‘Cadillac Frank,’ ‘Ice Pick Willie,’ And The Nicknames Of American Mobsters

June 26, 2018

Francis “Cadillac Frank” Salemme was found guilty Friday of killing a South Boston nightclub owner 25 years ago. The conviction marks the end of the half-century war on organized crime that was started by Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

The former New England mafia boss had long been suspected of the murder, but was not charged until the nightclub owner’s remains were dug up in Providence, R.I., in 2016.

“Cadillac Frank” is just one of the famously nicknamed mobsters of the 20th century. Mobsters acquire nicknames from many different places: reporters, cops, friends, etc. Some enjoy the nicknames, and others, like Cadillac Frank, are not such big fans.

Salemme got his nickname “Cadillac Frank” from working at an auto body shop in Boston, where he specialized in fixing up Cadillacs. But former WBUR crime reporter David Boeri cites another explanation for Salemme’s nickname in a 2016 interview with WPRI-TV.

According to Boeri, Salemme had a friend at a Cadillac dealership who would key and scrape every 30th or 40th new car coming off the truck. Salemme would buff out the damage and resell the car for a lower price.

Boeri said Salemme did not like Cadillacs and drove BMWs, one of which he was driving when he survived an assassination attempt in 1989.

Talia Wiener is an intern on NPR’s National Desk.

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