What Ever Happened to the South Philly Mob?
This isn’t to say there is nothing going on, or that this crew completely lacks criminal ambition. Two recent gambling-ring busts in Delaware County and at the Borgata in Atlantic City suggest the Philly mob still has some reach. There is also a spot that contrasts significantly with Malone’s, which I find when an undercover cop tells me about a place called the Broadway Theatrical Club. “That’s where they hang out,” the cop said, “but it’s a private club. You’ll never get in.”
So, when is a mob bar not a mob bar? Apparently, when it’s the Broadway Theatrical Club, because I walk right in the entrance at 13th and Moyamensing, past the “Private” sign, past the two older men having a meeting under the front window, and order a $2.50 Yuengling. It’s a sunny day, and with the front door propped open, the place is brightly lit. The furnishings are humble, with tile floors, a ’70s-era stand-up bowling machine in the corner, and a big, weathered horseshoe-shaped bar. When I arrive, three guys are already sitting there, nursing beers. Two of them are holding a loud conversation as the bartender sets my Yuengling in front of me:
Guy One: They chased him all the way down the street with a baseball bat!
Guy Two: Fastest guy you’d ever seen!
Guy One: Fastest man in the world!
Guy Two: It was so funny! Who was that other guy? Chris? The kidnapping? They grabbed him and shaved his head?
Guy One: Don’t know that story.
Guy Two: It was sooo funny!
I would describe them, except that I keep my head turned squarely toward one of the bar’s televisions, not wanting to betray interest in what they’re saying. They walk out a moment later — because of me? I don’t know — and I never do get a good look at them. But what strikes me about their conversation is that they sounded like they were telling stories — describing events of long ago, that happened to other men. This isn’t unusual; legendary defense attorney Eddie Jacobs told me of an annual dinner he attends at which the conversation often turns to stories about the local mob. The participants aren’t mobsters, and they aren’t exactly nostalgic for the days when the mob seemed to run this town. But they like to talk about the times their lives intersected with those of this city’s gangsters, when they essentially walked on-set and played minor roles in Philadelphia’s longest ongoing movie.