Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
Albert Anastasia was a key figure in the history of organized crime, commonly known as the Mafia.
Born in 1903 as Albert Anastasio in Calabria, Italy, he came to the United States in 1917 shortly before the First World War with his brother Tony. It is said that he sneaked off of the ship and into Brooklyn, New York and hid with relatives until he received a job as a longshoreman at the docks at the age of sixteen. He worked on the docks with his brother Tony and shortly after changed his name from Anastasio to Anastasia. It is rumored that he did this so he would not bring disgrace to his family when he was dubbed as a gangster by newspapers. Tony, his brother, kept the family name and eventually became the leading racketeer controlling the docks in Brooklyn. He was working under his brother Albert, who had a penchant for violence.
Albert Anastasia was known as probably the most violent man in the history of the Mafia and was arrested for killing a man named Joe Torino when they had an argument about who had the right to unload ships with precious cargo. Torino was a fellow longshoreman and witnesses said that Anastasia had stabbed and strangled Torino to death. He was arrested and sent to the death house at Ossining State Prison, better known as “Sing Sing”. He spent about eighteen months in the death house and before he was to be put to death, he received a new trial when the witnesses recanted their statements. He was set free and a new trial was ordered but never came to fruition as some important witnesses turned up missing.
Albert Anastasia helped end the famed Castellammarese Wars when he was part of the quartet that killed Joe Masseria in a restaurant in Brooklyn, a man that he worked as a bodyguard for. After the Wars, he worked under Joe Mangano. He soon became friends with the likes of Charles Luciano, Al Capone and Frank Costello and was appointed chief of Murder Inc., a group of hired out hit men, by his friends. When Mangano disappeared in 1951, Anastasia was given the nod as the boss of what would be soon known as the Gambino Crime Family.
Vito Genovese did not like Albert Anastasia as boss and told people that he was an unstable thug and recruited Carlo Gambino to turn against Anastasia. Gambino got help from his friend Joseph Profaci. Gambino was also Anastasia’s under boss. Don Vito pulled out all of the stops at trying to get Anastasia out. He tried turning his friend, Frank Costello, against him by saying that Anastasia was trying to muscle in on the Cuban gambling enterprise, he was breaking rules of the Commission, and was selling memberships into the Mafia. He even went as far to say that Anastasia was plotting against Costello and when Vincent “The Chin” Gigante shot Costello in front of his hotel, Vito Genovese said that it was Anastasia that ordered the hit for five hundred dollars and Costello believed it.
Albert Anastasia was killed in a barber shop in the Park Sheraton hotel by two masked men. He was shot at least four times with a fifth shot being placed in the back of his head as he lay on the floor. It was October 25, 1957. His funeral was small and only attended by a few close friends and family, including his brother “Tough” Tony Anastasio. In a twist of fate, the same day that Anastasia was killed, Vito Genovese took over as boss of the Luciano syndicate when Carlo Gambino told Frank Costello that he was retired. It was remarked that Anastasia, who avoided “the chair” several times was finally done in while in the chair.