Without Fathers


We are a large, but silent, fraternity, we sons who have lost our fathers. We look at each other when the topic of one of our fathers’ deaths comes up, lock eyes for a moment and then quickly look away, for fear of awakening our own pain, never really asleep; lurking just below the surface and easily aroused by a place, a face, anything, anything that reminds us of our fathers.

When we learn, for the first time, that each of us are sons without fathers, we sometimes embrace, but are uncertain how to comfort each other to ease the pain of loneliness left by a dead man we once loved. Rarely, do we open up to each other to talk about the hole in our souls left by our missing fathers. We change the subject, averting our open wounds, just as we did our eyes.

We are not as smart as women, we stupid, vain, posturing men. We think we can bluff our way through the bottomless ache we feel, and believe we are meant to bear it alone because that, after all, is what men do—what we were taught to do by the fathers we mourn.

Each time I hear of a friend’s loss of his father to cancer, or a heart attack, or simply to time, I watch his eyes gather tears which never fall because he doesn’t know how to let them go. I stammer and search for something to say, something to save my friend from spinning down into that dark cavern of grief where I spent far too many hours.  I grab his shoulder and struggle to let him know that I have been where he now dwells, and lived through it, though not without difficulty.

This is another Father’s Day without my father. He died on my 21st wedding anniversary, making each anniversary that follows a bittersweet occasion. Each day for weeks, I watched my father die a painful death from cancer, until the disease paralyzed his back and legs—a merciful numbness sparing him from feeling the torture of each one of his body’s systems shutting down. Each day, as he edged closer to the end of his life, I sat by his bedside, reading him the sports section and reciting to him last night’s Yankee boxscore.

I acted as I had been trained to behave as a man, staying strong for my mother, my sister and my father’s surviving sisters, most of whom are gone now, too. When no one else was around, I took long walks along the beach and cried uncontrollably, praying for the strength to make the right decision when my father pointed to the clock above his bed, mouthing the words “time to go.”

My father spared me that terrible task, choosing to make his final decision himself, demonstrating far more dignity in death, than he had in life. In the end, he gave me a gift that many other sons without fathers were not as fortunate to receive: he let me watch him take his last breath, and utter the last words he heard, which were “I love you.”

I still think of my father often these days, and catch myself wanting to call him to talk about the Yankees or the Belmont Stakes or the Warriors, or just to hear his voice, or hear him say my name. Each Fathers’ Day reminds me how much I love being a father with a son, and how painful it still is, years later, to be a son without a father.

The Trumps: “An Incestuous Intertwining with Organized Crime.”


As an Italian-American and a former staff member for Mario Cuomo, I have been wrestling with how best to express my outrage over the fact that if Donald Trump’s name contained six vowels—like say, Mario Cuomo’s—his Presidential candidacy would be swimming with the fishes because Trump has been in bed with mobsters for his entire professional life.


The list of the Trump family’s—both Fred Trump, who left his son $200 million dollars and a legacy of lying about his wealth and businesses, and Donald’s—ties to organized crime, or “Mob-Nobbing” as Wayne Barrett aptly named it in his book Trump: The Deals & the Downfall, reads like a Who’s Who of Mafioso in the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Areas over the past five decades. Just a few of the law-breaking luminaries or their mob-fronted companies, which can be found in Barrett’s book, who either did business with the Trumps, served as their partners (secret or otherwise), or made labor or building problems go away in exchange for cash, included:

  • Manny Ciminello; construction contractor, racketeer, tied to S & A Concrete;
  • Paul Castellano; head of Gambino Mob; secret owner of S & A Concrete;
  • Fat Tony Salerno; head of Genovese Mob; secret owner of S & A Concrete;
  • S & A Concrete; Mob-front concrete company, run by Nick Auletta; built Trump Tower and Trump Plaza;
  • Willie Tomasello; Fred Trump’s partner on Beach Haven; Genovese associate;
  • Nicky Scarfo; Atlantic City/Philadelphia Crime Boss; Cleveland Wrecking Co;
  • Cleveland Wrecking Company; mob-front demolition co., hired by Trump;
  • Wachtel Plumbing; mob-front co.; hired by Trump in Atlantic City & NYC;
  • Teddy Maritas; mobbed-up head of Carpenters Union; NYC Trump contract;
  • Circle Industries; Maritas’ mobbed up Drywall Co; Trump hired, NYC;
  • John Cody; mobbed-up head of Teamsters Local 282; jailed for racketeering; bragged that “Donald liked to deal with me through Roy Cohn.”
  • Nick Auletta: President of S & A Concrete, mob-controlled cement company;
  • Joe DePaolo; President of Dic Underhill Co; company with alleged mob connections; helped build Trump Village with Fred Trump;
  • Danny Sullivan; partner in SSG, Inc; deal-making arm of Scarfo Mob, negotiated with Trump on land in Atlantic City;
  • Kenny Shapiro; scrap-metal dealer, partner SSG; principle financier for Scarfo’s Philadelphia Crime Organization.


Writing in Politico just last week (May 22, 2016) David Cay Johnston, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter whose book Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the Casino Business carefully details Trump’s ties with organized crime, stated:


No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding’s associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers.”


The torrent of thugs, terrible people and mob-front businesses Trump and his father were involved with going back more than 50 years permeates every present-day action Donald Trump takes.  If Mario Cuomo was in the same room for five minutes with just one of the mobsters that Donald Trump or his father did business with daily, his political career would have been finished. Instead, Trump shrugs it all off; an amoral actor playing among amoral peers. And the press, which apparently only looks for mob connections among Italian-American politicians, allows him to do it.


Imagine, for a moment, if Cuomo—anytime between 1985-1991, when the presidential boomlets for him reached their peaks—had gone to a private meeting in a posh New York townhouse with the boss of one of New York’s biggest crime families under investigation by the FBI.   Wayne Barrett’s book—backed by an eyewitnesses’ account–documents such a meeting between Trump and Genovese Crime Boss “Fat Tony” Salerno, who controlled the cement industry in New York, and attorney Roy Cohn—later disbarred–who represented many gangsters, and Trump. Would the media be silent about such a meeting if it occurred between the head of a Mafia crime family and an Italian-American candidate for President?


Even a Mob/Trump meeting broker as unsavory as Roy Cohn, whose long list of Organized Crime clients were clearly of financial value to Trump, would have been cited as proof that there were Mafia “skeletons” in Cuomo’s closet. The vowel at the end of his name would have been Cuomo’s indictment, plain and simple.   Yet, Trump and his shills get away with the absurd and inaccurate defense that “everybody was doing business that way,” when other major NYC real estate developers such as Sam LeFrak and the Resnick family clearly refused to, and were, instead, pleading with the FBI, and filing civil actions, to free them of mob control of the concrete business. Trump, no friend of law enforcement authorities, just kept quiet and paid his tithe. Such silence would have sentenced Mario Cuomo to political death by insinuation.


Far more dangerous than the double-standard at work here, evidenced by the way the media has failed to pursue Trump’s history of “Mob-Nobbing,” is the practical matter of putting Donald Trump in charge of Federal law enforcement agencies. Does any American who believes in the rule of law and justice really want someone so cozy with Mobsters to have power over the U.S. Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, the IRS, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, the NSA and Homeland Security? Does anyone seriously believe a President Trump would not try to bend those agencies to his will, steering investigations away from his friends and associates, quietly killing administrative inquiries or condemning federal judges conducting criminal fraud cases as “biased?”


Stick a vowel at the end of Trump’s name, and see if his family’s decades-long “incestuous intertwining with organized crime,” as Barrett described the many Trump/Mafia marriages of convenience, would still be ignored.