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.