john gotti

John Gotti

by Marilyn Bardsley


It was early evening on December 16, 1985. The sidewalks were jammed with people who had just flooded out of the many office buildings around East 46th Street between Second and Third Avenue. Some rushed home from work, eager to get out of the wintry gloom; others were lured by the strings of brightly colored lights into the stores for some Christmas shopping.
There in the midst of the mid-town bustle on 46th was an elegant steakhouse called Sparks whose clientele were businessmen and diplomats from the United Nations buildings a few blocks away.
In the vicinity of the restaurant, several men dressed alike in fur cossack hats and trench coats loitered on both sides of the street. Several other men also positioned themselves around the restaurant carefully, so they would not be noticed in the throngs of rush-hour pedestrians.
Soon a big Lincoln with two men inside pulled up in front of the restaurant. The driver shut off the engine and hurried around the side of the car to open the door for the older man, but the older man was in too much of a hurry and opened the door himself. The older man, after all, was Paul Castellano, the Boss of the famous Gambino family. His driver was his newly appointed under boss and favorite, Tommy Bilotti.
The two Cosa Nostra executives were a bit late for an important dinner meeting with some of the other under bosses and Tommy Gambino, the wealthy son of the late Carlo Gambino and nephew of Carlo\'s successor, Paul Castellano. Inside the restaurant three of the guests were already waiting for Castellano and Bilotti.
Once the two men in the Lincoln had cleared the car, the shooting began. Two of the men in fur hats and raincoats rushed at Castellano with revolvers in their hands. Castellano immediately took several bullets in the head and one in the chest. Blood oozed out of him and he slumped to the ground.
Bilotti got four bullets in the head and another four in the chest. He too slumped to the ground, already dead. One of the shooters came around to the fallen Castellano and exploded a bullet at close range in the Boss\'s skull.
Terrified pedestrians scattered every which way, while the shooters escaped along their pre-arranged routes. In moments, another Lincoln carrying two men passed by Sparks to survey the results of the carefully executed plan. John Gotti and his colleague Sammy the Bull Gravano and the conspiratorial group of ten men called the Fist had pulled off the first major gangland assassination since Albert Anastasia had been hit in 1957. In the next few days all New Yorkers and much of the rest of the world would know the name John Gotti as he skyrocketed to fame as the daring new head of the Gambino crime family.


If ever there was an incubator for crime it was the Italian Harlem tenements of the South Bronx. In one of those crowded dirty apartments, a young John Gotti eked out an impoverished existence with his parents and eleven sisters and brothers. His father rarely worked and then, only at menial jobs, risking the little money the family had by gambling.
Eventually the family moved to central Brooklyn, which was known as East New York. In East New York, for a poor boy like John Gotti with nothing in the way of prospects, the Cosa Nostra represented something to which he could realistic aspire to gain the power and respect he craved.
He started as many young boys did, running errands for the gangsters, molding himself into a young bully with a future. His first major incident with the police occurred when he tried to steal a cement mixer and it fell on his feet, an injury that affected his gait for the rest of his life.
He quit school at sixteen and rose to leadership in a local street gang of thieves called the Fulton-Rockaway Boys, named after two streets in their neighborhood. At an early age he exerted his bad temper, dominance and readiness to engage in fistfights. These were just the right characteristics to develop his potential as a Mafia boss.
A couple of these Fulton-Rockaway boys would follow him for the rest of his career as loyal