Monday, 29 May 2023 08:14

Al Pacino and John Travolta Meet the Giancana Myth - Part 2

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Jim examines Celozzi's escape into mythology in the second part of his documentary. Which begins with tall tales from Judy Exner, nonsense about Marilyn Monroe, and moonshine from the novel Double Cross. It ends up in an ever shifting scenario of who and how President Kennedy was killed. The scenario changed from the documentary to the first draft of the script. John Rosselli happened to drop in.

Nicholas Celozzi is an important part of the upcoming film because he will be a producer and he wrote a first draft of the script. Therefore its important to examine his 2011 documentary about Sam Giancana, Momo: The Sam Giancana Story. As I wrote in the first part of this essay, that film is rather prosaically produced, and it is only adequate as a sophomore’s version of Giancana’s life. Yet what makes it worse is that in its second half, it takes off into what I call the Giancana mythology.

As I have tried to show, Sam Giancana had a higher profile than either Tony Accardo or Paul Ricca. At times, its almost as if he tried to raise his profile. Doing things like getting in a shouting match with an FBI agent at O’Hare Airport, and informing the agent, Bill Roemer to tell RFK to contact Frank Sinatra about any problems with The Outfit; these were off limits to someone like Accardo. Accardo’s belief was it was much easier to work in the dark than in the light. But because of incidents like these, because of his public romance with Phyllis Maguire and also due to his role in the CIA/Mafia plots to kill Castro, Giancana became probably the most publicly identified big city Don since Al Capone.

About halfway through Celozzi’s documentary, he begins to indulge in the mythology. Much of this owes itself to the 1992 best-selling book Double Cross. I have written about that volume more than once and exposed it as a bad novel. As we shall see, it is not to be taken seriously. Anyone who does either has an agenda or has not done their homework.

For instance, in William Brashler’s solid book on Giancana, one will not see any mention of Marilyn Monroe in the index. Which is as it should be. But in Celozzi’s film, her picture comes up right after the opening credits. And if we buy this film, Sam knew Monroe from way back. He was introduced to her by John Rosselli. Sam had invested in her career. But that is just for starters. Now Celozzi dives into National Tattler territory. Sam found out from Bob Maheu that the CIA had tapes of President Kennedy in bed with Monroe. Maheu then said that JFK dumped Monroe and Bobby Kennedy then began an affair with her.

Even that isn’t enough. Sam learned that Monroe had love letters from Bobby Kennedy at her house. Giancana now schemed to have two killers terminate Monroe with a suppository thus making it appear a suicide. But scattering the letters through the house, thus exposing RFK and driving him from office. But, according to the film, somehow the Secret Service got there and stole the letters.

Everything in those above two paragraphs is unadulterated horse crap. Brashler never mentioned Monroe, because she never had any attachment to the mobster, either financial or emotional. Monroe authority Don McGovern closely examined the rise of Monroe’s career. He concluded that The Outfit had nothing to do with it. The two men most responsible for her ascent were Joe Schenck and Johnny Hyde, particularly the latter. (Murder Orthodoxies, pp. 409-11) Much of this Monroe malarkey originates with Double Cross. McGovern took the section of that book dealing with Monroe and sliced and diced it. For instance, if we believe the novel then Chicago owned Marilyn’s contract when she was seventeen, named Norma Jeane, and married to Jimmy Dougherty in the San Fernando Valley. Which is a non-starter.

McGovern also blows up the whole suppository story—at length. To raise just one point: if that would have been employed there would have been more of the drug found in her blood stream than her liver, the opposite of what happened. (McGovern, p. 514) Further, Double Cross maintains that Bobby Kennedy was in Los Angeles the day Monroe passed. (Chuck Giancana, p. 314). This was conclusively disproven by Sue Bernard’s book Marilyn: Intimate Exposures.(pp. 186-87) Finally, why would the Secret Service have been at Monroe’s house for any purpose? President Kennedy was back east at the time.

But beyond that, as McGovern has explained, there is simply no credible evidence that Bobby Kennedy ever had any kind of affair with Monroe. And the two people most responsible for that false claim, David Heymann and Jeanne Carmen, have been shown to be serial fabulists. Carmen actually ended up stating, please sit down: that Rosselli murdered Giancana over Marilyn! In light of what we have established about Giancana’s death, this is pure fantasy. (See “Classic Blondes, Jeanne Carmen”, by April VeVea, 4/9/18)


In the Giancana documentary, Celozzi also uses the ever evolving tall tales of the late Judith Exner. Specifically that she was somehow a courier between the White House and Giancana for various nefarious functions like the plots to kill Castro. Exner’s fictions began in earnest back in 1988 for People magazine. After writing a near 300 page book in 1977 for a combined rights sale of what would be well over a million dollars today, it seems that Exner left out some rather important matters about her relations with both President Kennedy and Sam Giancana. What makes this lacuna even more strange is that her co-writer was Ovid Demaris, Demaris specialized in the Mafia, was an idolator of J. Edgar Hoover, and did what he could to prop up the Warren Commission cover up of President Kennedy’s assassination.

In spite of that, Exner evidently had temporary amnesia back in 1977. For today’s equivalent of another 130,000 dollars from People magazine, she managed to enter into recovered memories syndrome and now recalled what she could not in 1977 or in her testimony before the Church Committee. To anyone actually versed in the CIA/Mafia plots to kill Castro, what she dumped out in 1988 is not just false. It is so bad that one wonders how it got printed.

This time out, Exner’s writing partner was allegedly none other than Kitty Kelley. (I say allegedly, because as we shall see, Kelley was not active in the writing.) In this edition of Exner’s story, unbeknownst to her, she was actually carrying messages between Washington and Chicago, for, among other things, the liquidation of Fidel Castro. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, p. 333). But it went beyond that. Kennedy was actually meeting with both Giancana and Rosselli! And get this: At the White House! After arranging these meetings, Exner realized retroactively that it was about terminating Castro.

In the real world of course, this is pure malarkey. The idea that somehow two well-known mobsters like Rosselli and Giancana would be anywhere near the White House is science fiction. And as the 145 page CIA Inspector General Report proves, the Kennedys were never involved in the CIA/Mafia plots. (DiEugenio and Pease, pp. 328-29)

It was later revealed that this whole pile of Exnerian rubbish was fabricated. Why? Because Exner and Kelley, to put it mildly, did not get along. As author George Carpozi discovered, the pair spent most of their time fighting because Kelley wanted to milk Exner for material on Frank Sinatra for an upcoming book. But the problem was the magazine had too much money invested in the project—six figures. To salvage that investment, the article ended up being prepared by the editors. (ibid, p. 334)

As I have written in my recent two-part expose about Sy Hersh, Exner told so many lies that: 1.) Proposed corroborating witnesses couldn’t stomach her, and 2.) She could not keep track of her own prevarications.

Concerning the first, Hersh got a man named Martin Underwood to say he was a witness to Giancana getting the messages from Exner. (Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot, pp. 304-05) Unfortunately for Hersh, Exner and ABC, Underwood refused to appear for Peter Jennings on their TV special based on Hersh’s book. When Underwood was questioned under oath by the Assassination Records Review Board, (ARRB) we found out why he was a no show. He now denied the whole episode; saying that “he had no knowledge about her alleged role as a courier”. (ARRB Final Report, pp. 112, 135-36)

Concerning point 2, Hersh wrote in his book that Bobby Kennedy was in on this messaging between the White House and Giancana. Exner told Hersh that RFK would tap her on the shoulder and ask, “Are you still comfortable doing this? We want you to let us know if you don’t want to.” (Hersh, pp. 307-08) Well, if such was the case, then how does one explain an exchange Exner had with the late Larry King on his program of February 4, 1992. King asked her about any relationship with RFK and she replied with a single world : None.

The whole contention of this “Washington-Chicago messaging” is fundamentally preposterous. For the simple matter that, as revealed in part 1, the FBI and the Justice Department had a massive surveillance program on Giancana. This began shortly after the infamous 1957 Apalachin meeting in New York, which exposed in public a national network of organized crime. After that embarrassment, J Edgar Hoover began his Top Hoodlum Program in major cities, but with special attention to Chicago. That team of top agents began a program that created wall to wall monitoring—including pervasive electronic surveillance—of the Chicago mob. And especially on Giancana, since by 1957 he was the titular leader. The idea that this “Exner messaging” would not turn up on all those reels and reels of tape is more than just ridiculous. Its risible. Its even more risible when one realizes that RFK knew all about it and pushed it even further. Thus placing himself right in Hoover’s crosshairs. Please. (Man Against the Mob, by William Roemer, pp. 74-78, 167)


But because Momo: The Sam Giancana Story buys into Exner’s fantasies, it has to go all the way with them. So inevitably we get the whole elections heist of 1960. Which is Exner as transformed by the novel Double Cross. What that means is this. For People Exner said that it was not just the Castro plots she was “messaging” about. It was also the West Virginia primary which was held on May 10, 1960. (Since she meet JFK on February 7 of that year, we are supposed to believe the relationship progressed to a national political level at warp speed.) And, of course, the general election in November of 1960. In Double Cross this got amplified into Joseph Kennedy asking for Giancana’s help to get his son elected, with his word that the new president would lay off the pressure on him once elected. Oh, and I almost forgot, Joe knew The Outfit since he had been a bootlegger.

Two authors blew up the last part of this mythology. Daniel Okrent wrote one of the best books on Prohibition. Towards the end of his volume he examined this charge of Joe Kennedy being part of the bootlegging industry. He cogently observes that since Kennedy had to be congressionally approved for the six appointments that presidents gave him, there were extensive investigations of his background. In over 800 pages of inquiry, there was not one piece of evidence revealing this alleged black market business. What makes this even more compelling is that the first three appointments occurred right after Prohibition had been repealed. Therefore, why was no one willing to rat out Papa Kennedy? (Last Call, p. 369)

As Okrent adds, Joe Kennedy did get into the liquor business, but it was after Prohibition had been repealed. In light of that, he was not a bootlegger. It was legal. (ibid, p. 367)

The other book that helped expose this mythology was David Nasaw’s biography, The Patriarch. That work contained the widest and most detailed accounting of Joe Kennedy’s wealth ever published. Joe Kennedy began by investing in the stock market and distressed properties. In fact he joined Hayden/Stone, the largest stock broker in New England, in 1919 when Prohibition passed. (Are we to believe he was putting up stills at those distressed properties?)

But this was only the beginning for the multimillionaire. He made so much off a booming stock market that he took those holdings and chose to get into the movie business. One reason he got so wealthy was that insider trading was legal at that time. (Nasaw, p. 78) With that stock market and real estate wealth he put together a film distribution and exhibition company, and then bought his own theaters in the northeast. (Ibid, pp. 59-67). In just three years, Kennedy resigned Hayden/Stone and opened up his own bank.

Joe Kennedy made so much money in the film business, he first moved to New York, and then bought a second home in Beverly Hills. Both estates had servants and chauffeurs. He bought a Rolls Royce. (Nasaw, pp. 87-89) Joe Kennedy distributed 51 pictures in one year! At a time when there were 20,000 theaters in America. But Joe also purchased stocks in film companies and was in demand as a chief executive. He wound up running three companies. And he demanded and got stock options, which he could trade at any time. (Nasaw, pp. 119-27). But he never got out of real estate. In 1947 he purchased the Merchandise Mart in Chicago for 12 million. In 2007 it was valued at nearly a billion.

So the idea that Joe would jeopardize this legitimate financial empire he had to get into something criminal is just not credible. Especially since his overall ambition was to get his children into politics. In other words, according to Celozzi, Joe would sacrifice both his financial fortune and his children’s careers to do something illegally that he did eventually do legally.


John Binder pulled out the rug on the other part of the Double Cross fantasy. Namely the idea that Giancana helped put Kennedy over the top in Illinois. Author Binder has shown that there is not any evidence that Giancana delivered an advantage to Kennedy in the wards The Outfit controlled. In fact, they actually performed under par that year. (Public Choice, February 2007, “Organized Crime and the 1960 Presidential Election.)

The other election that the Mob devotees mention is the West Virginia primary. Again, that contention is rendered dubious under analysis. There are two good books on the subject. One by Dan Fleming—Kennedy vs Humphrey, West Virginia, 1960—and one by Ray Chafin—Just Good Politics. The former is an after the fact academic study. The latter is written by a prominent union member who saw it all from the inside as it was happening. Neither author detected any kind of mob influence or any trace of Skinny D’Amato, the man Double Cross says Giancana sent to West Virginia to work with local sheriffs and officials. (Chuck Giancana, p. 284). For example, Fleming did 80 interviews, and visited some shady underworld venues and characters. No word of D’Amato. (Fleming, pp. 170-71) And as the author notes, no subsequent investigation by either the FBI or the state authorities ever uncovered any illegality. Not even one performed by Barry Goldwater who hired a former FBI official, Walter Holloway, to investigate. (Fleming, pp. 107-12)

The authors who prop up this whole Double Cross Illinois idea are so agenda-driven, and the people who listen to it are so thoughtless that they ignore something quite important and obvious. Kennedy would have won in 1960 even if he had lost Illinois due to the structure of the Electoral College. (For those who desire a more in depth examination of these fatuous electoral issues, please see the second half of my review of Mark Shaw’s Denial of Justice)

I won’t examine the other nutty Mob claims in this documentary, that is about Joe Kennedy and the Purple Gang (?) and Frank Costello. In light of the above factual record, they see to me to have the credibility and gravitas of a Three Stooges comedy. (in fact, as Okrent notes, Al Capone’s 93 year old piano tuner once claimed that Joe Kennedy came to Capone’s house to trade a shipment of Irish whiskey for a load of Capone’s Canadian variety.) But I will add this, Celozzi cuts out almost everything about Bobby Kennedy and his blistering public attacks on the Cosa Nostra in the fifties. Which is quite an omission since it was from his position on the McLellan Committee that RFK was launched into national prominence. Maybe Celozzi does not want to show this since it would render questionable any idea that somehow Bobby would barter away his almost messianic mission once he became Attorney General.

Let us be plain. This whole fractured framework was and is a way for a gang of criminals to carry out revenge on the Kennedy clan for exposing them, ridiculing them, demeaning them in public and placing them in jail. At one point, almost bringing them to their knees. (HSCA Vol. V, p. 455) Its their way of saying: “Well, who do those Kennedys think they were anyway? The father was no better than us.” The fact that its not true and the idea that RFK would be part of it, that does not matter. Its sensational, raw meat, tabloid stuff. And that is what, in large part, the MSM has catered to—especially with the rise of cable TV in the late eighties and early nineties. Far from being true history, what all this does is reveal the shallowness of the culture we live in today.


Momo: The Sam Giancana Story ends with two murders. The first is the killing of President Kennedy in Dallas. The second is the slaying of Giancana in Chicago after his return from Mexico. For the latter, the film generally follows the outline I sketched in part one i.e. about Blasi and Accardo. The one exception being that it maintains that Phyllis McGuire got Sam’s money. It does not explain how or why this occurred. For according to The Don the couple had split and Giancana had a new west coast paramour. (Brashler, pp. 296-97)

In the documentary, Celozzi says that Oswald was suggested by Carlos Marcello. Giancana arranged the hit team of Richard Cain, Chuck Nicoletti and Phil Alderisio. He then got J. D. Tippit and Roscoe White who, according to Celozzi, were on his payroll to shoot Oswald. But Oswald killed Tippit and therefore Jack Ruby was brought in to murder Oswald.

As the reader can see, Giancana brother Pepe’s story differs from brother Chuck’s Double Cross. According to Chuck’s novel, there was a group of assassins. The three above plus Charles Harrelson and Jack Lawrence and two nameless men brought in by Santo Trafficante. (Chuck Giancana, p. 334). Another contradiction: in Double Cross, TIppit and White were not on Giancana’s dole, they were CIA men. (ibid, p. 335)

There are two different versions of what Sam was doing that day. According to the documentary, one of his daughters says he was at home. In news stories, Celozzi says Pepe was driving Sam around for a couple of days. (Deadline, June 27, 2022). Also, according to Daily Mail, Celozzi’s assassination team has now changed for the feature film. John Rosselli is a part of it. (July 15, 2022.). The problem with that is simple: Johnny was first in Las Vegas, and then in Los Angeles during that assassination weekend. (Lee Server, Handsome Johnny, pp. 418-19). As Larry Hancock has written, Johnny may have been in Vegas to escape the FBI surveillance on him.

In Double Cross, Roscoe White killed Tippit when the patrolman showed signs of cold feet. (Giancana, p. 335). In the documentary, Oswald killed Tippit. But in the Daily Mail interview Celozzi now has Chuck Nicoletti, not White, in the car with Tippit.

I should add one last caveat from a most credible source. As stated in part one, FBI agent William Roemer had at least four electronic devices planted in Giancana’s meeting places by 1963. He listened to all of this coverage and he wrote that he never heard of any discussion of an attempt on JFK, or RFK for that matter. And, post facto, there was no indication of any such thing either. He found it hard to understand how it could have escaped his team. (Roemer, Man Against the Mob, p 188).

So do I.

How many brothers of Sam Giancana are going to rise and tell their version of how Momo did away with John Kennedy. Recall, Chuck was at least alive when he wrote his novel. Pepe died 27 years ago.

Go to Part 1 of 2

Last modified on Wednesday, 31 May 2023 03:31
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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