"All we have to fear is fear itself."
-- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Within a month after the St. Valentines Day Massacre, Momo was on his way to
Joliet Prison, not for that crime but for what he considered a paltry burglary in the
Patch. Never one to let a mere three-year sentence undermine him, he immediately fell back
in with his Capone cronies upon his release on Christmas Eve, 1932. He was 25 years old.
A lot had happened since his incarceration. The nation was now reeling in the depths of
a depression, the stock market having tumbled to Hades in October of 1929. American dinner
tables were empty, farmers were tossed from their lands, and once- prosperous corporations
were laid to waste. All except the business of the Outfit. Although shoe-in presidential
nominee Franklin Roosevelt promised an end to Prohibition, the prophetic mobs had moved
into other enterprises such as unions and narcotics. Capone had finally been wrestled to
the mat by the Justice Department -- if for tax evasion, if little else -- and was
Leavenworth bound for nigh a dozen years. But, his replacements werent too sad to
see him go. Like Colosimo before him, his visions had been short sighted and now men like
Paul Ricca, who took control, saw the world -- not just Chicago-- as their domain.
So strong had the Chicago Syndicate become that when the towns new mayor, Anton
Cermak, refused to play their brand of ball game, he was killed while riding in an open
motorcade alongside Roosevelt in Miami. Gangland PR convinced the American public that the
killer, Joe Zangara, was a radical determined to shoot the chief executive -- another John
Wilkes Booth, of sorts. But actually, Momo learned, Zangara had been a Ricca-controlled
stooge who owed the mob money and was made to understand that to play his
"madman" role was far better than being tortured to death.
If the Outfit had learned one thing from Capone, it was to avoid high
publicity; flash, pop and glamour that had been Scarface Als undoing. A more tenuous
hierarchy was now in place. While Ricca was the real Wizard of Oz for the Chicago mob,
Frank Nitti performed well as the focal munchkin, keeping the Wicked Witch of a government
misled and its eyes off Ricca. Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (his moniker rooted in
his early days as a waiter at Espositos Bella Napoli Restaurant) had acclimated
successfully to the new way of running a syndicate; he made sure his boys paid taxes and
owned legitimate businesses with records suitable for federal inspection at any time. But,
they would be able to lap up the cream that came in through the back door.
Fat and odorous Jake Guzik, whom Momo called "a smart Hebe," continued
to handle their books as he did for Capone, but even more adroitly. With advice from
Murray Humphreys, a skimmer-wearing entrepreneurial and crafty Welshman, the mob leaders
now offered American businesses a variety of "protection" -- which really meant,
:"To protect yourself from our wrath you better buy our protection."
.Momo was impressed. With the aggressiveness and with the logic. Invited back with open
arms, he returned to his control over Little Italy and was given jurisdiction over many
South Side concessions. Even though Prohibition was gasping, Momo headed an enterprise
that continued to produce bootlegged whiskey but sell it under established labels. The
booze-thirsty American public never knew the difference. Between running his assorted
businesses, he was often summoned by Ricca to persuade either a store owner to become a
client in their protection scheme or to remind a factory worker that it was probably smart
to vote for a union he may not have ordinarily wanted. In these endeavors, he was assisted
by the his old Patch friends, "Needles" Gianola and Fat Leonard" Caifano,
as well as an assortment of other colorful scoundrels like "Mad Dog" DeStefano
or "Teets" Battaglia.
Somehow, Momo also found a chance to court a lady. Her name was Angeline
De Tolve, a dark-eyed beauty from the Patch. She was the kind of female who, in true
Sicilian tradition, loved her man and didnt ask questions, not even when she
suspected him of continuing to visit the whorehouses in the Levee District. After the
blessing by an obliging papa, Momo and "Ange" wed on September 23, 1933. (Their
first child, to be born almost two years later, was a girl named Antoinette who would grow
up to write the insightful autobiography, Mafia Princess.)
|Ange & Sam
didnt keep Momo indoors anymore than before. He continued to see the trollops and he
continued to stay out late with the guys, playing pool or shooting dice. But, business
always came first -- before the playtime and before his marriage.
In fact, he was at his best when acting as "justice of the peace" at
his makeshift court, the back room at Louies Gas Station on California Avenue. Here,
he continued to mediate internal mob squabbles, assigned hits, dealt out booty and paid
his men in cash for jobs well done. Sometimes he would agree to hear out neighborhood men
plead for more time to pay back a loan. More often than not, he assigned "Fat
Leonard" to take the suckers for a one-way ride.
Very infrequently, he took care of a job himself. One such incident involved his
brother-in-law, Tony Campo, who had whelped his wife once too often. In a scene
reminiscent from the film, The Godfather, Momo visited Campo to tell him that if he
ever laid another brutal hand on his sister Lena he was a dead man. He made Campo promise.
And Campo, with the barrel of a .38 shoved down his throat, did more than promise. He wet