By Beverly Ford and Stephanie Schorow
Beverly Ford and Stephanie Schorow, authors of The Boston Mob Guide: Hit Men, Hoodlums and Hideouts, contribute blogs to The Mob Museum.
The Italian-born gangster and head of New York’s Genovese crime family who died in January more than 50 years ago was grossing $12 million from bootlegging, gambling and other illegal activities by the age of 28. Now that’s lucky. He escaped several attempts on his life, including a notorious beating and stabbing attack in 1929 that left him with a scar and drooping eye. That’s lucky too. He orchestrated the execution of several crime bosses – even luckier still since he survived to become one of the top crime bosses in the nation until dying of a heart attack in Naples, Italy, in 1962 at the age of 64.
But if you think that’s all to the story of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, think again.
Author Christian Cipollini has made some remarkable new discoveries about the gangster while researching his upcoming book, “Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangster Legend,” scheduled for release in May.
“Luciano is the most fascinating gangster to me because there’s so much mythology around him,” Cipollini said. “He was menacingly handsome. You feared him but you liked him. He’s someone I’d like to sit down and have a drink with.”
Researching his subject, however, was both exhausting and overwhelming, the author discovered.
“I felt intimidated at first,” Cipollini said of his research, “but then I couldn’t believe what I found.”
What the 44-year-old Pittsburgh native discovered were details of Luciano’s life that have remained under wraps for more than 80 years.
Cipollini, a former newspaper reporter, said he went through hundreds of FBI documents, newspaper articles and books looking for undiscovered tidbits about the crime boss and – much to his surprise – he found a wealth of new information. Among his discoveries is an interview with the police officer who found Luciano beaten and stabbed on a Staten Island beach in 1929.
“The general consensus was that Luciano was beaten up by his enemies. Most historians think he was beaten by cops. There were also rumors he was meeting a woman and the woman was a cop’s daughter,” Cipollini said. His research, he said, “adds more mystery” to the story but also “throws some historians a monkey wrench.”
Along with new information about that beating, Cipollini also discovered tidbits about Luciano’s love life, the stories behind his many tattoos and some interesting facts about a Mob-run liquor cooperative known as “The Big Seven.”
Perhaps even more interesting, however, are the dozens of pictures of Luciano and fellow mobsters that Cipollini includes in his book. Many of those photos have never been seen before, some of which Cipollini provided for The Mob Museum blog.
So, if you think you know everything about Lucky Luciano, think again. Like Cipollini found out, there’s still a lot more to learn about one of the syndicate’s founding fathers.