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Coughlin: Cleveland mobster Danny Greene had a big heart

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Danny Greene probably did not want this to get around, but he had a heart as big as all outdoors.
The prevalent thinking back in 1975 was that Danny blew up Cleveland gangster Shondor Birns to avoid paying a debt. Shondor had just turned on the ignition of his Lincoln Continental Mark IV when it exploded behind Christy’s Lounge at West 25th and Detroit Avenue. When they canvassed the neighborhood collecting Shondor’s pieces, they found one of his most private parts on the steps of St. Malachi’s Church, the closest Shondor ever came to a house of worship. The fact that this occurred on Holy Saturday was only coincidental.
Danny left without saying goodbye in similar fashion, blown up by the local Mafia in 1977. The three fine chaps who did it actually went to jail.
Although Danny was connected over the years with several people whose untimely passing raised more than a few eyebrows, let’s not forget that he had a soft side.
“He was a very nice guy,” the old boxing promoter, Don Elbaum, said just the other day when he called to discuss the six sticks of dynamite that turned his own Cadillac into a smouldering cinder.
Back in the seventies people were getting blown up all the time around here. It was a very popular way to settle disputes. Cleveland was called the dynamite capital of the world.
So when somebody wanted to do away with Elbaum, Danny Greene was offered the job.
“I knew Danny because he came to my fight shows. I can’t say that he was a close friend, but we were friendly. He always bought a bunch of tickets,” said Elbaum, who promoted fight shows at the old Cleveland Arena.
Elbaum reflects on life from the perspective of old age. He is well into his seventies and still promoting fight shows in New York, New Jersey or Philadelphia. I didn’t catch his current area code.
“Back in those days,” he said, referring to his Cleveland career, “there was no in between. People who liked me loved me. But some people hated me.”
All of that explains why somebody wanted Elbaum blown up and asked Danny Greene to do it.
“Danny said he would blow up my car but not with me in it. He said he would blow it up only as a warning,” said Elbaum, who treasures that kind of loyalty.
He remembers the night.
“I was in my motel room when I heard a loud ‘boom’ outside. A minute later the phone rang. ‘Mr. Elbaum, are you driving a Cadillac and was it parked outside?’ said the lady at the front desk.”
Elbaum said he tried to keep the story quiet.
“But it was in the paper. I remember writing that story,” I interrupted.
“Yeah, I kept it out of the papers for about two days,” he said. “I was concerned about my mother. I didn’t want her to worry. I was an only child. She thought I was so innocent. After I had my second child she thought I was still a virgin.”
Elbaum eventually explained the reason for his call. After much urging, he finally relented and will collaborate on a book. He never kept a journal, so he is trying to reconstruct his adventures from memory.
“Some of the stories are even true,” he said.
He needed a name, the name of the Cleveland detective who told him who hired Danny Greene to blow up his car.
“I want to give credit where credit is due,” said Elbaum.
Dan Coughlin is a columnist for The Chronicle-Telegram and a sportscaster for Channel 8. Contact him at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com. 

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