Kansas City Characters From History

2013 Sales Professionals Convention: Partners In Crime

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Anna Timofeeva        Walter Elias "Walt" Disney

(1901–1966) was an American business magnate, animator, producer, director, screenwriter and voice actor. He is an international icon  and philanthropist, known for his contributions to 20th century entertainment. He and his brother Roy O. Disney, co-founded Walt Disney Productions, which became one of the best-known motion picture producers in the world - now Walt Disney Company with annual revenue of $36B. He created Mickey Mouse and provided the original voice. During his life he received 26 Academy Awards (record 4 in one year) - more than any other individual in history. Disney also won 7 Emmys and gave his name to the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in U.S., Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland. He died in 1966 of lung cancer in Burbank, California. A year later construction of Walt Disney World Resort began in Florida opening in 1971.

Annie Bass                  Bess Truman

(1885-1982) Born Elizabeth Virginia Wallace, she was the wife of Harry S. Truman, First Lady of US 1945-1953. She met her husband in grade school in Independence, MO. In the Election of 1944, Harry did not consult Bess before accepting as Franklin D. Roosevelt's running-mate; she did not relish the prospect of moving in such high circles. Upon Roosevelt's death April 12, 1945, Bess Truman became First Lady. Her daughter Mary Margaret Truman stated, "Mother considered a press conference on a par with a visit to a cage of cobras."  The former first lady struggled to adjust to life in the White House, feeling "a smoldering anger that was tantamount to feeling emotional separation." Dying at 97, she is longest-lived First Lady. Married at 34, Bess was 39 when Mary Margaret was born.

Al Wilson                    Al Capone

Al Capone, the Italian-American gangster who led the Chicago crime syndicate involved in smuggling and bootlegging of liquor and other illegal activities during 1920s-1930s Prohibition Era. Despite his illegitimate occupation, Capone was a highly visible public figure, making donations to charitable endeavors. His reputation was damaged with his involvement in 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre, when seven rival gang members were executed. Convicted on tax evasion in 1931, he was sent to Alcatraz and released on parole in 1939. On January 25, 1947, he died of cardiac arrest after a stroke.

Art Jensen          Adam “Machine Gun” Richetti

One of three Union Station shootout participants on June 17, 1933, Richetti and Floyd were involved in an auto accident in Wellsville, Ohio on October 20, 1934. When Police Chief J. H. Fultz went to investigate a shootout took place; Floyd escaped, but Richetti was returned to KC, sentenced to death and executed on October 7, 1938.

Barb Carney                       Joseph Raimo

Joseph Raimo was a KC Police Department Special Agent who ended his watch on March 28, 1911. Many outsiders find it remarkable that there "was" a Mafia in KC, but it motivated the KCPD to assign a Special Agent named Joseph Raimo to Little Italy. He also partnered with Johnny Lazia in a takeover of the police department. Patrolman Raimo was shot and killed by unknown persons at the corner of 4th and Holmes, while walking his beat. It is theorized that he was shot because he overheard members of the Mafia talking about the murder of a grocer. Patrolman Raimo worked for agency for 2 years and he was survived by his wife and 4 children.

Damian Damian                William “Willie Rat” Cammisano

(1914-1995) As a mobster and enforcer of Nick Civella’s KC Crime family, by 1929, Cammisano had been arrested for concealed weapon, bootlegging, pistol whipping a robbery victim, running an alcohol still, being AWOL from U.S. Army, disturbing the peace and gambling. He stole everything from wheels off a truck to rings off women’s fingers. Cammisano served a felony at El Reno Oklahoma Federal Prison and in 1943 opened a tavern with the same name (his favorite prison). He had one son - William Dominick Cammisano Jr.-  born May 8, 1949 in KC. While serving a 5 year sentence for extortion in Springfield, MO, he refused to cooperate during 1980 KC Senate crime investigation, so he received more prison time. With Civella's 1983 conviction, Cammisano was the new leader of KC organization. Due to unfavorable publicity during criminal trials, the “Chicago Outfit” officially disowned KC as an affiliate. Then Cammisano established new operations in California, Florida and Washington, D.C without Outfit interference, reinvigorating KC organization. After Willie died of lung disease in 1995, his son pleaded guilty to running illegal gambling in KC in 2010 and is considered a “capo” with 20-25 made members.

David Parks                                        Guy Brasfield Park

Guy Brasfield Park (1872–1946) was a Missouri politician. Born in Platte City, MO, he graduated from law school at the University of Missouri and practiced law in Platte City, twice winning elections to be the Prosecuting Attorney for Platte County. Park was elected as a Judge for Missouri's fifth judicial circuit court in 1922 and re-elected in 1928. In 1932 Park was selected by the MO Democratic Party as a candidate for Governor of MO after candidate Francis Wilson died in October 1932. Park resigned from his judicial position and defeated Edward Winter by over 300,000 votes. Park was backed by KC boss Tom Pendergast; some feel Park allowed Pendergast to run MO. Not eligible to seek re-election in 1936, he retired to Platte City.

Denise Patrick Fisk                          Frank Carramusa

In the early 1900’s, a string of unsolved murders motivated the KCPD to assign special agents to Little Italy. While on patrol an Italian officer named Louis Olivero had his home bombed. The violence in Little Italy reached its darkest point in 1919 when Paul Catanzaro murdered a young boy named Frank Carramusa. His father was a fruit peddler who couldn’t put together enough money to pay the Black Hand what they said he owed them. Catanzaro was caught in his murderous act and nearly beaten to death by outraged neighbors. Officer Olivero saved Catanzaro’s life by arriving on the scene and arresting him but he was never convicted. In a twist of fate, the murdered boy’s brother, Carl Carramusa, would later join the Mafia and become brothers in blood with Paul Catanzaro.

Denise Rafferty                                                Giuseppe Civella

Giuseppe Nicoli Civella was the son of Italian immigrants in KC. He was the younger brother of mobster Carl "Cork" Civella and the uncle of mobster Anthony Civella. Nicholas Civella began his criminal career as a teenager in Italian "Northeast" neighborhood of KC. First arrested at10, he  dropped out of school. Before age 20, he had been arrested for auto theft, illegal gambling, robbery and vagrancy. In 1932, he spent two months in prison for bootlegging. In 1934 Civella married Katherine, his wife of 50 years; they had no children. In the 1940s, Civella became a Democratic Party precinct worker on the North Side of KC and became friends with KC crime boss, Charles Binaggio.

Edna Erosky                                        Henry Perry

(1875–1940) was a restaurateur who is considered the "father of KC barbecue”. Perry was born in TN and worked on steamboat restaurants on Mississippi River and MO River before moving to KC MO in 1907. In 1908 he began serving smoked meats to workers in KC’s Garment District from an alley stand. He moved his stand to 17th and Lydia before moving to 19th and Highland, where he operated out of an old trolley barn through the 20s and 30s when the neighborhood became famous for KC Jazz during the Pendergast era. Customers paid 25 cents for hot meat smoked over oak and hickory, wrapped in newsprint. Perry's sauce was "harsh, peppery", rather than sweet. His menu included barbecued beef and wild game such as possum, woodchuck and raccoon. Charlie Bryant took over the business after Henry died; he then sold it to his brother Arthur, who made the sauce sweeter when he relocated the restaurant, Arthur Bryant's, to 1727 Brooklyn in the same neighborhood. Also, Arthur Pinkard, who had worked for Perry, helped George Gates found Gates & Sons Bar-B-Q.

Frank Giuliano                  Frank “Jelly” Nash

Frank Nash – the most successful bank robber in U.S. history – had a violent death in KC Massacre at Union Station ending in 4 policemen dead, besides himself, on June 17, 1933. Vernon Miller led a gang to free Frank "Jelly" Nash - a federal prisoner- in custody of police returning him to Leavenworth Penn, he escaped from 3 years before. Nash worked in his father’s hotels and served 3 prison terms for robbery and murder, but he most likely ran 200 bank robberies and “masterminded” other criminal groups, planning escapes from prison, both in and out of prison. Nash was friendly, likeable and charming despite it all.  “Jelly” came from jellybean which began during his childhood, due to his well-groomed appearance, though some thought it was for explosives used to open bank safes. Frank Nash was first convicted in 1913 for stealing $1,000 Sapulpa, OK store and while escaping, he suggested his cohort bury the money. Nash shot him in the back and he was sentenced to life in OK State Penn, but it was reduced to 10 years since he by joined the Army to fight in WWI. In 1920, he was convicted of burglary using explosives (safe-cracking), sentenced to 25 years at OK State Penn, where he became a trustee to reduce it to 5 years. On March 3, 1924, Nash began a 25-year sentence at Leavenworth for assault, but escaped on October 19, 1930. The FBI launched a US/Canada search; 2 prisoners he helped escape from prison were apprehended on July 7, 1932 in KC, divulging he was hiding in Hot Springs, AR.

Fred Pasternak                 Fred HarveyFreddie” Bonnadonna

In 1980 during the Senate investigation of KC crime, government witness Fred Harvey Bonnadonna, a River Quay Bar Owner, described how Joseph Cammisano used strong arm tactics in the neighborhood to turn it into a red light district. He had opposed plans by Cammisano to open adult entertainment establishments during mid 70s resulting in 1976 murder of his father (associate of William Cammisano) David Bonadonna. On October 23 the Cammisanos agreed to plea bargain; William and Joseph were sentenced to 5 years and 18 months imprisonment, respectively.

Gail Kane Jensen             Gaetano Lococo

(1895-1993) also known as "Thomas" or "Tano" was a mobster identified as one of the "Five Iron Men" of KC. Lococo was known within the KC crime family as an enforcer in his early years and later on, he controlled an interest in several illegal gambling establishments. Lococo was frequently mentioned in local newspaper articles about major mob-related events. According to Grand Jury testimony, Lococo helped gunmen escape the scene of the bloody June 1933 Union Station massacre in KC. Lococo, Tony Gizzo, Charles Gargotta and Dominick Binaggio (brother of Charles Binaggio) allegedly provided the gunmen with a stolen car and escorted them out of KC.

Glenda Analla                    Alice Joyce

(1890–1955) Alice was an American actress, who appeared in more than 200 films in 1910s/1920s, and best known for her roles in the 1923 silent and 1930 talking versions of The Green Goddess. Joyce was known as "The Madonna of the Screen" for her striking features and presence. She made her last movie in 1930, after which she and ex-husband Tom Moore worked a late vaudeville circuit for a time. She declared voluntary bankruptcy in 1933. Leaving an estate of $175,000 with gross income of $27,600,  her daughters received an 8-carat emerald-cut diamond ring and 55 carat star sapphire ring.

Grace Strachan                 William Rockhill Nelson

(1841-1915) was a real estate develop, founder of the KC Star newspaper who donated his 30 acre $6M estate (after wife/daughter died) and home for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Born in Fort Wayne Indiana, he moved to KC in 1880 to start the Star and at the time there were 3 competitors – Evening Mail, KC Times and KC Journal. His business strategy called for cheap advance subscriptions and the intention to be independent of politics. William went on to purchase the Evening Mail in 1882, started the Weekly KC Star in 1890 and Sunday KC Star in 1894. His famous crusades were KC’s boulevard systems and building Convention Hall in 90 days to host the 1900 Democratic National Convention. He also developed an area of farmland south of downtown known as Rockhill District and 2400 acres today known as Grain Valley with its mission to improve breeding methods and livestock.

Jan Giuliano                       Charlie “Mad Dog” Gargotta

(1900-1950) was a KC MO gangster who became a top enforcer for the KC crime family. Born in KC, Gargotta joined the crime organization of John Lazia as a young man. Gargotta and his close associate, Charles Binaggio built a gambling ring that grossed as much as $34.5M yearly on dice and card games, numbers racketering and bookmarking. He was arrested more than 40 times in 30 years for murder, illegal gambling, liquor law violations, carrying a concealed weapon, robbery, auto theft, extortion, attempted burglary and vagrancy, but due to his political influence, all charges were eventually dropped. On April 5, 1950, Binaggio and Gargotta drove to Jackson County MO Democratic Club to meet a trusted associate, but a taxi driver found them later with four bullet wounds each. In February 1950, Gagotta had testified before a Federal Grand Jury in KC about his criminal activities, which likely led to his assassination. The murders were never solved.

Joan Usher                                         Harry S. Truman

(1884-1972) US President Harry S. Truman grew up in Independence during WWI, Truman served in France as a National Guard artillery officer and afterward  he owned a haberdashery and joined the Democratic Party political machine of Tom Pendergast in KC. Harry Truman was good friends with Tom Pendergast’s nephew, young Jim Pendergast, who was a regular customer during the time Truman and Eddie Jacobson were operating “The Haberdashery” at 12th and Baltimore. The clothing store went “belly up” during the recession of the early 1920s. But shortly before the store closed, Jim and his father Mike – another leader of the Pendergast machine – asked Truman if he wanted to run for Eastern Judge of Jackson County Court. Truman accepted and easily won the election. He was sworn in on Jan. 1, 1923 and in 1934 became U.S. Senator. He gained national prominence as head of the wartime Truman Committee, which exposed waste, fraud and corruption in wartime contracts.  Truman won acclaim for public works projects, including roads, County Court building and 12 Trail monuments to pioneer women in 1928. He returned to Independence after 2 terms as 33rd President. The final running mate of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, Truman succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when Roosevelt died. Under Truman, the U.S. successfully concluded World War II; in the aftermath Soviet Union tensions increased which started the Cold War. Harry S. Truman’s Presidential Library Museum, boyhood home and residence are in Independence MO.

John Darrah                                        Johnny “Joe” Lazzia

(1895-1934) By 1928, Lazia was the supreme KC gang boss during the prohibition period. Born in NY, he dropped out 8th grade and by 20 was a clerk by day and robber by night. After a robbery, police arrested him after gunfire and he was sentenced to 12 years. After 9 months, KC MO’s Lieutenant Governor paroled him on the condition he join US Army. Johnny ignored the edict ion and started working for KC’s political machine controlled by Tom Pendergast. Lazia claimed his draft ineligible due to supporting his parents. He graduated from street crime to organizing voters for Pendergast machine and supplying bars with bootleg whiskey. He was appointed head of Northside’s Democratic Club; he owned soft drink company, gambling resorts, loan shark operation and bail bond company. He failed to file an $82,000 tax return, and was sentenced to 1 year; thanks to Tom Pendergast the government released the appeal. At 3 AM on July 10, 1934, Lazia arrived at his hotel residence after touring nightclubs with his wife Carolla. As he exited the car, gun men emerged from the bushes spraying him with bullets and he died after arriving at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Joyce Lohrmeyer                             Mary Louise Brooks

(1906-1985)  Mary Louise Brooks, was a dancer and actress, noted for popularizing the bobbed haircut. Brooks is best known as  lead in 3 feature films made in Europe, including 2 G. W. Pabst films: Pandora's Box (1929), Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) and Prix de Beauté (Miss Europe, 1930). She starred in 17 silent films and 8 sound films before retiring in 1935. Brooks published her memoir, Lulu in Hollywood, in 1982 - three years before she died of a heart attack at 78. Born in Cherryvale KS, Louise Brooks was daughter of Leonard Porter Brooks, a lawyer, who was often too busy to discipline his children and Myra Rude, an artistic mother determined that  "squalling brats she produced could take care of themselves". At age 9 Louise experienced sexual abuse at the hands of a neighborhood predator. This caused her to say she was incapable of real love. She said, “Soft, easy men were never enough – there had to be an element of domination". In 1926, Brooks married Eddie Sutherland, director of the film she made with him, but by 1927 she fell in love with George Preston Marshall, future owner of Washington Redskins football team. She divorced Sutherland, and in 1933, married Chicago millionaire Deering Davis abruptly leaving him after 5 months of marriage, "without a good-bye... leaving only a note of her intentions”. A past lover, William S. Paley, CBS Founder, provided a monthly stipend to Brooks for the rest of her life, which kept her from committing suicide at one point.

Judy Koch                                                            Carrie Nation

Carrie Nation (1846-1911) was a radical temperance movement member was opposed alcohol before  Prohibition. She was 6 feet, 175 pounds and was described as "a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus promoting temperance by destroying bars.” Alone or with hymn-singing women she’d march into bars, sing and pray while smashing fixtures and stock with a hatchet. Between 1900 and 1910 she was arrested 30 times, paying her jail fines from lecture fees and sales of souvenir hatchets. In April 1901 Nation came to KC MO, a city known for its wide opposition to the temperance movement, and smashed liquor in various bars on KC’s 12th Street. She was arrested and fined $500 ($13,400 today), though the Judge suspended the fine, as long as Nation never returned to KC.

June Kuehn                                                        Joan Crawford

(1904-1977) Born Lucille Fay LeSueur, Joan Crawford was an American actress in film television and theatre; she was voted the 10th greatest female star American Film Institute. Her family moved to KC in 1916 and started as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies, signing a motion picture contract with MGM by 1925.Initially frustrated by the quality and size of her parts, she became a nationally known flapper by the end of the 20’s. In the 30’s, Crawford’s fame rivaled and she ousted Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo, often playing hardworking young women who find romance and success. In the process, she became one of Hollywood’s highest paid women in the US. She married 4 times with the first 3 marriages ending in divorce and her last ending in his death. She adopted 5 children, one of whom was reclaimed by his birth mother. She disowned her oldest children that were the authors of “Mommy Dearest”that alleged Joan Crawford had a life-long pattern of physical and emotional abuse.

Karen Pasternak               Raymond J. Caffrey

At Union Station KC train station FBI Agent Raymond J. Caffrey and officers W. J. Grooms and Frank Hermanson of KC Police Department surveyed the area surrounding the platform and saw nothing that aroused their suspicion. SAC Vetterli advised Agent Lackey that he and Caffrey had brought two cars to Union Station parked outside. A green Plymouth was parked about 6 feet away from Agent Caffrey’s car. Agent Lackey saw 2 men run from behind a car and both men were armed. SAC Vetterli, who was standing at the right front of the Chevrolet turned just in time to hear a voice command, “Let ‘em have it!” At this point, from 15 feet diagonally to the right of Agent Caffrey’s Chevrolet, an individual crouched behind the radiator of another car opened fire. Officers Grooms and Hermanson immediately fell to the ground, dead. SAC Vetterli, who was standing beside Officers Grooms and Hermanson, was shot in the left arm and dropped to the ground. As he attempted to scramble to the left side of the car to join Agent Caffrey, who had not yet entered the driver’s seat of the Chevrolet, Vetterli saw Caffrey fall to the ground. Inside the car, Frank Nash and Chief Reed were killed. The 3 gunmen rushed to the lawmen’s car and looked inside exclaiming, “They’re all dead. Let’s get out of here.” The survivors, reported that the assault lasted possibly 30 seconds and it resulted in the deaths of FBI Agent Raymond J. Caffrey, OK, Police Chief Otto Reed, KC Policemen W. J. Grooms and Frank Hermanson, as well as Frank Nash in the event known as the "Kansas City Massacre".

Karen Swan                        Mary McElroy

(1907-1940) was a kidnapping victim and the daughter of Henry F. 'Judge' McElroy, KC’s  City Manager. The 1996 Robert Altman film “Kansas City” was based loosely on the kidnapping.  Twenty-five year old McElroy was kidnapped while taking a bubble bath in her father's home on May 27, 1933. Her abductors were brothers George and Walter McGee, Clarence Click and Clarence Stevens. Walter McGee, a divorced ex-con from Oregon, was gang leader; they forced their way in with a sawed-off shotgun, allowing McElroy time to get dressed. She told them $60,000 ransom (demanded for her release) wasn’t much as she told them she was worth more than that! McElroy was taken to a farmhouse in Shawnee KS owned by Click; she was chained to a basement wall. The kidnappers settled for $30,000 on May 29; Mary McElroy was released unharmed after 29 hours in captivity. George McGee and Clarence Click were apprehended before June 21. Walter McGee was arrested in Amarillo, Texas on June 2 after attempting to purchase a car with some of the ransom money. Of the original sum, about $9,000 was recovered from McGee's person.

Karen Wilson                                    Jim Pendergast

Early in the 20th Century, the most powerful force in Missouri politics was the Pendergast family.
In the 1890s young Tom Pendergast worked for his older brother James at the West Bottoms tavern; the West Bottoms was an immigrant area at the 'bottom' of the bluffs overlooking the MO River, above the prosperous sections of KC. During the peak of his power, he had not only “hand picked” his own Mayor, James A. Reed, but every other key office at City Hall. When Jim Pendergast died in 1911, his brother Tom took over the powerful political machine.

Kathy Skipton                                    Meyer Lansky

(1906-1947) Born Meyer Suchowljansky, a Russian Empire-born American organized crime figure, along with his associate Charles “Lucky” Luciano, he was instrumental in the development of the “National Crime Syndicate” in the US. Known as the “Mob’s Accountant”, he developed a gambling empire in Saratoga NY, KC, Miami, Council Bluffs IA and Las Vegas as well as overseeing gambling concessions in Cuba. Although a member of the Jewish Mob, he had strong influence with the Italian Mafia and played a large role in the criminal underworld.

Ken Praiswater                                 Charles “Lucky” Luciano

(1897-1962) Crime boss, gangster and bootlegger - born Salvatore Lucania – Charles Luciano was an Italian-born American mobster. “Lucky” is considered the father of modern organized crime in US for splitting NYC into 5 different Mafia crime families. He was the first official boss of the modern Genovese crime family and under the urging of Chicago boss Johnny Torrio, set up the Commission to serve as the governing body for US organized crime. Designed to settle all disputes and decide which families controlled which territories, the Commission was composed of Five Families of NYC, Philadelphia crime family, Buffalo crime family, LA crime family, Chicago Outfit of Al Capone plus Detroit crime family and KC crime families, Irish and Jewish criminal organizations in NY were added. In 1935, the Commission ordered gang boss Dutch Schultz to drop his plans to murder Special Prosecutor Thomas Dewey. When Schultz announced that he was going to kill Dewey, the Commission quickly arranged Schultz's murder in a tavern in Newark NJ. In October 1929, Luciano was forced into a limousine at gun point by 3 men, beaten, stabbed and dumped on a beach on Staten Island. He survived the ordeal but was forever marked with a scar and droopy eye. In 1953 Luciano told an interviewer it was the police who kidnapped and beat him. The most important consequence of this episode was the press coverage it engendered, introducing Luciano to the NY public.

Linda Huffman                 Joyce Clyde "JC" Hall

Born in 1891 in David City NE, Joyce was the son of a traveling minister who provided sparingly for his wife and children. When Hall was 7, his father abandoned the family. Hall worked odd jobs, mostly involving sales from age 8 on. Hall's response to his father's mantra, "The Lord will provide," was, "It's a good idea to give the Lord a little help." In 1905, Hall and his brothers invested $540 to buy postcards to sell to store owners and other dealers. They also convinced some of the traveling salesmen who came into the Halls' bookstore - which Joyce Hall's older brothers bought with a partner in 1902 - to add the postcards to their sales territories. Hall started the Norfolk Post Card Company in 1908 in Norfolk NE. In 1910, Hall moved to KC MO, with little more than two shoe boxes of postcards. By 1913, he and his brothers were operating a store which evolved into Kansas City's Halls department store selling not only postcards but also greeting cards. The store burned in 1915 and a year later, Hall bought an engraving business and began printing his own cards. It turned into a bigger business than he had had before and in 1928, he began marketing his cards under the Hallmark brand name. Hall, who objected to the name Joyce and typically went by JC, retired in 1966 and spent his retirement efforts in revitalizing the KC downtown area. One of the results was Crown Center, a business/shopping district surrounding Hallmark Corporate Headquarters. Hall died in 1982 in KC.

Linda Smith                                        Vernon C. Miller

(1896-1933) was a freelance Prohibition gunman, bootlegger, bank robber and former Sheriff in South Dakota who, as the only identified gunman in the KC massacre. Born in Kimball SD, Miller served in the Army in WWI where he was decorated for bravery. After being a Huron policeman, he was Beadle County Sheriff until he left in 1922 stealing $4,000. Serving time for embezzlement in SD State Penn, he became the warden's chauffeur and was granted parole. Miller became a bootlegger but was fined $200 for bootlegging in Sioux Falls SD. Heavy drug abuse and advanced syphilis affected Miller's personality which became increasingly unstable with unpredictable bursts of violence. Indicted in 1928 for wounding 2 Minneapolis police, the case was dropped. After a friend was killed by Al Capone's Chicago Outfit, Miller gunned down 3 suspects at a Fox Lake IL Hotel. He and 5 others did a daylight robbery stealing $70,000 from Willmar MN Bank, but a "double-cross" argument resulted in Miller killing 3. $40K each was netted from banks in Ottumwa IA and Sherman TX. After a robbery in Minneapolis, where 2 police were killed, Miller retired from armed robbery in favor of “murder for hire”. Chicago mobster Louis Stacci hired Miller to free former partner Frank Nash as he was being transported back to Leavenworth Federal Penn. On June 17, 1933, the ambush of federal agents at Union Station KC MO, resulted in Nash’s death and 4 police plus wounding 2 others. Miller fled to Orange NJ with mobster Abner Zwillman until he killed a Zwillman gunman. Leaving for Chicago in October 1933, Miller posed as an optical supply salesman - living with girlfriend Vi Mathias - until federal agents raided her apartment. Miller escaped, but a month later a motorist discovered his body in a ditch outside Detroit MI. His murder may have been retaliation for the failure of KC Massacre. A 1987 movie directed by Rod Hewitt - "Gangland: The Verne Miller Story" starred actor Scott Glenn as Miller.

Marsha Geisert                                Carl Angelo “Tuffy” DeLuna

(1927-2008) Carl Angelo DeLuna was the underboss of the KC crime family and brother-in-law of Anthony Civella. Carl Angelo "Tuffy" DeLuna was an organized crime figure who was once the powerful underboss of the KC crime family. He was also brother-in-law to KC crime boss Anthony Civella. Born in Brooklyn NY, DeLuna rose through the ranks of the family to eventually become underboss and second-in-command to Nick Civella. He was personally responsible for the ambush of a rival mob crew, the Spero brothers, at the Virginia Tavern in KC MO in 1978. A well-respected and trusted mobster, DeLuna maintained the family’s close ties with the Chicago Outfit, the Frank Balistrieri family in Milwaukee and the Cleveland family during the mob infiltration of several Las Vegas casinos in the mid 70s. Artie Piscano (portrayed by Vinny  Vella) in the film Casino was based in large part on Carl DeLuna. In the film, Piscano dies of a heart attack during a FBI raid on his home. In reality, DeLuna's home was raided on February 14, 1979 and it was found that he kept extensive cryptic notes hidden in his basement which, together with wiretaps, connected all the dots the FBI needed in linking the mob to illegal control of Las Vegas casinos. DeLuna was arrested, tried and sentenced to 30 years, released from prison in 1998 and died in KC in 2008.

Mary Anne McCubbin                   Marcelene Pendergast Burnett

(1910-1987) Marceline Pendergast Burnett was the oldest daughter of Kansas City’s notorious political boss Tom Pendergast and his wife Carolyn. She had joined her parents on a 1927 European excursion that inspired the design of Tom and Carolyn’s Ward Parkway home.  Tom Pendergast expressed his desire for “a prairie version of symmetrical French regency, with a hint of Italian Renaissance Revival style.”  The resulting mansion was of a scale and level of elegance appropriate for one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the region. Marceline lived in this house 2 years before her marriage in 1929 to William E. Burnett, Jr., son of Founder of Burnett Meat Company. The Pendergast mansion inspired the Burnetts to also hire Tanner to design their Italian Renaissance Revival house on West 65th Street in 1936. Burnett-Berry House is a unique interpretation of the Italian Renaissance Revival style with its own creative design features. Scattered clinker bricks in the exterior walls add visual interest and second-story balconies lengthen the windows. The Burnetts occupied the house 10 years while William Burnett worked his way up to be President/Treasurer of Burnett Meat Co. In 1946, they moved into Pendergast Ward Parkway mansion after the political boss passed away in 1945.

Mel Carney                             Charlie Vincent “The Wop” Carollo

(1902-1979) Born Vincenzo Carrollo in Santa Cristina Gela -  Sicily Italy - Carrollo's family immigrated to  US when he was 3, settling in NYC before moving to KC. His parents were Antonio and Rosa Maria Carrollo. After 1917, Carrollo became a close friend and enforcer for future KC mob boss John Lazia. In the 20s, when Lazia was arrested for bootlegging, Carrollo accepted responsibility for the crime and went to prison for a short time. By the late 1920s, Lazia controlled all organized crime in KC and Carrollo was top lieutenant. On July 10, 1934, Carrollo drove Lazia and his wife Marie to their apartment and wen Lazia got out of the car, a "hit team" gunned him down in a hail of submachine gun fire. Lazia’s last words were for Carrollo to drive Marie to safety. Carrollo and Marie Lazia escaped unharmed and the murder was never solved.  Charlie led the KC Mob after Johnny Lazia’s assassination with the aid of the KC Pendergast  organization, Carrollo became the new mob boss. Carollo and newly appointed KC Police Chief Otto Higgins became involved in numerous criminal activities. In 1939, Treasury Agents under Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. started pursuing Carrollo, who responded by refusing any warrants and sending his gunmen to harass the agents. On October 20, 1939, Carrollo, Higgins and Tom Pendergast were convicted of income tax evasion and sent to Leavenworth Penn. While at Leavenworth,  Carrollo was discovered trafficing in contraband within the prison and was transferred to Alcatraz, the high security prison. Released from prison in 1954, Carrollo was deported to Italy but in 1979, Carrollo died of natural causes in KC.

Mike Montague                Joseph “Scarface” Digiovanni

(1888-1971) Italian-American organized crime figure as we know it began with two Sicilian Mafiosi known as the DiGiovanni brothers who fled Sicily arriving in KC n 1912. With his brother Pietro, the Sicilian Chiusa Sclafani born DiGiovanni engaged in Black Hand extortion within the Sicilian and Italian communities in KC. A botched attempt at insurance fraud - bombing of a building - left Joseph permanently scarred. During WW1, Joseph and Pietro, with 2 other brothers, Paolo and Vincenzo, ran a wholesale grocery while engaging in black market ventures. Joseph "Joe Church" DiGiovanni and Peter "Sugarhouse Pete" DiGiovanni, began making money from a variety of criminal "rackets" shortly after their arrival. Their fortunes improved greatly with introduction of Prohibition, when they became the sole bootleggers in KC. Their rackets at this time were controlled by John Lazia who would later become the leading figure when the organization expanded.  The gang was given a virtually free hand to operate by their boss Tom Pendergast, head of the "Pendergast Machine" that controlled KC's government. Under Pendergast, KC became a "wide-open" town, with absolutely no alcohol-related arrests being made within city limits during the entirety of the Prohibition. The DiGiovanni family directly benefited from this absent law enforcement.

Pam Praiswater                                Harry Jacob Ainslinger

(1892-1975) Born in Bern Switzerland, the Ainslinger family immigrated to NYC before settling in Altoona, Pennsylvania. At age 12 Harry heard screams of a morphine addict that were silenced by a boy returning from a pharmacy to supply the addict with morphine. Harry was appalled the drug was so powerful and children had access to drugs - this experience changed his life. He received associate degrees in Business and Engineering from PA State College and married Martha Denniston in 1917, niece of Andrew W. Mellon. As an investigator for PA Railroad, he found a widower’s accident claim to be fraudulent, saving the company $50,000. He worked for police organizations from Germany to Venezuela to Japan. Harry’s focus was to stop international drug trafficking; he is credited with shaping America's domestic/international drug policies. Anslinger returned to US to work as Assistant Commissioner for US Bureau of Prohibition. At age 38, he was appointed by Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury, as First Commissioner of Federal Bureau of Narcotics and given $100,000 budget under US Treasury Department.  Corruption and scandal gripped prohibition and narcotics agencies. The trade of alcohol and drugs was considered a loss of revenue because, as illegal substances, they could not be taxed. Anslinger received an alarming increase of reports about people smoking marijuana and that its use was accelerating.  The Bureau sent a new law to place marijuana and its distribution directly under federal control. Anslinger also ran a campaign against marijuana on radio and public forums. He held FBN office for 32 years until 1962 followed by 2 years as US Rep to UN Narcotics Commission. Even with his disdain for drugs, it didn’t stop him from getting morphine for addicted Senator Joseph McCarthy to help him end his heroin addiction.

Pat Dolen                            Paul Cantanzaro

The Pendergast Machine was a group of Irishmen dating back to the 19th century, when Tom’s older brother Jim became Alderman of First Ward/Little Italy. During Jim Pendergast’s time, KC’s Little Italy was a crowded, mostly Sicilian, extremely insular ghetto where the Black Hand operated with impunity, thanks to the colony’s strict adherence to Omerta. The Kansas City Star found a small crack in the code of silence and first printed the word "Mafia" in an article dated November 24, 1897. In the early 1900’s, a string of unsolved murders motivated the KCPD to assign a special agent named Joseph Raimo to Little Italy. Raimo was on the job only a short time before being shot-gunned to death while walking his beat at 4th and Holmes. Raimo was replaced with another Italian officer named Louis Olivero. Officer Olivero’s home was bombed and the violence in Little Italy continued, reaching its darkest point in 1919 when a man named Paul Catanzaro murdered a young boy named Frank Carramusa. Carramusa’s father was a fruit peddler who couldn’t put together enough money to pay the Black Hand what they said he owed them. Catanzaro was caught in his murderous act and nearly beaten to death by outraged neighbors. Officer Olivero saved Catanzaro’s life by arriving on scene and arresting him but once again Omerta prevailed and Catanzaro was never convicted. In a cryptic twist of fate, the murdered boy’s brother, Carl Carramusa, would later join the Mafia and become brothers in blood with Paul Catanzaro.

Pat Moore                          Violet Romer / Flapper

Flappers were a "new breed" of young Western women in the 20s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles and flouting social norms. They had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring 20s, with the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed WWI, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe. In the US, popular contempt for Prohibition was a factor in the rise of the flapper. With legal saloons and cabarets closed, back alley speakeasies became prolific and popular. This discrepancy between the law-abiding, religion-based temperance movement and the actual ubiquitous consumption of alcohol led to widespread disdain for authority. Despite the scandal flappers generated – removing corsets from female fashion - their look became fashionable in a toned-down form among older women. Before the war a lady did not set foot in a saloon; after the War a woman, though no more ‘a lady’, entered a speakeasy as thoughtlessly as she would go into a railroad station. Women started swearing and smoking publicly, using contraceptives, competing with men in business and obtaining financial independence from men.

Paula Switzer                    Charlie Binaggio

(1909-1950) Charles Binaggio was a MO gangster who became KC crime family boss and controlled the police forces in KC and St. Louis MO. In 40s, he formed 1st Ward Democratic Club and took over wards near KC's North Side. Binaggio asked National Commission of La Cosa Nostra for a $200K-$2M loan for Smith's Binaggio became a major rival of Jim Pendergast, the nephew of former KC political boss Tom Pendergast and his Democratic faction. Binaggio's goal was to elect his candidate, Forrest Smith,  to be MO Governor by backing the election campaign and using mob money and connections to win; the payback was that Smith was to help the mob open MO gambling.  The 1948 election also brought President Harry Truman, a MO native, reelection to White House. To celebrate this victory, Binaggio chartered a private railroad car for transportation to inauguration ceremony in Washington, DC. Truman was a staunch Pendergast supporter but he made it abundantly clear that Binaggio was not welcome at the ceremony. In late 30s, both Police Departments were taken over by the State due to mass corruption within the ranks ruled by Boards of Police Commissioners that were appointed by the Governor. Unable to control the police forces in KC or St. Louis, the syndicate  was forced to fold up their new gambling establishments. The crime bosses in Chicago were not happy so Binaggio bribed one of KC police commissioners and threatened others. On April 5, 1950 Binaggio and his underboss, Charles "Mad Dog" Gargotta  were called to meet unknown persons at 1st Ward Democratic Club. Binaggio left his driver/bodyguard, Nick Penna, at the Last Chance Saloon saying he’d soon return. After 8 PM, residents heard several shots and later a cab driver noticed the club door was open and bodies of Charles Binaggio and Charles Gargotta inside the club. Most likely the mob bosses were killed by members of their own crime family under orders from the Mafia Commission in NY. The probable organizer of the hit was Anthony Gizzo, who received leadership of the KC family as a reward; the murderers were never found.

Randy Anderson              Nick Civella

(1912-1983) was a KC MO mobster who became a prominent leader of the KC crime family. Born Giuseppe Nicoli Civella, he was the son of Italian immigrants in KC and he began his career in the Italian northeast neighborhood of KC. Civella’s first theft was at age 10 after he dropped out of school and by 20 had been arrested for auto theft, illegal gambling, robbery and vagrancy. In 1932 he spent 2 months in prison for bootlegging and in 1934 married Katherine his wife for almost 50 years. In the 40’s he became a Democratic Party precinct worker and friends with crime boos, Charles Binaggio. By the 50’s he dominated crime activity in KC and was listed in the Gaming Commission as one of the first entries in the Black book, prohibiting him from entering casinos in Nevada. However due to his acquaintance with Teamsters President, Civella played an important part in controlling the Central  States Pension Fund in Teamsters Union and in skimming of casino gambling profits in Las Vegas Nevada. The new boss was now Nicholas Civella who expanded the family's rackets greatly and forged alliances with families from other cities, making the organization very powerful. Civella also used the Teamsters to fund casinos in Las Vegas. In 1975 Civella was imprisoned on gambling charges for betting on the 1970 Super Bowl played between the MN Vikings and KC Chiefs. There was a war in the family over control of the River Quay entertainment district in which 3 buildings were bombed and several gangsters were killed.
In 1980 Civella was convicted of bribery, released in 1983 and he died shortly after. Upon his death of lung cancer, 2 weeks after being released from a Springfield MO prison, his brother Carl “Cork” Civella but became head of the KC crime family, but he was imprisoned in 1 year later.

Peggy Lancaster               Mary Margaret Truman Daniel

(1924-2008) The daughter of Harry Truman, Margaret was born in Independence MO. She attended George Washington University when her father became 33rd US President following the death of Franklin Roosevelt near the end of WWII. Margaret became a professional singer, eventually performing at Carnegie Hall and writing 23 novels (biographies of her parents) and 9pieces of non-fiction.  Margaret’s singing debut in 1947 was a Detroit Symphony Orchestra radio broadcast that drew 15 million people; she sang in more than 30 cities. After a performance in1950,  a Washington Post music critic wrote she was "extremely attractive on stage, but cannot sing very well." Harry, her father wrote back, "I have never met you, but if I do you'll need a new nose and plenty of beefsteak and perhaps a supporter below."  Margaret met Clifton Daniel, editor of NY Times, and they married in 1956 at the same Independence church her parents were married in 1919. The Daniels had 4 sons and lived many years on Park Avenue/Upper East Side of Manhattan. Clifton Daniel died in February 2000 at age 87 and several months later son William (41) died in a taxi cab collision. Margaret  died in  2008 in Chicago after a brief illness; she is survived by 3 sons and 5 grandchildren. According to Margaret, “My father had already made it clear that he had the backing and ability to run a pretty good race on his own. Thus, there never was and never would be any subservience in his relationship with the Pendergasts, but there was another element, which some of Dad’s critics have mistaken for subservience – party loyalty.”

Rich Lohrmeyer                                Charles”Pretty Boy“ Floyd

Death of Floyd: After an intensive search, the FBI and a team of local police officers located Pretty Boy Floyd hiding on a farm just outside Clarkson, Ohio, on October 22, 1934. Floyd shot it out with the law enforcement officers and was killed in the shootout. At the time Floyd was killed, a watch and fob, consisting of a “lucky piece”, were found on his person. Groups of ten notches were found on each of these items—reportedly carved by Floyd as an indication of the number of people he had killed. With his dying breath, Floyd denied he was involved in the shooting. Changes at the FBI: The Kansas City Massacre changed the FBI. Prior to this event the agency did not have authority to carry firearms (although many agents did) and make arrests (they could make a "citizen's arrest", then call a U.S. Marshal or local law officer), but a year later Congress gave the FBI statutory authority to carry guns and make arrests (in May and June 1934). The FBI acquired their first Thompson submachine guns for their agents after the incident.

Ron Rafferty                                      James Alexander Reed

(1861-1944) was an Attorney and Democratic politician from MO. As Jackson County Prosecutor from 1898 to 1900, he unsuccessfully prosecuted Jesse E. James, son of bandit Jesse James, for 1899 train robbery. As KC Mayor from 1900-1904, he rocketed to national fame overseeing "KC Spirit" construction of Convention Hall in 90 days to host 1900 Democratic National Convention, after the original building burned. James was also was responsible for changing a vote that initiated the Federal Reserve Act with MO getting 2 of 12 Federal Reserve Banks - St. Louis and KC - the only state with multiple. Reed retired from politics in 1929 to practice law. In 1931 he represented Myrtle Bennett, who shot her husband John, a perfume salesman, after a bridge game; the trial received world-wide coverage. During the trial he learned his neighbor – “married Nell Donnelly Reed” - was pregnant with his child. Donnelly's husband threatened to kill himself if Nell became pregnant since he was unable to have children. Reed refused to divorce his wife of 43 years to marry an Irishwoman. Donnelly went to Europe, returning with “adopted son” David, born September 10th, 1931. In December 1931 Donnelly and her chauffeur were abducted at gunpoint and held for ransom. Reed involved himself in the case, calling Johnny Lazia to find Donnelly, which only took 34 hours.  The subsequent court cases led to 3 men imprisoned and acquittal of a 4th who claimed he thought Nell was someone else. After Reed's wife died in 1932, Donnelly divorced her husband and married Reed in 1933. James died 2 days before his son's 13th birthday of pneumonia after fishing in the rain.

Sharon Cox                                         Josephina “Fina” Scarfo

(1912-2006) In 1927, Italian anarchist Joesph DiGiovanni left his wife, and commenced an affair with an American, Josefina ("Fina") Scarfó, the 15-year-old sister of the Scarfó brothers, Alejandro and Paulino. Before that Fina married anarchist Silvio Astolfi, but was promptly cut off from all contact with her family. The police attempted to arrest him at a printing shop, but Di Giovanni escaped during a gun battle in which 1 police was killed and 1 injured. In 1931, DiGiovanni was arrested after being seriously injured in another gun battle, along with Fina and Paulino Scarfó. Two other anarchists were killed in the firefight. DiGiovanni announced 300 chickens found in their house were to be given to the poor. After DiGiovanni's execution, Fina abandoned her husband Silvio Astolfi, and remarried, settling down to a quiet life in Buenos Aires, dying in 2006 at age 93.

Sharon Jones                      Jessie Clyde Nichols

(1880-1950)  Better known as JC Nichols, he was a prominent developer of commercial and residential real estate in KC. Born in Olathe KS, JC attended KU and Harvard. Hi developments included Country Club Plaza, first suburban shopping center in the US, and the county club district, the largest continuous master-planned community in the US. His philosophies influenced other US developments including Beverly Hills, Westwood LA and Shaker Heights OH; he advocated preservation of trees and natural contours, while prescribing gridiron street networks. JC invented the percentage lease, where rents are based on tenants’ gross receipts, still a standard US practice. JC Nichols was involved in the creation of Liberty Memorial, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and UMKC.

Steve Huffman                                 Robert A. Long

Robert Alexander Long (1850–1934) was a lumber baron, developer, investor, newspaper owner and philanthropist. He lived mostly in KC MO and was a major funder of KC’s Liberty Memorial WW1 Monument (dedicated 11.11.26). By 1906, Long owned 250,000 acres of pine in AR/OK/LA, converting it to 61 lumberyards. Moving west to Washington, he bought 270,000 acres of Douglas Fir and was a pioneer in reforestation. Long's 1911 Gladstone Blvd. home, now the KC Museum, was a 72 room French Renaissance mansion and KC's first million-dollar home. R.A. Long Building Beaux-Arts skyscraper was built at 928 Grand Avenue. The 2000 acre 1914 Longview Farm, with 42 buildings, 250 acres of lawns, flower beds and greenhouses is now Longview College and Longview Lake.

Toby Erosky                                        Carl Carramusa

Carl Carramusa was a dark, slender son of Italian immigrants, born as “Carlo” in Chicago he became  Carl Carey, Owner of Carey’s Modernistic Cocktail Bar. When Carlo was 10, his younger brother Frank was killed. (See Denise Patrick Fisk) In February 1943 federal agents arrested Carl Carramusa, having traced a large stash of heroin in the East Bottoms to the former owner of Carey's Modernistic Cocktail Bar. Carramusa, who had enlisted in the Army when the war began, gave up the names of his conspirators in Florida, St. Louis and KC. Carramusa received a reduced sentence and probation. By 1945 he was living in Chicago. One night when Carl was arriving home, a car pulled up and unloaded blasts from two sawed-off shotguns, removing the head of the former owner of Carey's Modernistic Cocktail Bar. He had noticed someone in a car with FL plates lurking  nearby a few days earlier.

Tom Hoffman                    Thomas Joseph “Boss Man” or “TJ” Pendergast

(1873–1945) Thomas Joseph Pendergast controlled KC and Jackson County, MO as a corrupt political boss from 1925 to 1939. "Boss Tom" helped elect politicians, becoming wealthy in the process. Tom Pendergast was tremendously popular in KC, where he fed the poor and provided thousands of jobs, and those people often repaid him by voting “early and often” on election day. Pendergast was a patron of the early political career of Harry S. Truman, causing controversy after Truman became VP and President. As head of the "Pendergast Machine" that controlled KC's government at the time, KC became a "wide-open" town, with absolutely no alcohol-related arrests being made within city limits during the entirety of the Prohibition. Pendergast's machine frequently rigged elections to aid its favored candidates and he also extended his rule into neighboring cities such as Omaha NE and Wichita KS where members of his family had set up branches of Ready-Mixed Concrete Companies. The Pendergast stamp was to be found in the packing plant industries, local politics, bogus construction contracts and the jazz scene in those cities. Many of Truman's old war buddies had Veterans' Clubs in Omaha. In return, Pendergast-owned entities were often awarded local and county contracts for construction, paving and other services. These companies frequently performed substandard work at inflated prices and Pendergast amassed a sizable fortune. Pendergast also wielded influence at the state level but was eventually convicted of income tax evasion and served 15 months in Leavenworth Federal Prison. Tom married Caroline Elisabeth Dunn in 1911 and raised 3 children, 2 girls and a boy, at their home on 5650 Ward Parkway.

Tom Talbert                                       Anthony “Tony” Gizzo 

(1902-1953)  Anthony Robert Gizzo was born in NYC and was known as "Tony". He was a KC MO mobster with the Cosa Nostra and a boss of the KC  crime family. In the early 1920s, after being arrested on a narcotics charge, Gizzo attempted to bribe a federal officer with $10,000 ($114,601 today). Gizzo was convicted and in 1924 served one year and a day at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Gizzo was a close friend of mobster Charles Binaggio. In 1930, Gizzo and Binaggio were arrested in Denver, Colorado, on a minor charge. During this time, both men were lieutenants to KC North End political boss John Lazia in his illegal gambling operations. Gizzo soon became known as one of the five "Iron Men" due to his underworld clout. In 1950, with Binaggio's murder, it is believed that Gizzo assumed leadership of the KC family.