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Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers Paperback – September 4, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran investigative author and organized crime expert Russo's magnum opus is a compelling look at one of the last century's major power players: Sidney Korshak, a "sphinxlike operator" who, despite pulling the strings of politics and industry, remained invisible to the general public. With great detail (some of it extraneous), Russo traces the amazing course of Korshak's life—from his childhood on Chicago's Jewish West Side to his role as a mouthpiece for the Windy City's Mafia leaders and, eventually, as a major league fixer who brokered labor truces and other deals for politicians and Hollywood moguls (Korshak died, aged 87, in 1996). The list of his clients and associates reads like a who's who of the last 50 years, including Ronald Reagan, MCA president Lew Wasserman, hotelier Conrad Hilton and cosmetics king Max Factor. Russo's extensive research is amply evident, and he has made use of recently disclosed records to paint a fuller picture than predecessors such as Seymout Hersh and Brian Ross were able to. His conclusions about Reagan—such as that he sold out the actor's union—in particular are likely to create controversy, although similar ones were drawn in Dan Moldea's Dark Victory 20 years ago. This worthy addition to the genre is marred only by some sensational claims concerning Reagan that lack adequate documentation. B&w photos. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Russo is the acclaimed author of three previous books on organized crime, including The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America (2002). This thoroughly researched investigative report profiles the hidden power brokers behind the Mob's dominance of Chicago and Los Angeles throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Most notable is Sidney Korshak, known as "the Fixer," who was called the most powerful lawyer in the world by the FBI. A force behind the careers of numerous celebrities, and with connections to politicians from Henry Kissinger to Ronald Reagan, Korshak brokered some of the largest and shadiest deals in Hollywood from his private table at the Bistro restaurant in Beverly Hills. As point man for the Mob, he oversaw land grabs from interned Japanese Americans during World War II, helped create the casino monopolies in Las Vegas, and facilitated Mob domination of the film and music industries. With a colorful cast of characters and more clandestine activity than a spy thriller, the book delivers some of the juiciest Hollywood details unearthed yet. David Siegfried
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596912111
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596912113
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #576,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For over twenty years, Gus Russo has been an investigative reporter, author of six non-fiction books, and writer and/or producer of many national and international documentaries for major networks. His books have received Book of the Month Club and History Book Club Featured Selections, three have been optioned for films, and one, "The Outfit," was a Pulitzer nominee. His October 2008 book, "Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder," was named Winner of the 2008 History Prize by the New York Book Festival. April 2011 will see the publication of his memoir, "Boomer Days."

Russo has worked an investigative reporter for PBS' Frontline series, as well as ABC News Special Reports with Peter Jennings (Dangerous World: The Kennedy Years, and JFK: Beyond Conspiracy), Dan Rather's CBS Reports, and Jack Anderson Specials; he has been a consultant for programs such as Sixty Minutes, Sixty Minutes II, and Eye To Eye with Connie Chung; as well as documentary productions based in England, France, Germany, Japan, and Mexico. Russo has appeared on countless radio and TV programs, including NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!, The History Channel (numerous shows), A&E's Biography (Jack Ruby), Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC's Nachman, and Dan Rather's 1993 special Who Killed JFK? Russo has been a research consultant to numerous writers, including Seymour Hersh, Gerald Posner, Anthony Summers, and Laurence Leamer, and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The Nation, The Washington Post, Book Forum, American Heritage, The Huffington Post, and for two years was a regular contributor to the health-related website Russo recently produced and co-wrote a documentary feature film, "Generation 9-11," for Germany's WDR and Academy Award-winning director Nigel Nobel.

In another life, Russo was a professional musician, composer, bandleader, and private instructor. In that incarnation, he played with, or in tandem with, many well-known acts including John Phillips, The New Mamas and Papas, Phoebe Snow, Michael Murphy, The Byrds, Livingston Taylor, Poco, Mary Travers (Peter, Paul and Mary), Commander Cody, and Firefall (w/ Rick Roberts). Russo the musician also wrote commercial jingles and low-budget film scores ("Basket Case," "Brain Damage," etc.)

He currently feeds his musical passions as leader of the Baltimore-based sextet, "String Theory," which features ditties by Django Reinhardt, Johnny Mercer, Dan Hicks, and Nat King Cole.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Pugwash on October 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In Bob Evans iconic Hollywood autobiography "The Kid Stays In The Picture", frequent mention was made of his mentor, who he would refer to as simply "The Myth".

The Myth bailed him out of situations in his life caused by his own self-destructive behavior, and also "fixed" situations for him by getting him certain actors to star in his Paramount movie vehicles.

It turned out this mythic fixer cut his teeth with Al Capone, and became a central figure in the emergence of the Mob. Sidney Korshak became the conduit between the Jewish cerebral approach to organized crime, and the Italian approach, which was more muscular.

Theodore Roosevelt was often quoted as saying "Walk softly, and carry a big stick."

This was an accurate description of Sidney Korshak. Almost anonomous outside of his massive sphere of influence, Korshak bridged the power of the unions, knew and influenced Presidents Truman, Nixon and Reagan, and insured vast sums of wealth for many of the biggest underworld figures of the 20th century.

Along the way, Korshak earned millions and invested huge sums of money in real estate ventures in Las Vegas, and around the World. Born a first generation American in a Jewish section of Chicago, Korshak radiated a quiet toughness that served him through the upper strata of business and down through the lower tiers of gangsters.

This a fascinating look at a complex character whose reach gravitated into the farthest reach of our society, as bad money became legitimate, and amoral gangsters assimilated into the mainstream business fabric of our society.

Russo comprehends this transformation and grasps Korshaks character.

This is highly recommended reading for anyone trying to get an understanding of the 20th century mob.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Graham Hill on December 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Certainly mob and corporate super-lawyer Sidney Korshak would'nt rush out and buy this book -that is if he was still alive. But then, thats one of the main reasons author Gus Russo could go ahead and write about him somewhat freely and in good health. A lot of people who knew Korshak, contributed to this epic of crime and corruption, both alive and dead. From Chicago to Hollywood, the State house to the White House, Las Vegas to Beverly Hills, it's all here in great detail and chronological reference. Russo has dissected with clinical skill, the man behind all the deals and dealings. The man who could end a strike or start one. The man who could get someone elected or buried. It's a far better story than "The Godfather" which incidently he played a vital behind the scenes part in, only it's for real. He played the unions against their employers, the Republicans against the Democrats and the Hollywood studios against themselves.

This is a must-read for not just any serious student of power in America in the last century, but for anyone even slightly interested in who really runs our illusion of democracy. It's detractors may say who cares and how could any author dare to trash the cherished reputations of so many "distinquished" politicians and social crusaders. But the evidence is there and it all ties in -as in "follow the money". To the law he was "hands off", an "Untouchable" that even an army of Elliot Ness' could'nt catch. Yet to a beautiful starlet, he was more than touchable.

Wherever Sidney is now, he probably be laughing at all those ignorant and naive people, who still refuse to believe in how things really get taken care of in this everso "politically correct" world. He'd certainly want to broker the deal that would get his life story made in Hollywood.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Doepke on November 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
America loves mob melodramas, guys getting whacked because they crossed somebody or other. No one much cares whether the culprits get caught since it's all part of the underworld game. No one in authority much cares either, that is, until some hoodlum tries to beat his income tax after the gov't has demanded its cut. Then the bloodhounds of the IRS come calling and the careless capo gets a federal number.

Economists call the early stages of capital accumulation "primitive accumulation". Few academics may call 20's style bootlegging primitive accumulation, but illegal whiskey sure raised a lot of money for the Capone-led Chicago gang. And like most rising business ventures, much of that money was used by astute managers such as Murray "The Camel" Humphreys to buy influence into the over-world of politics and law. What does it matter if the money's dirty, since it's still money, as any number of corrupted Illinois officials shows.

But what happens when even a big city like Chicago becomes too small for the sums flowing into gangster coffers. Well. if you're a wizard like Humphreys, you start looking for new opportunities, especially where there is little or no competition. You also look for somebody who can pass for respectable, since you're past the primitive stage and now have the money to go legit. Enter attorney Sidney Korshak, discreet, smooth, and, above all, a protege of Jake Arvey, Chicago's master ward healer and political go-between. As Russo's lengthy account shows, the mob could not have made a better choice.
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