Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Best Quote I Heard All Day
It is no secret that organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year. This is quite a profitable sum, especially when one considers that the Mafia spends very little for office supplies.--Woody Allen

I'm relegated to pictures from my cell phone for this entry. But it's an amazingly good shot, considering.

That's my view every day as I walk to and from the Hudson Light Rail on my way to the office. I never get tired of it, even though I prefer country to city. After all, it is the place of my birth.

So yesterday, as I sat on the train going home and looking at the "scenery," I was thinking about The Sopranos. WARNING: There is no knitting or fiber content in this post, so if you want to whine about that, go read elsewhere.

The Sopranos has a particular appeal to me, for reasons other than the great storyline and acting. First, I'm familiar with many of the locations where the show is shot, particularly the opening sequence, where Tony's driving from the Holland Tunnel to the turnpike, through Newark and then, for I guess art's sake, drives a circuitous route through what appears to be Belleville to his home in North Caldwell.

If you're from this part of Jersey, you know what I'm talking about. So there's that connection.

The other weird connection is my erstwhile connection to the Mafia through marriage to my husband Jimmy.

Yes, it's true. The family name was changed. From DeSimone to Roberts. It's a rather colorful story, in fact.

My father-in-law was a professional middleweight prizefighter from the early '20s to the early '30s and fought as Kid Roberts. For a time, he was Jack Dempsey's sparring partner. Born in Italy in 1904, he came to America when he was four and his family settled in Greenwich Village. The Old Man, as Jimmy always called him, started fighting when he was 13 and I believe he went pro when he was 18. He changed his name because he felt an Anglicized name would be better box office than an Italian surname. So while Jimmy and his brother Jon were Roberts, as was their half-sister Barbara, they had a shitload of Italian cousins.

The Mafia connection started early on. The Old Man had two first cousins, Tommy Eboli and his brother Patsy. Both were in the mob. Tommy, aka Tommy Ryan, was involved in boxing--not in a good way, either. He wanted to manage my father-in-law but Dad refused. Tommy went on to run the Genovese family in the late '60s. And he went down in a Brooklyn street. As for Patsy, one day he just vanished. His car was found at Newark airport. He wasn't to be found. Anywhere.

When I first my husband, I had no idea that he was part Italian. Jimmy, for some bizarre reason, was never proud of his Italian heritage and would barely admit to it. But once we got married, I had the opportunity to meet the Old Man's side of the family, who lived in Queens and out on Long Island.

They were a great bunch of people, warm, friendly and a lot of fun. And not everyone was "connected." However, one of Jimmy's cousins, Michael and possibly his cousin Vinnie (honest to God), were club members, shall we say. Or at least, suspected club members. If you asked Michael what he did, he'd say "Public relations." Yeah, right.

Michael dressed like a frigging stockbroker. And never discussed his business. Ever. It was an open secret that he was mobbed up and that Vinnie was probably in on it too, although he ran a catering business for a time.

Vinnie was more the wiseguy type that you see on the Sopranos. Kind of hyper, a bit on the explosive side. Michael was smooth and cool. Interesting mix.

I haven't seen any of these people in years. Last I heard, Vinnie had moved to California. Michael still lived in New York and I last saw him at my mother-in-law's wake back in 1992.

And nobody's found Patsy Eboli yet.

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