It would have been difficult doing what Tony [Spilotro] did if he had
secretaries, a filing system, Xerox machines, and the free use of a
phone. But Tony did it all off-the-cuff and kept it all in his head.
— Nicholas Pileggi, Casino
A large mass of recent evidence shows that memory ability is acquired,
and it can be acquired by pretty much anyone.
—Geoff Colvin, Talent Is Overrated
We can’t be letting these fucking assholes play us for fools. That gets
around on the street, we’re out of business.
—Mobster Carmine Genovese
The thing you’ve got to understand about Jimmy [Burke] is that he loved
to steal. He ate and breathed it. I think if you ever offered Jimmy a billion
dollars not to steal, he’d turn you down and then try to figure out how to
steal it from you. It was the only thing he enjoyed. It kept him alive.
—Henry Hill, quoted in Nicholas Pileggi’s Wiseguy
I’m going to a meeting and I don’t know if I’m coming back.
—Capo Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano speaks to a friend before
Trust your memory. Keep your business in your hat.
—Meyer Lansky, the Mafia’s Albert Einstein
Mafia families are cut from a special kind of human cloth: they include
people of especially strong aggressive and predatory tendencies.
—Pino Arlacchi, Mafia Business
Some of them, except for the criminal part of their life, can be very nice
—Former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani
War is a very rough game, but I think that politics is worse.
—Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery
THREE CAN KEEP A SECRET
IF TWO ARE DEAD
A career of banditry in early youth often indicated a man of strong
character and purpose.
—Edgar Snow, Red Star over China
We only kill each other.
—Benjamin “Bugsy” Siege
As a mobster, I was feared, so vultures stayed clear of me. As a legit guy, I
became a fair game; everyone tried to screw me
The success of the Mafia depends upon the excellence of its services; . . .
[and] the loyalty of its millions of satisfied customers.
—Nicholas Pileggi, The Saturday Evening Post
Good morning, gentlemen, and anyone listening. This is the nine o’clock
meeting of the Chicago underworld.
—Murray “The Camel” Humphreys, general counsel for the Chicago
The fact of having a common origin strengthens their bond, it makes
them a tighter group.
—Salvatore Lupo, La Storia Della Mafia
I thought of quitting baby, But my heart just ain’t gonna buy it.
—Frank Sinatra, “That’s Life”
I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want.
Meyer Lansky outlived just about every one of his cronies from the New
York Mob, and he did it the old-fashioned way—he kept his mouth shut.
When push comes to shove, when a guy’s got a gun to his head, that’s
when you know what he’s made of.
I’ve never broken my word to any living human being I gave it to. That is
the key to success in politics or anything else.
[Paul Castellano] is a greedy cocksucker. He wants the lion share of
everything . . . the guy’s never happy.
—Anthony “Gaspipe” Casso
Organized crime goes where the money is.
—Howard Abadinsky, organized crime historian
a window of opportunity, they will take full advantage of it.
It’s not that he [a mobster] changed, he just understood what was
required at the time, and responded to that. He’s been a man for all
—Sociologist Umberto Santino describing a mobster’s mentality
Tony [Spilotro] was a totally focused human being. He had all kinds of
financial deals going on at the same time. He had different groups,
hundreds of people, a million schemes, all of them in various stages of
development. [He] put in a sixteen-to eighteen-hour day trying to put the
—Nicholas Pileggi, Casino
Most of these guys, after all, were just uneducated guys . . . but they were
street smart and the thread of the business ran through everything all the