Weird History

What Was It Really Like To Be In The Mafia?

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Vote up all the facts about Mafia life that make you forget about the idealized version in the movies.

Have you ever wondered what it would really be like to be inducted into one of the Five Families? In Hollywood, movies like The Godfather, Casino, Goodfellas, and Scarface make being affiliated with organized crime seem like a lucrative, adventurous, and glamorous endeavor. And while some depictions of La Cosa Nostra ("Our Thing") in these films are accurate, they also include many fallacies for the audience's entertainment. 

In reality, the day-to-day operations of the Mafia are often much duller than the action-filled dramas we see play out on the silver screen. The life of a mobster can be violent, monotonous, and lonely. Work can be surprisingly laborious; money can be scarce for anyone who isn't in a top tier; and it's almost impossible to move up once you've joined La Familia at a specific rank or status. If you still think you might be interested in taking on the gig, read on to find out precisely what you can expect after you take the oath. 

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    207 VOTES

    You Constantly Romanticize The Past

    No matter when you came up, you'll always remember the "Golden Age" of the mob, which began around the 1920s and lasted through the '70s. Former made men say that while organized crime does still exist, being in the business is nothing like it used to be. Whether you're sitting at a desk job talking real estate, managing a construction site, or running a restaurant as a cover, it will never compare to the glory days full of extortion, shakedowns, and shoot-ups.

    Many mafiosi also cite the Golden Age as a time of honor and loyalty, but argue that those times no longer exist. Now, everyone breaks the rules. According to them, new candidates for La Cosa Nostra also have no fundamental understanding of how the syndicate runs and ask ridiculous questions, like how other members will know that they are made men. 

    You'll always hear about how the original gangsters of the 1920s came from poverty and had to work much harder for the things that younger generations of mobsters take for granted. Today, Goodfellas will also relate that their fathers and grandfathers in the 1960s and '70s were half crazy and paid no attention to their ancestors' rules and regulations when they first came to the US. They claim that the business has gone soft, that nobody really knows or understands what they should be doing. In 2016, Frank DiMatteo told Vice: 

    They're afraid of everything. It's like a f*cking joke now. You've got no respect. Every other crew is laughing at you.

  • There’s A Strict Code Of Rules - But Everyone Has An Excuse To Break Them
    Photo: Casino / Universal Pictures
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    155 VOTES

    There’s A Strict Code Of Rules - But Everyone Has An Excuse To Break Them

    Mafiosi have a strict set of rules, and the first one is that you must be a full-blooded Italian. However, they're willing to make exceptions regarding lesser offenses. While many misdeeds were punishable by death during the Golden Age, modern-day gangsters get off a lot easier when breaking a rule. John Pennisi, formerly of the Lucchese crime family, shared that mobsters aren't allowed to be intentionally involved in lawsuits, invest in the stock market, or kill women and children. Made men are forbidden to hit on another member's wife, though some affairs slip through the cracks. 

    Because the Mafia was notorious for using explosive devices in Italy, mob “soldiers” were banned from using them to conduct business in the US. Still, that didn't stop them from placing a bomb underneath Gambino underboss Frankie DeCicco's car. Despite a strict no-drug dealing policy at one time, each of the Five Families has had at least one member tied to a drug-related business - the enterprise brings in too much money to stop the smuggling. 

    Reportedly, there aren't as many dirty cops or sneaky politicians being paid under the table to work with mafiosi in New York as there once were, and Pennisi asserts most families don't hold the same political power they once did. 

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    167 VOTES

    You Have A Specialty

    Each member plays a specific role in ensuring that no one ever truly knows the full spectrum of a family's mob work. As a teen, you'll most likely drive other made men around as they do their business. Entire families of blood relatives often join the syndicate under a particular profession, such as being assassins. Bosses call on bodyguards to protect themselves and the families of other made men. 

    Capos (captains) have specific positions they operate and are often defined as the leaders of specific criminal activities in a detailed location. For instance, one capo may be in charge of everything west of a particular neighborhood block, while another is in charge of illegal gambling. 

    Suppose you're not officially inducted, and are just an associate. In that case, you'll most likely remain in whatever position you had before your mob ties because it's the role that determined your usefulness to the don. These roles include, but are not limited to robbers, bookkeepers, drug dealers, politicians, and law enforcement.

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    209 VOTES

    You Do Monotonous Work With No Overtime

    Just because you're raking in the dough for the family business doesn't mean the organized crime hustle will make you rich. Button men (slang for Mafia soldiers) and associates work long hours and rarely see the funds they produce. Most of the money goes back to the organization to pay off high-interest loans. 

    Wiseguys must be ready and willing to work at all hours and don't receive automatic payments in their bank accounts like typical jobs provide. Instead, made men get paid when the don decides the job is finished. Bosses expect bodyguards to be available at all times to protect their families and can be called at a moment's notice. While you can't expect to be paid for the overtime, you can expect to get a beating if rumor gets out that you sat too close to another made man's wife during a job. 

    Because the mob hierarchy specifically established itself to keep undertakings as private as possible, most members have specific, mundane jobs that keep them from gaining too much information regarding La Cosa Nostra's grand schemes. Money doesn't always flow directly into Mafia pockets, and associates often acquire smaller jobs just to earn extra cash.