Meeting Frank Cullotta

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Jim Cooley describes meeting Frank Cullotta
Meeting Frank
I sat with my head on a pivot and my heart in my chest. It was early for me as I was up late the night before announcing an MMA event in this amazingly over-the-top town, Las Vegas. I was not sure what to expect or how to act. What do I say to him? What will he ask me? My friends had made the usual sarcastic comments upon hearing of who I was meeting. Things like, “Don’t go to his car with him,” and “Don’t make him angry.” I laughed and smiled, but it did get me thinking. Of course they were only joking and he was not going to kill me. Yet, I still had no idea what to expect.
My line of work brings me into contact with some very famous people. I have enjoyed a casual cocktail with people like Mike Tyson and interviewed A-list celebrities including actors, athletes and musicians on numerous occasions. Having traveled all over the United States while announcing in front of huge raucous crowds, I have come into contact with people from every walk of life. It has given me a unique perspective on people and left me almost numb when in the face of fame and celebrity, as a result I rarely get nervous or flustered in any situation. I consider myself cool and collected and a bit of a chameleon. I can attend an event with outlaw bikers at their clubhouse in the afternoon and in the evening go to a black tie affair with someone like Evander Holyfield. From a t-shirt and jeans to a suit and tie, I am thoroughly comfortable around any person from any culture.
I found out very quickly though, that nothing had prepared me for this day. This was not breakfast with a celebrated athlete or a first meeting with a well-known actor. This was a meal with an admitted killer. A sit down, so to speak, with a real-life Mafioso.
I was sitting in a half circle booth waiting for the gangster who once ran Vegas. The man who stood up and did not back down from the very Mob he was part of when his life was on the line. The restaurant was a who’s who of Vegas stereotypes. There were the locals who looked like they could have eaten in this place every day, the ones who smoke cigarette after cigarette and sit in front of a video poker machine with dreams of wealth. There were tourists who were taking in the scenery of this storied restaurant while having their photos taken by the staff. There were the twenty something weekend warriors who had clearly had a bit too much to drink the night before and were hoping to find solace and headache relief in mimosas and scrambled eggs. Perhaps they had received their hangover from the bar in this very building. The one that was recognizable to anyone who has seen the movie Casino. This was the Peppermill in Las Vegas and I was here to meet him.
To say I was nervous would be a serious understatement. Truth be told, I was more nervous than I can ever recall being at any time when meeting another human being. However, that is exactly what I had to remind myself of, this is a human being, a man just like me. His past is just that, his past. The difference was this was a man I had studied; a man I had wanted to meet for some time. This was a man whose books had intrigued me and left me wanting more of the story. As I pondered all of this in my head I happened to look up and I saw a figure making his way toward the booth. He was graying but somehow still seemed young and spry. A shorter than average man who obviously had lived his life to the fullest, yet he was still stout and solid. At 78 years old you would assume he was past his prime, but upon seeing him I was not sure that was true. On any other day I would say this was merely an older gentleman who happened to be a snappy dresser. However, this gentleman was different. Once known for being a feared fighter, a stone killer and a master thief who had connections to the storied Chicago Outfit. Best friend and cohort of famed Mob enforcer Tony “The Ant” Spilotro. I had seen this man’s life play out on the silver screen. I had read of his experiences in books and been amazed at the life he had lived. This however, was no book, nor movie, this was real life.
As he approached the table I stood up to greet him. Keep in mind I am six foot two inches tall and weigh 240 pounds. As an ex bouncer and mixed martial artist I do not rattle easily. But at this moment none of that mattered. I was scared. I was intimidated. This man was probably 7 or 8 inches shorter than me and 32 years my senior. Yet I was close to puking from nerves. Just as I felt I was going to stumble over my words and come off like a blundering idiot fan boy, Frank Cullotta reached out his hand and said “You must be Jim.” His smile and demeanor were very disarming. All of the sudden I was comfortable. I was relaxed as we sat for our meal. I had been worried over nothing. This was not the 70s or the 80s, this was 2016 and Frank Cullotta was a different person. A Las Vegas Mob Tour guide and an author with a family and a contagious smile.
Over the next couple of hours, we shared stories and he told me things I never knew about the Chicago Outfit, his life and the mafia in general. I was enthralled. Not only was I sharing a meal with the former “Boss of Vegas,” but very quickly I realized something. This man was an encyclopedia of organized crime. In addition to living it and being there he also had clearly studied and in the process become one of the most knowledgeable people I had ever come across on his chosen subject. I have heard the so called “Experts” speak and have learned what I could from them. But it is apples and oranges between these guys and Frank.
My belief has always been that reading a book written by an expert on a subject is the quickest way to gain facts. However, reading a book written by someone who lived the material is life- changing and the quickest way to feel the history. In this case, when you read a Frank Cullotta book you have the unusual advantage of being treated to both. A man who lived it and is also an expert on the topic. This is the reason I maintain that reading a Frank Cullotta book is a must for any mafia fan (for lack of a better term), true crime buff or those just intrigued by biographies and history. This man doesn’t just write about history he is a living piece of history and is an expert at sharing it in the most creative and engaging ways. I left that day feeling like I had been one of the luckiest people alive. I had the opportunity to break bread with and learn about one of the most interesting figures alive today.
In the past year I have become friends with Frank and I consider him to be one of the most genuine and honest men I have ever met. He has given me life advice, shared with me things he has not to my knowledge even written in his various books. Hell, the guy even flirted with my mother right in front of me! It was tongue in cheek and I took it as such, but that is Frank You never know what you will get. He is all at once funny, intriguing and real. So if this is not your first Cullotta authored book then you know what to expect, unbelievable stories, amazing insight into the world of organized crime and the history of both Chicago and Las Vegas all rolled into one. Comedy mixed in with heart pounding drama and a historical account of when organized crime ruled the United States.
In his new book, The Rise And Fall Of A ‘Casino’ Mobster, Frank tells his the inside story of Tony Spilotro and the days when they ran Las Vegas. In the process he names the killers in many murders that are currently listed as unsolved. So get the book and sit back and enjoy as you delve into the mind of a gentleman, a family man, a thief, a killer, and a man who today has nothing to hide.
Jim Cooley “The Voice Of Champions”
VOC NETWORK
(925) 389-0138
www,lastroundpod.com

 

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