Diamond Jim Moran and New Orleans
Bobby Brocato Jr, nephew of the famous Diamond Jim Moran, aka James Brocato, has published a New Orleans history/Mafia history/New Orleans cuisine cookbook/family history book titled Food for Kings: A New Orleans Legend. In this episode, I interview Mr. Brocato about his famous grandfather.
Diamond Jim Moran, the Boxer
Diamond Jim Moran started life as an Italian immigrant who shined shoes on the streets of New Orleans. As a teenager, he found he had a talent and love for the sport of boxing. Just like Joey Aiuppa, Chicago outfit boss, he changed his name to the Irish Moran to attract more fans to his corner. He had a reasonably successful boxing career but moved into refereeing to earn money. He made friends with many celebrities, sports figures, mobsters, and politicians during his boxing career.
Diamond Jim Moran and Prohibition
Diamond Jim opened his first restaurant during Prohibition. Ming Toy, an Irish Chinese joint, had the usual speakeasy upstairs. Here Diamond Jim created relationships with Louisiana state and local politicians of the era. He would become remarkably close with the famous Huey P. Long and even serve as his bodyguard on occasion. Because of his prohibition connections, he became an associate of the New York mobster, Frank Costello, who was installing slot machines in New Orleans and later in the entire state. Diamond Jim alleged that Costello tipped him about a plot to assassinate Huey P. Long.
Diamond Jim Moran and the La Louisiane
Diamond Jim became wealthy from his various business dealings and bought the famous La Louisiane restaurant in New Orleans. Here he was host to many of America’s celebrities. Because of their shared Italian heritage, Diamond Jim and baseball player Joe DiMaggio would have a lifelong friendship. It was an accident during the preparation of meatballs that became Diamond Jim’s claim to fame. He knew he must not miss an opportunity for publicity. One day, his wife lost her diamond engagement ring while making meatballs. Diamond Jim knew that his wife had cooked her ring inside a meatball, and a customer would find that ring. He announced that night that a customer would discover this diamond ring in a meatball, and they may keep it. Diamond Jim told his wife not to worry because this stunt will earn him enough to buy her a bigger diamond. He was correct, and this became a periodic publicity stunt. He would get an inexpensive diamond ring and place it in a meatball and advertise this as the place where you may find a diamond-studded meatball in the order.
Show Notes by Gary Jenkins
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