Sunday, September 21, 2008
The Sinatra Club
Salvatore Polisi, long time mobster and witness for the prosecution that imprisoned John Gotti, has walked away from Federal Witness Protection to tell his life story of organized crime. Risking possible retribution, Polisi is betting against the odds and performing in a one-man show, called “The Sinatra Club,” the tale of his climb to the top of the Mob and all of the repercussions that came with it. The show runs through September 27th at the San Francisco Playhouse (536 Sutter Street near Mason).
Polisi’s 75-minute performance spans his two decades as a member of the New York organized crime scene. The play follows his true life adventures as a professional criminal, mobster and father. His recollections involve some of the most infamous mobsters in New York during the seventies and early eighties, ranging from John Gotti and Attorney Roy Cohn and his associates, to Tommy DeSimone, Henry Hill and Jimmy Burke (portrayed by Joe Pesci, Ray Liotta and Robert DeNiro, respectively, in the film“Goodfellas”).
We saw a performance of “The Sinatra Club” the other night, and were enthralled by Polisi’s stories and the overall approach he took to relating his life of crime and redemption. Polisi is a wonderful story teller and his tales were spell binding and kept us glued to our seats. He speaks to the audience in a casual manner that made us feel comfortable from the very start, even though he was talking about killing people, beating up pimps, and other violent crimes. To think that this man was once associated with some of the most well-known Mafiosi of our time and has survived to tell us his stories is in itself amazing.
When I tell my New York friends about how Polisi ditched the federal witness protection program to act and write a book, “The Sins of the Father” their first question is always the same—“Is he crazy?” But, believe it or not, it’probably not that bad a move—let’s face it, the Mafia isn’t as powerful as it once was; and Polisi is probably safe from any form of retribution. The people he associated with back in the day are either in prison or dead.
“The Sinatra Club” moves along briskly as Polisi talks about his indoctrination into the NY Mob and all that went with it. Some of his more notable observations include his boredom with dealing drugs (“You hand some guy the stuff and he hands you the money; it gets old real quick). The ground rules the madam at the local brothel laid down to him about her girls (“No kinky stuff, bondage or threesomes.”) and his wonderful descriptions of all the strange and fascinating characters he encountered—people with names like “Roundy” (a 350-lb. degenerate poker player) and two old-time bank robbers he once worked with, both of whom had spent half their lives in prison.
The producers of “The Sinatra Club” are exploring the possibility of taking their show to either New York or Las Vegas. The wise guys in those cities will undoubtedly flock to this performance and it should be a big hit there. I highly recommend this show and if you get a chance, you should really go see it next week as it ends its run in San Francisco.