Last weekend I was in Las Vegas. My wife and I lived there for 11 years after we were married in 1979 and for those of you wanting to do the math, I’ll save you the time. It’ll be 28 years next week. Anyways, after too many years in Los Angeles, we are returning to Sin City. On Saturday, May 19th, the paper of record in that area, “The Review Journal,” ran a front page story on the murder of Tony Spilotro. For you non Mafioso’s, Tony (pictured here with his lawyer and current Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman) was the head of the Las Vegas business for the Chicago mob in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Until he was whacked and buried in a potato field in Indiana with his brother Michael. The crime had gone unsolved until now.
But here is what struck me as I was retelling the story to a friend the other day. We don’t use nicknames any more. At least not good ones. Spilotro was known as “The Ant.” One of his bosses in Chicago was “Joey the Clown.” The Los Angeles mob man in Vegas at the time was Jimmy “The Weasel.”
But the Mob did not have the corner of the market on good nicknames. I think that honor goes to the sports world. Willie Mays was “The Say Hey Kid.” Then there was Sal “The Barber” Maglie. The Bambino. Hammerin’ Hank. The Yankee Clipper. Night Train Lane. Crazy Legs Hirsch. Wilt “The Stilt.” Dr. J. Sweetness. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson. “Mean” Joe Greene. “Too Tall” Jones. "Broadway" Joe and even Magic.
There were even a few good political ones. Dutch, Honest Abe, Old Hickory, The Hammer, and of course, W.
Whatever happened to nicknames?