Photography by Bach Razaev. www.bachimagery.com Courtesy David Giordano-Steece.
“Gangsters” have captured America’s imaginations for almost a century. The Sopranos, the acclaimed HBO series (very loosely) based on the New Jersey Mafia ran for six successful seasons. But long before Tony Soprano became a household name, criminal characters were brought to life by Hollywood legends like James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart who established the “gangster” as a staple figure in the American experience. But, as is often the case, truth is stranger than fiction as David Giordano-Steece, former Mafioso and subject of the forthcoming documentary, proves.
David Steece was born Antony Giordano, Jr. His father and uncle allegedly controlled Mafia activities in St. Louis and Kansas City during the 1940s. Antony Sr. however was forced to leave the United States and return to Sicily due to pressure from prosecuting authorities. Before leaving the country, however, he entrusted Antony Jr. to friends of the family in New Orleans, where his name was changed to David Steece for his own protection.
Steece began his career in organized crime in New Orleans when alleged mafia boss, Carlos Marcello, is reported to have taken control of much of the Mafia’s activity from St. Louis to New Orleans, and from Texas to Florida. It was during this period that David Steece earned himself the street name, “Blackie” due to the fact that his eyes were almost completely black. For those unfamiliar with the name Carlos Marcello, he is the stuff of legend – accused of masterminding some of the greatest unsolved crimes in twentieth century history, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Steece is reported to have “run the muscle” for Marcello, enforcing mafia control over “the rackets” for several decades before leaving “the life” and, ironically, becoming a cop.
Blackie claims that, in New Orleans, the Mafia doesn’t function like the infamous “Five Families” in New York with their strict hierarchical structures. He describes an organization which is far more diffuse, resembling the loose familial structure of traditional Sicilian clan life than the paramilitary-style command structure of other American LCN “Families”. And while Blackie illuminates the principles and logic of the Southern Mafia’s inner-workings, he is still very tight lipped when it comes to discussing specific names or crimes. He weaves like a prizefighter past hard questions like someone who has spent a lifetime under the microscope of federal and state authorities, careful to keep “secret things secret”. “An oath is an oath” he growls in his Sicilian-New Orleans drawl.
Blackie: The Fast Life of David-Giordano Steece is the story of a man who faced incredible challenges and rose to become both feared and respected, even loved, by those around him – especially his three daughters.” According to Thompson, “This isn’t really a Mafia story but a story about a single-parent family trying to survive in the cut-throat realities of American life.”
The film walks a very fine line a very intimate portrait of a “Man of Honor” that is both enlightening and, in many ways, horrifying but, moreover, illustrates many of the hypocrisies of the American justice system. For anyone looking for more sensational, tell-alls, the film may be disappointing. But for those interested in the paradoxes of American culture and how the contradictory values of American society play out in harrowing realities, Blackie: The Fast Lives of David Giordano-Steece will not disappoint. The film will be released later this summer.