Hey, 1985 called! It wants its mob wars back!
There is much talk about New York’s bad old days creeping back. First came news that there was a spike in the city’s murder rate, with homicides jumping 55 percent (if only for the first few weeks of 2019).
But the most newsworthy killing of the year didn’t happen until a few days before St. Patrick’s Day, about a 15-minute ride (and a couple of million dollars in household income) from the home I grew up in.
That would be the Staten Island killing of Gambino mafia boss Frank Cali outside of his home. Police are still trying to figure out if this is the start of some kind of mob war, or instead something a tad more personal.
Either way, it gave everyone an opportunity to glance back at the good old days of Sammy “the Bull,” and John Gotti, and Paul Castellano.
Funny how criminals of certain ethnic backgrounds are seen as civilization-threatening “animals,” while others are just so darn colorful and interesting.
Anyhow…The Frank Cali killing made it easy to overlook another important underworld development—the death of one-time Colombo family boss Carmine “the Snake” Persico, at the age of 85.
“He was the most fascinating figure I encountered in the world of organized crime,” Edward McDonald told The New York Times.
McDonald is an Irish American former federal prosecutor who led numerous Mafia investigations, and even played, well, himself in the classic film Goodfellas. (“Don’t give me the babe in the woods routine, Karen.”)
McDonald added, “Because of (Persico’s) reputation for intelligence and toughness, he was a legend by the age of 17, and later as a mob boss he became a folk hero in certain areas of Brooklyn.”
The Times added another important fact: “Slightly built at 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighing about 150 pounds, (Persico) was usually accompanied by his favorite sidekick and bodyguard, Hugh McIntosh, a 6-foot-4 mobster with a frame like a tree trunk.”
Ah yes, Hugh “Apples” McIntosh.
Described in Selwyn Raab’s recent book "Five Families" as Persico’s “bodyguard and ace partner in crime,” Raab adds that while “McIntosh was Persico’s loyal henchman, his Irish heritage precluded induction [in the mob] as a full-fledged made man.”
By the mid-1950s, Persico, McIntosh and their associates were neck-deep in the New York underworld, specializing in gambling and hijacking. The mob world was shaken in 1957 by the murder of Albert Anastasia in a Manhattan barbershop by a team of assassins—among them, prosecutors believed, Carmine “the Snake.”
As Persico climbed up the Colombo family ladder, McIntosh earned a reputation as both a great earner and fearsome enforcer. None of which could keep him out of prison in 1969 on hijacking charges.
He was released and went right back into “the life,” arrested again in 1982 for attempting to bribe a federal agent, in the hopes of getting The Snake himself out of prison.
McIntosh would spend another 11 years in prison before headed back to Brooklyn for one final—and strange—run-in with the law.
By the 1990s, after a string of serious health problems, it seemed Apples had gone straight. Even his probation officer (grudgingly) admitted there was no evidence McIntosh “was actively engaged in criminal activity.”
And yet, when detectives were keeping an eye on a Brooklyn bar with a reputation for drug dealing, who did they spot chatting with Carmine “The Snake’s” nephew? None other than Apples himself.
When McIntosh was asked by investigators why he had been meeting with a known member of an organized crime family, which violated the rules of his probation, he had a simple explanation. He didn’t remember any such meeting.
Hugh McIntosh died in November 1997. And now his pal Carmine “The Snake” can once again be at his side. How do you like them apples?