Long sooner than the murder, the ladies and a activity in “The Godfather,” Gianni Russo was a 13-year-old with a bum arm. Freshly sprung from Bellevue’s polio ward, he ditched his neglectful dad and mother to sleep on flour sacks in the back of a Little Italy bakery and promote pens in entrance of the Waldorf-Astoria.
It was 1956 and one amongst his frequent purchasers was mob boss Frank Costello. The don would throw Russo a fiver and rub the boy’s withered shoulder for luck.
After only a few months of that, Russo objected to being touched. Costello revered the kid’s gumption — and was rather more impressed when he stumbled on that Gianni’s great-uncle was Angelo Russo, a Sicilian kingpin who had been hanged by the Italian authorities in 1947 after having carried out a activity in establishing New York’s 5 crime households.
As chronicled in Russo’s new memoir, “Hollywood Godfather” (St. Martin’s Press), out March 12, Costello shortly had Russo delivering packages of cash all by way of Manhattan after which all through the United States. Costello put up his youthful price in a single amongst a dozen residences he saved throughout the metropolis. Russo not at all left and continues to reside freed from cost throughout the five-bedroom Upper East Side unfold.
“I’ve always had an angel on my shoulder,” Russo, now 76, suggested The Post over lunch at Patsy’s in Midtown. “I still carry the St. Anthony medal that my grandmother pinned to my diaper.”
Russo has liked a life that is half Scorsese attribute, half manifest future and half pores and pores and skin flick. He claims he had threesomes with Liza Minnelli after every took a liking to the similar Vegas showgirl, and remembers scrapes with Frank Sinatra. (“He tried to slap me; I grabbed his skinny wrist and said, ‘I’ll rip off your arm and shove it up your f–king ass.’ ”). Once, whereas watching a western with Elvis Presley, Russo took cowl as a result of the King mimicked the on-screen pistol play with precise weapons. Less dangerous was his weird date with Zsa Zsa Gabor; the night ended alongside along with her setting him up for intercourse with a blonde who, “on a scale of 1 to 10, was a 12.”
Then there are the 2 killings he owns as a lot as, nevertheless was not at all arrested for. One alleged sufferer was an affiliate of Colombian kingpin Pablo Escobar.
“Escobar wanted to murder my family in retribution; so I got John Gotti to set me up to meet with him in Colombia,” talked about Russo, acknowledging that he anticipated to take a beating or face dying to save lots of a lot of his family.
“Escobar’s guys tied me to a chair and roughed me up. Then Escobar walked in, carrying ‘The Making of the Godfather’ book. He said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me you played Carlo Rizzi?’ … He let me go in exchange for me re-enacting one of my scenes, with him playing Michael Corleone.”
(The Clark County, Nevada, prosecutor dominated the killing a justifiable homicide, and Russo, who was not charged, talked about it was in self-defense. He claimed that, as a pre-teen, he moreover murdered an individual who was preying on children, nevertheless Russo talked about he was not at all charged. There is not any recognized documentation of this.)
Russo added, “My life would make a great movie, but it is wilder than what anybody’s seen on screen.”
For event: “Marilyn [Monroe] was the best lover,” Russo recalled. “She just wanted to please you.”
He was 16, Russo talked about, when he struck up an affair with the actress, then 33. Costello had requested him to maintain watch over her for the mob, which stashed its favorite moll in New York City whereas settling an issue she had with producer Darryl Zanuck on the West Coast. Monroe and Russo observed one another, on and off, for 4 years.
He claims to know how she truly died. Russo confirmed The Post of himself and the actress in 1962, on the CalNeva Lodge, a resort on the California-Nevada border. “It was taken three days before she was found dead in Los Angeles of what coroners deemed to be a drug overdose,” Russo talked about. The man behind the digicam: Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana.
According to Russo, key members of the mob had convened at CalNeva in hopes of setting a lure for President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, then the US lawyer fundamental.
“They wanted to film the Kennedys in a threesome with Marilyn,” talked about Russo, together with that the mob anticipated using the footage to blackmail JFK into invading Cuba and returning the island’s casinos to organized criminals. The plan was scuttled after JFK didn’t current.
As Russo tells it, Monroe had fallen in with the mob whereas courting favor with JFK years sooner than. When she found of the aborted CalNeva scheme, she threatened to go to the media and principally wrote her dying sentence.
“A guy known as The Doctor — a killer for hire and an actual MD; he had done major hits for the mob — injected air into the vein near Marilyn’s pubic region,” Russo talked about. “She died of an embolism, but it looked like drugs to the coroner.”
Still, he insisted, it wasn’t the mob that killed Monroe nevertheless, barely, the youthful Kennedy, who feared the story of his and JFK’s involvement with Monroe going public.
“It had to be Bobby,” talked about Russo. “No one else would kill her. The mob would not have done it. They liked her. She was that party girl. Give her a couple pills, a couple drinks and she’ll f–k everyone.”
No stranger to presidential partying, Russo moreover remembers his private extreme events with JFK. “When they opened the Copa Room at the Sands Hotel [a mob-run casino in Vegas], Jack Entratter [who managed the Copacabana in New York] came out to run it and a house was built for him on the hotel’s grounds,” talked about Russo, together with that the president would reduce unfastened there. “Normally, [JFK] wore a 20- or 30-pound metal brace [and suffered from severe back pain] but said he felt good when he did coke. I felt like telling him, ‘Everybody feels good, a–hole.’ He loved doing lines off of [dancer] Juliet Prowse’s stomach.”
Russo made dwelling as a utility participant for the mob — monitoring Vegas cash skims and laundering tons of of hundreds by the Catholic Church’s monetary establishment in Vatican City.
When Russo landed his perform in “The Godfather,” it did not happen by the use of common channels. After director Francis Ford Coppola launched his plan to point out Mario Puzo’s novel proper into a movie, there was pushback from the American-Italian Anti-Defamation League. The group, overseen by Brooklyn mobster Joe Colombo, nervous regarding the 1972 movie making Italians look unhealthy. Threats have been made that film unions in New York City, the place the movie film was to be shot, would not cooperate with the manufacturing.
Looking to leverage the discord, Russo confirmed up at Paramount’s New York headquarters and strongarmed his means into brokering a deal between Colombo and studio brass. After learning the movie’s script, Colombo agreed to sanction “The Godfather” in commerce for Paramount allowing the Anti-Defamation League to positioned on a for-profit gala in every metropolis the place the film premiered. In return, Russo claims, he was given the perform of Carlo Rizzi, abusive husband to Connie Corleone. He did not arrive quietly.
“I wore Brioni suits to the read-throughs while all the other actors dressed like slobs,” talked about Russo. “I hired a Chinese showgirl to drive me there in a Bentley. Everybody else took station wagons.”
Unimpressed, star Marlon Brando voiced concerns that the neophyte actor would screw up his movie.
“I’d just had a party … celebrating getting [the role],” talked about Russo. “This guy was going to destroy it for me? It would not happen.”
According to Russo, he purchased in Brando’s face and menacingly suggested the older actor, “Who the f–k are you to try to do this to me? I’ll cut your f–king heart out, you rat motherf–ker. I’m part of this picture whether you like it or not, you c–ksucker.”
The two grew to grow to be mates — a relationship cemented by Russo organising Brando with the showgirl chauffeur, who took up residence throughout the latter’s resort room. The icon provided the beginner with showing courses that contributed to Russo snagging small roles in 46 movies (along with “Every Given Sunday” and “Sea Biscuit”).
They have been tight adequate that Russo was the first specific individual Brando often known as in 1990 when tragedy unfolded on the show legend’s Hollywood Hills mansion.
“Christian [Brando’s then-32-year-old son] had just fatally shot his sister Cheyenne’s boyfriend,” recalled Russo. “I said, ‘Don’t call the police.’ Then I phoned [lawyer] Robert Shapiro and they got Cheyenne out of the house.”
Christian served 5 years for the murder and Brando saved himself from being implicated.
“The shooting was done with Brando’s gun,” Russo talked about. “Christian had told him that Cheyenne was getting beaten up and Brando said, ‘You’re her brother. Kill the son of a bitch.’ He probably didn’t expect Christian to do it.”
Sixty-three years after his likelihood encounter with crime king Costello, Russo ranks among the many many few golden-age mobsters who aren’t ineffective or in jail. But he knows that irrespective of he does, he’ll always be recognized for his portrayal of a gangster onscreen.
Indeed, when the waiter at Patsy’s serves dessert on the house, Russo can’t help nevertheless quip, “‘Leave the gun, take the cannoli.’ I can’t get away from that movie.”