By Frank DiMatteo and Michael Benson for Gangsters Inc.
NEW YORK POLICE DETECTIVE Ralph Salerno was on the job for decades, working the rackets, and he’d seen his share of the underworld. Some of it seemed just like everything else, guys trying to get over, maybe just the other side of the street.
And then again some of it was sick.
Salerno considered himself an expert on mobsters. He’d known dozens of them, he said. Knew them A to Z. But Salerno had only met two gangsters personally who, when he looked them in the eye, he decided he wouldn’t want them to be mad at him.
Aniello Dellacroce (left) of the Gambinos was one.
Carmine Galante, a Bonanno through and through, was the other.
“They had bad eyes. I mean they had the eyes of killers. You could see how frightening they were, the frigid glare of a killer,” Salerno said.
Organized crime is known for its nasty fucks, but no fuck was nastier than Carmine “Lilo” Galante. “Lilo” means “cigar” in Castellammare. Only the people he liked could call him Lilo. If he was in a bad mood, only the people he liked could live.
He had that dead-eyed stare, and Detective Salerno wasn’t the only one to notice it. He had it when he ate, when he spoke, and when he killed. I met him twice. He had it both times.
There might be a little glint in his eyes when he killed, but it didn’t last for long. His eyes were ice hard, and they terrified both Galante’s fellow mobsters, and the cops who were supposed to bring him to justice.
Galante (right) had a lot of numbers. He was identified as New York State DCI Number 137561X. He was known as New York Police Department (NYPD) Number B66994. His FBI number was 119 495. His Social Security number was 071-12-0666, which appropriately contained the devil’s number.
His kills were cold as ice. How many? They were uncountable. Galante once shot a kid, a little girl. All right, it was an accident, he was aiming for a cop, and it was only a flesh wound in the thigh, but . . . he shot a kid. One story has him throwing a plate of boiling spaghetti in a pretty girl’s face, that was on purpose—if it happened. It might’ve. He didn’t grow into his evil self. By all accounts, he was born evil, bad to the bone from birth.
He made his millions selling that most insidious of substances, the babania—heroin, dope—narcotics, as it was called by the Law. He fed his coffers uncaring of the blight that it put on entire neighborhoods. Fuck ’em. Ca-fucking-ching. That’s all Galante thought. That is, if he thought.
He never showed much sign of intellect, at least none that could be measured by professional shrinks and the like. He seemed to consist of raw ruthlessness, nuts in a psycho-killer sort of way, which made customers much less aggressive when it came time to do business with him.
He told people how it was going to be and that was how it was.
He didn’t look like the sort of guy who would become powerful. He was five five, squat, and later in life thoroughly bald. But when you were near him, you could feel it, raw danger crackling around him like so much static electricity.
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Sure, he was a psychopath. He didn’t give a shit about anything but himself. And he was a true sadist, a man whose only joy was dishing out the hurt, dishing out the death. Plus, he was narcissistic. His hunger for power was legendary, and apparently without limit. As had his hero Joe Bonanno before him, Galante dreamed of ruling the global underworld—capo di tutti capi—and could never be subservient.
He needed to win every time. He fixed games so that he couldn’t lose—small games like cards, and some of the largest games there were, games like global drug trafficking. The world he could conquer, but New York City was another matter. It was New York and Lucky Luciano’s five-family system that did him in.
Power, no matter its size, is never bulletproof. And, in the end, Carmine Galante got what he deserved, mob-dom’s all-time number one hit—dead on a Bushwick patio with his omnipresent cigar, his last lilo, still in his mouth.
Excerpted from THE CIGAR: by Frank DiMatteo and Michael Benson. Reprinted with permission from Kensington Books. Copyright 2023.
THE CIGAR: Carmine Galante, Mafia Terror (on-sale March 28, 2023) is a thoroughly researched, darkly entertaining, cinematic biography of the Mob’s most dangerous man, written by Frank DiMatteo and Michael Benson.
Carmine Galante was all about the numbers. His hunger for money and power was legendary. He made millions peddling heroin on the mean streets of New York City, in a drug racket so infamous they made a movie about it. His kills were as ice-cold as his steely gaze. How many? Uncountable. He was so deeply evil that even steely New York City police officers were afraid of him, and his fellow Mobsters wouldn’t look him in the eye. A juvenile delinquent, a psychopath, Gallante always had his eye on the ring – to become the head of the Five Families – but he would instead be assassinated, his legendary cigar still dangling from his mouth.
This is a meticulous insider’s look at the infamous Mob degenerate and the violent world he inhabited.
About the Authors:
This writing team of Frank Dimatteo and Michael Benson have penned several celebrated books on infamous mobsters including LORD HIGH EXECUTIONER (about Albert Anastasia), MAFIA HIT MAN (about Carmine DiBiase) and CARMINE THE SNAKE (about Carmine Persico).
DiMatteo grew up on President Street in South Brooklyn, where Joey Gallo and his crew was based and ran their operations. His father, Rick Dimatteo, was a Mob hitman for Gallo’s gang. Dimatteo personally knew many of the “supporting” players in the Anastasia dynasty and the other five Mafia families. His memoir, THE PRESIDENT STREET BOYS, is required reading in the organized crime genre.
His co-author, Michael Benson, has written the acclaimed unbelievable-but-true American history book GANGSTERS VS. NAZIS, which examines how the Mob was tasked by the US government to violently beat back America’s fascist menace in the lead-up to World War II.
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