We don’t glamorize all violent crime; no one holds the Son of Sam or Charles Manson in high regard. (It’s hard to imagine their descendants gathering for a celebratory dinner at a steakhouse.) So why are Al Capone, Lansky, Arnold Rothstein, Luciano, and their ilk held up as mythic figures, even heroes of a sort, not just by their families but by the general public? Why are members of the Italian mafia treated more like celebrities than unsavory criminals?
David Chase finally answers the question he wants fans to quit asking. (Agita warning: spoilers. Whaddya, nuts? ) [more inside]
There's a new trend in Bangkok where males have embraced what they believe to be Mexican gangster culture, by emulating what they see on television and YouTube.
In the early eighties, Orson Welles was a fixture at L.A.’s Ma Maison, where Wolfgang Puck was the chef before he moved on to Spago. Nearing 70, and 40-plus years removed from Citizen Kane, which he made when he was just 25, Welles was fat and famously difficult, no longer a viable star but still a sort of Hollywood royalty—a very certain sort. The younger director Henry Jaglom was one of many aspiring auteurs who admired him but possibly the only one who taped their conversations. These took place in 1983 over lunch at the restaurant.
Once Upon A Time In America [auto-play audio] is the last of a string of films about the past and future of a country [Sergio Leone] knew first and best from the B-movies and yellowing paperbacks America sent abroad. For this 1984 swan song, Leone broke a directing hiatus that stretched back a decade, and turned away from Westerns toward another quintessentially American genre. His fantasia of gangland themes and images barely works by the standards of a gangster film, but succeeds brilliantly by those of epic poetry. - Keith Phipps [all links may contain spoilers] [more inside]
Informant, former wiseguy and goodfella Henry Hill (website, Wikipedia) has been made dead by illness. He was not a schnook.
Zaire Paige had a breakout role in Antoine Fuqua's movie, Brooklyn's Finest. He was seen as a rising star. But, it all went away when he murdered a gang rival and was sentenced to 107 years in prison. [more inside]
"The Beatles and the Rolling Stones rule pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world...and me and my brother ruled London." Reginald "Reggie" Kray and his twin brother Ronald "Ronnie" Kray were the foremost perpetrators of organized crime in London's East End during the 1950s and 1960s. [more inside]
The sitcom Taxi was inspired by two non-fiction articles that appeared in New York Magazine in September, 1975: Night-Shifting for the Hip Fleet and The Word from Belmore, both by author, writer and journalist Marc Jacobson. (Google Books: Original layout and photos.) In 2004, he checked in with local cabdrivers to see how things had changed for them after 30 years. As predicted, leasing did spell the end for the artist/writer/actor cabbie. [more inside]
James Hadley Chase's No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1939) did for the gangster novel what Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep did in the same year for the private-eye novel. Both works were clarifiers, intensifiers, transformers. ... But, as so often happens, Orwell raises the important questions, and it is his essay that has kept No Orchids for Miss Blandish alive for serious consideration. (links may contain mildly NSFW cover art) [more inside]
Nathan Avon "Bodie" Barksdale is a real life Baltimore gangster upon whom the character from "The Wire" was based. Now, Nathan Barksdale has a chance to tell his side of the story in this upcoming documentary. [more inside]
William Burroughs recites from the last words of Dutch Schultz, set to the music of The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
Keep calm and lie down on the floor The John Dillinger Died for You Society has been commemorating the death of Public Enemy #1 every July 22 (last July Pope Michael Flores spoke) Their major spiritual teaching comes from the eminently quotable St. John Dillinger the Martyr who said: “Lie down on the floor and keep calm” during his bank robberies. (Considering his other quotes, it’s ironic that he was canonized) You can join just for the hell of it. Maybe check out a scrapbook of his greatest (ahem) hits. If you’re in Indiana some time you can check out his grave . And of course there’s Dillinger’s women (and everyone’s got a myspace page) But was he a hero for burning mortgages or a villian for robbing banks? Really, does it matter?