FAMED ACTOR STARTED BOSTON IRISH GANG WAR OF 1960.
Updated: Apr 5
Alessandro Petricone Jr. That name may not sound too familiar to you, but I bet Alex Rocco does. The Godfather genre fans will know who Alex Rocco is, without hesitation. How about Moe Green? Comedy fans might know him as the heavy with Michael Gazzo (also of Godfather fame) as the two "can't do anything right bumbling gangsters", in Cannoball Run II. Perhaps a quote from that film will leads us to the point. "I love being a GANGSTER."
Rocco was a gifted actor, and perhaps played the mafia role close to his vest, and for good reason. At one time Rocco, then known as Alessandro Petricone, was a member or at least on the fringe of the infamous Winter Hill Gang.
The Winter Hill Gang, operated out of North Boston and was a mix of Irish and Italian hoodlums. The gang, formed by James "Buddy" McLean, was a powerhouse, which ultimately would lead to James "Whitey" Bulger taking over the gang. Some of the more notable members were: Buddy McLean, John Motorano, James Bulger, Howie Winter, Joe McDonald, Pat Nee, and Alessandro Petricone. Bulger wouldn't take over the Winter Hill Gang until 1979, but prior to that, there was a war going on.
The main competition for the Winter Hill Gang was the McLaughlin Gang, or The Charlestown Mob. The gang was led and founded by Bernie McLaughlin, and spearheaded by his brothers George, and Eddie. The Hughes brother's (Connie/Stevie) Will Delaney, Harry Hannon, William Bennett, Edward Bennett, John Shackelford, Frank Murray, Leo Lowry, Ron Dermody and Joe "Rockball" O'Rourke. All heavyweights at the time. By many accounts the Winter Hill Gang was the most powerful group in Boston at the time.
While the gangs seemed to coexist for some time, it took an incident during Labor Day weekend of 1961, involving Petricone, that began the Irish Gang War which lasted for six years. Petricone was in Salisbury Beach with his then girlfriend when George McLaughlin approached Petricone's girlfriend and began hitting on her directly in front of Petricone. Words were exchanged, and McLaughlin could care less what Petricone thought. Whatever argument ensued, Petricone went back to his crew and informed them of what happened. Shortly after McLaughlin was caught, and beaten with pipes repeatedly for his disrespect and ill advances towards a street guys girlfriend. Then they tossed McLaughlin in the trunk of a car dropping his lifeless body off in front of a local hospital.
Bernie McLaughlin, enraged that his brother was almost killed, asked for a meeting with Buddy McLean. At the meeting McLaughlin demanded that McLean hand over all participants to him. McLean would refuse. McLaughlin let it go for the time being but shortly after an explosive device was found underneath McLean's wife's car. McLean enraged then took Petricone and shot and killed McLaughlin outside of the Morning Glory bar in Charlestown in October 1961. Shortly after both Petricone and McLean were arrested and questioned in the murder. Many have speculated that it was Petricone who pulled the trigger. Both would be released, and McLean would go back to business and Petricone fled to California, only to change his name and lay low.
Petricone also known as "Bobo" to the boys, had been involved in shakedowns, loansharking, and among other things narcotics. Not much has been really told or explained to the extent in which Petricone was involved in the mafia. It seems as if, once the trigger got pulled in Charlestown, he split, fearing being charged for murder. Even though Petricone would change his name to Alex Rocco, he would go on to have a brilliant career as a writer and actor, and always kept close ties to Boston, and specifically Howie Winter as the two were lifelong friends. We may never know who really pulled the trigger, but based on some people I do know in that area, they all seem to believe that Petricone was the shooter, and that "he didn't just run off," he was told to "take a vacation," however that vacation turned into a career change.