After a lengthy legal battle, Barton & Baumgartner has finally published the highly anticipated first volume of John Gotti’s conversations as recorded by the FBI (Things Gotti Said, Vol. I, 2 discs, plus transcripts, $29.99). The decision to release the tapes drew the ire of the FBI because, as senior analyst Wentworth Hampton III contends, the contents directly contradict testimony given by former Gotti underboss Salvatore “Sammy The Bull” Gravano – the informant who helped bring Gotti down. The FBI feared Gotti’s lawyers would use evidence from the tapes to appeal the charges against him. When reminded that Gotti died in 2002, they reluctantly dropped their suit. So, without further ado, the first Gotti tape:
GOTTI: Did you take care of that thing?
BOSCO: The thing at the club? Or the thing on 12th?
GOTTI: No, the thing at Rocco’s.
BOSCO: Oh, that thing. Fugetaboutit. It’s done. Just the way you asked.
Recorded a few days after his first meeting with Rocco “Hand Cut” Lampone – the finest tailor in New York – it serves as an introduction to Gotti’s love of fashion and provides an insight as to why his contemporaries referred to him as “The Dapper Don”. According to Mentz, the noted Mafia fashion expert, “just the way you asked”, meant double-breasted, short sleeves (he liked to show no less than 1” of cuff) and imported silk. This style was typical of the time, and when Gotti learned of this, he used his influence at the ports to re-direct any shipments of silk to warehouses owned by his family. Of course, Sciattia already wrote about Gotti’s temper and how, when someone else wore silk, he would take to screaming “cappuccino” until they changed (Gotti: The Silk Princess, Simpson Publishing). To combat other similarities in style, Gotti began demanding that Lampone replace any buttons on his suits with Velcro. Lampone’s staunch refusal to work with Velcro saw Gotti turn to the velour leisure suit, thereby ushering in a whole new style of Mafia attire.
On the second tape
GOTTI: Remember that pain in my ass I was telling you about? I need it taken care of.
TRAMONTI: No problem Boss. I gotta guy.
GOTTI: What guy?
TRAMONTI: The guy Frankie The Hunch used.
GOTTI: Right, right. Frankie said he was a goodfella. Set it up.
we get our first look at Gotti’s battle with hemorrhoids. Everyone knows Gotti loved heavier foods (this contributed to his wearing a 46 wide suit, while claiming he was a 42 regular) and would often spend upwards of a half an hour in the bathroom following a meal. Other than his time on the throne, it was rumoured that Gotti hated sitting down as it made him feel “like growing sideburns”, a hairstyle frowned upon by La Cosa Nostra. Gotti biographer Gene Mustain (Mob Star: The Story of John Gotti. New York, Penguin) adds, “Gotti also spent a lot of time on his feet because he loved the sound his pants made when he walked.” According to Mustain, Gotti finally decided to have his hemorrhoids removed after the now famous “Chin Incident”. It was there, during a sit-down with his rival, Vincent “Chin” Gigante, that Gotti insisted on standing at the bar. This left an empty seat at the table, which confused Gigante, who believed they where playing a game of musical chairs, and took Gotti’s refusal to participate as a direct attack on his pinkie ring. The second tape was recorded the next day.
It’s a little known fact that if Gotti hadn’t pursued a life of crime, he could have been a world-class glockenspielist, and this passion of his figures prominently in the third tape:
PROFACI: I’m outside his place right now Boss.
GOTTI: Is he there?
GOTTI: Okay, as soon as he leaves, pick him up and bring him over.
In an effort to keep this hobby a secret from his colleagues (he feared if they knew, they would tousle his hair) he never scheduled a lesson. Instead, he would have his driver pick his teacher up whenever he felt the urge to play. That he had designs on releasing an album under a pseudonym is undoubtedly true, but that dream died the day the third tape was recorded. Unbeknownst to Gotti, the Feds had been following his driver, and, after hearing their exchange, and spotting the teacher in his car, they tailed him back to Gotti’s home where they proceeded to execute a search warrant – that turned up nothing more than Gotti sweating through a rendition of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Furious at being interrupted before a scheduled intermission, Gotti vowed never to play again. And, as a result, he stopped combing his hair. Mustain goes on to explains that this event was also the catalyst behind the “Calzone Years”, during which Gotti took to baking calzones for his entire crew whenever he heard a piece of music featuring the glockenspiel.
The fourth tape
PUTATA: Boss, that thing you ordered from that place just arrived.
GOTTI: The one I told you to look out for?
PUTATA: Yeah, that one.
GOTTI: Good. Good. Bring it over right now.
highlights Gotti’s fondness for art. And, as we learned from Edie Gambini – his long-time goomah – in her book Doing the Don, he was particularly fond of busts of deposed military leaders. She went on to say that Gotti kept a home in Hoboken, New Jersey where he stored the majority of his prized collection and informs us that, when vacationing there, he would spend hours talking to his busts about strategy and how to cook the perfect eggplant.
For years the FBI suspected the package referred to in the fourth tape was a bust of himself that Gotti had commissioned after becoming the capo de tutti capi. This was neither confirmed nor denied, or both, when the MET took control of the collection following Gotti’s imprisonment. But rumblings among the underground suggest there was in fact a Gotti bust, although no one ever saw it, because, Gotti believed, “it made my nose look itchy”. He did, however, have a number of gorgeous oil paintings of himself that are now owned by Donald Trump and are said to have inspired his recent hairstyle.
In Vol.II, Hampton III adds new commentary on tapes 5-9, and discusses, for the first time, the FBI’s position on black market dentures.