Willie Moretti was Frank Costello's boy. The two were childhood friends, and Frank was the best man at Willie's wedding. When Frank took a seat on the National Crime Syndicate board, he gave New Jersey to Moretti, which he ran from 1933 to 1951.
As a youngster, Willie garnered the favor of New York gangsters by being an efficient goon, and by having an excellent sense of humor. He could always break the monotony of day-to-day knee-breaking and thumb-taking with well-timed quips and jokes. Unfortunately, this sense of humor would eventually be his undoing.
With the help of Joe Adonis, Moretti set up gambling dens all over North Jersey and the Jersey shore. Willie and Joe became quite wealthy from these facilities, since the New York mafia cognoscenti liked commuting out to the beach to play craps where the pesky DA's and Manhattan fuzz couldn't touch them.
The crown jewel in the Moretti's empire was the Marine Room at the Riviera nightclub in Bergen. The ritzy floor show was free with a two drink minimum, but the back room at this popular Palisades destination where the action was.
Ol' Blue EyesAccording to legend, and Mario Puzo, Willie was the man that discovered Frank Sinatra. As the story goes, Willie heard Frankie Blue Eyes in a low class club in Hoboken in the early 30's. He loved the singer's voice so much that he started booking him in some of his own clubs and gambling halls.
Eventually, Willie introduced Sinatra to Tommy Dorsey, one of the biggest band leaders of the day. Sinatra signed a contract and began singing for the Tommy Dorsey band.
Frank's big break came as a movie offer in 1935. Dorsey didn't want to lose his star attraction, and held Sinatra to his contract to keep him out of Hollywood.
Moretti, however, wanted his boy to be in pictures. Moretti found Dorsey in his dressing room after a show and made him an offer he couldn't refuse: Either he sold Frank's contract for $1 or Willie would blow the band leader's head open with his .38. Dorsey accepted the offer, and Sinatra went to Hollywood to appear in Major Bowes Amateur Theater of the Air, a short showcase of young talent.
Moretti remained a close friend of Sinatra. He often offered advice and suggestions for Frankie's act, career, and love life. He once sent Sinatra a telegram after reading in a gossip column that the singer was thinking of divorcing his wife.I AM VERY MUCH SURPRISED WHAT I HAVE BEEN READING IN THE NEWSPAPERS BETWEEEN YOU AND YOUR DARLING WIFE. REMEMBER YOU HAVE A DECENT WIFE AND CHILDREN. YOU SHOULD BE VERY HAPPY. REGARDS TO ALL.
Of course. Moretti was cheating on his own wife with regularity. Somewhere in his youth, he developed a taste for cheap whores, preferably ethnic ones. Eventually, he acquired a nasty case of syphilis which eventually caused erratic and confusing behavior. As his mind broke down under the weight of the disease, Moretti was seen placing bets on non-existent horses, blabbing Syndicate secrets to the press, and telling rambling stories that went nowhere.
Boob Tube RubeDespite the Sinatra connection, Willie went on to make a name for himself in his own right. When Senator Estes Kefauver held hearings in 1950 to discern the nature of organized crime in America, Willie, along with other members of the Costello crew, were called before congress to answer questions. Kefauver was a media darling in his day, and arranged to televise the proceedings. This not only increased Kefauver's renown and bolstered a later presidential campaign, it also introduced Willie Moretti and his associates to the wealthy Americans that could afford television sets.
Of all the gangsters who showed up to testify, Willie was the only one who cooperated with the Senate committee. While his compatriots pleaded the fifth amendment over and over again, Willie made jokes, talked candidly, and generally played it up for the cameras.
In doing this, he was violating the mafia code of "Omerta," or "silence." When asked if he belonged to the mafia, he replied "No, I do not belong to the mafia, as I do not have a membership card." When asked other questions, he mimicked Curly Stooge by saying "Soitenly!" Finally, as the congressional board thanked him for his candor, Willie invited the whole assembly to his beach house in New Jersey for coffee. It is unknown if any Congressmen accepted.
Willie's associates were not amused. The National Crime Syndicate enjoyed remaining anonymous; deny its own existence even in the face of proof. Making matters worse, after the Kefauver hearings, Willie spoke to George White, a member of the US Department of the Treasury, and a nemesis to many mobsters around the country.
According to White, Moretti spilled the beans all over the table during a lunch meeting:
White: Maybe so, but we citizens can't have a bunch of outlaws shooting people indiscriminately. For one thing, you're not the best shots in the world. Once in a while, an innocent citizen gets hurt by mistake.
Moretti: It can't happen often. Nothing like that happens any more unless someone is away out of line. We don't want no trouble like that. That's why Charlie is respected so much today. He got the fellows together and showed it was bad business to go around shooting people.
That morning, Albert Anastasia arranged to borrow Willie's chauffeur to drive him to the doctors office. Willie, alone and driving himself, was invited out to Joe's Elbo room in Cliffside New Jersey, a favorite hangout. Three of Anastasia's hitmen bought him lunch, then shot him repeatedly in the chest. He was 57 years old.
By the end of the week, Thomas "Three-finger Brown" Luchese assumed control of north Jersey.