CHURCH OF TWAIN: Spilotro’s Steak, Madoff’s Millions

Anthony Spilotro, the late Las Vegas gangster and hitman, was something of a street-corner philosopher according to those who knew him well. Spilotro, played so dramatically by Joe Pesci in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino,” had favorite sayings that served as gentle reminders to his associates. For some reason, they almost always focused on the nature of greed.

You see, greed is an important part of the mob life. Without it, many crimes wouldn’t be committed. With too much of it, mob wars break out and blood runs in the gutters.

Tough Tony the philosopher liked to say, “You can only eat one steak at a time.” By that he meant, don’t get too greedy. You might choke, or be choked.

Ironically, it was Tony whom some mob historians have suspected was killed in part because he failed to share his lucrative Vegas scores with his bosses in Chicago. He brought too much heat on the bosses through his organization of a burglary ring that got busted and made big headlines. In 1986, Spilotro and his brother, Michael, were murdered by their friends.

Tony was a ragged street kid who dared to dream too big. Bernard Madoff, on the other hand, was a limousine guy who circulated with millionaires and billionaires. His Ponzi scheme took investors for $86 billion, a record organized crime would have envied, and this week we found out he’s personally still worth $826 million. He’s also on his way to federal prison.

Saint Mark Twain of Missouri enjoyed a good steak now and then. And he wrote about crime and criminality occasionally as well. Twain once observed, “Nothing incites to money-crimes like great poverty or great wealth.”

I guess it’s too late to remind Madoff that he can only eat one steak at a time.

Too late for Tony, too, come to think of it.