Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Inimitable & Gentlemanly Dennis Lepore & The Delightful Patriarca Family

The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight : When the East Coast Mob Came Knocking on Hollywood's Door, the FBI Was Waiting With A Multimillion-Dollar Sting

February 21, 1993|Paul Lieberman | Times staff writer Paul Lieberman has reported frequently on organized crime, most recently describing efforts to infiltrate Indian gambling.
As a child, Linda Carol fantasized about the people she saw on TV. Growing up south of Boston in a family in which screaming matches were dinner-time fare, she retreated time and again to the tube. "I thought I'd like to go inside there," she says, "and get away from my own life."
* At 14, she found a better escape--beauty pageants. She didn't think she was that good-looking, but she always seemed to win: first the local "Miss Solar Energy" contest, then "Miss Teen Massachusetts" and "Miss Teen New England." Then a national pageant earned her an audition in New York before director Franco Zeffirelli for a film about burning teen-age passions.
* She froze up at the tryout, totally froze. Zeffirelli stormed about the set, waving a cigarette and yelling at her, "Hello? Hello?" But all she could see were the monitors showing close-ups of a milk-skinned beauty, one who looked more woman than girl. "I couldn't believe it was me," she says.
* Brooke Shields got the lead in "Endless Love." Linda Carol left home and became a waitress.
* She was 18 in 1982 when Dennis (Champagne) Lepore walked into Jason's restaurant in Boston's Back Bay and gave her $100 for hanging up his cashmere coat. She gave him back $90. Her boss told her to sit with the dapper customer. She said she couldn't leave her station. "Do it," her boss commanded.
* Lepore was drinking Taittinger, pink, a $200 bottle. He called her "Harlow" because of her blond hair and, well, she had a figure. She called him "Napoleon" because he was 5-foot-7 and had a classic Roman nose. And because "he had an edge about him," like he had something to prove. He raised his glass and said, "Don't ever lose that smile."
* Her boss told her to take the night off.
THE FIRST TIME DENNIS LEPORE SAW "THE GODFAther," he was bowled over by the Al Pacino character. Lepore hated movies that portrayed mob guys as "a bunch of f---ing pizza heads," but Pacino's Michael Corleone wasn't like that. He was classy, cool, quiet. He kept everyone guessing what he was thinking. Then he whacked 'em. Lepore would say, "Isn't he the best?"
Lepore was a product of the streets, the narrow, bustling ones of Boston's North End, the predominantly Italian district that had been a cradle of American freedom, home to Paul Revere's Old North Church and now a bastion of the "legitimate guys." The guys ran card games and coffee shops amid the brick tenements, took bets, loaned out money and offered "protection" to shopkeepers who didn't want their windows broken. In each generation, the toughest of the lot were recruited into the Patriarca Family, the Mafia clan that ruled the rackets throughout New England from its headquarters in Providence, R.I.
Lepore was a Patriarca natural: cruel, cunning and violent. One old North End associate recalls how Lepore was "havin' a beef" with a kid who "sent the dogs after Dennis . . . two big dogs."
"Shoulda killed the dogs," a buddy said.
"Well, he did."
By the 1980s, according to the FBI, Lepore was a Patriarca "soldier" with "ambitions for higher office."He also was working furiously to shed his street-tough image. He jogged daily, swam in icy ocean waters and got into natural food. While his pals worried about nosy cops and rival gunmen, he proselytized about the danger of radiation from microwaves. "I always have windows open," he said. "It gets out . . . But imagine these people that never open their windows."
Champagne was Lepore's idea of perfection. It was the drink of class, of Michael Corleone. And it had "like 101 vitamins," he told teen-age Linda Carol.
Over the next few months, Lepore taught her about long-stemmed roses and Swiss chocolates. He showed her which fork to use and dished out advice: "Don't rely on anyone." About his life, Lepore said little, only that he had many different things he was working on. He did tell her that if anyone hassled her, "I'll take care of 'em." But she thought he was kidding. "You see, I was awed by the respect I got," she says. "He never did anything to hurt me."
When she mentioned her dream of becoming an actress, he bought her a ticket to Los Angeles. Eventually, he followed her here. A few of the guys came along for the ride.