February 10, 2020 — Old-school television star Robert Conrad, a close friend of the Chicago mob’s famously-feared Spilotro brothers, died of natural causes in Malibu, California over the weekend. The 84-year old Conrad played U.S. Secret Serviceman Jim West, a 19th Century “James Bond on horseback,” on the hit show The Wild, Wild West for CBS in the late 1960s and became well known throughout Hollywood circles as a brawler with a quick temper.
His chosen company to socialize with also came under the microscope. Being from Chicago, Conrad knew, “Outfit” tough guy Tony (The Ant) Spilotro and his younger brother and protégé Michael aka “Mickey”, who Conrad helped get into acting and score roles on major television shows. Conrad met Tony Spilotro, diminutive, volatile and three years his junior, in the 1950s when he worked as a longshoreman on the docks of Lake Michigan and then dabbled in the Windy City’s boxing scene. Tony Spilotro ran west coast operations for the mafia in Chicago from 1971 until his untimely demise in 1986.
Both Spilotros were beaten, stomped and strangled to death inside a Bensenville, Illinois basement on June 14, 1986, after Tony upset his bosses with his troublemaking behavior in Las Vegas, where he was sent to watch over the Midwest mob’s interests in the casino and hotel industry and became drunk on power. It was Spilotro’s outlandish antics in Vegas that eventually got the mob kicked out of town and led to him and his brother’s brutal murder. Conrad was often observed by FBI surveillance units visiting the Spilotros in Nevada and Illinois and the Spilotros visiting him in California. The Spilotro brothers death was depicted in the 1995 film Casino, with Oscar-winner Joe Pesci playing the role of Tony the Ant to much praise by critics.
Due to his friendship with Conrad, Mickey Spilotro ironically got cast in small cop roles in the NBC television mini-series “The Duke,” starring Conrad as a Chicago boxer-turned- private investigator and on CBS’s widely-popular Magnum P.I. series starring Tom Selleck. Through Conrad, the Spilotros were close to Magnum P.I. co-star Larry Manetti. Conrad had also aided in Manetti’s start in the acting world.
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