Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Milwaukee Mob in Vegas TV Show

Dennis Quaid & John Chiklis are two of my favorite male actors and I've been watching the interesting new show Vegas which shows the early birth of the mob's takeover of the gambling scene in Vegas. The screenplay is by Nicholas Pileggi whose book Wiseguys I read in the late '80s on a vacation in New England. Pileggi keeps inserting the Milwaukee mob into the show as the antagonist of the Chicago Mob, of which Chiklis is a loyal---or so it seems---member. As it happens, my mother's mother Nana lived up the street from the Balestrieri's and her grandkids and his kids went to school & church at St. Sebastian's Parish on 54th St. I remember my cousins telling me that they couldn't believe that the nice father to their friends the Balestrieris was the head of the Milwaukee mob. My senior year of high school, I was enamoured of a young girl named Mary, and my friend Terry Keenan and his date & Mary/me went to the Brass Rail, a glitzy nightclub/bar owned by a Milwaukee mobster named Izzy Pogrob,
First to come to mind was The Brass Rail, that controversial place on 3rd and Wells that was owned by colorful Izzy Pogrob. The Rail began as a jazz club in the 1950s but became a strip club in 1959, about eight months before Pogrob disappeared and turned up dead a day later in a Mequon field, apparently a victim of a robbery.
I heard that the bar subsequently was run by a young Detroit-based Jewish gangland type named Ivan Boesky, later to achieve a dubious immortality in the '80s.
Balistrieri married Antonina (Nina) Alioto and soon his father-in-law and Milwaukee boss, John Alioto, was grooming Balistrieri as his successor. Balistrieri had two sons, Joseph and John Balistrieri, who became lawyers and became involved in their father's business. Balistrieri had two daughters, Benedetta and Cathrine (Cootie). On December 27, 1961, at a crime family social event in Milwaukee, Balistrieri was installed as the new boss of the Milwaukee family, replacing the retired Alioto.
Alioto's was the swankiest restaurant on Hwy 100 near the country club where I caddied & later we went there when there were celebrations or funerals to be observed. Later, it turned out that Frank Balestrieri was actually trying to get with the New York mob to take over the midwest from the Chicago Mob. Milwaukee had already taken over the KCity, Detroit & Cleveland rackets & it seems that Donnie Brasco was involved in the intermediary dealings between the Bonannos and the Balestrieris. By coincidence, a couple of scenes from the Donnie Brasco movie were shot in the bar owned by my cousin and her husband at the time. Small world. Must have been the ambience...!

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