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Entries in Ciaculli (6)

Friday
Nov302012

Boondock Saint

by Carl Russo

A famed anti-Mafia priest gets the Scooby-Doo treatment in the animated kiddie show, “La Missione di 3P.” (After all, “anime” is Latin for “soul.” ) 3P is Padre Pino Puglisi, whose impolitic sermons against the gangsters of his outpost parish in Brancaccio earned him a fatal “rosary of gunshots,” as they say in Italy, in 1993.

As seen in the trailer below, the RAI-TV series adds hair to the ecclesiastic and casts him, appropriately, as a crime fighter. The jazzy show-tune theme has a catchy chorus anyone can translate:

Pino PuglisiIo parlo con Dio, Dio parla con me.

Pio, amico mio, Pio parla con te.”

But the production is cheap—farmed out to a Korean animation house?—and the didactic tone won’t earn too many young converts. (For junior do-gooders with A.D.D., I'd recommend the new book, Invasion of the Cockroaches: The Mafia Explained to Kids.)

Puglisi is in the spotlight on terra firma as well. His remains will be transfered to Palermo’s grand cathedral and Pope Benedict plans to beatify him in May 2013. I’m all in favor of canonizing a cleric who demonstrated bravery instead of magic tricks, but if kids actually tune in to “La Missione di 3P," we’ll have the miracle, too.

Click to see the photosI’d also like to see sainthood bestowed on another 3P, Pastor Pietro Panascia, even if he wasn’t a Roman Catholic. Panascia organized a protest in 1963 after a car bomb in Ciaculli blew up seven officers of the carabiniere. His demonstration, which he titled “An Initiative for the Respect of Human Life,” was shrugged off by Palermo Archbishop Ernesto Ruffini as “a ridiculous attempt by a speculative Protestant.”

That was the same Ruffini who considered the Mafia to be nothing more than simple Sicilian delinquency and/or a communist plot.

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Sunday
Jan292012

Homecoming

The kid who took on the Mafia's toughest killers

 by Carl Russo

Sutera, an isolated town in Sicily’s hinterland, is a captivating hodgepodge of adobe dwellings and baroque churches decaying quietly off the beaten tourist path. The picturesque locale, dominated by the jutting Mount San Paulino, was sufficiently antique for filmmaker Michael Cimino to use it as a stand-in for Salvatore Giuliano’s village in The Sicilian. Like the legendary bandit, Sutera’s favorite son eventually came home in a wooden box—minus the paparazzi and headlines.

Calogero Zucchetto

Calogero Zucchetto couldn’t wait to become a cop. He left his sleepy village of Sutera at a young age for the excitement of the big city. Before his twentieth birthday, he was on the team of bodyguards escorting Judge Falcone through the streets of Palermo. But the earnest and gangling “Lillo,” as his friends called him, was anxious to step out into the field as an agent—deadly work in the early 1980s, the hunting season of Cosa Nostra.

As soon as Zucchetto made the ranks of Palermo’s Mobile Squad, he insinuated himself into environments foreign to him: the bordellos and betting rooms of the city where he was sure to rub shoulders with the Mafia.

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Thursday
Sep222011

Patricide

by Bluto Ray

“Don Puglisi would not be proud of the Sicily of today, a Sicily that doesn't show more indignation,” declared a conservative politician last week at a gathering to commemorate a much loved priest. “The truth is that the Sicily of today isn’t worthy of the martyrs who fought the Mafia.” He berated the island’s young people as “dormant” and “embarrassing.”

Don Giuseppe PuglisiBut the politico’s words rang hollow later that evening as hundreds of teens took to the streets—along with parents, grandparents and teachers—in a torchlight procession to the spot where the cleric was murdered for his opposition to the Mafia.

The name of Father Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi will be forever associated with Brancaccio, a beat-up fringe of Palermo whose impoverished denizens are doubly cursed by urban decay and Cosa Nostra crossfire. Wedged between cliff and sea, railroad and freeway, smoggy Brancaccio sits in a historic battle zone of mafiosi.

Fearsome hoods like Michele “The Pope” Greco, Pietro “Little Mister” Aglieri and Stefano “The Falcon” Bontade trafficked and killed from Ciaculli to the south to Santa Maria del Gesù to the west. The atmosphere of violence and crime led the Sicilian-born Puglisi to take over the godforsaken parish in 1990, turning down plum assignments in richer neighborhoods despite his illustrious thirty-year career.

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Thursday
Sep152011

Ripping Rerun

by Bluto Ray

Michele GrecoI’m pleased to report that the British features syndicate Sabotage Times has reprinted an older blog post at their racy online journal. Retitled “Inside The Sicilian Mafia’s Drug Empire,” the article recounts the bloody doings in the citrus orchards of Ciaculli, Sicily, overseen by Mafia chiefs Michele “The Pope” Greco and Totò Riina.

To follow up on the article’s thread about The Pope’s filmmaking son, Giuseppe Greco, a.k.a. Giorgio Castellani, I’ve translated this note from a curated program of films featuring the popular comic actors Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia, both Palermo natives:

 

Crema, cioccolata e...paprika, [directed] by Michele Massimo Tarantini, is the absolute worst film in which the duo played marginal roles. The protagonists of this sluggish sex comedy are Barbara Bouchet and Massimo Montagnani, but the problem is the presence of the son of Mafia boss Michele Greco that brought judicial troubles upon Franco Franchi. In 1989, Franchi and [actor Mario] Merola were accused of being mafiosi by an informer and suspected of associating with members of the Greco family. The prosecutions were shelved, but the doubts destroyed Franchi morally and physically, and he became gravely ill. He died on December 11, 1992, after appearing in the last episode of [the TV variety show] 'Avanspettacolo' to a moving round of applause.”

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Friday
Apr292011

Keeper of Secrets

by Carl Russo

On the morning of May 5, 1971, at headquarters in Palermo, the police received an anonymous call: “A shooting has happened in Via dei Cipressi. Maybe two are dead.”

Pietro Scaglione

Within minutes, the Flying Squad pulled into the cypress-lined road leading to the Cemetery of the Cappuccini. A state car blocked the entrance to the necropolis, pockmarked with bullet holes. Two bodies were pulled out and rushed to the hospital, but it was too late. When the frightful news spread that Pietro Scaglione, Palermo's chief public prosecutor, was killed along with his driver, many observers confirmed their suspicion that he was connected to the mob. At the time, the Mafia was only murdering its own.

Pietro Scaglione’s forty-three-year career spanned the evolution of the Cosa Nostra from rural phenomenon to international menace. Rising through the judicial ranks to take the top post at the Palace of Justice in 1962, he waded through the murky waters of Sicilian conspiracies: super-bandit Salvatore Giuliano’s involvement in the Portella della Ginestra massacre of 1947, the police slaughter of Ciaculli in 1963. But Judge Scaglione tended to sit on his findings—deliberately, some said—and often had to be goaded into prosecuting a case.

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Sunday
Feb202011

The Pope's Country Club

by Bluto Ray

Giuseppe Greco’s death from a tumor last week garnered more press than his movies ever did. The obituaries read like a string of bad reviews, casting the filmmaker’s career in the shadow of the Mafia. The plot points are damning: he served a four-year sentence for laundering illicit money through his productions; he borrowed a deluxe Mercedes 500 from Palermo’s crooked mayor, Salvo Lima, for a film shoot; and, after jail, he wrote and directed a family saga that romanticizes the Mafia of old Sicily.

Michele GrecoBut the piece of publicity that stuck to him most was the kind you can’t buy and wouldn’t want to: Giuseppe was the son of Michele Greco, the infamous “Pope” of the Mafia.

Don Michele Greco, the debonair silver fox whose ever-present Bible and prayer cards lent him a pious air, was the toast of Palermitan society in the 1970s. His estate, “Favarella,” in the eastern suburb of Ciaculli, was a lush expanse of tangerine orchards with plenty of wild game to excite the sportsmen among the local elites. Many of the rooms in Greco’s lodge had giant ovens and barbecue grills enjoyed by the business leaders, politicians and policemen who were frequent guests. Favorites were given a key to the gate.

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