“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” goes the iconic line from The Godfather. Well, consider this article our irresistible offer: a guided tour through the secretive, and often surprising, world of the Mafia. In the shadowy corridors of power and influence, few organizations have intrigued, horrified, and fascinated the public quite like the Mafia. Let’s delve into ten engrossing facts about these notorious syndicates that have left an indelible mark on world history.
1. During the tumultuous period of World War II, the Italian mafia played an unexpected role as a silent ally to the US government. They provided crucial intelligence for the pivotal invasion of Sicily and ensured uninterrupted dock operations, eliminating any potential for strikes throughout the war.
2. Ever wondered why members of the New York Mafia families are often clean-shaven? As part of their unique code of conduct, these mobsters are explicitly forbidden from growing facial hair.
3. The Mafia’s reach in the 20th century was pervasive and not limited to traditional criminal activities. Up until the mid-1990s, the Italian-American mafia maintained a stranglehold on New York City’s garbage collection business. By extorting, eliminating, or co-opting competitors, they orchestrated a price-fixing cartel. However, an undercover operation eventually led to the conviction of the Mafia leaders and resulted in a staggering $600 million drop in trash collection costs.
4. The critically acclaimed series “The Sopranos” has been lauded for its authenticity, so much so that real Mafia members feared they were under surveillance. These suspicions, ironically overheard through actual FBI surveillance, testify to the show’s eerily accurate representation of the Mafia life.
5. The Sicilian Mafia’s influence is still keenly felt, with an estimated 70% of local businesses reportedly continuing to pay protection money. Similarly, the Five Families of New York maintain their power and are structured along the same family or faction lines that were established more than a century ago.
6. The Mafia’s influence extended to popular culture, particularly in the making of the iconic film “The Godfather.” The actual Mafia influenced the production so profoundly that they prohibited the use of the word ‘Mafia’ in the movie, monitored filming on set, and even got involved in script modifications. This influence wasn’t limited to cinema; Marvel Comics referenced the Mafia as the ‘Maggia’ to avoid offending them, given the Mafia’s control over comic distribution in those days.
7. The longevity of Mafia’s members can be as astonishing as their criminal careers. Take, for instance, mob boss John Franzese, who, after serving nearly 60 years in prison, was released in 2017 at the ripe old age of 100. He holds the unique distinction of being the oldest inmate in the US and the only prison inmate to reach centenarian status.
8. The existence of the Mafia remained an unacknowledged secret in the public sphere until 1963. It was Mafia member Joseph Valachi who broke the code of silence in dramatic fashion. After mistakenly killing a fellow inmate, Valachi confessed to Congress about the existence of ‘La Cosa Nostra.’
9. American mob boss Vincent Louis Gigante took subterfuge to another level, feigning insanity for 30 long years to evade legal action. Famously dubbed “The Oddfather” and “The Enigma in the Bathrobe” by the media, Gigante would wander New York’s Village streets in a bathrobe and slippers, seemingly mumbling gibberish to himself.
10. The saga of FBI agent “Donnie Brasco” infiltrating the Mafia ranks encapsulates the dangerous allure of this underworld. For six years, Brasco lived a double life, becoming so deeply embedded that he was on the verge of being officially inducted into the Mafia. However, sensing the increasing risk, his superiors pulled him out, ending one of the most daring operations against the Mafia.