Stephen David, executive producer of AMC’s The Making of the Mob: New York, talks about the most shocking piece of mob history he learned while making the show and what viewers can expect from AMC’s new docu-drama series.
Q: Audiences seem to have endless thirst for shows and movies about the mob. Why do you think the mob is such a compelling subject for so many people?
A: I actually think, in some ways, we wish we could live that way. There’s a freedom to the way they live, which is basically if someone pisses you off, you can take them out. [Laughs] You have a ton of money in your pocket. It’s aspiration, but in a horrible way. But the other side of it is, you’re eventually either going to jail or be killed.
Q: There are a lot of legends and lore surrounding Vito Genovese, Meyer Lansky, Bugsy Siegel, Frank Costello, and Lucky Luciano. Was it difficult to separate fact from fiction when putting together the series?
A: Before we did all the research, I knew all of these names, but I didn’t know they were all friends and that they were all working together, and that basically these five main characters invented the modern mob. You hear the term “organized crime,” but before them, it wasn’t organized. These guys figured out how to turn it into an illegal Fortune 500-type company. When we looked into it, the facts were almost better than the lore.
Q: The Making of the Mob: New York includes commentary from a variety of featured notables: Rudy Giuliani, Frankie Valli, Chazz Palminteri, Joe Mantegna, and Vincent Pastore, various authors and historians, and even a former state supreme court judge. Was there anyone you were surprised to discover was a mob enthusiast?
A: I thought what was really interesting with Giuliani was that he wasn’t just bashing the mob, and he wasn’t just saying they’re horrible people. What he talked about was how hard it was to get to them in many ways, because of how intelligent they are and how well-set-up their operation is. You couldn’t have a worldwide syndicate of that size, making that kind of money, with just thugs. I think he had to study a lot about them — to beat them, he had to know them.
Q: What was the most shocking piece of mob history you learned while making the show?
A: That Costello, when he became the acting mob boss, couldn’t handle the stress and went to go see a psychiatrist. [Laughs] I love that story because so many of us have seen The Sopranos and Analyze This. I always kind of thought that was made up, but I just loved when I learned it was real. It’s so interesting. Costello saw a psychiatrist, he’s the mob boss, and the psychiatrist told him to get rid of stress by being charitable. So Costello threw an event for The Salvation Army, and he invited the psychiatrist to the event. He sees some reporters, they ask him why he’s there, and he tells them, “Oh, I’m Costello’s psychiatrist!” Costello didn’t last long after that.
Q: What can viewers expect from The Making of the Mob: New York?
A: Anyone who watches the show, the whole thing is going to be breaking facts. If you don’t know about the mob, it’s going to be fascinating. And even if you do know, and you’re already an enthusiast and you already know a lot, it’s still going to be fascinating because no one has ever put the whole story together.
Q: If you could be Genovese, Lansky, Siegel, Costello, or Luciano, which one would you want to be and why?
A: I would not want to be Genovese, and I think as you watch the show, you’ll see why. I would want to be Luciano because he’s the guy in charge. Or maybe Lansky, because he was the brains.Read More