Framed and Hung

When the mob collides with the art world it’s impossible to see who’s the bigger thief or who runs the best scam.

At a time following W.W. II, Don Vincenzo Castiglione moves with his family and entourage from Palermo, Sicily to New York City.

Don Vincenzo quickly establishes himself as the Capo di tuti Capi of the New York underworld.

Shortly thereafter Don Vincenzo's only daughter, Carmen Maria, a slightly overweight virgin in need of minimal orthodontia, arrives at marriageable age. Despite the Don's other preferences she marries the extremely handsome if somewhat ineffectual Dominic Annunciato and a short time later their son Anthony is born.

Anthony becomes the apple of the Don's eye and he grows up to be a charming and clever young man straining to take on his grandfather's mantle.

In his final year at Harvard, Anthony falls in love with Harlene Slocum, the beautiful, semi-virginal daughter of a Oklahoma oil fortune.

Fifteen years later Harlene harasses Anthony out of the family Victorian in Bensonhurst and into a serious mansion in Englewood Cliffs. In seeking to decorate the mansion she becomes involved with a series of unscrupulous art dealers.

She turns to Anthony for assistance. Despite the fact that he is currently struggling with the vexing problem of safely importing large quantities of a certain illegal powdered substance, he puts aside his business interests to come to her aid.

He becomes intrigued by the obvious con of the art world and seeks to learn about it. His guide is the plain is a hopelessly smitten Aurora Kalbshoxen and assistant director of Notheby's Auction Rooms. Through her he discovers one Biaggi Biancoulu, a Neapolitan minimalist of low renown and minimal tal;ent.

Biaggi’s otherwise worthless paintings, however, are fortuitously encased in huge, hollow, wooden frames in which Anthony sees the solution to his powdered substance importation problems.

He buys up half of Biaggi's work, packs the frames with drugs and ships them to Notheby's to be auctioned.

He seeds the auction with a Runyanesque gathering of his own mobsters, who easily buy up Biaggi’s otherwise unwanted work at minimum prices. What Anthony has not foreseen is that the complete sellout of Biaggi's work will be noticed and noted by the ever-acquisitive art world. Six weeks later there is a "Biancoulu Two" at Notheby's.

It is at this show that the unthinkable happens—twice.

One of the paintings is bought by The Baroness Brunhilda von Platz y Kapsos. The frame full of cocaine is now in her hands.

Even worse, art critic Collier Hornbluth, desperately in need of a new discovery anoints Biaggi, rising star of the New York art scene.

Biaggi’s head swells all out of proportion and Anthony sends Tommy "Toots" Canestruna to Italy to resolve the problem. He also decides to create a whole new school of art, based on the frames of the soon to be deceased Biaggi. He launches the Corniche Grosso, (Big Frame) school of art.

Corniche Grosso is a monster hit and seems destined to make everyone heaps of money until the destitute Baroness, sells her Biancoulu back to Anthony and then tries to scam her insurance company by putting in a claim that it was stolen. Unaware of The Baroness’ scam Anthony puts the painting into the next Corniche Grosso show.

Lt. Brian Q. Molloy a NYC Art Cop recognizes the picture from an insurance company’s, stolen art flyer. He raids the gallery, arrests it’s bewildered employees, confiscates the picture and leaves it in his office where the drug sniffing dog of a drinking buddy from DEA uncovers it’s real secret.

The entire scam is beginning to unravel but an ever resourceful Anthony knows how to make the best of a decidedly unwieldy situation. And embarks on a new version of the old scheme by unloading the paintings on hordes of greedy collectors and galley owners.

Framed and Hung - Excerpt