I remember my father saying to me nine years ago today, “Sorry about your friend.”
Most people have always given me a hard time about my support of the late John Gotti. Not surprisingly, I never really cared.
I am aware that my mother didn’t exactly LOVE the fact that I wrote “Uncle John” countless letters while he was in prison serving a life sentence. But the way I saw it, he could use some inspirational words and positive thoughts to pass the time. I am also aware that my father, a full-blooded Italian, lit up my world with my Christmas gift the year Gotti went to prison…a personalized ‘FJG’ license plate for my car. Free John Gotti, of course.
So on this, the nine-year anniversary of Gotti’s rise or fall into the post life phase, I couldn’t help but take some time to think of him.
I’ve never necessarily “advocated” organized crime, but in Gotti’s case, I do support the avoidance of the unjust incarceration of innocent people. I’m not saying the mafia is exactly run by the moral police, and I get that Gotti’s reputation came with the territory. I mean, you don’t exactly become the boss of the Gambino Family by just shaking hands and kissing babies.
Sure, Gotti’s confidence and over the top self-admitted love of the spotlight wasn’t exactly something penned in the pages of the La Cosa Nostra Handbook. But the man had nerve. A natural born leader, he had off-the-charts charisma. He had taste. Let’s face it, the man had a great f*****g wardrobe. The Dapper Don indeed.
And despite what the media portrayed, while Gotti may have been headstrong on one hand, on the other hand he still carried with him a caring heart. I may be one of a few who feel this way, but maybe I like to always do my best to see the good in everyone, no matter what their story. So what?
You’re probably thinking, a caring heart? How can a man who was accused of murder, among other things, even HAVE a heart? Well, technically, it was never proven that he physically took someone’s life. What his associates did, however, is another story. At worst, Gotti was truly guilty of loan sharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. Not exactly the sweetest icing on a cake, but I stand by the idea that he should not have been at fault for what others may have done upon his direction. Learn to think for yourselves people, otherwise don’t get involved.
What many people outside of NYC don’t know is that Gotti took great care of those around him. And I don’t mean “took care of” in the stereotypical Italian-mafia-esque vocabulary sense of the phrase, I mean he really took care of them. He was a firm believer in the power of tradition and the importance of family. (Something I think this country could use a refresher course on these days.) Every Fourth of July he and his crew would close off 101st Avenue and provide stellar fireworks displays. He hired ice cream trucks for the kids and would have grills going all day long, feeding hundreds of party goers burgers and hot dogs.
Be that as it may, what continues to irk me is this. As throat cancer took over Gotti’s body, he was still left to wither away in prison. No one, no matter what charges they endure, should have to suffer in such a manner. I feel even stronger about this now, being as that I’ve seen what cancer does to people. Losing my uncle a few years ago made me see just how powerful of a demon it is.
So tonight, in honor of “my friend” John Gotti, Sr., as my father would say, I shall celebrate accordingly. Of course dining at Sparks Steakhouse in Midtown Manhattan would be the ultimate evening topper, but I’m sure Miami can fit the bill.
RIP John Gotti, Sr.
October 27, 1940 – June 10, 2002