Crikey’s anonymous crime correspondents, the Kooka Brothers, write:

As gangster funerals go, Mario Condello’s was magnificent. The soprano (no, not that one)
who sang Ave Maria brought tears to the eyes. His
daughter, Vanessa, summed up all the emotions and contradictions that complex
human beings produce in their offspring: Love and fear being chief among
them.

As the band struck up “I did it my way”, ten men and
boys struggled to carry the heavy metal casket containing the bullet-riddled
remains of the old North Fitzroy High boy who made a career move many years ago, switching from lawyer to crook.

While Vanessa talked about the media being “insensitive,
tactless cowards,” for daring to attack her father’s spotless reputation and
ill-gotten gains, Andrew Rule returned fire yesterday in this terrific piece in the Sunday Age: “His crooked life and its violent end came because he chose
to lie, cheat, steal and intimidate to make fast money. He organised marijuana
crops, laundered drug money for other criminals, dealt heroin and would order
violence — by thugs he considered as expendable as his victims — against anyone
who got in his way.”

Rule also suggested that Vanessa’s dad maybe “should
have prayed for other families who had suffered to keep his in
luxury.”

It was all heady stuff. The tiresome celebrity priest,
Father Peter Norden, did everything possible to draw attention to himself and even repeated the “real strength does not grow
out of the barrel of a gun” babble that he spouted at the Kookas five funerals
ago.

It was also surreal. As the bells tolled high on
Richmond Hill, a
cortege of a Cadillac and three stretch limos was gridlocked in the churchyard
while chief mourner Big Mick Gatto played out a scene from the Godfather with
every two-bit crim in Melbourne
paying obeisance to the capo de capo by kissing him on both
cheeks.

If there is such a thing as honour among thieves, the
place you’ll find it expressed is in the death notices of the Melbourne Herald
Sun
after a good gangland killing. It is the paper of record for the underworld.
It is where everyman wears his heart on his sleeve. It is where you go to look
for clues to the real life of the dearly departed.

Mario Condello scored heaps of notices in the tabloid last week. Just about everyone said that good old Mario was
“a man of honour” or, like his good mate Mick Gatto wrote: “I was honoured to be your
close mate.” Call us crazy, but the Kookas reading of these entrails
is a none-too-subtle reference to Carlton-born but Calabrian-raised Condello being
connected to the Griffith-based Honoured Society which Keith Moor made the
subject of his bonza book “Crims in Grass
Castles.”

One notice last Thursday from Bobby Nimmo GF (surely not godfather!) said: “I was honoured to
know you. Society will never forget you.”

Now before all you paid up members of the Italian
Anti-Defamation League start rattling your chains, we would like to point out
that this is all circumstantial conjecture and we offer only minor apologies for
it and we haven’t used the “M” word. The Society is also the name of the Bourke
St restaurant where Mario ate his last supper and where the gang gathered last
Wednesday in their black cars for Mario’s wake.

Now far be it for us to speak ill of the dead, but most
of the ads also refer to Mario’s status as a good family man despite police
surveillance showing that he had intimate affairs with three other women. We
found only a “D” saying “You were my guardian angel and will be in my heart
forever,” which could mean what you want to make it
mean.

We also liked Danny Corsetti ‘s
touching “So long champ. Say hi to Graham and Ronnie,” a reference to departed
Carlton Crew members Graham “The
Munster” Kinniburgh and Ronnie Bongetti
(who actually died of natural causes). Mike Gatto’s “Mates Forever”
ad concluded with a touching: “You will be in good company on the other side and
will be looked after well. We will catch up in the next life
together.”

Peter Fray

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