The memories tumble out in a husky voice, tinged with the sadness of unfulfilled promise. “Dad would always take me around to show me off to his friends when I was a little girl,” says the olive-skinned woman. “I always wore a white bonnet, white gloves, little white patent leather shoes. I was always,” she remembers wistfully, “his little princess.”
But her father’s friends were knights more erring than errant. “Let’s see,” she says, “there was Gus Alex, Tony Accardo, Paul DeLucia—he was called Paul the Waiter. I don’t remember Al Capone. Maybe I was too little then.” The little-princess-grown-older is Antoinette Maria Giancana, 43, daughter of Sam “Momo” Giancana, the late Godfather of Chicago. Giancana, the mobster ex-party girl Judith Exner claims shared her favors with President Kennedy, was shot to death in 1975, two weeks before he was to testify concerning alleged Mafia involvement in a CIA plot to kill Fidel Castro.
But even before Giancana was murdered, his tender relationship with his daughter was poisoned. Today, disinherited, divorced and, she insists, nearly destitute, Toni Giancana is bitter. “If I’d been born a man, I would have followed in my father’s footsteps,” she declares defiantly. “I’m just like him. But that isn’t the way it is in ‘the Family.’ ” Instead, she is more than four months behind in her rent and is facing eviction from her home in the Chicago suburb of Geneva. Though her request for food stamps was turned down on the grounds that she owns to many stocks, the township granted her a $40 stipend for groceries last May. She refuses, however, to forgo the diamonds, rubies and pearls of her past. “That’s not my style,” she says simply.
Nor has it ever been. Her childhood was a nouveau riche idyll of the finest convent schools, a treasure chest of glittering jewelry and, for her 16th birthday, one of Chicago’s first chartreuse convertibles. Her dresses were by Dior, and there were vacations in Palm Springs and Lake Worth. Above all, there were the glamorous dinners—always chaperoned by her father—with Frank Sinatra and his Hollywood entourage. But when Toni decided to marry a Greek Orthodox doctor 20 years her senior, Sam Giancana said no. Soon afterward she married a bartender named Carmen Manno. “It was the usual rebound thing,” she says. “We were staying in the suite Sinatra used at the Ambassador East Hotel, and the morning after the wedding I looked around at the luxury and out at the view of the lake and the sky, and I said to myself, ‘Well, this will be a good honeymoon, but don’t expect life to go on this way.’ I knew it couldn’t work. We were from different ends of the world.”
Later, as a young housewife in St. Charles, Ill., she did her best to mix with her neighbors. “She put up preserves and wrestled with crabgrass with a vengeance,” says a friend. She held a campaign coffee for future Gov. Daniel Walker, and filled Thanksgiving baskets for the poor with gourmet treats she had prepared herself. But somehow it wouldn’t quite wash. “At one neighborhood party she wore orange hotpants and a purple satin shirt and boots,” a close friend recalls. “She had champagne coming out of the fountains. She invited a lot of people, but a lot didn’t come. Even before she moved in there was a rumor that she was Mafia.”
Gradually Toni’s marriage came apart. Once, she says, she wound up in a hospital emergency ward after a fight with her husband. She began an affair with a married man, and when she asked for a divorce, her angry father disowned her. She lost the $120,000 home Giancana had given her, and reluctantly relinquished custody of her five sons when she found that she couldn’t support them. Her alimony was cut off when she refused to sell her house by a court-ordered date. “Having been taken care of first by her father and then by her husband, she couldn’t face the reality that money no longer flowed like wine,” explains a newspaperwoman who knew her. Angry that her father’s “Family” hasn’t come to her aid, Toni is threatening to talk about life with the don. “I’m tired of everybody else making money off it,” she says, “and I think my story is truer than theirs.” “Toni is hoping for a miracle,” says a friend. “She has a lot of dreams—like she’d like to be on a TV talk show. Some of the things she used to tell our coffee klatch—like the fact that she’d been a top model—we thought were made up. But then I saw her scrapbooks, and the stories were true.”
Perhaps what troubles Toni the most is the need to be someone again. She is delighted to think her father might have plotted with JFK to kill Castro. “I love to think my dad was really important,” she says, “that he reached such heights that Presidents called on him. Capone wasn’t a confidant of Presidents. Vito Genovese wasn’t.” Toni never met Kennedy, she admits, but maintains she met Richard Nixon when he was Vice-President. “I was in Maxim’s in Miami, and a friend said, ‘There he is. Someone,” she says coyly, “sent over a bottle of wine and a note.”
Now the past is prelude for Toni Giancana, and she is struggling to come to terms with her future. “I’m looking for work, and it’s so hard,” she says, picking over her salad at a high-priced suburban restaurant. “Yesterday I was at the beauty shop, and that took most of the day. Then I came for my little lunch—it’s expensive, but I have to allow myself some luxuries. This place is full of rich men,” she says with a glance at the bar. “Find me one, someone sexy and wealthy who doesn’t have to worry about marrying a Mafioso’s daughter.”