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