As he heard of Franchi's escapades, Hillary was envious. Of course, he was starting to meet show-biz folk himself, Huggy and all. "I'm moving pretty good," he told Franchi.
"For a virgin in town," Franchi responded.
CHANGES IN THE PATRIARCA CLAN BROUGHT THE LAST OF THE mob trio into the picture. With a racketeering investigation looming over the New England leadership, including Junior Patriarca, control passed to "Cadillac Frank" Salemme, who'd been safely distanced from that case: He'd been in prison for bombing a lawyer's car--with the lawyer in it.
Salemme relished the idea of his son getting away from a brewing gang war in New England. Why not Hollywood? Though both Salemmes thought Lepore a loose cannon, they, too, accepted an offer from his friend Franchi to show them around.
Salemme Jr. took the fascination with film to new levels. A bit cocky--casting agents would call him a tall Bruce Willis type--he tromped about town and soon talked about enrolling in film school, inspired by a list of acquaintances that by now included another "Godfather" actor, a featured player from "Goodfellas" and a James Bond villain.
The last, Robert Davi, was worried that he was being repeatedly cast as gangsters, terrorists and drug lords. Davi was anxious to establish himself as a romantic leading man through a script about a loan shark's quirky love affair, "The Shark." The Hemdale Film Corp. ("Platoon," "Hoosiers") was going to make it until the firm fell into financial problems.
Davi, a regular at Cafe Roma, said he met Salemme Jr. there and thought him "a working-class guy . . . who wanted to better himself" and who claimed to know investors. Davi put him in touch with the film's producer, Vera Anderson.
Salemme Jr. loved "The Shark." He was going to raise $2.5 million through "people who worked with his father," Anderson recalls, and was to get credit as executive producer. Through the negotiations, Salemme Jr. was a perfect gentleman, Anderson says, anxious "to learn the process."
But alone with his buddies, Salemme Jr. soon was seething. According to the tapes, he believed that Davi had falsely claimed to have a commitment from Danny Aiello to act in the film. Salemme Jr. made a series of calls to set up a showdown near Cafe Roma, even consulting local mob guy Lorenzo for advice in dealing with the movie people.
"I don't wanna get into that f---ing pissing contest, who's the toughest guy on the block," he told Franchi. "But if he's guilty, I'm gonna have a beef."
The plan? "We all wait in, in that back alley there. . . . I'll f--- him. . . . You know?"
After he was read Salemme Jr.'s comments recently, Davi called them "amazing." Davi says he never promised to deliver Oscar-nominee Aiello--and that the back-alley showdown never materialized. Davi had no idea what Salemme Jr. was planning behind his back. "He didn't seem like a tough guy at all," the actor says.
But on the tapes, the mob boss' son was ranting about how he was going to confront Davi: "I'm gonna say to him, 'Who the f--- do you think you are? You know, 007?' "
THE DRAMEX STING HAD ITS roots back in 1985, when one of L.A.'s Mickey Mouse mobsters was overheard boasting that he could save films money by getting local Teamsters to waive requirements that they use expensive union workers. FBI agent Garland Schweickhardt posed as an investment counselor for wealthy clients looking to make a movie with non-union labor and bribed the mob guy and a Teamsters friend. But after they were arrested, an investigation found their Teamsters local didn't actually work on films--its members trucked fruits and vegetables. It was all a con.
Richard A. Stavin, a former federal prosecutor on the case, recalls thinking they should have "pulled the plug" on the sting right then. He believed real film union bosses would be far too sophisticated to fall for such a crude bribery scheme. But the FBI wasn't convinced. Schweickhardt was enrolled in UCLA Extension film courses. The goal, Stavin says, was to do the ruse better--much better--"if the opportunity arose again."
The bait was dangled on March 27, 1989. Franchi called Hillary and said he'd met some producers who wanted to film in New England, of all places. They asked if he knew "people up there."
Hillary: ". . . They wanna be connected . . . They don't want no problems with the Teamsters and all that shit."
Hillary: ". . . I'll come in with the good suits, don't worry about that."
Franchi's "producer" friend used the name David Rudder. He was 6-foot-4 and balding. The mob guys called him "Goofy" behind his back.
Lepore and Hillary met Rudder on June 20, 1989, in Boston. They took him yachting in the harbor, everyone getting drunk on champagne. "What a score!" Lepore said.