Mafia nicknames: Are you calling me 'baby shacks'?

In the latest Mafia bust, one thing became clear: 'Don' is just too plain a title. Guy Adams sheds light on mobsters' exotic nicknames

You probably don't want to mess with Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio, an 83-year-old Italian gentleman with puppy-dog eyes who has just pleaded not guilty to charges of extorting cash "protection" payments from New England's strip clubs for the past two decades.

Mr Manocchio, who owes his nickname to his taste in women (he likes them young and skinny) is the reputed head of the Patriarca family, an underworld organisation which controls much of Rhode Island. He was arrested on Thursday as part of an FBI "bust" that saw 119 alleged Mafia dons taken into custody.

Also now speaking to lawyers are such figures as "Vinny Carwash", "Jack the Whack", "Junior Lollipops", "Tony Bagels" and Benjamin Castellazzo, a rotund New Yorker charged with running illegal loan-sharking and gambling operations, who answers to the name of "The Claw".

The US Attorney General, Eric Holder, described their round-up as bad news for people who carry out "classic mob hits," and "senseless murders," telling reporters: "Today's arrests mark an important, and encouraging, step forward in disrupting La Cosa Nostra's operations."

Mr Holder believes last week's operation will reduce mob crime. That remains to be seen. But whatever the eventual outcome, one thing's for sure: the 119 arrests are sure to reacquaint us with the grand old Mafia tradition of elaborate aliases.

America's mobsters have always used dark nicknames. Al Capone was known as "Scarface". Some were proud of their aliases. Capone christened his successor, Tony Accardo, "Joe Batters" after watching him smash a rival's skull with a baseball bat ("this kid's a regular Joe Batters", he chuckled). Others, of a more sensitive disposition, have nicknames one shouldn't use to their face. Last week's detainees include John "Fatty" Hartmann and "Fat Dennis" Delucia, while those who called Las Vegas boss Benjamin Siegel "Bugsy" (meaning "bonkers") slept with the fishes.

But Mafiosi do not use nicknames to hide their identities. For most, a threatening moniker is part and parcel of creating a profile. "Nicknames are good for getting you known locally and in the media, and since a lot of these guys have complicated real names, they are convenient," says Chris Cecot, the in-house historian at the Las Vegas Mob Experience.

"The Mafia is like a fraternity. One or two events happen while you're becoming a made man and – boom! – you're stuck with a name for life. It makes you part of an old boy club."

While the finest days of the US Mafia may be behind it, Mr Cecot is adamant that exotic criminal nicknames have a bright future. The rising leaders in organised crime are Mexican drug cartels, who with stars such as "El Chapo" and "Boss of Bosses" have turned the acquisition of an exotic alias into an art form.

Aliases and alibis: who is called what – and why

Luigi "Baby Shacks" Manocchio

The 83 year-old former boss of New England's Patriarca crime family is said to have been given his nickname because of his penchant for young, slim women. However, some argue that his main mob moniker is actually "Baby Shanks", a decades-old nickname which refers to his short legs. Also known as "Louie", "The Professor", and "The Old Man", Manocchio has a criminal record that stretches more than 60 years.



Benjamin "The Fang" Castellazzo

It might seem like an oddly brutal nickname for a 73-year-old, but Castellazzo was reportedly seen brandishing a gun to intimidate a target in eastern New York just weeks before his arrest. The acting under-boss of the Colombo family is also known as "The Claw" and – a little incongruously – "Benji".



Vincenzo "Vinny Carwash" Frogiero

Despite the infinite frog-related options his surname provides, Frogiero was thought to have got his nickname after running car washes for the mob in his younger days. The FBI describes him as a "soldier" for New York's infamous Gambino crime family.



Anthony "Tony Bagels" Cavezza

One of the smaller fish in the FBI's haul last week, the Gambino family mobster is said to be known among New York's mobsters for his fondness for the city's signature deli delicacy – the humble bagel. Often seen wearing hoodies instead of the mob's signature sharp suits, the The New York Post newspaper has criticised him for "crimes of fashion".



Michael "Jello" Kuhtenia

The mob can be cruel. Many of the monikers given to the portlier gangsters arrested last week are are weight-related (the FBI lists the suspect mobster John Hartman's nicknames as "Fats", "Fatty" and "Lumpy") and it seems that this member of New York's notorious Gambino family may be no exception. Or, in the spirit of "Tony Bagels", maybe he just eats a lot of jelly.



John "Dapper Don" Gotti

The infamous former head of New York's Gambino crime family, which saw many of it's top bosses arrested last week, was dubbed "Dapper Don" by the press because of his suave suits and charming public image. The media later named him "Teflon Don" for his ability to slip out of the hands of the law, but Gotti was said to be proud that the mob never knew him by any nickname. They simply called him John.



Al "Scarface" Capone

No mob list would be complete without Al Capone. He is said to have got the scars that earned his ominous nickname when he worked in a Manhattan mob bar as a bouncer and bartender, before generating millions from illegal bootlegging, among other, rackets in the 1920s. Finally jailed for tax evasion in 1931, Capone is said to have been attacked by a bar patron after insulting his sister. Whether the patron lived long enough to regret it is unknown.



Jack "Jack the Whack" Rizzocascio

This self-explanatory handle must be the ultimate clichéd gangster nickname.

However, according to the FBI this mob moniker belongs to an associate of New York's Colombo crime family who was arrested last week. ENJOLI LISTON

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before