Each generation identifies with a small group of people said to have lived lives exemplifying the vices and virtues of that generation. If one were to choose a trial lawyer whose life reflected the unique characteristics of America’s “Wild West” of a criminal justice system in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, that person likely would be my father.
New York City of the 1960s until the turn of the 21st century was the world’s epicenter of organized and white-collar crime. During those four decades, the most feared mafia chiefs, assassins, counterfeiters, Orthodox Jewish money launderers, defrocked politicians of every stripe, and Arab bankers arriving in the dead of night in their private jets, sought the counsel of one man: my father, Jimmy La Rossa.
Once a Kennedy-era prosecutor, Brooklyn-born Jimmy La Rossa became one of the greatest criminal trial lawyers of his day. He was the one man who knew where all of the bodies were buried, and everyone knew it. It seemed incomprehensible that Jimmy would one day just disappear from New York. Forever.
After stealing my dying father from New York Presbyterian Hospital to a waiting Medevac jet, the La Rossa Boys, as we became known, spent the next five years in a place where few would look for two diehard New Yorkers: a coastal town in the South Bay of Los Angeles, aptly named Manhattan Beach. While I cooked him his favorite Italian dishes and kept him alive using the most advanced medical equipment and drugs, my father and I documented our notorious and cinematic life together as equal parts biography and memoir.
This is our story.
Last of the Gladiators, A Son’s Memoir, is now available from Bancroft Press in hard cover.