In our October issue (on newsstands tomorrow): Josh Eells profiles Alexander Skarsgård, Kevin Gray investigates one of the biggest Mafia sweeps in history, and Paul Solotaroff sits down with Plaxico Burress to make sense of the night he sent a slug through his leg.
In our October issue: Josh Eells profiles Alexander Skarsgård, the Swedish ex-Marine who became Hollywood’s hottest new leading man, and Kevin Gray investigates how an associate of the ultra-violent Colombo crime family set up one of the biggest Mafia sweeps in history.
From Josh Eells’s Blood and Guts:
It’s a little funny to see Alexander Skarsgård just sitting there in the sunshine. The 35-year-old Swede is best known for playing Eric Northman, the 1,000-year-old Viking vampire sheriff on HBO’s True Blood. The last time his pale, undead flesh came into contact with the sun, he smoldered like an overnuked Hot Pocket. And yet here’s Skarsgård, on the patio of a Manhattan cafe on a sunny summer morning, his only armor against those deadly UV rays a pair of Persol shades and a killer tan.
Skarsgård just flew in from Stockholm, where he spent the past three weeks basking in the long summer days. (True Blood wrapped its fourth season a month before, which means he no longer had to cling to the shade in his SPF 100.) He’s tired and a little jet-lagged — but at least he’s not drunk. Lately when he flies back from Europe he’s been getting hammered the night before, so that he can sleep on the plane. But it doesn’t always work. One recent post-club morning, he was awakened, rather painfully, by his dad, who was standing over his bed saying, “Shouldn’t you be at the airport right now?” Even worse than when he misses his flight is when he doesn’t miss it. “Flying hungover is OK,” he says. “But flying fucked up? Aggghhhhh.”
He orders a breakfast for a vegetarian lumberjack — spinach frittata, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, grapefruit juice, toast, and an extra egg — and leans back in his chair with his latte. Most actors are small in person, but somehow Skarsgård seems even huger. He recently added 17 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-4 frame for his role in Straw Dogs, out this month; now, on a patio surrounded by fashionista boys and model-looking girls, he looks positively Vike-gantic, like he’s prepping to play, say, a star tight end on the Giants. Or even to play for the Giants.
He’s been sitting there for a few minutes when a guy approaches. He’s maybe in his early 50s, with long, thick dreadlocks and a graying beard. At first he seems like a fan, someone who recognizes Skarsgård from True Blood. But then he points right at Skarsgård and starts speaking in a voice honed on a thousand subway platforms.
“Do you believe your days on Earth will come to an end?” the man thunders.
Skarsgård is taken aback. He glances around the cafe, looking for help. “Um…hopefully not for a long time,” he says, laughing nervously.
The guy doesn’t laugh. Instead, he asks again: “Do you believe your days on Earth will come to an end?”
Skarsgård looks around again. The waitstaff is frozen.
“Um…I guess so.”
The man scowls. “You don’t guess. You know.”
“OK,” Skarsgård says. “I know.”
“Know what?” the man asks.
“That my days on Earth will come to an end.” The guy is quiet for a minute, letting the words sink in. Finally, he speaks. “Then you’re a dead man walking.” And he smiles and walks away.
From Kevin Gray’s The Mobster Who Brought Down the Mob:
He’d been the perfect soldier. Tough, loyal, reliable. Even as a kid, Tommy McLaughlin had done whatever was asked of him — no complaints, no surprises. McLaughlin had proved he could keep his mouth shut. He was just 23 when he started serving 14 years on a drug charge he could have flipped on and gotten off easy. Half his life. He served every day of it, too. The hard way. Gang fights, turf wars, protection. Not easy at 5-foot-7. But he never mellowed, never backed down. Now, finally, it was his time.
At 38, Tommy McLaughlin was ready to collect on whatever he was owed for 14 years. He’d gotten married, and he and his wife were living with his sister, Joanne, and her husband, a convicted mob extortionist who had done time with McLaughlin in prison. All together in a Greek-columned four-bedroom, in the Prince’s Bay part of Staten Island, just a short walk from the beach. All in all, things could be worse. While he was away, a lot of the guys he’d come up with had risen in the ranks, replacing the older crew whose cars they’d washed as kids. His first cousin, Tommy Gioeli, was now the Colombo acting boss. The family was not what it once was: While he was in prison, omertà, their code of ironclad deniability, had basically gone to shit. But business was still good and they wouldn’t forget a guy like Tommy.
If it were only that easy.
They stepped right into his path on a street in Brooklyn. Two feds on foot with two more in a support car nearby. They laid it all out for him: he’d been the driver on a revenge killing back in ’91. He was fresh out of prison and they already wanted to send him back — and on a 20-year-old charge. Somebody must have given him up. A week or so later, the feds took him downtown, to the 22nd floor of the Federal Building in Lower Manhattan for a meeting. McLaughlin was disdainful, defiant, as agent Scott Curtis presented him with his options: Go back to prison for the rest of your life or come work for Team America.
On a cold January morning almost two years later, as many as 800 law-enforcement agents simultaneously apprehended more than 120 mid- and high-ranking members of the five crime syndicates that have dominated organized crime in New York for a century. Hardest hit by the raid was the Colombo family, considered to be one of the mob’s bloodiest outfits. “In a single day,” says FBI Special Agent Seamus McElearney, “we dismantled the entire Colombo hierarchy — the boss, underboss, consigliere, five captains, and seven soldiers.” Forty-eight of the arrests would be attributed to evidence collected by Tommy McLaughlin, the tough half-Irish kid who’d once been one of the family’s most loyal soldiers.
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