to my agony. Maybe I'll faint and they can haul my body off the floor. No such luck.
Instead, I found myself tapping out the roulette dealer. I flashed a friendly smile to the two patrons, spun the wheel and said, "No more bets," as I waved my hand over the layout. That didn't go too badly, I thought, encouraged by my mistake-free delivery. I spun the wheel again, but the pit boss had a fit. Through clenched teeth he snarled, "What the hell are you doing spinning the wheel in the opposite direction?"
I quietly told him that I was trained by English people at San Juan Casino and in England they alternate the direction of spin. I can't repeat his actual answer since this is a public site, but his word selection went something like this: #%&*!.
"This is your last chance," he hissed. "And it better be good."
With encouragement like that, how could I go wrong? "No more bets," I squeeked and spun the ball clockwise. Well, I put a little too much force behind it. The ball bounced once and flew out into the room. Wouldn't you know, the ball hit the floorman, who stood in front of the roulette table, directly in the crotch.
Yes...I lived through the most embarrassing moment in my entire life. And no...I didn't make up one word.
Stay tuned for more.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Here's how I got into blackjack dealing. Well, it was 1996. The owners of the TV station where I worked as manager in Santa Fe, New Mexico sold the station to the local Fox affiliate. Abruptly, we were all out of work as Fox already had its own employees.
New Mexico is beautiful, but it's like a Third World country when it comes to wages. There were no other media jobs available so I looked for something else that paid fairly well.
Now Indian casinos were springing up like tumbleweeds around Albuquerque where I lived and I'd heard through the grapevine that casino dealers received great tips. I decided to investigate. I interviewed every dealer who would give me the time of day. They all said that dealing was where the money is in this town.
Next step: I decided to enroll in A.C.E.S. Casino Dealers School owned by Larry Smith. From the minute I stepped inside the school, I knew I was out of my element. Don't get me wrong. I'd done so many different things in life that I lost count. And I sure was no kid. But this was different. I was intimidated and even a little scared since I hardly knew how to hold a deck of cards.
Well, I signed the contract (can't remember how much) and plunged in, determined to become a blackjack dealer or bust. I was so lousy, I swear they put me in the "remedial school" of blackjack dealing!
Dealing any of the casino games is strictly procedure. You learn a standard method of doing everything from how you shuffle the cards to how you pitch the cards to how you cut chips (take chips from your tray and pay out), etc. Eighty percent of those procedures are the same no matter where you deal and twenty percent change from casino to casino. The reason it's this way is to protect the house. So when a supervisor or the eye-in-the- sky looks at a dealer, they can tell exactly what's going on...no funny business.
This one day several weeks into the class, a very goodlooking guy came to watch our class. When my turn to deal came up he watched my fumblings with a little smirk. Finally he fixed his baby blues on me, leaned over and in a loud whisper said, "Honey, just relax and pretend you're making love." Instantly the cards went flying all over the floor and everyone roared with laughter. It just made me more determined to get this dealing thing right.
Next time I'll tell you about my first hilarious audition! You won't believe what I did.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
What WILL change is that I'm going to share more personal experinces from my life and background as a mob writer. I not only welcome feedback, I invite comments both positive and negative. I'll answer questions honestly. This is your chance to ask someone who writes true crime the questions maybe nobody else will or can answer. Obviously, I can't know everything, so I'll call upon my true crime experts--fellow authors and others--whose opinions I respect.
Why am I doing this? People ask me questions such as, "What's it like working with mobsters?" or "How did you end up writing Slick's story?" A while ago I addressed that last question in 2 parts which opened up a whole slew of other questions.
In my next entry, I'll talk about how I broke into casino dealing. There are a couple of really funny incidents seeing as how I'd hardly held a deck of cards in my hand before enrolling in A.C.E.S. Casino Dealer's School in Albuquerque, NM.
Stay tuned and please send me your comments and questions. I'll take your cues and see where this goes. Hopefully, you'll be entertained and maybe even educated a little.
Friday, May 2, 2008
This professional poker player said it even better:
The poker winner doesn’t perform any miracles. His luck may be only average, but he will win because he makes the most of his cards by building up the pots he expects to win and staying out of those hands he’s certain to lose.
Thursday, May 1, 2008
NOW: Legal prostitution was outlawed in Clark County, the home of Las Vegas, since 1971. It’s still legal to peddle sex in nearby counties such as Nye where the world famous Chicken Ranch and Sheri’s Ranch, a half-mile up the road, run a brisk trade. (Chicken Ranch brothel in Pahrump, NV featured above.)