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Albert Anastasia
Born Umberto Anastasio
September 26, 1902(1902-09-26)
Tropea, Calabria, Italy
Died October 25, 1957 (aged 55)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Known for Murder, Inc.
Title Gambino Crime Family Boss
Predecessor Vincent Mangano
Successor Carlo Gambino
Parents Raffaelo Anastasio (1869-1920)
Louisa Nomina de Filippi (1885-c1925)
Relatives Anthony Anastasio (1906-1963), brother
Gerardo Anastasia, brother
Salvatore Anastasia (1919-1973), a brother

Albert Anastasia (born Umberto Anastasio, September 26, 1902 - October 25, 1957) was boss of what is now called the Gambino Crime Family, one of New York City's Five Families, from 1951-1957. He also ran a gang of contract killers called Murder Inc. which enforced the decisions of the Commission, the ruling council of the American Mafia.[1] He was sometimes referred to as the "Mad Hatter" or the "Lord High Executioner".


Early years

Anastasia had familial ties to a number of Mafia organizations. He was father-in-law to Dominick Cataldo and Joseph Cataldo and Anthony Scotto who was President of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA). Albert had one known son named Anthony Anastasio, named after his uncle born on December 21, 1928 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Born in Tropea, Calabria, Italy – one of nine brothers – (one brother, Anthony, also joined in a life of crime) Anastasia moved to New York City around 1919. He became active in Brooklyn's waterfront operations and rose to a position of authority in the longshoremen's union, the ILA. It was here that Anastasia first demonstrated his penchant for homicide at the slightest provocation, killing a fellow longshoreman in the early 1920s – an offense which led to an 18-month sentence at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Here he met Jimmy "The Shiv" Destefano, who at the time was in barber school; they instantly connected after becoming aware they traveled in the same circle of friends on the outside of the walls of Sing Sing. Jimmy "The Shiv" Destefano would, on his return to Sing Sing in 1927, be assigned as the barber in the Death House by Warden Lewis Lawes, giving 46 men and one woman their final hair cuts. Anastasia spent time on death row, but was released when he was given a new trial; this trial never came to pass, as the witnesses could not be found to testify against him - they just vanished, and Anastasia was released. Early in his organized crime career, Anastasia served in a gang led by Giuseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria. Anastasia was always a devoted follower of others, primarily Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Frank Costello and Jimmy "The Shiv" Destefano. Their devotion to Luciano knew no bounds.

Anastasia's rise to power

Loyalties during the Castellammarese War

In 1930, Luciano finalized his plans to take over the organized crime rackets in New York by destroying the two old-line Mafia factions headed by Masseria and Salvatore Maranzano. Luciano outlined his plot to Anastasia, who joined him and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel in the plot. Anastasia assured Luciano that he would kill everyone for Luciano to reach the top. Anastasia knew that if Luciano ran the National Crime Syndicate, he would eventually get a "piece of the action." Anastasia therefore participated in the four-man death squad that gunned down Masseria in Nuova Villa Tammaro, a Coney Island restaurant, on 15 April 1931.

With the subsequent murder of Salvatore Maranzano, Luciano became the preeminent mobster in America. To avoid the power struggles and turf disputes that led to the Castellammarese War, Luciano established the National Crime Syndicate (more familiarly known as the "Commission") consisting of the major family bosses from around the country and the so-called "five families" of New York. The Commission was meant to serve as a deliberative body to solve disputes, carve up and distribute territories, and regulate lucrative illegal activities such as racketeering, gambling, and bootlegging (which would come to a close with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933).

Murder, Incorporated

To reward Anastasia's loyalty, Luciano placed him and Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, the nation's leading labor racketeer, in control of the Commission's enforcement arm, The Boys From Brooklyn (now known as Murder, Incorporated). Murder, Inc., was a group of mainly Jewish killers that operated out of the back room of Midnight Rose's, a candy store in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. During its ten years of operation, it is estimated that Murder Inc. committed between 400 and 700 murders, many of which were never solved. Unlike Lepke and many other members of Murder, Inc., Anastasia was never prosecuted for any of these murders. It is doubted by some that he even was involved, since as the boss of a family, he had his own killers to use if needed. During this period, Anastasia's business card claimed that he was a "sales representative" for the Convertible Mattress Corporation in Brooklyn, New York.

Murder, Inc. maintained its power until the early 1940s. After his arrest, hit man Abe "Kid Twist" Reles made a deal granting him immunity from prosecution. Reles' testimony helped convict many of the group's hit men, including co-boss Buchalter. In retaliation, Anastasia promised a $100,000 reward for Reles' death. On 12 November 1941, on the eve of his testimony, Reles was killed by either being thrown from, or falling out of, a window from a room guarded by police at the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. Exactly how Reles died is one of the great unsolved mysteries of American crime.

World War II

In 1936, US Attorney Thomas Dewey convicted Luciano on a pandering charge. Some observers felt that the charges were depending too much on the testimony of prostitutes and minor criminals. Supposedly Luciano was so high in the mob structure that he would never have dealt with these people as they claimed. Luciano received a 30- to 50-year sentence. During World War II, Anastasia reportedly originated the plan to win a pardon for Luciano by helping the war effort.

With America needing allies in Sicily to advance the invasion of Italy, and the desire of the Navy to dedicate its resources to the war, Anastasia orchestrated a deal to obtain lighter treatment for Luciano while he was in prison, and after the war, a parole in exchange for the Mafia protecting the waterfront and Luciano's assistance with his associates in Sicily.


Anastasia's violent ways were contained as long as Luciano and Costello were in control. In 1951, Costello was regarded as being the prime mover in Anastasia's rise to boss of the Mangano (later Gambino) crime family.

Through the years, boss Vincent Mangano had fumed at Anastasia's closeness to Luciano, Costello, and others and that they obtained Anastasia's services without first seeking Mangano's permission. This and other business disputes almost led to blows between Mangano and Anastasia, and it was only a matter of time before one or the other was ordered killed. In early 1951, Vincent Mangano went missing, and his brother Phil was murdered. After the deaths of the Mangano brothers, Anastasia claimed control of the family with Costello's active support.

Executing the executioner

Vito Genovese cunningly used Anastasia's brutal behavior against him in an effort to woo Anastasia's supporters away. Secretly over the next few years, Genovese won the cooperation of Anastasia's underboss, Carlo Gambino. However, Genovese dared not move against Anastasia and his real target, Costello, because of Meyer Lansky, an influential and rich mob associate. Lansky and Genovese were long-standing enemies, with disputes dating from the 1920s. Genovese could not make a power play without Lansky's support.

Anastasia's ambition soon drove Lansky to help Genovese. During the 1950s, Lansky was extremely successful in controlling casino gambling in Cuba, offering other mafia bosses lesser shares of his profits and interests. When Anastasia forcefully demanded a larger piece of the action, Lansky refused. Anastasia then started establishing his own gambling racket in Cuba. Lansky became increasingly angry with Anastasia; while Lansky preferred watching Anastasia and Genovese battle each other from the sidelines, he now gave active support to Genovese's plan to kill Anastasia.

On the morning of October 25, 1957, Anastasia entered the barber shop of the Park Sheraton Hotel (now the Park Central Hotel, on 56th Street and 7th Avenue) in New York City. Anastasia's bodyguard parked the car in an underground garage and then, most conveniently, decided to take a little stroll. As Anastasia relaxed in the barber chair, two men – scarves covering their faces – rushed in, shoved the barber out of the way, and fired at Anastasia. After the first volley of bullets, Anastasia allegedly lunged at his killers. However, the stunned Anastasia had actually attacked the gunmen's reflections in the wall mirror of the barber shop. The gunmen continued firing and Albert Anastasia finally fell to the floor, dead.[2] The Anastasia murder remains officially unsolved. It is widely believed that the contract was given to Joe Profaci, who passed it on to "Crazy Joe" Gallo from Brooklyn, who then performed the hit with one of his brothers.

The double-dealing did not cease with Anastasia's death in 1957. Carlo Gambino secretly deserted Vito Genovese, passing along knowledge of Genovese's desires to "rub out" his rivals, Luciano and Costello. Thus, Meyer Lansky, Luciano, Costello and Gambino conspired to entrap Genovese with a narcotics conviction that would result in a sentence of life imprisonment. In that sense Anastasia was avenged, but it was not with the abrupt finality that the brutal executioner would likely have preferred.

Anastasia was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, in Section 39, Lot 38325. After his assassination, the barber chairs at the Park Sheraton Hotel were turned around to face away from the mirror. During the summer of 2006, the barber chair that Anastasia occupied at the time of his assassination was placed on display in Little Italy, NYC during a public exhibition on the history of Organized Crime. [3] For many years, evidently, the chair had resided in the private collection of comedian Henny Youngman.

Popular culture

  • Some elements of Anastasia's character and life story were included in the fictional character Johnny Friendly (played by actor Lee J. Cobb) in the classic 1954 American film On the Waterfront.[citation needed]
  • Mayra Montero's novel Son de Almendra (English Title: Dancing to "Almendra") is the product of an extensive investigation of Anastasia's murder at the Park Sheraton Hotel.[4]
  • In The Day of The Jackal, a 1973 novel by Frederick Forsyth, a detective considers Marco Vitellino, a fictitious bodyguard who was absent during Anastasia's assassination as one of several suspects who could be an assassin contracted to kill French President Charles de Gaulle. The bodyguard is ruled out because he doesn't fit the description of the assassin.
  • Def Jam Records recording artist Nas refers to himself as "The Rap Albert Anastasia" during the guest verse on the Remix for The Pledge, a 2003 song by former Def Jam artist Ja Rule.
  • The name "Murder, Inc." was later appropriated by a hip hop label run by producer Irv Gotti. In 2003, the label, whose best known artists include Ja Rule and Ashanti, changed its name to The Inc.
  • In the TV series The West Wing Season 4, Episode 10 "Holy Night," Jules Ziegler, the estranged father of White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler, visits Toby at the White House. Following a query from the Justice Department, Toby asks his father, a former member of Murder, Inc. when Albert Anastasia was killed. Jules answers, "October 1957," and tells his son, "You should know when Anastasia was killed." Toby retorts, "I know when Anastasia was killed!"
  • In the M*A*S*H episode "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," after an operation to fix his sight, a blinded Hawkeye feels around an empty chair by the door and jokingly says "Ah, Albert Anastasia's bodyguard." This is an anachronistic error, as the Korean War ended in 1953, four years before the Anastasia murder. (Correction: The episode is actually "Soldier of the Month" (Season 4). Hawkeye and BJ walk into the Post-Op ward and see the night-shift orderly asleep in a chair. Hawkeye turns to BJ and remarks "Used to be Albert Anastasia's doorman" while gesturing toward the sleeping orderly.)
  • In an episode of The Sopranos, Uncle Junior says that he wishes the mob were like they were in the fifties when it was peaceful. Tony replies by saying he remembered seeing the picture of Anastasia in a pool of blood on the barbershop floor.

External links


  1. ^ "Albert Anastasia Loses Citizenship.". New York Times. April 15, 1954, Thursday. "The citizenship of Albert Anastasia, reputed former head of Murder, Inc., in Brooklyn, was canceled today." 
  2. ^ "Anastasia Slain in a Hotel Here. Led Murder, Inc.". New York Times. October 26, 1957, Saturday. "Death took The Executioner yesterday. Umberto (called Albert) Anastasia, master killer for Murder, Inc., a homicidal gangster troop that plagued the city from 1931 to 1940, was murdered by two gunmen." 
  3. ^ The barber's chair in which Anastasia was attacked was auctioned off for $7,000.
  4. ^ Montero, Mayra (2007). Dancing to "Almendra": a Novel. New York: Picador. ISBN 9780312426736. 
Business positions
Preceded by
Steve Ferrigno
Gambino crime family

Succeeded by
Francesco "Frank" Scalise
Preceded by
Vincent Mangano
Gambino crime family

Succeeded by
Carlo Gambino

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