Bobby Spillane's Fatal Fall Recalls Tales of His Gangster Dad With a Famous Name
Actor-writer Bobby Spillane's fatal tumble out of a West Side apartment window this weekend has prompted much talk about his late gangster dad, Mickey, who once ruled a very active gangland in Hell's Kitchen. Most stories about the son's tragic death dutifully noted that dad Mickey Spillane was no relation to the pulp fiction writer of the same name. But even the son, who later went into the fiction business himself, was initially confused. As T.J. English tells the story in Paddy Whacked, his grand history of the Irish American gangster, young Bobby remembered as a kid "racing home with a Mickey Spillane paperback he'd picked up at a Times Square candy store. 'Hey Pop,' he said. 'Did you see this?'
'Yeah,' said Mickey. 'I know.'
'Well,' said the son, 'have you read his stuff?'
'I tried,' replied the father, a churchgoing Catholic. 'Too much sex.'"
It wasn't the only time the real-life gangster, a dapper gent who ran the neighborhood's bookmaking, loansharking, and much of its politics -- via his brother-in-law, James McManus who still heads the local Democratic club -- was asked about the coincidence. English tells how Spillane the hoodlum was called by the D.A. into a grand jury investigating police bribery. A witness had been killed, allegedly on Spillane's say-so. Under questioning, Spillane dummied up, as per his West Side code, refusing to answer questions. "Finally," writes English, "the exasperated assistant D.A. asked: 'Well, can you tell me this: Are you related to the other Mickey Spillane? The famous writer?' After a momentary pause, Mickey leaned over to the microphone and said, 'No. But I'd be happy to change places with him at the moment.'" The line brought a big laugh from the jurors, and 60 days in Rikers for contempt for the reluctant witness.
Mickey Spillane the mobster disappeared in 1977 amid a fight between his crew and rival Irish gangsters allied with a Mafia family over control of local rackets, including shakedowns at the piers and trade shows at the old Coliseum. In a column that ran in 2002 in the News and is reprinted today, Bobby Spillane told how the family was home watching TV on a Friday the 13th in May, when the intercom in the apartment rang. Bobby answered and a nameless voice asked for his dad, "Mike" to his pals. Dressed in a white T-shirt and suit pants, his father spoke to whoever was downstairs. "I'll be right back," his father said. "He walked out the door and I never saw him again." Bobby's friend Denis Hamill reports that the wake will be held tomorrow and Wednesday at his uncle James McManus' funeral home, McManus & Ahern, on W. 43rd St. The funeral is Thursday morning at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on West 51st Street.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.