For My Father
James M. La Rossa Esq.
Prince of the City
Most Joyous Man I Have Ever Known
“He wastes his tears who weeps before the judge.”
“I may live [my] life wrong, but it certainly makes it more interesting to write about than if I lived it right.”
—Karl Ove Knausgaard
My debt is to such a large swath of individuals that I need to divide them into two distinct groups: those who were integral to keeping my father “physically” alive until he could tell me his entire story, and those so close to our hearts that they made our lives worth living.
Louis J. Aronne, MD, lifelong friend and collaborator of mine and my father’s, and pulmonologist Daniel M. Libby, MD, both of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, kept Jimmy alive until I could get him to Southern California.
On the West Coast, John Belperio, MD, Bich-Thuy T. Tran, MD, and Susan Golleher, RN—all from the UCLA Medical Center—were largely responsible for nursing us through those last amazing and fruitful years. To all of these medical professionals, I owe a sig- nificant debt.
Attorney Gerald (Jerry) Shargel, along with the entire Shargel family, have been steadfast friends throughout a lifetime. Attorneys Michael S. Ross, Andrew J. Weinstein, Matthew S. Dontzin (and his late father, Judge Michael J. Dontzin), Jeffrey Lichtman and his wife, Nance; Marty and Carol Abrams; my father’s longtime assistant, Phyllis Mehl; and his private investigator and friend, John McNally, all showed in words and deeds the profound love they felt for Jimmy La Rossa in life and in death. In turn, they all have my eternal gratitude.
I relied on a seminal group of New York writers for historical punctuation throughout this work. I am indebted to them all. They are Jimmy Breslin, Jerry Capeci, William Flanagan, Denis and Pete Hamill, Jack Newfield, Selwyn Raab, and Ron Rosenbaum. Fiction writer Joseph Papaleo will always be one of life’s great influences. The last dream sequence in this book was inspired, in part, by Joe’s poem, Sitting With Caliban (from “Picasso at 91”).This work would not have been realized without my partner, Sonya, who kept her composure throughout the year in which I wrote draft upon draft of True North. To Sonya and her son, Max, and to my children, Sofia, Gianni, and Juliana, I owe my very breath.
Three of my best friends from New York blazed the trail to California, in addition to being true comrades in the daily fun and games played by the La Rossa Boys—Frank R. Hussey, Scott E. Slater, and Douglas P. Textor. At my lowest points, I could count on Scott to talk me out of my dead end so I could realize an alternate path. Many thanks, as well, to David Aretha of Chicago, IL, who as my line editor, did a yeoman’s job of smoothing out my complex prose for a wide audience. Bruce L. Bortz, publisher of Bancroft Press, recognized immediately the quirky, deeply revealing tale that is True North and dared to bring the work to light. I am very thankful.
I acknowledge my three siblings, Susan, Thomas, and Nancy, my Aunt Dolores and Uncle Dick, and my cousins, who were like broth- ers to me growing up—Robert, Kenneth, Thomas, and William Nelson. I would have to search far and wide to find harder heads or bigger hearts.
Jimmy was the most significant person in my life, bar none. To him, I owe everything.
Last of the Gladiators, A Son’s Memoir of Love, Redemption and the Mob, will be available from Bancroft Press in 2019.