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Reformed mobster Vince Ciacci now cuts hair in Brentwood

by Erika Aguilar with Kevin Ferguson | Off-Ramp

When Vince Ciacci grew up in New York he found a life of crime and aspired to join the Italian mafia. After cleaning up his lifestyle and having a daughter, he realized that being a made man was not the life he wanted to live. He now works in a hair salon in Brentwood and co-wrote a book describing his exploits titled "Almost a Wise Guy." Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

At Claudio D'IItalia hair salon in Brentwood, you might be able to get a haircut by Vince Ciacci – a barber with a rough past. He was shoplifting from toy stores at 12, snatching purses at 15, and by the time he'd grown up he was robbing stores, dealing drugs—all the trappings of the mobster lifestyle.

"I live a pretty calm life now, so the favorite thing I like is smoking cigars and watching good movies," said Ciacci.

He's worked at his current salon for five years, but he's been in Los Angeles since 1977.

On how he first got involved in crime:

"We were great shoplifters. We had a crew of guys that'd distract the proprietor while we were taking everything but the kitchen sink. We used to do that a lot. We used to go into candy stores. I remember, there was a place in New York called Schwarz... ...they had these miniature tanks made out of steel. We'd go in there, we'd take all of the tanks... ...I always stole, I don't know what it was. I always had the tendency to steal."

"Then we started robbing purses. We had three or four guys, we'd go on Park Avenue. We were fast, too. We'd split like an octopus! One guy would grab the fur, press it against himself, and then the three of us would be running. They didn't know which one had the fur!"

"[After that,] I went into armed robbery, jewelry stores. Stuff like that."

On where his accomplices are now:

"They died 10 years ago, from heart attacks. Because I was worried about putting real names in the book. I inquired about them, and 'Oh yeah, he's dead. He's dead.' You know, back East they eat the wrong stuff, they smoke. And then you got to worry about the FBI watching you all the time. So I was lucky, I came out here and God had another plan for me."

On when he decided to give up crime for good:

"That's what I call a 'God shot.' I was at this girls house, I was giving her coke to sell and she was throwing heroin my way. This was the one night that she came on to me. I was so high on heroin that went I went to make love to her I fell off the bed and she just pushed me and said 'You disgust me.'"

"I took a bottle off Jack Daniels, drank half a bottle just to keep my heroin high up. I jump in my brand new car. And when I'm shooting home, I hear something—the car hits the divider and sparks are coming out. I'm saying 'Oh, my poor car! Look what I did.'"

"I had a rocker panel built on the car, where I kept guns and drugs. You know, when I saw the French Connection I said 'Hey, this is a good idea!' So I see the flashing lights, and I said 'I'm done, man.' The cop gets out of the car, I don't know what he said to me or what I said to him, but he starts changing the tire of my car. He doesn't do nothing!'

"So I go home. I go down Lincoln and Montana and make a left, and I hear an explosion. What happened is I passed out; my foot must have gone down on the accelerator and went right through the light, hit a parked cadillac. I hit [the Cadillac] so hard, it hit the car in front of it. Guess what? The cops come again. The car was like an accordion, but the rocker panel was untouched. And that's where the drugs and the guns were. The cops come again—they don't arrest me!"

"They wanted to tow the car, I said 'I got friend in the tow yard, he'll take care of the car.' And they went away. I got my friend to tow it and I looked at my wife and she was petrified. And I said 'I'll buy another car tomorrow, no big deal.'"

"And then, two weeks later, one of my customers made me aware that I had a problem with drugs and alcohol. And I investigated it. And that was my role to starting to turn my life around."

Ciacci's book — Almost a Wiseguy — is out now. You can order it via Amazon.

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