Authors: Martin A. Gosch,Richard Hammer
Tags: #Biographies & Memoirs, #Leaders & Notable People, #Rich & Famous, #True Crime, #Organized Crime
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Martin A. Gosch
To my darling Chip, without whom this book could not have been written and who was there from the beginning
M. A. G
And to Arlene
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The International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
Published in the United States by
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the written permission of Enigma Books.
Copyright © 2013 by Richard Hammer
Early in 1961, Charles “Lucky” Luciano made a decision. He was then sixty-three and more than half his life had been devoted to crime, much of it as the overlord of the organized underworld in the United States; he had been its ruler even during fifteen years of exile in Italy. But at that moment, his position, whatever it was, was shaky. His health was not good: he had already suffered a major heart attack. And now his life had been threatened by his onetime friends and associates back in America.
Luciano’s decision was that his passing should not go unattended, that the portraits painted of him in the past, which he considered at least partially untrue and greatly distorted, should not be the only ones left behind. Someday, he wanted the truth, as he saw it, told about his life, about his ambitions and how he had achieved them, about his crimes, about those he had known and dealt with; it should be told not at that moment but later, when retribution could no longer fall upon him or most of those directly involved in his life.
It was the decision, perhaps, of a bitter man. For some months he had been directly involved in a proposed motion picture loosely related to the later years of his life. It was the first time, despite the entreaties of film producers through the years, that he had ever authorized such a project or cooperated on one. On February 18, he had read the script and approved it and given his word that he would do all he could to help in its making; in return, he was to receive $100,000 and a percentage of whatever profits the movie earned. He had taken two copies of the script that day and sent one to an actor in Hollywood he wanted to portray him, keeping the second copy for himself.
Within a few days, however, he had received very unsettling news. Tommy Eboli, then the caretaker for the underworld interests of Vito Genovese, who was serving a term in federal prison for narcotics conspiracy, arrived in Naples with orders from New York. The rulers of the American underworld had decreed that there was to be no picture.
Luciano had little choice but to accede. He called Martin Gosch, one of the authors of this book, the coauthor of the screenplay and coproducer of the projected film, and asked him to return to Italy from London, where Gosch had gone on the Luciano project. “Could you come down here?” Luciano said. “I have to talk to you, Marty.”
Gosch knew that the request must, indeed, deal with something important, and he was just as certain that it must mean the movie deal was collapsing. “There’s one thing I have to know,” he said. “Is there anything wrong with the deal on the picture?”
“Oh, no. No, nothin’s wrong with the picture. Everything’s okay. But I gotta see you right away. I’ll explain the whole thing when you get here.”
By noon of the following day, February 26, 1961, Gosch was in Rome, had met Luciano at the Quirinale hotel. They did not stay there. Luciano took Gosch’s luggage and drove him back to the airport, most of the trip in silence. At the airport terminal, they went to the mezzanine restaurant. Luciano ordered spaghetti
molto al dente
. Gosch drank tea and watched while Luciano ate slowly and deliberately. Halfway through the meal, Luciano looked up. “Marty,” he said, “could you call off the picture?”
It was what Gosch had been expecting, but still it was a shock. “For chrissake, why? I don’t understand this and until I do, I simply have no answer for you.”
“Marty, I can’t tell you. I think you gotta give up the picture.”
Luciano spoke calmly, without emotion, and that distressed Gosch. “Charlie,” he said, “you’re supposed to be a man whose word is his bond. I’ve heard over and over, ‘Charlie Lucky promises this,’ ‘Charlie Lucky says that,’ ‘Charlie Lucky guarantees.’ You’re so proud of always keeping your word and now you’ve broken it to me, someone you’ve told everyone you like so much. Didn’t you tell me on the phone last night that there was nothing wrong? You lied to me, Charlie.”
After a moment, in a strained voice, Luciano said, “Marty, I’m gonna let you read somethin’. I want to prove that you are the guy I trust and that I’m only doin’ what I have to do.” Luciano took a plain piece of white stationery, folded in half, from his inside jacket pocket, and handed it to Gosch.
“Dear Charlie,” the note said. “We have decided that the picture you want to make is a bad thing at this time, for all the reasons you know. The Little Man would be very upset if you decided to go ahead. So you better not do it.” The note was unsigned.
“How did you get this?” Gosch asked.
“A guy brought it to me from New York, a week ago.”
From all Gosch had learned in recent months dealing with Luciano, he knew who the Little Man was — Meyer Lansky. Now he asked, “Why should Meyer Lansky want to scare me out of making
The Lucky Luciano Story?
For God’s sake, he could read every word of that screenplay and not find one line that’s remotely connected with him.”
“I’m not talkin’ about him scarin’ you; I’m talkin’ about guys gettin’ killed. First, they’ll kill me, then they’ll kill you, and maybe a few other guys. I oughta know. These guys play rough.”
“Do you mean to say that if I go ahead with this movie, a movie, that our lives are actually in danger?”
“Marty, I don’t have to think about it. I can tell you. I know them. I’m as good as dead. And maybe you, too.” Then Luciano paused for a moment. “Marty, would you be willin’ to take down my whole life story?” Gosch was too stunned to reply. Luciano continued. “I mean it. I’ve been thinkin’ about it for the last three days. I’ve reached the point where somebody has to know the truth about me. I want somebody to know my life.”
Gosch and Luciano had come together to make a movie, a movie that was to be essentially fiction, and Gosch was not sure that he wanted to know any more about the exiled American racketeer.
But Luciano persisted. “Marty, I would like you to do it for me.”
“Because, like I told you before, you’re the only person I trust who’s not in the outfit.”
“Why not Pat Eboli or someone who’s really close to you? Let one of them know the facts.”
“They ain’t no writers.”
“You want me to write your story?”
“Yeah. But I have to make one condition.”
“You’re playing games with me, Charlie.”
“No, I swear to you, I’m not. The condition is only this. I’ll give it all to you. I won’t hold back nothin’. But you gotta promise you won’t use it, no part of it, for ten years. And I mean ten years after I die.”
“Oh, come on. Except for popping those nitro pills into your mouth every five minutes, you’re in marvelous shape. You’re taking care of your heart and nine chances out of ten you’ll outlive me.”
“No,” Luciano shook his head. “If you have everythin’ about my life, it’ll be an annuity for you and Chip [Gosch’s wife, Lucille]. I think you oughta do what I say. You don’t have to answer me now, but I wish you would.”
“Charlie, if I become your Boswell . . .”
“Who the hell is he?”
“Okay, you’re my Mr. Boswell,” Luciano said. “I appoint you officially. I just have one more condition to put on you. You can’t use anythin’ I’m gonna tell you if Tommy Lucchese is still alive, even if the ten years are up. He’s one good friend I don’t want to hurt.”