Recounting a life that reads like a narrative for a mob-movie script, a mobster, actor, and Las Vegas presence delivers numerous eye-opening revelations about national and world events.
Among the many revelations: The mob likely arranged the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon was mobbed up, and the Vatican has been involved in mob money laundering. Writing with Picciarelli (co-author: Street Warrior, 2017, etc.), Russo weaves all of this among stories about his life, a life that featured an almost Dickensian boyhood: He spent some years in isolation due to polio; someone got killed, too—and not by the disease. Later, Russo became a permanent school truant and, as a teenager, was regularly sleeping with Marilyn Monroe. Eventually, he began to hang out with A-list celebrities, including Brando, Sinatra, and Elvis. He married early and regretted it, then went on to countless relationships with other women before marrying again—more happily, he assures us. But what appears to be his greatest experience was his role as Carlo Rizzi in The Godfather. He devotes some chapters to the film and refers to it continually. That role even saved his life, it seems, when Pablo Escobar, who was having him beaten to death for an infraction, confessed that the film was his favorite and canceled the contract. The author also recounts his numerous roles for the mob. He began as a delivery boy (a role that, in ways, he continued throughout his adult years) before moving on to become an agent in money laundering and a fixture in the Vegas nightlife. Later, distancing himself somewhat from the mob, he played more roles in films and TV and did some writing and producing. He writes that he hopes his life will inspire younger people.
Russo is an engaging raconteur, no doubt about it, but skeptics may raise eyebrows—carefully so.