Russell Shorto

Russell Shorto -Johnstown Mob

Gary interviews the author of Smalltime: A story of My Family and the Mob. Mr. Shorto is the namesake and grandson of Johnstown Mafia gambler and long-time close associate of Youngstown Pennsylvania boss, Joseph (Little Joe Ragno) Regino. The grandson, Russell Sorto grew up knowing there was something dark and mysterious about his grandfather but the family never talked about this. As an adult, Mr. Shorto has become a successful author of non-fiction books. But, not in the true crime genre with titles like  Revolution Song: A Story of the American Revolution, New Amsterdam: A History of America’s most Liberal City, Descarte’s Bones, and the Island at the Center of the World.      He has also written extensively for the New York Times. As an adult, an older relative encouraged Mr. Shorto to use his research and writing skills to investigate this secretive relative.  Francis Ford Coppola said, “Russell Shorto’s Smalltime draws a convincing portrait of a time when Italian Americans weren’t permitted to live in certain neighborhoods or rise too high in the political firmament. This remembrance of his grandfather’s and great-uncle’s lives―of slots and pinball machines, ‘tip seals,’ ‘skeeched dice,’ and places like the Melodee Lounge and City Cigar―mixes great history and lovely, lingering memories: ‘Long conversations about spaghetti sauce and aunts who kissed you on the lips: those were the ways we were Italian.’”

Johnstown Mob

Mr. Shorto’s namesake grandfather, Russell Shorto became an important figure in the gambling world of Johnstown in the post-war era because an important mafia figure, Joseph (Little Joe Ragno) Regino married his sister, Millie Shorto in 1932. At that time future Pittsburgh Mob Boss Sebastiano (John) LaRocca lived two doors down from his friend and fellow mob member Joe Regino. Joe Regino became his Capo de Decina in Johnstown. Regino made sizeable contributions to political campaigns and this opened up gambling in Johnstown. This is where Mr. Shorto’s grandfather and brother-in-law of the mob boss, Joe Regino, got his life career of helping to run Johnstown gambling rackets.


Show Notes by Gary Jenkins

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2 thoughts on “Russell Shorto”

  1. David Zamperini

    Hey Gary,

    I really liked this episode. I bought the book Smalltime and it was very well written, great story. I’m from western Pa, is there any chance you can do some stories on small town western pa mob or the LaRocca family out of Pittsburgh? I am working my way through your back catalogue of podcasts and have about 45 more to get current.

    Thanks for all the work you do. Great podcast.

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