News » Crime

N.Y.C Mafia Boss and Gay Club King Dies at 92

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Aug 24, 2012

Matthew Ianniello, an infamous New York mobster who was one of the biggest operators of Manhattan's gay clubs during the '70s, died on August 15 at the age of 92, the New York Times reported.

The Mob Boss, who was also known as "Matty the Horse," was convicted of rigging construction bids, skimming profits from a number of establishments that he secretly owned and served several years in prison for his crimes. Ianniello was also known as the one-time acting boss of the Genovese crime family who was involved in the gay bar industry from the 50s through the mid-80s, Newsday pointed out.

"He was a huge moneymaker for the mob," Selwyn Raab, a former Times reporter who specialized in covering organized crime, told the newspaper. "Among the five organized-crime families, the Genovese were considered the most sophisticated. They were the ones in labor racketeering, the garment center, the fish market - they were the Ivy League of the New York mob."

According to the Times, Ianniello severed a nine-year prison sentence for racketeering and tax evasion involving strip clubs he owned and an 18-month sentence for illegally controlling garbage companies in Connecticut.

At the peak of his operation, Ianniello owned more than 80 establishments, which many called a "smut cartel." Among those establishments were gay clubs, which "were considered landmarks of gay night life, like the Gilded Grape and the Hay Market," the Times notes.

Ianniello joined the Army in 1943 and received a medal for valor in combat in the South Pacific. After fighting in World War II he and an uncle became partners in a restaurant. writes that the mobster was extremely influential in NYC gay nightlife: 'No man had more of an instrumental role in gay nightlife in the Big Apple than Ianniello, and although he was straight the city's Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce probably should send flowers to his funeral."

In the years before -- and for some time after -- the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village in June 1969 that ignited the contemporary gay rights movement, the mob owned, controlled or shook down nearly every gay bar in the city, including the Stonewall. Although they certainly weren't the kindest landlords and didn't do much to their holdings, they developed a reputation as tough but fair; more importantly, they were the only "businesspeople" who would be associated with homosexuals.


  • Oh Jed said:, 2012-08-24 12:09:11

    At first glance it would seem like gays owe the mafia a debt of gratitude for owning or allowing the presence of these establishments, but romanticism or rationalization of their behavior is a slippery slope. Their motivations were purely greed and barbaric control and had nothing to do with compassion, understanding or desire to "help" a loathed, misunderstood segment of society. With their limited educations, they were smart enough to understand the simple economics of gays minus families equals greater disposable income, which is more than I can say for many business owners today. It must’ve been very frightening being shook down every week for profits and being bullied by thugs when profits were down.Granted, we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the Stonewall Riots, but that was OUR people’s conviction and bloodshed... NOT the mafia’s support. I’m eager to hear other opinions on this.

  • , 2012-08-29 08:29:05

    I wanna go without saying yea people may not of enjoyed being asked to contribute to these gentlemen, but I know that they would rather deal with these guys and had protection, because look at today, buisness owners, people on the street just walking to work stay very nervous at times to leave their place of residence, work or anywere. People cant even work now days because the fear of young stupid kids who just kill to kill, or rib people and even disrespect people more than you believe these gentlemen did. At least others knew you dont walk in the establishments did. I may not agree with the tatics they may have always used but I would be more comfortable with what use to go on with the mafia, then with having to deal with hood rats who wil never respect anyone or anything, people were protected more. The mafia wasnt always the best but they at least had way more respect than these kids do today, even if the public didnt agree to their tatics. as for gays and this story, RIP.

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