With a heavy police presence and a bevy of gawking onlookers, a golden coffin was carried through the streets of Montreal’s Little Italy neighborhood earlier this week.
Inside was the body of 42 year-old Nick Rizzuto, gunned down in broad daylight while standing beside a black Mercedes. His father Vito, considered Canada’s most powerful mafia boss, is presently in a Colorado prison on racketeering charges related to three mob murders.
For Montreal, it was a noteworthy funerary event, but as crime family funerals go, the funeral procession was uneventful and the end for Nick was swift and unexpected. Mob deaths can be much worse. Salvatore Maranzano, a Sicilian-born New York mobster known as the “boss of bosses” was shot and stabbed to death in September 1931 in his Park Avenue office by four thugs posing to be detectives, a murder arranged by Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano. Carmine “Cigar” Galante, acting boss of the Bonanno crime family in the late 1970s was showered with bullets in an Italian restaurant in Brooklyn with a cigar in his mouth, having just polished off a plate of spaghetti. And then there is the unlucky end of Frankie Yale.
The Italian-American was first arrested on suspicion of homicide while still a teenager and eventually became boss of the notorious White Hand gang, which murdered its way to the top of the Brooklyn crime syndicate. Yale survived a hail of bullets ordered upon him by Bill “Wild Bill” Lovett but when Al Cappone caught him hijacking his Chicago-bound booze trucks he ordered a hit Yale couldn’t evade. While racing down New Utrecht Avenue in his brand new Lincoln coupe four gunmen in a Buick tore Yale and his vehicle apart with Tommy Guns.
His funeral was the most ostentatious in mob history. Mourners filled more than one hundred Cadillac limousines; nearly two-dozen additional cars were required just to carry all the flowers. Thousands lined the streets of Brooklyn for the procession, which featured a $15,000 silver casket. One woman bolted from the crowd and spit on the gleaming coffin; Yale’s thugs had murdered her husband while in bed some years earlier. Adding to the hoopla, two different women showed up claiming to be Yale’s wife.
Over-the-top crime funerals aren’t exclusive to mafia families. The 2008 funeral of Mark “Papa” Guardado, the 46 year-old president of the San Francisco chapter of the Hells Angels who was shot dead after a barroom brawl drew more than 2,000 Angels. They came from as far away as Australia and Germany. “We don’t get along with the press,” said one biker to a reporter. “And if you stick a camera in someone’s face, you’re asking for trouble.”
Mourners led what local police claimed was the largest motorcycle procession in the history of the Bay Area, from Daly City to the Cypress Lawn Cemetery, in Colma, making a detour through San Francisco to cruise down Dolores Street, not far from where Guardado was killed. Some bikers were involved a minor collision en route.
Gangster funerary mayhem occurs outside the United States too. A pastor in the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago posted the following comment on the website of the nation’s local newspaper:
“Over the past 15 years these eyes of mine have been privy to what can best be described as a very disturbing trend…When a notorious gangster is slain in this country, he is usually forgotten as members of the public rejoice that the only good gangster is a dead one. But what we forget is that these gangsters have fellow gangster friends and family members who attend their funerals en masse, resulting in what can only be described as total mayhem, mass hysteria, and wild uncontrollable behaviour in the hallowed grounds of the cemetery.
At the burial site the scene is one of loud bravado and cartel music blaring from speakers mounted in pimped-out rides, incessant flowing and consumption of alcohol, marijuana smoking, loud cursing and swearing of revenge on the police and rival gangsters who deprived them of the company of their slain ‘homie.’ It is extremely unfair to other grieving mourners who must stand by helplessly and watch as these elements literally take over the cemetery with their nonsense. Mourners from other funerals are also put at risk since these gangsters never go anywhere without ‘packing heat’ (wearing guns) around their waists. These gangster funerals are a haven for criminals (wanted and unwanted), usual suspects, and men for whom there are outstanding warrants.”