Pop Goes The Weasel: The Education of Marvin Elkind

By Robert Ecksel on August 12, 2013
Pop Goes The Weasel: The Education of Marvin Elkind
“Albert Anastasia was a mean miserable bastard,” said The Weasel. “I hated his guts.”

Seventy-nine-year-old Marvin “The Weasel” Elkind is living proof that the fickle finger of fate can be one of several digits…

Every few years the ghost of James Hoffa rears its ugly head. The whereabouts of Hoffa, who ran the Teamsters from 1957 to 1971 and who disappeared under mysterious circumstances thirty-eight years ago at the age of sixty-two, is one of life’s great unsolved mysteries. The latest appearance, or nonappearance, of the Teamster boss came courtesy of eighty-five-year-old Tony Zerilli, an ex-con and reputed mob underboss who swore he knew where Hoffa was buried.

Like clockwork somebody emerges from the shadows claiming to know the whereabouts of Hoffa’s remains. In 1982 a self-described mafia hitman named Charles Allen said that Hoffa’s body was “ground up in little pieces, shipped to Florida and thrown into a swamp.” In 1989, Donald “Tony the Greek” Frankos claimed that Hoffa was buried under Giants Stadium. Detroit police in 2004 tore up a house where one-time Hoffa ally, Frank Sheeran, said he had Hoffa killed; there was blood on the floorboards but it wasn’t Hoffa’s. New Jersey hit man Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski claimed that he killed Hoffa and dumped his body in a car that was sold as scrap metal.

There have been other tips, leads, and claims, but they didn’t amount to a hill of beans, even less a bag of bones.

But Zerilli was supposed to be different. He is the son of former Detroit mob boss Joseph Zerilli. Hoffa’s 1975 abduction occurred in a restaurant parking lot 20 miles north of the Motor City, where he was going to meet with Detroit mob enforcer Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone and Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano, a captain in the Genovese crime family and vice president of Teamsters Local 560 in Union City, New Jersey.

The meeting didn’t go as planned, at least as Hoffa had planned. He was never seen or heard from again.

According to Zerilli’s attorney David Chasick, “This was a guy who was intimately involved with some of the players who would be well informed as to where the body would be placed. This has finally come to an end. It has been an arduous project to get to this point. Hoffa’s body is somewhere in that field, no doubt about it.”

Chasick provided a twenty-one page manuscript by Zerilli to bolster his claim. Zerilli said Hoffa was dragged out of his car, bound, gagged, and hit on the head with a shovel, before being buried alive under a cement slab in a barn on farm twenty-five miles north of Detroit. “In the movies, people drive around with bodies in a trunk, and put them in meat grinders, and incinerators, bury them in stadiums, put them through wood chippers,” wrote Zerilli. “Those things just don’t happen in real life, at least not in the real mob life.”

The FBI sprang into action. Andrew Arena, who headed the FBI office in Detroit before retiring in 2012, said, “I still don’t know if this was a guess on his part. I don’t know if he was actually brought here by the Detroit family. It’s his position as the reputed underboss. That’s the significance.”

A backhoe was put to work. A cadaver dog, rumored to make lovable pets, was sniffing around the alleged crime scene. But it was all for naught. Zerilli’s tale was another red herring, another bum steer.

I am less interested in James Riddle Hoffa than in the fascination with James Riddle Hoffa, and the afterglow of the Teamsters, the mob, celebrity and violent death. Hoffa was no angel. He was imprisoned for fraud and jury tampering, before being released in 1971 after President Nixon commuted his sentence. But Hoffa—whether alive or dead—seems to have an iron grip on the collective imagination. The collective imagination might cling perilously onto more significant things, but imagination is as imagination does.

Marvin Elkind, aka The Weasel, knew Hoffa. He was Jimmy Hoffa’s driver. The seventy-nine-year-old Weasel is living proof that the fickle finger of fate can be one of several digits. He has done things and gone places where more cautious men might fear to tread. He was immersed in boxing. He was immersed in the mob. He was immersed in law enforcement. Considering all that immersion, it’s amazing he didn’t end up swimming with the fishes.

I was eager to hear his firsthand account of Hoffa, but wanted to start at the beginning. The Weasel was born and raised in Canada. A troubled youth, the genes vs. environment, nature vs. nurture dialectic applies to Marvin Elkind. His father was, among other things, a career criminal, and as the old saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“To tell you the truth,” Marvin said, “I don’t remember him too well. I have vague memories of him. I was only three when he disappeared. My mother married his brother when he disappeared. She had no trouble doing it because she and my real father were never really legally married. They were married by a rabbi in Europe, but never by any government deals. There was a rabbi who was very prominent in Toronto in those years by the name of Rabbi Gordon. So all she had to do, she went to him and he granted her the right to get remarried. But my uncle, who was my stepfather, we had an AWFUL relationship. It might have been my fault, but we had a very bad relationship. My real father I did some research on and found out some very bad things. I heard that he was the getaway driver in a bank robbery and he hightailed it, he got away and went back to Russia. And I looked into it later when I got older, as much as I could, and I found out that he committed a crime in Russia and got executed. That’s all I really know. My issue was really with my stepfather. They said I was a threat to my siblings; I had a half-brother and half-sister, same mother, different father.”

Marvin denies that he was ever a threat to his siblings, but he got into plenty of fights when he was a kid.

“My family were Orthodox Jews and I went to school in a non-Jewish area, maybe ninety percent Italian. Anti-Semitism was very popular. I was getting beat up outside the schoolyard on a regular basis. Jewish kids had to learn either how to fight or how to run fast. I was a very good street fighter, eventually. I learned how to street fight out of necessity.”

All that fighting didn’t look good on Marvin’s record, a record that would grow as the years progressed.

“My stepfather had a friend of his—it actually was his landlord—who had a tailor shop and who was a very big man in those days, Dr. Clendenan. They even named a street after him. And through him they managed get me to become a ward of the Children’s Aid Society. In those days, and I’m going back seventy years, the Jewish community in Toronto was much, much smaller than it is today and everybody knew everybody. The Jews from the Holocaust had not arrived here at that time. So when I became a ward of Children’s Aid, they wanted to put me in a foster home and they had to tell whatever foster home I was going into why I was going, why I was being put in foster care, which was behavioral problems, and no family wanted me because of the trouble. And I wound up being with an Italian family, which eventually led to my whatever you want to call it, future, career, whatever you want to call it.”

I’m not inclined to call Elkin’s “whatever you want to call it” by any other name, least of all the potentially respectable “future” or “career.”

Mama mia

“I only got in trouble with the law when I moved in with the Pasquales,” Marvin told me. “When I got there, I wanted very badly to fit in. When I arrived there I got scared because I saw what was going on. Mama Pasquale had three other foster kids. She had five of her own, all teenagers. She kept the strap in her pocket there. Anytime she got mad at somebody, that’s what she used. A lot of chaos. And I really wanted to be accepted by her. She used to take me to church with her every Sunday. She used to introduce me to everybody as her ‘bambino’—but I had to sleep with her every night. It was a crazy situation. They changed my name when I was there, at my urging, from Marvin Elkind to Mario Pasquale. The reason for that was my survival skills jumped in right away.”

Survival is the name of the game, and The Weasel played it like an old pro, even though he was only nine years old.

“I was small for my age in those days,” recalled Elkin. “I had fat, chubby cheeks, which I guess she liked. And one night I was lying in bed and her daughter Norma comes in the room and says, ‘Mario, Mario, mother wants you.’ So I get up there and I go in and I did what I thought was going to favor me. And it did to a great extent. She says, ‘Mario, you’ve been a very bad boy today.’ I didn’t know what the hell I did. She says, ‘Take off your pajamas.’ I did and she said, ‘Mama’s going to spank you.’ And she spanked me, not really that hard, and she said ‘get into bed.’ She made me get into bed nude, and she spent the whole night rubbing my rear end, saying, ‘Mama’s going to make it better. Mama will make it better. Mama had to spank you. Mama will make it better.’ At the time, I really didn’t pick up what was going on. The next day I was SO CAREFUL not to do anything wrong. That night the same thing happened—and I knew the ballgame right away. This was it. I handled it mentally this way. I used to say to myself, ‘Well, it may be a fat old lady, but at least it’s a lady,’ and I used to bury my head in the pillow and imagine I was someplace else. I knew what was going on was wrong. I didn’t like it. But I never complained. I never said anything to anybody. This went on for the whole two years I was there. And that led to my outsmarting myself and getting screwed up.”

Of Mama Pasquale’s many children, foster and otherwise, Marvin was closest to her oldest son Roy, who was nineteen at the time, and who Marvin “couldn’t stand, who I definitely was scared of. But I associated with him until they bumped him off years later.”

When Marvin/Mario moved into the Pasquale home, Roy, who along with his younger brother Rudy was “big into boxing,” had just been released from prison for armed robbery. When he wasn’t threatening to beat up his new foster brother, he was mentoring his new foster brother, and The Weasel absorbed Roy’s knowledge like a sponge.

“I got into trouble with a couple of other guys in the neighborhood who were older than me but took me along mainly because of being involved with the Pasquales. We were caught breaking into grocery stores, B & E, and we had to go to court and I got a Jewish judge by the name of Waisberg who took a dislike to me. The Canadian Jewish Congress gave me a lawyer named Owney Brown and I said to him, ‘What’s going to happen today Mr. Brown?’ He says, ‘You’re only eleven. This is your first offense. The worst that will happen to you is they’ll send you away for a year. That’s the worst. But I can probably make it so you’ll get less or not even go away at all. You’ll only get so many strokes of the strap.’ So I said, ‘What happens if I go away for a year?’ He says, ‘Well then, you can’t go back to the same foster home.’ I thought, there’s a way of getting out of there, so I made up my mind, I’ve got to make this judge send me away for a year.

“The trial went on for three days. They used to keep us, me and the two other little guys, Tommy McDermott and Les Irwin, they were both fourteen years old, they kept us in the Don Jail, not with adults, but in a basement by ourselves. We used to play dodge ball down there, throwing a ball at each other and trying to get away, and I got hit in the eye. And when we’re in court, Judge Waisberg looks at me and said, ‘What happened to your eye that made you look so ugly?’ I grabbed the opportunity. I says, ‘I was playing dodge ball. What’s your excuse?’ When it comes time for sentencing the judge says, ‘I’m sending the three of them, until they’re sixteen.’ I almost fell out of my fucking chair. I says to my lawyer, ‘Mr. Brown, what does that mean?’ He said, ‘It means you’re going to reform school until you’re sixteen.’ I said, ‘But I’m eleven. That’s five years.” He says, ‘That’s right.’ I said, ‘But you told me the most I would get is a year.’ He said, ‘That was before you opened your big mouth.’”

Reform school of hard knocks

Elkind and his partners in crime were sent to a reform school in Bowmanville. It started as a reform school in 1925, but during World War II they turned Bowmanville into a prisoner-of-war camp. Once the war was over, it was changed back to a reform school “but they kept the same staff!” Marvin said. “The same guys that guarded the prisoners-of-war guarded us. Oh shit. Christ. I came in the first day and was so fucking scared. It was hell on earth. They tried to intimidate you as much as they could. Those sons of bitches were mean, filthy, no-good, lowdown sick bastards. We were considered in those days property, so they could do what they wanted to do to you and it was a very bad situation. There were two hundred fifty of us—and I was the only Jewish kid. But I did what I could to survive it. From the first day I attached myself to the biggest and toughest guy at the school. Remember, in those days strapping children wasn’t just allowed. It was encouraged. When they used to strap us it was called S and S, stripped and strapped. They would lay you over a table and strap you. It was also called 4-12. You got a minimum of four and a maximum of twelve Because of this guy Cavanaugh, who you might say was my protector there, I used to do what he told me to do. He used to tell me to taunt the guards, to look at it when they strapped me as a CHALLENGE. He taught me how not to cry. I didn’t cry once the whole time. It’s right in the record. He taught me exactly how not to do it, which worked well and affected me years later. And when they finished strapping me, I’d get up and say to them, ‘Thanks for not strapping me. When are you going to start? Aren’t you going to strap me?’ and they’d say, ‘we’ll get you next time you little bastard.’ I bled every time I was strapped, but I never cried.

“It was a very rough fucking four years down there.”

However rough it might have been, it was at Bowmanville that Elkind first entered a gym.

“Here’s what happened. After I had the interview in reform school, I had to go into five different showers, from shower to shower to shower to shower to shower. And at the end of the line was a prefect, who was one of the older kids there, and he was there with a towel and you dried yourself off and they gave you your reform school clothes. So I get there and there’s this great big guy. He looked like he was forty. In those days, today it’s different, but in those days, if you look into history, only Jewish kids were circumcised because it was part of their religion. So this guy says to me, ‘You’re a Jewish kid?’ I goes ‘yes.’ So he says to me, ‘We don’t get many Jewish kids here. And whenever we do, they get picked on by the other inmates. How would you like it where the other inmates won’t bother you?’ I said, ‘I’d like it very much.’ So he says, ‘I’m captain of the boxing team, and we take care of each other. How old are you?’ I says ‘I’m eleven.’ He says, ‘We have an opening for somebody your age. You come onto the boxing team and you’ll be fine.’ And he took me right there, took me up to the gym, I met the coaches of the boxing team, and that’s how I got into boxing.”

In Marvin’s fourth year at Bowmanville, a new social worker was assigned to his case.

“When I was fifteen a female parole officer by the name of Fern Alexander, she used to come out there to the school once a month to look at things and talk to us and she took pity on me and decided that my situation was completely not called for and she made it her business to get me out on parole. I had to be taken before Judge Waisberg. She picked me up in Bowmanville and brought me there and she said she’d be my parole officer. He said ‘Yeah, but there’s a problem.’”

The problem was that Fern Alexander, who was twenty-five at the time, wasn’t married, which meant that Marvin couldn’t live with her. She spoke with his grandparents who said they’d be willing to take him in. But the judge had to speak with them first, to determine their eligibility. An interpreter was found, since they only spoke Yiddish, and Marvin’s grandparents and Judge Waisberg had a talk.

“I interviewed them,” the judge said. “They’re very nice people, very good people, very fine people, but they won’t be able to handle him. Every other word out of their mouth is, ‘He’s a good boy.’ They don’t realize who they’re dealing with. That’s the problem.”

Fern Alexander believed in Marvin when few others did. She offered to become his legal guardian instead of just his parole officer. “He’ll see me not once a week but every day,” she told the judge, and he agreed.

If this were a Hollywood film, the parole officer with the heart of gold who opened her home to the juvenile delinquent would have set him on the straight and narrow. “It might have,” Marvin said, “But when I turned 16, I had the right to be released from her supervision. We went before the court, before Judge Waisberg, and she did say, ‘I’m making progress with him. If I can have him under my supervision for another year, I think I can make sure that he’ll lead a proper life.’ The judge heard her out before saying, “But because he is 16, he doesn’t have to. He has to agree to it. It’s up to him.’ When I had the choice of being under her supervision or not, I made the mistake of saying no.”

University of Eighth Avenue

Although forbidden from seeing Roy Pasquale, Marvin went back to what he knew and resumed working for his felonious foster-brother. Among other things, Roy was running a loansharking racket at the time and Marvin was “doing errands and collections and crap like that.” He also had his first professional fight, at middleweight, at Toronto’s Palace Pier.

In 1952, at the age of eighteen, with Roy as his manager, Marvin and Rudy left Canada and moved to New York to pursue their boxing dreams. The Weasel told me he had fifty-two fights in New York, fighting under the name Baby Face Nelson, most of them at St. Nicholas Arena.

“I went to Stillman’s because when I was in New York I did some boxing and Mr. Hoffa held a lot of his meetings there. He knew everybody and was very well thought of. Because I was his driver, I was treated very well. Stillman was a rat, and he always carried a piece with him. And sometimes when he used to yell at people and they wouldn’t answer, he used to take it out and shoot the ceiling. So while Mr. Hoffa was having his meetings, I used to train there. I met Joe Louis, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Graziano, and Tony Zale. I became good friends with the late Max Baer, who used to be there an awful lot. We used to spend anywhere from four to five hours pretty much a day hanging at Stillman’s. I’m still friends with Jake LaMotta. Me and George Chuvalo went down for his last wedding in New York. I have a bracelet. It’s solid gold, 24-karat, and it was given to me for my seventy-fifth birthday by Muhammad Ali.”

When he first appeared at Stillman’s, one of the civiilians took a liking to the baby faced fighter from Canada. He was a maître d’ at the Copacabana and got Marvin a job as busboy at the world famous nightclub. It meant joining the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, but otherwise “you didn’t have to be a genius for this job. You just had to kiss everybody’s ass, and I was very good at that.”

“A group of guys used to come in, four or five times a week, and it was Tony Salerno, Frankie Carbo, Blinky Palermo, a guy called ‘Tony Pro’ Provenzano—and they used to terrorize the staff, just verbally, but they were very good tippers. So when the rest of the staff ran, didn’t want to be at their table, I ran to their table, because I knew they weren’t going to do anything. They were just having fun. That’s the way they did it. So they got to like me.”

It was better to be liked by Fat Tony, Mr. Grey, Blinky Palermo and Tony Pro than not, and after a few months at the Copa, Provenzano called Marvin to their table.

“Hey you, little Jew boy,” he said. “Get over here.”

“Yes Mr. Provenzano.”

“Friday’s your last day here. We spoke to Lou Walters,” the owner of the Copa, “and Friday’s your last day here.”

Marvin was upset. He liked working at the Copa. “What’d I do?” he asked.

“Nothing,” said Tony Pro, “As of Monday, you’re going to be Jimmy Hoffa’s driver.”

“I’m what?”

“You heard me.”

“But I don’t want to be Hoffa’s driver.”

“Kid, nobody’s asking you.”

“Look,” Marvin said. “You don’t understand. I’m Canadian.”

“That’s the whole idea. Be ready.”

Marvin had to be presentable if he was going to be Hoffa’s driver. Tony Pro and Fat Tony picked him up the next day and took him to a clothing store named Little David’s. They bought him some blazers, slacks, sport shirts, and a peaked cap. Then they took Marvin to a jeweler and bought him a gold rope chain.

“When you drove for Mr. Hoffa, you could not wear a shirt and tie. You had to wear a sport jacket and open neck shirt with this chain visible. That was to show you were his slave.”

Although Hoffa spent each weekend with his family in Chicago, he was living in New York at time, at the Loews Midtown Hotel, where he had an apartment. The Teamsters had their offices there. Hoffa’s two bodyguards each had a room there. And Jimmy Hoffa’s new driver, eighteen-year-old Marvin Elkind, had a room there as well.

“Sunday night I was in my room all alone and I was scared to death, so I called my mother and asked her if I could come home. She said, ‘No you can’t. Your stepfather won’t let you. Do you know what people will say about you? They’ll say you’re a quitter, you went down there and couldn’t do it.’ So I sort of felt I had no choice.

“Monday morning they showed me where I take the car. It was a beautiful fucking car, a Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. They showed where I go. They showed me pictures of Mr. Hoffa. Then I went out there, see him get off the plane and drive over and get out of the car and open the door and I says, ‘Good morning, Mr. Hoffa.’ He goes, ‘Are you Marvin?’ I say ‘Yes sir.’ He says, ‘Great start. Mr. Hoffa or sir, that’s a very good start.’ He gets in the car and we drive and he says, ‘Pull over there.’ We get to a place, two guys get out, and they get into the car. These are his two bodyguards. Mr. Hoffa says ‘Turn around.’ I turn around. Both guys open up their coats and show me they’re carrying pieces. Mr. Hoffa says to me, ‘Now Marvin, I’ve got rules and I’ve got cardinal rules. I don’t want to hear rainstorm, snowstorm, thunderstorm—I don’t want to hear crap. I don’t want to hear anything like that. You must never be late when you’re picking me up. I must not be kept waiting. If you break that rule, the boys are going to hurt you very bad. And the cardinal rule is, what you hear in this car stays in this car, and if you don’t do that, you won’t be around next morning.’ I got pretty scared by it. But after a few days I sort of settle in, saw what the score was, and managed to be with him for four years.”

Driving Jimmy Hoffa was many years ago, but it exposed Marvin to things he would not have been exposed to otherwise.

“When you drive these guys you learn a lot,” he told me in a conspiratorial tone, “because they forget you’re there, you become a piece of the car. And Mr. Hoffa had many meetings in the car with people like Vito Genovese, people like Sam Giancana, people like Albert Anastasia. So I heard all sorts of stuff. They talked in front of me because as far as they were concerned, I was an extra clutch, an extra wheel. So it was quite an education. I learned things. I heard things, like horror stories about Don Vito Genovese. But he treated me like he was my grandfather. I’d be driving Mr. Hoffa and he’d get mad and say ‘you’re driving too fast’ or ‘you turned here’ or ‘you turned there,’ and Vito Genovese used to say, ‘Jimmy, leave him alone. He’s a good boy. He’s doing a very good job.’ So I said to myself, ‘This guy is not the terror they say he is. He’s a very good man.’ And one day I’m driving him there in the back of the car when he says, ‘Jimmy, that Jew, that manufacturer who makes the menswear. He’s cooperating with us, yes?’ Mr. Hoffa goes, ‘No, he’s not.’ Vito Genovese says, ‘Then he has to go,’ and the next day they find the guy dead.” Marvin paused. “Albert Anastasia was a mean miserable bastard. I hated his guts. Sam Giancana was not too bad. So you learn all those things and learn how to handle it and so on.”

Marvin Elkind loves to talk. If you were to meet him today, built like a granite sparkplug and draped with gold chains, you’d know at a glance that he can handle himself.

“Mr. Hoffa was not a member of the mafia like history says. He did bring the mafia in, that’s true. I was right there when he made a deal in the car with Don Vito Genovese, to bring them in for muscle on the picket lines, and they put Tony Salerno right in the offices to be the liaison. And when the time came for Mr. Hoffa to tell them he didn’t need them anymore, they told him to jump in the lake. They weren’t leaving. They had too good a thing. But he really himself personally, if you really got down to everything, wasn’t really a gangster. He did make the big mistake, if you want to call it that way—well he did because it ruined him and got him killed—of hooking up with them. That is what happened. He had meetings with Blinky Palermo and Frankie Carbo. They pretty well ran boxing right through those days. I used to deliver an envelope every day, every day, to Jack Dempsey at Jack Dempsey’s Restaurant, and I have no idea what was in the envelope. I was always very curious. Mr. Hoffa never came with me. He used to phone up Jack Dempsey and say, ‘I’m sending the boy.’ And I went down there and Jack Dempsey was always very nice to me, always offered me lunch free of charge at his restaurant. Mr. Hoffa told me, ‘Don’t accept anything’ and I didn’t. But I was always curious about what the hell was in that envelope. A friend of mine told me he could open it up and reseal it back, but to be honest with you I was scared to do it. I figured I didn’t want to take a chance, that maybe they could spot that and who the hell knows what’s going on, I didn’t take the gamble.”

But other gambles Marvin was willing to take. If he had an out of town fight, Hoffa always let him go, “because I made few extra bucks.”

Where neon goes to die

“I had a fight with Rocky Castellani in Miami. Mr. Hoffa called me, because I was down there for a couple weeks training, and says, ‘You might get a visit from a very important man.’ I says, ‘Well, who is it and what is it?’ Mr. Hoffa says, ‘Just in case it doesn’t happen I don’t want to say. I’m just saying that you might get a visit from a very important man in Miami and if he does, listen to him very carefully.’ So I’m in the dressing room before the fight. You know how it goes with dressing rooms. You have to share it with other people. Two big gorillas come in. They look like they’re a thousand pounds each. They opened up their coats to show everybody they were packing hardware, and they said, ‘Everybody out, except the little Jew boy and his trainer.’ I’m thinking, what’s going on now? Everybody leaves. I’m there with my trainer. And two other guys show up, same thing, and they got a little guy with them, well dressed, smoking a cigar. I said myself, given the experience and education I had, ‘This is either Lucky Luciano or Meyer Lansky.’ He comes over and he says, ‘Boychik, don’t have any moyre. I’m not here to hurt you.”

I should have brushed up on my Yiddish before speaking with Marvin Elkind. I asked, “What does moyre mean?”

“That means fear,” he said. “This man says to me, ‘Marvin, do you know who I am?’ I said ‘I think you’re Mr. Lansky.’ He goes, ‘You’re right. I’m Meyer Lansky.’”

“What city are you in?” asks Lansky.

Marvin says, “I’m in Miami.”

“Who do you think owns this city?”

“I guess you do.”

“Do you know who you’re fighting tonight?”

“Yeah, this guy Rocky Castellani.”

“Who do you think owns Rocky Castellani?”

“I’m guessing you do.”

“That’s right,” Lansky says. “How do you think you’re going to do tonight?”

“He’s a superb boxer, but he’s a feather puncher, he can’t hit. I’m pretty sure he can’t knock me out. But if I can get in close to him, I might be able to knock him out.”

“You know, Marvin, it would mean an awful lot to me if Rocky won this fight by a knockout in the first three rounds. How much money are you getting for this fight?”

“Five hundred dollars.”

Lansky pulls out five one hundred dollar bills and puts it in the pocket of Marvin’s robe. He says, “Here’s another five hundred. All you’ve got to do, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first, second or third round, all you’ve got to do is get knocked out in the first three rounds. If you do that we’ll be friends, and I’ll get you a fight in a few months in my hotel in Cuba. And after the fight, you don’t have to come back, you can stay a week in my hotel and everything that you want, food, booze, broads, it will all be on the house. If you don’t do that, then make sure you have someone to say Kaddish over you. What do you say?”

“Is there any particular round you prefer, Mr. Lansky?”

Marvin looked at me and said, “I took the dive. You know about boxing. When you take a dive it has to look real. I wanted him to hit me, because I’m short, on the top of my shoulder and I’d go down. I couldn’t get that cocksucker to throw that punch. First round, second round, third round my trainer says to me, ‘If you don’t get knocked out in this round don’t look for me in the corner to be there. I’ll already be gone.’ So I had a choice. Now this fight took place in the Fontainebleau Hotel, outdoors. It was the first time I’ve ever been in an outdoor fight during the day. I go down flat on my back. Fucking sun’s in my eyes. I almost put my hands over my eyes to block the sun. Then I realized. So I acted like I wanted to get up. I turned over on my stomach and fell down again.”

Lansky came into the dressing room after the fight. He said to Marvin, “When you’re done being a driver and you’re too old to box, you can go into acting. You’ll do very well.”

The Weasel also fought Kid Gavilan in Cuba. “And ‘they,’ in quotes, ‘they’ told me ‘you can’t beat him.’ But if you can go the distance with Gavilan, it would look very good for you. Just stay in close. You can’t lose the battle if you stay in close.”

The pre-fight festivities in Havana included honoring El Presidente Fulgencio Batista, who was ringside for the fight. “A little guy stands up. He was just a short stocky guy wearing a white uniform. And the gold on that uniform almost knocked me on my rear end. We gave a bow to this guy, and then the fight started. At the end of the first round I throw an overhand right hand over his guard and catch him on the forehead. Son of a bitch—his knees buckle. I say holy fuck, I can knock him out. I go back to my corner and they say, ‘It was an accident. Stick to the plan, it was an accident.’ I don’t hear them. All I do in my imagination is see signs: BOXER KNOCKS OUT KID GAVILAN. The bell rang and I ran over and I didn’t feel anything. All I saw was a flash of light. I wake up in the dressing room.”

Meyer Lansky was true to his word. Marvin spent a week as Lansky’s guest at the Hotel Habana Riviera.

“Cuba was like Las Vegas. They used to have a lot of hookers there. All I had to do was sign for them, just like I was signing for a drink.”

Making crime pay

An itinerant boxer who flopped and dropped on cue, Marvin failed to take Lansky’s career counseling seriously. He outgrew boxing, as young men do, and retired with a 50-25-2 record. “It was not so good,” Elkind said. But he continued driving gangsters and, despite his innate ability, never became an actor.

“Years later I was doing collections with a guy named Howard “Baldy” Chard. He was 5-feet-10, 300 pounds, and was one of the toughest guys in Canada. He moved very quickly. His hands were like that of a horse’s hoof. And he had completely no conscience. We made a terrific team. We collected gambling debts and loanshark debts. We even got a write-up in the paper once. A cop by the name of Frank Barbetta said we were the best collection team that he even ran into. ‘Elkind and Blanchard, one guy makes the threats, the other looks like he can carry them out.’”

Living on the wrong side of the law was The Weasel’s way of life. The fast lane was how he got from here to there. But nothing lasts forever. In 1984 he got caught in a sting. They weren’t looking to nab Marvin, they were looking to nab crooked cops, but nab him they did, because, as he put it, “I was shooting my big fucking mouth off. They had me on tape, on TV, talking about all kinds of crap I was involved in.”

The Crown had him dead to rights.

Elkind was facing years in the joint. His lawyer told him, “They’ve got you where they want you. They’re going to offer you a deal. Take it.”

Marvin paused. “My big worry,” he said, “if I do become an informant, they’ll go after Roy. That was my big worry. But shortly after that, Roy got bumped off. He and his wife were both shot in the back of the head. They never did find out who did it.”

Marvin had made up his mind. He told his future handlers, “Well, give me a sweater with a number and put me on the team.”

The Weasel flipped.

“I wasn’t a good witness. I was fantastic. My family preferred that I be out of it altogether. But they preferred me working for the cops than being against them. And I was so well-connected, so well associated, that I became one of the leading informants in North America. I worked for the Metro Police, the RCMP, FBI, NYPD, Scotland Yard, the Mexican Federales—I worked for all those departments all over. Both sides are nice to you if you’re doing what they want, and if you’re not doing what they want, they can be rough on you—and I’m going for the good guys too. The only thing was that I always felt that the good guys will go only so far, that they wouldn’t kill me. The other side would. I made up my mind when I chose that way of life. I made up my mind on two things. I would be as terrible as I can, but I wouldn’t spend my days in fear. Some people live day-to-day. I live minute-to-minute. I did two hundred and fifty cases for the authorities as a fink. There was times when I thought to myself, it’s all over. But it kept on going.”

He brought down mobsters. He brought down drug dealers. He brought down a Libyan arms merchant.

But more than that, Marvin Elkin, a survivor of the fittest, lived to tell his harrowing tale.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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Adrian Humphreys & Marvin Elkind on Studio 4 with Host Fanny Kiefer Part 1 of 2

Adrian Humphreys & Marvin Elkind on Studio 4 with Host Fanny Kiefer Part 2 of 2

Secret police video of a sting. Part 1 of 3

Secret police video of a sting. Part 2 of 3

Secret police video of a sting. Part 3 of 3

"The Weasel" Book Launch Party

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  1. gary grant 04:01am, 07/02/2014

    When I attended Winston Churchill Collegiate in the late 1950"s I am sure that Marvin Elkind worked at Elks Mens Wear in White Rose Plaza at Lawrence and Kennedy Road in Scarboro Ont and I used to buy all of my clothes and suits from him

    I remember him because I was always amazed that he could write upside down

    Am I wrong is this a different guy?

  2. Don from Prov 09:26am, 08/16/2013

    Well I know that you hate rats and flippers
    Mayweather was per earlier discussions—

    But that’s okay, we can forget him.  Understand “follow the money”

  3. Ted 07:06am, 08/16/2013

    And I hate rats and snitches and flippers. I’m old school and likely would stand up rather than lay down for a DA who is just as dirty as any criminal he or she puts away. Although at age 76, I might do a back flip.

  4. Ted 07:03am, 08/16/2013

    I think you misunderstood my point. By follow the money, I simply meant that is a good way to get the to the root cause—-in this case——greed. Same for corporations. Follow the money and you will get to the concept of profit and all the good and bad that the concept entails including greed.

    Not sure how Mayweather gets into the mix. He is being pretty smart with his money by putting it into a number of corporations some of which will provide a nice way to take legal losses offsetting legal profits. It’s the American way to launder money. And everyone does it.

    As for this rat,  he is simply being a rat to make money. It’s his thang. Become famous (infamous) and then capitalize on it. That’s also the American way. So if you follow the money in the rat’s case, you will quickly get to his motive—-greed.

  5. Don from Prov 06:54am, 08/16/2013

    Right, Ted—but sometimes you applaud that: Telling me that Mayweather has/is five, or some number close to that, corporations and follows a great business model as if I should appreciate that (AND want to hear “lectures” on capitalism): I don’t like corporate America and business models are fine, but when schools, the arts, or a boxing career follow them as THE bottom line, they are making a big mistake, IMO.  As Mr. Ecksel indicated (I believe) greed/money being the Alpha and the Omega = problems/trouble—

    And snitches making bucks and basking in adoration.

  6. Ted 06:41am, 08/16/2013

    Prov, it’s simple. Just follow the money.

  7. Don from Prov 04:19am, 08/16/2013

    I guess that’s true, Ted—all of them are dead.
    Mr. Ecksel taking it even further and laying out the truth—good man!

  8. Ted 02:23pm, 08/15/2013

    Rats are the rule; not the exception. The only thing worse than doing a flip deal with a rat is not doing it. That’s the way the DA looks at it.

    Gotti and Red Shea (author of Rat Bastards) were two notable exceptions. Sammy the Bull is the rule.

    Flipping makes a lot of sense to the flipper. The Basin Street Butcher killed 19 for Bulger and only did 12 years. Not bad if you do the math. Now, Howie Carr has a book out on him and a movie is in the works. Crime pays. There’s your moral..

    But none of that detracts from your article.

  9. Robert Ecksel 01:59pm, 08/15/2013

    I guess the moral of the story, assuming every story has a moral, is that lying (or gilding the lily) isn’t confined to courts of law, the halls of Congress, and the Evening News. Boxing, no less than the mob, is filled with people who wouldn’t know the truth if they tripped over it. Self-glorification, followed by self-gratification, is all.

  10. Ted 01:44pm, 08/15/2013

    Prov. They are all dead. That’s why he came out of his hole like the sewer rat he is. It’s like Martarono in Boston who killed 19 for Bulger. No one can get at him because there is no one left. They are either in the pen or dead or on the lam.

    Moral:  rat = $$$ and a book and maybe even a movie = more $$$$$

  11. Don from Prov 12:31pm, 08/15/2013

    Good article—
    But the guy is a liar
    And he’s a snitch, only no one’s killing: In fact people seem to seek him out

    What’s the moral here?

  12. Pete The Sneak 05:55am, 08/14/2013

    Wow! This story is a real grabber. Thanks Robert. While I believe there is more fiction than fact to the story line (what do you expect from a con man/Rat?), it’s still pretty compelling and leaves it up to the reader as to decipher what may be truth and what may be doo doo. Peace.

  13. kid vegas 09:17pm, 08/13/2013

    That is some writing! Read the first sentence and didn’t stop until the end. A real masterpiece.

  14. Clarence George 08:13pm, 08/13/2013

    Thanks for the fascinating info, Raxman.

    Melbourne, is it?  Then you’re probably familiar with the bizarre Eddie Leonski case.  There’s a very good novel that deals with it somewhat—“An Angel in Australia,” by your own Tom Keneally.

  15. raxman 06:45pm, 08/13/2013

    Clarence George - yes still looking, but that one will never be solved. either they got the guy for some other kids or he died. But that’s Adelaide in south Australia. Adelaide is the sex crime capital of oz. and by coincidence called the city of churches!! I’m in Melbourne. if you want to get an idea of Melbourne’s crime personality Wikipedia - the walsh street shootings, and,  the Russell street bombing - both simple minded attacks on the trigger happy Victorian police force. simple minded coz their victims were kid coppers, rookies. if they really had balls they would’ve gone after the lunatics in the armed robbery squad that had decided to hold court in the street.

  16. Clarence George 06:03pm, 08/13/2013

    Ha!  Thank you, Raxman.

    By the way, are your boys in blue still seeking to solve the disappearance of the Beaumont children?

  17. raxman 04:24pm, 08/13/2013

    Clarence George - Calumny? nice word!!!

  18. raxman 04:22pm, 08/13/2013

    I was enjoying this until I found out he was a rat. what brits call a grass. what down here we call a dog. I hope he gets colon cancer.
    when you go into crime you have to do it with the understanding that doing a little time is on the cards. I hate these “tough” guys who can’t do jail. I’ve learnt over the years that just coz you can fight doesn’t mean you’re tough. the old saying will always be true - if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. mind you I don’t know what it would be like being in a country where they have 100 year sentences. down here the worst sons of bitches get out after 40years. but by the sounds of it this marvin dude wasn’t pinched on anything that would do him big big years.

  19. Dr. YouTube 03:41pm, 08/13/2013


  20. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 01:20pm, 08/13/2013

    I guess if he says it was Mama it was Mama, who am I to second guess…or for that matter, hold him to a higher standard than our very highest government officials both elected and appointed who lie under oath.

  21. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:50am, 08/13/2013

    Since he seems to have trouble keeping his “facts” straight….my money says it was “Papa” Pasquale doing the nightly “spanking” routine

  22. Clarence George 07:16am, 08/13/2013

    Maybe I’m alone on this, which is OK, but I don’t give a damn about Elkind as canary.  What I care about is his calumny, however inept and easily refuted, of a fine man and boxer—Rocky Castellani.

  23. Robert Ecksel 06:26am, 08/13/2013

    Magoon—I knew going in that this was an iffy proposition. When Mike Schmidt, who I believe will weigh in, suggested The Weasel as a subject, I was reticent. I knew that he had flipped and it didn’t sit well with me. I also knew that he had mastered the art of deception, which didn’t bode well for fidelity to the truth. But I figured let the chips fall where they may. If it reflects badly on me, so be it. Likewise if it reflects badly on Marvin Elkind.

  24. Magoon 06:12am, 08/13/2013

    This article is why I’m a Boxing.com reader. But an author’s note from Robert Ecksel would have been called for. Marvin Elkind’s boxing tales are fish stories - and pretty smelly ones. I read Clarence George’s article on Rocky Castellani and his comment here, and did my own research - Castellani never fought in Miami. And my guess is that Elkind never fought anywhere.

    And another thing: Meyer Lansky was too big, too smart, too sophisticated to act the way Elkind says. So that he could be spotted by a boxing commissioner? The two big guys with pistols would have been enough. And that’s putting aside that a fix wouldn’t have been arranged just before a fight; more like the time the match was set up. Elkind’s seen too many bad mobster movies.

  25. Robert Ecksel 05:36am, 08/13/2013

    Thank you Traveling Man. I share your sentiments about finks and fought with myself long and hard about giving him a platform for that reason.

  26. The Traveling Man 05:29am, 08/13/2013

    While I have no use for rats like this, I will say that this is the best article I have ever read on Boxing.com. It belongs in a Magazine or maybe as the outline for a book.

    Simply superbly done.

  27. Clarence George 06:40pm, 08/12/2013

    Wow, Robert.  I knew this one was in the works…well worth the wait.  I love mob stories (I live two minutes away from where both Anastasia and Rothstein got hit), especially when they’re connected with the Sweet Science.  Coincidence that it’s “Mob Week” on AMC?

    But I’m curious:  Under what name did Elkind fight?  Bobby Rosado, who has an almost identical record, did indeed fight Gavilan in Cuba, but he didn’t fight Castellani.  In fact, I can’t find any record of Rocky ever having fought in Miami.  Hmmm, intriguing.

    By the way, yet another boxer with a “Psychopathia Sexualis” background.  Who’d have thunk such goings-on were so prevalent?

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