News

Gay-Bar Mafioso Released from Prison

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Aug 11, 2009
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An underworld figure with ties to New York gay night spots has been released from prison after serving two years on racketeering charges.

Matty "Horse" Ianniello--the nickname comes either from his having once been charged for possession of over twenty pounds of heroin, or due to his imposing physical build; accounts vary--finished a jail term last spring, reported the Web site Bitter Queen on June 25.

Of Ianniello, 89, the story noted, "one queries whether the... reputed Genovese capo ever intends on retiring."

The article noted that Ianniello had been said to have some stake in "dozens of gay bars and discos" in New York over three decades, "including the hustler bar Haymarket, the tranny bar Gilded Grape, and the circus-like disco GG Barnum’s Room.

"Indeed, no man had more of an instrumental role in gay nightlife in New York City than Ianniello, and although straight he probably should receive an honorary plaque recognizing his achievements from the city’s Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce," the article quipped.

The article excerpted content referencing Ianniello and a bar called the Ha Market from R. Thomas Collins Jr.’s book NewsWalker.

The excerpt read, in part, "In 1960 [Ianniello] formed a partnership with one of the [so-called] Sultans [of New York’s mid-town], Edward L. DeCurtis, a k a ’Eddie Dee,’ financier of afterhours gay joints in the Village.

"Such after-hours spots were a specialty of the rackets because their patrons were homosexuals who drank like fish," the excerpt continued.

"You could serve liquor in private clubs without a license, and nobody watched the cash. Besides, such customers sometimes were involved in legitimate business one might wish to ’invest’ in."

A separate Bitter Queen article on the history of New York’s gay clubs posted Dec. 23, 2007, excerpted another publication, an Aug. 1, 1977 story titled, "Crime Group Leader Said to Rule Many Bar Businesses in Midtown," written by Selwyn Raab and Nathaniel Sheppard Jr.

That excerpt also mentioned Ianniello. Read the article excerpt, in part, "A confidential 1975 report prepared by intelligence officers in the Police Department’s Organized Crime Control Bureau found that Mr. Ianniello’s primary source of income at the time appeared to have been derived from a string of more than 80 New York bars and restaurants, many of which, the report said, were ’connected with prostitution, narcotics and homosexuals.’"

The article quoted an unnamed police detective who specialized in organized crime. Said the detective, "If you want to open a bar and grill or sex establishment in midtown Manhattan but don’t have the cash or have some other problem, you go see Matty Ianniello."

Added the detective, "You don’t run a bar and grill or sex establishment between 34th and 59th Streets from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River without Matty having a piece of the action."

Indeed, the Mafia had a stake in many gay establishments, including, it is reported at a Wikipedia article, the Stonewall Inn, the site of the watershed Stonewall Riots forty years ago.

The Wikipedia article noted that the Stonewall Inn "catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, and representatives of a newly self-aware transgender community, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

Comments

  • Bill Blazak, 2009-08-11 19:45:43

    Let’s help the very young and very unknowledgeable Kilian Melloy here. The mob’s interest in gay bars dates back to the days of Carlo Gambino who owned most of the black door establishments in Manhattan. He didn’t do this because fairies drink a lot, though they do, he did it because he was able to control many politicians, officials, and celebrities by guaranteeing to keep their secrets safe in exchange for considerations and favors. The character of Don Corleone was based on Gambino and he had all those "judges and politicians in his pocket" primarily because of his ownership of the best and most discrete "gentlemen’s clubs" in New York City.


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