I am requesting your help choosing which chapter to open Two Tonys’ book with. Two Tonys was a Mafia associate and mass murderer who protected me in prison. I have two possible openings. Opening one was well received by the Woking Writers Circle, but some of my associates there, including Richard Penny, asked me to write a second opening revolving around how Two Tonys got his name. Both openings are below. If you have the time to read them, your comments are much appreciated.
Decades before facing the death penalty, I was raised in the smoky, shadowy, shade of the Chrysler plant on the east side of Detroit – the industrial capital of the world – strictly bona fide blue-collar territory, with plant whistles blowing and all that shit. My earliest memory is of soldiers returning from World War II. Germany and Japan were in ruins. Even England was bombed out.
Our neighbourhood was Irish and Italian. Detroit was booming, really jumping, a lot of people were making money. Malls didn’t exist. If you wanted to eat out, you went up Jefferson Avenue – six lanes wide with street cars that looked like little trains running down the middle – and stopped in one of the greasy spoons, little bullshit restaurants here and there. No Denny’s. No International House Of Pancakes. No fucking chain corporations.
Back in those days, my Italian mother stayed at home and my Irish father was an industrial serf, an assembly line worker for Chrysler for twenty-five years. God bless him. Out of my two sisters, the one who’s sixteen years older than me got married early. The one thirteen years older – who I shared a back bedroom with – married when I was ten. We lived downstairs in a two-story house. Other people lived upstairs. The houses in my neighbourhood were so close, I could take my hands and press them against the opposite walls. A sheeny man would come around and blow his horn to see if we had any rags or stuff to sell. We’d hang out on the back of his wagon. He’d yell at us and run us off.
As a paperboy, selling the Detroit Free Press at night, I saw a lot of fights in the bars, especially among the drunken servicemen who’d come home. It was normal to see violence as I delivered the papers. I also worked as a shoeshine boy, and a stock boy for Vasily – Greek for Bill – and his partner, Socrates. Just about every fucking corner in our neighbourhood had a Greek market on it. As a stock boy, I put soda bottles on shelves and stuff like that. Vasily gave me a few dollars, but I was always a hustler.
Across the street from me on Kitty Corner was Honky John, an old man who sat on his front porch all day, retired. A lot of guys hung out there who were sort of thuggish: Jimmy Damasco, Billy Fox, the DeMarco Brothers, Cato Pasco. They weren’t mobsters, just thugs in their early twenties. Only twelve, I could go over there and get in. I couldn’t join the conversation, but I’d get to listen. Billy Fox lived up the street from me. I’d see him washing his cars, and I’d help him. I started developing awe for guys like that, tough guys, thugs, when I should have been looking at my dad as a role model or people working at the Chrysler plant who paid their bills and didn’t go to bars and get drunk all of the time. Instead, I admired those motherfuckers, those pieces of shit who wanted to go out and beat people up. I started knowing those guys, and they started knowing me.
My fondness for that element of person in my preteen years was the beginning of the development into what I became: homicidal. Just like they wrote in my presentence report: I have a propensity for violence. Even now I walk around prison all day – where I’m serving 125 years – and look at motherfuckers who I’d like to take a lead pipe to, and bust them across the nose with and knock their teeth out. But what stops me is I’m too old and liable to get my ass whupped, and I don’t want to go back to the conditions in the hole – a dungeon where they throw you for breaking the rules – where I’ve already served enough time. The act of violence does something inside of me. It makes me feel good. Looking back on things – I’m no psychologist or nothing – but there’s a time in a kid’s life when you shouldn’t whip him even though your intentions might be good, and you might think that you’re helping him. I ask myself the question sometimes: what the fuck makes me like this? The bottom line is as a little kid I got whipped a lot by my parents. I don’t know why they whipped me. It would start with me sassing my mom, talking shit, nothing heavy, just kid shit. My mother and father would take me into the basement. She’d whip me with an ironing chord. There was a rack with towels on it, and I’d grab the rack. I can still visualise her whipping me. The whip would go crack-crack-crack as she hit me until I shut the fuck up. I was thinking, I’m gonna kill you someday. I’m going to get a shotgun and blow your fucking head off. My dad whipped me with his belt even though I never sassed him. My mother stuck a big ol’ two-pronged turkey fork in my neck one time, and said, “I’ll kill you.” You don’t think that had an effect on me? I was just a little guy. I take full responsibility for whacking motherfuckers who had it coming, but the point I’m making is that a combination of the neighbourhood, the neighbourhood brawls, it being such a violent time in society, and the whippings, fuck yeah, I turned into a violent motherfucker. Even now in my old age, I feel it. When I first arrived at one prison, I cut a motherfucker’s finger off. There’s a Catholic priest in here convicted of sex offences. I’d like to grab a rock, cave his head in, go back to my house and eat a soup. That’s who I am, but I’m trying to change. That’s what Mafia bosses look for: guys like me who’ve been kicked around a bit.
As water seeks its own level, the kids I hung out with in Detroit were just like me, baby thugs running around with greased-back hair. A guy, Jerry LaFrance, approached me and my friends and said he needed a favour. There was a shop with a scab barber cutting hair for less than a dollar a head, and Jerry contracted us to go there with fucking rocks, throw them through the windows, and try and hit the mirrors, which we did. And what did we get for that? We all went bowling.
Each neighbourhood had a guy you went to if you had problems with someone. The guy was associated with the Mafia, which was set up for the benefit of the top guy, the apex, and there were multiple levels right down to us teenage kids. The top echelon were the made guys and bosses. Then there were associates. There were also wannabes and hangers-on – the type of motherfucker who didn’t have the heart or balls to be used for anything heavy or half-ass light. The ones with the nuts had to take a few risks every now and then as they were always trying to get a pat on the head or an attaboy from the higher ups.
In the fifties, when I was sixteen, I frequented Richard’s Drive-In restaurant. In those days, you’d go around in your car, three or four of you, and drive in the drive through all night long. It didn’t stop. That was the craze. One time, we saw some friends fighting some guys, so we jumped out of our car, and got into it, fighting in the middle of the drive-in. I had a little knife. A guy bigger than me came at me, so I took my knife out and stabbed him in the belly a couple of times, but not real deep because the blade wasn’t that long. We got away, but one of our friends got caught. He told me, “The cops want to talk to you about that stabbing,” so I went down there with my brother-in-law, Harper Woods, a cop out of Detroit. He talked to the cops and a judge he knew. He told the judge I was going to join the military. The judge said he would give me a break if I joined the service, so I signed up for the Navy at only sixteen.
At seventeen, I left home for the navy. I got in a lot of fights, especially bar fights, and – this part I’m not proud of but I’m going to tell you anyway – I developed a penchant for stealing. I stole a Navy car in Okinawa, and headed for a whorehouse, drunk. I rolled the motherfucker end over end three times, and put my buddy from Eureka, California in hospital. I was OK. I walked away from the motherfucker, not a mark on me. At a special court martial, I was sentenced to 180 days hard labour in the brig, and a fine of $160. I was a two striper, and they busted me down to one stripe, but everything had to approved by the captain of the ship. He cut everything in half, so I got 90 days, a fine of $80, and I kept my two stripes. I was told not to go ashore until we got to the continental limits of the United States.
In the Philippines, our ship, the USS Vesuvius, a big grey ammunition ship, had a change of command. The new captain declared an amnesty on the four or five of us who couldn’t go ashore. What do you think I did? I went ashore that night. My first time out in two months, I got drunk, shacked up with a hooker, and stayed gone for four fucking days even though I was supposed to have been back at midnight on the first night. I ran out of money, but my buddies came off the ship. We went drinking, and to a whorehouse. I eventually got tired. I’d run out of gas. I had no money, and the hooker was looking at me funny, so I decided to go back aboard. My boat pulled up to the USS Vesuvius, and I went up the gangway.
At the end of the gangway was the XO, executive officer, second in command, a strapping redhead with a severe face. “What did you do, get hungry?”
Staring at him, I said, “What’s for supper?”
I had to go to a captain’s mast, a disciplinary hearing with the captain as the judge. He gave me more hard labour, and I couldn’t go ashore until the continental limits of the United States. I had to report to a master-at-arms, a ship cop who arranged hours of extra work for me, which could be at any time of the day or night. People were going to watch a movie, and he’d be sending me to work. Next I got a summary court martial for sleeping on watch. I’d hit the duty station, and fall asleep. My stealing got worse. I wasn’t by myself: two or three of us were doing it. My fighting got worse. I’d go ashore, and get into it with guys from other ships, and have fights on-board.
In the navy, I lived on the USS Vesuvius for three years, seven months, and ten days. Vesuvius is the volcano that destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae in the year 79 AD. They found bodies of motherfuckers sat at tables and lying in bed who’d died quickly ’cause a pyroclastic cloud had swarmed their lungs. There’s something to be said for living dangerously. And I’m not knocking employees of Wal-Mart, Sears or KFC. It’s not easy going into a heavily armed hotel room at two in the morning and blowing a guy’s face off, but it gives you a feeling of living on the edge. Look at footballer, Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinal, an NFL player, a college grad. He gave up a multi-million-dollar contract to join the army, went to Afghanistan to fight the Mujahedeen, and got his ass blown off by friendly fire. Some say it was patriotism, but I say it was for fucking excitement.
I got an honourable discharge from the Navy on 5th March 1958. Towards the end of my time in the Navy, I was thinking, What are you gonna do back in Detroit?
At the foot of our street was the Harbor Bar built on old pilings. I was twenty one, just out of the Navy, when I went there with three friends. After talking drunken shit, we got into it with five guys bigger than us. Me and my friend, Bobby, flat put it on those motherfuckers, and fought until the end. We had that Irish in us – know what I mean? – and I had my Italian slyness. I slipped out before the cops arrived. I was in the back of a convertible when we hit a roadblock. The cops walked up to the car, and did a knuckle check. My knuckles were bloody, so they took me to the jailhouse. What did I do? I dropped my cop brother-in-law’s name. They talked to him on the phone – he knew them all – and they let me go. The cops told me that the customers watching the fight were in awe of Bobby and me. After that fight, I knew in my heart and soul that I’d end up making a career from doing the violent shit I did. It was my destiny.
I came to Tucson in 1963 with fellas from Detroit, but they drifted back, leaving me scratching shit with the chickens. So, with my credentials as an associate of the Licavoli crime family, I started putting work in with the Bonannos. Nothing heavy. Just fucking up a few guys here and there. Busting up a few pool tables. Doing a couple of bombings.
That same year I was introduced to Charlie “Batts” Battaglia, who was running Tucson Vending Company for the Bonannos. Being a young guy, I was in awe of Batts, a lieutenant in the Bonanno crime family. He was the epitome of a gangster with his hair slicked back, wearing dress slacks, alligator shoes and pinkie rings, and chomping on an Antonio and Cleopatra cigar. If I’m Francis Ford Coppola, and I’m making a gangster movie, I want a guy like Batts in it.
Batts had a few whacks to his name. Back in the fifties, him and Jimmy the Weasel, working for the Dragnas, clipped two thugs named Tony. Batts and the Weasel got in the back of a car, and shot the two Tonys, who were sat up front.
My partner, Sal Spinelli, told me that Batts wanted to meet us about whacking the prosecutor on his extortion case. Sal said he’d told Batts we’d do it, but Sal didn’t want to do it. He said it was up to me to get us out of it. Sal wanted to be a made man. He thought he was on his way, but his heart pumped Kool-Aid in tough situations.
We met Batts at the Hilton Coffee Shop. He looked at me, took his sunglasses off, and said, “I’ve got a guy in my way that I want out of my way. I want you to think about it, and I’m gonna ask you in a couple of days if you’ll do it.”
So far I hadn’t done any whacks. Two days later, I told Batts, “I don’t think I can do anything that heavy.”
“No problem,” Batts said. “It’s over. Forget about it.”
Now, let’s roll the clock forward to 1977. Batts had just done six years for extortion. I had a fresh whack. I’d earned my spurs. One of my partners, Freddie, owned The Sahara Hotel in Tucson, where I was living in a suite with carte blanche on drinks. Me and Freddie were drinking and doing cocaine every night. Life was good. I was wearing a Rolex and chains. I had pockets full of C-notes. I was driving my Eldorado. I wasn’t the kid Batts had tried to recruit over ten years ago. I was a formidable person.
Batts – using the same routine – set up a meeting with me and Sal at 8 AM at the Village Inn. He kept throwing out the name Lilo, who was Carmine Galante, a mobster involved in over eighty murders. I realised Batts was full of shit. He was washed up. He had no power. So, at the Village Inn, I was as mad as hell. I’d been up all night, hustling, fucking with broads. I was so high on coke, my nostrils looked like fucking rims on margarita glasses. And I had this fat greaseball motherfucker – who had no troops – acting the part, when he’d shrunk down to scuzz. I was getting more and more pissed off at him. He was trying to get me and Sal to jam some guy named Domenic, and throwing out Lilo’s name.
It was Sunday morning, so the Village Inn was full of church-going motherfuckers. The Batts – the loud talking motherfucker – started on about my business partner, Freddie. He said, “Fuck Freddie. I’ll grab his ass and shake him down.” Strapped with a .38 in a Velcro holster on my ankle, I was ready to turn the table over and whack the motherfucker if he’d pushed the envelope any further.
Slowly, I took my glasses off. “Look at me. Look at my fucking eyes. Let me tell you something right now. If you or anyone else makes a move on Freddie, I’m gonna take it as a personal attack on me.”
I could tell by his eyes that he thought I was an umbatz – a crazy. He backed way down, and started talking about us starting our own group with Lilo’s approval. He knew we knew he was a nobody, and the tables had turned.
Then, after the meeting, Sal said to me, “At the Village Inn, when you got in that motherfucker’s face, I could feel the spirits of those Two Tonys at the table.”
That’s how I came by the nickname Two Tonys.
Some vintage Two Tonys blogs:
Solving the Murder of Joe Hootner
On Jesus Christ
On Friedrich Nietzsche
Literature and Schlongs
Solving the Murder of Joe Hootner
On Jesus Christ
On Friedrich Nietzsche
Literature and Schlongs
Click here for descriptions of all of the prisoners I write about at Jon’s Jail Journal ranging from Mafia hit men to giant transsexuals.