Monday, December 11, 2017

How John Gotti Whacked The American Mafia

Sean Cunningham interviewed veteran organized crime reporter and author George Anastasia (seen in the bottom photo) on the decline of Cosa Nostra in America at

Even in death, John Gotti (seen in the above FBI mugshot) suffers indignities. A Gotti biopic starring John Travolta and directed by Kevin Connolly (“E” from HBO’s Entourage) was scheduled to hit theaters on Dec. 15… only suddenly to be not only yanked from release but reportedly dumped by Lionsgate completely.

Travolta has since pushed back, insisting that it was actually a buyback that will allow for a wider release in 2018. Indeed, they now want the film to compete at Cannes. (It still needs to be submitted, much less accepted.)

This all feels oddly consistent with the Gotti story. By the time he died of throat cancer in 2002 at age 61, his nicknames seemed to mock rather than flatter him. The “Dapper Don” who bragged about wearing $1,800 suits gave up control of his wardrobe in 1992. That was the year he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole as the “Teflon Don” turned stickum. His conviction was particularly bitter since fellow defendant Sammy “The Bull” Gravano flipped on him. Thus Gotti, whose public flamboyance just dared the government to take him down… was taken down. And he remained down until his death.

Which was par for the course during an era when the mob was bold, aggressive, loud, treacherous, and often staggeringly inept, as if watching a season of The Sopranos in which every single character was Paulie Walnuts.

“It’s a dark comedy,” said George Anastasia. Anastasia spent decades documenting the mob in Philadelphia for the Inquirer, but also explored the “big stage” of New York with Gotti’s Rules: The Story of John Alite, Junior Gotti, and the Demise of the American Mafia. (Alite was a friend, enforcer and self-professed “babysitter” for Gotti Jr.)

… Anastasia noted that a Gotti associate turned informant summed it up pretty well: “Mikey Scars—Michael DiLeonardo—once said to me, ‘Cosa Nostra was this thing of ours. Johnny made it this thing of mine.’ That was the difference. He talked about Cosa Nostra but it was very egocentric.”

You can read the rest of the piece and watch a trailer from the film Gotti via the below link:

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer review of George Anastasia's Gotti Rules below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge.

Attorney General Sessions Issues Statement On The Attempted Terrorist Attack In New York City

The U.S. Justice Department released Attorney General Jeff Sessions’statement on the attempted terrorist attack in New York City:

“The President is exactly correct about the changes we need to our immigration system. We have now seen two terrorist attacks in New York City in less than two months that were carried out by people who came here as the result of our failed immigration policies that do not serve the national interest—the diversity lottery and chain migration. The 20-year-old son of the sister of a U.S. citizen should not get priority to come to this country ahead of someone who is high-skilled, well educated, has learned English, and is likely to assimilate and flourish here.

“It is a failure of logic and sound policy not to adopt a merit-based immigration system. The President has asked Congress to work with him on ending the diversity lottery and chain migration. He has proposed switching to a merit-based system of immigration similar to the Canadian and Australian systems.  That means welcoming the best and the brightest and turning away not only terrorists but gang members, fraudsters, drunk drivers, and child abusers.  Such a merit-based system would make us safer and welcome individuals who would be best able to assimilate and flourish in our country.”

U.S. Navy: Forged By The Sea

The U.S. Navy released a photo of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral John Richardson with the team behind the Navy's new tagline, "Forged by the Sea", at a mobile Navy recruiting display at the 2017 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

The photo was taken by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird.

Note: You can click on the above and below photos to enlarge.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

'A Christmas Carol' Saved Dickens From Crushing Debt

Barbara Hoffman at the New York Post offers a piece on Charles Dickens and his ever-popular A Christmas Carol.

It isn’t really Christmas without “A Christmas Carol.” Since 1843, when Charles Dickens (seen in the below photo) published what he called his “little Christmas book,” it’s never gone out of print — selling countless copies and spawning thousands of plays, readings, TV shows and movies starring everyone from Alastair Sim, George C. Scott and Christopher Plummer, to Jim Carrey, Scrooge McDuck and the Muppets.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Dickens’ reading tour in America, which seems to have renewed interest not only in “A Christmas Carol” itself — but what prompted him to write it. The new film “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum and even a novel all seem to come to the same ironic conclusion: that Dickens might never have written his plea for charity if he hadn’t been desperate to make money.

“He was in debt up to his eyeballs,” Samantha Silva, author of the new novel, “Mr. Dickens and His Carol” (Flatiron Books) told The Post. His last works had flopped: No one cared for “American Notes for General Circulation” (based on an unhappy, 1842 trip to the States), and his latest serialized novel, “Martin Chuzzlewit,” was such a dud, Dickens’ publishers docked £50 from his salary each month. Meanwhile, his wife, Catherine, was expecting their fifth child and they’d just leased a grand London home, which Dickens refurbished.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Although the late, great actor George C. Scott is best known for his powerful performance as General Patton, I believe he gave an equally powerful performance as Scrooge in a A Christmas Carol.

You can watch the entire film via the below link:

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Political Consultant Pleads Guilty To Lying To The FBI In Connection With Campaign Finance Investigation

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

A Philadelphia-area political consultant pleaded guilty today to making a false statement to FBI agents in connection with a campaign finance investigation.  Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Louis D. Lappen for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania made the announcement.

Donald Jones, 62, of Willingboro, New Jersey, was charged with this crime and related offenses in an indictment against him and co-defendant Kenneth Smukler returned by a federal grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Oct. 24.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, Jones admitted to making a false statement to the FBI arising from his participation in a falsification scheme involving unlawful contributions to Jimmie Moore’s 2012 campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

As described in the plea memorandum, the scheme entailed Moore’s agreement to withdraw from the race in exchange for $90,000 in payments from his opponent’s campaign.  The payments exceeded the $2,000 limit on contributions from one campaign to another campaign for primary elections.  The payments, moreover, were paid to a company created by Moore’s campaign manager, Carolyn Cavaness, for the sole purpose of receiving the funds and repaying Moore’s campaign debts.  According to the plea memorandum, the payments to that company were routed through political consulting companies run by Jones and Smukler to conceal the nature and source of the funds.

As set forth in the plea memorandum, the campaign of Moore’s opponent made a $25,000 payment to D. Jones & Associates, a political consulting company run by Jones.  On or about August 30, 2012, Jones caused D. Jones & Associates to send a check to the company created by Cavaness in the amount of $25,000.  The payment was disguised as a payment for Cavaness’s consulting services, even though Cavaness performed no work for Jones’ company or the campaign of Moore’s opponent.  Jones understood that the purpose of the transfers was to conceal the payment of funds from the opposing campaign to Moore’s campaign in exchange for Moore’s withdrawal.  According to the plea memorandum, the campaign of Moore’s opponent additionally made $65,000 in payments to Voter Link Data Systems, a political consulting company run by Smukler, and Smukler’s company subsequently sent Cavaness $65,000 in payments to conceal the nature and source of those funds as well.

According to the plea memorandum, on or about May 5, 2017, Jones made a false statement to FBI agents investigating this matter.  When questioned about the $25,000 payment from his company to Cavaness’s company, Jones falsely stated to the agents that Cavaness had performed work for his company and the campaign of Moore’s opponent in exchange.  According to the plea memorandum, Jones made this false statement knowingly and willfully and for the purpose of concealing from the FBI the fact that the $25,000 payment was an illegal campaign contribution.

Cavaness pleaded guilty to the charge of causing false statements to the FEC in connection with this matter on July 25.  Moore pleaded guilty to the charge of causing false statements to the FEC in connection with this matter on Oct. 2. 

The charges against the remaining co-defendant, Smukler, are still pending and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson and Trial Attorney Jonathan Kravis of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section. 

On This Day In History Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner Was Murdered

On this day in 1981 Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner was murdered by Mumia Abu-Jamal.

You can read my Crime Beat column about the murder via the below link:

Accused New York Genovese Mob Boss Headed To Trial For Racketeering Along With Reputed Philadelphia Mob Boss

Kaja Whitehouse at the New York Post offers a piece on reputed Cosa Nostra Genovese crime family boss Eugene O’Nofrio (seen in the above photo), who heading to trial on racketeering charges.

Accused Genovese mob boss Eugene “Rooster” O’Nofrio has given up on plea talks and is headed to trial for racketeering, his lawyer confirmed on Thursday.

… O’Nofrio and reputed Philadelphia mob boss Joey “Skinny Joey” Merlino (seen in the below photo) have been accused of being leaders of what the government has dubbed the East Coast La Cosa Nostra Enterprise, a conglomerate of different mob families working together across multiple states.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier New York Post story on Merlino and O'Nofrio via the below link:

Concealed-Carry Gun Permit 'Reciprocity' Means Every State Would Accept All States' Permits

Christine Corbin at offers a piece on what the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act will mean. 

Shaneen Allen, a Philadelphia mother of two, was arrested during a traffic stop three years ago after she crossed from Pennsylvania into New Jersey with a loaded .380-caliber Bersa Thunder handgun -- unaware that her concealed-carry gun permit in her home state was not transferable to another.

Allen was eventually pardoned by the New Jersey governor after legal wrangling, but her case stirred a national debate over concealed-carry gun permits.

That debate has come to a head. On Wednesday the House of Representatives passed a bill, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, that would oblige every state to recognize a concealed-carry gun permit issued by any other state.

So what does “reciprocity” mean? It means that anyone with a valid concealed-carry gun permit in one state may travel to any other state with the permitted weapon and not worry about being arrested or fined for carrying that concealed weapon as Allen was. In other words, each state must reciprocate the approval of a permit that any other state has issued.

Reciprocity does not affect any specific state’s laws about carrying a concealed weapon. Some states have relatively restrictive permitting procedures. New York state, for example, has one of the most rigorous standards for anyone seeking a concealed-carry gun permit. The process, if successful -- and success is far from guaranteed – entails completing a large amount of paperwork, months of waiting and detailed inquiries into applicants’ history and personal lives. The bill that just passed does not require New York to change or stop enforcing its existing laws. The state can continue to enforce relatively restrictive standards for anyone seeking, within the state of New York, a concealed-carry gun permit.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times piece on concealed carry via the below link:

Friday, December 8, 2017

My Q&A With Mark Bowden, Author Of 'Hue 1968' And 'Black Hawk Down'

My Q&A with Mark Bowden, author of Hue 1968, Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo, appears in the current issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read the piece below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge 

My Piece On Operation Regional Shield And The Transnational Criminal Gang MS-13

My piece on the transnational gang MS-13 appears in the current issue of Counterterrorism magazine.

You can read the piece below:

Note: You can click on the above to enlarge. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Gun Rights Activists Celebrate House Approval Of Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill

Andrea Noble at the Washington Times reports that the House passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.

The House delivered a win for gun rights groups Wednesday with the passage of legislation that would force states to recognize concealed carry permits issued by other states and would strengthen the federal gun background check system.

The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, backed by Republicans, was adopted in a 231-198 vote that mostly followed party lines. The Senate now will take up the measure.

Supporters say the proposal would give law-abiding citizens the ability to protect themselves when they travel, but critics say it eviscerates states’ rights to uphold their own firearms standards by allowing gun owners who obtain permits in states with lesser requirements to carry in all 50 states.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read my Washington Times piece on gun rights and concealed carry via the below link:

On This Day In History The Imperial Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor

As notes, on this day in 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow against the U.S. Pacific fleet and drew the United States irrevocably into World War II.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Below is a photo of my old ship, the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, circa 1970, as she passes the USS Arizona  Memorial at the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii:

Pearl Harbor Day: Remembering My Late Father, Edward Miller Davis

Every December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day, I think of my late father, Edward Miller Davis, who died on this day in 1976. He was 57.

My brother Eddie and I noted at the time that he would have liked to have passed on December 7th, as he was a proud World War II Navy veteran.

He was a chief Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) frogman and fought in the Pacific battles on Tinian, Saipan and the Philippines.

Below is a photo of my father (in the center) with his team, UDT 5:  

Below is a statue of a UDT frogman in front of the UDT-SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida:  

Below is a photo of my father and my late mother, Claire Wardino Davis:

Below is a photo of my father, me and my older brother Eddie:

And below is a photo of me and my father when I came home from Navy Boot Camp in 1970:

My Crime Fiction: "A Christmas Crime Story"

As the Christmas season is here once again, I’d like to offer my short story, A Christmas Crime Story, which originally appeared in The Orchard Press Online Mystery Magazine in 2003.

You can read the story below:

A Christmas Crime Story
To get in the true spirit of the Christmas holiday, some people go to church, some people go to the homes of family and friends, and some people go out and shop.

Me? I go to cop bars.

Cops are great storytellers. Perhaps its because they observe a segment of life that’s dramatic, tragic and funny. Perhaps its also because they spend so much time cruising on patrol that they’ve had the time to develop and hone their story-telling skills.

As a writer, I’ve talked to cops in station houses, in patrol cars, on the street and in bars. I’ve listened to their concerns, prideful boasts and sorrowful confessions. I’ve accompanied cops on patrol and witnessed them handle insane, intoxicated and incongruous citizens. I’ve observed how they console crime victims and their families. I’ve seen how they cope with the aftermath of criminal violence and man’s inhumanity to man. And I’ve come to appreciate their black humor, which like military humor, is a necessary safety valve to get them through the bad times.

I especially like to frequent cop bars during the holiday season and listen to cops at their very best. Some cops gather at bars after work to relax, drink and tell their stories. At this time of year, they are in very good spirits, a bit happier, a bit giddier and a bit more talkative.

Cops are generally in good spirits despite the fact that the holiday season is a busy one for them. It’s a sad commentary, but the holiday season is a peak time for crime.

Criminals certainly love the holiday season, but not for spiritual or sentimental reasons. It’s simply a time of grand opportunity. And criminals certainly don’t take a Christmas vacation. As joyous and hopeful people go out to worship, shop, dine and visit family and friends, criminal predators go out and pickpocket, shoplift, mug, steal and burglarize.

My recent columns in the local newspaper covered the annual Christmas crime spree and over the years I’ve reported on and chronicled a good number of crime stories during the holidays. I recall covering the story of a do-gooder delivering toys to needy families who was viciously assaulted and robbed. Another story concerned two kids playing with their Christmas gift, a paint ball gun, when an irate neighbor came out and shot them with a real gun.

One year while out on patrol with the cops, I came upon a young couple who had started out drinking and getting high for the holidays and ended up with one murdering the other. I once covered a story about a man with a car full of gifts who ran into a store for a pack of cigarettes. He came out to no car, no gifts and no Merry Christmas for him that year.

I’ve covered an assortment of other stories about armed robberies, thefts, purse snatchings and other crimes during the holidays as well.

Despite the crime and tragedies I’ve seen, I still love the Christmas season. I love the lights and decorations, the hustle and bustle and all of the trimmings. I love Christmas music and often sing along, although admittedly off-key.

This particular year, even more than others in the past, I was in very good spirits, having recently recovered from severe spine and nerve damage that crippled me and caused God-awful pain. I spent several months in the hospital and convalescing at home. I’ve suffered with a bad back for many years, dating back to my years as an amateur boxer and playing other sports, and as a young sailor working on a U.S. Navy tugboat and an aircraft carrier. The build-up of damage to my poor back finally took its toll and crippled me.

The doctors at the hospital ruled that I was not a surgical candidate, determining that any operation would be too risky. As I was deathly afraid of surgery, this diagnosis suited me fine. So they loaded me up with wonder drugs and placed me in physical therapy. The physical therapists, trained by Saddam Hussein’s secret police, I suspect, got me to my feet and ran me through a series of painful but ultimately beneficial exercises.

When I initially collapsed during the summer in my bedroom, I thought the searing pain in my groin and back was akin to being shot with a high-powered rifle. My wife called 911 and the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Rescue Paramedics rushed me to the hospital. Despite being in great pain, I managed to joke with the attending doctors and nurses that first night in the hospital.

This is the most painful day of my life, I told them - and I’ve been to Vietnam.

And I’m married.

And I have a teenage daughter.

I got a few laughs, which helped to lighten my pain, as I am a ham to the end. In addition to the fine medical professionals who cared for me, it was my wonderful wife and family - who were often the brunt of my jokes and asides – who helped me get through the worst time of my adult life.

Within the period of five months, I went from being bed-ridden in great pain, to twirling around the hospital halls in a wheelchair, to walking a few painful steps with a walker, to finally walking into a cop’s bar aided by a cane this fine Christmas season.

I’d recovered sufficiently enough to go out and stop by Johnny Drum’s Bar & Grill, a great little cop’s bar in South Philly. I had a lot to be thankful for this year and I visited Johnny’s place expecting to run into some lively characters that felt likewise.

I was somewhat disappointed to first encounter Sgt. John Snyder at the bar. Snyder was known as one mean cop. He was of average height, a bit stocky and had a large, pan-shaped head topped with thinning dark hair. He was an unhappy, gruff and miserable man. A cop once made the comment that Snyder "barked" rather than spoke.

I recall previous Christmas seasons when Snyder would be at the end of the bar by himself, miserly nursing his drink. In addition to being foul-tempered, Snyder was a notorious cheapskate.

"Merry Christmas, Ebenezer," I’d greet him in jest during those holiday visits. "Bah, humbug," he’d respond, playing along begrudgingly with my take on Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story, A Christmas Carol. I joked around, but in truth he was truly as mean-spirited as Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge.

Sgt. Snyder was widely known as "The Cop Who Busted Santa Claus." As the often-told story goes, Snyder pulled over a man dressed as Santa on Christmas Eve a few years back. Observing that the red-suited, false-bearded man was slightly inebriated, Snyder promptly placed him under arrest.

He slapped the handcuffs on the man and then had had his car towed. The tow truck took the car, despite the jolly old soul’s somewhat slurred pleas that his car – a modern-day sleigh - was full of toys destined for children at an orphanage. A crowd had gathered on the street and booed the police officer’s actions. He cursed them and threatened to lock them all up.

"And a Merry, Merry Christmas to you as well," one bystander sarcastically remarked.

More holiday-spirited police officials quickly released the man dressed as Santa. The man, outraged by his treatment, promptly called a TV station and told his story. The mayor, the police commissioner and other police brass were not happy with the lead news story run on Christmas Day. The national press picked up the story and this did not help Philadelphia’s image. "The Cop Who Busted Santa Claus" complemented an earlier story of Philadelphia sport fans pelting Santa with snowballs at a ball field.

A cop once told me that Snyder had him out walking on South Street on a very cold and windy Christmas Eve night. Snyder sternly ordered the beat cop not to hang out in a store, sucking up heat, coffee and merriment. Of course, the cop quickly escaped the bitter wind and cold and stepped into a shoe store for hot chocolate and conversation with the store owner and customers.

When the cop looked out through the store window and saw Snyder’s car roll down South Street, he stepped out and stood in front of the store, shivering. "Have you been hiding in a store?" Sgt. Snyder barked. "No, of course not" the cop told him. "Although it is really cold out here, Sarge."

Snyder placed his bare hand on the cop’s badge and found the metal to be nearly as warm as the hot chocolate in the beat cop’s stomach.

The chastened police officer told every cop, everybody, the story. "Do you believe it? The SOB chewed me out on Christmas Eve!"

There were also tales of Snyder locking up kids whose only crime was being merry. Sgt. Snyder was a one-man crime-fighting machine during the holiday season, targeting not thieves and crooks, but rather the people whose only crime was to be too joyous.

To his credit, he still talked to me despite the two negative stories I wrote about him in the past. One of my columns covered "The Cop Who Busted Santa Claus" and I wrote another that dealt with Snyder’s arrest of a honeymooning couple who were visiting the Italian Market. Their crime? The happy couple, who were married on Christmas Eve, asked the good sergeant to pose with them for a photo. He didn’t like their attitude and placed them under arrest for disorderly conduct.

But this year, as I approached him at the bar, I saw that Snyder was clearly a changed man. Over a few drinks, he told me why.

A day earlier the gruff sergeant responded to the call of a residential burglary. The victim told the responding officers that among the stolen valuables were his military awards and other mementos of the Iraq War. He told Snyder that he had just returned from Iraq as a medically discharged soldier due to combat wounds.

"Who’d steal this stuff?" he asked Snyder. "Who would steal children’s toys at Christmas?"

The burglars stole the gift-wrapped presents from under the Christmas tree. The young former soldier was saddened by the loss of his gifts to his wife and children. He said he was not insured and he could not afford to buy new gifts. Snyder, the well-known mean, jaded and cynical cop, was truly touched by this young veteran who had just returned from war.

Snyder felt empathy for someone for the first time in many years. He thought back to his own return from Vietnam so many years before. He recalled how he then yearned to become a cop. He also yearned to marry his high school sweetheart and to have kids with her. He accomplished all that he set out to do, and now, in the midst of a crime scene, he wondered why it had all soured for him.

He marriage suffered from his penny-pinching, his chronic petty complaints, and his foul temper. His wife finally drew up the courage to throw him out of the house one night after he came home drunk, mean and violent. He would never hit her or the kids, he assured me, but he often gave the inanimate objects in the house a real good beating.

The kids, grown now and on their own, rarely spoke to him. He thought of them as he watched the veteran’s children. The sight of these kids, sitting close together on the couch, perhaps wondering if the crooks would come back, if Santa were coming now, or whether Jesus still loved them, broke Snyder’s heart.

Snyder made the rounds of the local veteran’s organizations the next day and told the story of the veteran who had been victimized. He collected a good bit of money from the veterans, from his fellow police officers and he personally donated a large sum himself. Having secured the list of stolen items from South Detectives, he ventured to the stores and purchased nearly all of the stolen items.

He also called his wife, sweet-talked her, told her he was a changed man and asked her to accompany him when, like Santa Claus, he would deliver the replacement gifts to the veteran and his family.

He was truly beaming as he told me this Christmas crime story. I had never seen him smile before.

He told me how the veteran’s kids were so happy they cried. The veteran was embarrassed, but thankful. Snyder explained that his fellow veterans and the local cops wanted to help him and his family.

By helping the veteran, Snyder recalled the true meaning of Christmas. He felt the joy of giving and of goodness and loving - even in a cruel and sometimes evil world.

"I have to run," he said, finishing up his story and beer, "I’m celebrating Christmas with my wife, my kids and all of my grand kids."

Before he left, Snyder, to everyone’s astonishment but mine, bought a round for the house.

"Merry Christmas to one and all," he barked.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Profumo Scandal Wasn’t About Sex — It Was About Spying

With the recent death of Christine Keeler, the woman at the heart of the British Profumo affair in the 1960s, the sex and espionage scandal is back in the news.

While most of the coverage is centered on the sex, Ben Macintyre, author of many fine books on espionage, including A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal, Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, offers a look back at the Soviet naval officer and GRU spy who was at the center of the scandal in his column in the London Times.

On June 14, 1963, nine days after John Profumo resigned in a welter of scandal over his affair with Christine Keeler, a spy deep inside the KGB sent a sensational report to his American handler.

The KGB spy, who has never been identified, reported that “the Russians had in fact received a lot of useful information from Profumo from [sic] Christine Keeler, with whom Ivanov had established contact, and in whose apartment Ivanov had even been able to lay on eavesdropping operations at appropriate times”.

The “Ivanov” in question was Yevgeni Mikhailovitch Ivanov (seen in the above photo), a Soviet intelligence officer posing as assistant naval attaché in the Soviet embassy in London, who had also had an affair with Keeler. It was the fact that a British cabinet minister had been sharing the favours of a call girl with a Soviet agent and lying about it that precipitated Profumo’s resignation.

Yet Ivanov is often treated as a bit-player in the drama. It was assumed that Keeler was simply too dim to have passed on important secrets as pillow-talk, and that British national security was never compromised. The Profumo case is treated as a moral saga rather than an espionage case.

In fact, Profumo was the target of a highly sophisticated and successful Soviet intelligence operation. He was about to be blackmailed by the Russian spy. MI5 had got wind of what was happening, but, as with more modern intelligence failures, didn’t do anything about it.

And at the centre of the Profumo saga stands the shadowy figure of Ivanov: louche, seductive and extremely dangerous.

Ivanov arrived in London in March 1960, ostensibly a low-level diplomat, but in reality an officer of the GRU, the military counterpart of the KGB. With his broken nose and fractured English, Ivanov was an unlikely lothario, but during an earlier posting in Norway he had proved himself a serial womaniser, who may have been sent to London with the avowed purpose of worming his way into the confidence, and the beds, of women in or on the fringes of high society.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:

You can also read my previous post on Christine Keeler via the below link:

And you can read my interview with Ben Macintyre about his book, For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond, via the below link:

Sex And Espionage Scandal In The Swinging 60s: Christine Keeler, Former Model At Heart Of The British Profumo Affair, Dies At 75

Caroline Davies at the Guardian offers a piece on the death of Christine Keeler, the woman at the heart of the Profumo scandal in the United Kingdom in the 1960s, and the subject of the 1989 film Scandal.

Christine Keeler, the former model at the centre of the Profumo affair that shook British politics in the 1960s, has died aged 75, her family and a close friend have said.

Keeler, then a teenage model and showgirl, became famous for her role in the 1963 scandal that rocked the establishment when she had an affair with the Tory cabinet minister John Profumo and a Russian diplomat at the same time at the height of the cold war. Profumo was eventually forced to resign after lying to parliament about the affair.

Keeler’s son, Seymour Platt, 46, told the Guardian she died on Monday at the Princess Royal university hospital in Farnborough: “My mother passed away last night at about 11.30pm,” he said on Tuesday.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also watch a documentary about the Profumo scandal and the film Scandal via the below link:

And you can learn more about the scandal by reading Philip Knightly and Caroline Kennedy's An Affair of State: The Profumo Case and the Framing of Stephen Ward.   

La Padrona: Italy Arrests 'The Mistress', Suspected Mastermind Of Mafia Reshuffle

Lorenzo Tondo at the Guardian offers a piece on the arrest of a woman known in the Sicilian Cosa Nostra as La Padrona.

A female mobster suspected of being the mastermind behind a reshuffle of the Sicilian mafia after a series of high profile arrests has been taken into custody, Italian police have said.

Mariangela Di Trapani, 49, was arrested on charges of having managed the business of the Resuttana family, one of the most important Cosa Nostra clans in Sicily. The other bosses called her La Padrona, or the Mistress.

“They were trying to reorganise,” said Col Antonio Di Stasio of the carabinieri, Italy’s military police, who oversaw the operation that also led to the arrest of 24 other suspects.

Police said Di Trapani was the link between the bosses in prison and those still at large and she had been appointed to liaise with other clans on the relaunch of Cosa Nostra. The Sicilian mafia is in a weakened state as prosecutors have jailed its key bosses and the death last month of the “boss of bosses” Totò Riina.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Bob Hope Sings The Original 'Silver Bells' In 'The Lemon Drop Kid'

Silver Bells is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Many of the famous crooners, like Dean Martin, have covered the song, but few remember that it was the late, great comedian Bob Hope who first sang the song in the 1951 film, The Lemon Drop Kid.

While most people remember Bob Hope for his wonderful USO shows for the troops and his TV specials, he was also a talented comic actor, starring with Bing Crosby in the “Road” film series, and appeared in several films based on Damon Runyon’s short crime stories, such as The Lemon Drop Kid.    

You can hear Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell sing Silver Bells from the The Lemon Drop Kid via the below link:

You can also watch the film via the below link:

And you can read about the song and film via the below link:

Note: Damon Runyon is one of my favorite writers. In addition to The Lemon Drop Kid, I also like other films based on Damon Runyon stories, such as Guys and Dolls and A Pocket Full of Miracles