Sal Polisi will tell you he's gone from "racketeer to raconteur" and, indeed, he has. His one-man show, At The Sinatra Club, is unscripted but very, very interesting. He is, in fact, a highly skilled raconteur and he performed his show Sunday at Las Vegas' Clark County Library. The audience of 315 people was totally involved, responding to Polisi's words as if he were conversing with them individually.
At The Sinatra Club is an autobiographical story of a kid from Queens who grew up in a New York mob family. Nick Taylor's 1989 book, Sins of the Father, was about Polisi and, now, Polisi has his own book from Simon & Schuster, The Sinatra Club. The name, by the way, refers to a social club Polisi owned in Queens. That, in turn, got its name because the juke box was filled with Sinatra records - this was an Italian club, after all - and, one day, one of its denizens got a call there. When asked precisely where he was, he referred to the music and said, "I'm at the Sinatra Club." The name stuck.
Twenty-eight years ago, Polisi - whose mob nickname was "Sally Ubatz," "Crazy Sal" - became a government witness and testified against several mobsters, John Gotti among them. Although, as he tells it, he'd made piles of money working with the Gambino and Columbo crime families, when he began to see the mob violating its own rules and murdering for money, he began taking steps to get out. Because he never murdered anyone Polisi was never a "made" member of the mob.
He also had two sons whom he didn't want in "the Life," so he bought a house upstate to protect the kids. But, it didn't entirely work. He needed money, consequently resorted to crime, and was nabbed for selling cocaine.
He was there when the New York Mafia was thriving and he was a witness to its demise. He was, judging from his show, a keen observer and clearly has a terrific time on stage telling his stories and engaging his audience.
The subject was deadly serious, but the way he told his story enabled the audience to appropriately laugh with him at some very funny aneddotes and gasp in sympathy when he talked about losing people he loved. He, too, was reduced to tears when he read aloud the last letter his sister ever wrote him.
Today, Polisi lives in Los Angeles and writes and produces films.
The show begins with the trailer for Ubatz, the as-yet-unreleased documentary abou Polisi. In it, before they meet Polisi, the audience is introduced to him.There are clips of feds, mobsters, Matt Lauer, Polisi's family (not that "Family," but his sons) talking to and about him. At this event, the documentary footage served as a friendly introduction. Watching it, the audience was predisposed to like him. And they did.
Now, Las Vegas has - and this should not surprise anyone - a long history with the mob. Why, earlier this year, the city opened The Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement" (aka the "Mob Museum") in the old federal courthouse/post office. It is a beguiling place that does not glorify crime or criminals. That part of the city's history is treated as just that - history, fascinating history.
It would, however, be most appropriate if, to the Museum's list of speakers and presenters, Sal Polisi and At The Sinatra Club were to be added.
He's a man who lived the life and lived to tell about it. It is his history, not glammed up or glorified. It is what it is and is well worth hearing.
Hopefully, he'll be back to tell it again soon. And, like Mike Tyson's Undisputed Truth, Polisi's show may well deserve a run in New York.