6 Gangsters Who Earned Their Names

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A thug, is a thug, is a thug. But would a thug by any other moniker still be as dangerous? We're guessing "yes."

1. Frank "the Dasher" Abbandando (1910"“1942)

Abbandando was one killer who was fast on his feet. A hit man for the New York mob's Murder, Inc., an organization of contract killers, Abbandando may have killed as many as 50 people. In one case, he walked up to a guy and pulled the trigger only to have the gun misfire. With his armed victim in pursuit, Frank "the Dasher" ran so fast around the block that he came up behind his quarry and coolly shot him in the back. Hence his nickname. But even Abbandando couldn't outrun a stool pigeon inside Murder, Inc. Convicted of a single murder, the speedy criminal was awarded a speedy trial, followed by a speedy execution via electric chair.

2. Albert "Lord High Executioner" Anastasia (1903"“1957)

Brutal dogs, ants and one serious weasel all after the jump...

anastasia.jpg Also dubbed "the Mad Hatter" for his love of fancy fedoras, the dapper "Lord High Executioner," was not a man to be messed with. In the early 1920s, Anastasia was sentenced to death for killing a fellow longshoreman. But he was granted a retrial and the conviction was reversed when four of the witnesses "disappeared." And that was just at the start of his career. After helping to kill crime boss Joe Masseria, Anastasia was made head of Murder, Inc. by new boss Lucky Luciano, and was dubbed the mob's "Lord High Executioner" by the press. And while the name stuck, his position didn't, as Anastasia eventually fell out with the other bosses. On October 25, 1957, Anastasia was shot six times while getting a haircut. As one New York paper put it the next day: "He Died in the Chair After All."

3. Lester "Baby Face Nelson" Gillis (1908"“1934)

101.jpgHe wanted to be called "Big George," but at 5 feet 4 inches and with the visage of a choirboy, Lester Gillis was stuck with "Baby Face." No matter. Starting as a pickpocket, Lester put an even better face on things by graduating to enforcer (for Al Capone), bank robber, and psychopathic killer, sometimes shooting people for no reason mid-heist. By 1934, Baby Face was the FBI's Public Enemy No. 1. But on November 27 of that year, he went out with a bang. A lot of bangs, actually. In a gun battle with two FBI agents, Nelson killed both Feds, but not before they put 17 slugs in him. Amazingly, Nelson walked back to his getaway car and escaped. Of course, the 17 shots ended up doing the trick. Lester's body was found in a ditch the next day.

4. Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll (1908"“1932)

Picture 13.pngHis first nickname, "the Mick," was relatively harmless, since he hailed from Ireland and all. But his second one proved to be a keeper. The criminal with an ominous moniker, and a rep to boot, was a top mob enforcer for New York bootlegger Dutch Schultz. And among his many talents, the versatile Coll specialized in kidnapping and extortion. In fact, he had no qualms about torturing his victims. After falling out with Schultz, Coll touched off a gang war in which at least 20 people were killed. One was a five-year-old boy caught in a crossfire. Coll was charged with the shooting, and though he was acquitted, his days on the street were numbered. Mob bosses put a price on Coll's head, and on February 8, 1932, he was shot more than a dozen times while placing a call in a telephone booth.

5. Tony "the Ant" Spilotro (1938"“1986)

1155530835.jpgFor the 15 years after he first hit Las Vegas in 1971 to the day he died, the mob's chief Vegas enforcer, Tony Spilotro, never spent a day in jail. Not bad for a guy who was implicated in at least 24 murders. In one case, he was even said to have squeezed a victim's head in a vise until his eyes popped out (a scene you might remember from Casino). Ugh. As for "the Ant" bit, little Tony hated the nickname, which was a reference to his diminutive stature (he was 5'5"). What he didn't hate, however, was the limelight, and it proved to be his undoing. Tony's bosses in Chicago figured he was getting a little too much press, so they came up with a quick remedy: Tony and his brother were beaten up, then buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. As for the slick lawyer who kept the Ant out of jail all that time? His name was Oscar Goodman, and he was elected Vegas's mayor in 1999, then reelected in 2003.

6. Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno (1914"“1993)

Picture 21.png"When the boss tells you to do something," Fratianno told a reporter in 1987, "you do it. You don't do it, they kill you." That's how he explained taking part in 11 murders. Of course, it didn't explain why he became a government witness in 1977 after 32 years in the mob. Fratianno, who got his nickname after speedily fleeing a crime scene as a kid, explained that he began ratting on his colleagues because they had a contract on his life. Fratianno spent 10 years in the Federal Witness Protection Program before being kicked out because he was costing taxpayers too much. Amazingly, he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 79. Not bad for a weasel.

For more lists like these, be sure to pick up a copy of Forbidden Knowledge.

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December 17, 2007 - 8:53am
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