"Life is full of misery, pain and tremendous suffering,
and it's all over much too quickly."
Placido Fellici Anatra was a friend of mine. We'd known each other since 1973. He was dark, tall, Sicilian and had no visible means of support, at least none that I could discern after ten years of hanging out with him. Sure he delt a little coke every now and then, but then it was the Eighties and it seemed like everyone was dealing and doing a little coke every now and then in those, the weaning days of the disgusting Disco Era.
I never figured Place for a "made" guy. Connected for sure. His family were probably foot soldiers for the Outfit. At least that's what I gathered from the interesting and entertaining morsels and hints he'd drop in casual conversation. As a young man he hung out at the home of Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, Chicago's boss of bosses.
And then there was his approach to life's pedestrian aggravations. Like the time he was having trouble with pigeons roosting and shiting on his bedroom windowsill.
"I shot one of those birds," he explained. "And left the fuckin' carcass on the windowsill for three or four days. Those fuckin' pigeons got the message. No more hanging out and shitting on my windowsill."
Then there was the time he nervously mentioned to me that he may have been running a couple of high-end hookers on someone else's turf. Someone, he whispered, who it was unwise to cross.
A firebomb was tossed into his vestibule. The damage was minimal but the message spoke volumes. In order to be prudent and maintain a lower profile he moved to a little house in Chicago's western suburbs, a house that was also firebombed. Luckily no one was hurt and after a while everything seemed to blow over. Frequently these little tiffs and entanglements between toughs can be ironed out if arrangements are made that transgressor simply do a little favor for the aggrieved.
Harriett is a writer. She's a journalist whose credits include a five-year stint as an editor at Associated Press and, during the last six or so years we lived in the Chicago area she was a stringer for the New York Times. So when Placy needed help writing a letter he figured she was just the gal to help him out.
"There's this guy I know, John Dejohn. He used t' work with my uncle. He's doin' a little time in Joliet for larceny but he's available for work release if there's a job waiting for him on the outside. He can go to work at my uncle's salvage yard on the South Side but we need a letter for the parole board. You're a writer. You can do a better job than me."
Always one to assist in the rehabilitation of a bushranger, or in the deliverance of one who has wandered off society's civilized pathway, Harriett agreed to dash off a note to the necessary regent.
A month or so later I came upon an item in the newspaper. "Harriett, what was the name of that guy Placy had you write the letter about?"
"John Dejohn," she answered.
"Well it says here that 'John Dejohn, a known organized crime associate, recently released from prison on a work release program was found murdered gangland-style.' Apparently persons unknown emptied a small caliber weapon into Dejohn's brainpan."
A couple of days later Placy dropped by the house and Harriett buttonholed him. "What's going on? Did I write a letter to get this guy out of prison so he can get whacked?!"
"How do you like being a part of history?" Placy purred.