Drugs and Porno in the Village? Oh my!

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Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
July 22, 1971, Vol. XVI, No. 29

Hitting where it hurts
By Mary Perot Nichols

Greenwich Villagers have been noticing for some time now that something weird was going on in their neighborhood. There was the proliferation of after-hours bars, a growing narcotics scene, porno shops, and the notorious and seemingly unclosable (by the local and state authorities) Haven on Sheridan Square. Their suspicions were confirmed early Sunday morning with the dramatic sweep of seven local after-hours clubs by the New York Joint Strike Force Against Organized Crime.

The strike force, made up of federal agents and city police under the leadership of First Deputy Commissioner William H.T. Smith, nailed a Mafia soldier, allegedly part of the Carlo Gambino family, and his stepson, who had been known to be involved in at least eight Village nightspots, including the Haven.

The key people the strike force team picked up were Paul Di Bella of Jackson Heights, Queens, and his stepson, Nicholas Di Martino, who was well-known as the operator of the Haven. Di Bella was picked up at his summer home at Greenwood Lakes, New Jersey. He is listed as a "corporate officer" of Tel Star Holding Corporation which owns the building which houses the New Showplace, 146 West 4th Street, one of the after-hours bars raided Sunday morning. Stepson Di Martino was arrested in his apartment above the New Showplace, which, ironically, used to house Betty Compton, the mistress of playboy Mayor "Jimmy" Walker when the downstairs establishment was known as the Pepper Pot. Di Bella is a member of the Manhattan International Longshoremen's Association and receives an annual income from the piers under a seniority agreement with the shippers, even though he does not work.

The interesting thing about Tel Star is that this is the name under which the Haven holds a membership charter from the State of New York. According to federal agents, Di Bello has told friends, "I am Tel Star." Other establishments in which Di Bella and Di Martino have an interest, according to federal strike force sources, include 15-15 1/2 Barrow Street, the Tenth of Always at 82 West 3rd Street (both raided Sunday morning), and the Stonewall Inn, which has been preparing for some time for a grand opening after having been busted up in a raid by local police two years ago.

...The rap on which the proprietors of after-hours clubs were booked was a federal one: failure to obtain a $56-a-year tax stamp to sell liquor and conspiracy to evade that law. The lack of a tax stamp is a felony, as is the conspiracy charge...

Narcotics were found at several of the raided premises, including the Tenth of Always, which was described to The Voice by one federal agent as a veritable "den" for the hard stuff...

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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