Al Capone’s business card claimed he was a used furniture dealer. He used the “I’m just a secondhand furniture salesman” line for years and finally had business cards printed up to hand out to police and investigators. For a used furniture salesman, he was doing pretty well - his annual income often exceeded $100 million. For that kind of money, I think I might go open an antique store...
Louie Bagels, AKA Louis Daidone, a member of the Lucchese crime family, apparently once spent his days kneading dough and filling vats of cream cheese at Bagels by the Bay in Howard Beach, Queens. As you can probably deduce, that’s how Louis got his mobster nickname.
You might remember Frank Sheeran from the Jimmy Hoffa saga - one of the many theories floating around is that Sheeran was used to get Hoffa in the car that would take him to his death. Hoffa and Sheeran were good friends and it’s widely believed that Hoffa wouldn’t have put himself in harm’s way without a trusted ally along for the ride. Before Sheeran was rubbing elbows with the likes of Hoffa, he was making money as a trucker. It didn’t take long for him to discover that he could be making a lot more money by committing some crimes along the way, including murder.
Albert Anastasia was a pretty bad dude. He ran a gang of contract killers called Murder Inc., and was once the boss of the Gambino family. But that’s not what his business card would have you believe. According to his card, Umberto Anastasio (his name at birth) was simply a lowly mattress salesman at Convertible Mattress Corporation in Brooklyn, New York. Something tells me he couldn’t have given you much advice on Serta vs. Sealy, though.
William Daddano, Sr., AKA Willie Potatoes, actually did have a legit company, not just a phony business card. By night, Daddano may have been a top enforcer with the Chicago Outfit. But by day, he was busy running the West Suburban Scavenger Service, a Chicagoland garbage collection company.
Harry J. “Doc” Sagansky could have made his mother proud - he actually had a degree in dentistry from Tufts University. He opened a practice in a liquor store in the pre-Prohibition days (liquor, dentistry... they go hand-in-hand, don’t you think?), which is where he got his feet wet in the life of illegal crime. It started with illegal gambling, which he used to fund a couple of nightclubs and a loan agency. He was quite successful and never had to return to dentistry as his day job, but he did continue making donations to Tufts and to Beth Israel Hospital for the rest of his life. In fact, he died at Beth Israel in 1997.
Bugsy Siegel, of course, was pretty instrumental in the development of Las Vegas as we know it today. First he bought the El Cortez on Fremont Street and ended up selling it for a profit of $166,000. Then he used that money to “convince” the owner of the Flamingo, which was in the planning stages, to accept new partners. He basically took a controlling stake and closely oversaw final stages of construction, even though he really had no idea what he was doing. He spent way too much money and got angry with his construction foreman, who was a little worried that his mobster boss was going to off him if things didn’t shape up. Reportedly, Siegel told him, “Don’t worry, we only kill each other.” I’m not sure I would be too reassured by that, really. The hotel opened on December 26, 1946, but Bugsy’s “legit” job didn’t last long - he was shot to death on June 20, 1947.
Apparently used furniture was an inside joke among mobsters, because it seems to be chosen as a “profession” more than any other, perhaps thanks to Al Capone. Joey “Doves” Aiuppa managed Taylor & Company, which was supposedly a furniture manufacturer, but was really just a front for a company that made illegal slot machines. “Doves” got his nickname because of all the things he could have been busted for over the years, the crime that landed him in jail was smuggling doves across state lines. It’s illegal to have more than 24 doves on your person outside of hunting season (who knew?), but in 1962, Aiuppa was caught by FBI agents with 563 frozen doves in his car and went to jail for three months.
Joseph Massino, who was once the head of the Bonanno crime family, was a restauranteur. He owned CasaBlanca Restaurant and catering in Queens (as well as several other eateries) We know for sure that he arranged for meetings at CasaBlanca, but Time magazine will only say that Massino allegedly ran an operation that included extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling, narcotics and murder from the kitschy restaurant.
And then there’s the Pizza Connection. It was a massive Mafia plot to sell and distribute heroin and the cover for the entire thing were a bunch of independently-owned pizza parlors. The main one was located in Queens and was called “Al Dentes.” It reminds me of Loverboy, that old Patrick Dempsey movie where women could order a gigolo by requesting “extra anchovies.” The case cost more than $50 million and made prosecution lawyer Rudy Giuliani a highly sought after attorney.