- The National Enquirer newspaper was originally bankrolled
by a Mafia Godfather, according to the son of its founder, who ensured
in return that the muck-raking tabloid did not rake too deeply into the
activities of the New York mob.
- Generoso Pope Jr, who turned the Enquirer into a bestseller
in the early 1950s, was partly financed by Frank Costello, the powerful
Mafia boss known as the "prime minister of the underworld".
- In return for start-up cash from Costello and regular
interest-free loans thereafter, Pope ensured that the word "Mafia"
never appeared in the pages of the paper and even published an exposé
of a mayoral candidate who was threatening to clamp down on organised crime,
according to his son, Paul Pope.
- "I always say this story is like The Godfather meets
Citizen Kane," Mr Pope said.
- When the time came to repay the Mafia's loans, Pope's
assistant would go to a barber's shop in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and
hand an envelope of cash to Costello's bagman and enforcer, known to history
only as "Big Jim".
- Costello regularly held meetings in the same barber's
shop with J. Edgar Hoover, when the mobster provided invariably accurate
racing tips for the former FBI director.
- Hoover allegedly took a forgiving approach to Costello's
crime operations because the mob boss had arranged for him to arrest another
racketeer, Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, with the columnist, Walter
Winchell, standing by to provide the requisite media coverage.
- Costello is also believed to have organised "protection"
when Joe Kennedy, the father of John F. Kennedy, the future President,
was running bootleg whisky from Canada to the West Coast during Prohibition.
- If Costello was a classic gangster, then Generoso Pope
was the prototype American tabloid editor. "Under Pope's command,
every reporter was given a wad of money to buy information and to keep
sources from talking to competing media," Mr Pope, who is writing
a biography of his father, said.
- The editor was careful not to forget who had come up
with $25,000 to buy the paper. When Costello was running a numbers racket,
a form of illegal lottery, the Enquirer would publish the numbers.
- Today the National Enquirer offers its readers a steady
diet of Mafia stories, but in its earlier incarnation Pope's censorship
was rigorous. When he spotted the headline "The Mafia is a Myth"
in an edition of the newspaper, he stopped the presses and pulped every
copy that had been printed, knowing well that the Mafia was not only a
reality, but his principal benefactor.
- In 1957, Costello entered the lobby of the Biltmore Hotel
after a Turkish bath and was shot by a 20-stone gunman allegedly in the
pay of rival boss Don Vito Genovese. Costello, then 65, miraculously survived.
The National Enquirer did not even cover the story.
- Generoso Pope graduated from the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology and worked for the CIA before buying the New York Enquirer
(which became the National Enquirer) in 1952. The paper was sold for $418
million when Pope died of a heart attack in 1988.