Contino was the first to introduce weirdness into gangsterism.
He wore a hairnet and cardboard spats.
Cardboard, because, until he established himself,
he couldn’t afford real ones.
He hung out with artists and looked for eccentricities
and affectations he could carry over into gangsterism.
Weirdness equalled viciousness, at least,
the propensity for viciousness.
How Contino worked it out was,
if they saw you were crazy enough to walk
the mean streets in a colourful get-up,
with a hairnet, cardboard spats and
carrying a cane, who knew what else
you were crazy enough to do?
He played percussion with his artist friends,
some of whom he grew so fond he offered
them protection free of charge.
He always picked up weird stuff to play,
tin cans, suitcases, wooden wheels, any
old junk. But he had no natural sense
The more successful he became,
the weirder he got.
He drove a 1950s jalopy,
the backseat full of home-made instruments.
He now had real spats. Their colour
always matched his suits, which,
some days, were in bright patterns.
In his breast pocket, he had a sardine
can, a chicken drumstick, or a spent
firework. Instead of hairnets, some
days, he wore wigs.
His own black-dyed hair was lacquered back
onto his skull.
His style was called ‘Harra,’
which derived from ‘horror.’
It wasn’t so much the movies that inspired him,
It was German Expressionism and Performance
Art, Braque, Otto Dix, Hermann Nitsch
and Otto Muehl.