VOLK: Where Have All The Gangsters Gone?

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PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE: The Godfather rises up out of his chair: “Sit down,” he says, giving me his seat before I can object.  [Reputed Philly mob boss Joe] Ligambi grabs another stool and sits down beside me. And there we are, just a couple of fellas, talking over a glass of wine. […] I’d gone everywhere I could to learn about him, including his house. Ligambi lives on 17th Street, just south of Packer Avenue, near the sports stadiums, in a house registered under his wife’s name. The neighborhood is best described as leafy, more suburb than city. I walked the intersecting streets to see if I could spot any surveillance vans or some fed openly watching from his car. But nothing leaped out at me as law enforcement. Just lawn-care companies trimming back the first good growth of spring, any one of which could have included a government agent in disguise.

Ligambi’s house was the thing to see — a middle-class home with a carport and spacious back deck, with a black Caddy parked out front. A dark funeral-home-style awning, with an ornate “L” at its center, sticks out over his front volk_mob.jpgdoor. And I found myself lingering there, at the edge of his lawn, listening as eddies of wind occasionally brought the sound of an operatic soprano out of his window. I wish I could say I heard the music clearly, and that the voice was mournful. But it remained just out of reach. […]

Later, I’ll hear that Ligambi has some regrets about having met with me. He doesn’t give interviews, and now he wonders if I’m planning on publishing every little thing he said. He had hoped, it seems, that I would simply write down that I saw him as he sees himself — as a regular, down-to-earth man. A nice man. But of course, I’ve printed it all. Because isn’t this the point of the story — that Joe Ligambi’s mob, though evidently passing from this Earth, isn’t like the mobs that immediately preceded it? And that Ligambi’s mob has been something other than ruthless and stupid, and with Joey Merlino on his way out of prison, some fear we’re about to have a ruthless, stupid mob again? Isn’t the point of this story that Ligambi, as these things go, has run a quiet little mob — one we all know is there, but aren’t afraid of? MORE

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