Lucky Luciano made the modern mafia. In 1931 he cut New York into five slices and served the rackets up in a form that still exists today. He had his fingers in every slice of the metaphoric mince meat pie that was America in the first half of the twentieth century, and then spent his remaining years ruling the underworld from afar. In the history of organized crime, there has never been a more powerful boss, and unless there is a drastic change in American law enforcement, no one person will ever be able to consolidate so much criminal power again. In 20 years, with the help of the 18th amendment, Charles Luciano went from being an average pimp to a God amongst thugs. With the help of a number of other famous gangsters, Lucky built a single, business-like crime syndicate with a board of directors and a directed sense of purpose. It would come to rule the entire United States, and eventually, a good portion of the world.
From Humble Beginnings
Born in italy in 1896 as Salvatore Lucania, Lucky Luciano eventually changed his name to spare his family the embarrassment of reading about him in the newspapers. As a kid, he was a thug; he dealt drugs, sold women, and stole anything he could. He was constantly picked up by New York police, who typically smacked him around and dropped him back on the streets due to his age. Junkies everywhere, take note: Charlie "Lucky" Luciano created the modern heroin trade. Thanks Chuck! In 1915, at the tender age of 19, Luciano was first arrested for dealing heroin on the streets of New York. Upon release, he broke his sales ring into a tiered affair, with thugs standing on street corners dealing out the dope while he stayed upstairs with the women. He was probably one of the first gangsters to use it in his pimping operations to help keep the girls loyal.
In 1920, Luciano joined Joe Masseria's gang and helped run booze, manage prostitutes, and traffic horse for the Sicilian mafia. Masseria trusted Luciano, who was a great and reliable earner. He eventually became Masseria's right hand man, making him one of the most powerful gangsters in New York.
Somewhere in the 20's, Lucky met Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. This three-way introduction is one of the classic underworld myths, and many versions of the story exist. One alleges that Lansky was a heroin addict at the time. Others describe awkward scenes featuring screaming hookers, naked Jews, and Lucky the belt wielding pimp. And still others describe Lansky whacking Luciano upside the head with a plumbers wrench to defend a crying Bugsy. No matter how it went down, the event served as a symbolic destruction of the old racial walls that existed in the New York underground. Previously, Italian and Jewish gangs tended not to associate on the street, but Lucky would be one of the first to cross the cultural lines and forge an alliance between the groups. Siegel, Lansky and Luciano would become the driving force behind the eventual formation of the National Crime Syndicate: Lucky was the heart of the syndicate, Lansky its brains, and Bugsy its fist.
Sicilian Neck Tie
In 1929, Masseria's gang became embroiled in a violent turf war with Salvatore Maranzano's mafia. Maranzano was a megalomaniacal don fixated on becoming the one and only ruler of New York. In October that same year, Luciano was on a dock at on the Hudson River inspecting a load of fresh chiba that had just arrived. Four of Maranzano's men rolled up in a car, grabbed Luciano and taped his mouth shut. They beat the shit out of him for an hour as they slowly drove towards Staten Island. Once there, they slit his throat and cheek, then dumped him in a ditch and left him for dead. Luciano lived through this attack, earning him the nickname "Lucky." Luciano saw the attack as a sign that the gang war had to end, and soon. He, along with Siegel and Lansky, went to see Maranzano. They struck a deal with Marazano to divide up Masseria's empire: Marazano...
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