Although this will be a controversial entry, this will be the first of my Gangster badasses of the month. Now while I don’t praise criminality, I do understand the need that created it and I am an attentive student of organized crime history. This month’s badass is the original Capo de tutti capi (boss of all bosses) which was a title he did not want, as well as the nickname that was bestowed upon him. The man is Salvatore Lucania, most famously know as Charles “Lucky” Luciano. Charlie Lucky is a badass for quite a few reasons, the first being that he had the balls to play Chess with the two reigning mustached Petes (Fat Joe Masseria and Don Salvatore Maranzano), and walk away holding all the chips. To understand how badass that feat was, you have to understand just how evil and cut-throat the underworld was/is. Lucky organized a den of thieves, killers and heartless criminals into a syndicated counsel that mirrored the Roman empire.
Coming up as a shorty, Luciano was a rare Italian kid being that he mixed it up with non-Italians, namely Jews. This open-mindedness led him to seeing a bigger picture in enterprising than his normally racist and segregated peers who organized, promoted and dealt with Italians (specifically Sicilians) only. Lucky’s childhood friends included legends such as the super quiet and underestimated criminal mastermind Meyer Lanski. Meyer came with the infamous Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and then there was the man who talked like Mario Puzo’s Godfather, the man known as “The Prime Minister” of the underworld, Frank Costello. This crew organized from young boys into adulthood and began making so much money on their own than Luciano as their leader was being recruited heavily by the top bosses. The problem with recruiting Luciano however was that the man had deep Jewish ties, his swagger was a direct tutelage of the ultimate Jewish gangster Arnold Rothstein (yup and you can also credit the “Gangster” look to this man) and he had Meyer and Bugsy as his partners.
The fact that the big guys weren’t willing to accept his friends just because of their race, pissed Charlie Lucky off. It was backwards thinking and was costing them real money (according to him). This led to a decision and an ingenious plan to remove the old racists from the top and start a new type of organization. Joining fat Joe’s crew and winning his loyalty, Luciano was wanted badly by rival Salvatore Maranzano. The rival boss, pissed that Lucky joined the other team, had him captured and cut badly in the face (giving him his trademark droopy face look). Left for dead and tossed from a car, Luciano got his name “Lucky” for living after the ordeal. When the dust settled, he went back to Maranzano to show that there was no hard feelings, cooperated in having his boss (fat Joe Masseria) killed and let Maranzano take the throne as boss of all bosses. Once the egotistical and power hungry Maranzano was on top, Lucky’s invisible Jewish friends, disguised as tax collectors, infiltrated the security of Maranzano’s top level hotel suite and shot and stabbed the big man to death. It was said that the boss went out like a champ, fighting the entire time but he died in the end leaving Luciano’s revenge exacted and the reigns of American Italian organized crime firmly in his grasp.
Luciano edited the five family structure that boss Maranzano had setup when he became Capo de tutti capi. He removed the top spot, leaving it to be a leadership of five with no “capo de tutti capi” or “king” like Maranzano wanted. In this new structure simply called “The Commission”, decisions would be voted on by the five top bosses – namely himself (as Chairman with Meyer as Consigliere), Joe Bonanno, Vincent Mangano, Joe Profaci, and Tommy Gagliano. While this structure worked well for a good number of years, jealousy, stupidity and greed led to a few muckups and before long Lucky found himself the target of political hot shot Thomas Dewey. Having the head of this badass on his wall would garner him votes etc. so before long one of his frame attempts stuck and Luciano was arrested on trumped up prostitution charges.
Prison could have ended the tale of this ultimate Gangster but a deal or two made with the United States government led to his freedom. The deal was to Mob up the docks and prevent Italian sabotage during World War II – since Lucky controlled the docks. He was deported back to Italy a free man, where he ruled for a time before being set-up and removed from leadership. Still his fall from grace was so slight that his along with his childhood friend’s names are legends in Organized crime History.
In January 26, 1962 the Charles “Lucky” Luciano died of a heart attack and was bought back to the United States to be buried. The arguably greatest Italian Gangster of our time was buried in St. John’s Cemetery in Queens. He left no wife or children (due to being banned from marriage as a deportee) but his true love Igea Lissoni had died some time prior to him, so he no doubt left to meet her in the afterlife. The legacy of Luciano was passed on to a man named Carlo Gambino, another boss that was loved by his men, and whose namesake was adopted to Lucky’s gang.See some words or phrases that you don't understand? Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.