The Quick 10: 10 Intriguing Mobster Nicknames

Scarface, The Teflon Don, Bugsy, Lucky "“ we know all of those gangsters. But there's some really obscure and intriguing nicknames lurking in the Underworld. You can guess the origin of some of them "“ Good-Looking Sal, Vinnie Gorgeous, Lefty. Some of them, like these 10, require a little more explanation.

CIRO1. Artichoke King - Ciro Terranova. Back in the early 1900s, Terranova earned this delicious moniker because he started his life of crime by buying cheap artichokes from California and threatening vegetable sellers in New York to buy them at a 30-40 percent markup. Too bad he died in 1938 "“ the Artichoke King and the Artichoke Queen (that would be Marilyn Monroe) would have been a perfect couple.

2. Louie Bagels "“ Louis Daidone. Daidone, who was once the boss of the Lucchese crime family, got his name pretty honestly "“ he previously owned a bagel shop in Queens called "Bagels by the Bay." Perhaps he should have stuck to making breakfast food "“ these days, Daidone is serving a life sentence at United States Penitentiary in Allenwood, PA.

3. Yeast Baron "“ Giuseppe Siragusa. Similarly, "Yeast Baron" Siragusa made a fortune selling yeast to illegal home-brewers during Prohibition. "Yeast Baron" doesn't seem like a very threatening nickname, though. It sounds more like a corporate cartoon mascot "“ the disowned cousin of Captain Crunch or the Quaker Oats guy. Siragusa died in 1931, so he isn't around to show me exactly how intimidating he can be. Hopefully he doesn't have family members who read mental_floss. Um. Maybe we should move on"¦

4. Greasy Thumb "“ Jake Guzik. "Greasy Thumb" Guzik was one of Capone's right-hand men after Guzik tipped him off to a murder plot. He was one of the guys responsible for paying off police and politicians, which is how he got his greasy thumbs "“ from counting out money all of the time.

CHICKENman5. Chicken Man "“ Philip Testa. Chicken Man, was, appropriately, involved in the poultry business before becoming a big-time mobster. He's famous for his gruesome death in 1981: a nail bomb planted under his front porch in Philadelphia totally obliterated him. The incident was immortalized in the Bruce Springsteen song "Atlantic City," which opens with the line, "Well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night/Now they blew up his house too."

6. Big Tuna "“ Tony Accardo. If you're like me, you think of Jim from The Office when you hear "Big Tuna." But there was a Big Tuna long before John Krasinski and co. were on the air. Accardo's most famous nickname was "Joe Batters," given to him by Al Capone after Accardo whacked a couple of dudes using a Louisville Slugger. But Chicago newspapers preferred to call him Big Tuna, which came from a much more mundane hobby of Accardo's: fishing, of course.

7. Gaspipe "“ Anthony Casso. Mobster-turned informant Anthony Casso has a few tales as to the origins of his nickname. He claims it was passed down from his dad, whose weapon of choice was actually a gas pipe. Others agree, but say it was because his dad hooked up illegal gas connections. And other sources say it was Anthony himself who liked to wail on his victims with a pipe. Whatever the reason, Casso detested the nickname and allowed only a select few to call him "Gas."

8. Milwaukee Phil "“ Felix Alderisio. This wouldn't be such a remarkable nickname if it didn't belong to a guy who was neither named Phil nor was from Milwaukee. Alderisio was originally from New York, then lived in Chicago as a teenager, and finally made his way to Milwaukee, where he started boxing under the alias "Milwaukee Phil." I suppose "Phil" sounded tougher than "Felix." Alderisio ended up being a big player in Milwaukee's prostitution, gambling, narcotics and loansharking circles.

RICCA9. The Waiter "“ Paul Ricca. Paul Ricca worked under Diamond Joe Esposito during Prohibition, smuggling whiskey and moonshine to Bella Napoli, a restaurant patronized by mobsters. Diamond Joe made Ricca the maitre d' at Bella Napoli to accommodate his friends with "special requests," hence his "The Waiter" nickname. It's not technically correct, but I suppose Paul "The Maitre d'" just doesn't sound as good.

10. Tony Ducks — Anthony Corallo. Corallo, a member of the Lucchese family, didn't have a water-fowl hunting hobby, as you might suspect. He actually acquired the name because of his amazing ability to duck subpoena servers.

And here are a few intriguing names I couldn't find good explanations for:

Mad Hatter "“ Albert Anastasia (Also Lord High Executioner)
Cheesebox "“ Mickey Callahan
The Spoon "“ Frank Cuccharia. I tend to think this nickname comes from something horrible, like maybe Cuccharia was prone to gouging out the eyes of his victims with a kitchen utensil. But perhaps he just had a proclivity for soup.

Do you know the real stories behind any of those three? Did I leave out a really bizarre nickname? Tell us about it in the comments.

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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