STEFANO “The Undertaker” MAGADDINO, ruthless boss of the Buffalo, N.Y. mob, was an original member of his cousin’s gang, Joseph “Joe Bananas” Bonanno – once the most powerful crime family in New York City. He was also a charter member of Charles “Lucky” Luciano’s American Mafia ruling council, simply known as “The Commission.” Magaddino came to Toronto in the mid-1950s to offer Toronto mobster Roy Pasquale a very lucrative deal….
ROY PASQUALE was as hard as nails and the king of loan-sharking and illicit gambling in Toronto and Southern Ontario. It was no dice for dice, cards, slot machines – or any other form of gambling without Roy's go-ahead. He was also Anthony Carr's Godfather – and had a “thing” for his mother, Josephine, since the days they grew up together in the same neighborhood. But she was always faithful to Anthony’s father, Tony Carr, Sr, who wasn’t always quite so faithful himself. When Roy turned down the Buffalo Don's offer, Maggadino immediately went and made the same proposition to Johnny “Pops” Papalia, Godfather of the Hamilton-Niagara Falls region, who quickly accepted. Roy died in an awful domestic dispute in 1983 in the little resort town of Keswick, 40 miles north of Toronto, where he fatally shot his estranged young wife and then turned the gun on himself! Anthony showed up at the site less than an hour later, due to a premonition. The mob called it: Divorce, Italian Style! Anthony would always say: "No doubt he had his “peccadillos”, but I loved him anyway."
JOHNNY “POPS” PAPALIA, “The Enforcer!” Although not physically strong and tough like Roy Pasquale, he was nonetheless a very serious force to be reckoned with. One of the major crime figures in Toronto and southern Ontario – and indeed around the world, along with the Volpes, Pasquale, the Roccos and Commissos – he was the main co-conspirator of The French Connection, at that time the world's most successful and lucrative international dope smuggling ring. Papalia also had a “thing” for skinny little, twiggy-like redheaded women, and so he followed Anthony Carr’s band around southern Ontario for a while because the band's singer just happened to be… a skinny little, twiggy-like redhead by the name of Sharon Rusu. Papalia was gunned down in Hamilton, Ont., outside of Toronto, on May 31, 1997. This is the accepted method by which mobsters retire their CEOs!
BENJAMIN “BUGSY” SIEGEL belonged to the “Lucky” Luciano / Myer Lansky New York gang and was gunned down in Hollywood, CA in 1947. He was friends with Tony Carr, Sr. and tough guy movie star George Raft, who was even tougher off screen than on.
TONY CARR, SR. (CARINO) wore two hats: one for show business, where he was always introduced as Capt. Tony Carr, the renowned high-platform diver, with the then two other giant North American circuses: Conklin-American Shows, and the other for “street” business, where he worked with Roy Pasquale as a “strong arm.” Anthony's father was born in Amalfi, Italy, just outside Naples. Both Carr and actor George Raft (Raftino) had blood ties to Naples. The illegitimate son of an Italian Count and a peasant servant girl who worked in his house – that happened a lot in those days – the baby boy was put in an orphanage where he was supported financially by the Count (who, of course, was already married) until he was adopted at the age of two. He was brought to Canada around 1910, but his adopted family eventually returned to Italy a few years later, leaving the boy behind to more or less fend for himself. Slipping into the U.S. as a teenager, he ran for a while with the Capone gang before returning to Toronto where he eventually joined Conklin/American Shows as a high-platform diver, a little trick he picked up in Naples, diving from high cliffs for pennies thrown by tourists on cruise ships. Handsome and well-built, he became a golden gloves boxer and George Raft invited him to Hollywood where he worked as a stuntman throughout the 1930s and '40s. They had first met at the Pantages theatre, in Toronto, where Raft was on a North American tour with the original Scarface movie, which instantly made Raft a star, along with Paul Muni. He also hung out with movie star tough guy, on screen – as well as off – George Raft, and the infamous Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel.
Tony Sr. took part in the now legendary Toronto Christie Pits anti-Semitic Nazi-fuelled race riots of 1933, which involved 10,000 men and became known simply as The Christie Pits Riots! He fought on the side of the Jews against the official card-carrying anti-Semitic Nazi Party members of the Toronto Balmy Beach Club, and for his troubles took a hammer blow to the head to the tune of 100 stitches, blows intended for boxing bantamweight Champion Norman “Baby Yak” Yakubovitch and Canadian welterweight champion, Sammy Luftspring. Tony went unconscious – but not before jumping up and biting the guy's ear clean off!
“Tony sometimes used his influence to encourage guys to pay off their gambling debts to Roy Pasquale as-soon-as possible!,” according to late legendary Toronto Sun columnist, Paul Rimstead, who often wrote about Roy Pasquale. Whenever Roy and Tony walked into a bar or a lounge together, you could almost taste the fear in everyone's face! Tony Carr, Sr. died Dec. 6, 1964 on Anthony’s birthday. And on that day he had to take up a collection to bury him. Donations came from both the Italians and the tough Jews he fought alongside with in the Christie Pits Riots. All the rounders were present at the funeral: the Volpes, Papalia, Baby Yak, Sammy Luftspring, Roy Pasquale, et al – including an assortment of women.
“…But you sure find out fast who your friends are when you need money to bury your father….”
JOE KING, (Grupstein) supreme entertainer and consummate sax player who nightly held court at the old Brown Derby, on Toronto's notorious Yonge St. Strip, was also one of the earliest Toronto groups to play Las Vegas at the famous Fremont Hotel. According to Joe: “Tony Carr saved my bacon many times. He was the toughest man I ever knew, and he always stuck up for the underdog. People would be afraid to say anything bad about him for a hundred miles around, for fear it might get back to him!”
LOUIS JANNETTA, impresario and author of King of the Maitre D's – was Maitre d’ for 50 years at the famous Imperial Room in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel, it was then the Hollywood North hotspot for the biggest names in showbiz! According to Louis: “…No doubt Tony Carr absolutely was the toughest man in Toronto!”
PAUL VOLPE, notorious Toronto racketeer, was one of the main architects of the now infamous French Connection, along with Johnny “Pops” Papalia, Alberto Agueci and Joseph Valchi (The Valachi Papers, starring Charles Bronson). He was one of seven brothers – all bald! – who ruthlessly ran many of the illicit businesses in Toronto and southern Ontario. As a teenager, Anthony Carr was introduced to all of them – simultaneously! – by his father, Tony Sr., at one of the many “fronts” owned by the Volpes, a car wash on Elm Street. Anthony says: “One day they all walked in, single file, and sat down on a bench alongside the wall, opposite the long window through which people stood to watch their cars get washed and dried as the vehicles moved along a conveyor belt. And then – as if on cue – they all removed their fedoras at the same moment to reveal seven bald pates! They reminded me of Snow White’s Seven Dwarfs, although I wouldn't dare say that aloud. Even at such a young age, I instinctively knew better.”
“When my Dad died, they all showed up at Rossar’s Funeral home, every last one of them, including Eugene and Paul Volpe, the more senior of the brothers. Paul came over to me and said: ‘…Listen, kid, we’re all just here for a short visit, any way you look at it…’ (I assumed he meant a short visit on Earth). Then he pressed some money in my hand to help pay for the funeral; which I did, and discovered (to my surprise) that I still had enough left over to pay off my first saxophone!…”
On Nov. 14, 1983 at Toronto Airport, Paul Volpe’s body was discovered inside the trunk of his wife’s BMW. Executed mafia-style, he had several small-calibre bullet holes (22s) at the back of his head. The case was never solved…. (Naturally.)
JOSEPH “JOE” VALACHI needs little introduction. His (criminal) life story was made into a major motion picture starring Charles Bronson. He was the first Mafioso to break the oath of Omerta (silence); the first to blow the whistle on organized crime, which is especially funny since gay-blade J. Edgar Hoover insisted there was no such thing as “organized crime.” Of course, old J. Edgar never did mention the fact that “The Boys” had all kinds of photos of the FBI head, all decked-out in full drag-queen regalia!
What is not so well-known is that Valachi hid out in Toronto on many occasions whenever the U.S. justice system was closing in on him. He stayed with Paul Volpe and hung out at Roy Pasquale's office where a very young Anthony Carr would often run to the store for cigarettes and booze for the gang just so he could sit by quietly and listen to their booze-fuelled murder stories! Joe Valachi, once or twice, went to visit Tony Sr. during his final physical ordeal at Toronto's Western Hospital on Bathurst Street. And Valachi himself died in prison several years after the United States Senate Committee Hearings on Organized Crime, headed by then Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (JKF’s kid brother), who listened to him describe in detail the machinations of La Cosa Nostra.
ALBERTO AGUECI was the main nexus for the French Connection, the biggest and most lucrative drug-smuggling operation in the world at the time, during the 1970s. Along with Papalia, Valachi and the Volpes, Anthony Carr would often see them – sometimes collectively, sometimes singly – over at Roy Pasquale’s office, at the corner of Manning Avenue and Dupont Street, where Roy ran a carpet installation business as a front.
Anthony continues: “Actually it really was a legal business in that he did install carpet, but in reality the joint was a meeting place for planning jobs, making deals, drinking, partying, gambling… kind of a boys only club except for all the party broads continually coming and going. They would often send me out to the liquor store to replenish their depleting liquid lunches, and I would quickly rush there and back – (because I didn't wanna miss anything!) – to find them all sitting in a huddle, on couches and easy chairs – half in the bag – talking about planting a bomb under this or that guy's car hood, for real or imagined ‘slights’ or insults! Usually it was about one of their wives or girlfriends, suspecting she – or they – might be having an extra-curricular affair, or some such thing.
“Now, Alberto Agueci seemed to me like a very easy-going, nice guy. Yet whenever we shook hands, I couldn’t help but notice he had one of those limp-wrist handshakes….
“Because he allegedly offended the Buffalo Godfather, Alberto died a most horrific death: tortured, beaten, burned and hacked to death beyond all recognition! What was left of him after animals had feasted on his charred remains was discovered in a field in Penfield, New-York. I think he may have said something to annoy Mr. Magaddino….”
ALVIN “OLD CREEPY” KARPIS was a Canadian who became America's Public Enemy Number One on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List,” during the “Dirty 30s” Great Depression era. After they gunned down his friend and partner, John Dillinger, outside the Bijou Theatre in Chicago, Karpis became the de facto head of the notorious Ma Barker Gang, as well as Public Enemy Number One.
It is said he was the most successful bank robber and kidnapper of that era because he always planned every job right down to the last detail, spraying machine gun bullets at anyone or anything that got in his way. How many cops and bank guards he shot and killed no one knows for sure. When Karpis was released from jail after serving 33 years on The Rock (Alcatraz), the record for any convict doing time in that place – including the infamous Bird Man of Alcatraz – he was immediately deported back to his native Canada, the origin of his birth being the only thing that saved him from the hangman’s noose.
While on tour across Canada promoting his second book, On The Rock (his first book was Public Enemy No. 1), Karpis happened across psychic palmist Anthony Carr in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the seer was working on a psychic show aptly named Beyond Reason, created by parapsychologist, Astrologer and Author of 15 books on the subject, Allen Spraggett. Karpis was to be questioned on the show and Anthony had to take his palm prints. The two hit it off immediately and, since both were staying at the same hotel, proceeded straight to the bar where they quickly got plastered! Staggering up to Karpis’ suite with a couple of bottles of scotch, the truth of the adage “In vino, veritas (In wine, truth)” was given full rein and proved never more true!
Carr states: “…Karpis reminded me of someone’s grandfather in his dotage. It was difficult to imagine that this gentle-looking elderly soul was once America’s notorious Public Enemy No. 1; what with his suspenders over a clean white shirt, gray hair cut short on top – crew cut style – and sporting wire-framed granny glasses over which he would peer as he talked, he looked the picture of docility – that is, until he began telling me stories:
“ ‘Regarding Ma Barker,’ said Karpis: ‘Hoover had to justify gunning down a helpless old woman, so he invented this story about her being a machine gun-toting gangster moll! Nothing could be further from the truth. She was just an ordinary mother to her boys – and to me! She knew nothing about our bank jobs – or our plans – and we always kept her in the dark! All she ever did was cook and clean for us. I mean… she knew we weren't angels, but she knew nothing specific about what we were up to. That bastard, Hoover! She never even held a gun, ever – much less shoot it out with FBI agents! And as far as Hoover arresting me personally – that's just pure horse shit! Twenty, maybe fifty FBI agents caught me coming out of my hotel and surrounded me – Ha! They didn’t even have handcuffs with them – they had to use my own necktie to tie my hands! When I was secure, they turned toward a limo sitting half a block away, and yelled: “Okay, Mr. Hoover, he's secure – you can come out now!” ’
“…Well, Mr. Karpis, if you're as innocent of committing all those crimes you say you didn’t do,” Anthony continued, “how is it they were chasing you all over the Midwest?”
‘Yeah, I don't understand that, either. I never did anything to them!’ …his eyes twinkled.
“I thought Alvin Karpis was a very intelligent man with a quick wit and a great sense of humor, perhaps like most sociopaths. Or maybe it's just the Law of the Jungle: dog eat dog….”
Two weeks after his book tour Karpis returned to Spain, where he had chosen to live, preferring the warm climate to the harsh Canadian winters. He was found dead one morning of an apparent heart attack. Speculations abound: Some say it was a case of mixing booze with pills (and he certainly could drink, as Anthony can attest to). Others say his former cohorts in crime objected to his spilling the beans about certain individuals, in his book. One thing is certain: On the night prior to his death, he had had a huge fight with his then girlfriend, allegedly something to do with a younger man. (It's the same old story. Karpis preferred women about 20 years his junior. Although he was 67 at the time, there certainly was no shortage of female companionship.) No one really knows for sure what happened, except perhaps one person: The Shadow: “…Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men… the shadow does – BWAAA-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!!!”
“These guys were a law unto themselves. When they were around I felt safe and secure. In my time I have experienced many ups and downs and have gotten myself into some pretty serious jackpots. Often there was no one to turn to, except them. Many times when I was threatened, bullied or beaten – or just needed advice – “they” were always there…. Occasionally I would contact the police for help, but to no avail; or my legit or “square” friends, but they were always too gutless of everything to be of much help…. “Don't want to get involved,” was their usual mantra, just a euphemism for no guts. Only guys like Roy Pasquale, Tony Carr and the others – only they could put an end to my suffering – and often did. They're all gone now, but while they ruled you would never see rapists, elderly-bashing or child molesters in their neighborhoods, that's certain, for surely there would be no necessity of a court trial because these perverts would suddenly disappear from this world and end up in a can of dog food somewhere. And if you don't believe they mostly contributed to the well-being of the local community, then go and take a solitary walk around your own neighborhood tonight, or even during the day, see if you truly feel safe. These guys were solid, and I miss them….