Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sopranos Actor Shook Down Gay Club Owner

Tony Sirico, the actor who played Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri on The Sopranos, once was known as Gennaro Sirrico, and according to a March 19, 1970 article from The New York Times he allegedly was a former manager of the nightclub Salvation at One Sheridan Square which had become a gay hotspot through the influence of Robert Wood who was murdered in February 1970 with five bullets to his head from a .32 automatic.  The NYT article alleges Sirico, who had been arrested in connection with the shake down of John Addison who operated the gay club The Together at 308 East 59th Street, "was a former manager of the Salvation . . . whose owner was murdered last month" according to police:
The police and Federal and state investigators are seeking a possible link between an underworld take-over of the Salvation -- as alleged in letters written by the slain owner, Robert J. Wood, and sent posthumously to District Frank S. Hogan and United States Attorney Whitney North Seymour Jr. -- and the reported harassment of John Addison, operator of a 59th Street discotheque known as the Together. * * * A police official said that Wood's letters, which named several men listed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as members of the Mafia, described "a classic case of how organized crime moves in on bars and nightspots, puts its members or associates on the payroll, and eventually takes over.  The Salvation, at 1 Sheridan Square, had been patronized by cafe society when it opened in 1967 but is said to have begun catering to homosexuals after Wood put money into it.  It went out of business four months ago after the Mafia, according to Wood, drained off the profits and had him operating at a loss of $2,000 a month.
Sirico was not accused or charged with the Wood murder although he was convicted for shaking down Addison as reported by Reuven Fenton for the New York Post:
Before he became a knee-breaking henchman on TV, Sirico was a low-level, gun-toting shakedown artist who threatened to kill cops and hinted that he once whacked a guy with five bullets in the head. In 2006, TheSmokingGun.com reported that Sirico had been busted 29 times for charges ranging from armed robbery to disorderly conduct. Sirico was sentenced to seven years behind bars, but served just three, for shaking down a Manhattan nightclub owner in 1970. * * * Sirico was working his mob magic on a disco called "Together" in Midtown - telling club owner John Addison how he dealt with guys who didn't obey. "You hit them over the head with a baseball bat and they come around," said Sirico.
At Sirico's sentencing hearing the ADA stated the following:
He said there was one guy who gave him a hard time also, who refused to give Junior Sirico the respect he thought he deserves, who refused to comply with every wish and whim of Junior Sirico, and that was Bobby Woods, and he said, "You saw what happened to him," and Mr. Addison knew what happened to Bobby Woods. Mr. Bobby Woods was found dead with five bullets in his head in Queens with a .32 automatic. He told Mr. Addison that this could happen, and Mr. Addison was afraid, and he came to the District Attorney’s office and filed a complaint.
In 1980 John Addison was convicted of tax fraud in connection with a skimming operation on another gay club he operated.  Following the murder of Wood, The Salvation re-opened under new ownership in May 1970 as The Haven -- which dubbed itself as "the ultimate teenage club" -- until the state closed it down in July 1971 as an alleged "virtual congregation of narcotic addicts." In reviewing The Haven for the Sept. 3, 1970 issue of The Village Voice, Lucian K. Truscott IV alleged:
The scene is drugs and kids. In that order. It's a teen club for the super-hippie teeny-bopper who doesn't drink, is beyond grass and acid, and is looking for kicks. The Haven. It used to be Salvation until its owner was found floating face-up in the East River and the new name and management took over. * * * It still looks like Salvation, but there's no liquor – perhaps because its clientele is too young to drink anyway.
The murder of Robert Wood -- like many murders tied to the gay bar industry -- never was solved. In 1975 the NYDA and NYPD initiated an investigation dubbed Operation Together to look into the Wood and several other gay murders, mob control over some gay bars, drug trafficking and child prostitution.  The investigation allegedly implicated officials at the highest levels in New York City politics, power and society, and a mobster visited one of the detectives warning him to close the investigation because of where it would lead.  The investigation continued, and then a fire bomb was tossed through the window into the apartment where the detective and his family lived.  Two weeks later, "top brass" at the NYPD closed down Operation Together in 1977 over the objections of the ADA and two detectives assigned to the case.
R. Thomas Collins Jr., a former reporter and editor for the Daily News, writes about the shut down of Operation Together in his 2001 memoir NewsWalker:
For 18 months a team of as many as 56 investigators from homicide, vice, narcotics, and intelligence worked under the command of the department's Organized Crime Control Bureau. In all, Operation Together made dozens of arrests for dope peddling, prostitution and other morals charges, and attempted bribery of police. The strategy of the investigation was to target people involved in gay bars, nab them on narcotics charges and get them to turn on their mob controllers, partners or extortionists. Among the depravity unearthed by this team was a network of chicken hawks—patrons of child prostitution and kiddie porn—as well as mob control of the gay bar scene. Then suddenly, just as members of Operation Together felt they were getting close to making investigative breakthroughs, the plug was pulled. The task force was broken up; detectives, undercover officers and the assistant Manhattan district attorneys were reassigned. When a couple of plainclothes guys protested, they were given uniformed foot patrol. One Midtown pimps and pros expert was sent to Harlem. There was bad blood among the police. Cops I spoke to believed the worst, that the mob had pulled strings inside the NYPD and gotten the investigation killed. That's what they suspected; fearing that whoever committed these murders would get away with it. But suspecting wasn't enough. Police brass said this talk of corruption was nonsense. The line from an official police spokesman was that the investigation was closed down because it was "taking too much time, too much money and its members were needed to fight other crimes which promised greater likelihood of arrest and prosecution." The Manhattan DA agreed: The investigation was expensive and producing low-grade arrests. When stacked up against other lines of inquiry, no matter how intensely the police felt about the crimes or how heinous they were, what counted were arrests that could lead to convictions.
Among the names allegedly raised in the Operation Together investigation was Seymour Seiden who owned -- in addition to numerous gay bars in the West Village -- The Sanctuary at 407 West 43rd Street.  Seiden's partner in The Sanctuary was Shelley Bloom a/k/a Allan Gold who was murdered in March 1972 in his East Side apartment. A May 13, 1977 article from the New York Times states:
Mr. Bloom had been found shot to death in his apartment on the night before he was to testify before a federal grand jury investigating a South American cocaine-smuggling network. According to a confidential police report, the murder of Mr. Bloom may have been connected to the attempt by organized crime to control homosexual bars, to eight other unsolved homicides, to the procurement and prostitution of young boys and to narcotics trafficking.
Seymour Seiden was arrested in 1975 for allegedly bribing a police officer to provide him with advance notice of enforcement action, and he allegedly may have had a role with reputed Genovese associate Carmine Cardello in the Limelight, a gay bar which operated from 1973 until 1980 at 91 Seventh Avenue South in Sheridan Square, as reported by Henry Post in his December 4, 1978 article ("The Front") for New York Magazine:
This bar is owned (on the record) by Irving Manheim, a 60-year-old former musician who until recently lived at 120-19 Casals in the Bronx. Two names frequently mentioned in police files and by an agency investigator in connection with it are Carmine Cardello and Seymour Seiden. Cardello is a reported associate of Vincent Gigante, a key aide to Frank Tieri, head of the former Genovese crime family that is now the largest and most powerful crime group in New York. Seiden, who, like many men in the bar business, is usually known by his first name only, reportedly ran the Lightlight. Prior to that, he had managed another disco, the Sanctuary, closed in 1972 by order of the State Supreme Court for being "a supermarket in drugs" – this after 33 drug busts in three nights. Seiden's partner at the time, Shelly Bloom, was found murdered two weeks before the closing in his Gramercy Park bathroom – one bullet hole in his stomach, one in his chest, his head bashed in. * * * The Limelight closed itself a few months ago "for vacation." Its management, however, remains in the disco business, having taken charge of a failed cabaret, Alfredo Settebello, one block north, and turned it into Gables, a disco catering to the same crowd that the Limelight attracted. Gables is run by two former Limelight employees, Willie Tsitsires and Rocco Tancreto, but is owned by Alfredo Viazzi, a successful restaurateur (Trattoria da Alfredo, Tavola Calda da Alfredo), who says he turned over the place "to professional people in the business."
In August 1981 Seiden purchased the building at 303 East 53d Street with Charles Scaglione -- together doing business as S&S Realtors -- and they sold the property just a few months later to a Panamanian corporation with its offices in Switzerland.  Charles Scaglione was the President of 303 East Restaurant, Inc. which executed a 15-year lease agreement for the ground floor and basement of 303 and 305 East 53d Street.  Messrs. Seiden and Scaglione operated a gay bar known as Rounds out of 303 East 53d Street from 1978 until 1994 when it was the target of police action according to a Sept. 4 1994 article ("Gay Bar Shut in 'Loop'") by Bruce Lambert for The New York Times:
It's long been known as the Loop, the area around East 53d Street and Second Avenue where young male hustlers hang out and older men cruise to buy sexual favors. In recent years, the police say, a parallel indoor scene developed at Rounds, a piano bar and restaurant at 303 East 53d St. Now, a recent police crackdown has dampened the scene, stirring support from neighbors and criticism from some gay groups. On Aug. 10 the police barred the tinted-glass front door of Rounds. City officials asked the courts to make the closing permanent, citing a string of 12 arrests in the last year on charges of alcohol sales to minors and prostitution solicitations. The police also cracked down on street activity with arrests there, too. Some gay advocates criticized the move. Matt Foreman, director of the Gay and Lesbian Task Force on Violence, said, "Rounds was singled out as a gay bar," while places with heterosexual prostitutes operate unhindered. "It's also unfair to link Rounds with a long-standing street prostitution problem, which was there before Rounds and will be there after," he said. But William H. Daly, director of the Mayor's Midtown Enforcement Office, said most of his cases were against heterosexual prostitution, adding, "This is the first gay place we’ve closed in a long time." Some residents praised the closing. "Thank God," said Paul Secon, a next-door neighbor, who said he objected to the disturbances, not to homosexuals. "It had gotten out of hand. That place was brazen. The solicitations were aggressive as hell. By midnight it was mating time. We have a courtyard here, and you would find guys coupled up." The civil and criminal cases involving Rounds, conducted by Mr. Daly's agency with the State Liquor Authority and the Police Public Morals Division, are pending. Round's lawyer did not return a call seeking comment. On 53d Street, the scene may be more subdued but has not vanished. Tuesday evening a stranger pausing at Round's darkened entrance drew a whistle from a young man on a stoop across the street.
Charles Scaglione recently published Camelot Lost, and Amazon.com describes the book as follows: 
Chas is learning the nightclub business in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, from a gay associate he worked with in Manhattan construction. Seymour and Chas meet in Puerto Rico and bond. Seymour is famous for The Sanctuary, a converted German Baptist church on West 49th Street, Manhattan. It draws crowds of gays, special straights, and police regularly cordon off the street for safety. This odd partnership opens what becomes a famous cruise bar, Rounds, on East 53rd Street in 1979 in Manhattan. Its popularity draws famous celebrities, well-to-do businessmen, and beautiful young men looking to capitalize from the rich and famous patrons.
In 1981 Gotham Disco at 328 East 54th Street, allegedly operated by Charles Scaglione, was raided by the NYPD.   A November 6, 1981 article ("Neighbors Tried To Oppose Disco Raided By Police") by Ronald Smothers from the New York Times states:
A Manhattan discotheque in which the police arrested 380 persons Wednesday night had long been the object of complaints by neighborhood residents. * * * Residents of the area contended that it was community pressure that led to the raid and mass arrests. But a police spokesman said it was narcotics, citing the "overwhelming amount of drugs" found by undercover agents who went into the nightclub, the Gotham Discotheque at 226 East 54 Street. "It was a drug supermarket," said Alice McGillion, a deputy police commissioner, "and there was open selling and using of drugs. There were just so many drugs that police made the determination that that must be why people were there." By late yesterday afternoon, nearly 16 hours after the 11:45 P.M. raid, police officers at the Brooklyn and Manhattan central booking offices were still processing the people arrested. They also were cataloguing the drugs they said had been found on club patrons or on the floor, where they had been dropped. * * * Eight persons, some of them club employees, were charged with either the sale or possession of narcotics, and two others were charged with attempted robbery and one was accused of assault. They will be prosecuted, the official said. Five of those arrested were minors under 18 years old. Seized in the raid were 170 marijuana cigarattes, 29 bags of marijuana, seven bags of heroin, nearly 100 tins of cocaine, 47 mescaline tablets, more than 350 pills the police have not yet identified and more than an ounce of cocaine swept from the floor. Also seized were a .25-caliber pistol and several knives. * * * The Gotham opened as a discotheque in July and is owned by a company called S.S.F.S. Bar and Restaurant Inc., whose owner, according to the police, is Charles Scaglione.
It's all just like an episode of Will & Grace, eh?

1 comment:

  1. Yes ! Rounds was hot and opened in 1979 on East 53rd Street in what was then the "Male Hustler Strip" in Manhattan. That was 40 years ago,and I was only 20 years old.Very sexy,I would walk up the street near 2nd and 3rd Avenue in skin-tight designer jeans,members-only jacket, pointy-toed black leather boots with big heels and picture perfect "Guido" styled thick brown wavy hair....and was propositioned by older guys (40 plus) all the time !I was no a hustler,but so enjoyed the attention.Inside the bar...the same thing ! Guys eyeing me,buying me drinks and feeling my ass.Mind you, these men were not old,were well-dressed and handsome,around 40 and over.To a 20 year old kid,40 or 45 seemed old ! Today,at 60....that sees so young....LOL !