FOR THOSE of you who share our feeling that standards are irrevocably declining, here is more evidence, from Philadelphia. As you may or may not know, there is a mob war going on in the City of Brotherly Love; and, while some devotees of W. C. Fields may argue that almost any release from Philadelphia is to be welcomed, the fact is that some would-be victims have been resisting their fate. Foremost among them is 72-year-old Harry ("the Hunchback") Riccobene, who recently thwarted one attempt on his life by wrestling a gun away from a considerably younger assailant and who last week thwarted another.
Our point here concerns, however, not the resilience of Mr. Riccobene, but the methods used by his would-be assassins. In the old days, the standard procedure was to walk into a small restaurant where the intended victim was eating, and blast away with a machine gun. Or, to mow him down from a speeding car. Now, in the days when most restaurants are decorated with ferns rather than flocked wallpaper, and when the belt of whiskey has been replaced by mineral water and lime, other methods and other settings have taken over.
Last Saturday night, Mr. Riccobene was in his car at an intersection, waiting to proceed. Suddenly a man in a jogging suit ran up to the car and fired several shots into the vehicle. Mr. Riccobene was, as usual, not hit. The hit man, according to reports, "escaped on foot." An off-duty policeman tried to catch him but, apparently less practiced a jogger, failed.
It was not too many years ago that a speeding Cadillac with machine-gun barrels smoking out the window was a common enough sight in neighborhoods given to that sort of thing, neighborhoods where, subsequently, for all the ruckus, no witness could ever be found who remembered the license plate numbers or even anything about the car. Now the best camouflage is a jogging suit (with the smoking gun hidden in the pockets where you put your hands in the winter). It may still be, as a recent best-seller title has it, that "real men don't eat quiche," but you have to wonder if eating quiche won't be next: real triggermen, apparently, get up at dawn, put on their warm-up suits and run five miles. So much for Western civilization.