Sam Giancana
Born June 15, 1908
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died June 19, 1975 (aged 67)
Oak Park, Illinois, U.S.
Cause of death Multiple gunshot wounds
Resting place Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois
Nationality Sicilian American
Citizenship American
Occupation Gangster, Crime boss
Known for Boss of the Chicago Outfit
Spouse(s) Angelina DeTolve (1933–1954, her death)
Children 3 daughters

Salvatore Giancana (born Salvatore Giangana; June 15, 1908 – June 19, 1975),[1] better known as Sam Giancana, was a Sicilian American mobster and boss of the Chicago Outfit from 1957–1966. Among his other nicknames were, "Momo", "Mooney," "Sam the Cigar," and "Sammy."

Early life[edit | edit source]

Born as Salvatore Giangana to Sicilian immigrants in Little Italy, Chicago. His father, Antonino (later simplified to Antonio) Giangana, owned a pushcart and later briefly owned an Italian ice shop, which was later firebombed by gangland rivals of his son.

Criminal career[edit | edit source]

Sam Giancana joined the Forty-Two Gang, a juvenile street crew answering to political boss Joseph Esposito.[2] Giancana soon developed a reputation for being an excellent getaway driver, a high earner, and a vicious killer. After Esposito's murder, in which Giancana was allegedly involved, the 42 Gang transformed into a de facto extension of the Chicago Outfit. The Outfit was initially wary of the 42ers at first, thinking them too wild. However, Giancana's leadership qualities, the fact that he was an excellent "wheel man" with a get-away car and his knack for making money on the street gained him the notice of Cosa Nostra higher-ups like Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti, Paul "The Waiter" Ricca and Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo. In the late 1930s, Giancana became the first 42er to join the Outfit. In 1942, Giancana also allegedly forced jazz musician Tommy Dorsey into letting singer Frank Sinatra out of his contract early, so that Sinatra could expand his career. This story was famously referenced in The Godfather. Giancana is also credited with the murder of Chicago "Policy King" Theodore Roe in 1952.

Family[edit | edit source]

Sam married Angelina DeTolve, the daughter of immigrants from the Italian region of Basilicata, on September 23, 1933. They had three daughters, Antoinette, Bonnie and Francine. Angelina died in 1954 and left Sam to raise his daughters. Sam never remarried after becoming a widower and was known as a good family man, despite frequent infidelities, and held his late wife in high regard and respect during their marriage and after her death. All of the Giancana daughters have married at least once. As of 1984, at least one daughter, Antoinette, had taken the "Giancana" name again.[3]

Rise to power[edit | edit source]

In 1945, after serving a sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute, Indiana (during which time he told his children he was away "at college"), Giancana made a name for himself by convincing Accardo, then the Outfit's enforcement chief, to stage a take-over of Chicago's African-American "policy" (lottery) pay-out system for The Outfit. Giancana's crew is believed to have been responsible for convincing Eddie Jones to leave his racket and leave the country. Giancana's crew was also responsible for the murder on August 4, 1952 of African American gambling boss Theodore Roe. Both Jones and Roe were leading South Side "Policy Kings". However, Roe had refused to surrender control of his operation as the Outfit had demanded. What is more, on June 19, 1951, Roe had fatally shot Lennard "Fat Lennie" Caifano, a made man in Giancana's crew. Over an FBI wiretap during the early 1970s, Giancana said of Roe, "I'll say this. Nigger or no nigger, that bastard went out like a man. He had balls. It was a fuckin' shame to kill him."[4]

Though the South Side "policy"-game takeover by the Outfit was not complete until another Outfit member, Jackie "the Lackey" Cerone, scared "Big Jim" Martin to Mexico with two bullets to the head that did not kill him, when the lottery money started rolling in for The Outfit after this gambling war, the amount that this game had produced for The Outfit was in the millions of dollars a year and brought Giancana further notice. It is believed to have been a major factor in his being "anointed" as the Outfit's new boss when Accardo stepped aside from being the front boss to becoming "consigliere," in 1957.[5] However, it was generally understood that Accardo and Ricca still held the real power. No major business transactions, and certainly no hits, took place without Accardo and Ricca's approval.

Giancana was present at the Mafia's 1957 Apalachin Meeting at the Upstate New York estate of Joseph Barbara.[6] Later, Buffalo crime boss Stefano Magaddino and Giancana were overheard on a wire saying the meeting should have taken place in the Chicago area. Giancana claimed that the Chicago area was "the safest place in the world" for a major underworld meeting because he had several police chiefs on his payroll. If the syndicate ever wanted to hold a meeting in Chicago, Giancana said, they had nothing to fear because they had the area "locked up tight."[7]

Alleged CIA connections[edit | edit source]

It is widely reputed, and partially corroborated by the Church Committee Hearings, that during the Kennedy administration, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) recruited Giancana and other mobsters to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro. Giancana reportedly said that the CIA and the Cosa Nostra were "different sides of the same coin."[8]

The association between Giancana and JFK is indicated in the "Exner File" written by Judith Campbell Exner. Exner was reputed to be mistress to both Giancana and JFK and claimed she delivered communications between the two regarding Fidel Castro.[9]

However, Giancana's daughter, Antoinette, has stated her belief that her father was running a scam in order to pocket millions of dollars in CIA funding.[10]

According to the recently-declassified CIA "Family Jewels" documents, Giancana and Tampa/Miami Syndicate leader Santo Trafficante, Jr. were contacted in September 1960, about the possibility of an assassination attempt by a go-between from the CIA, Robert Maheu, after Maheu had contacted Johnny Roselli, a Mafia member in Las Vegas and Giancana's number-two man. Maheu had presented himself as a representative of numerous international business firms in Cuba that were being expropriated by Castro. He offered $150,000 for the "removal" of Castro through this operation (the documents suggest that neither Roselli, Giancana, nor Trafficante accepted any sort of payments for the job). According to the files, it was Giancana who suggested using a series of poison pills that could be used to doctor Castro's food and drink. These pills were given by the CIA to Giancana's nominee, Juan Orta, whom Giancana presented as being a corrupt official in the new Cuban government and who had access to Castro. After a series of six attempts to introduce the poison into Castro's food, Orta abruptly demanded to be let out of the mission, handing over the job to another, unnamed participant. Later, a second attempt was mounted through Giancana and Trafficante using Dr. Anthony Verona, the leader of the Cuban Exile Junta, who had, according to Trafficante, become "disaffected with the apparent ineffectual progress of the Junta". Verona requested $10,000 in expenses and $1,000 worth of communications equipment. However, it is unclear how far the second attempt went, as the entire program was canceled shortly thereafter due to the launching of the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961.[11][12][13]

At the same time, Giancana, according to the "Family Jewels", approached Maheu to bug the room of his then-mistress Phyllis McGuire, whom he suspected of having an affair with comedian Dan Rowan. Although documents suggest Maheu acquiesced, the bug was not planted due to the arrest of the agent tasked with planting the device. According to the documents, Robert Kennedy moved to block the prosecution of the agent and of Maheu, who was soon linked to the bugging attempt, at the CIA's request.[13] Giancana and McGuire, who had a long lasting affair, were originally introduced by Frank Sinatra.[14] During part of the affair, according to Sam's daughter Antoinette, McGuire had a concurrent affair with President Kennedy.[15]

Downfall[edit | edit source]

Giancana's behavior was too high profile for Outfit tastes and attracted far too much federal scrutiny. He also refused to cut his underlings in on his lavish profits from offshore casinos in Iran and Central America. Both of these factors resulted in much bitterness among the Outfit's rank-and-file.

As a result, Giancana was deposed in the mid 1960s by Ricca and Accardo as day-to-day boss, and replaced by Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa.[16] After about seven years of exile inside a lavish villa in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Giancana was arrested by Mexican authorities in 1974 and deported to the United States. [17][18] He arrived back in Chicago on July 21, 1974.[19]

Death[edit | edit source]

After his return to the U.S., Giancana joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a witness in the prosecution of organized crime in Chicago. The police detailed officers to guard his house in Oak Park, Illinois. However, on the night of June 19, 1975, someone recalled the police detail.[20] A gunman later entered Giancana's kitchen and shot him in the back of the head as he was frying sausage and peppers.[21] After Giancana fell to the ground, the gunman turned him over and shot him six more times in the face and neck. Investigators suspected that the murderer was a close friend whom Giancana had let into the house. One reason for this suspicion was that Giancana, due to his heart problems, could not eat spicy foods. Therefore, he might have been cooking for a friend. Giancana was killed shortly before he was scheduled to appear before a U. S. Senate committee investigating supposed CIA and Cosa Nostra collusion in plots to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

Some commentators have alleged that the CIA killed Giancana because of his troubled history with the agency. However, former CIA Director William Colby has been quoted as saying, "We had nothing to do with it."[22]

Another theory is that Trafficante crime family boss Santo Trafficante, Jr. ordered Giancana's murder due to mob fears that Giancana would testify about Cosa Nostra and CIA plots to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro. Trafficante would have needed permission from Outfit bosses Tony Accardo and Joseph Aiuppa to kill Giancana. Johnny Roselli, whose body was found stuffed in an oil drum floating off Miami, was definitely killed on Trafficante's orders.

Most investigators believe that Aiuppa ordered the Giancana murder. Giancana was still refusing to share any of his offshore gambling profits with the Outfit. In addition, Giancana was reportedly scheming to become Outfit boss again. According to former Mafia associate Michael J. Corbitt, Aiuppa seized control of Giancana's casinos in the aftermath of the murder, strategically sharing them with his caporegimes.

Longtime friend and associate Dominic "Butch" Blasi was with Giancana the night he was murdered, and was questioned by police as a suspect. FBI experts and Giancana's daughter, Antoinette, do not consider him Giancana's killer.[23]

Other Mafia suspects are Harry Aleman, Charles "Chuckie" English, and Charles Nicoletti. In the 1995 movie Sugartime, Dominic "Butch" Blasi, as portrayed by Elias Koteas, is shown murdering Giancana.

Giancana was interred next to his wife, Angelina, in a family mausoleum at Mount Carmel Cemetery, in Hillside, Illinois.[24]

Michael J. Corbitt's account[edit | edit source]

Within days of Giancana's murder, Willow Springs police chief and Outfit associate Michael J. Corbitt discussed the murder with capo Salvatore Bastone. Bastone told him, "You know, Sam sure loved that little guy in Oak Park... Tony Spilotro. Yeah, he was fuckin' crazy about him. Sam put Tony on the fuckin' map, thought he was gonna be a big fuckin' man someday. Did you know that after Marshall Caifano got out of Vegas, it was Sam who wanted Tony Spilotro out there? Even lately, with all the problems with the skim and all, Sam always stood behind the guy. Tony was over to Sam's house all the time. He lived right by there. Did you know Tony even figured out a way where he could get in through the back of Sam's place without anybody seeing him? He'd go through other people's yards, go over fences, all sorts of shit."[25]

Corbitt responded, "Sam wouldn't open the door for just any son of a bitch. I mean there's Butch, Chuckie English... He'd let them in alright, but shit, no way they'd ever do anything to hurt Sam. No way."[26]

Bastone then said, "Yeah, Sam and Butch were real close. And the same thing with him and Chuckie. Besides, neither one of them had the balls to do somethin' like that. There's only one guy that had the balls to do Sam."[27]

When Corbitt asked for the reason, Bastone quipped, "There's never just one reason for shit like what happened to Sam. There's a million of 'em. Let's just say that Sam should've remembered what happened to Bugsy Siegel."[28]

In popular culture[edit | edit source]

  • Giancana is the subject of the biography Mafia Princess, written by his daughter Antoinette.[29] This book was later adapted into the 1986 TV film Mafia Princess, starring Tony Curtis as Giancana.
  • The 1995 TV film Sugartime depicts Giancana's relationship with singer Phyllis McGuire of The McGuire Sisters, with Giancana being played by John Turturro.
  • Rod Steiger portrayed Giancana in the 1992 TV miniseries Sinatra.
  • Robert Miranda played Giancana in the 1998 TV film, The Rat Pack.
  • As of May 2007, a six-hour miniseries on Giancana is under development in Hollywood.
  • Influential mafioso-rapper Kool G Rap once stated that the "G" in his name stands for Giancana. Kool G Rap released an album in 2002 called The Giancana Story.
  • Giancana plays a major role in James Ellroy's fiction, most notably "American Tabloid" and its sequels "The Cold Six Thousand" and "Blood's a Rover".
  • Giancana is a central figure in the Max Allan Collins novels Chicago Confidential and Road to Paradise.
  • Giancana is a character in the Robert Randisi Rat Pack novels.
  • News footage of Giancana is featured in the film JFK.
  • Giancana is portrayed under the name "Joseph Palmi" in the 2006 film, The Good Shepherd, starring Matt Damon. Palmi may be a mix of the several other mobsters (Santo Trafficante, Jr., Carlos Marcello, etc.) involved with the operation. Matt Damon's character, Edward Wilson, is depicted in proposing Palmi (Joe Pesci) to assist in the assassination of Fidel Castro.
  • Giancana is mentioned in the song "Dope money" by The Lox. "Bring Drama 'cause Giancana got Kennedy Killed". "Dope money" is song number six, on The LOX second Album, Ryde or Die Vol. 1.
  • Giancana played a major role in the 1965 J. X. Williams film Peep Show and has a personal performance credit for this on the IMDb movie data-base.
  • Giancana may be mentioned in the Shyne song "Edge" on his second album "Godfather Buried Alive." "Fuck comma rap's, Sam Giancana", although this is sometimes rendered as "... same G and canna".
  • The fictional character Louie Russo from The Godfather Returns by Mark Winegardner, could be based on Sam Giancana.
  • The character Mob Man (uncredited) from The X Files episode Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man is likely based on Giancana who is present at a planning meeting on the assassination of JFK.
  • Giancana is a notable character in Norman Mailer's historical fiction "Harlot's Ghost".
  • Serge Houde portrays Giancana as a major nemesis of the Kennedy clan in the controversial 2011 television miniseries The Kennedys.
  • Giancana features in the first episode of UK history TV channel Yesterday's documentary series Mafia's Greatest Hits.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. "Sam Giancana (Original name: Salvatore Giancana". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 18, 2010). 
  2. The name of the 42 Gang came from associating themselves with Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. They thought they were one better, hence 42.
  3. Giancana 1984.
  4. Ron Chepesiuk, Black Gangsters of Chicago, Barricade Books, 2007. Page 95.
  5. Roemer 1995, pp.125-129.
  6. Giancana 1984, pp. 190, 195-197.
  7. Sifakis, Carl (1987). The Mafia Encyclopedia. New York City: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-1856-1. 
  8. Giancana 1992, p.215.
  9. Michael O'Brien (1999-12-01). "The Exner File. (Judith Campbell Exner, John F. Kennedy's mistress)". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  10. Television documentary "Mafia Women", Discovery Channel.
  11. Steve Holland and Andy Sullivan (2007-06-27). "CIA tried to get Mafia to kill Castro". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  12. Thomas Blanton (2007-06-26). ""Family Jewels" Archive". National Security Archive. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Alex Johnson (2007-06-27). "CIA opens the book on a shady past Declassified ‘family jewels’ detail assassination plots, break-ins, wiretaps". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  14. Giancana 1984 pp.259-284, 287-293, 347-348.
  15. Giancana 1984 p.179.
  16. Carl Sifakis (2005). The Mafia Encyclopedia. Infobase Publishing. pp. 6. ISBN 978-0-8160-6989-7. 
  17. Craig I. Zirbel. JFK: The Final Chapter on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy. Craig I Zirbel. pp. 240. GGKEY:TNK96AZA5B7. 
  18. David Kaiser (2009). The Road to Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy. Harvard University Press. pp. 405. ISBN 978-0-674-03472-3. 
  19. Michael Branigan (2011). A History of Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The History Press. pp. 134. ISBN 978-1-60949-434-6. 
  20. Television documentary "Underworld Histories: Chicago", History Channel.
  21. Congress 1983, p. 182
  22. Godwin 1978, p.145.
  23. Giancana 1984, p.367.
  24. Giancana family mausoleum location: 41°51′51″N 87°54′51″W / 41.8642299°N 87.914274°W / 41.8642299; -87.914274
  25. Michael J. Corbitt, Double Deal: The Inside Story of Murder, Unbridled Corruption, and the Cop who was a Mobster, 2003. Page 196.
  26. Corbitt (2003), page 196.
  27. Corbitt (2003), page 196.
  28. Corbitt (2003), page 196.
  29. Giancana 1984

References[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Cain, Michael J. The Tangled Web. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-60239-044-7
  • Brashler, William. The Don: The Life and Death of Sam Giancana. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1977. ISBN 0-06-010447-3
  • Giancana, Sam and Chuck. Double Cross: The Explosive, inside Story of the Mobster Who Controlled America. New York: Warner Books, 1992. ISBN 0-446-51624-4
  • Giancana, Antoinette and Renner, Thomas C. Mafia Princess. New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1984.ISBN 0-380-69849-8
  • Hersh, Seymour M. Dark Side of Camelot. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1997. ISBN 0-316-35955-6
  • Morgan, John M. Prince of Crime. New York: Stein and Day, 1985. ISBN 0-8128-8297-0
  • Nash, Jay Robert. Bloodletters and Badmen. New York: M. Evans & Co. 1973. ISBN 0-87131-777-X
  • Sifakis, Carl. Encyclopedia of Crime. New York: Facts On File, 1982. ISBN 0-8160-5694-3
  • Talbot, David. Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. Free Press. May, 2007. ISBN 0-7432-6918-7
  • Thompson, Nathan (2003). KINGS The True Story of Chicago's Policy Kings and Numbers Racketeers. The Bronzeville Press. ISBN 0-9724875-0-6.
  • Waldron, Lamar, Hartmann, Thom. Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK. Carroll & Graf. 2006. ISBN 0-7867-1832-3
  • Zion, Sidney. Loyalty and Betrayal: The Story of the American Mob. San Francisco: Collins Publishers, 1994. ISBN 0-00-638271-1
  • Dark, Tony. The FBI Files Sam Giancana, H H Productions, Chicago, 2004. ISBN 0-615-12720-7

External links[edit | edit source]

Business positions
Preceded by
Anthony Accardo
Chicago Outfit Boss
Succeeded by
Sam Battaglia

Template:American Mafia

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