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Posts Tagged ‘Westchester County’

About two years ago, here in T&T and in my blog Papa Joe’s Tales (https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/2015/11/02/what-ever-became-of-one-punch-sammy-santoro/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true), I wondered what had become of old “One Punch” the terror of my neighborhood during my adventures as a teenager. I was convinced that Sammy (along with Pat Buchanan an acquaintance of my college years) would undoubtedly end up in the electric chair. A year or so ago, a reader of the blog notified me that Sammy, in fact, ended up in prison. “Where else would he be?” he added waggishly. This past week, another reader sent me the following:

“SUPREME COURT OF NEW YORK, APPELLATE DIVISION, SECOND DEPARTMENT 1979.NY.41511 <http://www.versuslaw.com&gt;; 414 N.Y.S.2d 583; 68 A.D.2d 939 March 26, 1979, THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, RESPONDENT,v.SAMUEL SANTORO, APPELLANT Damiani, J. P., O’Connor, Lazer and Gulotta, JJ., concur.”

“Damiani, J. P., O’Connor, Lazer and Gulotta, JJ., concur.
Appeal by defendant from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Westchester County, rendered April 19, 1978, convicting him of murder under former subdivision 2 of section 125.25 of the Penal Law, upon a jury verdict, and imposing sentence. Judgment affirmed. Defendant was indicted and convicted of the “depraved mind” murder of Anthony Aiello, the three-year-old son of his paramour. The victim’s mother, Sadie Aiello, was the principal witness for the prosecution. She testified that defendant had moved in with her in January 1970, and had taken charge of the feeding and “discipline” of Anthony. The “discipline” included frequent beatings which resulted in serious injuries and the infant’s hospitalization on two occasions. In February 1971 she moved out with her children because of her concern about Anthony’s well-being. However, she returned with the children to live with defendant on March 1, 1971. On March 11th Anthony died after being beaten and strangled by the defendant. Defendant and Sadie Aiello initially told the police that Anthony’s death was caused by his fall down a flight of stairs. Six years later she appeared at the District Attorney’s office and reported the truth about the events of March 11, 1971. In our opinion, the trial court correctly charged the jurors that they were to decide, as a matter of fact, whether Sadie Aiello was an accomplice whose testimony required corroboration (see CPL 60.22). We cannot agree with defendant that Sadie Aiello was an accomplice as a matter of law. Neither her decision to return to live with defendant nor her conduct in concealing from the police the true facts concerning her son’s death constituted participation in the offense charged or an offense based upon the same or some of the same facts or conduct which constitute the offense charged (see CPL 60.22; People v Le Grand, 61 A.D.2d 815). Since the evidence did not conclusively establish that Sadie Aiello was guilty of such an offense by virtue of her conduct on March 11, 1971, the issue of her complicity was properly submitted to the jury (see People v Basch, 36 N.Y.2d 154). We agree with defendant that the court’s charge on the definition of “recklessly” was misleading. However, since no exception to the charge was taken, the question was not preserved. Moreover, the court, in a response to an inquiry from a juror subsequently correctly charged the definition of “recklessly” and thus cured any ambiguity. The trial court properly admitted evidence of defendant’s prior assaults on the victim to negative the defense of “accident” (see People v Henson, 33 N.Y.2d 63). Defendant’s remaining contention is without merit.”

Alas, Sammy escaped the death penalty as it had previously been declared unconstitutional by the NY Court of Appeals. I do not know if he remains in prison or if he is even still alive. Pat Buchanan, on the other hand, unfortunately, remains free.

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Cover of "The Wanderers"

Cover of The Wanderers

Recently while searching the web for two of my all-time favorite movies, the Warriors, and The Wanders, I came across a site dedicated to the New York City and Chicago teenage gangs of the late 1950′s, including maps of the rival gangs’ turf.

Based on Xenophon’s history of the Greek mercenary army, betrayed by the Persians who had to fight their way through 100s of miles of hostile Persian territory to get home, the Warriors, betrayed at a gang conference in the Bronx have to fight their way along the subway from Gun Hill Road in the Bronx and through Manhattan in order to return to their home in Coney Island.

The Wanderers, although very little about it is true to life, presented the most realistic view of the gangs and gang life at the time the time I knew and experienced it. The movie referenced actual gangs with which I had some passing relationship, The Fordham Baldies, The Golden Guineas, and the Irish Lords.

The Golden Guineas were sort of the mob farm team and along with the Fordham Baldies the most feared gang in the North Bronx (they were not bald as portrayed in the movie).

I lived outside of the City and although we had our own gangs and relationships with some of the Bronx gangs we were no match for them in size or reputation.

I belonged to two gangs that I can remember, the Skull Gang, the gang my childhood friends evolved into when we passed into puberty. It was mostly social and something to call ourselves. It was a mixed group, Italians, Blacks and Irish boys who had grown up together.

I also belonged to a gang from Mount Vernon, a somewhat more serious group. We called ourselves the Capris if you can believe it. Our “uniform” was teal bowling shirts with black velvet vertical stripes. This was a zip-gun, switchblade, tire chain wielding gang, unlike the unarmed, unwarlike Skulls who just hung out on the corner. I was consigliere since I refused to carry a weapon (fear mostly), was not known as a particularly adept fighter but was considered the most knowledgeable and thoughtful member of the gang.

I also associated with one or two minor gangs from the north Bronx, but I no longer recall their names. I was a “war” advisor with them.

I also had a friendship with the leader of a major gang from Fordham Road called the University Avenue Gang. I could not find them on the site, so they may also have had another name. The leader’s name was “Bambi.” The gang was a mixed gang, Bambi was Italian but many of the gang members were Irish.

One evening, Bambi helped in saving me and several friends from a severe beating. It seems that “One Punch Sammy Santoro” the legendary tough guy from Roosevelt High School in Yonkers had, a running conflict with Frank Santaliquito from Tuckahoe, the nearby village in which I lived. It seems Santoro once beat up Frank for some reason. As a result, Frank spent the next two years in the Gym bulking up and training in boxing and hand to hand combat. Frank who had been a tall handsome slender young man, had in those two years turned himself into an ugly brutish looking mountain of a man. He had let the word out that he was looking to even the score.

One evening, two friends of mine (Charlie DeVito and Frank Plastini) and I were at a large fast food place with pinball machines that teenagers used to like to go to and hang out. Located on Central Avenue in Yonkers( I cannot remember its name — perhaps Nathan’s), it was generally considered neutral territory.

One Punch Sammy Santoro and about seven or eight of his hangers-on came in and saw us there. Someone mentioned to them that we were from Tuckahoe. Sammy immediately assumed we were associated with Santaliquito who also lived in Tuckahoe. As a result, he prepared to punish us as a message to Frank. As they started toward us, another friend of ours, Chickie Muscalino showed up and sized up what was happening. Chickie went to the same High School as Charlie and I. He knew One Punch well and was respected by everyone because in addition to being big and strong he was affable. He intervened and tried to persuade Sammy not to harm us since we were not associated with Santaliquito.

Unknown to me, in another room of the place, Bambi and several members of his gang had come up from the Bronx to play the pinball machines. He also realized that I was in trouble and came up to me to assure me that he had my back if things got out of hand.

Despite the huge load of testosterone in the air, Chickie’s persuasiveness along with Bambi’s presence calmed One Punch down and we were allowed to leave unmolested.

Sometime after this confrontation, Sammy and Frank met up again and despite all his training and commitment, Frank was beaten again as badly as the first time they had met.

Racial concentrations in the Bronx.

Racial concentrations in the Bronx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the way back home for some reason, we stopped at another place along Central Avenue. As we returned to our car our we found our way blocked by a group of about six teenagers led by a kid who had some sort of beef with Charlie. So with Frank and I behind him, Charlie advanced to meet the other gang leader in the center of the parking lot. Frank who had not ridden with Charlie and me before, I could see was trembling. I, on the other hand, assumed that we would lose and I would be beaten up. So I was busy searching the area for somewhere to hide in the hope that I could stave off the inevitable long enough for the police or something else to intervene.

As usual in situations like this, violence rarely occurs as the parties swap hormonal indicators. We called it “bluffing.” Charlie walked up to his opposition and before the other could speak said: “OK start fighting or start talking.” That was enough to encourage the other kid to back down. After a bit more back and forth talking and face-saving, we left and returned home.

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English: Westchester County, NY map from 1839.

English: Westchester County, NY map from 1839. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LOUIS

From when I was about 8 years old until I was in my early 20s I had a close friend named Louis (pronounced in the French manner Louie), Louis Maiello. Both he and I lived in Tuckahoe N. Y. at the time. Tuckahoe was a small village nestled between the toney Westchester County suburbs of Bronxville, Eastchester, Scarsdale, and Pelham. Most of the people who lived in Tuckahoe were Italians or Afro-Americans who for the most part were dependent on the wealthier suburbs for their sustenance. A few Jews and wealthier Italians lived within the village closest to its borders because most of those upscale addresses had restrictions at the time, prohibiting Jews, Italians, and blacks from living within their jurisdictions. So, living just across the town boundaries was as close as they got to their idea of suburban heaven.

Where Winnie (Winston Churchill who appeared in “Papa Joes Tales” a few weeks back) was destined for success based on name, ancestry, looks, capability, wealth and a host of other things, Louis definitely was not. It was not just the name and family background that separated them.

Where Winnie was tall, athletic, manly looking and white, Louis was small, smaller than I was, skinny and pretty, almost effeminate looking with long eyelashes and coal-black eyes. He also definitely was not blessed with that chalky pink tinged alabaster complexion and throbbing blue veins that marked one as a member of the “white” race at that time. (The white race then usually being limited to Anglo-Germanic-Nordic ancestry. Celts had been recently admitted to the club and Slavs confused things. Jews were not really white, they were after all Jews.  They along with Southern Europeans, Turks, Arabs, and others had just begun knocking at the door clamoring for membership.) Louie was that deep dark dusky color with a flash of gold buried deep beneath the dirt that ranked us at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, along with blacks, Puerto Ricans and Sephardim (Mexicans were not an obsession at the time where I lived on the East coast).

As an aside: As a child the white pink, blue-veined people who lived in up scale suburbs of Westchester County, NY frightened me. Those blue veins throbbing beneath that dead looking white skin always made me think of zombies or vampires. I wonder if those nordic masters of the universe had or have now any idea of how ugly they appeared to many of us. Ironically the worst and most frightening of them was an Italian. He ran the Italian operation of one of the American clients I represented when I lived in Rome. He was a Colonna; a member of the Colonna family who along with the even older Orsini family had run Rome and the Papacy for 1200 years. My client was the first person from either family in those 1200 years to take a job. “Just like one of those upstart Colonnas,” an Orsini was rumored to have sniffed. Anyway, I guess as a side effect of a millennium of inbreeding, all color had left his face leaving only a deathly pasty white pallor. Those ghastly throbbing blue veins remained. He resembled a cadaver more than something living. He was also one of the most despicable human beings I have ever met. That also has something to do with breeding, I guess.

Anyway, Louis was not pre-destined for success. At 8 he was thrown out of his house by his sadistic father and forced to live on the streets or on the largess of relatives and friends. For some reason, many of the adults I knew would warn me to stay away from him because he was a bad influence. I did not understand that. He wasn’t mean or violent, in fact just the opposite. Not that he was a do-gooder or anything like that. He preferred leaving people alone, just as he preferred for them to leave him alone.

Nevertheless, many of the bigger boys would bully him mercilessly. He would not often fight back against the bullies, preferring the strategy of avoid and escape to confrontation. I on the other hand always fought back, but usually lost.

Perhaps that is why we became friends. Louie was sort of a kindred spirit; befriending him probably filled my need for acceptance. Not that I was ostracized and shunned like him, but I seemed to inhabit the fringes of my childhood social sets and pushing my way into their center required a greater commitment than I thought the rewards warranted.

He was not a thief either. Oh if you left something lying around he might take it, but I saw that as now more than the occasional incidental stealing we all do; sort of like taking pencils from the office where we work.

Although he was pretty looking, he was not effeminate and was of all of us the one who had the earliest and most prolific sexual experiences. He was very successful at it and with that, as he grew older, his reputation among the other neighborhood boys climbed a bit. It was said of him, that Louie could get laid in a nunnery. I, on the other hand, much to my chagrin, was truly a late bloomer.

Anyway, in our late teens, I went off to college and law school and Louie, as a lot of the dispossessed people from the East Coast at that time did decamped for California. He wanted to become an actor.

He returned a year or so later and moved into a basement flat in Greenwich Village; one of those flats common in NY City then; one room below street level, fully exposed toilet sitting in the kitchen area, no hot water, bathtub with a piece of plywood covering it that served as the dining table and all the rats and cockroaches one could desire.

He was living with a woman who had returned with him from California and who appeared stoned all the time. Actually, I did not know what being stoned all the time ment or looked like since it was still a few years before the rise of hippiedom when we learned all about it. At that time, she seemed to me, seductive. That sort of dreamy look and half-smile that flitted across her face in response to anything I said and the uninhibited movements of her body I interpreted as erotic rather than drug-induced lethargy. I spent one night at the apartment. Louie had gone to sleep. I thought for sure I would lose my virginity that night and out of nervousness I talked… and talked until she fell asleep and I had to wait another year or so for that highly anti-climatic event we, fortunately, experience only once in our lives.

Louie had succeeded in becoming a movie actor of sorts in Hollywood and had appeared in a movie. He told me about what he and other actors had to do to get a part in a movie in Hollywood; how he had to give blow jobs and more to the producers to get the part. While he was telling me this, I noticed that it was the only time I had ever seen Louie angry or ashamed. His eyes filmed over in fear, embarrassment or self-disgust I could not tell. Perhaps he was stoned also.

Nevertheless, I envied him. I had already given up my dreams for a life in the theater, unwilling and perhaps frightened that I would be unable to do the things and suffer the humiliations required to even get a chance to perform.

The movie he appeared in was a biker flick that was Jack Nicholson’s first starring role. Louie played a skinny sex-crazed hanger-on. A role he was well suited for.

Anyway, after that, I sadly lost touch with Louie. He had taken the stage name of James Oliver. I would periodically search the internet for some information about him but without luck. I assumed that he must have died of AIDs or some other form of STD.

Last week while obsessing again about why so few people respond to my Facebook posts I decided that I needed to find more friends. Previously I  had assumed that my posts were simply boring, so I started sharing posts that others had sent me. I believed that if they received a lot of comments on their posts, by sharing them with my other “friends” I would get a similar response. Alas, no. I thought there were only two reasons for this. The first I refused to contemplate and the second was that I had too few friends. So, I went searching for more friends. I decided to click on the village where I grew up, Tuckahoe, to see if I could find a few members of my old gang who I could, for old times sake, con into reading one or two of my posts.

I was both pleased and surprised to find, James Oliver alive and well living as a 70-year-old artist in Taos New Mexico. According to a news report accompanying his profile, he had continued his “Hollywood” lifestyle becoming one of John Lennon’s favorite carousing pals and had actually made it into one or two of Lennon’s biographies. Tiring of the bright lights and the big city he had moved to Taos to live life as an artist of local renown.

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lindsay_lohan_linda_lovelace_i-490x652

A few years ago, I read a news report that Sharon Stone had been signed to play Linda Lovelace’s mother in an upcoming biopic to be called, “Lovelace.”

Linda Lovelace (originally Linda Boreman) was my first wife’s younger sister, so I obviously knew her mother well. Sharon Stone is not who I would have chosen to play her. On the basis of physical appearance, personality and hairstyle, the Kathy Bates of “Misery” would be more appropriate.

Linda’s mom, following the all too frequent and normal indiscretions of a teenager of the time, found herself unmarried, with a child and, it being the 1940s, with little hope of finding a husband as she was during those dark days considered “damaged goods.” However, as luck, pluck or whatever would have it, she found someone who did marry her and had two additional children, my ex-wife Jeanne and Linda. As was not unusual during those times and in that social strata, Linda’s mom then became a religious fanatic and often beat her daughters for exhibiting the slightest evidence of sexuality, all to no avail with any of the three sisters.

Linda’s dad was a tall man, a gentle giant, 6’7″ or so and looked a little like Liam Nielsen with a weak chin. I liked him a lot. He was a kind, humorous inoffensive man. My mom referred to him as the most ineffectual man she had ever met. That is saying something given my Mom’s long marriage to my father who, love him as I did, nevertheless topped my list for that particular classification.

Linda’s dad drank a lot. In fact, he drank rather steadily and as far as I can recall was drunk more often that he was sober, a sweet, funny, blackout kind of drunk.

He also had a bad back, a disk problem of some sort in his lower back. One afternoon we came into the house and found him on his knees on the floor with his face pressed into the sofa. At first, we thought he was drunk, having found him like this several times before. We usually just left him alone like that to sleep it off. It was only when we heard a groan and a muffled cry for help that we realized that he had thrown out his back and we quickly called for an ambulance.

Linda’s dad was an NY City police patrolman. He joined the force for the sole purpose of putting in his 20 years or so and retire to live in Florida. His career was notable for his never having received a promotion or a commendation. Its other highlights were that he never took a bribe, never unholstered his gun and never issued a ticket of any kind. As a result, his superiors regularly assigned him to the worst beats and saddled him with the worst shifts (e.g., 3 AM to 11 AM) imaginable where he continued to steadfastly refuse to notice any crimes committed in his vicinity whatsoever.

Perhaps it was his incorruptibility or his stoic refusal to notice the criminality around him that prompted the station captain, once a month, to choose him to drive him around to the businesses within his precinct to collect that month’s graft payments.

Linda herself was, for the most part, a friendly, attractive, empty-headed teenager, the kind that used to be called a valley girl here in California.

When she was about 16 years old, her father retired and promptly moved the family which now consisted only of himself, his wife and Linda, to Florida, the older two girls having married and were busy raising families of their own. They settled on a town called Opa-Laka in a home he had purchased years ago in preparation for retirement. Opa-laka originally was basically a retirement community for NYCPD patrolmen but over the years has degenerated into one of the Miami areas worst slums.

Within a few months, Linda was thrown out of the home by her parents and returned to NY to live with her sister and me, our two babies, Jason and Jennifer, and our neurotic dog in our large home in Yorktown Heights in the uppermost reaches of Westchester County.

I remember that time fondly, especially because it was during her stay that Linda gave me my first toke of Marijuana, for which I will always be grateful to her.

Linda was also affectionate. Every evening as her sister and I lay in bed, before retiring into her own bedroom, she would come in to give us a goodnight kiss and hug, wearing see-through bikini pajamas. (I wonder if that will make it into the movie.)

Another notable thing about Linda was that she was utterly unable to answer a question without including a large dose of fantasy. Although she did this at times to deceive, she also did it when deception was not an issue. For example, if you came upon her eating a bowl of ice cream and you asked her if she was enjoying it, she would launch into an often quick-witted response denying she was eating ice cream at all.

Another thing about her was that she was a clever, enterprising and successful shopper, amassing closets full of the latest fashions and accessories, all without paying a cent for them.

At that time, I was a trial lawyer in NYC of some local repute having accumulated one of the longest consecutive string or victories in jury trials in NY. It was not that I was a particularly good lawyer, I was not, I couldn’t recognize a rule of evidence if it punched me in my nose. But it seemed my particular brand of opinionated, didactic certainty made juries believe I knew what I was talking about and that I actually believed whatever crap I was saying. My goal in life at the time was to become like one of the great trial lawyers of the past and die of cirrhosis of the liver before I was 40.

I was a lousy husband, often uncommunicative, angry and during trial entirely preoccupied. I was also a blackout drunk. After each victory I would eat a big meal, drink until I blacked out and disappear for days at a time, eventually waking up, still dressed in my three-piece black pin-striped Brooks Brothers suit, Homburg hat and grey leather gloves in places like the men’s room in Grand Central Station lying on the floor in my own vomit.

On New Year’s Day morning, when Jennifer was about 9 months old, I was awakened by the screams of my wife coming from the nursery. “My baby, my baby, something has happened to my baby,” she screamed over and over. I rushed into the baby’s room. Jennifer was dead, a crib death I was later told.

She was splotched all purple and red where the blood had pooled. Her body stiff and cold as I hopelessly tried to blow life into that tiny body, until the ambulance arrived and the emergency crew pulled me away and out of the bedroom.

About two weeks after the funeral, my wife left me taking the other child, Jason with her. Three months later, my life having collapsed around me, I left for Europe with Jason.

I was a traditional sort of person at that time in my life, Catholic, Republican, ruthless and often drunk. As such, I believed that a child should be with his mother. Unfortunately, after discovering the child with cigarette burns over most of his body, I took her to court and the judge awarded me custody.

I resumed my legal career working for an American law firm in Rome, practicing international tax and corporate law, areas I know nothing about and was awful at.

Jason lived in a small mountain village with my great-aunt. He thrived there. When he walked through the town people would call out to him and wave as though he was a celebrity.

When I decided to return to the US, I took him with me. I regret that decision more than almost any other decision in my life. I was not a competent father, nevertheless, I removed him from a stable environment where an entire village loved him and resettled him into a life where he was often alone or left with an almost virtual stranger while I strove to save the coast or otherwise engage in whatever self-indulgence appealed to me at the time.

I have never been able to shake the guilt I feel at his current unhappiness. What is worse, I seem to be able to deal with it only by ignoring it.

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