In the beautiful Long Island town of Flower Village, 1966, Richard Bianca was preparing to enjoy a Christmas Eve weekend with his family. They were the essence of his existence. He had a beautiful wife of fifteen years, and after many years of trying; God finally blessed them with a child. Exactly five years ago this Christmas Eve he received the son he always wanted. How is it that what happened on this fine and holy day would change the way the funeral industry operated in New York forever?
White flakes fell softly on the snow-crested pines as nature gracefully spread its luminescent garland over the landscape of this upscale home. Seeking attention, the cold wind rattled the windows to show everyone the snowdrifts it sculpted along the property. Safe inside, the crackling from the fireplace gave everyone that warm special holiday feeling. The sound of Johnny Mathis singing "Oh Holy Night" was playing in the background while Maria, Richard's wife, was in the kitchen preparing the Christmas Eve dinner. With joyous satisfaction, Maria and Connie, the maid, worked diligently, as the aroma of food and fresh baked pastries filled the house.
This evening was a special night because both Richard and Maria's families were coming over for the traditional Christmas Eve fish dinner, followed by Midnight Mass. Their son, Ricky, played with his new Lionel train set beneath a huge ten foot Christmas tree that graced the den. The engine chugged and whistled as it burrowed deep through the mountains of Christmas presents, most bearing his name. It was like a peaceful Sunday afternoon in the park, before the earthquake hit.
While his wife and son were blissfully occupied, Richard Bianca was in the study sitting at his desk. He was reading through some papers, and from time to time he gazed out the study window. Looking out at the snow-covered backyard, his mind would occasionally wander into its deep back caverns. He thought about the smart move he had made leaving the city and moving into this plush, spacious home. Things were getting too complicated, too crowded, and there were too many people to answer to in the city. Yes, it was a good move indeed, the right thing for him to do.
Building a big funeral home out here on Long Island, and moving his family to this stellar house on the north shore was his dream come true. If only he could rid himself of the last link he had to the city and his shady associates back there. That link was his funeral home in Bensonhurst. He wanted desperately to sell it and break off his ties with the underground crime families. Even though he wasn't connected to any particular Mafia family, it was difficult to own a successful business in Brooklyn and not have some involvement with them. They made sure of that. His funeral home in Brooklyn had been up for sale for more than three years and Richard hadn't received one single offer. It was in a great location, highly profitable, and even at an under valued price no one would dare touch it. The word was out, the mob didnt want it sold.
Now that the crime families had settled their long dispute over drugs, gambling, and prostitution, the big move was to infiltrate legal businesses. Funeral homes in the city were one of the first targets, after carting and construction. In these industries, organized crime did not seek ownership, but to unionize, extort and use them for their illegal activities. The first and most important step was to unionize the funeral industry. This would give them leverage, and a means of intimidation.
Richard's best friend from childhood, Barry Silverstone, a Jewish boy from the old neighborhood, had long been a successful union leader. Ambitious, charismatic, and a natural born organizer, he had already unionized the entire city's carting industry. Operating for the Biganti Crime Family, he was under increased pressure to organize the funeral business. This industry however, would not surrender easily and applied tremendous resistance. Many of these funeral homes themselves had connections to organized crime families. Besides that, huge conglomerate corporations on the stock exchange were swallowing up mortuaries like sharks in a school of bluefish. These corporations were buying up funeral homes, cemeteries, florists, casket companies and anything relating to the funeral industry. Also, just the mere complexities of this peculiar industry made it seem impossible to unionize. Nevertheless, there was a key, one common denominator, and that was Richard Bianca.
Richard was regarded with the highest esteem in this field. Everyone revered and respected him for his honesty, integrity, and business savvy. More than that, he was a dynamic and charismatic leader of the City Funeral Directors Association. This influential professional group was responsible for lobbying lawmakers, Health Departments and city officials to improve funeral directing in the city. He was well respected for all his work and accomplishments in this area. He was the crucible that kept everything and everybody united. The crucible with no more time to stall and must finally collide with the cataclysmic maelstrom thats headed for him.