Tendo has a personal style that’s impossible to pin down. She doesn’t stand out awkwardly, but she doesn’t come close to the impeccable sartorial coordination of the Tokyoites around us. She wears a diamond-encrusted Hermès watch but carries a big, battered canvas satchel. Her hair is sharply cut, and her makeup is expertly applied, yet she hides it all under a baseball cap. “My appearance is like me: mixed up,” she says. “I don’t want to be part of the yakuza world anymore, but I’m not ready to join mainstream society. I still find it hard to trust people on either side.”
Tendo was raised in a clandestine realm of violence and ill-begotten wealth. Descended from medieval gamblers and street peddlers, the yakuza came into full force during the U.S. occupation in postwar Japan, when demand for black-market goods escalated. For years they ran rackets in corporate extortion, real estate, and loan-sharking. In recent times, authorities have been cracking down, forcing the gangs to find sources of overseas income, such as sex-trafficking and weapons.
Given that Japan is generally one of the world’s most law-abiding nations, the yakuza are especially sinister figures in the national psyche. For Tendo, laying bare her “sordid past” is her way of trying to reconcile her conflicting feelings about who she is. “I hate yakuza. I’ve seen all the ugly things they do,” she says. “But I loved my dad, whatever his crimes. He raised me, and I have his yakuza blood.”
Lowering her voice so a man with a glistening comb-over can’t hear, Tendo tells me how her early life was dominated by her volatile father. He was the head of a gang allied with the largest yakuza syndicate, the Yamaguchi-gumi. She remembers discovering what a “big boss” he was: When she was 6, she opened the door to find a gangster dripping blood. He was clutching a box for her dad, which contained the finger he’d just hacked off his own hand. “The man was my dad’s underling who’d done something wrong,” she says. “Dad started hitting him. I couldn’t believe my father was still angry with him, even though he’d cut off his finger to say sorry.” Tendo hid behind her mom, but she’d seen enough to know that her dad, Yasuhiro Tendo, wielded a terrifying power.
Lester “Baby Face Nelson” married Helen Gillis in 1928. Throughout the duration of their marriage, she would never use her husband’s last name, but she did embark on a life of crime with him. In 1934, the couple became part of the infamous Dillinger gang. Together, they took part in bank robberies and crimes across the country.
It was in the spring of that same year that FBI agents tracked the gang to the Little Bohemia Lodge, Wisconsin. Although they were surrounded, the men got away, leaving the women who were traveling with them behind; including Gillis. In November 1934, Lester Gillis was fatally wounded in a shootout with FBI agents; who also resulted in the death of the agents. Loyal to the man that she shared a life of crime with, Helen refused to leave his body behind. She took it with her and an associate, as they left the scene of the shootout. He died in his wife’s arms.
Two days after the naked body of Lester “Baby Face” Nelson was found in a ditch, near a cemetery, Helen Gillis turned herself in. She was sentenced to one year and a day at the Women’s Federal Reformatory in Michigan.
This mother of 4 would not even give thought to the idea of going into Witness Protection, even though she knew there was a contract on her life. In 1992, Andrea Giovino was indicted along with her “husband” and brother on drug charges. As a favor, in return for her co-defendant’s co-operation, she was simply relocated.
Andrea became romantically involved with Frank Lino but the two were never legally married. She lived a wonderful life with him and he was a great father to her children; they had none together. When Lino was incarcerated, Andrea claims that she had to take the reigns and become a mobster herself. Many people question some of her stories and she is often referred to as a mob groupie. This is mostly because she was an attorney, who knew nothing about mob life until her divorced lover taught her.
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker is the female half of the outlaw duo, Bonnie and Clyde. The couple was made infamous by their criminal activities across the United States between 1931 and 1934.
Bonnie met Clyde Barrow in 1929, at the age of 19; a year after her three year marriage had fallen apart. They instantly fell in love. Bonnie joined her new beau and his gang on the road. As a criminal organization, they robbed banks, general stores and of course, there were murders. The gang, including Bonnie, became some of the country’s most wanted criminals. Ironically, there have been stories told by victims of the gang about how polite and caring the criminals were.
Bonnie made history with her lover. They were known around the world. It seemed they did everything together. It would only be natural that they die together, as well. On May 23rd, 1934, the car carrying Bonnie and Clyde was ambushed on a Louisiana Road. They died in a hail of 130 rounds.
As you can see, even the most ruthless men had love in their lives. Some of them lived, committed crimes and died together. Some left their women behind, in an effort to protect them. Some left their loves behind after they paid with their lives.
These women loved their criminal minded men. They knew them in ways that no one else did; which is probably why they could love them as no one else could. Love has the power to make even the hardest and coldest man, go totally soft.
Columbian drug lord, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, was a very efficient criminal. He was able to elude authorities for a long time, as he built his riches from his cocaine empire. During his time as a criminal, he acquired many homes, cars and airplanes. In the latter part of the 1980’s, he even tried his hand at politics in Columbia.
In the spring of 1976, 26 year old Escobar married Maria Victoria; she was 11 years his junior. She lived a good life with her husband and two children. By 1989, Forbes had listed the man’s worth at $24 billion. Still, her husband was a criminal and found himself fleeing constantly to elude capture. He lived many years away from his family but close enough to always know what was going on. Ever the loyal wife, she aided her husband in remaining hidden. That is, until authorities caught on.
Unable to flee Columbia, and under constant surveillance and guard, the wife of the ruthless killer was under pressure. Informed that she would soon be left alone if her husband didn’t surrender, she asked authorities to give him more time. Escobar didn’t surrender; he had to be found. Unfortunately, he was also killed in December of 1993, by Columbian National Police.
After her husband’s death, Maria Victoria Henoa attempted to start a real estate company. Upon finding out her true identity, her accountant tried to blackmail her. When she tried to report it, she was forced to reveal her identity and ties to Pablo Escobar. Subsequently, she was detained and imprisoned for 1 ½ years on money laundering charges.