Breakshot: A Life in the 21st Century American Mafia



Born to a Japanese-American family in ritzy suburban Orange County, California, Kenny “Kenji” Gallo was a bookish, hyperactive kid who lived a double life as a car-bombing, gun-toting international drug trafficker. He owned a nightclub, produced porn movies, and was arrested for the murder of his own best ...

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Born to a Japanese-American family in ritzy suburban Orange County, California, Kenny “Kenji” Gallo was a bookish, hyperactive kid who lived a double life as a car-bombing, gun-toting international drug trafficker. He owned a nightclub, produced porn movies, and was arrested for the murder of his own best friend—all before he could legally drink. Gallo graduated to life as a jet-setting playboy thug, refining his gangster style under Mafia legends, marrying a legendary porn star, and making millions in credit and stock fraud, extortion, gambling, and the sex trade. Then, after more than two daredevil decades, Gallo voluntarily wired up as an undercover FBI informant in exchange for a fresh start, nearly losing his life in the process.

From 1980s cocaine cowboys, to the modern mob and its Tony Soprano wannabes, to the porn industry’s dirty secrets, this riveting and redemptive memoir captures the American underworld in all its tawdry spectacle.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Crammed with the kind of characters and detail that make pages turn and moviemakers salivate, self-described "mobster, drug lord, and porn kingpin" Gallo's story of life as a criminal and mafia associate is tantalizing material. Straying far from his roots-an Orange County, CA childhood with parents in publishing-Gallo made so much money selling drugs that he was owner of a Palm Springs night club months before he could legally drink. Impressing various mafia family members with his success and arrogance, Gallo moved into the big leagues. Gallo's ability to capture the absurdity of a situation gives the book a fast, no-nonsense pace: for instance, mob boss "Jackie," "one of the Colombo Family's toughest enforcers," also did voiceover work for Sizzler's TV ads. Ultimately, after a quarter-century in the business, a disillusioned Gallo would turn FBI informant, changing the Mafia landscape by helping gather the evidence that brought New York's Colombo family to its knees ("As far as the New York Mafia was concerned, I drove off the edge of the Earth). Honest, critical, occasionally remorseful and always entrancing, this criminal memoir will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439195833
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • Publication date: 11/30/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 4.19 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Japanese-American playboy Kenny "Kenji" Gallo is one of the most unique characters in the history of the Mafia. After assisting law enforcement in the battle against organized crime, Gallo has now become a successful legitimate businessman.

Matthew Randazzo V is an investigative journalist and true crime author from New Orleans whose Ring of Hell: The Story of Chris Benoit & The Fall of The Pro Wrestling Industry was published by Phoenix Books to international acclaim. 

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Read an Excerpt

ONESunday Sauce with Uncle Manny

“The closer Kenny comes to death,the more alive he feels.”

Anthony “The Animal” Fiato Made Man in the Milano Mafia Family,Street Boss of L.A.’s breakaway Rizzitello Family

New York City,

January 2002–October 2004

“After 9/11, our business went in the toilet,” Emanuel “Uncle Manny” Garofalo, my mentor in New York City’s Colombo Mafia Family, once told me as I sat in the passenger seat of his Porsche. “Suddenly, all the labor unions and construction projects in the city were stopped dead in their tracks. The stock market went to shit. Bookmaking and gambling returns were the pits. Everyone got jumpy and trigger-shy with all the feds all over the Five Burroughs like fleas and maggots. It was the worst—like the Great Depression. Good, hardworking guys who lived week to week were getting cleaned out.

“Y’know, deep down, nobody wanted to get involved with the whole Ground Zero thing,” Manny continued in his thin, reedy accountant’s voice. A small, tan, paunchy man with short silver hair and a small manicured hand on the steering wheel, Manny had none of the flash or physical presence that most Americans would expect from one of New York’s most powerful gangsters. “It was like, y’know, in poor taste and very dangerous, very high-profile. It was just an ugly thing to have to make a living from . . . You know what I mean, Kenny?

“But . . .” Manny raised his black eyebrows, cocked his head, and shrugged with a pragmatic, none-too-troubled expression. “It’s business . . . you gotta do what ya gotta do. It’s the Life. The feds were handing out billions of dollars of contracts, employing tens of thousands of union guys, and it was a long job; you’d be bringing home the bacon for a decade or two if you got a foot in the door. You’d be an asshole not to take advantage . . . if you do what we do, y’know. This isn’t the Golden Age; beggars can’t be choosers.” Manny smiled like a cocky attorney resting his case and looked out of the driver’s side window of the $100,000 Porsche Cayenne Turbo SUV, which I was told had been expense-accounted for his use by a telecommunications company controlled by the Colombo Family.

Manny was appointed steward of the telecommunications business after his allies in the Colombo Family murdered the previous owner, Colombo underboss “Wild Bill” Cutolo, and buried him on a farm in East Farmingdale, New York. Wild Bill’s body would only be found in October 2008, nine years after he disappeared and his Mafia “family” had robbed his widow and son of their inheritance. In the Colombos, it’s not uncommon to get lynched from the family tree.

“Besides, it’s not like I’m being greedy,” Manny continued in a self-satisfied tone that told me he thought I admired him and bought his bullshit wholesale. “After all, all I’m getting right now from the union work is $12,000 a week with a little bit in the pension fund,” he said with a smirk.

Manny was a street millionaire who acted like $12,000 a week—over $600,000 a year—was pocket change, a little extra to make the ends meet. Manny’s job at Ground Zero as a union “oiler” of heavy machinery in reality consisted of Manny taking naps in Wild Bill’s old office and pleasure-cruising around the empty streets in a golf cart, looking for places to eat. At night, Manny and his goons stole tons of raw materials from the cleanup and reconstruction projects, which they would resell on the black market to many of the same mobbed-up construction firms that had originally bought the materials with federal money.

Manny and I were driving through Manhattan to a doctor’s office near Ground Zero to get medically cleared to access the toxic ruins of the Deutsche Bank Building, one of the buildings destroyed by the 9/11 attacks. The collapse of the WTC South Tower showered the adjacent Deutsche Bank Building with tons of steel and mortar debris, ripping open a twenty-four-story wound in the building’s façade. Doused by fire sprinklers and exposed to the toxic air, the gash in the building festered with poisonous black mold. Before long the entire structure was permeated with dozens of lethal toxins, including dioxin and asbestos.

The obliteration of the Two Towers transformed the Deutsche Bank Building into a monolithic mass grave. Dozens of people were blasted clean over Liberty Street, spray-painting the ruins red and lodging bone in the walls like shrapnel. As late as 2006, splattered human remains were still being found on the roof of the forty-story building.

The history of the Deutsche Bank Building was irrelevant to Manny, who was absolutely cynical when money and power were involved. Manny was a sentimental teddy bear when it came to his beloved wife, two sons, and Bruce Springsteen, whom he almost homoerotically worshipped, but he was born without the moral gag reflex that would have made a normal man reluctant to profit from the misery of the 9/11 victims and their families. As boss of the Colombos’ construction rackets and their representative on the New York Mafia’s labor commission, Manny saw Ground Zero as a demolition site to be ransacked and pillaged like any other.

For Manny, bidding on the massive federal contract to demolish the Deutsche Bank Building was an opportunity to control millions of dollars in embezzled funds, stolen materials, fictitious cost overruns, and money-laundering “no-show” union jobs that allowed mobsters to justify their illicit wealth to the Internal Revenue Service. If Manny succeeded, he would become one of the most powerful criminals in America, the underworld equivalent of the chairman of the House or Senate Appropriations Committee: a pork-barrel kingpin who could steer unimaginable federal largesse to whomever he wished.

As we sat in a doctor’s waiting room with other contractors, demolition artists, and construction workers, Manny was giddy speculating about the potential windfall if he entered a bid for the demolition job and won. “Kenny, this would be big,” Manny whispered, his eyes darting around the room to see if anyone was eavesdropping.

“Real big. Let’s say they accept my bid of $42 million. Minimum—and I mean minimum—we could steal $7 million from the deal, pure profit. And that’s before I even get a real good look at what I’m dealing with. Given time to do a thorough job, we’re looking at a lot more.”

I knew the sort of thorough job the Colombos did with a big-money demolition project—I had an asbestos poisoning scare from visiting their last big score. Retail giant Target was building its first-ever store in the Bronx, and, through his usual mixture of charm and influence peddling, Manny obtained the subcontract to demolish the buildings that occupied the space on the Major Deegan Expressway. Displaying the usual Mafia contempt for the safety of civilians and subordinate wiseguys alike, Manny sent his crew to the site on a beautiful sunny afternoon without a permit, without the proper equipment, without properly surveying and preparing the site, without taking the most basic preliminary safety precautions, and without warning either the police or the local residents about the dangers of the demolition they were about to perform.

I watched with my roommate, porn star Dayton Raines, as one of Manny’s sons illegally stopped traffic while Colombo cavemen haphazardly ripped these buildings apart like kids dismembering Lego sets. In an eerie echo of 9/11, the buildings tumbled, and this Bronx neighborhood—one of the most densely populated areas in the United States—disappeared without warning beneath suffocating clouds of dust and pollutants.

When one of Manny’s “guys” screamed through the dust storm to warn me as a fellow wiseguy that the building was heavily contaminated with asbestos and “Lord knows what else,” Dayton and I ran to my car with our hands over our mouths. Since the Colombos had plenty of experience demolishing rotten old buildings, we trusted his claim about the asbestos without need for further verification.

A few months later, Manny called and told me to watch the NY1 News that night. I was awestruck: there was Manny Garofalo, convicted Mafia leader, standing next to New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg at the ribbon-cutting of the first Target in the Bronx. Manny was beaming, inwardly laughing. He thought he was smarter than everyone.

I was thinking of the ramifications of such a “thorough” demolition job on the most toxic building in America as we waited for Manny’s name to be called. Finally, his turn came, just as Manny was laughing about the time he had his son escort my ex-wife, porn star Tabitha Stevens, on a VIP tour of Ground Zero. Wearing a hard hat and mini-skirt, Tabitha was swarmed by cleanup workers begging her to pose for sexy pictures amid the death and destruction. As Manny stood up, he suddenly realized that the doctor might ask him to strip—meaning that it might be wise to unload his incriminating Mafia paraphernalia.

In a frenzied display that amused some of the more plugged-in contractors in the waiting room, Manny handed me a preposterous cabbage-sized wad of cash (I counted about $10,000 as I waited) and his day planner notebook, which contained all of his racketeering, Mafia payoffs, and loan-sharking notes.

While Manny had his checkup, I leafed through his “big black book.” There were notes, in our personal code, about the due dates for tribute payments to the Colombo leadership, loan shark interest payments, and payouts on business deals at Wild Bill’s old telecommunications company. I lifted my camera phone to my face as if checking a text message, the lens poised over the open book on my lap. I took pictures, one after the other, page after page. The FBI was going to love this.

I was a rat, an undercover government informant by the code name of BREAKSHOT, derived from my ability to singlehandedly knock the Colombo Family leadership pyramid into disarray like the first shot in a game of pool. That is why I can’t finish the Deutsche Bank story. My agreement precludes me from divulging certain details crucial to ongoing investigations and prosecutions, so I can’t say if Manny won the demolition bid. What I can say is that he was medically cleared.

I can also say that on Saturday, August 18, 2007, a fire on the fourteenth floor of the Deutsche Bank Building brought the New York Fire Department back down to Ground Zero. The standpipe that the firemen would normally use to pump water up into the building was inexplicably disconnected, violating safety protocol and regulations. The firemen charged into an inferno, only to discover that they had no water with which to extinguish it. Two helpless firemen were killed in the blaze.

Their deaths raised red flags for a lot of Mafia observers. The Deutsche Bank Building exhibited two trademarks of a Mafia project: flagrant safety violations and mysterious fires that spontaneously erupt on the weekend—when the job site is empty of wiseguys.

I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I regret, but flipping on Manny Garofalo isn’t one of them.

“Are you kidding me? When those buildings went down on 9/11, you knew the big contracts were coming down, and you know those guys in the Colombos would be all over it.”

William “Billy” Cutolo, Jr.Ex–Colombo Family mafioso,son of slain Colombo Family underboss William “Wild Bill” Cutolo

It took years for Manny to suspect that I had become a government informant, even though I should have seemed like the most obvious turncoat imaginable. First of all, I wasn’t from the Colombo family network; in addition to being the most murderous of New York’s storied “Five Families,” the Colombos are also the closest to being an actual family. Many Colombos are related by blood or marriage, with the crime family’s leadership generally hailing from an insular circle of intermarried Brooklyn families centered in the neighborhood of Bay Ridge. All of the Colombo bad apples tend to fall from the same family tree. Other wiseguys often called the Colombos “inbred,” a diagnosis that fits many of the cross-eyed, evolutionary-chart escapees I worked with in Brooklyn.

So how did I, of all people, become a Colombo? I wasn’t from New York or New Jersey, and I certainly wasn’t related to any of those zoological monstrosities. I didn’t come from a central-casting, blue-collar, goombah background, either; I was born into a publishing family in Orange County, California, where I grew up a straight-A student. My upbringing alone should have disqualified me from joining the Colombos: the ability to read and speak like an adult aroused suspicion in Bay Ridge.

Even more suspicious than my wealthy background was my ethnicity. Though Manny introduced me to everyone as his beloved cousin, “Kenny Gallo,” I am Japanese-American. I have some Italian blood, but my father was Japanese; I was born with a Japanese name; I look Japanese. Despite my Italian pseudonym, Gallo, I have hardly hidden my heritage since my nickname on the streets for a quarter century has been the hardly Sicilian-sounding Kenji (in Japanese: ).

At any other time in Mafia history, the concept of a pivotal Mob leader like Manny Garofalo making an “overeducated California chink” his Number Two, his aide-de-camp and “cousin,” would have been impossible. But today’s desperate, depleted Mob welcomed me. In past eras, I would have been used to make a quick buck and executed as a matter of course. In the venomously racist New York Mafia, outsiders were considered informants-in-training. We had little to gain by staying loyal to mobsters who had a long record of killing loyal non-Italian associates just to “be sure” they kept their mouths shut.

But Manny didn’t suspect me, not for the longest time. I came highly recommended from previous work under Mafia legends John “Sonny” Franzese and Vincent “Jimmy” Caci, two Golden Age relics with unimpeachable credentials and connections. I had made a considerable reputation from my teenage exploits as one of California’s top cocaine dealers, the stone-crazy wildcat who survived half-a-decade in the orbit of Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel. My name carried weight in Orange County, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas with the police and gangsters alike; my references checked out, and my credentials stretched back two decades.

Most importantly, Manny liked me. We were incredibly similar: two savvy guys who could have made it as legitimate businessmen who nonetheless chose the outlaw life because it was fun, exciting, empowering, and never boring. We were two men with hyperactive minds fixated on power and destruction; we needed the Life to keep us occupied and fulfilled, to keep us from turning our predatory mania inward.

Manny used to tell me all the time that we weren’t crooks—we were “racketeers.” We weren’t “street people” like the other Colombos. We were the professionals. We were among the last of the Mob’s “finesse” criminals, con men who could mastermind crimes so subtle and complex that our fellow mafiosi had to take our word that they worked. We specialized in James Bond villain crimes, like hijacking millions of dollars of telecommunications bandwidth and selling it to corrupt companies in Cambodia or laundering millions in illicit profits through federally funded construction projects.

The antithesis of the dumb goombah mobster, Manny was both a meticulous businessman and a charming, sophisticated operator. In public, Manny was polished and driven like a politician; he projected the type of fierce pride you often see from blue-collar millionaires who are exceptionally sure of themselves because they earned every cent of their fortune. Every morning at seven o’clock, Manny would be dressed in his tasteful clothes and reading the New York Post and New York Daily News one after the other, front to back. By 8 a.m., he would grab his worn leather day planner and start rushing to dozens of construction sites around the city, inspecting the work and poring over budget invoices. Unlike most lazy and unemployable wiseguys, Manny relaxed rarely, only taking it easy at Ground Zero, where he was paid $600,000 a year largely to hang out.

I was at Manny’s side every day: a muscular thirty-six-year-old Asian man in jeans, sneakers, and a cheap T-shirt covered with aliens—a hard hat over my shaved head, a cell phone to my ear, and a wiseass smile on my face. Following Manny was the closest I had ever come to a real, honest job; I felt like an executive VP at a huge construction firm with a casual dress code. I kept Manny’s appointments in order, picked up cash for him, relayed messages, strong-armed guys who were getting out of line, programmed computers, and balanced budgets.

We were Uncle Manny and his cousin Kenny, the two most unorthodox mobsters in New York: one a masterfully composed businessman and gentleman who happened to have a perfect Brooklyn wiseguy pedigree, the other a hyper-educated Asian-American from California with a high-profile past as a porn producer and cocaine smuggler.

Because I made Manny so much money, and because we were so alike, Manny convinced himself that I would be loyal to death. Not that he took it for granted: Manny relentlessly schemed to isolate me from the rest of the Colombo Family and make me feel like a dependent part of the Garofalo family instead. Manny insisted that I attend the Garofalo family’s Sunday dinners, and if I didn’t show up he would get on my case, asking what could have possibly been more important than the “Sunday Sauce.”

He even attempted to make his Mob nickname, “Uncle Manny,” literal in my case: he discussed sealing our alliance by marrying one of his young nieces to me like a Renaissance prince. Since the Garofalos claimed to have some Finnish lineage that made them look “a little Asiatic,” Manny thought I would fit right into his mongoloid brood. Manny hinted that I was his one true friend, the one wiseguy he could trust not to rob his family in case anything happened to him. The others in the Colombo leadership were disloyal thieves who regularly defrauded the families of any wiseguy who went to jail or the grave for the family.

Manny wanted me to think of him as my father or at least my favorite, most indulgent uncle, and, to an extent I found disturbing, his plan worked. A scam artist like me hates the feeling that another scammer is “working” him, but I couldn’t help it: Manny and I became close. Even at the end, when the FBI hinted daily that the Colombo leadership was considering whacking me out, I still felt safe with my Uncle Manny.

It was six o’clock on a prematurely dark evening in October 2004, when I received a phone call from Manny asking me to meet him at his favorite diner. He wanted to repay me for the $2,700 I lent him one day when the stack he was carrying was short. I drove to the familiar diner off the Belt Parkway en route to Coney Island. When I entered the restaurant, the hostess pointed to a roped-off room used for large catering events. Looking in, I saw only the back of Manny’s square head; he was sitting all by himself, hunched over, staring through the window at the parking lot. He had been watching me when I walked into the restaurant.

I sat down with Manny, and I could immediately tell he wasn’t in his normal pleasant, measured mood. I asked him about my money. Scowling, he grumbled, “I don’t have it for you.” For a Mob hierarch like Manny, there was no possibility he didn’t have the scratch to settle our debt; he need only order an underling to give it to him. If Manny wasn’t paying me, it was to send a message. I thought to myself: Maybe he thinks I’m headed to a shallow grave like Wild Bill; maybe Manny just doesn’t want to give the gravediggers a $2,700 tip.

“Kenny, did you tell Edward that I laundered money for you?” His normally measured voice seethed with paranoia and rage. The Edward in question was his own nephew, Eddie Garofalo, the Colombo soldier who gave him the nickname “Uncle Manny.” Regardless of the blood link, it was strictly against the rules for me to talk to Eddie about any business I had with his uncle. Manny was his own man in the family, an autonomously operating criminal who reported only to the Boss and his acting boss on the street; his rackets were not Eddie’s business. It would have counted as a violation of the Mafia omerta code of secrecy to reveal Manny’s affairs to Eddie, a transgression punishable by death.

“Uh, no, Manny. I’ve never told Eddie anything.” Uncharacteristically, I was being honest; Manny turned on me for just about the only act of betrayal I didn’t commit. This demonstrates how dangerous a life with the Colombos can be without the protection of intricate chain mail links of Brooklyn blood relations and diplomatic neighborhood marriages. One groundless rumor and Manny forgot all my weekends with the Garofalo family, all that “Sunday Sauce” and flirting with his nieces, all that affectionate “Uncle Manny” bullshit.

“Well, Kenny,” he continued, “I heard you said that. I heard you told Edward. Let’s see who’s fucking lying.” This was an unmistakable threat; there was no “innocent until proven guilty” and there was no way Manny would believe me over his nephew Eddie. I thought, If only I could whip out my FBI audio recorder and play my conversations with Eddie: “Here, dumbfuck, I was talking to the FBI, not Eddie. Good guess, though!”

“I thought what we had was between us, Kenny,” Manny growled, blinking incessantly. “Look at me when you answer me! I am not going to jail over you, Kenny. Look . . . in my eyes . . . and tell me you didn’t tell Edward I was laundering money for you.” Manny apparently thought that his eyes were intimidating enough to rob a hardened felon of his ability to lie.

“Manny, sincerely, no bullshit, no!” I said with a shake of my head and a hint of smile, amused by the irony. It was as if Manny had caught me in bed with his wife and, not noticing, proceeded to falsely scold me for stealing change from his car’s cupholder.

“Don’t you fucking lie to me with that smirk on your face!” Manny erupted. I guess he could see I was laughing at him. The normally placid and composed businessman was a drooling, fuming Mob-movie hothead, fangs out and ready to kill. I was stunned; I was scared shitless. Unlike some Mafia families, the Colombos do not hesitate to murder, regardless of whether the FBI is guaranteed to catch them or not. The Colombos are the ghetto gangbangers of the Mafia: they talk a lot of shit, drop bodies over nothing, and hold their family reunions in prison.

“If you sit there, Kenny,” Manny gasped, sputtering with rage, “looking . . . at me . . . with that smirk . . . for one more fucking second . . . I’m going to punch you in your fucking face.”

The idea of an out-of-shape senior citizen punching me, a semi-professional martial artist for over twenty years, was hilarious. Unlike in the movies, Mafia membership doesn’t bestow super-badass powers on fat, slow, pasta-slurping, middle-age guidos. You don’t need a kryptonite fist to knock out a wiseguy. I was still scared for my life, but I couldn’t help but laugh in Manny’s face. He took his own bullshit image seriously, something wiseguys started doing ever since the movies convinced them they were world-class tough guys and outlaw celebrities. Manny was a yuppie with a potbelly, not Mike Tyson, and he’d sooner shit an exact copy of the Mona Lisa than slap me in the face.

Manny’s arrogance triggered the dominant class clown aspect of my personality. I enjoy annoying people; I love annoying people. I couldn’t resist mocking Manny, making this lifelong criminal realize that he was a straight-up bitch compared to me. I have trained in martial arts since I was a kid; I learned how to handle myself on the streets from legendary drug smugglers and hit men; I was taught how to use firearms in military school and how to deploy explosives by an FBI-trained urban warfare expert. And now some aging Brooklyn civilian like Manny was going to threaten to slap me around? Please.

“Manny, not for nothing, but you are not going to punch me in the face,” I said, shaking my bald head.

“Say one . . . more . . . thing, Kenny,” Manny said, glowing bright red, “and I promise you, I will fucking punch you.”

This was too easy. Say one more thing? Okay, Manny, you dumb prick.

“What?” I screamed as if I had tuned out and missed what he had said.

I waited. Then said it again: “What? I can’t hear you, Uncle Manny! Speak up!” I laughed, barely restraining myself from pointing at him like the fat kid on the playground.

“I’m going to fucking kill you, Kenny! I’ll fucking kill you!” The outburst silenced us both. We stared at each other; not quite a Mexican standoff, but more like two guys who had gotten carried away and were unsure what to do next. Had I been thinking, I never would have disrespected Manny to the point where he could never trust me again and had no choice but to kill me. I was leaving my life in Brooklyn tonight.

I was terrified: a soft-touch guy like Manny surely had a backup crew waiting in ambush to be this forward, and my gun was in my car. Until I reached my car, I was, therefore, in fatal danger. After a minute of uneasy staring, Manny started to talk in a calm and lucid way, playing the levelheaded good guy who wants to cool the tempers of two friends who said things they didn’t mean.

This was the worst sign of all. I was being calmed down so I could be ambushed. I had to get out of that diner, now. I just stood up and started walking, fast, to my car, to my gun, to parity.

Manny chased after me, his serpentine voice reassuring me that I was overreacting, turning an innocent misunderstanding into a life or death crisis. “C’mon, Kenny, let’s end this now. Let’s not take this any further. Let’s clear all of this up; come with me and visit Edward at the truck lot so we can clear all this up.”

It was the worst pitch imaginable. If Manny wanted to persuade me to get into his car, suggesting that we visit his burly, born-killer nephew Eddie at his infamous truck lot in Staten Island was not a wise strategy. More than any other place I’ve ever visited, that truck lot smelled of death. The lot was a post-apocalyptic ruin of concrete and wrecked cars where the Colombo Family’s heir apparent, Eddie’s partner Teddy Persico, held court surrounded by a slapstick gang of high-school-dropout bodybuilders and cokeheads, all of them heavily armed, slack-jaw stupid, and eager to kill anyone, anytime to burnish their meathead, Brooklyn street rep. The last time I saw Teddy at the truck lot, he bragged to me that he was eager to “put bodies on the street” and that the lot “would be a great place to whack someone.”

Teddy was sincere: he once deputized me as a member of an improvised hit team, placing a rusty gun in my hand and dragging me across town to kill a former friend of mine over a decade-old beef in broad daylight. As soon as I heard Manny’s invitation to Teddy and Eddie’s truck lot, I quickened my pace; I knew for sure that Manny intended to have me killed.

Realizing that I would jeopardize his freedom if I fled and turned rat, Manny followed with uncharacteristic speed; his thighs must have been rubbing together furiously. He grabbed hold of my arm and began desperately wrenching me to his car, all the while trying to seduce me with incongruently gentle assurances of his friendship. Manny was losing it. I saw it in his eyes: panic, terror, berserk survival instinct.

Manny saw the end of the decades-long lucky streak that kept him out of serious jail time. Some mobsters thought of Manny as if he was the Faust of Brooklyn, the beneficiary of some demonic bargain that allowed him to walk through a storm of indictments without getting wet, effortlessly stepping between the raindrops. Now the devil was coming for his due.

As Manny pulled me toward his Porsche, I saw what he had been hiding. In two cars parked across the street sat a group of Bay Ridge goombah idiots who did strong-arm work for the family. Manny had brought backup—but we were still right in front of the restaurant, where we were regulars. There was no way for them to jump me in plain sight without getting caught.

With no other choice, I muscled away from Manny and ran to my car. I climbed into the front seat and grabbed my pistol: relief, an unbelievable deluge of endorphins, the closest I’ve ever come to attaining existential peace. There was no more suspense; even with a ten-on-one advantage, Manny and his goons weren’t going to take out an armed Kenny Gallo.

I was going to be okay. Unlike most modern mobsters, I had real world gunfight experience, not just Staten Island truck-lot target practice. Worst case scenario: I’d have some bloodshed to explain to the FBI, and it wouldn’t be my blood on the Belt Parkway. I drove off with a defeated Manny Garofalo in my rearview mirror, his hands upturned at his side, an awful broken look on his face. I think Manny was seeing his future: jail, his family tossed out of their home, public ridicule, “The 9/11 Mafioso” splashed across newspaper front pages.

I drove off, changing my route to lose any cars that might be tailing me. As far as the New York Mafia was concerned, I drove off the edge of the Earth that night, clean off the planet. Kenji—mobster, drug lord, and porn kingpin for twenty-five years—died, to live on only in the nightmares of the mobsters who had the misfortune of incriminating themselves in my company. This is the posthumous memoir of Kenji, a terrible character, who in ceasing to exist has done the world the favor. This is also the memoir of another man, a nameless man, who is trying every day to figure out how to live contrary to his nature.

© 2009 Matthew Randazzo V

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2011

    A more modern "Goodfellas"

    A very exciting and quick read. I don't know why despicable characters and prodigal sons are fascinating to read about, but they are. The book is well written and full of sex and violence.
    If what the author says is true, the mafia strives on despite many of its members being in prison. The life of crime is too ingrained in some families for that to change any time soon.

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  • Posted January 11, 2011

    Revenge of the Nerd

    I'm giving this book two stars for the co-author's input. He has a way with words and whatever entertainment I managed to wring from this fabulist's tale I'm sure I gleaned from him. It's clear that Randazzo is familiar with the fractured fantasy that used to be La Cosa Nostra. The reason these third-rate thugs love the Godfather trilogy so much is the patina of honor that the movie laid upon its cast of corrupt characters. But, here, there is no honor among skeeves.

    Kenji is not nearly as interesting as he paints himself to be and it's clear he thought this was to be a vanity project. It attempts to be that, but the reality that is Kenji seeps throughin every vignette. The way he goes after porn star Peter North with such single-minded vituperation, humiliating him and repeatedly calling him a "faggot" turned me off. Here, Kenny turns into the type of homophobe that makes you wonder if he's got a few secrets in his own closet.

    In fact, in his droning, nonstopp attempt to build himself up and show us how tough he is, how he has overcome his educated, upper-middle-class hell of an upbringing, we are reminded that he's just a wimpy kid as he confesses that he cries at tearjerker movies like "Terms of Endearment."

    If Kenji had stuck to the script in this book and took us on a factual tour of all the people he ratted out and sent to jail to save his own rear end, this might have been worth reading. Instead, Kenji's angry and dismissive of all the people he used on his unparalleled rise to the bottom side of the middle. Unless he is prevented from speaking about his more serious crimes, it's hard to believe this kid is anything but a DA's best friend. A former coke fiend/dealer turned professional stoolie.

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