He was sort of a poor soul. Always looking and hoping for someone to buy him a drink. He saw me in a fight once, told me about it, and left me alone. But I was always wary of him.
He’d be talking to someone and all of a sudden punch him in the face. Sometimes, before he did it he kissed his right hand and touched the unsuspecting victim’s face, and immediately threw a punch at where he had just touched the face.
When that happened a fight would break out. The first punch was always important for its shock value and giving the assailant the immediate advantage. Usually Yakka’s fights would not amount to too much since most happened in barrooms and they would be broken up by others nearby.
Reading some of John Martorano’s stories I saw that he was a sucker puncher. The only things different between what Martorano and Yakka would do was he wouldn’t plant a kiss on the other person and he wouldn’t use his fists. He used a gun. Remarkably he did all his sucker shooting against people who weren’t in a position to fight back. It was a one and done. There was no fight afterward because his victims, mostly unarmed, were dead.
Martorano wrote of himself as Bwana Johnny. He apparently thought of himself as some chieftain or boss in Africa. The chapter where he uses that name is when he is involved with some African-Americans. He paints a picture of them unable to act without his presence.
He also writes as the sub-title on his book reads that he was the most feared gangster in the underworld. How could one be feared when his stock in trade is sucker shot killings? I suppose John cold be called the bwana of sucker shot shootings.
There did appear to be one exception to this method of operation. It was when he said Tony Veranis pulled a gun on him but he was faster than Tony. Ah, one could say a mänō ä ˈmänō match. But it turns out such a face to face meeting never happened.
I knew Tony from my neighborhood. I was friendly with him and his brother Ralph. I used to watch him fight when he was at his prime. He was tough and well-liked.
Martorano would murder Anthony “Tony” Veranis in April 1966. Martorano told a story of a one-on-one gun fight when he testified during the trial of FBI Agent John Connolly, He said Veranis was bragging about beating up his brother Jimmy. He went to see him. Tony pulled a gun on me in an after-hours joint in Roxbury. As he reached for his gun, I shot him. “Tony was another guy I was faster than.”
In his book he wrote he was at an after hour joint when “a short, wiry young guy suddenly got in Johnny’s face and began yelling at him.” Martorano is about 5’6” tall, Tony was over 5’10”. Martorno wrote Tony said: “I had a beef with your friend. I kicked him outta Southie with his tail between his legs.” He then issued an expletive at Martorano and “then reached for his gun but Johnny beat him to it with his .38. Taller than Veranis, he fired down into the ex-boxer’s skull.”
Why the lies?
He no longer went looking for him but Tony approached him. He makes himself taller. He changed his brother to a friend. He lies because the whole story except the murder is a lie.
The Metropolitan Police Department said Tony’s body was “battered.” Other police said: “he had been pistol whipped and shot in the head.” The medical examiner said: “This was a real professional job. There is no doubt that this man was killed by a gun carefully aimed and after he had been savagely pistol-whipped about the head.” The medical examiner continued saying that the bullet was found at the base of the skull. He said he “was shot with a .38 special apparently while on his knees.”
The truth most likely was that Tony was grabbed by Martorano and others while at the night club. It was because he had beat up Jimmy Martorano. They held him while he was battered and then pistol whipped. They forced him to his knees and a bullet was put in his head .
Martorano was not a stranger to pistol-whipping people. He tells of the time when he and the Campbell brothers met Nelson Padron. He wrote: “Johnnny pulled back Padron’s coat, grabbed the revolver out of his belt, and began pistol-whipping him with it.. . . When Johnny finally tired of beating Padron and told him to screw, Padron bolted for his car. . . .”
The false story doesn’t wash. John Martorano was protecting those with him. It could have been that Jimmy put the bullet in Tony’s head to revenge his beating. John taking responsibility cost him nothing. It was just another murder among his many he got a Christmas gift on from the prosecutors.
Perhaps, though, telling it like this gives him some idea that not all his killings were sucker shot murders. But in truth, John was the Yakka of the underworld.