Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Mafia Wars"

The mafia wanted Danny Greene dead and they weren’t taking any chances.

He’d already been stabbed, shot at by a sniper, and run down by a drive-by shooter. He’d escaped several attempted car bombings, including one where he dismantled the explosive himself and then turned in the bomb’s caps over to a police acquaintance. When the policeman asked where the explosives were, Greene responded, “Those are going back to the son of a bitch who sent them to me.”

By some accounts, eight of the hit men who’d been sent to kill him died by the hand of Danny Greene.

By May of 1975, the mob had had enough. The Italian-run mafia decided to finish off this upstart thug who’d started as a longshoreman on the docks of Lake Erie and who now defiantly called himself “The Irishman” as he challenged La Cosa Nostra itself. They blew up his house.

The explosion rocked Cleveland. Former Cleveland Police Chief Ed Kovacic recalled hearing the rumble as he sat at breakfast. He immediately knew what had happened. “Danny Greene was just killed,” the chief told his wife, according to writer Rick Porrello’s subsequent account.

Miraculously, Greene and his girlfriend picked their way through the rubble and emerged from the wreckage of his home largely unscathed. He later told Kovacic that he’d grabbed his girl, run to a refrigerator, and rode it down through the explosion “like an elevator” as the two-story house collapsed.

When a television news crew showed up, Greene went on camera. The reporter asked him how he kept surviving attempts on his life. Greene smiled.

“You want to hear the Irish version?” he said. “The guy upstairs pulls the string, you’re gone. There is no other way.”

After the rubble had been cleared out, Greene installed two trailers – living quarters and an office – where his house used to stand. He then erected a flag pole and flew the Republic of Ireland tricolor flag. A sign announced that the site was the “future home of the Celtic Club.” He took to sitting on the sidewalk out front in lawn chairs with his friends, often bare-chested and wearing a gold Celtic cross.

Later, after a friend and close associate had just died in a car bombing, the television news cameras showed up again. Greene was asked if he was still a mafia target.

“I have no axe to grind, but if these maggots in this so-called Mafia want to come after me, I’m over here by the Celtic Club,” he said. “I’m not hard to find.”

They would find him. But not until Greene and his “Celtic Club” had waged a fierce counter-offensive in an intense two-year war with the mafia. In 1976 alone, 36 bombs exploded as Cleveland became known as “Bomb City, U.S.A.”

Danny Greene was killed by a massive car bomb on May 6, 1977, as he left an appointment with a dentist. His death led to several arrests that eventually managed to achieve his life’s work – taking down the Italian mafia in Cleveland – in what many law enforcement observers believe was the beginning of the end of the mob in America.

Manhattan Beach resident Tommy Reid produced and directed the documentary Danny Greene: The Rise and Fall of the Irishman and produced the newly-released feature film Kill the Irishman.

(excerpts from an article by Mark McDermott in The Easy Reader)

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