By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
She married at 18, had her first baby at 19. She won't discuss her ex-husband, except to say that he was in the Army and she hates him. In 1984, she packed up her belongings and her three daughters--then ages 4, 8 and 9--and "escaped" to Arizona from Washington state.
She danced for two years, in clubs all over town. She had the body--and the temperament--to succeed. At her peak, Kosobucki says she made $1,000 a night.
"A lot of these guys that come into topless bars, they don't come in for sex," she explains. "They come in for companionship. And they come in for someone to listen to them, to talk. . . . The more happier you are, the more they enjoy talking to you."
A decade ago, dancers made their own hours and, for the most part, their own rules. "We were professional dancers. We made all of our money onstage. We didn't have to go around and beg for table dances."
Today, by Kosobucki's estimation, personality counts for little. "It's all plastic--you know, who's got silicone, who's got saline."
Kosobucki lost her daughters in a custody battle shortly after arriving in Phoenix, then met her future husband, Gary, at the Uptown Express. They've been married ten years. Debby danced until she was four months pregnant with her daughter Jessica and intended to return to dancing, but gallstones forced doctors to operate.
"PHHHTTT! They cut me down the middle. So that was the end of my dancing days, and that's when I started bartending."
She worked at bars--some topless, some not. She's a natural entertainer, and she met all sorts of interesting people--like Dave Postal, the lawyer. She says that in 1992, he guided her toward a job in management at the Foxtrot, a topless bar in west Phoenix. She was fired, she says, because she wouldn't put up with prostitution in the bar and wanted to be treated equally to the male manager, Jim Smiley.
Postal--who at the time represented the Foxtrot--sat in on some meetings, and recalls that Kosobucki and Smiley were both to be part of the management team.
But Smiley says Kosobucki was hired to be the housemother, and when she tried to take over more management responsibilities, he demoted her to bartender. He says she quit.
Smiley says, "Debby is a power freak. Everything she does, she's got to be in charge, boss, or whatever."
After the demotion, he says, "[Kosobucki] called the liquor board, she called the police, she called the [dancers'] parents and told them that I was forcing them to dance nude in the club, she called my wife and told her to keep her eyes open, that I was messing with the girls out there."
Kosobucki doesn't dispute any of that; she says those things were happening at the club--although she says she called the IRS, not the police. She was devastated by the experience at the Foxtrot, and settled down to nurse her wounds and tend bar at Pollock Joe's.
Then Postal called to tell her about Expos‚ Cabaret.
Kosobucki was delighted to work for a woman. She didn't realize that working for Elizabeth Brazee would mean working with Dennis Mondavano. The two were inseparable.
Brazee and Mondavano met in 1992, when she began using a shuttle service he ran to Sky Harbor International Airport. She traveled often between Phoenix and St. Louis, and the two developed a "deep friendship."
"We did a lot of talking. And I sensed that he was carrying a great burden," says Brazee, who owns the mechanical seals business her late husband, John, started in St. Louis. Mondavano got out of the shuttle business, and the two decided to do some deals together. First, Brazee says, Mondavano paid her a visit at her Scottsdale home.
"He looked at me and he said, 'There is something you should know about me,'" Brazee recalls. He told her he had "been away" for three years, she says, avoiding the words "prison" and "criminal."
"I knew then that this was the burden that he had been carrying."
Beginning in 1988, Mondavano served three years in a federal prison in Lompoc, California, for his role in a fraudulent investment scheme. But that's just the latest.
Dennis Charles Mondavano, 45, grew up in Boston, the son of Daniel Mondavano, a reputed Mafia figure.
In his 1973 memoir, My Life in the Mafia, Vincent "Fat Man" Teresa--a Mafia boss turned informant--describes Daniel as his best friend and "one of the best thieves in New England."
Some friend. Teresa wrote the book after his testimony sent the elder Mondavano to prison for transporting $610,000 in stolen securities. (It was Daniel Mondavano's second such conviction.) Teresa mentions Dennis briefly, writing that Daniel's only child wore $250 suits and attended private schools, and that after his father was sent to prison, Teresa gave Dennis pocket money.
Dennis Mondavano's own rap sheet begins in the early 1970s in Massachusetts and New York, where, according to the presentence report in a 1986 Arizona conviction, he was accused of possessing controlled substances, forging prescriptions and armed robbery. New Times was unable to verify the disposition of those cases.
In the 1986 case, he was arrested and charged with selling 2.5 grams of cocaine to an undercover Scottsdale police officer, a class 2 felony. He pleaded guilty to possession of narcotics, a class 4 felony, and was sentenced to four years' probation and fined $300.