Louis Pioggi, affectionately called Louie the Lump, was a diminutive and dapper Italian Five Point Gang member, who thrust himself into the spotlight one starry night in Coney Island, when he snuffed the life out of Kind Twist, the boss of the former Monk Eastman Jewish Lower East Side gang. Twist’s gang and the Five Pointers were in a constant battle for the Lower East Side rackets, and under Twist’s reign, his gang had made great inroads into the Five Pointer’s territory. The ire was so great between both gangs, they made the Hatfields and the McCoys seem like choir boys singing in a church.
Born in 1889 on the Lower East Side, Pioggi was basically a footnote in the history of the American gangster. He was a small timer, who as fate would have it, fell in love with the same dance hall girl, the more illustrious Kid Twist ( Maxwell Zwerbach) was seeing on the side.
It was the custom at the start of the 20th Century for gangsters who had more than a few bucks in their pockets, to break free from the dumps and dives on the Lower East Side and “go out on the town,” to the wondrous expanses of Coney Island in Brooklyn. On May, 14, 1908, Pioggi took a trip out to Coney to see Carroll Terry, a gorgeous Coney Island dance hall girl. who was the regular squeeze of Twist’s. Unknown to Pioggi, Twist was also in Coney Island to see Miss Terry, and was accompanied by his bodyguard Cyclone Louie, real name Vach Lewis. Cyclone Louie was a killer for Twist, but was better known as a Coney Island circus strongman, who bent large pieces steel around his neck for a living.
Pioggi went to the dance hall Terry worked in and enticed her to have a few dances with him, which was her job anyway. Pioggi became hopelessly lovesick and before he left, he begged Terry to promise him she’d comeback to New York City with him after her shift ended. Saying anything to get rid of Pioggi, Terry said she would, but only if Pioggi left at once, so she could do her job without his undue interference.
The real reason Terry gave Pioggi the bum’s rush was because she expected to see Kid Twist shorty. And that she did, when just moments after Pioggi left, Twist and Cyclone Louie made their grand entrance. She joined them at a table and after a few drinks, her lips loosened and she told Twist about Pioggi’s amorous advances. Soon after, Pioggi returned to the dance hall and he saw Twist holding hands with Terry, and Cyclone Louie standing guard. Knowing he had been had, Pioggi wandered into into a dive on Surf Avenue to drown his sorrows on the second floor of the saloon. Minutes later, Twist and Cyclone Louie burst into the saloon and confronted Pioggi.
“I just seen Carroll,” Twist said. “And she said youse in the biggest bum she knows. So she says you are an active cuss, always jumpin’ around. Let’s see how active youse is.” Twist pointed to the open window. “Take a jump out of the window.”
Now Pioggi was in no mood for the twenty-five-foot dive, but when Twist made a move for the revolver in his belt, Pioggi quickly jumped out of the window. He landed on all fours and later found out his had fractured his ankle. Pioggi limped to a telephone and called Paul Kelly, the boss of the Five Points gang. Pioggi told Kelly what had transpired concerning Kid Twist.
“I’ve got to cook him,” Pioggi told Kelly.
Kelly agreed with Pioggi’s assessment. “Sure you got to cook him,” Kelly said. “I’ll send a fleet down. When my boys get there you get these bums in the street and open up with your cannons.”
Kelly’s boys arrived an hour later and when they did, they saw Twist and Cyclone Louie having a grand old time in Terry’s dance hall, laughing and talking loudly about Pioggi’s daring dive. Terry had vacated the premises for a while and was nowhere to be seen. Pioggi sent a kid inside with a note telling Twist that Terry was waiting for him outside. As soon as they made it to the sidewalk, Twist head a voice call him from the side. “Over this way Kid,” Pioggi yelled. Before Twist could react, Pioggi put one in his head, killing him instantly. Cyclone Louie stood with his mouth open for a second, then he started to run. Pioggi and the Five Pointers chased him, pumping bullets at a dazzling rate. Finally, shot five times in the chest and back, Cyclone Louie fell dead as a rock to the pavement.
Pioggi, still outraged, refused to stop shooting. As luck would have it, Terry showed up seconds later, and just for the fun of it, Pioggi pumped a slug into her hip. Terry fell on top of the dead Twist, but lived to dance another day. As Pioggi jumped into a getaway car, a cop showed up at the scene. Pioggi fired again. This bullet knocked the cop’s helmet right off his head, but otherwise did him no damage.
Pioggi made his getaway and went into hiding, while Kelly contacted Tammany Hall, to see if he could negotiate Pioggi a favorable deal.
A few days later, Pioggi turned himself in and pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He also testified that he had acted completely alone, which was quite disingenuous of him, since scores of people had seen the Coney Island executions.
Pioggi was sentenced to eleven months in Elmira State Prison. He left the courthouse sneering. “What’s eleven months?” Pioggi said. “I could do that standin’ on me head.”