Gus Russo on Murray “The Camel” Humphreys

Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you a unique insight into the Mafia. Today, Gary interviews the noted Chicago outfit expert, Gus Russo, known for his books such as “Supermob,” “The Outfit,” and “Best of Enemies.” Gus Russo tells how Murray “The Camel” Humphreys is an intriguing figure in the Chicago Outfit. He provides insights into Humphreys’ early life, born with the Welsh name of Llewellyn in Illinois, growing up in poverty, and getting involved in petty crime. Gus continues by telling how Humphreys was able to climb the ranks of an organized crime family and become a valued and trusted advisor, political fixer, and business operative in the Chicago mafia known as “The Outfit.” Murray Humphreys was so well connected that when his daughter needed a prom date, he was able to induce Frank Sinatra to fill that role.

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Gary: [00:00:00] Welcome all you wiretappers. Good to be back here in the studio of Gangland Wire. I have a man who is probably one of the most respected mafia historians in the United States, Gus Russo Russo.
You probably have heard of his books Supermob welcome, Gus Russo. I’m really glad you’re here. Hey, Gary. Thanks for having me. Supermob and all of a sudden, let’s see, and The Outfit. And do you have other
Gus Russo: books, Gus Russo? Oh my goodness. Yeah, I’ve got about nine now. I think I’ve done a couple.
I’ve done a couple of the Kennedys and I’ve got a really one that’s been really successful called Best of Enemies, an espionage book that’s being made into a feature. Your film so very excited
Gary: about that. I read something about that. I’d forgotten about that interesting Well, what I’ll do guys is is I’ll have a link to his author’s page on Amazon So you can search among his books and and he is probably Like I said one of the most respected mob historians in the United States today.
Oh along with, , Selwyn Rabb, probably. He ranks right up there with Selwyn Rabb, and, as [00:01:00] far as Chicago’s concerned, to me, he is the man for Chicago, and we all love Chicago up there, and I have to thank, speaking of Chicago, I have to thank my friend, Chicago native Ben Ellickson for sending me this book, The Outfit.
He’s been after me to do this for a while and I don’t know, some of you get distracted by, you know, the glitz and the glamour of New York sometimes. I forget about my Chicago guys, I get back to them periodically. So he’s been, thank you very much for sending me this book because I did some shorts out of the book, a little one minute things for YouTube, just a little quick little stories out of the book.
And now we’re going to do a full interview with Gus Russo Russo. And Gus Russo, I’ll tell you what, the Chicago guys, I’ll get, I’ll get an extra bump up in Chicago when that starts. I promise you that they love you in Chicago. But we’re going to talk about Murray Humphreys, Murray the Camel Humphreys, and I’ve wanted to do this guy for a long time.
He’s an interesting guy, and one reason I feel a connection to him because my family came over [00:02:00] from Wales a lot longer before his family did. His mother and father came from Wales. Now here’s a Welshman who becomes a trusted, highly valued, Maybe upper echelon, if you will, member of the Chicago outfit.
And Gus Russo just said, you know, he said, used to say, well, is this just organized crime or is this the mafia? You know, so they got, they got Jewish guys, they got the Welshman in there. And, so it’s, it’s interesting. So Gus Russo, let’s start talking about Murray, the Camelā€ Humphreys, I guess. Tell us a little bit about his early growing up years.
I know, you know, something about that, not a lot, but a little bit about him growing up.
Gus Russo: Yeah, well, he was, born in, Illinois and, his parents were, were, lower rent today that they were, you know, in poverty. And, you know, I think, well, his name was, they called him Lou. You know, his name wasn’t Murray.
It was Lou, Llewellyn. He took to the streets at a very young age, doing just petty stuff, you [00:03:00] know, whatever he could do to survive, and got into a lot of trouble that way. I don’t remember all the details at this point, but , he was a hooligan, to a degree, and he pretty much had to be, he was so poor, And he had got into trouble with truancy and, and juvenile crime and, went before judges.
In fact, one judge, , took to him so well, and it was mutual that , Lou took his name from that Judge Murray, judge Murray, whatever his name, whole name was. And so he became Murray Humphreys at that point. And just kept moving up the ladder into, bootlegging or whatever was going on at the time.
And, but yeah, from a young guy, he was on the streets,
Gary: surviving. Everybody, everybody was, was poor and a street criminal during those years. Then prohibition came along. Now you mentioned that judge Murray, didn’t he, like try to get him to go into the law? Actually. Did I read that?
Gus Russo: Yeah. Well, yeah, as I, as I recall, I think, forgive me, it’s been, , you know, 25, 30 years since I delved deep into it, but yeah, he, he [00:04:00] certainly.
Got Murray interested in law and he tried to get him to, think about becoming a lawyer because he, Murray was a brilliant kid, right? Everybody who met him knew it in a minute. This guy’s got a high IQ but he did in your and him a lifelong love of, of reading law books. That, and, interviewing his family and his ex-wife, wife, and everything.
They said he read voraciously, but it was always like Martindale Hubble. That’s all he read. He had stacks of legal books behind him, and he devoured these things. Why he became so obsessed with the law is beyond me, but, , that was his thing. And, but it, it held him in good stead when he Needed to know how to work, you know, to advise the gangsters on getting out of trouble and he, he had so many great legal, contraptions that he worked out for the mob that, , he was called the Einstein, you know, of the mob, but he, yeah, he just loved law books and thanks to
Gary: Judge Murray.
I read something about how he kind of noticed that double [00:05:00] jeopardy thing early on, and they didn’t really think about that back then, back in those old days of double jeopardy and, and how he moved Jake Guzik’s body, front, because he knows that it’s going to expose people who, hung out or went to this restaurant and he moved his body.
So this guy was always thinking when he was, well, yeah,
Gus Russo: he was. He was the one who came up with using the 5th Amendment before Congress, you know, up until that point, you could use the 5th in a courtroom, but, , his research, when they got called before, I guess, it was either Kefauver or one of the investigations before that, and he told these guys, just read these little cue cards I’m going to give you, these little index cards, and take the 5th Amendment, and the people, the congressmen on the dais, they said, you can’t do that.
And the, and Crowley said, I think we can, you’re going to find out we can. They did their research. They found out Crowley was right, but they were so stymied. They had, they never expected a criminal to plead the fifth in Congress. And his court just went up a [00:06:00] notch with the mobbing after
Gary: that.
Really? Oh man, I bet. You know, you mentioned prohibition, of course, as I started to say, All these guys, once prohibition hit, then that’s, you know, that became full employment for young gangsters. And that’s what they said. So did I suppose is that when he first met got in with Capone and and the outfit.
Yeah,
Gus Russo: you know, keep them. I’ll get to that didn’t you keep in mind prohibition was one of the great ironies of all time because, you know, when the temperance societies started to push for prohibition, they’re thinking was it would clean up. Crime and it had just the complete opposite effect. It made all the street hooligans millionaires
Gary: and organized.
Gus Russo: Yeah. So, you know, after a prohibition came in, these guys were. They had these great networks of contacts and, for distribution and everything. And they said, what do we do with this world that we’ve developed here? We can’t do [00:07:00] booze anymore, but we have all this great interstate network of distribution.
And that’s when people like Humphreys came up with a lot of ideas for how to, you know, keep moving with organized
Gary: crime. Yeah, I was reading how he got into labor racketeering pretty early too.
Gus Russo: Yeah, yeah, he realized, yeah, that, I don’t, yeah, I doubt he invented it, but he certainly perfected it, the idea of the sweetheart deals, where he would go to the corporate heads and say, I will keep the unions in, in check for you, so they won’t strike or ask for, rate increase, wage increases, and then he went to the unions and, and said, Okay.
If you let us take care of you, you know, we’ll represent you and get you wage increases. So he was lying to every, he was lying to them, to the mm-Hmm. workers and, , he was paid by the owners and of the companies, or the mob was, but that was his strategy to play them up against each other.
And and it worked for a long time.
Gary: You know. You know, and I can’t [00:08:00] remember I looked into that Hollywood extortion and that had a lot to do with labor unions out in Hollywood, but I don’t remember his name being involved in that. Was he involved in that in any manner?
Gus Russo: Oh, he was really involved and he was also very much involved in, springing those guys when they got busted in the 40s for it.
He was all over that thing. What happened was, Humphries, as I recall, and you can fact check me on this, but he, in the early 30s, The Chicago Mob took over IATSE, the Team Stagehands Union, the theatrical and stagehands, union, and, which ran all the movie theaters, or the unionized movie theaters, and that was their entrance into, entertainment.
And I think that came because of Murray. That was his idea. When they went down, they went down to a, the convention of IOTC in the early thirties down in Kentucky and basically took over the convention. They walked in there literally with machine guns and said, our guy is going to be the president of IOTC from now on.
And that’s how they put George Brown in. And, that was, I [00:09:00] think Murray orchestrated that. And, but it was brilliant because then they were able to take over, movie theater chains across the country, and charge what they wanted to the distributors, blah, blah, blah, to the movie studios, and that got them ultimately into Hollywood, because IOTC, that union is very, very strong in Hollywood, and you can’t do business to this day, really, without, getting IOTC to cooperate, so if they, you know, Murray realized that if they ran in that union, they could control the entertainment business from the bottom instead of from the top.
Really? And that was his genius. You know, that, that the bottom could run everything. So,
Gary: and then the heads of the studios, they started shaking them down as individuals. Cause that’s kind of how it fell. If I remember right, that one of the studio heads when Robert Montgomery, I think of We’re going to talk about the, the left and right.
Pretty well known. Powerful actor at the top. I blowing the whistle on it, but they really started shaking down these individual. You know, like Robert. You know, [00:10:00] Zanuck. And I don’t remember the names, but a lot of famous names they had,
Gus Russo: Oh, yeah. Well, that was it. is again another double cross like the sweetheart deals.
What happened was The idea came about, because I think Johnny Roselli had had, who was running, MCA at the time, Stein, Joel Stein, who was from Chicago, and he was an associate of Capone. He ended up forming, MCA, a big, Studio or a big agency in Hollywood. So he brought johnny roselli out.
Oh, yeah You can to control the to bust the unions and you know to to get rough with everybody And johnny comes back to chicago and says hey guys, you know, we can make some money in hollywood This thing is this business is growing. So what they did was where the Hollywood moguls brought the mob out to control the unions.
Again, the mob said, hmm, we can work that the other way, just like we did here in Chicago. And we’ll take, well, yeah, we’ll take over the unions for you, but then we’re going to run you. And then you’re going to charge, we’re going to bribe you, blackmail you. So another [00:11:00] thing like prohibition that backfired.
, and so Murray was sort of in charge as far as I can remember, of, getting that whole thing going. Of taking over that critical this critical unions, including the teamsters years later.
Gary: Yeah, I’ll be darned. Well, that’s he was such a powerful guy that is really not that well known. Think about yeah, I mean, compared to Giancana, you know, Anthony Ocardo and, Johnny Rosselli.
Yeah, he really knew how to stay in the background. So, That whole, I’m glad you mentioned that whole getting the, , was it seven, Chicago outfit mobsters were all in Leavenworth. They first put them in different prisons at, right. Convicted to the Hollywood extortion, right. Union racketeering.
And then All at one time during the war, they all ended up in Leavenworth, I believe. and then they pulled some strings. They had 10 year sentences and they were supposed to do about nine years of that 10 years. And they got out early and it was a huge scandal at the time. So he had,
Gus Russo: yeah, [00:12:00] the Hollywood scandal.
Yeah. Well, What happened was, Murray and Sidney Korshak, who was sort of his protege in this labor racketeering thing, he sort of groomed Korshak, they had President Truman sort of under their thumb, in a way, because he was the, protege of Tom Pendergast, you know, the mob boss from Kansas, and, who, you know, pretty much created Truman.
And so they basically went through Pendergast. This was the genius again. How do we get our guys out? Hmm. Well, let’s see, Tom Pendergast. We’ll, and we’ll just lower the boom on Truman and say, unless you get our guys transferred to a better prison and then an early parole, we’ll, you put everything we know about you and your connections in Kansas out there.
And that’s how they got the guys out early.
Gary: Yeah, I read about that and his attorney general was a man named Tom Clark. Yes. Kind of an old school politician and he’s the one that really was Truman’s, you know, [00:13:00] his go to to get all this handled. He had to have the attorney general on board, of course, and do something like this.
And then Tom Clark gets rewarded. He becomes appointed, he gets appointed to the Supreme Court after this is over. Man,
Gus Russo: it’s crazy. It’s just crazy, but that’s what I was so intrigued about these guys for because they were weren’t weren’t famous like all this New York stuff that you always everybody knows Luciano and Gambino and all that stuff.
But these guys were great because they weren’t famous to the average person, and yet they were in many ways more powerful than what was going on in New York. Yeah, New York was to me. A fiefdom to itself, but Chicago is running a big hunk of the country. Yeah, they are, you know And they would they loved the fact that the new yorkers were getting all the headlines
Gary: It was another thing as they knew The efficacy of staying low profile, whereas in New York, you know, all the way up to Gotti, you know, everybody wants to be on the front page and not all of them, [00:14:00] but a lot of them did enough that it drew a lot of attention and was Chicago guys were smart.
This now we’re up to about World War II, the end of the war, this is kind of his big thing. And as What does he do then after the war? You know, let’s tell one story about the moving of the body of Greasy Thumb Guzik. Do you remember that at all? No,
Gus Russo: you’ll have to refresh me. I apologize. I don’t know if I had that in the book.
Did I have that in the book or did I know that?
Gary: Well, maybe not. Maybe I got it. I just kind of struck me. He was, Guzik died in a public place. It was a place where a lot of politicians had come to and I can’t remember the name of it. Oh, well, it’s not, not important, guys, but just, you know, the thumbnail sketch of the story.
For you guys out there. He died in this public place where a lot of politicians like Counselor’s Row restaurant, maybe downtown Chicago, someplace like that. And since he died there, he was so such a lightning rod. He kind of, he had become a lightning rod with the Chicago [00:15:00] public and the Tribune and all those reporters up there that he moved his body and took it back over to his home so they could claim he died in his home rather than in this restaurant.
Oh, whatever. That’s great. I was always thinking, I mean, it was always thinking. What about the there was a deal, the fake kidnapping of this con artist back in the thirties, John Factor, Jake the barber.
Gus Russo: Oh, yeah. Well,
Gary: you know, they, for something and then they fake the kidnapping and
Gus Russo: yeah. A lot of that was to get even with, John, Tuohy, who had double crossed the guys back in the, in the thirties.
And so it was a very elaborate scheme where they, pretended that Jake the barber had, had been kidnapped and he was an associate of the outfit, of course, and, And they pinned it on Tuohy and Tuohy ends up going to prison for 30 years or something for, you know, for something he didn’t even do.
And then when he came outta prison in the late [00:16:00] fifties, he wrote a book about it and of course they killed him instantly. , he wrote the book and, yeah, it was another elaborate scheme where to get a guy, you know, who I guess. Jake, the barber might not been a naturalized citizen and they had to skirt all that issue as well.
And so they had this elaborate thing to keep him, you know, around and they, they framed this innocent
Gary: guy, John. He was English and they were looking to deport him. And that’s right. And then they faked the kidnapping and it just got such a an elaborate, cool. Scheme that helped this guy out and took care of some competition.
And you know, no, no, no deaths, no bodies, no headlines.
Gus Russo: The schemes were just nonstop. It was just one after another. They were, they were all elaborate and well thought out. And, That’s what’s so intriguing about them. It wasn’t all like shoot them up stuff. Very often it was just some crazy scheme like when they blackmailed Estes Kefauver, which you [00:17:00] may want to get to, but
Gary: yeah, oh yeah, let’s tell us.
Tell us that you know about that. Tell us about that. I know they did. Yeah, well, you know,
Gus Russo: in the early 50s when Kefauver, which I think to this day is still the only congressional hearing about organized crime for the congressional investigation. And, it was a big deal, and obviously it went on for a couple years.
And they had zeroed in on Chicago, and they especially had zeroed in on Sidney Korshak. They really, he was at the top of their list. They wanted him because that got them to Murray Humphreys, of course, and the whole big labor, interstate labor control that they had. And Keith Farber was really interested in this.
And of course, Humphreys and Korshak and the mob couldn’t allow that to be successful. This was billions of dollars when you, gross, when you think of all the business they were doing across the country. So, they knew, they did a little investigation and they knew Kefauver had a weakness. A very common weakness, shall we say.
Yeah, . And,
Gary: [00:18:00] I know a lot of guys got that weakness. I had a little bit myself when I was young. Yeah, no
Gus Russo: comment. Funny because I think Keith Barber was a very, like arick quote unquote Christian kind of guy that he presented himself like a lot of politicians do as being born again and all that stuff, which was pretty phony.
And, and, and so Kors Shak set him up with, a couple, you know, LA working ladies at the D Drake Hotel, which they had cameras all set up and, Korshe showed up, in Keith Faber’s office one day and put the photos on the desk and said, okay, how far do you wanna go with this? And that was the end of, and I don’t think court, I don’t think Keith Falber for all the money, all the money spent and all the hearings, I don’t think they had one success.
I mean. It was nothing happened. and, so yeah, that was much ado about nothing. I have to say, I have to brag a little bit. When I was writing the outfit in the late 90s, I realized that the, the Kefauver papers were still stored and locked away, and so I, there’s a 50 year rule, or there was at the time, it might be 75 now, but it was a [00:19:00] 50 year rule on, automatically on congressional documents, and the 50 year rule was almost up, but it wasn’t, so I got in touch with some congressmen, in fact, I think it was Senator McCain, his office was in charge of the Library of Congress holdings or whatever through his committee, and McCain went to bat for me and he said, I’ll open them up.
It’s only a couple years away anyway. So I, I was the first person to open like 40 or 50 boxes of, Keith Fulber stuff, and, that was an interesting day, you know, to pry those things open and get it at the look at their raw files, but, Yeah, but it was much ado about nothing, because they had the pictures Pictures worth a thousand words
Gary: How did that come to light you remember?
I mean that was there there’s like sources out there that That well, you know,
The first I heard about it was in the 70s 1970s when my friend cy hirsch wrote a four part thing on Korshak for the new york times. This was [00:20:00] the first but you should look it up if you haven’t read it. It was really breakthrough stuff reporting this.
Gus Russo: He and his partner, Jeff Girth, spent maybe a year working on it. It was a big project and they interviewed dozens, if not hundreds of people, a lot of trips to Chicago, and they got that story originally about the bribery of Keith Hauber, and I took it another step further when I got my sources, but they broke that and You know it’s a great series of articles.
You should check it
Gary: out. Yeah, well, I’ve heard it I know say more of her. She’s pretty well respected. I mean that guy broke a lot of big stories Yeah Ended the vietnam war in some ways
Gus Russo: Right Well, you know he I can tell you a side story that isn’t well known about that you know, he was trying to get korshak for an interview for that.
I know sign he told me this story and And Korshak would never respond. And and so ultimately, they wrote the, they published the first installment in the New York Times. And then if I remember, [00:21:00] Cy got a, Cy Hirsch got a call from Korshak one day. And Korshak was kind of soft spoken, but very threatening.
And it went along the lines of, I’ll keep in mind, Psy had just done the My Lai Massacre Pulitzer Prize winning reporting and so Korshak calls him up and says, Mr. Hirsch, why are you doing this to me? And I don’t know what Psy said, but Korshak said, shouldn’t you be sticking with the things you’re good at like blood?
Think about blood, Mr. Mr. Hirsch. I want you to think about blood. That’s what you’re good at. And he kept saying it. And I said, man, a chill went through because he knew what he was talking about. So, and then he hung up. But he said, yeah, think about that, Mr. Hirsch. And they went forward, though, and they published the other articles.
Yeah, but
Gary: those mob guys, they love those indirect threats that you can’t really take.
Gus Russo: Oh, I had a, you know, I got to tell you, I hate that if we’re stuck for time, let me know, but I’ll tell you a great story like that. When I was working [00:22:00] in Chicago interviewing, I interviewed a lot of the wise guys and their families and the law enforcement, everybody.
And one of the top bodyguards for Sam Giancana was still alive. And he became friendly with me. He thought I was going to be fair to the gang and tell the whole story. And so he was always calling to see if I was okay. He would call me at the hotels. He would call me here in Maryland. Hey, everything okay, Gus Russo?
Anybody bothering you? Should I talk to anybody for you? You need anything? And it was the same thing. Well, there was Speaking, I’m getting to the point of the veiled threat. Yeah. Yeah. So when he, he, he called up or no Antoinette Giancana called me up one day and she said, how are things? I said, I think they’re real good.
And then passing, I said something about my publisher from one of my books, hasn’t been sending out his royalty statements and I can really could use the money. And she said, Oh, that’s too bad. So she hung up 10 minutes later, this. Guy calls me up this bodyguard. [00:23:00] I said, hey Gus Russo, I hear you’re having problems with your publisher He said he said I’ve already checked I can be in I can be in Baltimore 930 tomorrow morning You’ll have your money by 10.
How much does he owe you? Louie I said Louie uncle Louie uncle Louie, please. No, I don’t need this. He said no Gus Russo. No problem I said and this really is I think insightful I said Louie, I don’t need anybody coming here and threatening anybody, you know. He said, who do you think we are? We don’t threaten.
He said, he said, I said, well, what are you going to do? He said, I’ll just look him in the eye with a look he’s never seen before and say, please pay my friend and he will pay you. I guarantee it. There’ll be no guns, no threats, nothing. And it goes back to the old thing of the evil eye that these guys practice since they were a kids Meloy, the
Gary: Italian college.
Yeah. Melo. And,
Gus Russo: and he said, no. Who do you think we are? I’ll just look him in the eye and very nicely ask him for the money. .
Gary: I, I’ve got a friend today this kind of a reform mob associate, and, and he asked me to call his sister about [00:24:00] doing a, he wanted me to do a little favor. I. I don’t practice anymore, but I’m a lawyer, so I called her up to see what the deal was, and we were talking, and I said, well, you know, She said, well, I appreciate, you know, Steve asking to call me and I, you know, tried to help her out as best I could.
And she said, you know, she says I had to be careful about what kind of favors I ask him to do. I said, I understand that. Anything I ask him to do too.
Gus Russo: Well, that’s the thing when, when they like you, you’re sort of in the group and he never asked for a nickel. It wasn’t about money. It’s about like a blood oath or something.
Literally when I would arrive in Chicago, there’d be a note at the desk from uncle Louie saying, Gus Russo, everything taken care of, anybody bothering you, the same four questions, did you need any girls, need some liquor? No, Louie, I’m fine. So
Gary: speaking of Giancana, now, Chicago has this interesting setup, how, you know, Rika kind of in the background and Ricardo’s more up front, then Ricardo kind of drops back and, and Giancana is like the boss, you know, everybody to everybody [00:25:00] on the streets, there’s Giancana.
So how did Giancana relate with our friend Lou Ellen Humphreys? Transcribed by https: otter. ai
Gus Russo: Well, I mean, that’s a good question. I, I think that he was a bit jealous of I don’t think Sam was all that bright and he, he was a tough guy. He got there just by being tough, you know? And I think there was some resentment towards people like Korshak and Humphreys, and then they weren’t Italian, obviously.
And and there was, and the other thing was Humphreys. And Korshak and Ocardo all looked down on Giancana’s headline making stuff, going out with all the movie stars, Phyllis McGuire and everything. And there was always that tension there between Sam on the front pages and people like Humphreys, you know, who were way below the radar.
So that that was always a thing with them.
Gary: So who would Humphreys deal with the most? And it came to the Italian segment of the outfit as a boss that he, I mean, he didn’t, [00:26:00] it seemed like he didn’t really report to anybody when like a capo or a captain or have a crew or anything, it doesn’t seem like how, how was his relationship and who was it with mostly?
Well,
Gus Russo: according to his widow who knew a lot Gene Humphreys, who I was like, lucky to find. And it was direct. They called him Joe, Joe batters. They didn’t, nobody ever called him Tony Ocardo. It was Joe and, and, and it was a very, very tight relationship between Curly and, and, and Joe batters, Joe, Joe Ocardo.
And it’s funny when I first started talking to her, I was asking her questions. Questions about Tony and, and for a minute she didn’t know what I Oh, you mean Joe? And I said, oh, that, that explained to me that they, everybody called him Joe. Yeah. And and, and, but yeah, Humphreys answered directly.
It was Kors Shak answering to Humphreys and Humphreys answering to Acardo. was pretty much the best I can tell.
Gary: Okay, interesting. Yeah, they like that chain of command, if you will. They really like that chain of command, which of course keeps them from being directly involved with with certain things that other people do.
You got that. [00:27:00] Yeah, yeah. Huh. That’s interesting. You know, another thing I read something about was the, the tailor shop with the FBI Hidden Mike. And how did he deal, did he have to deal with Bill Romer or how was his relationship with the Bureau back in those days? In the early days of, you know, after 57, after they formed the top hoodlum squad.
Right. How did he deal with them? I know they had that hidden microphone in that tailor shop for a long time.
Gus Russo: Yeah. I mean, it was, it was, it was kind of a cat and mouse game. It’s strange. Humphrey is sort of like the the challenge of dealing with it, and, and, and Romer you know, same thing. These guys there was a, there was a grudging respect, if you read Romer’s books especially between You know Romer and and Humphreys, and Humphreys knew from the get go, because they had a, they actually had an FBI guy on the take, and they knew where the microphones were, for the most part, there were a couple they didn’t know, but they knew about the one in Stilano’s tailor shop, [00:28:00] and, you know, they’re, in the transcripts, you see where Murray would come in at nine in the morning some days, and For a meeting and he would lean towards the microphone, which was hidden in a radiator And he said I’d like to welcome everybody to the nine o’clock meeting of the Chicago Organized Crime Gang Knowing that these guys are gonna laugh down the street, right?
And 99 percent of the time if you look at organized crime Transcripts, they aren’t really talking about crime. Most of the time they’re talking about They’re diets. You’re putting on a few pounds. Yeah, how’s the house? What’s what’s the what’s the food like at Attica? You know and and I know that that chorus girl, you’re going around with you.
Better be careful. Your wife’s going to find out that was most of it. And these poor FBI guys had to type all this meaningless stuff up every night. And but Yeah, they knew a lot of that, where a lot of the microphones were, and do you remember the story when Romer and those guys planted the microphone in Solano’s?
Do you remember what happened there? You know,
Gary: I don’t know that story. It’s a funny
Gus Russo: story. But it was [00:29:00] illegal. You know, Hoover told these guys to do it, but they said, if you get caught, we can’t do anything. This is, these
Gary: are illegal bugs. We had one here in Kansas City where Nick Civella met us. Oh, there you
Gus Russo: go.
They were illegal then. Yeah, still, yeah. And so they would sneak in now Solano’s was on the second floor of Michigan Avenue of a townhouse or a shop. The lower floor was a restaurant. So they had to go in on a night, the FBI did, when the restaurant was closed. And I guess they went on a Sunday night or something, and they, they got up to the second floor where the tailor shop was, and they put the, they were going to put the first microphone in the floor boards between the restaurant ceiling, a roof or whatever, and the floor of the tailor shop.
Well, they fell through the roof, the ceiling, under the restaurant below, and Romer, Romer said they spent the rest of the night driving around Illinois trying to find a place where they could buy plaster and paint and fix this thing before the restaurant [00:30:00] opened. And he said it was like a Keystone Cops.
And then there was, you know, they would tail these guys and they, Murray Humphreys had the story of He was being followed in a car by the FBI guys, and it was obvious he knew, and, and he was just going to pick up groceries or going to, you know, go to them to a hardware store, whatever. It wasn’t mob stuff most of the time.
Yeah. But they were being followed. So he had his, he had a driver. So Murray had his driver pull over. And then the FBI, of course, pulls over behind him and Murray walks back to the FBI car and says, Hey, guys, you know, it’s getting kind of silly. We’re wasting gasoline here. Why don’t I send my driver home?
I’ll get in the car with you and I’ll tell you where I need
Gary: to go. You can save gas. Yeah.
Gus Russo: Supposedly, at least on that day, they laugh and they did it. They took him to the hardware store. So there was this kind of love hate thing going on, you know, they were hired to bring this thing down, but they had to respect the smarts of
Gary: people like Humphrey.
You know, he was, was he only charged with income [00:31:00] tax evasion? Of course, they get everybody for that, that they can’t get for something else. What other kind of charges did anybody ever get? Well,
Gus Russo: I mean, they were when he died, they were after him for not showing up for a grand jury or something. And, and But essentially it was taxes.
Sure. It was what they used to call ill gotten gains, you know, they, he had a house down in Key Biscayne. Where his wife mostly lived, Jean, and the FBI was prowling around down there. How does he afford a beachfront house in Key Biscayne? And it got to be a real issue with with his wife.
And she would call up Murray and say, Hey, and she called him M. Hey, M, why are these guys following me all of a sudden? These FBI guys, they’re everywhere. They’re not there. And so that was it. It was the ill gotten gains thing that really got him in trouble, I
Gary: think. Spending more money that you show income.
Yeah, exactly.
Gus Russo: That was always the problem. You know, that was in fact, there were stories of mob wives [00:32:00] in Chicago complaining. I think Giancana’s wife early on, she died young years earlier, but Before she had passed she was complaining that they had all this money and she’d say why don’t you ever take me to Europe on a vacation?
He said I can’t because they’ll know we got the money. Well, then what good’s the money?
So drove the wives crazy They were burying money. They were hiding money in the walls of their houses burying it in their backyards. Yeah, and the A friend told me that after his pass after Ricardo’s passing his wife His widow, Clarice, showed up at Marshall’s department store or something to buy a silver set trays, and, and tea and everything, and she pulled out all these 20 bills, and they were from, like, the 20s, they were all moldy, and it was clear they had been buried in the backyard, and she finally got access to them.
So you say, yeah, money was always a problem. What? You know, be careful what you wish for .
Gary: Yeah. Really. I think a lot of those guys was more about the game and the power and the lifestyle. [00:33:00] Yeah. Probably than it was about the money. The money’s just kind of the nice little reward that you get. But they liked the power.
Gus Russo: It was about Phyllis McGuire in Marilyn Monroe.
Gary: You needed, if you can get somebody a job or you get somebody a, yeah, get their court case fixed or. Take care of their traffic tickets or that kind of power. That’s one thing that unions were so good for. I know in Kansas City, like Nick Sabella and some of these underlings, you know, so you went to them or knew them or related.
You want a job. They got you a job on a dock down there in the, you know, in the teamsters union, they got you a job, at least on the dock right away. So it’s well,
Gus Russo: Mary Humphrey’s daughter Luella, she spent her last years going back and forth to Switzerland to try to find his Swiss bank account because it was, it was well known he had a net and that will probably never be found, but there’s money all around that will never be found in backyards in Switzerland and she thought she had the number of the, of the, of the safe deposit box, but she didn’t.
And so yeah, they just couldn’t spend the money. It was really a [00:34:00] weird thing.
Gary: So what would be, I guess, kind of, we’re getting down to the end here, what would be one more, a good story about,
Gus Russo: Oh, gee let me think. Well, you know, I always think of it and it’s in the book. They, when they became so powerful in Hollywood, they became friendly with all the movie stars and all the singers and they all knew these guys, even though the public never knew who Murray Humphreys was.
Yeah. And, and there’s a photo you may have seen in the, in the photo spread of the outfit. And again, where a picture says a thousand words about power. Luella in the early 50s wasn’t getting, didn’t have a date for the prom and she was complaining to her father, Oh daddy, I’m not going to be able to go to the senior dance or whatever.
And she said, he says, well, you want a date? I’ll get you a date. I’ll get somebody to take you. Who do you want? And she said, Frank Sinatra.
Murray picks up the phone and there’s, and there’s Sinatra. There’s a photo there. The family gave me of Sinatra at her prom. It’s in the photo spread. So, and this was at the [00:35:00] height of Sinatra, you know, he flies to Chicago to take this 16 year old to her dance.
Gary: That’s power. And.
Gus Russo: So that’s power. That’s just a great story.
You know, after we cut off, I’ll probably think of a hundred more, but they’re sort of everywhere. You know, these guys Giancana the time that Phyllis McGuire we’ll probably tell you, you probably don’t have time, but the best, one of the best stories takes a little bit of a setup. Oh,
Gary: we got time.
Go ahead. We got time.
Gus Russo: Okay, good. I became very close with Jean Humphreys and she was a wonderful source of information. She kept a 400 page journal of her life with Murray, and it’s priceless, because she’s a, she was a good writer, and she was in the middle of a lot of it. She wasn’t like home cooking.
She was a gangster herself. She was a wannabe. So, she forced Murray to tell her everything. Okay, so, When the Feds are cracking down on her in Key Biscayne, following her around and going to the house, she calls up Murray and complains, Why is Hoover doing this? He never bothered us all these years. Why is this happening?
And Murray said, I [00:36:00] can’t tell you, Blondie. And she argues with him. Alright, I’ll tell you something. We had him under control for a while. We we knew some things. What did you know? What did you have? I can’t tell you, Blondie. And she would always pester him, and it was a kind of a funny Lucy Desi relationship.
And eventually she would always get it out of him. Oh, we had a photograph. For a long time. And, and what kind of photo? I can’t tell you. Tell me or I’ll do this. So he said, okay, well, remember we used to go over to May Capone’s house and Al Capone’s house on Palm Island in Florida and deliver their money to them.
That’s one of the things they did. Al Hoover was going down there around Christmas with his boyfriend across the waterway. They rented a house for, with Clyde Tolson or whoever. And and so Hoover brought all these guys with telescopes to focus on Capone’s house across the water. And they and Capone got so pissed, he got his guys down there and got his guys to get telescopes looking back across at Hoover’s house.
And he said, Humphrey said to Gene [00:37:00] one day he left his drapes open. Yeah, and what? Well, we saw he was having sex and Gene said, Gene said, Well, it’s no big deal, everybody has sex. She said, Yeah, but he said, Yeah, but it was with a guy. And so they had that photo. That’s and they actually did a telephoto thing.
They got a photo of it. And allegedly this is according to gene who never lied to me. Yeah, this is how they controlled hoover And so gene said well what’s changed? Why is he after us all of a sudden? She said what stupid giancana? He gave a copy of it to sinatra. He gave it to bobby kennedy Now bobby’s blackmailing him
So that’s her version of why the feds cracked down in the late 50s That’s stupid giancana
Gary: That’s a good one. All right. Well, Gus Russo Russo, I really appreciate you coming on. Those have been some great stories and that’ll tantalize people to want to get some of your Chicago outfit books, particularly the outfit and super mom and the title that, you know, come off the top of my head for sure.
And you got a lot more And I’ll have links to it, guys. So I really appreciate you coming on and, and telling these stories, guys. [00:38:00] Oh, I
Gus Russo: appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me Garrett. My pleasure.
Gary: All right. Well, guys, you know, I like to ride motorcycles, so watch out for motorcycles when you’re out there.
And don’t forget if you have a problem with PTSD and you’ve been in the service, go to the VA website and get that hotline number and. Drug and alcohol addiction usually goes hand in hand with PTSD. So, you know, former Gambino soldier, Anthony Ruggiano, works in a treatment center down in Florida. He has a hotline on his website, so if you want to partake of his services, why, you know, give him a shout.
Give me a call. If you ever do that, I’d be interested to know how that went for you. And don’t forget to like, and subscribe, or give us a review on the podcast, the apps, the audio apps, and keep coming back. We’ll put a story out every week and, and Gus Russo, I really appreciate these have been some great stories.
I’ve been wanting to get you on for a long time. So thanks. Oh, my
Gus Russo: pleasure. I’ll do it anytime you need me. Yeah. My, my pleasure here. A lot of fun.

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