Like a feudal lord, gang kingpin Ruggiero “Richie the Boot” Boiardo reigned in splendor, and wanted the world to know it.
The road past his home in Livingston, New Jersey, was flanked by a pedestal on which stood a dozen painted busts of his family, staring blank-eyed like porcelain dolls. A statue of Boiardo himself, astride a white horse, towered over them. Vegetables and flowers grew in a grassy expanse marked by a sign, “Godfather’s Garden.” A long driveway through the woods led to his sprawling citadel, a stone mansion that Life magazine called “Transylvanian traditional” and featured in a 1967 photo spread.
Somewhere on these 17 acres, it was rumored, lay an incinerator where Boiardo disposed of his foes. “Stay away from there,” one of his lieutenants, Anthony “Little Pussy” Russo, once said with a shudder.