Carlos Marcello The Man Behind the JFK Assassination (English edition: Enigma Books, 2013) (Italian edition: Editori Riuniti, 2013) by Stefano Vaccara.
New Orleans is the true birthplace of the Sicilian mafia in America. Carlos Marcello controlled organized crime in Louisiana and across the Southeast in the 1950s and ’60s. He was untouchable until he met the Kennedy Brothers. Once Robert Kennedy became attorney general, Marcello was deported to Guatemala and swore to seek revenge. It became a duel to the death. Marcello found his “patsy,” a former marine with a Russian wife. Lee Harvey Oswald was the perfect fall guy but he never pulled the trigger.
The author in conversation with: Joseph LaPalombara, Yale University George De Stefano, author Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò New York University February 26, 2014
After successfully overthrowing the government during the Spanish Civil War, Francisco Franco installed a brutal military dictatorship which saw tens of thousands imprisoned or executed during his regime. Known as “El Caudillo” (which translates to “the Leader”), Franco also banned the Basque and Catalan languages, along with every religion besides Catholicism.
But when he wasn’t having his secret police apprehend civilians – or maybe while he was? – Franco was a fan of painting outdoor scenes on canvas. The paintings, which his own grandson will tell you “were not great works of art,” were of course done in the vein of realism, because getting nuanced work from a military dictator is probably a bridge too far.
Imelda Marcos is the widow of Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator and president of the Philippines (1966-1986). Ferdinand had a pretty dark start in politics: in 1935 he was found guilty of assassinating his father’s campaign rival for national assembly, but he was later acquitted and rose all the way up to the presidency, where his authoritarian regime was known for corruption and lavish spending.
Imelda Marcos received an official position in her husband’s regime, one that allowed her to hook up her friends and relatives with lucrative government positions. Imelda herself was also severely in on the take, acquiring over 1,200 pairs of shoes, all of which she had to leave behind when the Filipino people rose up in 1986, forcing her and Ferdinand to flee to an actually pretty cushy exile in Hawaii.
In 1919, Benito Mussolini founded Italy’s Fascist Party – a new faction which broke away from socialist ideals and promoted nationalism and extreme right-wing policies. By 1925, he was the nation’s dictator and effectively the sole ruler. Along with his buddies, Adolf Hitler and Francisco Franco, Mussolini was part of a legendary triumvirate of sh*theads that were basically a living, breathing newspaper comments section of racist uncles. The end of World War II was not kind to that trio, however, and in 1945, Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and killed, along with his mistress Claretta Petacci, by firing squad.
A few bullets to the skull, however, were not all that Claretta and Benito shared. He also wrote her a ton of insanely sexual letters, which were unearthed in 2009.
Mussolini, who was barely five-feet tall, was incredibly confident when it came to sending thirsty messages. He had no qualms shooting out erotic passages like:
I tremble in telling you, but I have a feverish desire for your delicious little body which I want to kiss all over. And you must adore my body, your giant…
There really isn’t much subtlety with fascism.
Mao Zedong, founder of the People’s Republic of China, is technically the greatest mass murderer in history. In 1958, Mao brought forth (and ruthlessly enforced) “The Great Leap Forward,” which was a plan to catch China up to the economy of the western world. Unfortunately, this plan came with mass famine, starvation, torture, and systematic violence, which included making people work nude in the dead of winter, and parents burying their own children alive. All told, 45 million people died during Mao’s reign, a body count that remains unmatched by any other historical despot.
But the guy just loved poetry. Chairman Mao – though he persecuted many Chinese writers and had countless books burned – was an avid reader, as well as a bit of a writer. He wrote over 30 poems, usually in the format of the ancient Chinese style. Ironically, he would have forbidden one billion people from every reading his work, due to his principles, but who isn’t self-conscious about their poetry?
In 1971, Idi Amin overthrew the Ugandan government and installed himself as leader. During his eight-year reign, he would massacre over 400,000 civilians, often by forcing them to bludgeon one another to death with sledgehammers at the hands of his death squads. In 1979, Amin fled to Saudi Arabia, where he lived the rest of his days in exile – never facing any consequences for his crimes against humanity – before passing away in 2003.
But there was another side to Idi Amin. More than a tyrant, more than a mad man, Idi Amin was a guy who just loved slapstick comedy. He was apparently an avid fan of children’s cartoons, most specifically Tom and Jerry – you know, the one where the larger, menacing figure seeks to destroy the smaller, ostensibly defenseless one?