“The sun turned cold over President Street and the town of Brooklyn mourned They said a mass in the old church near the house where he was born And someday if God’s in heaven overlooking his preserve I know the men that shot him down will get what they deserve.” ~Bob Dylan
A ‘G’ Grows in Brooklyn
It was Brooklyn in the 1960s. My father, Richard “Ricky”DiMatteo, was a bodyguard for crime boss Larry Gallo. Larry and his brothers, Crazy Joe and Albert “Kid Blast” Gallo were defiant gangsters who ran their own crew, their own group of urban outlaws, who defied the Mob’s Commission. They played the game by their own set of rules. The Gallos were a different breed of gangster.
They had their own style, their own way of operating and they challenged the norms of La Cosa Nostra. They eventually started an all- out war with the old school Dons who didn’t like the way they were doing business. But before Joe Gallo went down in a hail of bullets at Umbertos Clam Bar on April 7, 1972, he and his brothers and their crew were among the most feared and ruthless gangs in the history of the American Mafia.
This book tells the story of that President Street crew from the inside out by someone who was there. It also explores the result of the Gallo-Profaci war and how it shaped the other New York Crime families for decades to come.
Unlike other mob books, this one will be part history lesson, part memoir, from the point of view of someone who grew up on the inside. Through first-hand experience, I will present a detailed account of legendary mafia meetings, harrowing crimes, violent confrontations and bedside confessions to mob murders that have remained a mystery until now.
The book includes a who’s who of the American Mafia in the second half of the 20th century i.e., dealings with bosses, capos, soldiers, as well as business men and celebrities from all walks of life including the sleazy world of pornography.
My baptism into La Cosa Nostra began in Brooklyn during the 1960’s when my father, Richard “Ricky” DiMatteo, was a bodyguard for Larry Gallo. I was reared on the knee of the Mafia, you might say. It was always around me and I was always around it. I knew the ways of the street as well as I knew my ABCs; I knew the street better.
I knew all the guys and they knew me, from when I was a baby. It was the world I grew up in. For me, it was normal.
Guys, who now only exist as characters in movies and books and as entries on Wikipedia pages, were my neighbors, my family, and my friends. So this book isn’t a history lesson, even though there is history running through it. It isn’t a tell-all, even though I’ll tell you all I’ve seen.
This book is a first-hand account of what it was like growing up inside one of the most notorious crews in the history of the American Mafia. It is a personal story, my story, and it will detail how working beside my father would allow my life to intersect with some of the most notorious gangsters of our time and how I would unwittingly bear witness to some of the most infamous moments in gangland history.
My father, who everybody in the neighborhood knew as “Ricky”, was my idol. I wanted to be just like Ricky when I was growing up. Who wouldn’t? He was good looking, well dressed, well respected, made money, drove fancy cars and seemed to have the world by the balls. When you’re a kid you don’t see everything for what it is. You believe what you perceive to be the truth.
You believe what your parents tell you. You believe in mythology: Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Even when you’re old enough to know better; old enough to know what’s real and what isn’t, if you still want the presents, you keep believing.
To me, Ricky and the guys who hung out on President Street were Gods, in a world filled with Devils. I believed in the mythology of the Mafia. I can still remember all those President Street Boys and some of their great nicknames: Little Angelo, Cockeyed Butchie, Ralphie Goodness, Stanley the Hat, Mooney, Smokey, Punchy and Roy Roy. Then, of course, there were the Gallo’s: Larry, Albert and Joey.
When I was a little boy Joey, Larry or Blast would see me they would pinch my cheeks until I had tears in my eyes. They thought it was funny and it was their way of showing affection.
I learned to tough it out. When you’re around guys like that, on the streets of Brooklyn, you learn early on to be tough. So I got over the hard pinch on the cheeks. Pain was a regular part of this business, I would soon learn.
My father’s life in the mob began in 1958, shortly after he was discharged from the army. Ricky, a high school graduate from a
poor Italian family, bounced around, taking a maintenance job at American Airlines and then discovered that he liked to box, so he embarked on a short-lived middleweight boxing career at Sunny Side Gardens.
Soon after, Ricky hooked up with Anthony “Little Augie Pisano” Carfano and Anthony “Tony Bender” Strollo, who were caporegimes in the Genovese Crime Family. Carfano and Strollo ran nightclubs in the city and were looking for a bouncer.
Ricky, who knew how to handle himself and others, got the job. He worked at The Wagon Wheel and The Gold Key clubs in Manhattan.
Legend has it that one night Ricky got into a fight with welterweight champ Emile Griffith who had just turned pro. The word on the street was that Ricky floored him twice. Ricky didn’t know who he was and threw him out of the club, because apparently Griffith, who was black, he was talking a little too much to a white girl in the club a definite no-no back then.
While working as a bouncer for the Genovese guys, Ricky got to know the Gallo brothers, especially Larry and Joey, who at the time were members of the Profaci family from Brooklyn. They came to the clubs a lot since they were friends with Carfano and Strollo.
Ricky became especially close with Larry Gallo, with whom he hit it off right away. So in September of 1959 when Carfano got shot in the back of the head in his Cadillac, Ricky began staying with Larry Gallo and his crew. This is how Ricky started his life with the Gallo’s.
Ricky began working at The Hilltop Bar on Prospect Avenue and Prospect Park West in Brooklyn. Larry and his crew put him there to run the place. Around the same time, Mike The Bandit brought in a barmaid to work at the Hilltop. Her name was Amelia Fiore, my mother.
Larry and Blast called her Dolly, and that eventually led to a shortened form of her nickname, Dee. I think everybody had to have a nickname back then! Anyway, this is how my parents met.
Ricky showed Dee how to tend bar and that’s when Cupids arrow struck them. If it hadn’t been for the Hilltop Bar and the Gallo’s, my mother and father might never have met and I might not have been in this world to tell the story.
Like a lot of things in life, good and bad, they happen the way they were meant to happen. As a boy, on weekends I would go to the bar to make a few dollars. I had a shoeshine box.
When the guys came in they would laugh because they knew I was going to shine their shoes to try to make some money. They would give me $10 or more depending on who it was. The bigger the gangster, the bigger the tip, I made a good chunk of change.
I could bring in $150 on a good Saturday afternoon. Not bad for a kid in the 1960s. While Ricky worked at the bar, he grew close with the Gallo’s and their crew, guys like Nicky Bianco, Bobby Darrow, and the others
who hung out there. Also, while Ricky was at the Hilltop, the Gallo-Profaci War had erupted.
The Gallo’s had tried to overpower then boss Joe Profaci and seize control of the family. They saw Profaci as stingy and imposing unnecessary financial“tribute” which he insisted be paid by all family members.
The Gallo’s splintered off from Profaci and a civil war broke out. The boys had to “hit the mattresses” on President Street, where they had their clubs and hang-outs. Hitting the mattresses basically means that they were involved in an underworld feud, so key members of the family quickly moved to safe houses and other hide-outs from which they could plan their attack and be secure from rival attacks.
The phrase, made famous in the film “The Godfather” refers to sleeping on mattresses thrown on the floor while they were hiding out, which many of them did as the war raged on.
Roy Roy had a club there, where the boys could crash and be safe so did Armando The Midget. Armando was a dwarf gangster who worked for Joey Gallo. It was his job to walk Joey’s pet lion, which was used to intimidate Gallo victims. There was Gargiulo’s Flower Shop and Lefty Big Ears’ joint too. They had the street locked down, President Street was their refuge from the bullets and violence of the war.
Ricky, being fairly new to the Gallo gang, was not yet widely known to be a member and could move around fairly easily and unharmed. For this reason, Ricky was able to be one of the shooters on the Carmine “The Snake”Persico hit. Persico had been an ally of the Gallo’s but soon betrayed the Gallo crew.
Profaci had secretly contacted Persico and offered him some very lucrative rackets if he would switch sides. Persico agreed and attempted to murder Larry Gallo. In retaliation for the botched attack on Larry, gunmen, including my father, ambushed Persico in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn.
A panel truck pulled alongside Persicos car one night and he was shot in the face, hand, and shoulder. Persico lived but following that shooting, Ricky became Larry Gallo’s bodyguard and right hand man. This was the start of a long and loyal friendship.
This was the start of my fathers and my own life in the mob. This book will take its readers inside the mob life like never before, for a personal, first-person account of what it was like to grow up in the underworld. It will describe in detail two generations of being in the “life”, covering four decades.
It will reveal the men behind the headlines, in their raw, day-to-day business affairs. It will show the seduction and inner-workings of the mob life in a brutally honest and inglorious way. Be warned, the details in this book will not be pretty at times. This is a no-holds barred account of the inner workings, from the mundane – intimate discussions about the Sopranos TV show with those who the show was based on — to detailed deathbed confessions from mobsters about unsolved mafia murders.
This book is 58 years in the making. The result is the most personal and accurate testament to life in the mafia that anyone has ever read. This book will dispel the myth of that world. It will set the record straight as to the facts in many of the most infamous events of mob history.
LION IN THE BASEMENT GROWING UP IN THE GALLO CRIME FAMILY Description:
The Publisher of ‘MOB CANDY’ Magazine Brings You The Untold Stories of What life is Really Like Growing Up Inside the World of the American Mafia.
Frank DiMatteo grew up in the Mafia. His new book reveals the true stories behind some of the most infamous mobsters, mob wars and mob hits of the last half century. Frank takes on the legendary tales that have for years been falsified and grown into urban myth.
As an insider who lived the life, up close and personal, Frank will share his unique perspective. His first-hand accounts and deathbed confessionals that will blow the lid off the secrets that have been confidential for so many years.
In honest and sometimes graphic detail, Frank will take his readers into a world they only thought they knew. Born in South Brooklyn in 1956 into a family of hitmen, my father Ricky and my uncle Bobby Darrow were shooters for the Gallo crime family. They were also bodyguards to Larry Gallo and Joe Gallo.
Uncle Joe Schapini was a capo in the Genovese crime family and bodyguard to Frank Costello. I didn’t have a chance, with Crazy Joe and his two brothers pinching my cheeks till tears came down my face (which was a sign of affection).
I dropped out of school by 9th grade to hit the streets that’s all I knew. I went from distributing Screw Magazine to publishing Mob Candy Magazine. Now here’s the first of two books telling that story.
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