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Big-T & the Bada-Bings


Making The Wiseguys Weep:
The Jimmy Roselli Story

By David Evanier

Sinatra may have taken well-publicized heat for supposedly being in bed with the Mafia; however, if you really look between those sheets, singer Jimmy Roselli is who you'll find. That's according to David Evanier, who penned Making the Wiseguys Weep (Farrar Straus & Ciroux), which tells the tale of another crooner out of Hoboken, New Jersey, who—not in spite of, but because of his mob ties—consistently found mainstream success just out of his reach. Roselli, whose two-octave range made him opera-class vocal material, suffered lifelong animosity with the Chairman, who grew up a few doors down from him. In fact, he apparently suffered lifelong animosity with most people, most importantly the neighborhood wiseguys, who routinely packed the outer-borough houses houses to see Roselli, helping him command tens of thousands of dollars for a show, but still kept a tight leash on the singer and nipped his rising star in the bud during the heyday of his career by forcing a complete radio blackball. The book examines how Roselli made millions singing pop standards and Italian-language tearjerkers in the '60s and '70s while remaining in virtual obscurity due to mob pressure. Sinatra may have been rumored to pal around with Sam Giancana, but it was Roselli who sang at his son's wedding—they wanted to keep him for their own. Evanier gets under the skin of the practical and psychological issues that precluded Roselli's fame; it's a Mafia-underdog story of the highest order, with the belligerent Roselli shining through as a kind of Rocky of crooners, who never got his shot at the title.

—Alison Fensterstock

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