When Mary took her little lamb to school and the children saw it, from what I remember as a kid, it made the children laugh and play, laugh and play, and laugh and play.
Few things we read about make us laugh and play in the sense they are so outrageously funny that not only do we laugh we find ourselves dancing around in delight at the absurdity of the remark.
Here’s once that had that effect on me. It was written by self-styled experts on James “Whitey” Bulger, Gerard O’Neill and Dick Lehr. Ready – are you sitting down — here it is: “In the annals of crime in the United States, Whitey Bulger today stands at the front of a line that included John Dillinger, Al Capone, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, and more recently, John Gotti. His list of victims matches or exceeds that of any other crime boss . . . .”
I’ve written before about how foolish that statement is noting that even in Boston he was behind guys like John Martorano, Steve Flemmi, Jimmy Flemmi and others.
What made me think of that ludicrous statement was the recent obituary I read about a real crime boss, Carmine Persico in the New York Times. Let’s do a comparison.
Persico was first arrested at age 17 for murder; Whitey was in his forties before he murdered anyone. Persico was involved in the assassination of the mob bosses Albert Anastasia and Joey Gallo. Whitey had a hand in no significant murders of high level criminals. Persico was a legend by age 17, Whitey became a legend after he fled from an indictment at age 65.
Bulger’s nickname was “Whitey”; Persico’s “the Snake.” When Persico was serving prison time he remained a potential force in two bloody mob wars and running the Colombo criminal operations. When Whitey fled an indictment in 1994 he controlled nothing and for all purposes was totally washed up.
Persico was a member of the Commission that resolved major disputes and set the policies for the five New York crime families: the Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Lucchese factions. Whitey had one partner, Steve Flemmi, and one worker Kevin Weeks. He resolved nothing and only set policies for himself, Stevie and Kevin.
When being tried for being on the Commission Persico represented himself; Whitey pleaded guilty when charged with armed robbery and sat silently when he was prosecuted in 2013. Persico was skilled in questioning witnesses, writing legal briefs and raising points of law. Whitey judging from his letters had a scanty command of good English.
Persico controlled New York’s construction industries through threats, extortion and rigged contracts. Whitey controlled a corner liquor store. In his late teens and early twenties Persico was a hardened member of truck cargo hijacking crews. Whitey was a tailgater trying to steal items from the back of trucks whose doors were left open.
At 21 Persico was inducted into the Mafia; Whitey was in the Air Force. Persico was a membership of the Barbershop Quintet the five guys who murdered Albert Anastasia the feared boss of the Gambino family. Persico got his big chance when the head of his crew Frank Abbatemarco was murdered. He expected to take his place. When Joe Profaci the boss planned to give it to another, Persico and the Gallo brothers kidnapped six of Profaci’s lieutenants and demanded a larger share of the profits . Profaci agreed and then after they were released reneged on the deal but told Persico he’d give him more money and power if he wiped out the Gallo brothers. That resulted in a war that led to 12 murders and 15 gangsters being wounded including Persico.
Persico estimated he murdered or had murdered more than twenty people; he also planned to murder a U.S. attorney and two FBI agents. Whitey realistically was involved with others in around a half-dozen murders of other gangsters. On August 20, 1961, a police officer walked into a bar in Brooklyn and interrupted Persico as he was in the act of strangling Larry Gallo. Two years later he was wounded in the hand by a drive by shooting. He was charged in a 1959 hijacking of $50,000; with being the head of a multimillion-dollar loan sharking operation. He rose to be top boss after Joseph Colombo was shot and incapacitated in 1971; in 1972 shortly before he went to prison his arch-rival Joey Gallo was murdered at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy.
Persico was found guilty in 1986 as leader of the Colombo family that controlled union locals representing restaurant, concrete and cement workers and for extorting millions of dollars from unions and construction companies. Whitey controlled no unions, extorted no unions or construction companies. A federal judge said of Persico that he was one of the most intelligent person he ever met. No one ever said that of Whitey.
Persico operated in the professional big leagues in New York City, Whitey in comparison in the junior the Pop Warner league in South Boston. Under no interpretation of facts does Whitey come one-two to Persico.
Ask yourself why they so inflated his criminality. Ask yourself if you fell for it.