Genovese soldier David Petillo in "his early teens was reputed to be a 'fairy'" according to FBI files, and apparently gay sex was prevalent among adolescent boys in the street gangs of Italian neighborhoods. For example, in the 1962 book All The Way Down: The Violent Underworld of Street Gangs, Vincent Riccio writes about his work during the early 1950s with street gangs including the Gowanus Boys in South Brooklyn from which the Mafia often recruited, and he notes their "terribly frequent relationships with homosexuals."
Riccio was born in 1919 in South Brooklyn, and after a stint with the U.S. Navy during World War II returned to the old neighborhood where in 1950 he became one of the first outreach workers for the Brooklyn Youth Board to address the street gang problem. The Brooklyn Youth Board had been recently formed according to Riccio "to deal with the bloody rumbles and teenage killings that were sweeping the poorer sections of Brooklyn," and he was charged with outreach to the Gowanus Boys which "were rumbling incessantly" with other gangs. The Gowanus Boys were predominantly Italian with "about twenty-five members, ranging in age from fifteen to twenty-one," and "there was a younger group, the Juniors, ranging from ten to fifteen" which "was separate but much influenced by the older outfit." The boys wore "pegged pants" and "square-toed shoes," and apparently had quite "the strut."
A "sleazy neighborhood candy store" called Mabel's "was the social center for the gang," and among their rackets was "rolling homosexuals" through violent robberies some of whom they met at Mabel's according to Riccio. However, Riccio observed over time that the Gowanus Boys were not simply "fag rollers." Some boys were prostituting themselves -- " got my joint copped and five bucks. Is that bad?" -- and other boys were having homosexual relationships simply because they preferred the company of boys over girls.
Riccio writes that the "fag rollers" often would have sex with their homosexual target before beating and robbing him:
The boys who went in for this sort of thing sought out the homosexuals. Some were "fag rollers" -- they completed their connection with homosexuals by robbing them. Sometimes by a mere threat; usually after a thorough physical shellacking. They boasted of these robberies and beatings, obviously justifying the entire episode to themselves by punishing the "goddam" fairy.
When one of the boys finished his tale of punishing fairies I would say, "Bullshit. Just answer me one question -- did you belt him around before or after?"
They wouldn't answer, or would admit that they had participated before their righteousness overtook them. I would then say, "You enjoyed it and you know it. You'll be a fairy yourself pretty soon. If you aren't already."
Indeed, Riccio claimed that "the entire homosexual problem" within the Gowanus Boys "was all too true" for many simply because they liked the easy sex that the "homosexual provided them" as "a sex outlet." One boy asked Riccio "what the hell's so wrong about having a queer blow you? All the guys around here do it." Moreover, Riccio identified another boy from the gang who "just couldn't get along with" the girls but "got along fine with homosexuals."
No wonder the Mafia ran gay bars; it was just "this thing of ours."
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