Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Written By: Lamont Mann


5'2 Inches in Height at about 105 lbs there stood one of the most powerful men in the Commission, Gaetano "Tommy" Lucchese.  One of the most intriguing mobsters because he was one of the first to combine intellect with brutality.  His visible representation would not allow you to think "cold blooded" killer but if you crossed him, you would be proved wrong.  Tommy was close with Meyer Lansky (Jewish) and Lucky Lucianno who eventually made him a powerful man in the newly formed Commission.

Tommy Lucchese was born in Sicily and raised in East Harlem, NY.  As a young lad, he was friends with Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky as they formed a childhood gang. 
As a member of the childhood gang, Tommy had already begun a career in the business underworld.  Tommy created a window washing company as a teen, he would solicit business from patrons and if they refused he would break their windows therefore you were faced with paying Tommy minimal dollars versus hundreds of dollars to replace your window.

Tommy's father noticed him going down a bad road and made his son get a job in a concrete factory.  While working at the factory, Tommy had an accident that cut off his thumb and the finger next to his index finger.  Tommy would get caught stealing a car and through the common booking process, the police noticed he only had three fingers. 
At the time the Chicago Cubs had a popular pitcher named Mordecai Brown who was missing a finger therefore the police gave Tommy the nickname Tommy "Three Finger Brown" Lucchese.

Joe Masseria (Heavy Handed Mob Boss) reached out to Lucchese and Lucky to be "hit men".  It is estimated that Lucchese committed  30 murders for Masseria.  Tommy's stint in Sing Sing's prison for auto theft would be the only time Tommy would see a jail cell in his lifetime.  After Tommy did his time in jail, he returned to East Harlem and at the same time the United States made alcohol illegal.  Tommy noticed the opportunity to seize upon the public who wanted alcohol and thought the law was foolish. 
Under the leadership of Masseria, Lucky and Tommy convinced their boss to stop selling the cheap liquor (rock-gutt) and move the market to Midtown Manhattan with more expensive liquor.  Initially Masseria was against it but seen the money in doing so with Lucky and Tommy orchestrating the enterprise.  The business was successful and Tommy was one of the most feared mobsters in New York but trouble would arise.  Tommy's boss Masseria and another mobster would get into a long bloody war which concerned Tommy.  Tommy and Lucky believed all of the killing during the  mob war, it was only a matter of time before the authorities would notice and clamp down.  The friends devised a plan to murder both mobsters and take over the family while creating new rules. 

After the methodical plan was successfully carried out, Lucky came into power and created what we know now as the Commission.  There would initially be Five families of New York in addition to one in Chicago and one that control the Western areas.  The rules were simple, all leaders worked autonomously in addition to the families having an hierarchy.  At this time, their was no "Boss of Bosses" but Lucky would appoint Tommy as Under Boss of Gaetano "Tommy" Gagliano.  After the death of Gagliano, Lucchese became the boss hence the Lucchese Family.


While serving as an Under Boss, Tommy looked beyond prohibition because they sensed prohibition wouldn't last.  They were correct, in 1931 prohibition ended and Tommy needed another racket to replace the monies of bootlegging.  Tommy set his sites upon on Kosher Chicken.  It was his plan to control the union of butchers because unlike your normal butcher, Kosher Chicken had to be hand cut by Jewish butchers, a skill that could take as long as thirty years to perfect.  Tommy was truly ahead of the curve  because he had no problems with working with any ethnicities and it was practically unheard of for an Italian to embrace a Jewish person.  The plan was to control the Jewish Kosher Chicken Butcher's Union and you can set the parameters to play.  If Tommy wanted to raise prices he could because owner's could not refuse because a butcher had to be specialized.  When I read about his love of chicken, I new Tommy was my dude; any man that can embrace chicken is cool by me.  Of course Lucchese didn't stop at chicken, it was time to get into the real money maker, fashion.


Tommy wanted in on the garment and fashion industry.  Through the years Tommy occasionally conducted business in fashion but not to the extinct he was about to partake upon.  Tommy new that New York was the fashion capital of the world.  The majority of garments shipped around the world came by way of New York City and that spelled "Big Business".   Tommy entered the garment industry by way of Long Sharking.  At the time the Great Depression had taken it's toll on both everyday people as well as businesses.  With banks unable to lend money as freely as the past, business owners needed a way to remain in business.  The businesses that wanted to remain in business had to do business with Tommy.  Tommy's terms were one sided and guaranteed him a profit; I lend you a short term loan with astronomical interest, if you don't pay I either kill you or become a silent partner.  The interest was so high considered the length of the loan, Tommy became partial owner too dozens of businesses.  Tommy didn't stop at fashion as he went one step further and gain control of the truckers union.  Picture this, he is partial owner of multiple fashion franchises and his competition was at the mercy of him because he controlled the shipping therefore if you wanted your items shipped, you still had to do business with him.  If you complained about the price of shipping his reply was simple, deliver the clothes yourself.


Tommy was a "low key" powerful gangster and he knew he couldn't continue unless he had politicians and people of influence in his pocket.  Tommy would be the orchestrator of a friend gaining a City Council job later to be named Mayor in addition to having police, media and everyone you can think of on the payroll.  He knew you had to "Pay to Play".  Once he moved from his modest home to an affluent suburb in Long Island, neighbors noticed the caliber of visitors ranging from politicians, athletes, media.  He basically covered all the basis.


The last of Tommy's rackets was Boxing.  It was believed that the mafia rigged fights and one of the fights that had Tommy written all over it was Ali v Liston.  Tommy's men controlled every facet of boxing, from boxers to trainers to promoters.  Neighbors would always notice whatever tip Tommy would give them on a fight would always come true.  The highest profile fight Tommy was accused of rigging was Liston versus Cashius Clay (Ali).  Tommy's crew pretty much ran the Liston's camp and til this day everyone believed the fight was rigged as well as the second fight where Liston went down on the phantom punch in the first.  At the time everyone believed Liston would annihilate the Olympian but that wasn't case.  All of the money was coming in on Liston and Tommy broke the bank by betting on a 7 to 1 under dog.


After Boxing endeavor, Lucchese begin to take a lesser roll in the criminal enterprise.  At the same, Lucchese begin getting sick and complaining of chest pains and dizzy spells.  He went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Within two years he was dead.  Over 3,000 people attended his funeral including politicians and media.


There were a couple of things that stood out to me about Lucchese's rise to power.
  • How the power was achieved
  • Luciano giving Tommy a lesser role
It's truly amazing how most of  Tommy's power was achieved by way of the government in some aspect.  First with the lawmakers prohibiting alcohol and next by way of the Great Depression.  Most will say the Great Depression was not the doing of the government but I feel the people that are in control has the power to make changes for the good of the country.  Tommy made money in "eras" where making a profit in any industry was unheard of.

One of the biggest mysteries for me was Tommy's appointment.  If Lucky is the "main man" and he was friends with Tommy, how do you appoint him to second in charge of another family.  In my opinion the natural progression would only be to appoint Tommy as a Boss of equal status as Lucky.  There was some talk of Tommy not wanting to be in the spotlight but the mere fact that Lucky and Tommy were of different families is still strange.  While Lucky remained friends with Myer Lansky, Tommy was an Under Boss of another family.

I simply love structure in an organization (something the Texans are missing).  It's really amazing how the common criminal have enough sense to design an organization with structure.  If you were to look at an organization chart for the Texans, it would look something like this

Lamont Mann
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