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June 2003

The 'Sopranos' Trial

Part Four: Is ‘Wiggles’ The Real-Life ‘Bada Bing Club?’

By James Ridgway de Szigethy


     It’s a nudie club that for many years was run by the Acting Boss of the New Jersey Mafia Family. Is it the ‘Bada Bing Club’ from the HBO hit series THE SOPRANOS? No. Instead, it’s a business which may be the real-life inspiration for the ‘Bada Bing Club’ and it is known by the titillating name ‘Wiggles.’

     The saga of ‘Wiggles’ has unfolded in Federal Court in Manhattan where 3 members of the DeCavalcante Mafia Family are on trial on racketeering and murder charges. Members of this Family, which operates mostly in New Jersey, have been caught on tape admiring THE SOPRANOS and how they believe the writers of this program are portraying their actual deeds in the series. The ‘Sopranos’ trial has been rocked by stunning disclosures on the Witness Stand by former members who are testifying against their alleged accomplices in exchange for reduced sentences. On day four of his testimony, former Acting Boss Vincent "Vinnie Ocean" Palermo stunned Prosecutors by disclosing that he had just remembered that he had forgotten to tell them about $1.7 million in cash he gave his son shortly before his arrest in 1999. Such continued deception on Palermo’s part after his arrest was seized upon by the criminal attorneys for the 3 Defendants in their cross-examination and closing arguments before the jury. Prosecutors could eventually drop Palermo from the Witness Protection Program, as well as charge Palermo and/or his son with income tax evasion.

     The money secreted away to Palermo’s son were proceeds from Palermo’s nudie club "Wiggles." In THE SOPRANOS, much of the conspiring amongst the Associates of the Mafia Family takes place inside the strip joint ‘Bada Bing.’ There are differences, however, between "Wiggles" and the fictional "Bada Bing Club." Wiggles is located in New York, whereas Bada Bing is located in New Jersey. Bada Bing is a topless club whereas Wiggles is a full nude club, which, under New York law, means the club cannot serve alcoholic beverages. The testimony of "Vinnie Ocean" did not reveal whether Mafia ‘business’ transpired inside the club, nor who the current owner of Wiggles is. A call to Wiggles’ phone number reveals that the number has been disconnected.

     Wiggles is not the only adult entertainment club to be mentioned in the current ‘Sopranos’ trial. This trial got off to a sensational start with the admission by Prosecution Witnesses that members of the DeCavalcante Family murdered their own Acting Boss, John D’Amato, because the acting Godfather was having sex with other men at sex clubs. The clubs in question are ‘Swingers’ clubs that operate in the New York/New Jersey area, many of which are run by the Mafia. Such clubs require admission to couples only, thus ensuring an equal number of women to men in attendance. Most of the sexual activity in such clubs involves ‘wife swapping,’ but sometimes in ‘back rooms’ ‘anything goes.’ D’Amato was said to be frequenting such clubs with his girlfriend, who complained to DeCavalcante Associates that "Johnny Boy" was sometimes having sex with other men in the clubs. Fearing their Family would not be respected by New York’s Five Mafia families if they found out about D’Amato’s behavior, Associates of the New Jersey Mafia decided to murder their acting Godfather.

     Testimony regarding this and other murders and murder conspiracies was just as chilling as the treacherous acts depicted in THE SOPRANOS, events detailed in the series before the 3 men currently on trial were indicted. The first two seasons also depicted ‘boiler room’ stock ‘pump and dump’ scams which were described in detail during this trial by Prosecution Witness Victor DiChiara. Also depicted in the HBO series was a plot line that seems to be a curious twist on the story of the murder of Acting Boss John D’Amato; in that episode a power play was revealed by Tony Soprano against his Uncle "Junior," the Acting Boss of the Family, who was engaged in sexual activity that Tony regarded to be ‘unmanly.’ "Junior" responded to Tony’s taunts by entertaining thoughts of murdering his own nephew.

     In recent years, other adult entertainment clubs with ties to the Mafia have made headlines throughout America. Two such tied to the Gambino Mafia Family were SCORES, which operates on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side, and the Gold Club of Atlanta, Georgia. In 1996 a Bouncer and a Waiter were murdered at Scores during a dispute with two patrons of the strip club. In 2001, Gold Club owner Steve Kaplan accepted a plea bargain to end a racketeering trial that featured the testimony of professional baseball and basketball stars who admitted to receiving free sex acts from strippers inside the club.

     It is a standard Mafia practice going back many decades for members of organized crime to offer free sex and drugs to young athletes, usually those on college sports teams, as a means of eventually luring these young men into lucrative ‘points-shaving’ schemes that net the Mafia millions of dollars through their gambling rackets. The enormous salaries that professional athletes receive should not put such athletes in the same vulnerable position that young, impoverished college athletes frequently find themselves in. Far too many such young American athletes have found that when the American Mafia is involved, there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch,’ or ‘free sex.’

...To be continued

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    J. R. de Szigethy
    New York

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    James Ridgway de Szigethy can be reached at JAMESDE@prodigy.net.


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