Carlo GambinoCarlo Gambino outlived all of his rivals. He worked underneath all the great bosses, and thanks to his highly adaptable sense of loyalty, he never got whacked alongside them. He did, however, whack for them. Carlo had over 30 years of experience in the New York whacking business before he finally seized power in the 60's.
Gambino rose through the ranks of the old mafia as a front line soldier. In 1929, New York was divided into two major crime factions: Joe Masseria's boys and Salvatore Maranzano's gang. When Bugsy Siegel, Joe Adonis, Vito Genovese, and Albert Anastasia killed Masseria, Gambino, like most of his fellow soldiers, joined Salvatore Maranzano, paying homage to the newly crowned boss of bosses. Six months later maranzano was bumped off, and in the ensuing restructuring of the mafia into the National Crime Syndicate, Gambino and his brother-in-law/cousin Paul Castellano became flunkies for the Mangano crime family, one of five families given the run of New York City.
Gambino grew his rackets in the 40's and 50's. During World War II Gambino made a killing on food rations, which he stole from government owned print shops. When the war ended, he moved into drug trafficking, using his contacts in Sicily to bring the drugs over to the US onboard surplus Italian navy freighters.
The Manganos were killed in 1951, and Gambino began working full time for Vito Genovese. Genovese was a slippery little weasel, and he convinced the entire underworld that Anastasia had tried to whack Frank Costello, when in fact, it was Genovese that had ordered the attempt.
So, with the mob's blessing, Carlo Gambino found himself in the basement of the New York Park Sheraton Hotel on the morning of October 25, 1957. Albert Anastasia was also in that basement, sitting in a barber's chair, gently snoozing off a hang-over. It took 10 bullets to kill the bruiser of a boss, but when Albert finally fell lifeless, Gambino found himself underboss of the newly renamed Genovese crime family.
The simple fact that Gambino was able to associate with Genovese and not get killed is a testament to the brains in Carlo's head. Genovese was a vicious, conniving bastard who sold 80% of the heroin used in the US during the 50's. Of course, all that heroin caught up with him, just like Lucky Luciano said it would. In 1959, Genovese was sent up the river for drug trafficking. Gambino took the reigns of power and immediately eliminated all ties between his family and the drug trade.
Gambino extended his grasp of power into many new rackets during his lengthy reign. He swallowed up the New York Longshoremen Union whole, giving him complete control of all the ports of Manhattan.
But by far, the largest extension of the Gambino reign was the influence of his crime family in the legitimate business world. Union rackets were used to force open the mouths of whole industries. Once into a business, Gambino's boys could abuse the company's credit, drop products off the back of trucks, and even target rich customers for "working over."
Gambino claimed that in 1968 the FBI and the CIA approached him with a proposal. He said they offered him $1,000,000 to off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He refused, stating that none of the members of the Syndicate would ever accept such an offer. If Gambino learned anything from Vito Genovese, this is likely bullshit. But then, we all know how much Nixon's administration loved negroes.
In 1972, Manny Gambino, Carlo's nephew, was kidnapped. The kidnappers demanded $350,000. Gambino was a cheap bastard, and handed them $100,000. The displeased kidnappers whacked Manny and left him in a New Jersey dump. The murder left Carlo frail and infuriated. He put out massive bounties on the heads of the Irish gang members he suspected of perpetrating the crime. One of the thugs charged with extracting revenge was John Gotti. Gotti caught one of the Irishmen, James McBratney, in a bar, and shot him in front of a dozen witnesses.
By the time Gotti was released from prison, Gambino was a frail old man. His wife had died in 1971, his nephew was dead, and he had no male children; but his power was at an absolute peak. By 1975, he knew he had to choose a successor. It came between Neil Dellacroce and the always popular New York meat baron, Paul Castellano. Gambino chose Castellano. It was the biggest mistake of his career: the Gambino family withered under Castellano's rule, and in 1985, was almost wiped out by the feds.
On October 15, 1976, Gambino died in his home of that rarest of all gangster killers: natural causes.