In this episode, we explored the fascinating history of the River Quay area in Kansas City and its unfortunate downfall at the hands of organized crime. The conversation began by highlighting the initial grassroots development led by artists like Lou Marik and Philomene Bennett, who opened studios and attracted other entrepreneurs to the area. Marion Trozzolo renovated and leased old buildings to artists, boutique owners, and young restaurant owners. The area quickly became a hotspot for young people, singles, and live music lovers. The rise of the River Quay district also caught the attention of the mob, who wanted a share of its success. Members of the Civella family felt they owned this area next to the City Market. Nick Civella, the boss, operated through his brother Corky and underboss Tuffy DeLuna. Willie Cammisano, a capo for the mob, had a crew responsible for street rackets and enforcement activities. Despite the presence of the mob, many clubs and businesses thrived in the area. A large urban renewal project forced out 12th Street strip clubs owned by mobsters. Gary remembers working in the area and being offered drinks by generous bar owners.
These events turned darker as tensions between a River Quay bar owner named Freddy Bonadonna, who owned a joint in the River Quay area, and the mob. The mob demanded a cut of his parking lot profits and assistance obtaining liquor licenses, but Freddy resisted their control. This resistance placed him at odds with the organized crime family and eventually led to dangerous confrontations. Freddy’s father, David Bonadonna, was found murdered in the trunk of a green Mustang, marking a tragic turn of events.
Gary recounts this mob murder that was never solved and offers insight into the tight-lipped nature of the Kansas City mob when it came to disclosing information about murders. He shared stories about other mob members who were uncooperative with the FBI’s efforts to gather evidence. The conversation also mentioned a large brick building owned by Freddy and his brother, which was mysteriously blown up, leading investigators to suspect an insurance scheme rather than a mob war.
The episode concluded by discussing the revitalization of the city market and downtown Kansas City, with new developments, lofts, clubs, and the construction of the T-Mobile Center. The River Quay area eventually recovered and became thriving once again, showcasing the city’s resilience.
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[0:00] Well, hey, all you wiretappers out there, Gary Jenkins here, retired Kansas City Police Intelligence Detective back here in the studio.
I want to tell you a Kansas City story.
I don’t often do Kansas City stories, but I like to do one every once in a while.
And this is a story of give you a broad overview.
[0:17] This is a story of a grassroots entertainment district development that was really ruined by the mob.
Urban renewal, mob bombs, a lot of stuff going on in this.
Murders, there was an area close to the city market. It was along one street called Delaware, which was on one side of the city market was Little Italy, where all the mob guys, their families first moved to, where they first got their first jobs is at the city market.
On the other side, there’s this street that had actually been the original downtown of Kansas City.
The old city hall was on this street. a lot of big old brick buildings around here.
But by 1971, 70, it was really run down and there was not much going on.
Italian people had kind of, there’d been a highway that had cut down and taken out a lot of their houses and divided the city market from the rest of Little Italy. There wasn’t easily a way to drive through a couple of streets to get to the city market.
The mob had always hung out at the city market. They had a proprietary interest in the city market.
Here’s a former employee from down in this area named Chuck Haddox that will talk about this.
The city market was adjacent to the River Quay, and the city market traditionally had been run by the mob.
And so the mob really wanted to get in on the action.
[1:42] At the River Quay. You know, artists always lead the way to these kinds of grassroots development.
Lou Merrick and Philomene Bennett opened their studio and other artists, that attracted other artists, and then these entrepreneurs followed, these opening businesses in the area. And it really was a grassroots scene led by the artists. It’s just kind of interesting. Ironically.
Marion Trezolo’s revitalization efforts in the area
[2:06] Once the area becomes successful, the artists have to go find another area.
[2:10] Now during this time, 1971, a man named Marion Trezolo had a business down there.
He was putting Teflon on pans, one of the early people to do this, and he was making a lot of money. And he loved all these old buildings. They all had these great cornices and doorways, and he loved that old architecture and loved these old buildings. And you could rent one, or you could buy one, or get a long-term lease on one for practically nothing, because everybody was moving out. Like I said, the early 70s, white flight was in full bloom.
After the riots of 68, people were leaving downtown. They were moving out. The businesses were moving out of downtown. It was really, there wasn’t much left. We had one department store by then, a Jones store, I think. Maybe there might’ve been a Macy’s, but then they did hardly any business. And the government buildings, of course, they were the big employees downtown, but a lot of of apartment complexes and office buildings were being built down in the far suburbs and businesses were moving out there.
Downtown was really was dying in 1971, 72. Well, Mr. Terzolo wanted to fix up an area down here by the city market, it was adjacent to downtown when the walking distance of downtown, the city center, the 12th and Oak and Main and the police department and the Jackson County Courthouse and the big federal building and a bunch of high-rise office buildings that at one time had been filled with lawyers’ offices and.
[3:38] Other businesses down there in downtown.
[3:41] He started buying these buildings or getting long-term leases on them and hiring young guys to go in there and just gut them out and use the exposed brick and the old wood floors, the old wood ceilings, beams in the ceiling. And they were cool. We’d never seen anything like that. And then he started leasing them out to restaurants, young people that wanted to start a restaurant. He had really inexpensive rates because he had very little invested in these buildings, art studios, art galleries, a little boutiques, other restaurants. A really cool restaurant started popping in because people, you know, they could take a risk. Now, I remember this one guy, Ellie Cohen, I think this dude’s name, I got to know him. See, I had a district car around there. And so I’d stop in and talk to these different people as they were putting these businesses up, just, you know, they were fun. They were fun, young people, and they had a lot of enthusiasm. So, L.A. Cohen, he started a restaurant called Cindy’s Bedspread. He had about 20 different hamburgers with 20 different toppings to put on them. We never heard anything like this in Kansas City. You know, at this point in time, you know, throughout the 50s and 60s, we had steakhouses, of course, because we’re steak capital of the United States at the time.
Changing restaurant scene in Kansas City
[4:54] We had cafeterias, we had diners, we had little greasy spoons, and we had some bars and a couple of kind of nightclubs that had nice restaurants and a nice club that people went to. So, it was And those were all closing up in the center city.
[5:09] Particularly, except for the chili parlors too.
We had two or three chili parlors. That was a big deal.
Barbecue wasn’t even a big deal then. There was a barbecue, but it was over on the east side.
Hardly anybody went there unless you were really, you know, you worked over in Midtown.
You were a working guy over in Midtown. You wanted this huge, big lunch or dinner of barbecued ribs or something.
[5:31] The mob is watching all this as this guy is building up this area and it becomes a mentally popular i can’t explain it but it was like i had several clubs and had bands and young people start going my age i was twenty six twenty seven years old and all those baby boomers start going down there and party and then they were the kind of the first singles joints if you will before disco’s after kind of the old nightclub with jazz and that kind of a thing.
Like this was, you know, had modern bands. I remember this one place, Ebenezer’s a guy named Irish guy named Mike Ryan had it.
He had a, and he got it out the inside of this big building.
And on in the center, there was an old offices, just a freestanding building.
And he put the band on top of it. And then all around it, there was a bar.
And then all the rest of it was all seating areas, really cool place.
And so it was it was starting to pop and during this time as a guy named Freddy Bonadonna saw early on this was going to be a going Jesse. He was one of the first restaurant bars down there at Italian restaurant, of course, and he had had a Italian restaurant.
[6:40] A few blocks away south of downtown. One of there’s only two or three Italian gardens was downtown. Then Freddy’s can remember the name of that club or that restaurant. Now, mom did the the cookin’, you know, typical joint like that.
Mom does the cookin’ and brothers and sisters work in there and to keep it going.
So he buys a spot down there and he calls it Poor Freddy’s and he becomes kind of a mover and shaker.
I remember we used to work off duty down there and Freddy, we’d go into his joint and he’d just get cash money out of the till and pay us for just walking around, providing security because there really wasn’t much going on.
It was just a lot of young people having fun. It was a great place to work off duty, I’ll tell you that.
Tons of girls down there, tons of single girls down there going to those joints.
So, you know, we were all young in our prime.
What are you gonna do?
Mob’s skepticism and their realization of the area’s success
[7:30] The mob’s watching this, of course. Matter of fact, Corky Civella, the mob, the boss of our brother Nick Civella, once went into Freddy’s and said, you know, you’re an idiot. You know, there’s nothing going on down here. You’re never going to make any money. Then as this starts going and pretty soon they realize that there’s big crowds coming down here Wednesday, Thursday, Friday night and Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon because they’re doing a lot of things to try to get family people coming down.
This Marion Trezolo, he really kind of let his other business go and took over management of this whole area.
He bought a double-decker bus from England and were taking people on tours out of there to downtown and around Kansas City.
So it was hopping and everybody knew it was hopping. Corky came back in there one time and Freddie says.
[8:21] Hey Cork, how you doing? I’m doing okay.
I’m doing OK. So, you know, he said, this area, boy, it’s you know, ain’t nobody making any money down there.
Boy, I’m sorry. I started this club down there.
Corky, just like, you know, he was mad. I don’t know if this had anything to do with what’s going to happen later on.
But but I know he was he was kind of bucking up and making Cork, you know, kind of playing the dozens on him.
Like, oh, you idiot. I was one of the smart.
You’re the one that’s stupid. So the Civella family. All right, I need to talk about the Mob family, which felt like they had a proprietary interest in the market.
So, the Civella family, Nick Civella was the boss, he was a guy that never hit the joints at night, he read, he studied, he was canny, he was good in management.
[9:09] Guy, he was, you know, he only worked through his brother, Cork, and his underboss, Tuffy DeLuna.
You did not talk to Nick Civella unless you were just, you know, joking around or something.
As far as business, he only worked through these guys.
His underboss, Tuffy, he had kind of a crew, a guy named Charlie Mortina and a couple other younger guys that there was, this was really the Kansas City’s hit team.
They also kind of oversaw that another guy that was involved with them, Frankie Tooson, and later Pete Simone, who ran all the sports gambling.
And that, of course, you get loan sharking, bust-out scams. But when you got into the lower-level enforcement, out of those operations, the higher end, they also handled the money out of Las Vegas, the skim.
The Skim and Lower-Level Enforcement Activities
[9:57] When that started flowing in, this higher end, Tuffy DeLuna and Cork, Charlie Mortina, they knew about that.
Lower level guys didn’t know about it. So on the lower level, you had Willie Cammisano, who had a big crew, who would be a capo of a big crew, who had really handled all the street rackets, hijackings, boosters, you know, who was fencing, who wasn’t, who got the records from the boosters.
[10:22] Arsons, arsons for hire, strip clubs, loan shark collection, any enforcement activities among all these minor criminals are out making them all money, that fell to Willie Cammisano’s crew.
And he had a son who was about my age, Willie Cammisano Jr. who moved on up into that and became a maid guy and was involved with several murders. And Willie’s crew was really involved in those kinds of activities, unless it was at a certain level. There’s a whole other level that’s close to Nick Civella that Tuffy DeLuna’s crew took care of. Now, there were several bars. Now, we got the River Quay going, right? This is right north of downtown around the city market.
[11:06] But there’s an area called West 12th Street at the time. It was about six blocks west, say, of Main Street, six to eight blocks west of Main Street that had historically been, there was the municipal auditoriums there. They built Bartle Hall, which is a big convention area.
Historically, this had been the lower rent clubs where they have go-go girls and kind of a, as my friend Phil Carterella, a local lawyer, who your dad was a mob guy, says.
They thought the way you made money off a bar was the way you made it, they made it on 12th Street, which is you get truck drivers visiting the city to buy expensive watered-down booze for 50-year-old whores.
They had no idea what a singles bar was. These kind of low rent West 12th Street joints.
[11:59] Where a lot of Willie Cammisano’s guys had joints down there, Lonnie Roccaforte, Johnny Green Amaro, Joe Cammisano, Willie’s brother, and a couple of other guys.
And Johnny Green Amaro is gonna come back into this thing. Johnny Green is kind of an interesting guy.
You know what he specialized in? only out here in the West, shall we say, stealing saddles and had guys that would go to horse shows.
[12:25] And different places where there were horses and big horse barns. We have horse farms here in the city, out in the suburbs, steal saddles and other tack, steal horses, high-end horses. So he was like the original old West kind of a guy, although he was a city guy. He also developed what they called the Johnny Green ignition switch. Now, I don’t know if he really did that, but this is what what the bomb and arson guys used to call the Johnny Green ignition switch for an arson.
They would take a gas pipe loose, let the gas start, take a lit cigarette and stick it into a book of the folding book of the throwaway matches, go for matches we used to call them, got light one and go for another, stick it in that book of matches.
[13:06] Let the cigarette burn down while the gas is filling up the room. And when the cigarette burns down to the sulfur on the matches and it flares and that flare will then explode the gas that’s already burned down there are down there and there’s like no the best thing our department can do and our bomb and arson guys can do is they go find where a gas pipe has been unscrewed and taken loose. And many times there’s enough of an explosion they’re not even going to find that.
And this this will come into play here in a little bit.
So West 12th Street, I remember I first came on, I like rode around the area and we had a few calls in there during I was working days. And then I had a foot beat.
I didn’t I didn’t work foot beat all the time.
I filled in for the West 12th Street foot beat guy. He was really well known down there.
And I go in different clubs and all those bar owners be trying to buy me a drink or give me a drink.
And and then one day, one of the girls was she was like coming on to me like crazy.
But at least I had a little bit of sense when I was 26 years old.
A lot of older guys than me didn’t have that much sense. I know that.
Success is coming to the River Quay area, just a few blocks north of this West 12th Street area.
[14:13] Well, there’s a big remodeling rehabilitation project going on to build something called the Bartle Auditorium, which was a huge convention center. It’s about three blocks long.
It’s right next to our old convention center, which I mentioned before, the Municipal Auditorium.
They’re redoing that. They’re redoing an old theater down there called the Folly Theater, which had been a burlesque thing for a long time, for the last 20 years, and then goes all the way back to the 30s and 40s where it was a burlesque theater when burlesque was a little different.
Anyhow, it’s kind of they’re rebuilding it and re-having it into a really high-end concert, small outlet for smaller groups and maybe the symphony and places like that.
And there’s going to be a hotel, a Marriott hotel was going down there in this one long block where all these clubs were, these go-go clubs or strip clubs, whatever you want to call them. There’s a lot of money flowing into these guys to buy them out of their places, of course.
[15:17] They spent a half a million dollars, three quarters of a million dollars dollars in decorating little Las Vegas places down in the River Quay, thinking they could charge people $10, $15 to come in as cover charges to these great places.
Success is happening down in the River Quay. These guys see that and they think, we got to go down there.
Freddie Bonadonna is going good down there, and he’s going so good, he has a good friend on the city council, a guy named Hernandez, Frank or John, some common name Hernandez.
Anyhow, Councilman Hernandez is his good buddy. So Freddy sees that these joints want to go in.
[16:03] And he knows that if those guys start going in the river, Quay is kind of kind of ruined the family atmosphere and the young people atmosphere that’s going on down to the young working people, educated people, because they’re going to start bringing in a different sort of a crowd.
They’re going to be a lot rougher crowd. And and he doesn’t want that.
He didn’t want to stop that family atmosphere because he could see it’s really going.
He goes to the city councilman and he starts feeding the city councilman background information on people that are applying for liquor licenses because they can’t, they’re convicted felons, so they apply for them under another name.
And then he’ll feed that info to the city councilman and he’ll go to liquor control and they’ll stop him from getting licenses. Now they end up with a workaround around that.
The mob, you know, they’ve always got workarounds.
A board, a politically appointed board that will hear appeals for any kind of enforcement.
[17:03] Activity that the city liquor control does or appeals for if you get denied a license.
So pretty soon they’re getting their licenses because they’re appealing to this politically appointed board. So they’re starting to move in down there. And 12th Street has had gotten kind of tawdry. And we’re talking 12th Street downtown. And there was a remnants of what had been 12th Street, and there was a lot of strip clubs down on 12th Street, because of urban renewal, they were being torn down. And so, you know, the guys, the mobsters that were in charge of that particular, of those, that area, had no place to go. They wanted to keep their hustle going. So where would you want to take it? You would take it to the River Quay.
Freddie has also, through his city council friend, he finds out there’s a bunch of unused parking they’re behind his joint, between his joint and the city market. There’s like about two blocks long area of parking that was for the city market, but it’s never used except on Saturday mornings.
Illegal Parking Lots and Cash Profits
[18:01] During the week, it’s barely used during the day, and at night, it’s not used at all, especially Wednesday, big nights, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights, not used at all. So he gets a lease on these parking lots, and he starts putting a guy out there who will charge you a couple of bucks whenever you pull in. I remember pulling in there and this guy appears out of nowhere and said, that’ll be $2. I’m going, what the hell? This is Kansas City.
You don’t pay to park here. He said, I’m going to tell you off if you don’t pay it. So you pay it.
And he was making probably a grand or so in cash money in 1974, 75, every week out of that thing.
And Willie and Joe Cammisano, Joe’s got a joint going down there by now called Cotton Eye Joe’s, And they see this money that Freddy’s making out of the parking lot.
Well, Freddy has a dad named David Bonadonna, who is a longtime mob guy since he was a young kid, a burglar, and, you know, raised a family.
And all his kids were pretty well on the straight and narrow.
[18:59] Freddy was not involved with any shenanigans or with the mob at all.
But David was. And he was a maid guy. And he was in Willie Cammisano’s crew.
Willie and Joe, they go to Freddy and say, you know, we need a little piece of that action.
You need to help our guys get liquor licenses down here, and you need to give us some of that parking lot money.
Freddie says, no, I ain’t gonna do it.
His dad, David, is a made guy in Willie’s crew, so Willie talks to David and says, you know, you got to get his guy to do it.
Well, so here’s former homicide detective Clarence Gibson talking about he was a family friend of the Bonadonnas, and so they would confide in him about some of these things.
[19:35] Now, this came from a relative. It didn’t come from any police sources. It came from some…
[19:41] Family members I personally knew David allegedly went and talked to Freddy. No pop. I don’t want him down here. So he came back and, he told, Willie he ain’t gonna happen. My son doesn’t want to do it and I’m not gonna force him and, Willie is allegedly said, you know, he could get hurt David responded with, you know, you’re going to hurt my son, you’ve got to come through me.
Mob Meeting and Ultimatum
[20:12] Willie Cammisano and Joe met with Nick Civella at the bar, I guess the one downtown, and talked about it.
[20:20] Nick more or less said, you know, give him a month. You guys try to work out, you can’t work it out in a month, you do what you got to do.
Willie’s threatened Freddie through his dad, David. And you heard what Clarence Gibson had to say about that.
Freddie starts acting like he’s helping with the liquor license, but he really isn’t.
Here’s what former FBI agent Bill Owsley has to say about that.
Freddie Bonadonna was trying to keep the River Quay clean, wholesome, and open to family entertainment.
That put him in direct conflict with elements of the organized crime family.
Fred was determined that he was not gonna give in.
So he opted to play one of the most dangerous games you can play.
Outwardly, he was gonna help them. Subrosa, he was going to resist them.
So, for example, he went to the developer, Canizzaro, who had bought out Trozzolo, and he said, listen, I can’t be there, I can’t be open, but when these guys come in, I’m gonna introduce them, and you’re gonna say you’re gonna back them?
Once they leave, we have to resist them.
Joe Cammisano, who was a brother to Willie Cammisano, wanted to bring the Go-Go Girls down there.
But he couldn’t get a license, a liquor license, because the Westside councilman, who was Freddie’s friend from back in the day.
[21:41] Kept him from getting it because he had something to do with the electric control at that time.
The leader of that West 12th Street group was Joseph Cammisano. His brother William Cammisano.
[21:53] Was a major player in Civella’s outfit.
We go along for a while and Willie and Joe have really figured out Freddie’s not helping him.
His dad David told Willie Cammisano, if you’re going to hurt my son, you got to go through me.
So he went through him, well, he’s got a headquarters, a garage is all it was that really nothing went on inside. He added some table and chairs and coffee pot and refrigerator and kind of a little office like thing set up. And he would meet guys over there all the time. We used to watch this place all the time and see who Willie’s guys were. And when they were coming and going, it was like his own little social club. We had the social club, the Northview over in Little Italy. Well, this was Willie’s social club. It was just, you know, 536 Monroe all we ever called it. A citizen happens to see a green Mustang pull into that garage. David drove a David Bonadonna drove a new green Mustang. The same citizen happens to be out front when that Mustang backed out. Learns Gibson reports that a different driver backed that out because that driver did not know how to drive a stick. We were called to a green Mustang at 9th and Wabash an apartment complex and in the trunk was David Bonadonna. He’d been murdered.
David Bonadonna’s Murder and Freddy’s Survival
[23:07] Freddie was alerted to what was going on. He had been talking to us. He’d been talking to the police. We had given him, you know, guidelines. He was watching himself. They couldn’t kill him.
And, but it went on. This stalking, this back and forth. To make matters worse, Fred had thrown in with a guy named Sonny Bowen.
Freddy starts laying low. I mean, what’s he going to do? Now his dad’s disappeared. And about two weeks later, they find his dad’s body in the trunk of the car over in the projects, which were reasonably close. Freddy, you know, the gloves are off. Freddy’s laying low.
[23:44] There’s some mob associates that are kind of on the outs with the Civella faction, and they start hanging around Freddy’s bar and restaurant. I remember this. We’re going, what is Sonny Bowen and Mike Ruffalo, and this Gary T. Parker and some of these that were kind of in between guys that were younger guys and more like my age and around they’re 25 to 30 professional jewel thieves and professional burglars and that kind of thing.
And we knew that this Sonny Bowen was a pretty good thief and he had a contract on him because somebody had already tried to put a bomb in the blasting cap.
[24:19] Went off early and left some tissue and some detritus inside of his car. We knew there was a contract out on him. The Bureau had gone to him and said, hey, you know, there’s a contract on you. And he said, you know, he said, I can handle it. You know, don’t worry about it.
So these guys are hanging out. Cops are called up to Johnny Green’s house, which is about a block from Nick Civella’s house. Now, this is only a block from Nick Civella’s house. And this little area we call Filomena Acres had Nick Civella’s house right Right across the street was Corky Civella’s house.
Right up the street used to be Highway Simone’s house, Thomas Highway Simone, who was the old underboss.
Now it’s Carmen Civella’s house, who is a nephew to Nick Civella.
And then right next to Corky’s house is his oldest son and Nick Civella’s nephew, Tony Ripe Civella, who will go on and be part of the mob and do some time.
Johnny Green’s Regular Routine and Fatal Mistake
[25:12] And several other Nick Civella’s driver, Pete Tamburello, lives down the street.
And several other Civella associates live in this small neighborhood, suburban neighborhood, and Johnny Green lives about a block away.
Wasn’t all mob people up there, a lot of other, but primarily Italian people from, moved over from Little Italy and over from Northeast, where all the Italian people had first settled.
[25:35] Their first move up the suburbs.
Johnny Green, he always would close up his club, now he’s down in the River Quay by now, He’d close up his club.
He would go to this restaurant, which was on his way home. I believe it was a Sambos.
How many of you guys remember Sambos restaurants? They don’t call them Sambos.
Couldn’t call them Sambos anymore, but went to a Sambos, which was open all night long.
He would meet Joe Cammisano.
[25:59] And his wife, Doris, and they’d have breakfast after they closed their joints down. He’d do this all the time. He had a regular pattern of doing this. So once you get a regular pattern, dude, you better, you know, if you’re in this life, you better watch what you’re doing when you’re in this regular pattern. But people are people and they don’t do it. Left there, he drove on up to his house. He had a nice, you know, at the time, a newer house. It’s probably 60 years old now. It’s probably 10 or 15 at the time. Had a garage door, a garage door opener, one of the early garage door openers, pulled up in the driveway, opened the garage door, pulled in. Well, rather than just go ahead and shut the door as he put after he got inside, he waited, you know, probably got out and then walk up to the back door and hit the button.
He didn’t he didn’t do that. Big mistake was he didn’t go ahead and start that garage door closing because he might have been alerted to something because Sonny Bowen and his fall.
[26:51] Partner, Gary T. Parker, had done a lot of crime together, were hiding around the alcoves of the garage and they just stepped inside, stepped up next to him and popped him with shotguns from both sides. Go back out, jump in their car and take off. And it’s a typical, I mean, these guys were mob associates. They weren’t mob members, they were associates. And but they did the mob thing. They threw the shotguns away about two or three blocks away and they dumped a stolen car not too far from that. So that’s typical mob hit a block or so, block and a half from Nick Civella’s house. It was like a slap in the face to the Civella faction. To top it off, Sonny Bowen, he goes back down to Freddy’s the next day. And there’s this one guy who I mentioned before, Mike Ruffalo. He was reporting everything that he heard to the FBI during his years.
[27:37] He reports that Sonny Bowen and Gary T. Parker are both bragging that they’re the ones that hit Johnny Green. Go figure that. Three days later, they’ve got a wake for Johnny Green down at Sabato’s Funeral Home, which is down in the North End of Little Italy.
Wake for Johnny Green and Sonny Bowen’s Assassination
[27:52] Somebody comes in that night, we don’t know who, or they call in or they do something.
And they say, hey, Sonny Bowen is out at Mr. O’Brien’s Tavern out at Armour and Broadway.
It’s about 25 blocks south of there all by himself, car sitting out in front.
They already have already obviously have a hit car lined up, a work car, as they call it, and mask and guns, because they go right from the wake.
Three guys go right from the wake, jump in this car, head out and go in the back door.
There was a back door and a front door. They went in the back door of Mr. O’Brien’s. Two of them split off, point guns at the rest of the people in the bar to make sure there’s no off-duty cops or anything that are going to try to be a hero. One of them walks right over to Sonny Bowen.
[28:39] And he’s sitting in a booth all by himself and pops him two or three times, kills him right there.
Drive off, throw their guns away about three or four blocks away, drop the car off. Of course, that was never solved. Actually, we never solved any mob murders in Kansas City. Kansas City mob is tight. Nobody ever talked, and especially about any murders. They talked about little things. This Mike Rufolo, he talked about a lot of little things. He talked about one time Cork Civella hired him and a guy that he worked with on a regular basis to go plant a stick of dynamite underneath a strip club owner’s car and set it off in order to intimidate the guy because Cork wanted to muscle in on the strip club business. Little things like that, or the extortion of the parking lot money, and little things like that. But when they did a murder, they included nobody.
[29:29] That was ever going to talk, and nobody ever did. So the Bureau goes after this Gary T. Parker to try to get, maybe he’s got something, and he won’t talk about anything. They said, well, you know, know, your buddy, Sonny Bowen, is dead and you were part of it.
We know you were part of that hit on Johnny Green. They can’t prove it or they would have charged him with it.
But we they know he’s part of that hit because they’ve been bragging about it.
But all I got is, you know, secondhand bragging about it. No cooperating evidence.
And he’s uncooperative and he’s a drunk. He was a horrible drunk.
He’d done do drunken things as at first they started trying to, like, you know, ride around with him and have another car behind him, trying to catch him, setting him up. Because we know that the Bureau has picked up from their informants and from some other wire that they had up that they’re in a frenzy to go ahead and do Gary T. Parker. Parker is going out to clubs and he’s getting so drunk that he’s getting in fights in the clubs because he knows he’s got these policemen and agents right there and they have to like…
[30:34] Throw him in the car and drive him back home and try to force him to go in his apartment.
And one time, then they just quit riding with him. They just try to stay behind him. One time, he pulled over and jumped out and turned around and acted like he pulled a gun out and was pointing right at the guys that were following him who had pulled over. He was just stupid like that.
Finally, they just let him go. And the mob just lets him go at the time. We caught him one time, A guy named Vince Bacone tried to set him up with a meeting, you know, set him up with a job or some money thing, kind of enticing to a meeting.
And the Bureau found out about that and surveilled the meeting.
And they saw somebody look like a hit team coming into the area.
But, you know, those things are really hard. We had more than one example of them seeing us and a hit team seeing us, and us not being able to react fast enough to get them stopped or do anything with them.
And as soon as they see us, they’re just gone.
They’ll give up and try again a week from now or a month from now.
Everything’s on their, to their advantage. And they’re sharp guys.
These Civella hit teams working under Tuffy DeLuna are sharp people.
[31:43] You don’t want them after you. Seem like the mob just gives up on Parker T. Although not really.
Freddie Bonadonna goes into hiding during this time. He agrees to help the FBI with an extortion case on the Cammisano brothers, Joe and Willie.
Kind of get them for extorting money on the parking lot situation.
You know, what’s funny about that is, Freddie said, you know, there’s one more parking lot about a block on down the street there that you could get, you could lease yourself.
[32:10] And put your own guy in there and collect money on.
They didn’t want to do that. They just wanted some of Freddie Bonadonna’s money.
Wanted him to do all the work.
Typical mob deal.
You do all the work and give me a piece of your action. And really it was just because his dad was in the mob.
He was never in it. He was never even close to it.
And I don’t think he ever depended on him for anything. He acted, you know, against their advice, really, if you remember the deal with Corks, and you know, you’re not gonna make any money down here.
This is stupid. But Freddie has to go into hiding, and Freddie and his brother and another guy owned a large brick building in the River Quay.
This is like the, this ended the River Quay, that whole area that had so much promise, and so many people were making a lot of money down there and helped to revitalize the core part of the city, bring people back into the city, to get people to live down around there.
He had this large brick building and it had two clubs in it.
There were mob associates, Pat O’Brien’s, and Pat O’Brien was half Italian.
[33:07] He kind of modeled it along the Pat O’Briens in New Orleans, even had the hurricane glasses, said Pat O’Briens on it. But he was a gambler, a sports gambler. He had actually been sent up to Council Bluffs, Iowa at one time. I think after this, later on after this, he’d been sent, he was sent up to Council Bluffs, Iowa with another mob guy, mob gambler named John Costanza.
And they were supposed to set up a sports book in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but some local guys intimidated them or something, they ended up coming back.
There’s a guy I had, Judge Roy Beans, the guy that owned it, ended up owning strip clubs ever since, and he was definitely a mob associate.
So had these two joints running in it, they were way behind on their rent.
Anyhow, they weren’t paying their rent, they were behind on their liquor bills.
Freddie’s got a $100,000 damage insurance policy on this building.
River Quay’s kind of going downhill, not much going on. He’s not earning money out of this building.
So the two mob guys are, you know, They’re making a little money, but it’s not going to last. So what’s going to happen? The whole building gets blown up. They say it was a battle over the River Quay, and I talked about this being the war over the River Quay and that kind of thing. And that was the image that this explosion gave to this area. This was nothing to do with any war. This was to do with insurance. It was a huge explosion. Here, listen to what the commander, Les Hash of the bomb and arson had to say about that.
Mysterious Buildings Disappear in Kansas City
[34:35] I received a call from her dispatcher about two o’clock in the morning and she stated that there was two buildings that disappeared. Nothing left but a huge hole. Aerial photo on the front page of the Kansas City Star showing this big hole in the ground. There was nothing but all the bricks that were in this huge big building were spread out for several blocks around, blew out all the windows around and dumped everything else in the basement of this building. We took all those bricks and detritus out of that, spread them out down on the river levee where there was nobody along there and we could spread them out and sifted through them and we never found anything. Ran bob dogs over them and they didn’t trip to anything. I think, again, it was a gas explosion, probably with a Johnny Green ignition switch. Probably it just got too much gas in there. I don’t think they really intended on blowing it up that bad because somebody could have easily killed somebody and they happened to be walking down the street next to it. A lot of articles in the paper about David Bonadonna and Freddie, and there’s another bombing on the back door of Joe Cammisano’s club, Cotton Eye Joe’s, the Northview Social Club. Somebody had put a bomb on the back door of that.
[35:46] So people are nervous. Kansas City has quit coming into the River Quay. Here’s what my friend Chuck Haddix had to say about that, and a pretty funny little story about this explosion.
I just cleaned up the bar, and I had my cash box in my hand from the bar receipts.
And all of a sudden, there’s this loud explosion. The building shook.
I mean, we’re talking railroad cars shook.
There were these cooks and these bus people out in the car, smoking pot in this car in the parking lot. And when the bomb went off, it blew the windows out of the car.
[36:26] And it dropped this heavy refrigeration unit right next to the car.
If it hit the car, it’d killed them all.
And they came walking in, beating on the back door, and they came walking in, and they were smoking.
[36:38] And I looked at them and I said, man, that must have been some dynamite shit you were smoking.
And unfortunately, that really marked the end to the River Quay.
I remember the next day I went to work. People were driving through looking at the crater, but people stopped coming down there.
And the business dropped off greatly. And then Victoria Station, of course, closed pretty soon after that, because there just was no business.
People were scared to go down there.
[37:04] So the River Quay is done. This whole area just goes downhill.
They end up with a couple of strip clubs down there, some former bar owners from West 12th Street.
Neither one of them are really successful. You can’t get people to come down there like you could when it was over in downtown, right next to the convention center.
You got a strip club, those kinds of dirty bookstores and all that right next to a convention center where people walk out of the convention center.
You see that within a block or two, you got something going, but this was like eight or 10 blocks away from the convention center.
And the whole area was just returned really to a lot of homeless guys because there was a homeless shelter down there called the Helping Hand and the people working at the city market, which it wasn’t really a big deal back then.
It was mainly just for businesses, for restaurants to come down there and grocery stores, small grocery stores. It was a produce market for them, but it really wasn’t even for the public to speak of.
Freddie Bonadonna has gone witness protection. He’ll testify behind a screen in front of a congressional hearing on the mob in Kansas City and explain about this River Quay thing, because it really set Kansas City back.
Since then, over the years, this.
[38:17] Whole River Quay area is now renamed the city market. Of course, they put condos and lofts and businesses, and it’s just as hopping as it was back then, but it really stopped it for years.
All around Kansas City, all around downtown, is taking on that same kind of thing as most big cities have.
The people, the lofts, people are moving back into downtown, clubs, and we built a big new auditorium, stadium for concerts and we just don’t have a sports team for it, but the T-Mobile Center, we have, you know, Taylor Swift will play that two or three nights in a row or Garth Brooks and those kinds of things. And a big, what they made an entertainment district just out of nothing, just tore everything down and built new buildings. And then all around that, it’s kind of leached out into that. So the old buildings are still being redone and in the city market, but they’re being redone, but it really set us back several years.
[39:17] Freddie, he’d been down in Naples, Florida running a restaurant for the rest of his life.
He’ll sneak back into Kansas City once in a while, but he never really came back and showed his face.
Of course, he lived in witness protection. He lived under that name the rest of his life.
And I guess he didn’t want to give up witness protection. He’ll take his own life in 2002.
So River Quay died, since then it’s come back and it’s jumping down, revitalizing downtown.
We’ve even got a light rail that starts down there and goes out south to the Union Station and goes through downtown and by all these other entertainment districts I talked about.
It’s hopping at nights.
It’s crazy. So this is a kind of an example of the mob and their greed.
[40:02] And their way they do business of totally destroying downtown area for at least a period of time.
[40:10] I know back in Boston, they tried to, and I remember they started talking about this as it went down, have a red light district where you have a bunch of dirty movies and show theaters.
And we did end up with one down there and strip clubs and all that kind of combat zone business.
Now, it never went in Boston. They tried it in Boston, but it never really seemed to go.
And it’s, you know, it’s really pretty distasteful.
And it never really went in Kansas City. They did have a couple of those joints down there.
And one of them, I told the story, the Bowery, they started to have it.
Even one night, tried to have a live sex act, except the dude couldn’t get it up.
I happened to be in there investigating a club that night. That was a hell of a deal.
I remember this guy came off the stage and somebody, one of these jackoffs in the audience started yelling, ah, you couldn’t even get it up. What they did, they just simulated sex.
And he said, man, he said, you get up here on the stage and see what you can do.
The guy shut up after that.
So it got kind of crazy for a while, but it didn’t last. That didn’t last either.
The Kansas City mob all this time, you know, got all this street stuff going on.
There was two or three more murders after this that didn’t have anything to do with the quay.
[41:17] But they had to do with other stuff, with cleaning up old business that people who are, they’re afraid were snitches and that kind of thing.
The FBI is frantically trying to put in some bugs and get on some wires.
They’ve got informants talking about whether having their dirty talk.
Finally, they get a bug in and the mob, unbeknownst to any of us, for sure, other than by rumor, they’re out here skimming money out of Las Vegas.
[41:47] And so this is really the precursor to that first bug that you see in the movie, Casino.
The reason they put that bug in was because of all this stuff I just explained and one other mob war, which I’d have to have a whole another podcast.
I’ll get around to doing it. I tell this in my movie, Gangland Wire.
I tell a lot of this River Quay stuff and you can see a lot of good images and everything of it.
It’s a rental on Amazon for like $1.99. It’s the first documentary I really made about the mob in Kansas City.
So I suggest you see that. So that’s the story of the war over the river quay.
I thanks a lot, guys. I appreciate y’all listening.
Appreciate everything you do. Anytime you give me a like or you join my Facebook group, Gangland Wire podcast, people send me money every once in a while.
That’s kind of nice. I appreciate that.
I like to keep this thing going. I don’t really do it for the money.
If I did, I was working for money. I’d go back and be a lawyer and do something.
I can really make money at.
This is a labor of love. It’s a lot of fun, I really like doing it.
I like this mob history.
[42:57] I’ve been kind of remiss in not doing Kansas City since I first started this thing.
So some of that, a lot of you, if you’re on Apple podcast, they drop off after a while.
So I talked about some of this stuff real early, like six, seven years ago when I first started the podcast. So if you’ve heard this before, it seems familiar. Maybe you’ve seen my movie or maybe you have, you listen to those early things, but most of you, I don’t think have.
So I wanted to get this out and I’m going to do that mob, the next mob war that came on the heels of this, the Spiro brothers, which I did the movie about brothers against brothers.
Introduction and Shout-outs
[43:32] And then I want to do one about the scam from Las Vegas from the Kansas City viewpoint.
So I appreciate y’all turning in.
Don’t forget, I ride motorcycles. So watch out for motorcycles when you’re out there on the street.
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I put one out or two out every week.
I got, I don’t know how many, depending on the app you’re on, there’s as many as 400 and some back episodes.
They keep you entertained forever. If you got one of those jobs and you can like listen to the podcast all night long.
And I’ve had guys get hold of me and say, yeah, man, he said I did this on my job so I could just listen to your podcast all night long. So I appreciate those kinds of compliments.
You know, I do the best I can. It’s a lot of fun. And I really appreciate you guys tuning in.