Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Meeting the Mafia... sort of

(This is a picture of me with Michael Franzese, taken by my son, using my Surface tablet.)

So a little over a week ago I won tickets to the Mob Museum here in Vegas. It's downtown, very close to Fremont Street. The building is the former federal courthouse and U.S. Post Office. It's also one of the few historic sites left here, registered and all.

The museum itself is three floors tall and absolutely chock full of Mafia history. Some of it is a bit graphic, like pictures of gangsters after they were shot to death, lying in a pool of blood. Some of it is almost quaint, like the old-fashioned listening devices and switch boards and recording equipment the FBI used to bring down men like Al Capone. Some of it is fascinating, like the actual guns they used, and other antiques.

By far the most interesting part, though, was listening to former mob capo Michael Franzese speak. I was lucky to be there that night, it was the only talk he gave all weekend. He was going to do book signings on Saturday and Sunday, but ran out of books on Saturday, they sold so well. I'm glad I got mine Friday night!

Mr. Franzese was honest and upfront about his connection to the mob and what it was like being a "made man" in the mafia. He talked about his father, an underboss for the Colombo crime family, who is now 96 years old - the oldest "made man" still alive. He described the initiation ceremony and how intense it was. He also talked about his various money making schemes, from gasoline taxes to movie making. At one point he was listed as one of the 50 richest mob bosses, at #18; just five behind John Gotti, whom they listed at #13 at the time. Most importantly, he described his struggles to get out of that life and start a new life with his wife, Camille.

He was fascinating to listen to. He even joked about taking his wife to see "Good Fellas"; she asked if his life had really been like that, and he said nah, it's just a movie... until the bar scene when he was one of the mobsters introduced when the new guy (Ray Liotta's character) was being shown around. That's when he said okay, time to go...

The Mob Museum has an interview with Michael here: It's not long, so go ahead and read it. I'll wait.

There's also a Facebook page for the museum, here: Lots of info on events, new pieces acquired for display, who to contact for what... did you know you could even get married there?

Michael was also featured in a recent History 2 special, “The Definitive Guide to the Mob.” I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure it'll be on again, and my DVR is always on standby.

If you're interested in learning more about Michael, he has a web page at where you can find everything from his biography to his books to his blog to... well, you get the picture.

It was really quite an evening. I hope to go back again when I have more time to just look around. I had my younger son with me and not a lot of time before the talk started, so we had a quick look at the third and second floors (you start and the top and work you way down), went to the talk with Michael in the second floor court room, and then quickly checked out the first floor on our way out.

I have an autographed copy of Michael's book, Blood Covenant: The Michael Franzese story, that I intend to read as soon as I have the time to devote to it that it deserves. I'm sure I won't be able to put it down so I'll have to wait until I have a large chunk of down time. I'll be sure to post a review once that's done, though. I'm so looking forward to it!