Thursday, 16 October 2008

little charles the cat eater

“Paolo Di Lauro is known as Ciruzzo ‘o milionario, Ciruzzo the millionaire. A ridiculous nickname, but such labels have a precise logic, a calibrated sedimentation. I’ve always heard System [Camorra] people called by their nicknames, to the point where first and last name are often diluted or forgotten. No one chooses his own nickname; it emerges suddenly out of somewhere, for some reason, and someone picks up on it. Camorra nicknames are determined by destiny. Paolo Di Lauro was rebaptised Ciruzzo ‘o milionario by Luigi Giuiliano: one evening the boss watched Di Lauro take his place at the poker table as dozens of hundred-thousand-lire bills fell out of his pockets. “Who’s this”, Giuliano exclaimed, “Ciruzzo ‘o milionario?” A name born on a drunken evening, a flash, the perfect wisecrack.

The anthology of nicknames is infinite. The Nuova Famiglia boss Carmine Alfieri got his name ‘o ‘ntufato, the angry one, thanks to the dissatisfied sneer he wears constantly. Then there are ancestral nicknames that stick to the heirs: Mario Fabbrocino, the Vesuvius-area boss who colonised Argentina with Comorra money, is known as ‘o graunar – the coal merchant – because his ancestors sold coal. Other nicknames spring from Camorristi passions, such as Niccola ‘o wrangler Luongo for his fixation with Wrangler four-wheel drives, the System men’s vehicle of choice. A whole series of nicknames are based on physical traits, such as Giovanni Birra ‘a mazza – club or bat – for his long, thin body; Costantino capaianca Iacomino for his premature capelli bianchi or white hair; Ciro Mazzarella ‘o scellone or angel, for his pronounced shoulder blades that look like angel’s wings; Nicola ‘o mussuto Pianese for his skin so white it looks like dried cod; Rosario Privato mignolino or pinky finger; Dario De Simone ‘o nano, the dwarf. There are inexplicable nicknames such as that of Antonio di Fraia ‘u urpacchiello, which means a riding crop made from a dried donkey’s penis … For some unknown reason Ciro Monteriso is known as ‘o mago, the wizard. Pasquale Gallo of Torre Annunziata is ‘o bellillo, or bello for his sweet face. Others are old family names: the Lo Rusos are i capitoni or eels … the Belfortes are the Mazzacane – dog killers … Vincenzo Mazzarella is ‘o pazzo, the crazy one, and Antonio di Biasi is pavesino for his habit of munching on pavesino biscuits while out doing a job … As for Antonio Carlo D’Onofrio, known as Carlucciello ‘o mangiavatt’ – Little Charles the cat eater – legend has it that he learned to shoot using stray cats as targets. Gennaro Di Chiara, who bolted violently anytime someone touched his face, earned the name file scupierto or live wire. There are also nicknames based on untranslatable onomatopoeic expressions such as those of Agostino Tardi, know as picc pocc, Domenico di Ronza scipp scipp, or the De Simone family, known as quaglia quaglia, the Aversanos, known as zig zag, Raffaele Giuliano ‘o zui, and Antonio Bifone zuzu.

All it took for Antonio Di Vicino to become lemon was to order the same drink several times. Vincenzo Benitozzi’s round face earned him the name Cicciobello or fat boy, and Gennaro Lauro became ‘o diciassette, perhaps because his street number was 17. And Giovanni Aprea was punt ‘e curtiello – point the knife – because his grandfather played the role of an old Camorrista who teaches the boys to use a knife in Pasquale Squitieri’s 1974 film I guappi […]

Nearly every boss has a nickname, an unequivocally unique, identifying feature. A nickname for a boss is like stigmata for a saint, the mark of membership in the System. Anybody can call himself Francesco Schiavone, but there’s only one Sandokan …”

Roberto Saviano, Gomorrah (trans. Virginia Jewiss), London: Macmillan, 2007, 54-6

* For Roberto Saviano's website (largely in Italian but with English-language links), go here.
* For details of the La Repubblica international petition on behalf of Roberto Saviano, go here.
* For recent articles on and interviews with Roberto Saviano in The Guardian, go, here and here. In the Independent, go here and here. In the New York Times, go here.
* For a YouTube interview, go here.


three finger brown

Like those of the Camorristi as described by Saviano, American organised crime nicknames take generic forms: diminutives or childhood family names; direct or ironic accounts of particular ‘skills’ and functions (sometimes operating as threat e.g. the naming of weapons of choice); allusions to other/earlier trades; essential psychological characteristics (sometimes animal metaphors); physical particularities and anomalies; dress style or other distinctive use of accessories; culinary tastes and obsessions; geographical turf locations; simplifications, for ease of saying; plays on words or onomatopoeic sound games stemming from a syllable or part of a name; mis/translations and other anglicised versions. Here’s a partial listing:

Frank Abbandando: "The Dasher" / Anthony Joseph Accardo: "Joe Batters”, “The Big Tuna" / Joseph Aiuppa: "Joey Doves" / Phillip Alderisio: "Milwaukee Phil" / Willie Alderman: "Ice Pick" / Vincent Alo: “Jimmy Blue Eyes” / Albert Anastasia: "The Mad Hatter", “Lord High Executioner” / Joe Andriacchi: “The Builder” / Donald Angelini: "The Wizard of Odds" / Robert Attanasio: “Bobby Ha Ha”, “Louie Ha Ha”

Amato Baldassare: "Baldo" / Joseph Barbara: “Joe the Barber” / John Barbato: “Johnny Sausage” / Generoso Barbieri: “Jimmy the General” / Joseph Barboza: “The Animal” / George Kelly Barnes: “Machine Gun Kelly” / Louis Baronne: “Louie Lump Lump” / Vincent Basciano: “Vinny Gorgeous” / Charley Battaglia: “Bats” / Sam Battaglia: “Teets” / Otto Berman: "Abbadabba" / Ferdinand Boccia: “The Shadow” / Richie Boiardo: "Richie The Boot" / Frank Bompensiero: “Bomp” / Joseph Bonanno: “Joe Bananas” / Salvatore Briguglio: “Sally Bugs” / Tommy Brown: "Three Fingers" / Jimmy Burke: "The Gent"

Thomas Cacciopoli: “Tommy Sneakers” / Frank Calabrese: “The Breeze” / Peter Calabrese: “Peter Rabbit” / Mickey Callahan: “Cheesebox” / Stefano Cannone: "Stevie Beef" / James Capesso: "Fort Lee Jimmy" / Pete Capolongo: “Petey Cap” / Alphonse Capone: “Scarface”, “Snorky” / John Capra: “Johnny Hooks” / Michael Cardello: “Mickey Bats” / Anthony Carfano: “Li'l Augie” / Sam Carolla: “Silver Dollar Sam” / Frank Carrone: "Buzzy" / Martin Cassella: "Motts" / Anthony Casso: "Gas Pipe" / Paul Castellano: "Big Paul" / Joe Catania: “Joe the Baker” / Domenico Cefalu: “The Greaseball” / John Cerasani: "Boobie" / Phillip Cestaro: "Philly Broadway" / Anthony Thomas Civella: “Ripe Tony” / Carl Civella: “The Cork” / Vincent Coll: “Mad Dog” / Jim Colosimo: “Diamond Jim” / Michael Coppola: "Trigger Mike" / Anthonio Corallo: "Tony Ducks" / Joseph Corozzo: “Miserable” / Peter Cosoleto: “Petey Boxcars” / Frank Costello: “The Prime Minister” / Frank Cucchiara: “The Spoon”

William Daddano: "Potatoes" / Louis Daidone: “Louie Bagels” / John D'Amico: "Jackie the Nose" / Ralph Daniello: “The Barber” / Salvatore D'Aquila: “Toto” / Ronnie DeAngelis: "Balloon Head" / Angelo DeCarlo: “Gyp” / Simone DeCavalcante: "Sam the Plumber” / Nick Dedaj: “Nicky Nails” / Michael DeFeo: "Iron Mike" / Patrick DeFilippo: “Patty the Pig", “Patty from the Bronx” / Louis Delenhauser: "Cop out" / Carl DeLuna: "Toughy" / Frank DeMayo: “Chee Che” / James DeMora: “Machine Gun” / Lawrence Dentico: “Little Larry” / Samuel DeStefano: "Mad Sam" / Jack Diamond: “Legs” / John DiFronzo: “No Nose” / Joseph DiGiovanni: “Joe Church”, “Scarface” / Michael DiLeonardo: “Mikey Scars” / Joseph DiStefano: “Joe Shakes” / Giuseppe Doto: “Joe Adonis” / Sally D'Ottavio: "Paintglass" / Vincent Drucci: “The Schemer”

James Episcopia: "Jimmy Legs" / Natale Evola: “Joe Diamond”

Michael Falciano: "The Falcon" / Salvatore Farrugia: "Sally Fruits" / Carmine Fatico: "Charlie Wags" / Arthur Flegenheimer: “Dutch Schultz” / Stephen Flemmi: “The Rifleman” / Aladena Fratianno: “Jimmy the Weasel”

Carmine Galante: “Cigar”, “Lilo” / Ralphie Galione: "Wigs" / Albert Gallo: “Kid Blast” / Joey Gallo: “Crazy Joe” / Charley Gargotta: “Mad Dog” / Philip Giaccone: “Phil Lucky” / Sam Giancana: "Mooney", “Momo” / Leonard Gianola: “Needles” / Vincent Gigante: "Vinny The Chin" / Joseph Gioelli: "Joe Jelly" / Jack Giordano: "Handsome Jack" / Frank Giudice: "Frankie the Beard" / John Gotti: "The Dapper Don”, “The Teflon Don”, “Mr. Untouchable” / Salvatore Granello: “Sally Burns” / Salvatore Gravano: "Sammy the Bull" / Giuseppe Guinta: “Hoptoad” / Vito Gurino: "Socko" / Jake Guzik: “Greasy Thumb”

Max Hoff: “Boo Boo”

Matthew Ianniello: “Matty the Horse” / Alphonse Indelicato: “Sonny Red”

William Jackson: “Action Jackson”

Richard Kuklinski: “Iceman”

Cesare Lamare: “Chester” / Joseph Lanza: “Socks” / Edward Lanzieri: “Eddie Buff” / Vincenzo Licavoli: “Jack White” / Stephen Locurto: “Stevie Blue” / Joey Lombardo: “The Clown” / Phillip Lombardo: “Benny Squint” / Anthony LoPinto: “Tony Tea Bags” / Tommy Lucchese: “Three-Finger Brown” / Charlie Luciano (Salvatore Lucania): “Charlie Lucky” / Ignazio Lupo: “The Wolf”

Benny Mangano: “Benny Eggs” / Gabriel Mannarino: “Kelly” / Joe Manri: "Buddha" / Frankie Manzo: "The Wop" / Nicholas Marangello: "Nicky Eye Glasses" / Giussepe Masseria: "Joe the Boss" / Johnny Masiello: "Gentleman" / Charles Matranga: “Millionaire Charlie” / Angelo McConnach: "Sonny Bamboo" / Anthony Megale: “Machiavelli” / Joseph Merlino: “Skinny Joey” / Leo Moceri: “Lips” / George Moran: “Bugs” / Giuseppe Morello: “Clutch Hand”, “Piddu”

Dominick Napolitano: "Sonny Black"

Charles Panarella: "Charlie Moose" / Joe Pangallo: “The Ghost” / Rosario Parrino: “Sasa” / Joseph Pecora: “Jo Jo” / Alphonse Persico: "Allie Boy" / Carmine Persico: “The Snake” / Dominick Petrilli: “The Gap” / Tomasso Petto: “Il Bove” / Joseph Pignatelli: "Joe Pig" / Aniello Prisco: “Zopo” / Anthony Provenzano: “Tony Pro”

Anthony Rabito: "Mr. Fish" / Tony Rampino: "Roach" / Philip Rastelli: “Rusty” / Abe Reles: “Kid Twist” / Frank Rosenthal: "Lefty" / Paul Ricca: "The Waiter" / Harry Riccobene: “The Hunchback” / Patrick Romanello: “Patty Muscles” / Joseph Rosato: “Joe Palisades” / Benjamin Ross: “Benny the Bug” / Arnold Rothstein: “The Brain” / Ben Ruggiero: "Lefty Guns", “Lefty”

Anthony Salerno: "Fat Tony" / Robert Sanseverino: “Bobby Phones” / Frank Scalise: “Cheech” / Nicodemo Scarfo: “Little Nicky” / Gregory Scarpa: “The Grim Reaper”, “The Killing Machine” / Jacob Shapiro: "Gurrah" / Ben Siegel: "Bugsy" / Giuseppe Siragusa: “The Yeast Baron” / Charles Solomon: “King” / Michele Sottile: “Mikey Boots” / Anthony Spilotro: "Tony the Ant" / Arnold Squitieri: “Bozey”, “Zeke”, “Sylvster” / Joseph Stracci: “Joe Stretch” / Anthony Strollo: “Tony Bender”

Antonio Tamasulo: "Boots" / Alphonse Tarricone: "Funzi" / Ciro Terranova: “Artichoke King”, “Whitey” / Philip Testa: “Chicken Man” / Sam Todaro: “Black Sam” / Jimmy Torello: "The Turk" / Johnny Torrio: “The Fox” / Santo Trafficante: “Sam Balto” / John Tronolone: “Peanuts” / Dominick Trinchera: "Big Trin"

Joseph Valachi: “Joe Cargo” / John Vaccaro: “Popcorn” / Vito Vario: "Tuddy" / Paolo Veccarelli: “Paul Kelly”

Michael Yannotti: “Mickey Y”


Diabolik: Cosa Nostra & others

Gerlando Alberti: “U Paccare” (the imperturbable) / Giulio Andreotti: “divus Iulius” (the divine Julius) / Gaetano Baladamenti: “Tano” / Silvio Berlusconi: “Il Cavaliere’ (the knight) / Stefano Bontate: “The Prince” / Giovanni Brusca: “lo scanacristiani” (people killer), “The Pig” / Giuseppe Buscemi: “Pidduzzo” / Giuseppe Calo: “Pippo”, “The Cashier” / Michele Cavataio: “The Cobra” / Matteo Messina Denaro: “Diabolik” / Giuseppe Genco Russo: “Zu Peppi”, “Gina Lollobrigida” / Giovanni Gioia: “The Viceroy” / Antonino Giuffre: “Little Hand”, “Nino” / Salvatore Giuliano: “The King of Montelepre” / Michele Greco: “The Pope” / Pino Greco: “Scarpuzzedda” (little shoe) / Salvatore Greco: “Little Bird” / Salvatore Inzerillo: “Totuccio” / Lucianio Leggio: “The Scarlet Pimpernel” / Salvatore Lo Piccolo: “The Baron” / Michele Navarra: “Our Father” / Tommaso Petto: “The Ox” / Bernardo Provenzano: “The Tractor”, “The Accountant”, “Zu Binnu” (uncle Bernie) / Toto Rina: “Shorty”, “The Beast” / Nitto Santapaola: “The Hunter” / Michele Sindona: “God’s Banker” / Don Calogero Vizzini: “Zu Calo” (uncle Calo), “Bull Frog”.

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