By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"He hates all Italians," Barone replied. "They're all a bunch of guineas as far as he's concerned." Barone said he remembered another old ILA leader telling him that Bowers had instructed him "not to bring any guineas to meet him. That's Johnhe don't like Italians. They're guineas, he calls us."
For his part, Barone insisted that he was being a team player by promoting his old enemy Daggett for the union's top job. "It was in the best interest of the Mafia," he said of his actions.
But he was also a senior citizen of organized crime, increasingly angry that he wasn't getting the respect he thought he deserved. And he had an old man's lack of patience for foolishness. Even when the fools were his Mafia bosses.
His first clash with the new regime came after he was asked to use his influence to steer a lucrative union prescription-drug contract to a wiseguy-tied company. He agreed to convey the message. Then word came back that New York wanted a different company. "I said, 'For chrissakes, we'll all go to jail. I won't do it,' " he told the emissary. "I mean, this is a bunch of clowns running around, the Lavender Hill Mob, for chrissakes."
He threw a similar snit when he was told to help Andrew Gigante, the wealthy son of the then imprisoned Genovese boss, win a big container-repair contract for a company that Barone said owed him money from years ago. Barone said he had no use for the mob scion. The younger Gigante was "a drunk, a junkie, " Barone told the lawyers. "He'd go in the bathroom and come out flying like a kite, for chrissakes. You know, a known addict, between the vodka and the junkwho knows what."
Barone sent word that he'd help out Gigante if he got the $90,000 he insisted he was owed by the repair company. When the firm's owner, an old-timer named Umberto Guido, allegedly came down to Florida to offer Barone $3,000 as a peace offering, Barone said he told Guido to tell Andrew Gigante to "stick it up his ass."
That's not the way you're supposed to talk to the boss's son, even for a veteran geezer who had paid as many mob dues as Barone. He helped himself even less when he had the Miami ILA local pull a slowdown on Gigante's company. How had he done that? the lawyers asked. Barone's response deserves a place in a management textbook: "The general manager I put in there, and I told him to get all the guys to use left-handed wrenches instead of right-handed wrenches, and do everything and anything to slow this company down to nothing." That, added Barone, is "exactly what happened, and eventually they left the port with their tail between their legs, and that's why I got shelved, and that's why they were trying to kill me."
Barone didn't need much convincing that he was in trouble. First there was a suspiciously gracious offer to come up to New York and get the money he was owed. In classic Mafia style, the offer was relayed through one of his oldest friends, Jimmy Cashin, an ILA official whose father Harry had first put Barone to work on the docks. Cashin, however, loyally added a warning: "He says, 'George, don't come. They're going to kill you. Everybody knows it.' "
The same message was relayed by the son of another old friend. Glenn McCarthy, a labor consultant whose father Jack had helped Barone out when he got out of prison, met Barone at the Miami airport. "They are going to kill you or frame you, put some junk in your car," Barone said McCarthy told him.
Not long after those warnings, Barone was awakened in his apartment on the Venetian Causeway in Miami Beach by someone knocking on his window. It was an FBI agent and a Miami Metro cop, there with a warrant for his arrest for extortion. The charge stemmed from his demands for payment of the old debt from the container-repair company.
He mulled over his options for a few days and then did the unthinkable. "I went bad," he said.
He signed a cooperation agreement with the government, pledging to tell all. But he declined to be placed in the Witness Protection Program. Wasn't he scared? he was asked.
Not any more than usual, he said. "I been through all of my worries about being killed between five invasions in the Pacific and running around with Johnny Earle up and down the West Side with the gang wars. You're going to scare me? I'm already so scared I'm numb, for chrissakes."
His most likely future residence is "an assisted-living facility," he told the lawyers. "I still have the mission, and I'm going to hope I live long enough to tell the story, and I'll be very happy to go after that. Very happy to go. I want to tell the story, and I don't care what happens to me after thatthis lousy story of my life and the corrupt ILA."