Organized crime stories have long interested the general public, from the Jimmy Cagney mob movies in the 1930s to “The Godfather,” “Goodfellas” and the more recent “The Irishman,” which featured the stories of real-life South Philly gangsters.
People are also interested in newspaper, TV and true crime book accounts of gangsters. The real and reel mob stories offer larger than life characters, drama, suspense, greed, violence and betrayal.
George Anastasia, a retired Philadelphia Inquirer reporter and true crime author, and Dave Schratwieser, a retired Fox 29 TV reporter, have been chasing mob stories for decades, and they now offer their reporting and historical knowledge on “Mob Talk Sitdown.” The popular videos started on YouTube, and the two reporters now offer a paid subscription website at mobtalksitdown.com.
I reached out to them and asked how they got together and started this venture.
“We had done this for Fox 29 for several years and had a good following, but a management change there resulted in a decision to discontinue the report,” Anastasia said.
“It used to run on Friday nights for the most part as a segment during the 10pm news cast. Dave came up with the idea of doing it on our own. I had already left the Inquirer by that point and he was going part-time with Fox 29.”
Schratwieser said he and Anastasia had been working together on “Mob Talk” since the Joey Merlino racketeering trial in 2000.
“We used to do a weekly segment with Angelo Lutz, who was also a defendant on trial,” Schratwieser said.
“We would discuss what happened at the trial that week. Usually there were a few serious and a few funny moments from the trial. We would use video of the mob guys on trial to cover these discussions and the segment caught on with folks and got pretty good ratings. Viewers from around the country started to watch.
“We decided to keep doing them on YouTube with George, myself and our extremely talented cameraman, Bryan Zilai. They were extremely popular there as well.”
I asked them why they transitioned to a paid subscription website.
“I think our intention was always to go to subscription, but we did it for free at the start to develop a following,” Anastasia said.
“The rate – $11.99 for a year – is not significant. Nobody likes to work for free, and our hope is to keep expanding and eventually generate enough income to turn this into a significant freelancing venture for all of us.”
I think the website offers a unique look into organized crime and fills a void that has been created with the decision by local media not to cover the underworld as a beat.– George Anastasia
Schratwieser added that researching, producing, shooting and editing the videos takes time and effort.
“While the segments made a few bucks from YouTube ads that ran with them, we decided to test the waters with a paid subscription, so we created the ‘Mob Talk’ website. We also offer news, the podcasts and other content for free,” Schratwieser said.
He noted that the $11.99 was reasonable given the work required to produce the videos.
“I think the website offers a unique look into organized crime and fills a void that has been created with the decision by local media not to cover the underworld as a beat,” Anastasia said.
“When I was at the Inquirer, my job was to report on organized and disorganized crime. Dave focused on crime reporting at Fox. We covered many of the same stories and covered them in depth.
“With cutbacks in resources and different approaches to news, most of the local media are not providing that kind of coverage, so our goal is to fill that void. And we bring years of experience and lots of sources to the table. That’s what makes the website unique. I think we have an historic perspective that a reader or viewer won’t be able to find anywhere else.”
Schratwieser said the website offers the most up-to-date local and national news about the local mob and other crime families around the country.
No other site in the country has those kinds of video resources or produces videos like ours.– Dave Schratwieser
“George and I have a combined 60-plus years reporting on organized crime,” Schratwieser said.
“We have tremendous sources, and we know what we’re talking about. We like to tell our stories with some flair, lots of inside info and a few funny tales along the way. Not to mention we also have a vast video and still photo library from covering organized crime from the late ‘80s up to today, including exclusive surveillance video. No other site in the country has those kinds of video resources or produces videos like ours.”
Note: Next week Anastasia and Schratwieser discuss the current status of the Philly mob, whether Joey Merlino is still the boss, and discuss drug gangs and a case of outlaw bikers using a cemetery to stash murdered bodies.
Paul Davis’ Crime Beat appears each week. You can contact him via pauldavisoncrime.com.