SI Vault
William Nack
August 23, 1993
Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano was a tough-fisted brawler in the ring and a tightfisted mystery out of it
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August 23, 1993

The Rock

Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano was a tough-fisted brawler in the ring and a tightfisted mystery out of it

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When he wasn't chasing after these and other phantoms, he was spending an inordinate amount of time trying to collect bad debts. At times he enlisted in this enterprise his wide variety of friends, from a law-abiding New York State judge, John Lomenzo, to his old Chicago pal Frankie Fratto, a reputed syndicate terrorist. In the early '60s when Marciano grew tired of waiting for repayment of a $75,000 loan to a Toronto businessman, he appealed to Judge Lomenzo, who shed his robes and headed north with Marciano to Canada. A distinguished jurist who would later serve as New York's secretary of state, Lomenzo made a plea for mercy and compassion on behalf of his poor client, Marciano. "Rocky is having hard times, and he loaned you the money," said the judge. The businessman wrote out a check immediately. Waiving his own private rules, Marciano took the paper and cashed it.

Fratto was persuasive in his own quiet way when Marciano sent him collecting. "If people did not pay Rocky back, I would help him," he says. It was all very simple: "I went to them and told them, 'You owe my friend some money. I suggest you pay it back.' They did not give me a hard time."

Mostly, though, Marciano did his own enforcing. Saccone remembers the time he and Marciano were strolling through Brockton when Rocky, pleading business, excused himself and ducked into Brockton Eddie Massod's pool room and gambling hell on Center Street. Massod owed Marciano $5,000, and he hadn't made a payment in months. Worse, he had been hiding from him, a no-no at the Marciano savings and loan. "If you couldn't pay it back, be a man and face it," Saccone says. "You could never hide on him." The Rock found him on the third floor, from where Saccone, standing on the sidewalk below, could hear the rising shouts. Glancing up, he saw Brockton Eddie hanging halfway out the window and the former heavyweight champion of the world leaning over him, a hand clutched around Eddie's throat.

"I've waited long enough!" Marciano screamed. "No more stalling. I want my money. Now.... Now!"

"I need a little more time," gurgled Eddie.

"No more time.... No more time!"

A few minutes later Marciano stepped from the door counting a sheaf of $20 bills, the first of dozens of installments that Saccone would be in charge of collecting monthly from Massod. The CPA was only one in a vast and intricate mesh of people, friends and followers of unusual ardency, who worked what lives they had of their own around the odd, often nocturnal, unpredictable movements of the Rock. Marciano had been married to the same woman, the former Barbara Cousins, the daughter of a Brockton cop, since Dec. 31, 1950, but the union unraveled long before the decade was done. Barbara tended to obesity, had a serious drinking problem and smoked heavily—she would die of lung cancer in 1974—whereas her husband's tastes ran more to svelte, statuesque blondes, that single glass of wine and smokeless rooms. "He couldn't stand his married life," says Saccone. "He loved his daughter, and she loved him, but he had no relationship with his wife. There was nothing compatible between them. He wanted to do things, and she didn't."

So the mesh included people, such as the late Lindy Ciardelli on the West Coast and Paterniti on the East Coast, whose job was to help feed Marciano's prodigious sexual appetite. "Rock liked girls, know what I mean?" Paterniti says. "Nobody wants me to tell you about it, but Rock was insane about girls—all the time. Rocky was the heavyweight champion of girls. Forget about the fights. He was crazy about the girls; that's all he wanted to do. Rocky constantly had orgies and parties, night and day.... A friend of mine in New York got me and Rocky thousands of girls. Honestly, literally a thousand girls. We had girls every single day and night. I carried a suitcase full of vibrators. I mean, we used to call Rocky the vibrator king. I had a suitcase that I took all over, filled with vibrators and electric massagers and emotion lotion and all kinds of creams and oils.... We went to Pennsylvania and we were with these mob guys and they were bringing us girls and Rocky said, 'Don't let 'em know we got all that stuff. They'll think that we're weird or somethin'.' "

There were women for Marciano everywhere he went in those days after his retirement. That a woman be waiting for him was as requisite for his appearance as the folded $100 bills. "He never had an affair," says Santarelli, his Chicago underworld pal, who booked him to make appearances and advertisements all over. "I don't think he had sex with the same girl twice. Never, that I know, and I knew him a long time. Any girls he had sex with, you couldn't bring her to dinner no more. That's it. Get rid of her. He never wanted to see her again. For dinner, or even a cup of coffee. If he ever went to some place and there was not a girl waiting for him, he'd never come back."

So it was this lust for women and the hunger for making deals and the quest for cash that drove the Rock to the road. He had the whole mesh linked together perfectly, his life and travels so arranged that he never had a need for anything. There was the network of pilots, of course, and then all those eager aides-de-camp awaiting him with cars and limos at whatever airport he was headed for. He was, by consensus, the world's worst driver.

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