John “Red” Shea served twelve years for drug offenses. At age 21 he claims he was Whitey’s top lieutenant in the drug distribution business. A Golden Gloves boxing champion he was good with his fists which came in handy while in prison.
He avers in his book Rat Bastard there is nothing worse in the world than a rat. When learning Whitey was a rat he says he became physically sick. In the book’s epilogue he writes of his confused feelings toward Whitey: ”On the one hand, Whitey Bulger was a hero to me, someone who taught me the streets, the code, someone who was respected and feared by everyone, with a few notable exceptions. He was a man’s man, and what I learned from him made me what I am today. I wanted to be like Whitey Bulger. . . . On the other hand, Whitey was a total fraud. He took care of himself and gave the rest of us up. He couldn’t face the music. He didn’t practice what he preached. It is still incomprehensible to me that a guy of his character, who presented himself as he did, who schooled me so well, could be a rat.”
That ending is fascinating. He calls him a “man’s man.” He’d still be admiring him had he not been a rat. He doesn’t see Whitey as the depraved monstrous killer of two defenseless young women and tens of others.
Then there’s another Golden Gloves boxing champion, Southie tough Eddie MacKenzie, who wrote Street Soldier. He writes that he and Tommy Dixon ran Whitey’s drug distribution business giving Whitey $20,000 a week. He says, “Working for Whitey was as good as it got. True, he was a homicidal psychopath; I’d known that from the first moment I met him. But he was my homicidal psychopath, my boss, the man I respected and feared and served with every bit of loyalty in my being.”
Both men are Golden Gloves champions; both claim to have run Whitey’s drug business; both use the same term about Whitey — “Respect and Fear.”
Shea first tells of encountering Whitey in 1983 when he’s 18 and Whitey is 55 years old; MacKenzie in 1980 when he’s 22 and Whitey’s 51. Both are confrontations of sorts. Shea describes Whitey’s eyes as “burning like blue laser beams; MacKenzie says he had “icy, blue-gray eyes . . . a glacial stare: this guy’s whole being was ice cold.”
Shea tells how one night in a bar he disses Whitey. The next day he hears Whitey’s looking for him. He’s working out at Castle Island when Whitey shows up (backed up by Weeks and Flemmi) and confronts him. Shea stands up to him. Actually Whitey backs down but even Shea can’t get his mind around that.
MacKenzie’s working out in his apartment when Whitey walks in with three others. He’s looking for some Hummels that MacKenzie had stolen. MacKenzie become apologetic but won’t rat out his partner. Whitey says he respects him for that and cuts him a favor saying that he owed Whitey one in return.
As part of Whitey’s drug enterprise, both MacKenzie and Shea end up being arrested as part of the 51 guys scooped in August 1990. Five are held on bail and taken to the Fed pen in Danbury. Yet they hardly mention each other in their books. Shea writes about Carmen Tortola, a Boston Mafia guy, approaching them in Danbury to tell them that Whitey was an informant. He said it happened when he “was in the common room with Paul Moore, Tom Cahill, an Eddie MacKenzie, my cellmate, unfortunately . . . .” He writes a couple of pages later how all the other guys got out on bail saying, “Eddie Mack, out (and talking). There’s no love lost between Shea and MacKenzie.
I’ve told how Whitey was the bully — beating up younger kids, always being accompanied by others, and always with a dangerous weapon. As I consider it, I don’t think bully is the right word to describe him. Tough guys like Shea and MacKenzie aren’t cowed by bullies.
I’m trying to figure out what explains the adoration Shea and others in Southie had for Whitey? Who in the long line of criminal thugs can we most closely identify him with? Have there been other psychopathic killers who were admired like him? Why is he such a phenomenon I bother writing about him? Is it due to our fascination with evil? Thursdays will be my day to explore this. Any ideas or insights are welcome.
I initially suggested Whitey was a psychotic killer but I was told such a person “has lost touch with reality and thinks dogs and KGB agents are following him.” I stand corrected.