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Quitting the Mob: How the ''Yuppie Don'' Left the Mafia and Lived to Tell His Story

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Tell all, he says? Tell all???

Here’s what Michael Franzese, the thirtysomething mobster known in his mid-’80s heyday as the Yuppie Don, actually tells us about his life. He tells us what a wonderful guy his father, legendary mob figure Sonny Franzese, really was: a mobster with a heart o’ gold. He tells us that he was ”made” a member of the Colombo Mafia family without having to kill anyone, a claim so implausible that even Franzese’s coauthor doesn’t believe him. Although Franzese’s soldiers constantly beg their boss to let them ”whack” someone who has gotten out of line, the Yuppie Don always resists. He gripes about the FBI agents who harass him but boasts that they could never nail him for his greatest scam: a swindle in which he pocketed hundreds of millions of dollars in gasoline taxes owed to the state of New York. He’s happy to admit he’s a crook, but he sees himself as a high-class crook, more Michael Milken than John Gotti. In complaining about a judge who won’t grant him bail, he points out that ”I had been charged with white-collar crimes.” Well, sure. And they got Al Capone for tax evasion.

Is it a waste of energy to get upset at the cravenness on display here — not just Franzese’s implausible life story (the book ends with him becoming a born-again Christian), but his publisher’s willingness to pass off this palpable fiction as a ”revealing” look at the mob? Oh, I suppose so; this is the way of the world in the publishing industry, where the words on the page don’t much matter so long as you’ve got yourself a promotable property. Quitting the Mob is certainly that. Not only does it have a ”hot” college- educated mobster at its center, it also offers up the Mafia of fantasy, in which narcotics are frowned upon and the scams seem victimless. This is the made-for-the-movies Mafia. Needless to say, Franzese has already sold the book to Hollywood (independent Vision International); word is, he hopes to be the film’s producer. This is what the new breed of mafioso longs to do: produce movies about the Mafia.

It’s all just another Franzese white-collar scam, of course. The proof is our born-again don’s current address: He’s back in prison in California, having violated his parole by committing assorted financial frauds. Apparently, you can take the Yuppie Don out of the mob, but you can’t take the mob out of the Yuppie Don. D