Carlo Morelli was born in the Italian section of Chicago known as the Patch. While we often tell negative stories about young men who came out of the Patch, this episode and the next episode will tell about a talented young man of Italian descent who overcame the negative influences of the culture and how he overcame and grew up to have a long and successful career in fashion design, the hospitality business and finally as a chef and television host. In this and the next episode, Mr. Morelli recounts how the Chicago Outfit affected his early life. In this episode Aaron and I learn about Mr. Morelli’s almost disastrous confrontation with the most brutal and vicious Chicago Outfit loan shark of all times Mad Sam DeStefano. At the tender age of 11 years, Carlo Morelli won a citywide art festival and an art scholarship to the Chicago Art Institute. During these years, he lived in the famous old Maryland Hotel an area close to the near north side entertainment and bar are along Rush street. By this time in the 1960s, the North Rush Street area had taken on a seediness like most American cities during that time. Like other downtown hotels, people down on their luck, prostitutes, strippers, small time criminals and men seeking cheap rooms for assignations were the primary residents. Although small, the rooms were cheap at less than $200.00 monthly.
Much like 42nd Street in Times Square, this Rush street area that once saw posh supper clubs now was host to adult movie theaters and strip clubs that were actually thinly-disguised places of prostitution. Of course, the Outfit was very prevalent and controlled the area’s clubs. The Chicago cops found this area to be a lucrative source of bribes to leave the clubs alone by not enforcing liquor laws and parking restrictions around certain establishment along with other little corruptions. At age 15, Carlo Morelli had the chutzpah to live and prosper in this atmosphere. He made friends with the strippers and prostitutes by using his costume design and repair skills to save them a lot of money with their wardrobes.
In a supper club known as Meo’s Norwood House, in the Northwest suburb of Norridge, the wife of one of the owners had an idea to promote a weekly lingerie fashion show for the benefit of the wise guys who frequented this place. At that time and for many years after, Chicago Outfit bosses Anthony Accardo and Paul Ricca met their in a corner table and most Outfit decisions at that time were made at that table.
Ms. Meo sought the help of young Carlo Morelli to create original lingerie and other sexy garments to attract the Outfit men. Many mob girl friends who were also strippers were employed as the runway models. When a mob guy’s girl friend appeared on stage, the men would buy the outfit. In one case, the new girl friend of Sam DeStefano made a miscalculation that brought down the wrath of Mad Sam onto her and our friend Carlo Morelii.
Well, Mr. Morelli survived this and other brushes with the Outfit and by the age of 23, he held a much acclaimed International Debut of Fashion and quickly launched The House of Carlo fashions. His fashion career led him to Hollywood where he was a wardrobe and costume designer on productions such as The Dean Martin Show, The Perry Como Show, Red Skeleton, Bonanza, and Hogan’s Heroes, and feature films, The Son’s of Katie Elder, War Lord, and Harlow! Click here to learn more about Carlo Morelli.
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