What is your favorite mob movie? Do you like classics, like the story of the powerful Corleone family in The Godfather trilogy, or do you prefer something that delves into law enforcement efforts to end crime syndicates, like Donnie Brasco ? Maybe you’re intrigued by the rise and fall of mafia figures, which you can see in movies like Goodfellas, or maybe you’re eager to see the entire Soprano series again from start to finish. While watching the mob operate on screen can be captivating, especially if big stars like Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and the late James Gandolfini tell the tales, there are a handful of famous people who have actually been involved in organized crime and their figures. bleak in real life.
Frankly, a mobster, John “Handsome Johnny” Rosselli, who passed him “[rise] through the ranks with Al Capone,” was tasked with “infiltrating [ing]” Hollywood, according to Vice . It was his job to act “as a mafia ambassador” and interact with “infamous gangsters, Hollywood merchants, stars and stars.” What is more, he was not the only one to establish relationships with the rich and famous.
From Las Vegas singers who got too close and personal with questionable characters to a beloved actor who actually witnessed an infamous mob hit, these old Hollywood stars who had connections to the mob and the movie, but true stories behind those ties.
Frank Sinatra partied with the ‘Las Vegas Godfather’
Frank Sinatra’s life as a Vegas singer put him in the perfect place to associate with gangsters, and he did so during his years in the entertainment industry. While there were “accusations that he himself had been a ‘bag man’ for the mob,” according to NPR , that was not necessarily verified, yet his connection to infamous underground figures was fairly obvious to anyone who knew about it.
Hollywood mafia associate John “Handsome Johnny” Rosselli was “the virtual godfather of Las Vegas in the 1950s and 1960s.” Vice explains, which means that “he knew most of the great stars of show business.” Of course, that included Sinatra, who apparently “partied” with Rosselli. However, Rosselli was certainly not the only member of organized crime with whom the singer was associated. History.com notes that “he was a close friend” of “Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana” and that he was involved with “a rotating cast of characters connected to the underworld.” Frankly, his “ties to well-known mafia members” were so well known that the FBI had a file on Sinatra that “reads like a guide to organized crime figures of the time.”
Despite all this, Sinatra “always denied being connected to the mafia”, resulting in “ridicule by investigators [ing] Sinatra’s private claims that he did not know who Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky or Bugsy Siegel were. “In the end, however, law enforcement was unable (or not) to fix anything on the star and finally” leave it off the hook. »
Wayne Newton faced a ‘mafia death threat’
While many stars deny being associated with organized crime, Wayne Newton was honest about the fact that he had met Guido Penosi, “a reputed member of the New York criminal family Carlo Gambino,” according to the Las Vegas Sun. However, the singer “insisted that he did not know that Penosi had alleged links to the mafia.” As the singer told Sol de las vegas in 2000, «It was ridiculous … What do I know about the mafia? That was the big question.
When reports were published in 1980 accusing Newton of using his co-ownership of the Aladdin Hotel (which later became Planet Hollywood) to act as the “leader” of the mob, there were also rumors that the star “was spilling the beans.” . about the mafia to law enforcement officials. ” Although Newton insisted that he ignored any wrongdoing, there was danger in the fact that, as he explained, “the mobsters did not know that I knew nothing about them.”
Things got even worse for Newton when he was “included … as a government witness in the trial of the reputed mobsters Guido Penosi and Frank Piccolo.” AP reported, resulting in a “mafia death threat.” The singer, who was given a bulletproof jacket by authorities to protect him from a blow, reportedly told his wife, “I am a dead man.” Fortunately for the star, he survived the ordeal, though it probably did reconsider any connection he may have had with organized crime.
Was Marilyn Monroe in love with an infamous gangster?
John “Beautiful Johnny” Rosselli may have been friends with Frank Sinatra, but he could have had a more significant relationship with Marilyn Monroe. The couple was introduced by producer Joseph Schenck, who Vice Notes was also a criminal. In an interview the media had with Lee Server, author of BEAUTIFUL JOHNNY, it turns out that the movie star and the mobster were “close for a time, lovers according to some.” While noting that he could not confirm the rumor, Server explained that there were rumors that Rosselli “helped Monroe gain his first prominent part in Choir Ladies in Columbia.”
Monroe’s connection to a member of organized crime may have helped launch her career during her early days, however, it turns out that she might also have been confused with another mobster during her final days. In fact, “she spent her last night alive at Frank Sinatra’s cabin with a mob boss,” according to recordings uncovered by George Masters, Monroe’s makeup and hairstyle stylist (via Daily Mail).
The actress was said to be in love with the infamous Sam Giancana, who “apparently tried to persuade her not to publicize her romance with President John F. Kennedy” at the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. You never know what happened while they were together, Monroe “flew home to Los Angeles early the next morning and was found dead that night.”
Joe DiMaggio’s family connections are troubling
Joe DiMaggio may not have been an actor or a singer, but the baseball player was certainly part of the Hollywood scene thanks to his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. And while he was known as a Yankees slugger, the International Business Times explains that DiMaggio may have had a dark side that hinted at gangster-like trends. In fact, some “believe Joltin ‘Joe was so obsessed with the idea that the Kennedys had killed his ex-wife Marilyn Monroe that there was a hitman or men killing the President for revenge.” While that claim is likely not provable, it turns out that DiMaggio also had a strong bond with one of the most famous mob families.
The DiMaggios were intimately connected to the Gambinos, who “practically dominated the world of organized crime in New York City,” according to The New York Times . As the Times Herald-Record revealed in 2002, families were united by “mixed marriages [that] began in Italy more than 100 years ago and continued when they arrived in America.”
Relatives even held a meeting that same year, which saw “[s] ix generations, and more than 150 people” join. During the event, the Times Herald-Record observed that “[s] Some of DiMaggio’s cousins were looking for possible types of mafia on the prowl”, or even the FBI. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like having cops around is the worst thing that could have happened.
Jerry Orbach witnessed the murder of a mob boss
Jerry Orbach fans will remember the actor who passed away in 2004 for his role as detective Lennie Briscoe in Law & Order or you may know him as the voice of Lumiere in the 1991 Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast . You might even recognize him as Baby’s father, initially critical but at the same time loving and ultimately redeemed, Jake Houseman, in Dirty Dance . However, when he starred on Broadway in 1972, he was friends with mob boss Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo. The two were together at a restaurant in Little Italy when Gallo “was killed” that same year in what Don explains is “one of the most famous mafia executions in New York City.”
According to an interview, retired homicide investigator Joseph Coffey gave the National Investigator (via Hollywood.com ), he was unable to “close the case” as Orbach would not betray anyone. As the media revealed, Orbach “took a secret with him to the grave: he knew the identity of a mafia chief killer and refused to tell it … until his death.”
While it seems obvious why Orbach would not want to talk about what he had seen, Coffey gave his opinion on the situation and explained, “I don’t think he was afraid the mob would take revenge on him if he talked.” I think he was afraid it would ruin his career. ”
James Caan came to the defense of a mob boss
James Caan has played a mob figure many times on screen, such as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, Spaldoni in 1990 Dick Tracy, and Frank Vitale in 1999 Mickey Blue Eyes . It turns out that his authenticity on the screen may be due to the fact that he knows real-life gangsters.
“Andrew ‘Andy Mush’ Russo, the alleged acting street boss of the Colombo family, has a ruthless and bloody reputation, but he has at least one great friend who defends him: actor James Caan.” Gothamist noted in 2011 when Russo was “arrested in [a] massive criminal sweep.” As the actor revealed to the New York Post , “My friendship with Andrew Russo dates back more than 35 years, and I have only known that he is as good a friend as anyone could be to me and my family.” What’s more, Caan also offered to pay Russo’s bail, writing a note to the court: “My son Scott is his godson. [Russo] has always been the first to call when a member of my family has been sick or in trouble, and has always looked after me like a brother.
Although Russo served his sentence behind bars, a judge ordered his release from prison two months in early 2013 when he was 78 years old, and told Russo’s granddaughter: “Your poppy will be home soon.” This was surely a development that pleased both Russo’s family and Caan.
The mob turned Debbie Reynolds into a ‘rich woman’
Debbie Reynolds may not be a name you expect to see on a list of stars who have been connected with mafia figures, but it turns out that the actress got caught up with the mafia on more than one occasion, for better or for worse.
We have to go back to 1960 to identify the star’s iconic connection to the mafia, which is when mafia lawyer Sidney Korshak “acquired his Bel Air home” through a deed that “was awarded to Korshak … from Karl’s Shoe Stores, Limited, »according to Vanity Fair . If you’re wondering what that has to do with Debbie Reynolds, well, she was married to Karl of Karl’s shoe stores. Korshak was also partially responsible for making Reynolds “a wealthy woman, reportedly negotiating a million-dollar deal for her Las Vegas debut.” According to the FBI, he was even “present at the inaugural performance of Debbie Reynolds’ show at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January 1963.”
However, Reynolds’ interactions with mob types were not always as beneficial. In the mid-1960s, his company, Harmony Productions, became involved with the creator of something called a Scopitone jukebox. But by 1966, NPR explains that “just as great artists like Johnny Mathis and Roger Miller were starting to sign up, key Scopitone players were accused of having ties to the mob,” meaning that “[s] als stalled “And the company failed, which probably made Reynolds lose a penny.
Tony Bennett had an affair with a gangster’s girlfriend?
Like Frank Sinatra and Wayne Newton, Tony Bennett is another Las Vegas singer with suspected ties to the mob. However, his connection to the world of organized crime is a little different. While the other stars knew several mafia men, Bennett encountered a woman who was connected to the criminal underworld.
According to Daily News , David Evanier, the author of All Things You Are: The Life of Tony Bennett , states that “The legendary singer had a close painful-type encounter with the Las Vegas Yellow Pages after he caused a jealous wise man saw red ». Hey? What does that mean exactly? Well, it turns out that while Bennett was separated from his second wife, Sandra Grant, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, “he inexplicably began to see Goodfella’s girlfriend Anthony Spilotro, who inspired the vicious character of Joe Pesci Nicky Santoro in Martin Scorsese Casino’s 1995 film «.
As expected, that relationship did not work. When Spilotro discovered what was happening, “he hit Tony over the head with a phone book and left him on the ground.” While that was undoubtedly unpleasant, let’s be honest: the result could have been much worse! Frankly, Spilotro himself ended up being “beaten in 1986 … Legend has it that he was buried alive.” Oh!
Liza Minnelli’s spicy evening
Liza Minnelli played an adventurous woman who wanted to make the most of her life when she appeared as Sally Bowles in the 1972 classic. Cabaret . In real life, she was apparently just as willing to enjoy feats of joy in living, even if it meant getting involved with a mobster.
At one point, the actress was reportedly friends with Gianni Russo, who was connected to mob boss Frank Costello, according to the New York Post . Russo also knew many stars, such as Elvis Presley (“Russo covered himself while the King imitated on-screen gunplay with royal weapons”), Zsa Zsa Gabor (with whom he had a “strange date”) and Frank Sinatra (” He tried to slap me, I grabbed his skinny wrist and said, ‘I’ll rip your arm off and stick it in your ass.’ ”).
If it is not already clear, «Russo has [d] enjoyed a life that is partly characteristic of Scorsese, partly manifest destiny and partly skin film. “An instance of the latter variety may have involved Minnelli, with whom Russo claimed to have had ‘threesomes … after they both liked the same Las Vegas showgirl.” Apparently, that time, what (allegedly) happened in Las Vegas didn’t stay in Las Vegas.
George Raft was a childhood friend of famous gangsters
George Raft’s name may not be the most recognizable these days, but in Hollywood’s golden age, he was a well-known actor who appeared in classic movies like the 1932 Scarface , 1959, some like it hot with Marilyn Monroe, and 1960. Ocean’s 11 alongside Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
As a boy, Raft grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, where, as Turner Classic Movies notes, he “was a childhood friend” of gangster Bugsy Siegel, who went on to “build [d] an empire criminal through smuggling, gambling and ruthless murder before establishing a store in Las Vegas, “according to Biography . Raft was also friends with the boy who would grow up to be “New York’s Irish criminal boss,” Owney Madden.
Frankly, as “the oldest of nine children” and someone who grew up in a “difficult district,” if Raft had not entered show business, he might have followed his friends into the underworld as he “apparently came close to having a life of crime «. Instead, he followed in the footsteps of previous stars like Broadway and the silver screen sensation Ruby Keeler, as well as the “man of song and dance” Ray Bolger, whom Raft “would proudly point out” came from the “same block.” that he. . It may seem that choosing to be an actor was safer than becoming a mobster, however it is quite clear that the two worlds were intricately intertwined.