Matthew "Matty The Horse" Ianniello, the one-time acting boss of the Genovese crime family who was involved in the gay bar industry in New York City from the 1950s through at least the mid-1980s, has died at his Long Island home in Old Westbury, NY as reported by Anthony M. DeStefano for Newsday.
According to former Daily News reporter and editor Thomas Collins Jr. in his 2002 memoir NewsWalker, Ianniello "was sponsored into the Genovese crime family by Frank 'Funzi' Tieri."
Like most mobsters of his generation Ianniello's early arrests in the 1950s were for heroin trafficking, and over the years was involved with construction bid rigging, labor union corruption and waste carting extortion. He was last released from prison in 2009 after serving concurent 18- and 24-month terms on multiple convictions resulting from two separate indictments including collecting unlawful payments from some officials of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union in New York City and providing the muscle to control segments of the waste carting industry in Connecticut.
Ianniello was the Forrest Gump of the Mafia, and present at some of gangland history's most infamous events. For example, he was working in the kitchen at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy when Crazy Joe Gallo was gunned down there in 1972, and at least some suspected that Ianniello was involved in setting up the hit for the Colombo family.
Ianniello perhaps is most infamous for his "smut cartel" in Times Square as reported by Paul Vitello for The New York Times: "federal prosecutors considered him the mastermind of one of organized crime’s most lucrative profit centers in New York -- the topless bar scene and pornography shops of Manhattan."
He further was behind dozens of gay bars and discos during New York City's sleazy days, and he was convicted in 1985 with several associates for skimming profits out of several establishments including the tranny bar Gilded Grape and the hustler bar Hay Market.
The intrepid reporter Collins dubbed Ianniello in NewsWalker as one of the "Sultans of Midtown" for his dominant role in the Times Square smut rackets, and he describes the Hay Market as follows:
The crowds were at the gay bars, which cops told me the mobsters opened in a cynical attempt to attract a clientele from an underserved market. I got to the Hay Market, at 772 8th Ave. just before midnight. The bar was five deep with men and boys hustling, talking, laughing—and drinking. Lots of drinking. The air was thick with cigaret smoke. The jukebox played loud pounding rock music. Patrons moved unselfconsciously to the beat. The bar was long and thin, with a shelf of liquor lined against the back wall. Against the opposite wall hustlers were seated against a railing, some of the boys looking as young as 15. One was staring into space, his thin frame covered with a faded denim jacket, scruffy jeans and black boots. Several of the men from the bar across the way were watching. Several of the boys wore varsity jackets with leather sleeves. Others had shiny plastic jackets. They were all working. One of the men at the bar in his early twenties wore an elegant camel's-hair jacket, black pants and silk ascot. A portly, balding man in a business suit sat next to him. He wore rimless glasses and could have passed for an accountant at any midtown office. Another boy came up to the balding man and whispered in his ear. Two stools down, a handsome man smiled at the mirror. Behind him stood a goon wearing a T-shirt with barbells stenciled on front, with the sleeves rolled up. His arms were folded across his chest and he flexed his biceps. In the doorway, a young boy with a woolen stocking cap blocked the way, forcing everyone who came in or walked out to ask him to move.
Bruce Benderson, author of User, writes the following about the Hay Market:
Don't believe the hype about the infamous Stonewall bar being an oppressive place where sad homosexuals had to hide from police oppression and where Mafia bosses exploited their desperation. Any illegal bar run by the Mafia always has the hottest, most inspiring atmosphere. * * * [W]e owe them a debt for having created good illicit bars[.] * * * As for me, I probably wouldn't have written a decent sentence if I hadn't discovered Times Square and the hot Puerto Rican hustlers who came down from the South Bronx to frequent its mostly Mafia-owned bars. * * * The first and most famous Times Square bar I ever went to was called the Haymarket. * * * In those days, a lot of the hustlers were poor white kids. Since the minimum drinking age in those days was 18 (rather than today's 21), there was some very young trade in there. The place was pulsing with young testosterone and horny old men willing to spend the $20 on some fresh meat.
Indeed, no man had more of an instrumental role in gay nightlife in the Big Apple than Ianniello, and although he was straight the city's Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce probably should send flowers to his funeral.
Further reading that may be of interest: