It all started with a late afternoon phone call. The voice on the
other end of the line immediately got my attention. It sounded like it
was coming from the bottom of a well. “My name is Joey Carbone,” the
voice rasped. “I think I have a story that might interest you….”
I’d heard the line before. A million times, actually. But on this
occasion, the caller had my total attention. It wasn’t simply that he
identified himself as an ex-Mafia hit man — one who now had a contract
out on his own head for turning state’s evidence. No, it was something
else. Something I couldn’t put my finger on. But no matter. Whatever it
was, Joey Carbone had me hooked.
Carbone told me that he was looking for someone to write a book about
his life as a mob enforcer. He said he didn’t figure he was going to be
around much longer, and that he wanted whatever proceeds were left to go
to his two daughters.
“Nice Pitch,” I thought to myself. “Play on the old sympathies.” But
despite my skepticism, I stayed on the line.
Two hours later I was still listening.
Finally there was a pause in the nonstop banter. “So, ya innerested,
or what?” Carbone asked.
I tried to play it cool. “I’m not sure,” I said. “I’ll think about it
and get back to you.”
A long silence.
“No, I’ll call you back. The day after tomorrow … same
time,” Carbone said.
Before I could respond, the line clicked dead.
I sat there staring at the phone. The fact is, I’d lied to Carbone.
There were no two ways about it. I wanted to write his story. I wanted
to write it bad.
I phoned my agent in New York. He wasn’t encouraging. “There’ve been
lots of books about mob guys,” he said. “Unless this guy can really come
up with some juicy stuff it’s gonna be a tough sell.”
I didn’t care. After all, I figured, how many times in your life did
you get the chance to climb inside the brain of a genuine wiseguy … a
stone cold killer? No sir — for me there was no choice — book deal or
no book deal. I was going to hang with Joey Carbone.
The entire next day all I could think about was Carbone. He
completely occupied me. Possessed would probably be a better
word. My mind was filled with old black and white images of a time long
gone … of gangsters and gunmolls and flat nosed guys wearing pin
striped suits and Borsalino hats.
All Friday afternoon I wanted for Carbone’s call. It never came.
Two days passed. Three … Four. …
I figured it was all over. Carbone had taken a powder. Hell, maybe
I’d dreamed the whole thing up.
A week later I was laying on the couch — the TV flickering
soundlessly — when the phone rang. I reached over and picked it up.
“How ya doin’ pal?” the voice on the other end rasped.
“Not bad,” I said, trying my best to sound cool.
Carbone didn’t apologize for being a week late getting back. He just
went on and on as if we we’re already in business together. I told him
I’d need a minimum of two hours a day with him for the next several
weeks. I told him I’d have to tape all of our conversations. After I
transcribed the tapes, I’d write two chapters which I’d send off to my
agent. If we landed a book deal, we’d split 50/50.
“Anyway you wanna do it, pal,” Carbone said in an overly friendly
tone. “I got faith in you, my man.”
Usually compliments didn’t get to me, but when Carbone said that, I
felt ten feel tall.
“OK,” I said. “Where do you want to meet?”
I could feel Carbone thinking hard. “Meet me tomorrow at Nate ‘n’
Al’s. Twelve sharp.”
“How’ll I recognize you?” I asked.
“Don’t worry pal. I’ll recognize you.” Something about the way
Carbone that last bit sent a cold chill up my spine.
At 11:30 the following day I entered Nate ‘n’ Al’s — a prominent
Beverly Hills deli. I’d decided to arrive early, then watch the door for
Carbone to enter. I figured he’d probably stand out in some way from the
rest of the entertainment biz types that frequented the place.
As I was thinking this, I noticed a 50-ish man with a thick mane of
all white hair sitting at a back table. No doubt about it, the guy was
staring at me. There was something about him — a certain aloneness, a
separateness from everyone else in the room. When the man smiled at me,
I knew I was about to meet Joey Carbone in the flesh.
As I approached, Carbone didn’t move. When I sat down he extended his
hand. His grip was solid as a rock. “How ya doin’ pal,” he smiled.
I was trying to be all business. After a few brief amenities I took
out my recorder and flipped the on button.
Carbone didn’t flinch. He just started talking.
To my delight, Joey Carbone was a born storyteller. Once again, I
found myself totally mesmerized by him. On this day, I heard about his
teenage years. It was during this period of his life that Carbone had
gotten started in the enforcement game by “beating another kid half to
death with a baseball bat.” After that he’d continued, gradually working
himself up through the various levels of some of Chicago’s top families,
until he’d become a high ranking hit man for the mob.
At one point, I asked Carbone if he hadn’t ever considered a normal
lifestyle. He emitted a short guffaw, causing pieces of his pastrami
sandwich to fly from his mouth. “I don’t think you understand,” he said.
“I loved the lifestyle. I loved wearin’ four-inch collared shirts
and spit-shined shoes. I loved walking around with a coupla grand in my
pocket all time. Hey pal — I didn’t’ come down from the mountain with
Moses. I wuz up there shootin’ dice! I was lookin’ to rob somebody! I
wuz lookin’ bust somebody’s chops! I’m a hood, man … an’ that’s all
I’ve ever been.”
As Carbone talked, I noticed a napkin sitting on the seat beside his
knee. He saw me looking at it. Gingerly, he lifted the napkin to reveal
a shiny, steel-blue .38 caliber Smith & Wesson.
“Best place for it,” Carbone deadpanned. “Ya don’ haveta waste time
pulling it outta yer pants.”
I nodded nervously, then continued listening as Carbone continued to
spin more stories for the next hour and a half.
(To be continued next week.)
GOLDMAN HOOH HAH: I’ll make it short and sweet, kiddies. As I
reminded you last week, you’ve only got a few weeks left to purchase a
copy of our best-selling book, “Secrets Of The
Following that, the book will not — I repeat NOT — be available any
longer. So I suggest you get off yer duffs and buy your copy now.
Secondly, I just want to say that WND and I have big surprise in store
for you. We may reveal it in this spot next week, or perhaps the week
after, but I guarantee that you’re going to be shocked, surprised and
amazed by what’s in store for you. And that’s about all I feel like
saying at the moment. Keep your eyes peeled.