David Randall: All good family men at heart, those widow-making mobsters

Four corners of the world

Share
Related Topics

In the end, virtually all history's villains are recruited by showbusiness, whether it's Jack the Ripper, Fred West, Attila the Hun, the Marquis de Sade, or the Ipswich prostitute killer (now featuring in a musical at the Cottesloe Theatre on London's South Bank). By the time the movie industry, stage producers and other merry-makers have finished with them, these monsters have understandable motives, love lives, and little children whose heads they can pat.

So too is is with America's mobsters, long a staple of screenwriters, famously fond of their old mums, and now commandeered by a company called Eagle Group Holdings, which has just opened a fun-packed attraction in Las Vegas called The Mob Experience.

The activities of these criminals have now been turned into an hour or two of interactive fun where visitors are assigned a mob nickname and get to play a hoodlum, hit man, victim or informant.

The Mob Experience also seeks, in a spokesman's words, "to expose the human side of these men. Siegel was a great father. Same thing with Spilotro. They were good family men."

It is, to say the least, an original take on "Bugsy" Siegel, racketeer and hit man; and on Tony "The Ant" Spilotro, a charmer who once squeezed a man's head so hard his eyes popped out. For good family men, they sure created a lot of widows.

* News from Italy of a horrifying new trend. Mothers in the south are so doting they are cooking meals for their twenty- and thirty-something offspring working in far-flung cities – and paying a courier to deliver them.

One regularly knocks up aubergine parmigiana which is then trucked to her 33-year-old daughter in Rome, a round trip of 1,000 miles. The driver, according to The Wall Street Journal, now has 3,000 such motherly customers.

* A British soldier who says he twice sneaked into a Nazi concentration camp to see for himself if the terrors he'd been told about were true, has written a book about his experiences.

The central claim of Denis Avey's The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz is hotly disputed by some who say he could not have got into the death camp, but, whatever the truth of that, it does reveal a little-known side of the war. Mr Avey, now 92, says he entered the camp by bribing guards, and swapping uniforms with a Dutch Jew. The man was one of the inmates who worked at the IG Farben plant alongside Mr Avey, a prisoner of war (PoW) sent to a labour camp.

Few people – and I was not one – knew that British prisoners were put to work in this way in the same places as Auschwitz inmates, known to them as "stripees" due to their uniforms. After the war, several ex-PoWs gave evidence at Nuremberg or to the British authorities.

Mr Avey was one of the latter, but, for 60 years thereafter, kept secret what he'd seen. When it comes to war (or almost anything, really), fact beats any fiction.

* The arrival by boat, in just a few weeks, of thousands of North Africans on the small island of Lampedusa off Sicily presents a concentrated version of the issues raised by economic migrancy.

For centuries, it has been, for the receiving country, a source of new blood and initiative, and, for the immigrants, a means to a better life. But our acceptance of them also performs a service to the deadbeat regimes they leave behind.

By providing an alternative to agitating for better conditions in their own land, we also facilitate a safety valve for repressive, corrupt and exploitative governments. After all, had the Zimbabwean middle classes not left in such numbers, would Robert Mugabe have got away with his nonsense?

If Afghans and Iraqis of spirit and enterprise had no alternative but to stay put, would the politics of those states be as they are now?

Economic migrancy is nearly always seen as a right-wing issue, where the crux is the impact on the destination country. But what about the impact on the country of departure?

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Manager - £30,000 - Manchester City Centre

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This forward-thinking agency works with ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales - OTE £30,000

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a rapidly expanding offi...

Recruitment Genius: HVAC Project Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will b...

Recruitment Genius: Key Accounts Administrator - Fixed Term

£13500 - £14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting new opportunity has...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game  

Manchester was ahead of the pack in honouring Alan Turing

Simon Kelner
The scene in Tesco in Edmonton, north London  

Black Friday is a reminder that shops want your money, no matter how human they appear in their Christmas adverts

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game