I was listening to this Fresh Air interview with the son of mobster Frank Calabrese. The interview was from 2011 but Frank Sr. apparently just died on Christmas, so they re-broadcast it. It’s pretty good stuff; there are details about loan sharking and killing a guy who is wily, etc. The mob movies are always fun to watch, but I like to actually hear accounts from real mobsters about how that world works. Here’s a taste where it differs from the stereotype:
JR.: OK. In Chicago, we call it juice loans, and a juice loan is a high-interest loan that’s not through a bank or a credit card company. And you’d get it on the street, preferably from somebody like my dad or somebody from organized crime. In New York and some of the East Coast cities, they’d call it vig. So it’s just a term that we use for juice.
DAVIES: So who were your customers? Who would borrow from you?
JR.: You know, we had all kinds of customers. A lot of customers were degenerate gamblers that couldn’t pay after they gambled that week. So we’d put them on juice right away. Or they were businessmen that needed some quick cash and didn’t want to show it.
We used to have hundreds of guys on juice, some for as little as $100, some for as much as $100,000. And my father was – he taught me a lot of good stuff in that business because a lot of people would say: Well, if you don’t pay, you’re going to get your legs broken. And my father didn’t look at it like that.
What he looked at was if I break the guy’s leg, and it’s going to scare him, how is he going to pay? So he’d always figure out different ways and show us different ways to present to the juice loan customer if he couldn’t pay.
Say a guy had $1,000 and he was supposed to pay $50 a week, and he couldn’t, he couldn’t pay that $50 a week – and it was only interest. Well, what we would do is – my father would double the amount that he owes to $2,000, and he tells him: OK, you pay $10 a week, but you’ve got to pay every week, and that whole $10 comes off the $2,000. So he’d never try to back guys in a corner, if he could.
And then the stuff everyone wants to hear about:
DAVIES: You know, it’s – you’re probably a free man today because you never actually killed anybody, but there was this one occasion where it could have happened, John “Big Stoop” Fecarotta. Do I have the name right?
DAVIES: Yeah. Now, why was that different? What was your role there?
JR.: OK, I was – I had bought into everything at that point. And you know, I was ready to follow my father no matter what. Whatever he said, I would do. The problem was, John was an old-time gangster. And he was smart. He carried a gun on him all the time, and he could catch what we call plays. If somebody was up to something, he could catch on real quick.
And so while we were practicing and coming up with the way it was going to go, it was going to go – my father was playing John Fecarotta in our little role, and my uncle was sitting in the passenger seat. And then I would sit in the backseat, and then I would shoot John in the back of the head.
DAVIES: So they were setting this up so that you were going to actually shoot this guy, right?
But rather than read the transcript, if you are interested in this, I think you should listen to the interview. It gives you more insight to hear the guy actually talk.
I think libertarians tend to be “into” mob stuff, partly because the kind of person who studies the State with morbid fascination should also enjoy analyzing organized crime families. Here’s my review of Diego Gambetta’s economic analysis of the Sicilian mafia, which touches on Rothbard.