Are Mike Milligan & The Kitchen Brothers Real On 'Fargo'? The Kansas City Mob Certainly Was
"Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers" isn't just the name of your uncle's new semi-ironic bar rock band, it happens to be the names of three of the breakout characters from Season 2 of Fargo. And, since the show claims to be based on true events, does that mean that Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers are real? Did they actually kill a few people in the late 70's in a crime war against the Gerhardt family?
Every episode of Fargo starts the same way. The message "this is a true story" is superimposed as the show begins, even though it's common knowledge by this point that in reality, Fargo is not based on a true story, While the show is set in very real midwestern locations and set against very real world events (including Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign and a cultural obsession with flying saucers), the plot and characters are all primarily fictional. While there is no evidence that there was a midwestern hitman out of Kansas City who had two intimidating mute twins traveling with him, one thing that is very real is the Kansas City crime family that Mike Milligan and the Kitchen Brothers work for.
The trio find their way to Luverne because the Kansas City crime family seeks to take over the Gerhardt family's territory, specifically the distribution and trucking routes that makes up the majority of their business. In reality, the Kansas City crime family would have been in need of some new and profitable profit streams, as they had just been involved in what true crime writer Jay C. Ambler called "a costly war" while under the rule of gangster Nick Civella.
The Kansas City crime family in the show is portrayed as a fairly white-collar operation with political connections, like when Joe Bulo is trying to talk to a commissioner, and this is not far off from the reality of the real Kansas City crime family. One of the Kansas City crime family's most successful ventures was a collaboration with members of the Teamsters union, in which they purchased a selection of Las Vegas casino property. Crime author Frank R. Hayde called it a "sweet deal for the modern mob; a hands-off, mostly non-violent, white-collar conspiracy that delivered cash from the counting rooms by charter jet. It represented the new, relatively clean way of doing things." The Kansas City crime family is first introduced to the show Fargo in a nice business room, giving a business presentation that included projections — which was a lot more difficult in 1979 than it is today — showing a strong contrast to the rough-and-tumble Gerhardts, and providing an accurate image of the scope of the Kansas City family's largesse and professionalism when it came to criminal activity.
The Kansas City crime family, however, didn't remain in power much longer after 1979. According to The New York Times, In mid-1978, FBI agents "uncovered the hidden ownership and conspiracy to skim cash from Las Vegas casinos" and convicted a great deal of high-level crime family members. Family head Nick Civella passed away soon after. The fact that things don't turn out well for the Kansas City crime family doesn't look good for Mike Milligan and The Kitchen Brothers, who have already lost one of their three members in the Gerhardt-Kansas crime war. While there is no proof that the Kansas City crime family really had a "Mike Milligan and The Kitchen Brothers," it also means we don't know when their fates will be — which is great news for any fans of the trio-turned-duo, as the remaining members still might get out of this mess alive.
Image: Chris Large(2) /FX; David Jones/Flickr