Join 3,438 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"The Mob was an integral part of everything"
February 20, 2012 6:27 AM   Subscribe

The Comedians, The Mob and the American Supperclub, all about the years when mobsters controlled not just Las Vegas but most of the clubs where singers and comedians performed all across the U.S. (many old-timers say they preferred the mob-ownership to the modern corporate-ownership), and the sad story of one mobbed-up comic, Allen Drake.

By Kliph Nesteroff, who also wrote the semi-related Why Shecky Greeene isn't just another 'Shecky' (plus a two-part interview from his blog)

The writings of 'Listener Kliph' at the always-hard-on-the-eyes WFMU's Beware of the Blog posted here before featured The Schleppers, Woody Allen, George Carlin, Betty White, Pigmeat Markham (and others in this post), Stringbean, Cary Grant on LSD and Jerry Lewis' short-lived talk show.

His own blog, Classic Showbiz, has, over the last 5 years, featured over 50 interviews with TV and comedy legends (like Shecky above) and thousands of television clips (plus a secondary blog has a few hundred eclectic TV cartoons).

Some more of the best of Kliph NOT previously here include...
The Hanna-Barbera record label (it wasn't all cartoon theme songs)
The fantasy film that did NOT make a star of Tom Poston
Whatever became of the guy who wrote all those 'Whatever Became Of...' books?
The cartoon voices of Bill "Droopy" Thompson and Walter "Sherman" Tetley
Character actor Jack Elam's lazy eye and what he has in common with Bob Newhart
and Erik Estrada's pre-CHIPS fame in "The Cross and the Switchblade"
posted by oneswellfoop (22 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
This dude is amazing. Why doesn't he have 20 books already. I would buy them.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:46 AM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


This reminds me of the scene in Goodfellas where Henry takes Karen to the mob joint where they see Henny Youngman.
posted by Renoroc at 6:53 AM on February 20, 2012


Great post. Thanks.
posted by josher71 at 7:15 AM on February 20, 2012


Fascinating stuff. Worth the long read. Thanks for sharing it, oneswellfoop.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:35 AM on February 20, 2012


Awesome... looking forward to digging into this...
posted by ph00dz at 7:51 AM on February 20, 2012


Excellent read. Thanks for posting.

It's kind of strange: for all their faults and flaws, the Mob guys at least had souls. Corporate won't outright kill you if you cross them, but it sometimes seems the Corporate folks who control the modern entertainment industry don't have anything resembling a human soul within them.
posted by lord_wolf at 8:35 AM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's kind of strange: for all their faults and flaws, the Mob guys at least had souls. Corporate won't outright kill you if you cross them, but it sometimes seems the Corporate folks who control the modern entertainment industry don't have anything resembling a human soul within them.

I so don't get this. "won't kill you" like killing is such a minor inconvenience. For all the talk of corporate not having souls, the mob must have a negative one then. It's falling for the romanticizing of them, as glamourous outlaws or something. It really blows my mind.
posted by usagizero at 8:43 AM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


If you read all the way to where the girl just along for the ride gets two bullets in the head, that part takes most of the fun out of the goodfellas.
posted by bukvich at 8:49 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up watching comedians roast each other on network TV and you could see the love and camaraderie between them. Being a post-60s child, I didn't realize that what I was also seeing were people hanging on for dear life via TV for any sort of relevancy in a world where Carlin's and Pryor's edge made the Henny and Schecky types seem like, well, liars to the young. Even the Mob was going to follow the market for as long as they could.

So of course, the first thing I think of now is a KITH sketch. Very few people my age or younger would even really get it.

"I have drunk many beers and your... act; it displeases me!"
posted by droplet at 8:50 AM on February 20, 2012


I so don't get this.

I get what you're saying: that minor detail about killing people, etc. is not so minor after all. But I also appreciate the point that led to your comment, which I think is this: corporations are almost universally driven by the pursuit of profit; the mob is often portrayed to have a sense of...fairness(?) that transcends the money.

That said, I can only imagine that it does get heavily romanticized, and it was probably pretty financially driven.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:54 AM on February 20, 2012


I tried to find a video clip of Allan Drake on Sanford and Son, which is mentioned in the article, but couldn't. I did find this clip of Drake in "Tales of Tomorrow", though (starting at 12:45, Drake is playing the physicist Chu Ling, who pulls a gun on the radio guy):

http://www.imdb.com/video/hulu/vi1773273625/

FWIW Drake had a son with Janice Hansen (Janice is mentioned prominently in the article) and another with Wanda Owens, a Playboy Bunny from 1961.
posted by flug at 9:09 AM on February 20, 2012


It's falling for the romanticizing of them, as glamourous outlaws or something. It really blows my mind.

Well, keep in mind that outlaws have been glamorized for as long as there have been outlaws, in just about every culture and region on the planet.

Note also that I said "for all their faults and flaws" -- like the performers quoted in the article, I'm well aware that these mob men cannot be considered good by just about any reasonable definition of the word. But as RikiTikiTavi points out, they brought something to the field -- I don't know if "fairness" is quite the word -- that corporate drones don't seem to.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:20 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was an amazing read. Thank you.
posted by narcoleptic at 9:23 AM on February 20, 2012


That said, I can only imagine that it does get heavily romanticized, and it was probably pretty financially driven.

I'm currently reading a book on the history of the mafia and the organisation was pretty much completely driven by money and power... there were 'rules' but they often as not, bent or broken by individual gangsters to get their own ways. There was very little at all romantic about it in reality
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:30 AM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


a sense of... fairness?

I think it was more defined as Family and Loyalty, where once you were accepted into the tribe, that meant a lot. The homicidal cruelty toward those outside the tribe, and especially toward those of rival tribes... that's one of the oldest traditions we've tried to outgrow.

Of course, you could also argue that the killing that was considered "just business" did a lot to inspire today's Corporate thinking, where the only problem is that it is a clearly delineated illegality. But then, the Sopranos' business isn't the only ones blithely dumping toxic waste...
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:05 AM on February 20, 2012


eeep... Shecky GrEEEne? That's why I should never post before breakfast (Pacific Time). Well, at least I spelled Kliph Nesteroff correctly.

But that post evolved when I saw how often 'Listener Kliph' pieces had been MeFi'd previously, but not the Shecky story (which I read when it first came out, but was too busy to post myself...). Nesteroff is recognized as one of the best Show Business historians writing today (which is why I only briefly raised an eyebrow when he generalized "if it was a nightclub - the owners were the Mob."), and NOT by writing for the New Yorker or some other prestige paper publication. And his blogs are incredible sources of video documentation (although subject to some linkrot thanks to YouTube takedowns).
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:17 AM on February 20, 2012


Well, Kliph tells a nice tale, and he managed to inform me about a dodgy mob hit from my home suburb that was a sleepy village in the 40s in that story, but the formatting is a classic Readabiity case.

Also, his description (spoiler alert) of that death scene at the end is filmic, only thing is I wonder how he can describe it since two victims died and two shooters presumably slinked off into the night and never gave an interview, let alone got identified. Always makes me a tad suspicious when things are described too dramatically to be believed, but I'm sure his general mob and showbiz stuff is generally accurate.
posted by C.A.S. at 12:19 PM on February 20, 2012


A great read. I am surprised to find this on a blog rather than in Harpers or the Atlantic or somewhere like that.
posted by LarryC at 2:15 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great article.

I really wish WFMU wouldn't run looooong articles in tiny white text on black background.
posted by me3dia at 7:40 PM on February 20, 2012


Fantastic article. Thank you for posting.

I was looking for more information about Allan Drake, and found that he and Janice had a son together, Michael, who was 13 when his mom was killed.

He grew up to be an apparently beloved family medicine doctor.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 9:15 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great post!
posted by drezdn at 6:38 AM on February 21, 2012


It's kind of strange: for all their faults and flaws, the Mob guys at least had souls. Corporate won't outright kill you if you cross them, but it sometimes seems the Corporate folks who control the modern entertainment industry don't have anything resembling a human soul within them.

I so don't get this. "won't kill you" like killing is such a minor inconvenience. For all the talk of corporate not having souls, the mob must have a negative one then. It's falling for the romanticizing of them, as glamourous outlaws or something. It really blows my mind.


The essential difference is that the Mob guys were human beings who could be held accountable for their crimes, while corporations are non-human personas, neither wholly alive nor dead, and thus a violation of nature, and very difficult to kill. Or be held accountable for their crimes/policies.
posted by ovvl at 3:59 PM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


« Older Age, race and gender breakdown of the Academy of M...  |  "Canada exists for no natural ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments