|Albert Anastasia (1903-1957)|
"The Mad Hatter", "Lord High Executioner"
Born in Calabria, in southern Italy at the turn of the century,
Albert Anastasia took to the sea in his teens with his brother Tony
and by 15 had sneaked off his ship and into Brooklyn.
Anastasia came to the US sometime shortly before WWI, in 1917, without shoes,
and hiding with a relative until he could find work.
Anastasia was given a job on the docks and was a longshoreman by age sixteen.
Working alongside his brother Anthony, early on he decided to change his name from Anastasio to Anastasia to avoid bringing shame upon his family and being identified with them when he was mentioned in newspapers as a gangster ,
or so the story goes. But his brother Tony kept the original family name and went on to become
one of the leading racketeers controlling the Brooklyn docks twenty years later,
working under the direction of his bully boy brother Albert.
Albert Anastasia was probably best known for his temper.
This man was perhaps one of the most violent men to ever reign as a boss in a family.
He was brought up with crime, and started out in bootlegging.
He was a bodyguard for Joe Masseria and ended up under Vincent Mangano after the Castellamarese Wars.
He worked on the docks and was the "man in control" of the New York Waterfront
along side his brother Tough Tony Anastasio.
Anastasia was arrested in the early 20's for having killed a fellow longshoreman.
One Joe Torino in 1920, in a dispute over the right to unload ships with precious cargoes.
There were several witnesses to this killing where the powerful Anastasia stabbed and strangled his victim.
He was convicted and sentenced to death. He spent 18 months in the death house of Sing Sing.
Shortly before he was to be executed, he won a new trial when the witnesses reversed their statements.
Anastasia was set free when his case was reopened and a new trial was never held.
Four of the most important witnesses suddenly ended up missing.
Anastasia was partly responsible for Lucky Luciano's rise to power.
When, in 1930, Luciano approached him about his plot to do away with the old Mustache Petes that ran the Mafia,
Anastasia declared that he'd been waiting for eight years for Luciano to be in charge
and that he would "kill everybody" so that Luciano could be on top.
Luciano wanted Anastasia to be a big part of his future plans.
Anastasia was hungry for power and knew that if Luciano
were head of the National Crime Syndicate, he would eventually get a piece of the action.
Anastasia was part of the four men sent to kill Masseria in 1931 in a Coney Island Restaurant.
His ruthless brutality made him legendary and helped him achieve leadership of one of the most powerful families.
Anastasia was ambitious and he had become friends with Frank Costello, Al Capone, and Lucky Luciano.
When Prohibition ended, his friends, who had begun a national crime syndicate, had another job for Anastasia.
He was offered the position of chief of Murder Inc., the syndicate's enforcement arm.
This was a service where connected men could come to Albert Anastasia
and ask Murder Inc. to take a contract on someone.
Anastasia showed a certain ability early on for killing
which helped him be promoted to operating head, along with Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, of Murder Inc.
They would then assign the hits to one of their top killers.
People like Abe (Kid Twist) Reles who was very cold hearted and ruthless.
It was Kid Twist who brought down the service
when he was busted and decided to talk instead of taking the electric chair.
Reles claimed Murder, Inc. had been responsible for more than 63 murders on the orders of Anastasia.
In the end Kid Twist found his way to the cemetery.
Reles went out a window under mysterious circumstances, while in protective custody.
Anastasia (The Lord High Executioner of Murder Inc.) was never convicted for being involved in Murder Inc.
Buchalter, however, is the only wise guy to ever get the chair, and he got it for heading Murder Inc.
Legend has it that Murder Inc.
The organization of contract killers was reportedly responsible for up to eight hundred hits in their tenure.
It was a service that provided for its customers and killed its opposition.
With no criminal convictions Anastasia joined the Army and became a citizen of the United States.
After his service, Anastasia moved to New Jersey.
He controlled the waterfront as a capo under Mangano.
Mangano was considered getting weak and in 1951 he disappeared. He was never seen again.
Albert Anastasia was given the top seat in what was to become known as the Gambino family.
He ruled the family with terror and violence and was known to be very ruthless.
He once killed an informer whom had nothing to do with his family or any other connected family.
He said that he just didn't like stool pigeons.
Anastasia soon formed an allegiance with Frank Costello and it was these two who ruled the commission.
Another rival Vito Genovese felt as though it should be he who controlled Costello's family.
When news of this mob murder reached the ears of Vito Genovese,
the calculating syndicate don began to spread the word that Anastasia was unstable,
a thug murderer who did not deserve the high rank he had achieved in the syndicate .
Genovese also wooed the loyalties of Carlo Gambino, who served as Anastasia's underboss and Gambino,
in turn, persuaded his good friend Joseph Profaci, a syndicate family boss ,
to oppose Anastasia at every turn, siding with Genovese.
Standing between these factions, however, was Frank Costello,
the so called Prime Minister of Organized Crime .
Costello was the financial guardian of Luciano's old rackets and an avowed enemy of the scheming Don Vito.
Genovese spread the word that Anastasia had attempted to bully his way into controlling some of the lucrative gambling casinos in Cuba which were controlled by Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello who were in league with
the then military dictator of the island, Fulgencio Batista.
Genovese stepped up and soon began attacking Costello's ally whom he feared may try to strike back.
Genovese went to the commission and accused Anastasia of breaking one of Family rules.
He accused him of selling memberships into his family. This was a serious crime.
Things looked bad for Anastasia who was normally the killer, not the prey.
Anastasia knew his own life was forfeit.
The Mad Hatter had been rebuffed and was now plotting against his former ally, Costello, claimed Genovese.
Then on the night of May 14, 1957, Costello was entering his swank Manhattan apartment building when a lumbering, fat young hoodlum , later identified as Vincent "The Chin" Gigante,
stood outside the building and shouted at the gang chief from some thirty yards distant, "This is for you, Frank!"
With that he fired a single shot and then fled.
The bullet grazed Costello's head but he survived.
Gigante was identified by the doorman of the apartment building but was later tried and acquitted
when Costello refused to identify him as his would-be killer.
The word through syndicate enclaves had it that this had been the work of Anastasia;
that he had hired Gigante, a Greenwich Village thug , paying him $500 to murder Costello,
but that Gigante had botched the job.
Costello himself believed this tale and agreed with Genovese and other syndicate dons
that the Mad Hatter had to be eliminated. It was Genovese, of course, who had hired Gigante,
instructing him to purposely miss Costello so that the gang chief
could legitimately seek and get his vengeance against Anastasia.
That vengeance was reaped shortly after 10:15 a.m. on Oct. 25, 1957,
when Anastasia walked into the barbershop of New York's Park Sheraton Hotel.
He waved at the shop owner Arthur Grasso as he sat down in the deep leather of chair four.
Joe Bocchino, who had been cropping Anastasia's short, curly hair for years,
covered him with the candy striped barber's cloth
and began to clip at the gang boss 's hair while a manicurist sat next to the chair and
worked on the Mad Hatter's fingernails.
Jimmy, the shoeshine boy, began to slap brown polish on the gangster 's wing tipped shoes.
Two short, squat men wearing fedoras and sunglasses then entered the shop and pulled .38 caliber revolvers,
waving the shop people away from chair four.
As they scattered in fright, both men began to blast at the seated figure.
Anastasia had been dozing in the chair, his eyes closed.
They popped open just before the first shot was fired.
The gang boss raised his left hand as if to shield his head from the bullet which tore through the palm.
Two more bullets smashed his left wrist and entered his hip.
Anastasia let out a roar and struggled to get out of the chair, reaching, some reports later said,
for a gun that he no longer wore. Bullets crashed into the barber's shelf in front of the chair,
shattering bottles of hair tonic. Another bullet struck Anastasia in the back
as he stood upright for a moment, the barber's cloth still clinging to him.
He sank to the floor, and one of the gunmen calmly walked up to the prone figure
and fired a bullet into the back of his head, a coup de grace
identical to the shot Anastasia had fired into the head of
Joe "The Boss " Masseria in 1931.
Their gruesome task completed, the two gunmen raced for the door and vanished.
They were never apprehended, but gangland consensus had it that the murder had been carried out by
Larry and Joe Gallo who had received a "contract" from Don Vito Genovese.
There was no typical mobster funeral for Albert Anastasia,
with massive floral wreaths and a long motorcade of limousines packed with black-suited gangsters.
The ceremony was simple and was attended by his family members, including his union mobster brother Tony.
Anastasia's wife Elsa, who married the arch killer in 1937 at age nineteen after moving from Canada to New York,
refused to believe any of the terrible stories about her wealthy husband.
She insisted that he was a good family man who worked hard to support his family
and maintain their lavish home in Fort Lee, N.J. Mrs.
Anastasia claimed that her dutiful husband never drank, only smoked cigarettes and that he was usually home by 9 p.m.
He often took the children to see movies, she said, and liked to take the family to visit the homes of friends.
"I never heard him say a bad word in front of me or the children,"
Elsa Anastasia told one writer.
"He never spoke roughly. He used to go to church with me every Sunday.
He gave generously to the church... Now he's not even buried in consecrated ground."
The Anastasia family sold its U.S. holdings and changed their name, moving to Canada.
The same day Anastasia collapsed into the cuttings of his own hair,
Vito Genovese took over the old Luciano syndicate family,
through underboss Carlo Gambino, telling Frank Costello that he was permanently retired.
"Albert Anastasia, 'Lord High Executioner' of Murder, Inc., was rudely dispatched from his throne yesterday when two gunmen walked into the Park Sheraton Hotel, pumped four bullets into him as he sat in a barber chair and left him for dead. Thus did the gangster who beat the chair five times wind up his career of crime."
— Daily News, Saturday, October 26, 1957