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updated: 3/17/2011 7:20 AM

Arlington Hts. library hosts mob informant Calabrese

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  • The Operation Family Secrets book by Frank Calabrese Jr.

      The Operation Family Secrets book by Frank Calabrese Jr.

 
By Sheila Ahern

Ex-mobster Frank Calabrese Jr. will have the same level of security Thursday night that the Arlington Heights library provided Harry the Humpback Whale last Saturday.

Calabrese, the former organized crime figure turned informant, will speak to 200 people at 7 p.m. Thursday. He and his three co-authors are promoting his book, "Operation Family Secrets: How a Mobster's Son Brought Down Chicago's Murderous Crime Family."

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And despite threats of violence that caused bookstores in Oak Brook and Chicago to cancel his appearances, the Arlington Heights Memorial Library is going ahead -- using the same two security staffers who help with crowd control at all their popular programs, said library spokeswoman Deb Whisler.

Calabrese, however, does travel with a personal bodyguard. Co-authors Keith Zimmerman, Kent Zimmerman and Paul Pompian are also expected to be there.

And while Harry the Humpback drew more than 700 people, Calabrese's talk is limited to 200 because of space. All 200 tickets have been handed out, Whisler said, so don't show up at the door without a ticket.

Calabrese, 50, returned to the Chicago area this week to promote his book about the Chicago Outfit. But two Borders appearances were scrubbed after phoned-in death threats, so Calabrese kicked off his tour Tuesday on a slightly smaller stage at Elmhurst College. About 100 people attended.

Calabrese isn't worried that his life, or those of his audience, are in danger at the Arlington Heights library.

The library hasn't been threatened, Whisler said Wednesday, and Calabrese doubts the calls Borders got were really from the mob, anyway.

"If they wanted to do something to harm me they wouldn't call," Calabrese said.

"You take everything seriously but in my experience, a phone call is not something those involved in organized crime do," he said.

Kate Niehoff, the library's programs manager, booked Calabrese a few months ago because his book is popular with library patrons.

"When I contacted (Calabrese's) co-authors, I assumed Frank wouldn't be a part of the program but they followed up a month later and said Frank wanted to come," Niehoff said. "I guess he's a big fan of downtown Arlington Heights."

Calabrese confirmed it's true -- he does like the development in downtown Arlington Heights.

In his book, Calabrese talks about growing up as the son of a violent mobster, his own entrance into the Outfit at 18, and the chain of events as he worked to put his father, Frank "The Breeze" Calabrese Sr., away for good.

Calabrese Sr. is presently in a maximum-security prison for the rest of his life, for murdering at least 13 people. It was through Calabrese Jr. wearing a wire that the convictions were possible, authorities say.

Calabrese is speaking at the Union League Club on Friday before returning home to Arizona this weekend.

Being back in Chicago has been "mentally exhausting" for Calabrese, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2002 and walks with a cane today.

"I live a normal life, I work two jobs and like to spend time with my kids," he said. "I'm a plain Joe now."

Calabrese may embark on a national book tour later, he said.

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