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Feature Articles


June 2016
I Wannabe A Wannabe

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus


Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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[The classic wannabe is depicted in the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), starring the comic actor Danny Kaye in the role of Walter Mitty. Henpecked and harassed, Mitty escapes into a vivid imagination, engaging in exciting and impossible escapades, including being a RAF fighter pilot.]

If I might risk a metaphor, getting an introduction to the mafia is like a kid who builds an exclusive treehouse in his backyard, which by its very nature requires finesse and a certain degree of chutzpa to knock on the door. There is the makeshift ladder that has its challenges—and once at the portal you will need the secret knock to achieve entrance into the inner sanctum. There is the problem of certification. Not any Tom, Dick or Harry need apply. You do not see a welcome mat. And there is the question of ethnic purity. I can assure you the right credentials are hard to fake. We’re not talking Boy Scouts or the Campfire Girls. And then there is the loyalty clause. There are no ifs, buts about it. Once in there is no getting out, except feet first. We’re talking utter loyalty to the depths of your criminal soul—total dedication to the tasks set before you. When you are summoned, you must drop everything, day or night, Christmas or your Saint’s Day, no matter if you have to cut into whatever your mother-in law is gabbing about; to be at the beck and call of the most highly bunch of hardnoses that evolution has ever perfected. Your only loyalty is to your second Family. Capisce? What I am saying is this is no slice of prosciutto. That Mitty character, whoever he was, would have fallen off the ladder after two rungs. “This thing of ours,” listen carefully, is structurally anchored in the very bedrock of Sicilian history, from the early days, when waves of foreigners established beachheads on Sicilian soil and subjected the natives to never-ending servitude. Out of that turbulent history was created a perfect criminal model that in modern times is being used not only as the standard in comparing other delinquent groups, but also, on a more universal level, indicating groupings that are (somewhat sinister) well practiced and successful in their endeavors. Well, if the possibility arises of an invitation into those noble ranks, I must admit a certain hesitation. Yet, I grow weak at the thought of the privileges thereby obtained—sporting a bespoke suit, a well-practiced swagger. You can walk the streets with impunity. Who is going to mess with a guy who is, as they say, “Connected”? Wherever you go the Red Sea parts. All before you is your domain. But I am engaged in a fantasy. What respectable mob would have me? For a wannabe it is at best titillation, my mafia of the imagination; all a product of watching too many reruns of the cinematic, stylish Sicilian racketeers as depicted in The Godfather film. There they are, on the silver screen: untouchable, suave, yet tough guys, who become enriched with ease, get respect from all, engage in personal vendettas at will, the authorities “in their pockets”. In full, they do damn well what they please. Hey, what’s not to like? My heart beat accelerates—the glamor, the romance, the thrill of the chase, it’s all there. “Don’t forget the cannolli!” “We’re going to the mattresses.” The wannabe imagination is a wonderful thing and the perfect antidote to a dull existence. “Ya lookin’ at me?” “Yes, I am taking your measure. An issue, perchance?”


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