WHITEY: The Joe Berlinger Documentary Film – Introduction

P1010271I decided after being urged by some to view this documentary. Fortunately, it was available at my local library. I was glad that I did.

The documentary was presented through the eyes of the victims’ families, mostly from those related to Debra Davis and Michael Donohue; from the opinions of those who wrote books on it; and through the words of the prosecutors and defense lawyers. It had Whitey talking over the phone with his lawyer, the criminal Kevin Weeks appeared as did lawyers for the Donohue’s and FBI Agent John Connolly. David Boeri’s made some presentations; court room testimony was heard as well as some witnesses.

All had a chance to throw in their two bucks worth. Those of us who have been following it closely were handed a few worthwhile gems. They were dropped probably unknowingly. These support much of what we have concluded that differs from the mainstream propaganda which we have been fed.

I’ll do my best when discussing the statements of people to be as accurate as possible. Some I will produce almost verbatim but others I summarize. There are many issues touched upon that fill in or support the picture that I have been espousing that is contrary to the accepted public version. There are other matters that need to be clarified or put into perspective. I assume it will take at least six posts to cover the topics. They will be on the Whitey days: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday until I exhaust the subject (and probably your patience).

The documentary is a highly sensationalized version of the Whitey Bulger saga. It reaffirms what I have been saying. Much of what is pumped out to the public is pure fiction.

Steven “Stippo” Rakes was first up and last. Initially he spoke about the extortion of his liquor store by Whitey. No other side is presented even though Kevin Weeks the one who tells the other side is used in the documentary. Weeks has always stood by his story that there was no extortion. Weeks has said Stippo came to them wishing to sell the store, they agreed on a price, he then upped it, and it was then that they thought he was trying to stick them up. They refused to pay more.

Is that what a documentary is supposed to do, to present only one side I wondered? With Weeks as part of the documentary, why was his version omitted? It showed from the beginning the documentary was going to be slanted.

After seeing Rakes we were told that Whitey was on the FBI’s Most Wanted list; then David Boeri talked about Whitey sticking guns in people’s mouths and machine guns in their groins as if it happened often rather than once; and then Steve Davis, who would be seen most often, came in with such nonsense as – Whitey “showing body bags to people before shaking them down”; and  “70 or 80 people missing every day”; and “bodies being  found left and right”; and Whitey (rather than Stevie Flemmi) “pulling teeth out of the victims.”  None of which was close to the truth.

Right off the bat it appeared Berlinger had no desire to tell a truthful tale. He had taken the bait laid down by the Boston media story tellers. This was going to be a regurgitation of everything they had written.

That made me pause to look up the definition of a documentary.  One definition is “a non-fiction movie that in some way “documents” or captures reality.” That definition went on to say: “Documentary filmmakers are often motivated to make their films because they feel a particular story or viewpoint is not being (adequately) covered by mainstream media.”  That certainly was not the case here since he was playing the same tune that we had heard over and over again.

Searching further for a definition I learned that there was no standard definition of what it is or what it should contain. A quote from Marcel Ophuls  a maker of documentaries is: ” Documentaries-or whatever their directors care to call them-are just not my favorite kind of movie watching. The fact is I don’t trust the little bastards. I don’t trust the motives of those who think they are superior to fiction films. I don’t trust their claim to have cornered the market on the truth. I don’t trust their inordinately high, and entirely undeserved, status of bourgeois respectability .”

The Berlinger film went off the rail when in the middle of the movie we are presented with several minutes of Stevie Davis going around looking for Stippo Rakes who he had not been able to contact for a day or so. We ride with him through parts of Southie, see him knocking at Stippo’s door, watch him when he gets the news that Rakes is dead, listen to the speculation about his murder, and see the scene of his murder. The impression is left that his death had something to do with Whitey or the Government. It is only at the end that we are told it did not. He was poisoned in connection with something having nothing to do with the case.

Whitey, the documentary, is not supposed to tell a truthful story. It tells only that the director wanted to tell. Viewing the cast of characters he used told me where it was going. I went along for the ride, as I said, I was looking for some overlooked gems.



  1. John King McDonald

    R.N. :

    Even lawyers were children once … As Charles Lamb memorably opined. As to zeal and regurgitation, I perceive as well as do you that there is a lot of ” churning ” of waters turbid by the enthused. Howsoever, if said enthusiasm involves a certain mania and said MTC acolyte is reading books and is as excited as a Priest at a hot Bingo game, then what the hell ; Red 7 …. We have a Red 7 … BINGOOOO 🙂 ….Was his name !!!

  2. Its not about whitey…..the gardner is the real case.

  3. yes …..I am disgusted now.
    bunch of morons………

    • Matt,
      I was about to sign off….but as a learned man and a counselor, how can you let this kid Jerome play you like this? ….supposed to be smarter…but then again………………..?

  4. 🙂

  5. Hi Matt;
    Joe Berlinger interviewed me for the documentary shortly after the trial was over. He seemed genuinely concerned about the depth of government corruption. At that time I had no idea that Steve Davis was the poster boy for the documentary. I suspect that Berlinger discovered that Davis had no love for me — nor I for him! My interview was dropped.
    I was invited to the premier of the documentary (rather begrudgingly) and verbally assaulted by Davis when I got there (it seems he blames me, and me alone, for the ‘no finding’ in regard to Bulger’s involvement in his poor sister’s brutal murder by Flemmi). At the premier, I sat with other family members of victims (aside from Donahue or Davis). They shared with me that they, too, were interviewed — but none of what they had to say made it into the documentary. This was truly unfortunate — the Donahue’s and Davis tend to hog the lime-light. It would be interesting to discover what other family members might have to say. (I’ll never forget Davis tripping over people to get out to the cameras just as soon as the decision from the jury was read regarding his sister’s murder. He had no concern for the others waiting to hear the verdict in regard to their loved ones. His need to get to the camera first was, in my opinion, disgusting.)
    I shared with Berlinger that I felt the driving around with Davis to search for Stippo seemed staged. My sharing that observation wasn’t appreciated. Oh, well—.
    Another little tid-bit that I thought was fascinating: during the question and answer time after the documentary was shown, I went up and asked AUSA Brian Kelley why it was that Bulger’s offer to plead guilty to all charges, and take whatever punishment was dealt out — with no appeal — was not accepted. His response, in an aggravated tone: ‘I don’t need to give an answer to a juror.’
    The trial was over, the verdict in — I was no longer a juror, but a concerned citizen. Seems Mr. Kelley didn’t have much respect for jurors, nor did he equate a former juror as having the right of a citizen. Wonder if his attitude has changed since becoming a defense attorney? Let’s hope so.

    • Janet:

      Nice to hear from you. Hope you are well. I would have to agree that you were cut out of the documentary because of Steve Davis who decided to become the expert in the Whitey case and as you suggest he really did not care for anyone other than himself and getting his mug in front of a camera. He must know that Flemmi murdered his sister and Whitey had nothing to do with it. How could it not be when Flemmi told Martorano that he accidentally strangled her. His big act against Whitey just adds to the man’s need for some attention and his reluctance to leave the stage.

      I will talk about Berlinger’s belief in government corruption but found he was way off base in portraying much of it. I talk about a lot of this as I dissect different parts of the film. It was interesting listening in the documentary to Whitey talking to Carney about the case. That is a part I enjoyed. It is not that I believed anything he said because as I might have told you the idea that he had a deal with O’Sullivan in my mind is nonsense. But I’m getting ahead of myself in my reviews.

      Since I devote only Monday through Wednesday to Whitey – I plan to write an article on Kelly this Thursday. It sure was an arrogant reply to you that he did not have to explain to a juror. I’d think he would be happy to have done that if he had a good reason. As for him being a defense lawyer I’d guess he is going to have a hard time. I went from a defense lawyer to a prosecutor back to a defense lawyer but found after being a long time prosecutor I no longer had an interest in defending people. His instincts are all on the wrong side; it takes years to become good at it and he has just begun. He’ll have a hard time shaking off his government attitude which he displayed to you.

      Stay in touch.

      • Matt
        I too thought it was interesting hearing Whitey talk and trying to sort out what he was trying “to get” based on what he said to Carney. It was all staged of course but I thought it funny (in a sick way) when Whitey said he thought Flemmi was insane. Whitey Bulger also was shocked a lot (he said so himself) by certain things which I also find hard to believe. Bulger uses the documentary to air what he wants without having to be cross examined by the prosecution. With that said I wonder if Flemmi and Bulger ever decided to tell the WHOLE TRUTH if that would name names that havent been mentioned yet. I could be wrong in this but what “impresses” (for lack of better word) me about Whitey and Flemmi is their ability to stay alive and not get gunned down like so many other criminals in organized crime. I think it does say something about their expertise at this game of crime IMHO. Martorano stayed alive because he was no longer around at some point, no?

        • Jerome:

          Neither Whitey nor Stevie could tell the truth; in one sense they have invented an alternative reality in their minds. Whitey pictures himself on top of the pedestal of criminals and as some sort of super criminal which is far from reality; Stevie is properly described in the documentary as a puppet of the government telling the story the government wants to hear. That is why in this blog we are on a trek toward the truth knowing we will be able to tell what is not truthful but perhaps miss the mark when it comes to the ultimate truth.

          As for staying alive, there were few gangster killings after the gangsters wars in the 1960s. Flemmi came back in 1974 and from then on there were no more than a dozen non Mafia killings from then on up until the present. When was the last gangster killings in this area? Were there any in the 1990s? Outside of th people murdered by Whitey/Stevie/Martorano and the Mafia battle for control were there any in the 1980s?” Don’t give Whitey/Stevie/Martorano credit for staying alive since they were the ones doing the murders. No one else was doing them except perhaps the Mafia and they were in league with them. I suggest there is a confusion that somehow what happened in the early to mid-Sixties continued on unabated until Whitey left town. That’s just not the case.

          • Matt
            You make an excellent point regarding the ones doing the killings in the 80s (and 90s?) were Bulger, Flemmi, and Martorano. Am I correct to conclude that there were no other criminals as sociopathic and vicious as these 3 that tried or planned to kill any of the 3? In other words, why would no other criminals attempt to kill Bulger, Flemmi, and Martorano? Were these 3 the sole survivors of the Irish Gang Wars (I know Bulger was in prison) who were the most dangerous and skilled at forseeing possible threats to them? Lets not forget Pat Nee as he too is probably guilty of many murders.

            • Jerome:

              You pretty much got it. The Irish gang war named as such because of the McLean/McLaughlin feud had many survivors such as Howie Winter, Joe McDonald, etc. The Mafia had its group of sociopaths but they and the Hill seemed to coexist peacefully. I’d have to figure there were few real killers around since the territories had been agreed upon but also as you said we can’t forget Pat Nee.

    • Miss Uhlar,
      I was there as well in Cambridge that rainy night, (for the movie and the Q & A afterwards). With all due respect, my recollection differs slightly from yours, other than Stevie D ubiquitously pacing around the entire theater beforehand and hogging the limelight (as much as he could) during the Q & A.
      Was least impressed by JW Carney on stage, whom incidentally almost hit me at the intersection afterwards in his midnight blue 800-series Beemer.
      Tommy Donahue…..he has my respect.
      Boeri…..same,….a trekker towards the truth.