Vinnie “The Chin” & Donnie “Double Chin.”

Vincent “The Chin” Gigante being arrested by Federal Agents (NY Daily News Photo)


For weeks, some have been asking how long the lunatic, erratic, fanatical and dangerous behavior of Donald Trump can go on.   For answers, we overlooked the most obvious source of all of Trump’s life lessons: Mobsters.


New York Mob boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, the power behind the Genovese Crime Family during the 1980’s and 1990’s, avoided prosecution for decades by pretending to be crazy.   Nicknamed “The Oddfather,” Gigante took rambling street strolls in pajamas, a terrycloth robe and slippers around Greenwich Village, where he lived in a small apartment with his mother, who, in a screeching Sean Spicer-like defense of her son, insisted the only thing he was “boss” of was the bathroom. Paul Manafort? A “limited role.” Michael Flynn? A Volunteer. Roger Stone? A bathroom attendant.


The Chin’s “elaborate deception”—as Federal Judge Eugene Nickerson described Gigante’s behavior in declaring him mentally competent to stand trial in the 1990’s–kept him out of jail for years, and the wealthy & powerful Mob boss manufactured reams of doctors notes to swear to his lunacy. Some of those notes from The Chin’s parade of psychiatrists bore an eerie, albeit, perverse similarity to the claims made by Trump’s own alleged “doctor.” The Chin was the craziest of all crazies, according to his Docs, just as Donnie “Double Chin”—the nearly 300 pound Tweeter from the High Tower—was, physically, if not mentally, the healthiest presidential candidate in world history.


Somehow, “The Chin’s” psychiatrists missed a few salient facts: Gigante’s slipping out at night, dressed in normal clothing, to be with his girlfriend on the Upper East Side; Gigante ordering a hit on John Gotti, head of the rival Gambino Crime Family because he felt Gotti broke the Mob’s rules with the “unsanctioned” murder of Paul Castellano; Gigante ordering his underlings never to mention his name in conversations, but simply point to their “Chins;” and Gigante gingerly extorting payoffs from vendors and pocketing money donated to a neighborhood church during New York’s Annual Feast of San Gennaro. Why bother with the facts when a fake narrative keeps the cash flowing?


Like “The Chin,” Donnie “Double Chin,” profits from advancing his fairy tale: he never settles lawsuits except for the dozens he has; he is “very, very rich”, except for when his debts & liabilities exceed his assets and he pays no income taxes for 20 years; he creates an imaginary universe where Barack Obama is a Muslim, not born in the USA, who wiretapped his phones, with help from British spies; The Central Park Five, along with Ted Cruz’ father, are guilty of murder, even when none of them are; millions of illegal voters gave the popular vote to Hillary; and Trump never dealt with the Russians, except when he did, and as his son admitted, the “family” was doing, in 2008.   Also like “The Chin,”Donnie “Double Chin,” knows that his billowing bouffant layer-cake of lies can be easily deflated by those who have watched how it’s half-baked. That explains why he’s tweeting as fast as his tiny fingers can fly to delete Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone from his friends list. They know too much.


It’s also why Trump—steeped in the raw sewage of Roy Cohn, Mob sycophant—demands ironclad non-disclosure documents from his underlings.   He watched how testimony from former Mob members exposed “The Chin’s” long-running charade—like a bathrobe coming undone– putting the powerful crime boss away in prison for the rest of his life.


Selwyn Raab, the incomparable New York Times organized crime writer, detailed such testimony in his obituary on Gigante, published on December 19, 2005 (“Vincent Gigante, Mafia Leader Who Feigned Insanity, Dies at 77”):


“Salvatore Gravano, testified that even Mr. Gigante’s archrival, John Gotti, grudgingly acknowledged Mr. Gigante’s craftiness. ‘He’s crazy like a fox,’ Mr. Gravano quoted Mr. Gotti as saying after a summit meeting of NYC Mob leaders in 1988.”


Raab’s masterpice of a New York Times obituary on “The Chin,” is instructive for helping us understand the apparently unhinged behavior of Donnie “Double Chin:”


Mr. Gigante, whose nickname was ‘The Chin’, painstakingly maintained the fiction that he was incompetent until April 2003, when he appeared before Judge I. Leo Glasser in Federal District Court in Brooklyn and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Specifically, he acknowledged running a con on the legal system that delayed his racketeering trial from 1990 to 1997, while his sanity was being examined.”


How long can Donnie “Double Chin” continue to “maintain his fictions “to avoid accountability or prosecution? When will his “elaborate deception” of the US and the world come crashing down? Will some no-nonsense, law and order judge like Justice I. Leo Glasser force Trump to “acknowledge running a con on the legal system,” in exchange for his resignation from office without jail time? When will Trump’s fellow gang members turn on him?


Donnie “Double Chin” may have gone to Wharton for a whiff of time, but he has proven himself incapable of learning the most important lessons “The Chin” taught: fancy pants or silk pajamas attract too much attention, and, the only thing “golden” from yourself and your friends, no matter how it’s achieved, is silenzio.

The President & The Puttana


Vito Genovese’s puttana came on to me during my senior year of high school, while the mob boss was still alive.


It was Springtime, 1967, and my mother and I arrived at my Aunt Josephine’s small Woodside, Queens, apartment when it happened. Genovese’s girlfriend, a fiftyish French woman named Charlotte, batted her long lashes at me, spoke a few words in her sexy French accent and I was smitten. She was visiting my mother’s oldest sister, having accompanied our cousin, Jean Eboli, married to the brother of Tommy Eboli, who would—in just two years—succeed Don Vito as head of the Genovese Crime Family. I studied French for four years in high school, and Vito’s sultry puttana was verbally seducing me right before my mother’s incredulous eyes.


I was polite and respectful, of course. My Aunt Josephine, a brilliant and scheming peasant woman, born in Italy in 1899, who admired money and was mobster neutral, had taught us how to act around these folks. Having cooked for members of both the Genovese and Gambino crime organizations, who married into our own family, Aunt Josephine’s kitchen was a little like Gertrude Stein’s salon for street toughs who loved superb tomato sauce, the way Stein’s patron’s loved good art. The lesson from Aunt Josephine was clear: the host always showed respect, even if your guest was a puttana.


It’s too bad Donald Trump didn’t have an Aunt Josephine to teach him life’s lessons. If he did, he might have known how to act toward the reputed puttana of convicted racketeer, mobster and NY Teamster Local Boss John Cody. Donald’s dealings with Vernia Hixon, who bought several of the best apartments in Trump Tower in 1982, revealed Trump’s inherent “pussyness” in the face of real power.


“Trump was a guy who would talk tough, but as soon as you confronted him, he would cry like a little girl,” Cody’s son, Michael, told The Daily Beast’s Christopher Dickey and Michael Daly in an October 13, 2016, article entitled “The Swiss Connection: The Party Girl Who Brought Trump to His Knees.   “He was all talk, no action.”


Cody was not just any casual observer. His father controlled the construction trades industry throughout the New York Metropolitan Area for a number of key years in the 1970’s and ‘80s, as head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 282.   No trucks carrying any building materials, especially cement, could move to a construction site without Cody’s approval. The flow of cement was controlled by the S & A Concrete Company, a mob-front business co-owned by the Gambino & Genovese Crime families. If building developers didn’t pay what Cody or S & A Concrete demanded, their jobs—like Trump Tower—could be halted.


“My father walked all over Trump.” Michael Cody told The Daily Beast. “ Anytime Trump didn’t do what he was told, my father would shut down his job for the day. No deliveries. 400 guys sittin’ around.” To John Cody and his colleagues, Donald Trump was just another puffed-up, pasty patsy.


One of the things Cody told Trump was to make sure he took very good care of his special friend Verina Hixon, who purchased three prime units in Trump Tower, just beneath Trump’s Penthouse. Hixon’s units, included the only swimming pool in the entire Trump Tower complex. The strikingly-beautiful, Austrian-born divorcee, according to Wayne Barrett, in Trump: The Art of the Deal, “had no visible income…and by the end of 1982 had signed contracts to purchase the units for a total cost of around $10 million.”


Cody made sure Trump took good care of Hixon, even funneling some $500,000 to her for renovations on her apartments while he was in jail for racketeering and income tax evasion. When Trump balked at fulfilling some of his promises to Hixon, according to Barrett “Cody & Hixon cornered him in a nearby bar and got his agreement. “Anything for you, John, “ was Hixon’s recollection of Trump’s cowering comment.


Trump was so terrified of crossing Cody that at one point, when Cody called Trump from prison to complain about construction problems on Hixon’s apartments, Barrett reported that “Trump greeted him nervously on the phone. ‘Where are you? Trump asked. Downstairs?”


“Trump ended conversations with my father by saying, “Whatever you say, John,” Michael Cody told The Daily Beast.


However, as soon is Cody was stripped of his union leadership and his jail term dragged on, Trump got brave. He sued Hixson for $250,000 on the apartments’ alterations, but Cody’s tough, no-bullshit consort was not so easily bullied. According to Barrett, she counter-sued The Donald for $20 million, and her attorneys threatened to bring in the Attorney-General to look into the possibility of Trump paying himself ‘kickbacks.’


Trump quickly caved and Cody’s reputed puttana with the seductive accent stayed in her tower on Fifth Avenue through the end of the decade, until her money finally ran out. Perhaps Aunt Josephine could have ended things more amicably for everyone over a good meal in her kitchen, but considering the two parties involved, it’s unlikely.


Hixson, now in her early 70’s and living in Europe, refers to Trump as “that awful man,” and Trump who thinks a fine meal is a Trump Tower taco, is busy bending over for mobsters from Russia. Whatever they want, Vlad. Anything.










A Good Man Who Liked His Beer…


(Me, My Aunt Josephine, My brother Michael, and my father (wearing fedora) at my college graduation, 1971).


(In honor of the 102nd Anniversary of my father’s birth, I am excerpting a short section from  my upcoming book, Tightrope, which will be published this spring.)


My father and I stopped at the newspaper kiosk at the Babylon train station’s lower level on the morning of Robert F. Kennedy’s funeral in June, 1968, and picked up a copy of the New York Daily News for him, and the New York Times for me.


We boarded his regular early morning train that was already waiting at the station. Both newspapers predicted huge crowds of mourners would jam Manhattan that day. I pored over every word of every story I could read about RFK’s death, devouring each detail in the Times and leaning over my father’s arm to look at the pictures in the Daily News and read the giant headlines, until he flipped the paper over to the sports section to check what the horseracing handle was from the day before. The last three digits of that total would tell him if he “hit” the number with his bookie.


The contrast of our lives struck me. My father was doing the same thing he had done for 15 years of life on Long Island, catching an early morning train, looking at the horseracing results in the same section of the same newspaper each day, hoping that maybe, this time, this day “our ship would come in,” as he chanted each time he looked. Each day he got up before everyone else, went to the same job, taking care of tempermental steam boilers that belched hot water and hot air through the pipes running like elevated roadways in the basement of the office building where he worked in Manhattan. He barely made enough money to support our family, and only because he worked on Saturdays, too, earning overtime pay.


I watched the train conductor punch my ticket and thought of how my father must have watched countless conductors perform the same ritual, ticket after ticket, trip after trip, until he no longer knew it was happening. I sat and stared out the train window and watched Woodside whiz by, hearing my mother’s refrain repeating itself to the cadence of the train car’s wheels whispering over the tracks: “We live in hopes and die in despair; live in hopes, die in despair; live in hopes, live in hopes…” I looked over at my father, asleep, the Daily News folded in his lap.


No, I insisted to myself, I am the third son of a third son, and I must live a life like no one in my family has ever dreamed; my father told me so. I would learn about the mysterious “they” that my family fussed about whenever something happened out of their control, which was frequently. What I had to guard against, was becoming one of “them,” an unspoken fear between my family and me. We knew I would be different, but how different? Would I become unrecognizable to my mother and father? Go on, take, take, take; but don’t take too much…don’t change too much.


I looked at my father again, his dapper grey fedora resting gently on his head. I could not imagine him going to a politician’s funeral, to pay his respects to one of “them. To Al Villano, it was all distant, part of another “woild,” as he would say.   He had all he could do to survive and feed his family in his world.


“Will you have to give la busta?,” he kidded me, when I first told him I was going to RFK’s funeral, referring to the Italian custom of putting a little money in an envelope and giving it to the family of the deceased to help pay funeral expenses. His humor got me to smile.


“I don’t think the Kennedys need it, Dad, “ I said, winking back at him.


We got off the train at Grand Central Station.


“Be careful and watch your wallet, Rock,” he said to me, heading down to the basement of the building where he worked, putting on his brown maintenance man’s uniform as soon as he got there, and wearing it all day, the way the wealthy lawyers and accountants on the floors above wore their designer label suits and ties, while he made certain they were comfortable all day long.