Dreams of the Fathers/Tony Esposito

Dreams of the Fathers


EDITOR’S NOTE: Tony Esposito is the grand-nephew of the late “Frankie the X” Esposito and comes from a family with a long history of ties to the Chicago Mob. His book, Union Boss, is expected to be published later this year.

EXACTLY WHAT is expected from the son of a mobster? Sometimes you’re not expected to follow the gray path that’s known as organized crime. But most of the time, you’re expected to go out and fill the shoes of your father. You’re expected to walk in the footsteps that he has spent much of his life laying down for you.

WHEN YOUR FATHER or a major relative is in or connected to organized crime, it’s sometimes an unspoken rule that you move your own life in that same direction. You’re taught it’s the only way to survive in a crazy world. It becomes who you know, not what you know. In my situation, if either my uncle “Frankie the X” Esposito or my grandfather “Tony the X” would have lived longer (they both died by the early ’70s), I would be following a life course today that they had not just planned out, but set in stone.

ACCORDING TO surviving members of my family, I was to become a lawyer and wind up working for the Chicago Laborers’ Union, perhaps someday even becoming President. At least that was their wish and had they lived, I would have had little choice but to do what they said. That’s the way it is in lots of families, especially Italian families.

BUT IN MOVIES like The Godfather, Vito Corleone turns to a life in the Mafia so his sons and daughters won’t have to. That does run true in a lot of Mob families, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds.

IN THE HIGH offices of todays Laborers’ Union, there is a son of a well known and extremely powerful mobster, Joe Lombardo, Jr., son of Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, who is now said to be “retired” from the Mob. Whether or not the father is retired, the son is currently the Laborers’ Chicago District Council Secretary Treasurer and in control of hundreds of millions of dollars in union pension funds. Given the problems that Joe Lombardo, Jr., is now facing (see Laborers’ Union trusteeship stories elsewhere in this issue), one wonders if he ever wanted to be associated with the Mob, or was just forced into following in his powerful father’s footsteps.

MY FAMILY KNEW Joey Lombardo, Sr., from the old days in Melrose Park where he would show up virtually every weekend at the Casa Madrid at 25th and Lake. The club, owned by another old-time mobster, Rocky DeGrazio, was a constant hangout for up-and-coming mobsters. Joey Lombardo, known then as Joe “L,” was also known as one of the nicest guys in town.

SO THE QUESTION is, did Joe Lombardo, Sr., force his son to find work in the Laborers’ Union or did his son do it to make his father proud of him? Sometimes it’s hard to say no. The money is so good. The benefits are yours for the taking. You easily get caught up in a fast lifestyle. Why go to work at a legitimate job and work your ass off for eight bucks an hour when you can take a Mob-controlled no-show job where you’re paid twenty dollars an hour and maybe show up one or two days a week?

SOMETIMES IT’S hard to say no to those kinds of jobs, just as it’s hard to say no to your father. Italians have a strong sense of loyalty and pride toward their parents. You learn to enjoy what’s handed to you and you learn to keep your mouth shut.

I BELIEVE if I had been set up in a nice no-show job or had been handed something equally cushy, I would not be writing this kind of newspaper article. I probably would have accepted what my father had set up for me and I would have done my best to make him proud.

I’M SURE most of today’s young mobsters are doing the same thing. Following in their father’s footsteps.