Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dinosaur Criminal

The media has been saturated with news of Whitey Bulger. Me, I had long thought he was dead. You know, from the heart trouble he developed in response to what his girlfriend called his “rage issues”. Some of the more thoughtful pundits have suggested that not only is his arrest the end of Whitey’s hold on our imagination, but it is also the last gasp of a certain type of criminal. Whitey was the last great white ethnic gangster – or at least the last great exemplar of that independent type of mob boss who had built his own crew, led it with personal charisma, and even did his own killing. Of course, not only is such nostalgia rather na├»ve and perverse. It is also racist. What really captured the imagination of mainstream white America was that Whitey (indeed) was one of our own. But such is the nature of worshiping the gangsters of yesteryear, which is a kind of parody of pining for the good (or bad) old days when “men were men”, as in Archie Bunker’s theme song in All In The Family. Where are the gangsters that suburban American white folks can identify with these days? The Mafia is a shadow of its former self, and is probably fairly punked out and colorless by now anyway, like an old family firm that has outlasted its glory days. There’s the Russian mob, but those guys are the sons of commies and don’t even speak English. Who else is left? There are the Bloods and the Crips, but they’re not somebody that any white person other than a hip-hop loving fifteen year old would care to hang with.

Oh, I know. If we can no longer look to Southie or Deadwood or Little Italy for our evil alter egos, we can always look to Wall Street. Bankers, brokers, CEO’s, CFO’s and financiers of all different stripes and FBI profile characteristics. These are the new criminal role models for our sorry white asses. We want to emulate them so much, we even vote to cut their taxes and let them lay us off with admiring smiles.

Whitey Bulger was a dinosaur criminal all right, but what replaces him is even bigger and hungrier.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ex-Bulger Henchman Is One Kinky Dude

Eddie Mackenzie – AKA “Eddie Mac” – was born of what he calls “shit stock” in South Boston in 1958, and worked for Whitey Bulger as a heavy during the 1970’s and 1990’s. He appears to have published a book (of sorts) entitled Street Soldier: My Life As an Enforcer for Whitey Bulger and the Boston Irish Mob, and the link below is from a Boston Phoenix interview of the guy, circa 2003.

(Please note – this guy is not the same guy as Kevin Weeks, another Bulger heavy, who wrote the memoir whose short title is Brutal. Both are burly dark-haired, thick-featured, not terribly tall golem types gifted with much native wit – and a violent disposition. I wonder if they've ever attempted to pound each other out over whose book is better.)

I dare you to read this interview without coming away with the impression that a neon sign spelling “PSYCHOSEXUAL TRAIN WRECK” hovers perpetually above this guy’s head. Consider the following excerpts:

1) In regards to starting his life of violence: "At the age of nine, when I was bent over and sodomized, that started my life, that planted the predatory seed."

2) Consider one of his, ahem, funny stories: "Once I smashed a guy’s leg in half, beating his fucking brains out… I got this raging hard-on, man, I’m about to ejaculate. I grab my friend who was with me and say, ‘Dude, I’m hard as a rock!’ We were both laughing."

3) His apparent response to being in a police interrogation room: “If he wants to tell you about the time he shot his wad all over a two-way mirror, he will — unapologetically, maybe even gleefully.”

4) Not surprisingly, he admits to the following: “There are a couple of politically sensitive moments in the book — one a gay-bashing incident, the other an instance of violent racism — that are recounted with something approaching embarrassment…”

Of course, he boasts about his innumerable female conquests, about the wealth he acquired as a top hoodlum, how he may have, uh, bumped off the guy who raped him when he was a kid... However, he does admit that he has made a great effort to go straight (so to speak) from his violent instincts, which are always there: “This goes with me my whole life,” he says. “This is almost like AA — there should be a Predators Anonymous."

By 2003, he has become a U. Mass. Boston grad, a proud father of young girls, a published author and a man gainfully employed in the construction industry. He also likes to lecture at schools and colleges, so he can warn the young against falling into a life of crime. I say that’s fine – so long as he stays out of their locker rooms. And I’d be very curious to know how he’s faring eight years later.

Divorced from the mob (Boston Phoenix)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Is Whitey Bulger A "Bad Santa"?

I am amazed by the physical transformation of Whitey Bulger. Back in his heyday, he was - very much like his contemporary, the late Irish-American gangster from Cleveland, Danny Greene - a health nut and fitness fanatic. Surveillance footage even from his late middle age clearly shows him as "cut" and "ripped". He was known to drop to the floor even in the middle of intimidating victims, and do fifty push-ups - even a hundred - and then pop up to resume his deadly business, not even out of breath. Sometimes he'd carry identical .357 Magnums, one in each fist. When he dropped to do his push-ups, he wouldn't lay these pistols aside, but would instead convert them into a kind of exercise aid, raising himself up and down on the pistol barrels alone. The man was tough. Let me tell you. Now he looks like he's gone old and soft. I mean, check out that white beard, and the fleshiness of his upper torso. He's even gotten kinda jovial, too - grinning, smirking, smiling broadly at cops and reporters alike. Could Whitey have turned into a kind of crime boss Santa Claus? His stash of $800,000 in cash and thirty-odd weapons, complete with ammo, would fill out any respectable Santa bag and would surely make great stocking stuffers. And what about all those secrets he's been hoarding - about the cops, the FBI, any number of Boston lawyers, politicians and other big-wigs? They'd make great presents too - at least to somebody.

According to his even stockier ex-righthand man, Kevin Weeks, Bulger "boasted that he had corrupted six FBI agents and more than 20 Boston police officers". At Christmas time, Weeks said, "Bulger stuffed envelopes with cash... 'He used to say that Christmas was for cops and kids'". I find it easy to imagine Whitey dressed up in a blood-red Santa suit to earn extra bucks during holiday season at the shopping malls of Southern California. He looks the part now, after all. Beware, O ye Boston coppers, Bad Santa Whitey knows whether you've been naughty or you've been nice!

Capture of Boston gangster could mean more scandal (Salon)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

They Finally Got Whitey!

Here I am, just returned from my reconnaissance mission in Italy to find Whitey Bulger - I even checked out Taormina, Sicily where Whitey and his gun moll were purportedly seen in 2007 - and he turns up stateside. Wouldn't ya know it? All I brought back from Italy was a bad cold I caught from some Mexican beggar I kicked in the butt outside a church in Naples.

It was clever of the FBI to shift the search to his girlfriend, Catherine Greig. After all, since she was a lot younger than Whitey - and not herself the fugitive - she would have been the one out and about, doing chores, getting her hair done and her face lifted, making friends and whatnot. They say Ms. Greig, a former dental hygienist, liked to get her teeth cleaned once a month. I mean, how many folks do that? The FBI arrested the pair at the Princess Eugenia apartment complex in Santa Monica where, true to form, 81-year old Whitey had stashed "weapons and a large amount of cash". Not that he was up for a gun battle. They say he's in ill health, which means he's been arrested just in time to get his medical care paid for by the state of Massachusetts. The big question now is what Whitey knows - and whom he's going to be willing to finger. John Connolly probably wasn't the only G-man who had a good thing going with Whitey. Not to mention the Boston police and the local politicians. What about Whitey's brother Billy - sort of the Griffin Dunne character to Whitey's Micheal Keaton in the Johnny Dangerously-style tale of the Bulger boys? Billy had to resign from the presidency of U.Mass. in 2003, but I'll bet what Whitey knows about him could get him into deeper shit than that. The scuttlebutt is that most Bostonians remember Whitey with disgust, and are glad he's been caught. But no doubt there are a few of them who are little nervous. As for the FBI, I guess they're high-fiving each other all over the place right now - but probably not all of them.

One annoying thing about the reports - maybe because the epicenter of the story is L.A. - is how Whitey was the model for the Jack Nicholson character in The Departed. Puhleeze! Nicholson was the worst thing in the movie. He didn't even attempt a Boston accent. He just played Jack Nicholson with devil's horns. And Whitey sure as hell was never fat and self-indulgent like Jack - the real Whitey was a paranoid, teetotaling workout freak. He was anything but flamboyant. He was quiet and deadly, like a snake. I remember that much from fixing his PC before he went on the lam. I sure as hell hope he doesn't remember me.

(This couple photographed in Taormina, Sicily in 2007 are thought by some to have been Bulger and Greig.)

Fugitive Boston mobster arrested on Westside (LA Times)
Whitey Bulger arrested (Boston Globe)
Fugitive mobster Whitey Bulger busted in Santa Monica (Santa Monica Daily Press)
FBI arrests mob boss Whitey Bulger in Calif. (Salon)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Fermatelo, Al Ladro!

Tomorrow, my gun moll and I are heading to Rome for a two week (crime) tour of the Mediterranean. One of our stops along the way will be La Cita di Napoli. That's Naples to you folks who aren't trying to learn Italian. Like me. Incidentally, the title of this blog is itself an Italian phrase meaning "Stop, thief!" My, ahem, "significant accomplice" and I had wanted to visit Naples several years ago. Partly to see all those corpses preserved in volcanic ash in Pompeii, but also to sample the food. Il cibo. Then we saw the movie Gomorrah, which - punningly - is about the Camorra, basically a crime syndicate that runs things in the slums of Naples. And dabbles notoriously in waste management, sort of like Tony Soprano back in Jersey (and also like the father of a college roommate of mine, himself of Italian descent). The Camorra is actually a different group from the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, or what we call the Mafia. The Camorra is more of a Neapolitan thing than a Sicilian thing. Although some folks think the Camorra is descended from a medieval Spanish secret society called the Garduna, it first became known under its current name back in the 18th century, when it controlled the gambling racket in Naples. The name Camorra is a contraction of "capo" or boss and "morra", meaning game - the Camorra were literally the "bosses of the game". It has diversified since, getting into guns, drugs, smuggling, police corruption and much else. Unlike the Mafia, the Camorra does not have a hierarchical structure, and is more "horizontal" than "vertical" in its organization. This may be good news for proponents of a criminal democracy, in which every scumbag can get his own piece of the calzone, but bad news for anyone who values law and order, much less peace and quiet. The Camorra tends to splinter off into little factions that are constantly fighting with each other. The Camorra made it to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, but has long since merged with the Mafia. Apparently, Tony Soprano's crime family were supposed to have been originally a Camorra outfit (which explains the constant discord that energized its plot lines), although I don't recall the episode when this was established. The Cammora has also colonized Scotland (of all places). A bad dude named Antonio La Torre set up shop up in Aberdeen, thus establishing organized crime in the land of bagpipes and haggis. At any rate, Gomorrah scared us the hell away from Naples, and Italy in general. At least for a while. But now we're taking the plunge. Wish us luck with the pickpockets!

Camorra (Wikipedia)
Lesser Known Mobsters, as Brutal as the Old Ones (review of Gomorrah from the New York Times