Men of Montedoro

It was widely known that Russell Buffalino became acting boss of the Pittston area after John Sciandra's death in 1949. The daily command of the Sicilian Men of the Montedoro Mafia had passed to younger men. Russell Bufalino had been born in Montedoro Italy. Shortly after, his father immigrated to the United States. settling in Pittston, Pennsylvania, working as a coal miner. With his mother and siblings, Buffalino entered the United States through the Port of New York in December 1903. A few months later, Bufalino's father died in a mine accident, and his family returned to Sicily. Buffalino emigrated to the United States again in January 1906. He married Carolyn "Carrie" Sciandra who came from a Sicilian Mafia family. Buffalino worked alongside many Buffalo mobsters, some of whom would become top leaders in the Buffalo crime family and other future Cosa Nostra families along the East Coast of the United States. These relationships proved very helpful to Buffalino in his criminal career. Family and clan ties were important to Sicilian-American criminals; they created a strong, secretive support system that outsiders or law enforcement could not infiltrate. A significant friendship was with his first boss, and fellow immigrant from Montedoro, John C. Montana. Buffalino became the boss of the entire Northeast Pennsylvania crime family. A 1956 plane trip to Havana, Cuba, got Buffalino in trouble with immigration officials, as he improperly claimed U.S. citizenship upon his return. Buffalino's family began to emerge from under the Genovese family shadow in the 1960s. The US attempt to deport Buffalino was derailed when the Italian government refused to accept him. Buffalino was one of the U.S. Mafia's most influential bosses until his death in 1994. He was engaged in labor racketeering, loan-sharking and gambling. The FBI believed he had a hand in narcotics trafficking. He is widely believed to have had a part in arranging the disappearance and murder of former Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa. I became acquainted with a lot of rumored “mob soldiers”. I can’t authenticate connections to the Men of Montedoro Mafia for all of them, but their actions and crimes certainly make me suspect that they were. I cannot prove that Elmo (Al) Baldasarri was part of the Buffalino crime family. However, he was indicted on use of interstate telephone facilities with the intent to carry on an unlawful activity, and use of a telephone for the transmission in interstate commerce of information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on sporting events or contests. I believe many of those calls were made on the public phone booth in the Hotel Casey Bar, while I was behind the bar. Al Baldassari also had many legal businesses such as real-estate developments. Al developed Moosic Lake, Bellefonte Apartments and the land which ultimately became Mount Margaret Estates. He had a passion for music and dancing, which prompted him to open the infamous Orchid Club and Spruce Street Record Shop. He loved Bocce Ball, and had a Bocce court behind the Silhouette bar. This place was owned by his “Goomah” Helen. The Hotel Casey was a known hangout for a few of these soldiers. They called the bar I worked at their office. There was a phone booth in the corner where they used to get calls. These guys would bring their mistresses (goomahs) on Friday night for drinks and dinner. Then on Saturday they would come in with their wives. Cheating was a blatant and accepted practice. I started seeing someone in this group of quasi gangsters. Rocco was married and twenty years older than me. He couldn’t be with me on weekdays and didn’t want me to be alone when I closed the bar. So, he hired a bodyguard for me. My “bodyguard” Bob was the bouncer at the El Dorado across the street from the Casey. Every night, he would show up to escort me across the street. I would have a few drinks. When I was ready to call it a night, he would escort me back to the Hotel elevator in the lobby. After a few dinners with Rocco, I received a call on that pay phone while I was working. An ominous male voice informed me if I kept seeing Rocco, I would be shot dead in the street. I stopped seeing Rocco. I also briefly dated a well-known musician, Jimmy Tigue. Gosh, I knew a lot of Jimmies! The chemistry between us was intense. He was a lounge player at the CiCi Lounge. He was also married but I think his wife must have turned a blind eye to his extramarital affairs. She was never at any of his gigs. Jimmy T. was a jazz musician, a cool cat. He taught me a lot about jazz music. I had not been interested in that genre before. Miles Davis and Billie Holiday, were his favorites. After we were both done working, we would listen to this music in his car and smoke a joint. He was a good lover, but a little kinky. One night he asked me for a favor. He had a friend of his who was disabled. He wanted us to have sex in front of him. I guess voyeurism was his friend’s thing. I said no! After that our relationship cooled down quickly. I didn’t want to be with someone who wanted to pass me around like a plaything. I was devastated by my breakup with Johnny. As a result, I did not want to fall for anybody again. I made three pals and drinking buddies instead. Jimmy DeNinno, Jimmy Santoro, and Pete Petrillo. Pete was related to one of the owners of the Hotel Casey. They were all wild and crazy, but so was I. I would get done bartending and meet one of them at Eagan’s for a drink. Eagan’s was right across from the Casey. It stayed open after 2 AM, illegally. You had to go to the back door and knock. They had to know you before they let you in. You could order a steak at 2 in the morning. I can’t count the times I came out of that bar with the sun coming up. Pete introduced me to exotic drinks, Chartreuse, Absinthe, and Mezcal (with the worm at the bottom of the bottle) just to name a few. Jimmy DeNinno was 13 years my senior but he liked hanging out with the young crowd. He was a jeweler and always had several gold chains around his neck. He also had a perpetual tan, 12 months of the year. Pete Petrillo was cute but kind of manic. I never saw him chilled out or calm. One night he knocked on my door in the hotel. He had a box with several cartons of cigarettes. He asked if I could hide them for a couple of days. I did. Pete did not have a steady job so I assumed he supported his life style by stealing or some other chicanery. Jimmy Santoro was always very sweet to me, but he had a crazy side. A side that came out when he drank too much. He used to confide in me about his jealousy in his relationships. The girl he was currently dating at the time was named Doreen. She was a beautiful girl with flaming red hair and a gorgeous body. When she broke off the relationship, he did not take it well. The next Friday night was a very busy night at the Casey bar. We had three bartenders on duty to handle the crowd, Butch Thuran, and a older woman named Little Judy and myself. Doreen was in a corner talking to a young man. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jimmy S. enter by the Lobby entrance. I looked at him and his face looked deranged. I knew he owned a gun. Instinct told me that he might have it on him. I slipped out from behind the bar and grabbed him by the arm. I asked him if he had his gun on him. He told me yes and said “I’m going to kill that bitch!” I used all my powers of persuasion to talk him out of it and he left. I let out a sigh and went back behind the bar to finish my shift. When I looked up there was Marshall (Peewee) in the lobby door entrance. He had seen the whole situation. He never spoke about it, but every time I saw him there was a look exchanged between us. A look that said we shared a secret. These downtown boys were all a little crazy. Pete and Jimmy D. got very competitive over me. I would be in Jimmy’s luxury apartment and Pete would call. I’d hear him ask if I was there. Jimmy and I were smoking a joint and listening to the album “Jesus Christ Superstar”. I got on the phone and teased him about being jealous. One night, Pete took me up to the roof of the Hotel Casey. We smoked a joint and then he took me to the edge of the roof. We were eleven stories up. He said, "Look at those people down there. They look like ants.” It wasn’t what he said but how he said it that creeped me out. It was time for me to quit hanging with my drinking buddies.

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