“Outlaw Empires” is a documentary series about the notorious dynasties of renegades who came to inhabit or previously inhabited our land. Created by Kurt Sutter, who brought fans “Sons of Anarchy,” it explores the organized outlaw gangs indigenous to different parts of the United States and presents them to the viewers with his unique spin.
This episode gives insight into the Italian Mob, the Mafia or La Cosa NostraÂ—names it was known to be called. Operated under several families, this episode examines the Gambino familyÂ—one of the most notorious crime syndicates in Mafia history.
From the voices of two ex-Mafia men, Dominic Montiglio and Michael Franzese, two men who grew up in the Mafia and knew no other life, they tell their stories from their firsthand recollections.
Michael Franzese’s father had been in the Mafia and growing up, Michael was used to living a life under police surveillance and even recalled that losing family members was something they got used toÂ—even if they died under unusual circumstances, like being found shot in the head in the trunk of a car. These men spoke about the rise of the Gambino crime family with two factions, the New York City and the Brooklyn each vying for control.
Carlo Gambino was working his way up through the ranks of the syndicate while Albert Anastasia was in charge and planned to take over after his reign came to an end.
Dominick worked his way up the ranks of the mob by doing “what had to be done,” including killing or maiming an enemy or a friend. Retaliation was a rite of passage. When commanded to kill, he did so and recalled rigging a car with explosives and waited until the grenade went off during the nightÂ—prepared to disarm it if it did not go off, so that nobody else would be hurt except the target. The grenade went off, but did not kill the guy. It blew him across the street breaking his leg and other injuries. When his hospital stay ended, he moved to Florida…apparently he got the message.
Carlo Gambino died while watching a Yankee game on television. The whole family showed up for the funeralÂ—friends and enemies alike. The Brooklyn side was closer than the Manhattan side and a meeting was scheduled to choose a new leader…no guns allowed.
Dominick was positioned in a third-story window where he could watch the meeting armed with a high powered rifle. If there was a problem, he could take out the Manhattan mobsters. Luckily, the meeting was peaceful and Paul Castellano was elected to succeed Gambino, but the Manhattan family wanted Aniello Dellacroce. They hated each other, but no voices were raised and Castellano was made boss. Dominick did not have to kill anyone…that time.
Michael described the ceremony when he was “made” or became a trusted member of the mob. His finger was cut with a knife, he cupped his hands while they bled and the picture of a saint was put in his hands and set on fire to prove his loyalty to the family.
By the late ’70s, the Mafia had their fingers in just about every business. Dominick recalled how families tried to take out other mob members and how hits were made. One targeted man had a wig and fake mustache, but it did not fool the hitman and he recalled seeing his mustache hanging off his half blown-off head.
By the early ’80s Dominick was arrested, but cooperated with the authorities. He was interrogated by several federal agencies, including the post office. A new prosecutor came into the picture named Rudy Giuliani who was determined to clean up New York. In 1985, while in prison, Michael broke away from the Columbo crime family and agreed to testify. He recalled facing the evil stares in the courtroom from the bosses. Paul Castellano was killed by suspected boss John Gatti, who died in prison along with several others caught up in the sweep by the relentless Giuliani.
Although a resurgence of the Mafia occurred recently, the old values and loyalties have gone by the wayside leaving a fractured shell behind.
Dominick left witness protection 10 years ago and is now an artist and Michael is now a famous author and motivational speaker and no longer members of “Outlaw Empires.”
Photo of Carlo Gambino: Wikimedia