Retired intelligence detective Gary Jenkins interviews former Mob Wife, Lisa Calabrese Swan, about her life with Frank Calabrese Jr. and the Calabrese family. Lisa takes the listener from her first days meeting a young, exciting, handsome man named Frankie Calabrese. She did not know or even understand what his family was all about. She describes the gradual realizations she experienced as she saw Frank Calabrese Jr. becoming more involved in the Outfit life as he descended into an addiction to cocaine. She stuck by him like any good Outfit wife until she could not handle the stress. Losa Swan found life as a Mob Wife to be anything but glamorous and exciting.
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GARY JENKINS, Lisa Swan
My husband was dealing cocaine and using cocaine and I would find bags of cocaine in his closet in his drawers, and I was totally against drugs. And I would just dump everything in the toilet 1000s of dollars of cocaine in the toilet. And it was something that didn’t belong to him or he was selling for somebody else. And any time I looked, I found it. And I made sure I got rid of it. Yeah, I think was he was gone for a weekend, or he didn’t come home one night. So I packed all this stuff and put it on the front steps. And when his friend went to drop him off, he goes, is that a suitcase and Frank is like, yeah, keep going.
Welcome all you wiretappers, good to have you back here in the studio. And as you can see, if you’re on YouTube, I have two special guests. Now one of them. You guys all know cam Camillus Robinson and the other you may not know, but you may know something about her ex husband, Frank Calabrese Jr. And her name is Lisa Swan. And Lisa and my friend cam have partnered up to write a book about her life with a mob I believe it’s called and married with a mob what’s the name of it? Chicago Swan Song: a mob Wife’s Story. Been through a couple iterations of the title but but that one really sort of summed up Lisa’s story. Chicago Swan Song: A Mob Wire’s Story. Okay, great. Well, welcome. They said they really had anxious to get your story. Thanks, Gary. How did you guys first get together? Me and Cam are me and Frank, where are you? and Cam first? How did you?
So um, my ex husband and I are very, very close. We’re best friends. And he suggested that I do a do a interview with the guys. And I had a lot of fun. It was very cathartic to talk about stuff and throw in a little humor. And then I talked to Ken because he wanted to do another spot. And I said, Hey, can we can we write a book? Can we do something with it? Listen, go bigger. And he’s like, I was gonna ask you the same question. Cool. So the rest was history. And I did a lot of zoom calls from where I worked, because I work a lot. And we we plugged through and got it done. Good. The second question would be you and Frank Calabrese Jr. How did you guys get together? Do you guys go to high school together your high school sweetheart? Or will your older? No, we lived in the neighborhoods next to each other. So I was in Galewood, where all the city workers lived. He was in Elmwood Park and we all used to go to a place in Elmwood Park called Eric and Me. That’s where everybody met before. We all went out to the bars and the nightclubs. And that’s where I had seen him and I’m like, Oh, my God, he’s so cute. And, you know, I remember one of my friends sitting next to me, she’s like, forget about it. She goes, You don’t know that family and his father. And I’m like, Well, how bad could it be, you know, Famous last words. And, and so then one of my friends introduced me to him. Things didn’t really click. And then one night I was down town. She called him and said, Hey, why don’t you come down and meet us? And I didn’t know she was doing that. And then he walks in, and I’m like, What the hell is happening? And she goes, Oh, I gotta go now. So Frank can drive you home. And then from there, the rest is history. It just took off. So I guess since this is kind of a story of your marriage, but the outfit, the Chicago outfit, and the Calabrese name are almost synonymous. And now did you have any idea what that meant? The Chicago outfit when you first met? Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Cuz I was surrounded by all of that. And when somebody would, you know, get killed, or something, my grandfather would say, Hey, let’s go walk down there, because all the news vans would be there and everything. And so I knew what a bookie was. I knew what a loan shark was. I knew that that was normal. That was normal in my neighborhood. When it came to Frank Sr. I just thought he was another loan shark. You know, I didn’t know to what level he was involved. Often. I think that’s an important distinction is you know, when you’re when you’re in the neighborhood when you’re surrounded by Italians, and in that little enclave, it’s like, you know, you know, Gary, I mean, the bookies on every corner. So I mean, if you’re dating the son of the local bookie, I mean, he’s, you know, it’s not that big a deal. You know, in the neighborhood. It was very normalized. Yeah. If you don’t know the full story, that a good word, at least it was normalized in your life, whereas in somebody else’s life, it was not normalized. Yeah. Your relationship progressed. You know, you got married. Did you have a big traditional Italian wedding? Did they bring all kinds of envelopes to you? Was it like The Godfather, and there were a lot of em Hello. I think there was a lot of envelopes I didn’t even see. I wanted a wedding in Wheaton at Donita house. I wanted it to be outdoors I wanted I didn’t want to traditional Italian wedding. But all of that just got messed up and it was getting too crazy. And then I headed at Al’s in Cicero. So I did have the Italian wedding, we cut down the list to I want to say cut it down to 300. Mind you, my family was at one table. Because I come from a very small family.
You guys were overwhelmed.
Yeah, so it was mostly you know, Frank’s family. Frank’s dad’s friends. And yeah, yeah, it was. It was pretty intriguing to say the least. I can imagine. I can only imagine. Yeah. Who’s Who of the outfit? Were probably there were the cops out front, right down license plates, the FBI. I mean, that was the most secure parking lot, probably ever. That’s when I figured I don’t have to worry about the car getting stolen. Everything’s cool.
What was he doing for a living at the time, but he had like a square John job that he went into every day. He worked for the city. I use that loosely.
Kind of a no show job for the city. Yeah, I mean, I know at one point, Frankie was really he was into his job. He showed up for his job. He used to like to play hockey on Sunday nights. He was very active. But his father just took over her. And it’s like, well, you need to do this for me. And this and that. And, you know, Frankie pretty much gave up on everything, except for doing what his father wanted is that? Yeah, I mean, they’re just and you know, I know a lot of people will say, Oh, well, couldn’t you just say no, no, you couldn’t do? His father was just everyone was under his thumb. And just you know, you couldn’t say no.
Did you guys know separate from the family or same neighborhood seemed like he had a big house with like a brother lived upstairs or something? Did they? Well, in the compound, they called it. I think it was on 74th Avenue. In Grand. Yeah. So that’s where when I first met Frankie, that’s where they were all living, but not senior. He was an Oak Brook. What’s Diane know, we live separately from them. And, you know, I tried to get further.
But it just doesn’t always work. When I followed mob guys around, it seemed like a lot of them. They got up late. And they left for work, so to speak. And it’d be sometimes noon, sometimes two or three in the afternoon. And then they’d be out till midnight one two o’clock in the morning was that was Frank did he had like a normal daytime business hours? Or did he do that? A lot. As far as I know, he did. I always worked. And I worked out at the merch. So I was there early. So after I left the house, and you know, there was no cell phones back then. So I really don’t. You know, I have no idea. I do know that when we first started dating, I usually didn’t see Frankie till about 10 at night, and I’m like, what, what are you doing? And he’s like, nothing, don’t worry about it. And then one night, I remember I didn’t hear from him. And I’m like, Oh, my God. And this is, you know, we were hot and heavy dating. And I said, Well, I’m just worried about you goes, well, if I dropped the pencil on my foot wrong, that that’s what’s wrong. So which meant that he was counting stuff for his father. I see. Yeah. And I was like, okay, and I was the kind that didn’t badger I didn’t ask. I didn’t want I didn’t want to know anything. He provided a good living then. There was okay. And he didn’t bring any the violence. Yeah, no, I didn’t know. When we first got married. I didn’t know that he partied. I didn’t know how in depth his you know father was involved or that he was a murderer. I mean, I had a murder at my table on The Sopranos. You see the big family Sunday dinners with the Big Daddy and that kind of a thing and all Brett everybody around the table then and Tony was his dad that you know that did stuff talk to his kids and did things and and then he had this other head there’s this one thing that’s fascinating to me and I think to a lot of people is that these two separate lives of you know, dual personality. Yeah. Dual personalities how they keep them one pirate part of their life so secret, and it was so different and separate from their family life so that when did you start seeing through that? This is it When did he start bringing that home? Was it because of cocaine? Um, so when I found out that he party that just shared with me When we had our daughter Kelly And I guess his dad was still active and whatever he was doing and he relied a lot on Frankie. So here Frankie wanted to get out of that when he got married and had kids and his dad was just like, what the clock just pulling them right back in. And like, you know, no, so I almost felt like Frank’s dad was jealous of me. And my daughter Kelly. Because Frankie wanted to be with us in that him and he just wouldn’t allow that. You just couldn’t escape it. He didn’t deal drugs. He got plenty of money from his dad by when he well he was dealing. Oh, he wasn’t too he was doing it and dealing that that’s why when I would you know find stuff in the house. I would flush it and I’m like nope. You know, I there’s just some things I wouldn’t tolerate that was one of them. Seniors not overly generous with his with with paying or paying his children or making a ton of money off the Calabrese screw? Yeah, no, no, he was he was not everything had strings attached. So like when we we moved to Elmhurst that was like a big move for Frankie because he’s always in Elmwood Park. So when we moved to Elmhurst that was one of Frank’s seniors houses that he owned. We live there. It was okay. And we had a first birthday party for Kelly. And we had it yet I can’t remember the name of the restaurant. It was like close to downtown Chicago. And we had a first big blowout for Kelly Frank’s dad was there and he ordered special food he got special wine. And then he got mad at Frankie and called him Oh, you think you’re a big fucking big shot. And then he raised our rent. Frank senior would always hurt you in the pocket. Any job that Frankie would do, or he’d start a side business. Frank Sr. would always stick his nose in there and want to get a cut of it. Instead of you know, inspiring your sons and saying, Hey, let me help you get this off the ground. No, he wanted a piece of it. And then he ruined everything. So he treated him just like he was a member of his crew. Like he was so correct. Schmuck. wanted to be, you know, a made guy or something. Yeah. Yeah. Was there ever and I remember Frankie telling me the story of when he robbed a house when he was young. Yeah. So I guess what about the the uncle, Nick Calabrese he was a seemed like he was a stone killer. Just as much as his dad. He didn’t seem quite as mean and controlling and everything just a little bit I’ve read about him, but was he around very much was he was not around very much. Uncle Nick. I always thought he was a nice guy very quiet very much to himself. I know. He was close with Frank Jr. and Kurt when they were growing up, man. A few words. Okay. You know, he was nice. His family was nice. But, you know, when I first got in the family, I thought, you know, because I came from such a small, quiet, white collar family. You know, I meet this family and there’s big dinners and all this stuff. And you know, I just realized everybody didn’t like each other. They tolerated and they just basically paid homage to Frank Sr. Out of respect because they had to. So the hierarchy of the outfit and Chicago bid. Did you start getting a sense of word the Calabrese family fit into that hierarchy?
Aiuppa was the boss and Cerone may have been underboss. be okay.
I had no had no clue about that. Okay, I was interested. I had no clue about any of that. So, Frankie really never talked to me about anything. I remember when we were dating and I’m like, you know, when am I going to see you? When his dad would go to Florida? Frankie would have me in the car waiting while he went in to pick up an envelope. So, you know, that’s how I spend time with
Yeah. And I really, I really didn’t ask, I really didn’t want to know, I just I just wanted to be married. I just wanted to, you know, find my happily ever after. And that stuff. I was just like, alright, you do you? I’ll just you know, I’ll be here. You know, and that didn’t work out. So
well. Yeah. until there came a time when I guess that his was his drug use just getting so bad that it was affected the marriage that he wouldn’t home. And when he was he was out of it out of that?
Well, I know for a fact that Frankie use cocaine to escape his father. So that was like his grand vacation he would just putting up with SR was not easy. You know, I would see Frankie come home and get you know, a red cheek from getting hits or whatever. Frank Sr. Hit my husband in front of my daughter one day at the house. And when I came home, and I wasn’t there for it, I came home. I think Sophie was there that was Frank seniors mom, and she just looked at me and rolled her eyes on like, oh, something’s up. Because I saw Frank seniors truck in front of my house. And usually that’s when I would keep going if I saw that truck because I didn’t want to see him. Frank just he got really bad. Using to escape as father. And then your Frankie took the money from his dad. It just it just it. It went downhill so quickly. He wanted to do good things with the money and open business offices and try and make money and say here, Dad, this is what I did that just that all fell apart.
So he was continually trying to get his father’s approval, and his father continually withheld His approval. Beat him down. Yep. Okay. Yeah. They both ended up going to the penitentiary. Were you still with Frank Jr. Then? So I
tried to divorce Frankie before he left. And he just wouldn’t, wouldn’t do it. So I had to wait till he went away. Before about a year before he left, we’re sleeping in separate bedrooms. His cocaine use was really bad. A couple of times I thought he was dead, you know, because he would be pasty white, motionless on the couch. Is he breathing? You know, I just I didn’t know what to expect. And I
basically focused on the kids and just to keep going. I watched somebody that I was in love with. And I also hated them at same time. That’s that’s really hard. But pretty common response for somebody that’s married to an addict like that is that you had a way to deal with it. And oh, my God, that’s one way to deal with it is to kind of just zoned out from it. And so I was a zombie, emotional zombie, for sure. That was your course there was no question. There was not going to be any kind of marriage counseling. I don’t think this deal was there. No, and I think I suggested that but it just, it was too far gone. And, you know, with him having to turn himself in soon. He was just done a viral, you know, and I couldn’t talk to anybody about anything. Yeah, because that means I’m involving people and no one wants to be involved in any of that. So people were generally just scared to talk to anybody inside that family to begin with, or they I mean, so yeah, you were isolated because of that you’re isolated because family didn’t want you to talk to anybody. Yeah, isolated in your marriage. I mean, it was really, really rough times. It was pretty shitty. I’m not gonna lie. That especially when Frank Frank senior had to sit down with me in the basement, you know, that kinda put a little bit of fear in me. Yeah, at least has been to a mom sit down. I can. Yeah, I can only imagine Lisa I would imagine that you probably tell about that in your book in much more detail. We don’t want to give away everything in the book, but that sounds like a pretty interesting yeah, that was pretty bad. Lisa swatters sit down, Momsen. Yeah, right. Calabrese a senior there’s many a man that didn’t really come out of a sit down like that one piece. Yeah, and I didn’t know how to shut up either. I’m like, What are you talking about?
Stop about five guys. You didn’t walk out of the room. Lisa did really
good. You know, this is quite a slice of life that never really been told before from from your angle. I’m really Yeah. To read this book and, and take a look at it and then maybe do some more little stories out of it as we go along. It’s, I’m trying to think is what what’s that like for you when he’s going to trial? You know he’s going to trial where they’re headlines about this trial. Did your neighbors and everybody know about it your friends?
Well, yeah. So when they all got picked up that was like the big news when we lived in Chicago. So we moved to Phoenix in 2002. So the trial I believe was in Oh, six or Oh, seven. We’re already in Phoenix. But still, there’s so many Chicago people out here. I mean, I was working at Mercedes Benz, there was a guy walking with Frank’s book that he wrote, and I didn’t know this guy. I didn’t know this customer. And I said, Oh, are you liking that book? He goes, Yeah, he’s like, holy cow. I said, well, guess what? I’m Lisa SLon, the ex wife that
just looked at me like I had two heads. I’m like, see? Yeah.
Yeah. And that happened again. I was in a restaurant out here. A Italian restaurant. They had the best bowl. In yeas. I was with someone that I was dating. And the table behind us had the book on the table. Frank’s book, the guy Joe, I was dating at the time, you know, said hi to the guy. I don’t know how we even saw the book or whatever. And I turned around, I go, Hey, I wrote two chapters in that book. I’m Lisa swan. And they’re so funny, you yo was mortified. I can imagine. Yeah, he’s like,
yeah, so never a dull moment now.
Now, when Frank started wearing a wire on his dad in prison and started dealing with the FBI, you were totally out of the picture by the end.
Well, we were still, we were still talking. But he did not utter a word about any of that. Nothing. I had no clue. Until all this came out. I had no idea that my father in law was a murderer. I had no, I did not know. I knew he had a temper. Yeah. But I didn’t know you know what he was capable of. And Uncle Nick. I was I was like, holy shit. These people were at my house with my kids. Yeah, I can imagine what that was about the family secrets trial came out that oh, yeah, that was. That was a lot. Before the trial. I asked the FBI if we could move Frank, out of where we were living, just because the stress was so much. We also owned a pizza place in north Scottsdale, which was a pickup and delivery. And I had all the young neighborhood kids working for us. I remember seeing a car facing the pizza place. So it was a private investigator that Frank SR hired, I was getting migraines, because of the stress because of the trial coming up because of the business and all these innocent young kids live, you know, working for us, my kids included and I’d have to lay down on the cement floor and put ice on my head and I tell Frank I said I can’t do this anymore. So we closed up shop, sold everything pennies on the dollar.
Then he testified but he never went into witness protection, no he never did. Waht precautions did he take?
basically it was all his father’s words that got everyone in trouble. It wasn’t anything Frankie said. And I think it’s pretty crazy. That because Frank SR was always tight lipped about everything as far as I hear. And I just think it’s not that Frank Sr. was talking about all that. You know, there was a lot of stuff that Frankie didn’t know that he learned. So it’s how the universe works. I guess really, for you guys that don’t quite understand that when Frank Calabrese Jr. and his dad were in the penitentiary Frank Jr. was wearing a wire and his dad started bragging about a lot of the members a lot of the things that he did for the outfit and that that makes it’s crazy. Yeah, crazy. Yeah. Yeah, it’s very, it’s it’s, that’s was kind of unbelievable that it happened that way. And if Frank SR would have got out my husband and Kurt, Kurt really wasn’t I don’t know how much he was involved, but Frankie was more have, you know his father’s number one, one of them was going to end up dead. That’s for sure. If everyone was out at the same time, because when Frankie got out, Frank Sr. was still giving them stuff to do. I knew that was part of his deal was he did not he was tired of his father sucking him back in and he knew the only way he could get out was to do what he did was the word. That was the only way. That’s what he said. And I’ve read that. Yeah, yeah, it was. I will not repeat the conversations, but I heard some of the conversations and I’m like, You can’t do that. It can’t do that. That family. I mean, if the boys could have gone to college, Frank senior wouldn’t let them go. They could have been really successful. Like all their friends, you know, they all had the chance to go to college and you know, do something and not be, you know, caught up and all of that. Yeah, you know, that was seniors rain, and he just he was control. Everything was controlled. Well, Lisa Swan and Camilla as Robin said, I really appreciate you guys coming on the show and telling us about your upcoming book, which you don’t have a copy of it there yet. I understand your guys on YouTube. You’ll you’ll see a pic. Right, right. I’ll post the cotton post the cover. reminds us all of the title of it. Chicago swan song a mob. Mob life story. Chicago swan song a mob life story. Chicago swan song a mob life story. Okay, cool. Name. Lisa swan. Lisa swan. I really appreciate you coming on. And you know, I have talked with your ex husband and he’s a nice guy. And he said the same about you. I told him that I was going to be talking with you on cam today. He goes Oh, Gary Jenkins. He’s a nice guy. One of these days. I’m gonna have to go to Chicago. Does he still run the tour? Yeah, yeah. He was doing the tours through Christmas. And you know, people can’t get enough. Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. Plus, he’s a personable guy. So well, guys. I really thought that story was interesting. And I hope you will too. I know you will. Don’t forget, I like to ride motorcycles. So when you’re out there on the roads, look out for motorcycles. And if you have a problem or a friend that has a problem with PTSD, and they’ve been in the service, be sharing, tell them or yourself. You’ve got the problem, go to the VA website and get that hotline number for help with or PTSD. Thanks a lot, guys. Thanks a lot. Lisa and Camillus Thanks, Gary. Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yep.