Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano was born in the town of Lercardia Friddi, Sicily in 1897. He was to become associated with the notorious gangland culture of America’s 1920s, made infamous through the likes of Al Capone. In many ways he was the archetypal gangster figure who inspired 1940s Hollywood, having a notable facial scarring and menacing droop in his right eye.
As a boy ‘Lucky’ had an inclination to hang around with kids much older than himself where he no doubt learned the art of bullying. He came from a hard-working family background but they were impoverished and eventually left for America in 1906 out of desperation. They arrived in New York with high expectations for a new life but it wasn’t long before young Luciano was in trouble with the law. At a young age he had already set himself up as a ‘protector’ for other kids. If they didn’t pay they’d end up being beaten themselves.
At eighteen, Lucky was involved in narcotics and spent six months in youth detention. But even after he was released he continued to ply his trade in everything from heroin to morphine. He was in fact to become known as one of the most ruthless Italian-American mobsters who exploited the heroin market.
Lucky soon joined the notorious Five Points Gang and it was here that he cultivated his reputation in the underworld. By 1920 he was involved in bootlegging, working with the likes of the infamous Bugsy Siegel.
Luciano was now a fully paid up member of an exclusive club of Italian and ethnic bootleggers and gangsters, that included Joe Adonis, Dutch Shultz and most famous of all, Frank Costello. The latter was adept at getting into the pockets of city officials and the police which, for a gangster, was possibly the most important factor in running a successful criminal gang.
Ironically it was an attempt on Luciano’s life by rival gangster Joe ‘the Boss’ Masseria that was to propel Lucky into the big league. Masseria had Lucky kidnapped, bundled in a car, beaten and left for dead on a beach. But the man lived up to his moniker and survived the ordeal.
Later, discovering that Masseria was behind the plot to kill him, Lucky teamed up with his rival’s arch enemy Salvatore Maranzano. They concocted a plan to turn the tables on Masseria.
In the 1920’s gangland culture was fractured and ethnically divided. The main muscle in the criminal machine was the Italian consortium of Mafiosi hoods known as ‘Moustache Petes’ who ruled the roost.
The younger mobsters such as Lucky Luciano were seen as the young guns, often hindered by the ‘old’ Mafiosi. Lucky saw the future of gangland crime being made up of a network that disposed of racial divides. To him the ‘old guard’ were the problem, which Masseria represented.
Masseria refused to do deals with non-Italians and Luciano saw this as a major weakness he could exploit. With the help of Maranzano and young eager mobsters, Lucky helped orchestrate an attack on Masseria’s empire.