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Woody Allen's Getting Even: on Mafia and wiretaps

Getting Even by Woody Allen
I'M HALFWAY through Getting Even by Woody Allen, his first collection of humorous stories and essays. "A Look At Organized Crime," first published in the New Yorker in August 1970, is the perfect companion to understanding the dynamics of the Italian-American mob in the hit TV series, The Sopranos. (I'm watching the series now. The soundtrack is intense. The accent is infectious.)

It is no secret that organized crime in America takes in over forty billion dollars a year. This is quite a profitable sum, especially when one considers that the Mafia spends very little for office supplies. Reliable sources indicate that the Cosa Nostra laid out no more than six thousand dollars last year for personalized stationery, and even less for staples. Futhermore, they have one secretary who does all the typing, and only three small rooms for headquarters, which they share with the Fred Persky Dance Studio.


He ends this essay by enumerating "the best methods of combatting organized crime":

1. Telling the criminals you are not at home.

2. Calling the police whenever an unusual number of men from the Sicilian Laundry Company begin singing in your foyer.

3. Wiretapping.

Wiretapping cannot be employed indiscriminately, but its effectiveness is illustrated by this transcript of a conversation between two gang bosses in the New York area whose phones had been tapped by the F.B.I.

ANTHONY: Hello? Rico?
RICO: Hello?
ANTHONY: Rico?
RICO: Hello.
ANTHONY: Rico?
RICO: I can't hear you.
ANTHONY: Is that you, Rico? I can't hear you.
RICO: What?
ANTHONY: Can you hear me?
RICO: Hello?
ANTHONY: Rico?
RICO: We have a bad connection.
ANTHONY: Can you hear me?
RICO: Hello?
ANTHONY: Rico?
RICO: Hello?
ANTHONY: Operator, we have a bad connection.
OPERATOR: Hang up and dial again, sir.
RICO: Hello?

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