Joe "The Chinaman" Masseria was a 5' 2", fat-faced dwarf of a Sicilian who in many ways symbolized the last of the old school Italian mafia in America -- hyper-conservative, nationalistic, honor-bound, and xenophobic. Adding the more individualized traits of being short-tempered, strict, rude, racist, and too proud to learn to speak English beyond a few words, Masseria was a tyrannical little martinet with absolutely no tolerance for people who wouldn't conform to what he implicitly expected from them. Which is to say, like most control-freaks, he got frustrated very easily and very often.
Born in Palermo in 1879 as Guiseppe Masseria, Joe flew the home coop (like so many other mobsters) to avoid a murder charge. Fresh off the boat, he became involved in racketeering and legbreaking for a gang of the Lower East Side of New York City, an up-and-coming band of ruffians led by Iganzio Saietta and Ciro Terranova.
After Saietta went to the clink along with a few other high-ranking members of the gang, Terranova was assigned by default the management duties of the organization. But as a brevet leader, Terranova wasn't really a particularly aggressive or even capable mobster. His one and only claim to fame being the total monopoly of the artichoke market in the U.S. Every single artichoke that America imported passed through the ownership of the Terranovas. Yah. Fucking. Hoo.
But for some ungodly reason, the 'chokes were enough of a motive for the rival Morello gang to kill. Gang warfare erupted between the two factions, and Masseria led a number of raids on the Morello headquarters, greasing about a dozen goons in the process. Masseria would keep whacking off thugs until 1920, when he gathered enough prestige and influence to rise to the leadership of the Terranova gang. He now controlled all of the major rackets that took place in New York. Including the artichokes.
The leader of this rival crime family, Peter "The Clutching Hand" Morello (Stop laughing, damn you!) decided to clip this ball-busting Sicilian midget, and commisioned professional wiseguy Umberto Valenti to take care of the problem permanent like. The heavy hitter ambushed Masseria and his two accompanying stooges in cheap suits, blowing away both bodyguards with their pistols before they had a chance to return lead. Masseria ran like a scared little bitch into a nearby dry-cleaning shop. Valenti followed, peppering the racks of clothing with ten bullets in an unsuccessful attempt to smoke out his quarry, but left as the sounds of sirens began to gain in pitch. Just like in Goldeneye on "DK" mode, Joe was impossible for even a master gunman to shoot.
Valenti wasn't, though, and it didn't take terribly long for him to be dropped by loyal henchmen Lucky Luciano and Joe Adonis in a local restaurant. Ironically, The Clutching Hand was left alone after the retalitory killing. Masseria even went so far as to make him one of his top aides.
Despite promoting Joe and Lucky for the vengeance of his attempted murder, Masseria was still an extremely difficult man to work for. Masseria had nothing but utter contempt for his non-Sicilian contemporaries, such as neighboring Jewish mobsters Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, and Louis Buchalter, clinging to the old-country idea of organized crime being la cosa nostra, strictly among the people from the ball in front of the boot. This did not make him highly liked by underworld newcomers, many of whom were second- or third-generation citizens and (among being able to speak coherent English, in contrast to their boss) had a better appreciation of the idea of cooperation among ethnic groups to ease deadly competition and bring in more stable racketeering profits.
Even with its exclusively Italic membership body, Masseria's empire shot up overnight like a mushroom out of the ground. He gathered thousands of up-and-coming gangsters, the likes of which included Albert Anastasia, Frank Costello, Paul Castellano, Carlo Gambino, Vito Genovese, and of course Lucky Luciano.
Things were going along nice and happy in the heydays of Prohibition until a rather big blip appeared on the radar screen in 1927: Salvatore Maranzano. The Big Giant Head of the Mafia, Don Vito Cascio Ferro, had very quietly decided that the time was come for him to take over the entire field of organized crime in the U.S., and sent the prodigal son, Maranzano, to sow the seeds of destruction.
Well, okay, maybe it wasn't really that apocalyptic. In any event, two years later, Cascio Ferro was arrested by top Don Benito Mussolini's henchmen, and was sentenced to life in prison. But that didn't dull Maranzano's incentive to raise hell and cause havoc against the Masseria hegemony. He quickly organized his own gang and started disrupting Masseria's New York rackets, often in the form of hijackings or assassinations. Masseria immediately declared open war and the conflict, known as the Castellmarise war, would end up claiming hundreds of lives between 1928 and 1931.
Masseria originally figured on an easy victory, sending mop-up squads of pistol-packing shooters to whack anybody even remotely associated with his rival, but things didn't turn out to be quite that simple. Eventually, some of his men grew to be of the opinion that the war was bad for profit and greatly threatened to cut their life-long career ambitions in the mob drastically short. Headed by top lieutenant Lucky Luciano, they decided to stop the war by the most controversial method of all: regime change.
On April 15, 1931, Luciano invited Masseria to a seven course dinner at a restaurant, Nuova Villa Tammaro, located in Coney Island. The food took hours to put away, and after all was said and done, Luciano opened a game of cards with his boss. Then he excused himself to go to the can.
The moment he disappeared, four gunmen popped in and blasted ten rounds at their miniscule target, six of which managed to find a mark. Luciano walked out, wiping his hands, to the sight of his old boss and friend lying dead on the floor. There was no sign of the killers. At least, that's what he told the police, conveniently omitting the fact that he had now become leader of the most powerful criminal family in the country.
Another mob nodeshell rescue from Deckard97. Yahtzee!