Skip to comments.When Harry Met Blue Eyes: Reid and Sinatra
Posted on 02/15/2006 11:04:31 AM PST by Fedora
When Harry Met Blue Eyes: Reid and Sinatra
Harry Reids Mob Money, Part 4
Part 1: Mr. Cleanfaces Dirty Laundry
Part 2: Harrys Henchman Rory Reid
Part 3: The Aviators Droppings: Harry Reid, Steven Barringer, and Howard Hughes Legacy
Harry Reid is a mealy-mouth, and he was in their pocket just like the rest of them. . .hes a worm. . . all you've got to do is read the poem he read when they had that phony Sinatra licensing. . . Reid was the chairman, and he read this kiss-*ss poem. He's a faker.
--Former Las Vegas FBI agent Joseph Yablonsky, when asked to comment on Harry Reids relationship to the Mafia
In 1981, the Nevada Gaming Commission under Chairman Harry Reid held a licensing investigation which restored gaming privileges Frank Sinatra had lost in 1963 due to his association with Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana. According to Reid, as quoted at the time of Sinatras death in 1998, It was one of the most extensive, thorough investigations we ever had. . . We expected to come up with a lot of dirt, but all we found were positive things.
Someone might wonder where Reid was looking. Allegations about Sinatras mob associations had been on the public record since February 1947, when papers reported that Sinatra had travelled with Al Capones cousins Charles, Joseph, and Rocco Fischetti to Havana, Cuba, where he had been seen with top Mafia boss Charles Lucky Luciano.
That April Sinatra was arrested on charges of assaulting and battering a reporter who had been covering the story of his Havana trip, Hearst columnist Lee Mortimer. The alleged incident occurred at Ciros nightclub in Los Angeles (now the site of the Comedy Store). Sinatra initially was quoted as saying he hit Mortimer first over an anti-Italian racial slur. Later his lawyer changed his story to claim that Mortimer had launched an unprovoked physical attack following the alleged slur. Mortimers version of the story was that someone sucker-punched him, then some Sinatra associates (from a group which included Jack Mass, William Sexton, Irving Weiss, and Sam Weiss) held him down while Sinatra hit him. Two witnesses backed up Mortimers account. Mortimers date Kay Kino said she saw Sinatra throw the first punch before someone grabbed Mortimer for Sinatra to hit him again. Photographer Nat Dallinger said he saw Sinatra follow Mortimer out of the bar, and he identified Sam Weiss as one of three or four guys holding Mortimer. Weiss and Sinatras other companions refused to talk on the advice of counsel. All employees of Ciros claimed not to remember anything.
Mortimer wrote an article for the New American Mercury in 1951 drawing an outline of Sinatras mob background. The essential accuracy of Mortimers article has been confirmed by later biographers and is corroborated by the FBIs 2,403-page file on Sinatra, released to the public in 1998 after Sinatras death.
Sinatras mob ties stemmed from his familys connections. A recent Sinatra biography by Anthony Summers and Robbynn Swann reports that contrary to Sinatras own account, christening and marriage records indicate that the Sinatra family originated from Lercara Friddi, Sicily, in the same town and on the same street where Lucky Lucianos family came from. One of three Lercara Friddi residents listed in Lucianos address book at the time of his death was a Sinatra relative. FBI files include mention of one informant describing Sinatra as a nephew of Al Capones brother Ralph and another informant describing Sinatra as a nephew of Capones cousin Joseph Fischetti. Sinatras uncle Babe Gavarante (aka Garavanti in some sources) had been a driver for an armed robbery gang and was convicted of murder in 1921. Gavarante is suspected of having been connected to the organization of Willie Moretti, a Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey mobster linked to New York Mafia boss Frank Costello. In the FBIs files, Sinatras first wife Nancy Barbato is described as a cousin of a key member of the Moretti family.
Moretti helped Sinatra get started in his career, as Morettti admitted to FBI agents on February 6, 1948 and as Sinatra admitted in private testimony to the Kefauver Committee on March 1,1951. Sinatra sang at the wedding of Morettis daughter, an incident memorialized in the scene with the singing actor Johnny Fontane in The Godfather.
Godfather author Mario Puzo reports that he had several unpleasant encounters with Sinatra over the Fontane character. The references to the character in the horses head scene in Godfather were evidently a dramatization combining a pair of less colorful alleged incidents involving Sinatras dealings with big band star Tommy Dorsey and Columbia Pictures President Harry Cohn.
Mortimers 1951 article reported Dorsey told him that when Sinatra wanted to get out of a contract with him, he was visited by three businesslike men, who told him out of the sides of their mouths to sign or else. Other sources have described Dorsey as denying this story. However Dorseys daughter Pat Hooker confirms that her father privately told her he received a phone call threatening their family if the Sinatra dispute was not resolved. Dorsey biographer Peter Levinson records that according to Willie Morettis friend Dan Lewis, when Lewis asked Moretti about the story, Moretti smiled and, in a rare departure from omerta, answered, 'Well, Dan, let's just say we took very good care of Sinatra.
The Cohn incident was reportedly similar. Harry Cohn had taken financial control of Columbia from his brother Jack in 1932 with the assistance of Al Capones Hollywood representative Johnny Rosselli, who secured a loan from bootlegger Abner Longy Zwillman. Later Rosselli was convicted of extorting money from Hollywood movie studios. He obtained a pardon from President Truman through the intervention of the Chicago Mafias political fixers with Attorney General Tom Clark (father of Ramsey Clark), but Cohn refused to assist his parole efforts by giving him a job with Columbia, saying that Columbias investors would complain. Stunned and angered, Rosselli swore revenge. He forced Cohn to give a contract to Marilyn Monroe, according to Cohn. However Cohn expected all his actresses to sleep with him, and when Monroe refused because she was in love with Sinatra, word of her defiance got out and Cohn fired her. Meanwhile Sinatra wanted a role in From Here to Eternity, which Cohn initially refused to give him. Sinatra later claimed he persuaded Cohn to change his mind by agreeing to a lowered salary. Other accounts describe Sinatra getting the role because the actor first under consideration for the part, Eli Wallach, was deemed too muscular-looking in comparison with his opponent in a fight scene, Ernest Borgnine. But according to Rosselli, after Cohn turned Sinatra down, Sinatra called Cohns Mafia friend Frank Entratta and asked him to intercede with Cohn, and when Cohn turned Entratta down as well, Entratta went to New York Mafia boss Frank Costello on Sinatras behalf, and Costello assigned Rosselli to make Cohn an offer he couldnt refuse. Cohn reportedly tried to threaten Rosselli back with his own underworld connections, saying, John, if we have a problem here, I'm going to have to make some phone calls, to which Rosselli replied, Harry, if we have a problem here, you're a [expletive deleted] dead man. Summers and Swanns Sinatra biography supports Rossellis account.
Sinatra repaid the mobs career assistance by doing favors in return. FBI informants identified Sinatra as a distributor for a Hollywood narcotics ring linked to Bugsy Siegel, Siegels Hollywood associate Allen Smiley (aka Aaron Smehoff), and Siegels actor friend George Raft. Comedian Jerry Lewis told Summers and Swann that he heard Sinatra volunteered to be a Mafia money courier shortly after the February 1946 deportation of Lucky Luciano, who controlled the Mafias international narcotics network. Sinatra sang at a party in Lucianos honor in Havana, Cuba on Christmas Eve, 1946, and again met Luciano in Havana in February 1947, travelling there with the Fischetti brothers. FBI files describe a photograph of Sinatra following the Fischettis off the plane after landing in Havana, and Mortimers article adds the detail that in the photograph Sinatra is lugging a heavy suitcase. Rocco Fischetti delivered $2 million in narcotics profits to Luciano at that time in the hand luggage of an entertainer, federal authorities reported. When Italian police searched Luciano in 1949, they found among his possessions a piece of paper with Sinatras unlisted phone number and a gold cigarette case with the inscription, To my dear pal Charlie, from his friend Frank. Sinatra would later admit meeting Luciano in Havana, but denied the $2 million delivery allegation.
In 1947 an FBI informant reported that Fischetti had bragged about his financial interest in Sinatra. Fischetti acted as an agent for Sinatra, requiring all bookings of Sinatra to be cleared with him, and Sinatra in turn performed at establishments where Fischetti had an interest and helped him set up a string of auto dealerships. Allegations about under-the-table payments in jewelry from Fischetti to Sinatra were made during a 1963 IRS investigation of Fischettis interests at Miamis Fontainebleau Hotel, but were not confirmed.
Fischettis Chicago associate Sam Giancana developed a close relationship with Sinatra. Giancana was the hidden owner of the World Wide Actors Agency, a talent booking agency which included Sinatra among its clients. In 1959 Sinatra admitted to IRS investigators that he had met Giancana at the Fontainebleau Hotel in March 1958. In June 1958 Customs officers searching Giancana and found Sinatras private phone number among his effects. FBI files are full of reports of Sinatra socializing with Giancana and giving performances for him between 1958 and 1963.
One FBI informant described Sinatra as having cultivated a relationship with Kennedy in-law Peter Lawford during the 1960 election campaign, when the Fischetti brothers and other underworld elements were working to secure the nomination of John Kennedy as the Democratic candidate, according to the informant, relying on information generated during a trip to Miami. According to a report from the Tampa FBI office, prior to the 1960 election Kennedys father Joseph made a deal with the Mafia wherein Lawford, Sinatra, and Dean Martin became front men for Mafia interests at the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. The allegation that Sinatra was a front man for Giancanas interests at the Cal-Neva was echoed by FBI informer Jimmy the Weasel Fratianno, who was pictured with Sinatra and members of the Gambino family in a 1976 photograph. Frattianos allegation was consistent with an FBI wiretap record of Giancana boasting to Rosselli about the Cal-Neva that ''I am going to get my money out of that joint and end up with half of it with no money.
Sinatras relationship with Giancana became an object of increased FBI interest after Sinatra introduced President John Kennedy to Giancanas girlfriend Judith Campbell, in what was apparently an attempt by Giancana and Rosselli to blackmail Kennedy. Giancana and Sinatra were also intimate with Marilyn Monroe at Cal-Neva the week before she died, according to Giancanas younger brother and to former Chicago FBI agent Bill Roemer, who was privy to electronic surveillance of Giancana and heard he and Rosselli discussing the incident.
In 1963 Sinatra became involved in a brawl in Giancanas Cal-Neva bungalow that was witnessed by undercover FBI agents, who informed the Nevada Gaming Commission. Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Ed Olson then began an investigation with the goal of revoking Sinatras gaming license. Despite Sinatras attempts to bribe and intimidate investigators and use his influence with President Kennedy to pressure Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer, the evidence against him proved overwhelming. Rather than facing legal scrutiny, he voluntarily relinquished his interests in the Cal-Neva, as well as the Sands (controlled by the New York and Chicago Mafia), and Desert Inn (controlled by Cleveland mobster Moe Dalitz). Sinatras attorney during the affair was Harry Claiborne, future law partner of mob lawyer Oscar Goodman, who would himself be investigated by the Justice Department in 1979 for allegedly channeling Mafia bribes to Nevada Gaming Commissioner Harry Reid. As a U.S. District Judge Claiborne would be impeached for bribery and income tax evasion, with Goodman defending him unsuccessfully.
Sinatra attempted to re-enter the Nevada casino business in 1976 by joining his lawyer Milton Rudin in purchasing 5% of the Del E. Webb Real Estate Corporation. However the Nevada Gaming Commission intervened, requiring that Sinatra and Rudin be licensed. Rudin was appointed to the board of Del Webb, but Sinatra avoided another encounter with law-enforcement authorities by withdrawing from Del Webb.
Then in 1977, Harry Reid became Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission.
In 1980 Sinatra forced Caesars Palace to list him as a key employee so he could apply for a new gaming license and get his previous revocation reversed. He reportedly paid $500,000 for an investigation of his past to clear himself. Precisely who he paid this $500,000 to is unclear.
Reids commission began a 13-month background investigation of Sinatra in early 1980, as meanwhile the Justice Department was rounding up an investigation into FBI informers allegations that Reid was himself a recipient of Mafia bribes. Reids investigation of Sinatra was conducted by Richard Bunker, Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commissions enforcement arm, the Gaming Control Board. Bunker told the press that the FBI had refused to turn over its files on Sinatra on the grounds that the board was not a legitimate police agency. However Nevada Governor Robert List was quoted as stating that the State of Nevada had obtained Sinatras files from the Justice Department, though he added he didnt believe the technical questions raised by the FBI will have any significant effect on the Sinatra investigation. Sinatra himself also obtained his own FBI files under the Freedom of Information Act and gave them to the Gaming Control Board.
Bunkers background investigation was followed up in early 1981 by testimony from Sinatra and various friendly witnesses, after a December 1980 private meeting where Governor List assured Sinatra and his lawyer Rudin that Sinatra would not be kicked around or mutilated and the hearing would not become a three-ring circus. During Sinatras testimony he lied repeatedly about his relationship with various Mafia figures.
Sinatra claimed that Willie Moretti was just a neighbor he knew only vaguely and asserted, Mr. Moretti had absolutely nothing to do with my career. This contradicted his own testimony to the Kefauver Committee, as well as Morettis own 1948 confession to FBI agents, along with the report of Hackensack, New Jersey Police Captain Matthew Donohue to the FBIs Newark field office that Moretti. . .has a financial interest in Frank Sinatra.
Questioned about his alleged $2 million payoff to Lucky Luciano, Sinatra replied Show me an attache case that can hold $2 million and you can have the $2 million. After hearing this, Norman Mailer decided to take Sinatra up on it and demonstrated to columnist William Safire that you can actually fit $2,012,000 in $100 bills into a 12 x 15 x 5 attache case. Safire proposed that he would publish Mailers demonstration if he could have half of the $2 million Sinatra owed them.
Sinatras answers to questions about his relationship to Sam Giancana at the Cal-Neva were equally inadequate. Sinatra told Reids commission that ''I never invited Mr. Giancana to Cal-Neva. . .I never hosted him, and I never saw him at Cal-Neva. He added that when he learned Giancana was at the Cal-Neva during the 1963 brawl incident, he immediately ordered hotel executives to ask him to leave. This stands in conflict with the fact that undercover FBI agents witnessed the brawl and gave a different account.
Perhaps the most absurd point in the hearing came when Sinatra was questioned about a 1976 photograph of himself standing amidst various members of the Gambino family and Jimmy Fratianno with his arms around his neighbor Tommy Marson and Gregory DePalma, both then under FBI surveillance in relation to a scam at the Gambino-controlled Westchester Premier Theater which involved skimming funds from Sinatras performances and paying Sinatra under the table. Asked to account for the photo, Sinatra gave a ludicrous explanation:
Mr. Gambino had arrived with his granddaughter, whose name happened to be Sinatra, a doctor in New York, not related at all, and theyd like to take a picture. I said, Fine. They came in and they took a picture of the little girl and before I realized what happened, there were approximately eight or nine men standing around me and several other snapshots were made.
Despite the patent farce of Sinatras testimony, Harry Reid claimed he found his defense convincing. The New York Times reported:
The commission chairman, Harry Reid, said that eight days ago he would have voted against Mr. Sinatra, but that after reading the results of the control board's 13-month investigation, ''I have to be very candid and honest in saying that I was totally wrong.''
Reids evaluation of Sinatras testimony did not seem candid or honest to critical observers. New York Times reporter Robert Lindsey commented,
All the old charges appeared to have been dispensed with. Yet, at least some observers said afterward that they felt there was less to the hearing than met the eye. Mr. Sinatra was treated with a kind of awe. He and his lawyer-manager, Milton Rudin, appeared to know many of the panel's questions in advance. Board investigators seemed to base many of their conclusions solely on the singer's own word; on some points, their fact-finding appeared to have been naively superficial. . . Several times, when asked a potentially embarrassing question, Mr. Sinatra said that his memory failed him; he also gave some puzzling replies. In answering a question about the incident that led to the loss of his gaming license in 1963, he firmly denied knowing that the late Sam Giancana, a Chicago mobster, had visited the Cal Neva Lodge in violation of state laws barring gangsters from casinos. But when asked if he had ever admitted knowing Mr. Giancana was there, he answered, ''I might have said almost anything; if I said it, I don't believe I meant it because I never saw him.''. . . Whatever Mr. Sinatra's relationships might have been with the underworld, no matter whether he had been treated unfairly by the press, as he claims, there appeared to be a desire at the hearing to reinstate him, if for no other reason than that he's good for business.
Lindseys colleague William Safire wrote,
At a hearing that gave Mr. Sinatra the forum to flay his detractors, two remarks were made that invite follow-up.
One was the observation by board member Jack Stratton that the reason Mr. Sinatra had lost his gambling license 17 years ago was that the singer had ''lost his cool'' in a telephone conversation with Ed Olsen, the veteran A.P. newsman who was then the gambling commission chairman.
Not disclosed at the 1981 hearing was Mr. Olsen's 1963 memorandum for the commission's file recounting that conversation, which was also monitored by two other Nevada officials. Since it shows a side of Mr. Sinatra not attested to by magazine-publisher friends as diverse as TV Guide's Walter Annenberg and The New Republic's Martin Peretz, a selection from the unpublished document follows:
''I added,'' wrote Chairman Olsen about the phone call from Sinatra, ''that I wasn't satisfied at this time that Sinatra himself had told us the truth. He said what about? I said he denied breaking up the fight involving Giancana, while another witness said otherwise. . .'' (The presence of mobster Sam Giancana as Sinatra's guest at the Cal-Neva Lodge was a reason for rescinding Sinatra's license.)
'''I'm never coming to see you again,' said Sinatra. I told him if I wanted to see him I would send him a subpoena. '''You just try and find me,' he said. 'And if you do, you can look for a big, fat surprise. . .a big, fat, (obscene gerund construed as an adjective) surprise. You remember that. Now listen to me, Ed. . .don't (obscene verb) with me. . .'
''The tone of his voice was menacing and I asked 'Are you threatening me?' He replied, 'No ...just don't (obscene verb) with me And you can tell that to your (obscene gerund) board and your (obscene gerund) commission, too.'
''I suggested it might be better for all concerned if he concentrated on his enterprises elsewhere and departed the Nevada gambling scene. He replied, 'I might just do that. . .and when I do, I'm going to tell the world what a bunch of (obscene gerund) idiots run things in this state.'''
Safire went on to walk through Mailers demonstration of how you can indeed fit $2 million into an attache case He further observed that despite Sinatras professed difficulties fitting money into a suitcase, he seemed to be able to perform the even more remarkable feat of squeezing a number of publishers, politicians, and gaming control commissioners into his hip pocket.
Safires perception that Reid was in Sinatras pocket was echoed by the Special Agent in Charge of the Las Vegas FBI office at the time, Joseph Yablonsky, who recounted Reids role in scathing terms:
Harry Reid is a mealy-mouth, and he was in their pocket just like the rest of them. Of course, there's certain things I know I can't speak about because of Privacy Act considerations. But he's a worm. . .all you've got to do is read the poem he read when they had that phony Sinatra licensing. . .After this ridiculous hearing, when Sinatra went up for licensing--[in a hearing] which had no adversary witnesses--McNeil-Lehrer played a half-hour of it on their program without even making a comment, it was so obvious. And when it came up to the Gaming Commission, which you know is [the top tier of] a two-tiered system, Reid was the chairman, and he read this kiss-*ss poem. He's a faker.
Since Reids commission awarded Sinatra gaming rights at Caesars Palace in 1981, Caesars Palace has donated at least $8,000 to Reid. Meanwhile in 1984 Sinatra began to play at the Golden Nugget, whose owner Steve Wynn was identified as a front man for New Yorks Genovese Mafia family in a 1983 Scotland Yard Report. Wynns MGM Mirage subsequently became Reids largest career patron, giving contributions totalling $158,450 between 1989 and 2005. Reid continued praising Sinatra up to the singers death in 1998, when the Senator eulogized , That was part of the lure of Sinatra, that he was a naughty boy. . . But inside was a soft, kind and charitable man.
One wonders how much of Sinatras charity went to Harry Reid.
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But, unlike how things are done in 49 other states, in Nevada, they actually get done.
It's a good thing Reid is a Democrat-a Republican couldn't survive with this kind of past.
Hary is a good family man...crime family man that is.
"That April Sinatra was arrested on charges of assaulting and battering a reporter..."
Damn, always did like his music, now I LIKE HIM EVEN MORE!!
To summarize, harry reid is a mobbed-up, bribe-taking crook. How about a little of that famous "investigative journalism", MSM?
ROFL! He's trying to live up to Don Corelone's injunction: "Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."
ROFL! I have to clean the coffee off my keyboard now. . . :-)
Good summary!--I would've saved myself a lot of time if I would've just said that :-)
The more I hear about Reid and his mob connections, the more I believe that he was the inspiration for the crooked Nevada senator in "Godfather II". (I wonder if he ever woke up with a bloody, dead, call-girl in his bed?)