Gurney's Inn
October 31, 2012

Jerry's Ink


"Leave the gun, take the cannoli." That one line from The Godfather sums up the Italian way of life.

I'm about to squeal on a few million of my fellow Italians.

These are honest, upstanding Italians, so I guess you can call this a "Half Valachi."

Here's our dirty little secret: Most Italians sort of like the Mafia.

Italians like the Mafia for the same reason Wasps admire Microsoft. Guys who "coulda been contenders" always identify with guys of the same ethnic persuasion who got to the top of the heap – no matter how ugly the heap may be.

The Mafia has been around longer than Microsoft, but the parallels between the two corporations are there. Both are winning, efficient organizations that are merciless with their competition. Bill Gates crushes competitors economically and leaves them the walking dead. The Mafia, on the other hand, goes that little extra step and actually whacks its competitors and leaves them the very dead – wedged in the trunks of cars.

Both organizations have had to put up with government interference. Both will prevail. Bill Gates and his executives have had to duke it out with the government and then paid a few billion-dollar fines and went on their way. The wise guys have done their stretch in the slammer and come back to the old neighborhood the better for it.

So the Mafia doesn't have a web site and isn't listed on NASDAQ. Big deal! The Mafia had something that Microsoft will never have – its own television show, and everybody loved it: "The Sopranos." They had the best movies ever made: The Godfather I & II.

"The Sopranos" did for Italians what "The Goldbergs" did for Jews and "I Remember Mama" did for the Norwegians.

The Italian scene – it's never what people think it is. The simple, happy, mandolin-playing people never existed; 99.9 percent of Italian-Americans would never even jaywalk, but that doesn't keep them from enjoying the tough killer reputations of the .1 percent who belong to the Mafia. For honest Italians this grudging admiration comes to them with a certain amount of paranoia.

Here's how it worked out for me:

Many years ago my advertising agency received a call from a large corporation telling us they were interested in our handling their advertising account. I checked into the company and found the chairman was Italian and from my old neighborhood in the Avenue U section of Brooklyn.

"Nothing doing," I told my staff. "If he comes from my old neighborhood, he's got to be connected and I'm not going to deal with anyone who is connected to the Mafia."

My associates persisted. "You're not being fair," they said.

"Okay, let's investigate this guy before we take his account."

So we hired a private detective to tell us all about the company chairman. The report came back: "He's clean. An upstanding member of the community. Straight as they come."

So we took the account. We did a lot of good work for the company and both our firms prospered. One day the chairman invited me out to his home in Greenwich, Connecticut for dinner. We talked about the old days in Brooklyn. He was older than I was and I got up the nerve to say, "You know, when you wanted to hire us, I knew you were from the old neighborhood and I had you investigated."

He looked at me and laughed. "You jerk," he said. "What do you think I did before we called you?"

We spent the night laughing about the Mafia.

If you wish to comment on "Jerry's Ink" please send your message to

  1. print email
    To the Godfather of Madion Avenue
    October 30, 2012 | 11:39 PM


    Glad you and your friend closed the night laughing but ...

    There's nothing funny or amusing to me about any mafia (Italian, Irish, Russian, Chinese, Jewish, Arab, etc.) They all take things that don't really belong to them by force, in lieu of the actual creativity, intelligence, and persistant hard work.

    I know you know that I get the "streets of New York" as well as you do, but I don't like bullies with guns, knives, and baseball bats making their case. And I'm sure you agree. Gotta be a better way! BC

    Bill Crandall
  2. print email
    October 30, 2012 | 11:44 PM

    Make that headline "Madison Avenue".

    Bill Crandall
  3. print email
    I don't care how many gumbas, wops, dagos,
    October 31, 2012 | 11:03 PM

    come out of the woodwork, Johnny Fontaine is not getting that part!
    One of the greatest lines in Godfather 1. Another one, I am going to run him out of the business, now you get the hell out of here and tell your godfather, I ain't no band leader!

    MIkey Mike
  4. print email
    And....More Godfather long version dedicated to Bill
    November 07, 2012 | 12:31 PM

    You don't understand. Johnny Fontane never gets that movie. That part is perfect for him. It'll make him a big star. I'm gonna run him out of the movies. And let me tell you why. Johnny Fontane ruined one of Woltz International's most valuable proteges. For three years we had her under contract, singing lessons, dancing lessons, acting lessons. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was gonna make her a big star. And let me be even more frank, just to show you that I'm not a hard-hearted man, that it's not all dollars and cents. She was beautiful! She was young, she was innocent. She was the greatest piece of ass I've ever had, and I've had 'em all over the world. And then Johnny Fontaine comes along with his olive oil voice and guinea charm and she runs off. She threw it all away just to make me look ridiculous. And a man in my position can't afford to be made to look ridiculous. Now you get the hell out of here! And if that goomba tries any rough stuff, you tell him I ain't no bandleader. Yeah, I heard that story.
    [Hagen has been calmly eating his meal throughout Woltz's tirade]
    Tom Hagen: Thank you for the dinner and a very pleasant evening. Have your car take me to the airport. Mr Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news at once.

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