Impellitteri went on to win the election, and a disgraced Pope, fearing he would be drafted in the looming war with Korea, joined the C.I.A. in Washington D.C. He returned home a year later to find his mother and two older brothers had disinherited him. Broke, he moved his pregnant wife into an apartment and made the decision to do what he did best: run a newspaper. He came across the opportunity to buy a failing newspaper called the New York Enquirer for seventy-five thousand dollars. Pope was only able to raise fifty thousand, but remembering his father’s advice, he called Uncle Frank. Costello gave his godson twenty-five grand to cover the difference.
“If you ever need anything and I’m not around, call Uncle Frank,”
This was the advice Generoso Pope gave to his youngest son, Gene Jr. He had good reason, for the business tycoon and publisher of the Italian language newspaper, Il Progreso, had been a longtime friend of Frank Costello, and so his son’s godfather was, ‘the Godfather.’
Gene Jr. would inherit his father’s paper after his death in 1950 and when New York mayor, Bill O’Dwyer, was forced to resign amid a scandal involving who else but Frank Costello, Gene Jr. was approached by a hopeful candidate for the job, named Vincent Impellitteri.
Impellitteri sought Il Progreso’s support in the upcoming election, but Pope declined. When pressed for a reason why, he told Impellitteri he could not win because Frank Costello wanted rival candidate, Frank Pecora. Impellitteri was shrewd, and went straight to the press. Once again Costello was in the middle of a political scandal, this time involving Gene Pope Jr.
At first, circulation was small, and Frank would lend Pope ten thousand a month to cover costs. To get the money, Gene would send his men to the barbershop at the Waldorf Astoria, otherwise known as the Prime Minister’s office. They would ask for Frank’s right hand man, ‘Big Jim,’ who would give them an envelope. Frank would then get his money back the following week, when operating costs had been recouped.
This went on until circulation began to increase, and the paper could survive on its own. Gene later changed the name to the National Enquirer, and enjoyed one of the largest circulations in history. For his trouble, Costello enjoyed keeping his name out of the largest gossip column in the country.
The two continued to see each other regularly, usually getting together at a Manhattan restaurant. Pope was dining with his Godfather the night of the failed assassination by Vincent ‘the Chin’ Gigante, and it was he who gently broke the news to Frank’s wife, that her husband had been shot.
An excellent documentary with great film footage of Frank Costello.
Background photograph courtesy of NY Daily News.