I think the Godfather franchise may be, if not my favorite, at least one of my favorites.
I even like Godfather III.
Yeah, I know, I’m one of two.
Pacino, Brando, Keaton, Caan, they were all great, realistic, believable and the movies stayed pretty close to the book; which I also like.
So, why are we talking about The Godfather when there’s so much going on in the world?
Well, I’m not really a social justice warrior, I realize I can’t do much about world events, and it’s my blog so I’ll talk about what I want.
Back to the Godfather.
Remember the scene where they have the big meeting in UP state New York and all the mafia dons and their henchmen show UP?
Although the Godfather is a work of fiction, the meeting portrayed in the film actually happened.
And it happened on November 14, 1957.
So, that’s why, it was 60 years ago today.
The meeting was a summit of the American Mafia and was hosted at the home of Joseph Barbara, aka – Joe the Barber in Apalachin, New York.
The agenda included topics such as loan-sharking, narcotics trafficking, gambling, prostitution, and extortion. Oh, and the big item on the agenda was who was going to take over for the late Albert Anastasia who met his “untimely death” at the hands of two men with scarves over their faces who were probably members of either the Profaci, Patriarca, or Gambino families (every one hated him) as he relaxed in a barber’s chair in New York City.
An estimated 100 Mafiosi from the US, Italy, and Cuba were there. The meeting was called by Vito Genovese on whom the fictional character of Don Corleone is loosely based.
Everything was going great until the cops showed UP!
Local and state police became suspicious when expensive car after expensive car with out of state plate started showing UP in the sleepy town.
Knowing that Barbara was a shady character and had a house full of shady friends, they set UP road blocks and raided the meeting.
Many of the Dons in $1,000 suits headed for the woods and escaped; but roughly 60 underworld bosses were detained and indicted following the raid.
Most of the charges were dropped, but 20 or so were eventually charged with obstruction, fined $10,000 and released.
So what was the big meeting all about and why risk it?
In the early 50s, Vito Genovese was working to take over the Luciano Family. Frank Costello was running it at the time since Luciano was in the slammer. Vito felt it was time to make his move, but in order to do so he had to take out Costello and his allies, so he teamed UP with Gambino and they hit Anastasia.
Costello barely escaped a hit and decided to take a down grade from Mafia boss to “some guy who’s connected” which left Genovese in control of his own family.
But that wasn’t enough. He wanted the entire organization and to be the boss of bosses.
So Vito called for a national meeting of bosses and Joe the Barber was kind enough to lend his country estate for the event, again.
The 58 acre tract of land west of New York City was located along the Susquehanna River near the Pennsylvania state line.
It was remote, quiet, and relatively unknown.
And most of the folks there drove Chevys or Fords with the occasional Buick.
So when Joe went into town and bought enough steak for 100 people and Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Imperials rolled into town, the law got suspicious.
Hence the road block and the raid.
Rather than cement Genovese’s power as the head of the Mafia, the meeting was the beginning of his decline in power. Most of the old guard blamed him for the new found attention on the outfit.
Prior to the meeting and arrests, the Cosa Nostra, Mafia, or Brotherhood was all myth, conjecture, and theory.
After Apalachin, it was real; so real the FBI established a team to go after the gang.
In 1959 Genovese was set UP by Luciano and went to prison for 15 years. He died from a heart attack in 1969. The real winner turned out to be Carlo Gambino who actually became “the Godfather” and took over the organization.
As to Joe the Barber, the summit brought its host nothing but aggravation and humiliation. His home was raided, his “friends” were arrested – and really pissed at him. What should have been a feather in his cap turned into a nightmare.
He had been reluctant to have the meeting at his home as he’d hosted one the previous year, and had warned the bosses that a local cop named Croswell disliked him and would cause trouble if he got wind of the meeting.
Which he did.
After the meeting, Barbara was under investigation, indictment, and eventually charged with income tax evasion and submitting fraudulent corporate tax forms.
His business interest waned, he lost lucrative contracts, one with Canada Dry, and his health declined.
He too died of a heart attack in 1959.
His estate was sold and for a short while the new owners conducted “sightseeing tours” and spoke about the Aplachin Summit.
The most significant outcome of the raid was the fact that it helped to confirm the existence of the American Mafia to the public.
Even the FBI and its director, J Edgar Hoover had refused to publicly acknowledge its existence. Hoover had denied the existence of a “national crime syndicate” for years and expressed no need to address organized crime in America.
After the Summit, he was forced to acknowledge the syndicate’s existence and its influence and control of crime. Hoover created the “Top Hoodlum Program” and went after the syndicate’s leaders.
All because crime was on the agenda.