Luna Park was a gigantic amusement park built in the early 1900's. It was located at East 110th and Woodland Cleveland, Ohio where the carnival lovers from all over the city as well as many Cleveland mobsters frequented.
While sky rockets and flairs were being shot off in the park; on the opposite side of the street gun fire between mobsters was almost a nightly occurrence. This area became known as “The Bloody Corner." Blood ran down the street gutters like rain water when the warring factions were attempting to eliminate their competition.
Benny Iacampo grew up in this "survivor of the fitness" environment." Left to fend for himself at the ripe age of 14 when his father Carmen hastily returned to Italy after he and "Uncle Louie", his pistol, put out the lights of a barber who lost the ball busting contest with the old man. Benny learned at a very young age that he better learn how to deal with the elements or the corrupted streets would gobble him up. Many times he slept in hallways or any other free place he could lay his head down; most times he didn't know where his next meal was coming from.
Because of his streets savvy and his unwillingness to co-operate with the cops on a crime he had witnessed between the Porello and Lonardo families, he was given a job at a speakeasy hustling drinks by one of the mobsters. Benny met people from all walks of life at Luna Park from priests to gangsters, such as Packy East (Bob Hope), his good friend Jesse Owens, Father William O'Donnell and every just about every hood in town.
As a consequence of a foolish mistake he made, Benny did a stretch in Mansfield prison where he became a trustee/mediator and the warden's driver. One day while walking with the warden, the warden turned to Ben and said ” Hey Benny, I left my gun in the glove compartment, go get it for me." Ben looked at the boss, smiled, turned around and retrieved the loaded weapon.
After being released from the "cross bar hotel" Benny was recommended for employment by the warden to a man named Frank Converse. Converse was the head of Local 18 Operating Engineers and owned Great Lakes Construction Co. Because of his disdain and unwavering stand against the mob, Converse had half of his face blow off by thugs that tried to infiltrate his union.
While working for Converse Benny put his nose to the grind stone. His experiences in "the slams" really turned his life around. Down the road, despite his lack of a college education and against all odds, he eventually became one of the most powerful union leaders in the City of Cleveland during the 1950s through the 1970s.
The Mafia tried to control everything in the city but mainly the lucrative rubbish industry, as well as the unions because of their "very healthy" pension funds. They would stop at nothing, including "wacking" each-other or anyone that got in their way. The bombings and murders became so frequent in the city that Cleveland was national known as "Bomb City USA" as a result of in 36 bombings in one year alone.
Not by choice but by chance, Benny was thrown into this den of thieves and killers and had to walk a very tight rope to maintain his steadfast position of honesty and trying to keep his union mob free.
Through all the adversity Benny maintained his honesty and integrity and was one of the most well respected union men in the business, even by his opposition, always maintaining, "I may have to break bread with them but I will never sleep with them."
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Marty Iacampo Sr.