Ailing gravely and facing his eighth felony trial, stripper king Frank Francis Colacurcio took the easy way out today, dying at age 93. The Seattle Times reports his death was confirmed by his attorney, Irwin Schwartz. Colacurcio takes with him the title of Seattle's most memorable and enduring crime figure who never seemed to mind going to prison, as he did five times.
He'd gotten in and out of the pinball and jukebox businesses in the 1950s and 1960s during Seattle's Tolerance Policy era, which led to corruption scandals and Frank's first federal conviction, for racketeering, in 1971.
He began buying up restaurants and selling sex and booze to the mass market. After the turn of the century, he was caught up in another City Hall payoff scandal, known as Strippergate, illegally funneling money to Seattle City Council members seeking re-election. But by then he'd mastered the art of corruption: after the scheme was exposed, Frank and his associates got their money back.
Not that he needed it. Colacurcio made a fortune operating in the Mafia-free zones of the West. The outside family mobs considered much of it Frank's turf, or perhaps not worth the effort. He dominated other regional vice lords as well, such as the dangerously screwball Carbone gang of Tacoma, the Elkins mob of Portland, and small-time operators around the Northwest. He worked with the Teamsters and their crooked Northwest leaders, including Dave Beck.
Colacurcio was named as a known racketeer by James Elkins in 1957, under questioning by Bobby Kennedy, then counsel for the McClellan Committee investigating labor corruption. After mobster Elkins mentioned Colacurcio's name, Kennedy asked who he was.
Elkins:. Well, I knew him to be another racketeer.
Kennedy: A racketeer?
Kennedy: Did you have a meeting with Frank Colacurcio?
Elkins: Yes, sir.
Kennedy: Where did you have a meeting with him?
Elkins: In Tom and Joe's apartment, Tom Maloney and Joe McLaughlin's apartment in Portland Towers.
Kennedy: That was Frank Colacurcio?
Elkins: He was a boy that had various things operating in Seattle.
Kennedy: He was in the same kind of business as you, but more.
Elkins: That is right.
Though he was convicted of seven felonies dating back to a rape conviction in the 1940s--his attorney was Albert Rosellini, later governor and a longtime friend and associate of Colacurcio's - the fact that he was still a free man after Strippergate didn't sit well with the sore losers of law and order.
Several years back they formed a local, state, and federal Task Force to Get Frank. It has cost millions --- something much of the public sees as a wasteful intrusion into the world of consenting adults --- resulting in a whole new series of federal racketeering, money laundering, and prostitution charges against him. Frank didn't flinch: "I'll never be 'retired' retired," he had said in the 1990s. "Not until I'm in the grave."
A few weeks ago, on his 93rd birthday and after everyone else in the indictment had decided to take pleas, including his son Frankie, Frank served notice he was challenging the feds' case and asked that it be thrown out. He wasn't taking a fall. He wanted to win. Today, in his own way, he did: He retired.