DETROIT – Marvin “The Weasel” Elkind, Jimmy Hoffa’s old personal driver, spoke with Local 4 about run-ins with mob bosses, conversations he wished he’d never heard and his front-row seat to one of the biggest mysteries in American history.
Local 4 is releasing a series of special reports exploring the life and legacy of Hoffa, the former Teamster boss.
Not many people who saw Hoffa’s power up close and personal are still alive, but Local 4′s Steve Garagiola found Elkind, who said he saw a lot more than he wanted to.
Steve found Elkind living in Toronto. He said he was Hoffa’s personal driver for five frightening years.
In the late 1950s, Elkind was a busboy at the Copacabana in New York. It was a regular spot for many of the capos of New York’s mafia families. One day, mob lieutenant Tony Salerno called Elkind over to his table and told him he was getting a new job.
“(He said), ‘Friday is your last day here,’” Elkind said. “I said, ‘Why? I’m trying to do a good job.' He said, ‘As of Monday, you’re gonna be Jimmy Hoffa’s driver.’ I didn’t know Jimmy Hoffa but had heard a lot of stories. I was 18 -- scared the crap out of me.”
Three days later, Elkind met Hoffa.
“I says, ‘Good morning, Mr. Hoffa,’” Elkind said. “(He said), ‘Are you Marvin?’ I says, ‘Yes.’ He says, ‘Good start. Mr. Hoffa or sir. Remember that.'”
Elkind said Hoffa had a couple of important rules. The first was never be late. The second:
“What you hear in this car stays in this car,” Elkind said. “(He said), ‘If I hear you talking to anybody about what you hear in this car, you won’t be around the next morning. Do we understand each other?’ I said, ‘Yes, we understand each other.’"
Elkind drove Hoffa wherever he wanted to go, often with a notorious group of mafia chiefs.
“In the back of the car is Don Vito Genovese, Sam Giancana from Illinois, Blinky Palermo and Frankie Carbo,” Elkind said.
Elkind said he kept his eyes on the road and many times wished there had been a glass partition between him and the conversations in the back.
“I was fearful 100% of the time,” Elkind said. “I figured out quickly that as long as I did what Mr. Hoffa said, Mr. Hoffa gave me this chain, and he expected 100% loyalty and 100% obedience, and I figured as long as I do that, I’ll be OK.”
Elkind was hooked into the mob, and they don’t let go. He was eventually forced to become an information for the FBI, and they gave him the unflattering tag, “The Weasel." He said working for federal officials wasn’t much different than working for the mafia.
“The authorities are no different than the mob,” Elkind said. “They got you by the throat. With the mob, they threatened you openly. The feds did it diplomatically."
He said he always felt great respect and fear of Hoffa.
If you’re a fan of podcasts and the Hoffa story, click here to listen to Episode 1 of Local 4′s series “Shattered: Hoffa.”
At 10 p.m. Wednesday, Local 4 will air a documentary special on Hoffa, an investigation that took us places we never expected -- from the casinos of Las Vegas to the mob families of New York to the Kennedy assassination.