Each week that I run this series I learn a great deal. The general public has for a large part been hoodwinked by Hollywood.
The theme this week was to look at friendships within the American Mafia, interconnections between the major families.We also explored the subject of loyalty, both within a single family and also loyalty across family borders by individual members.
This weeks panel was once again a very high octane one. Andrew DiDonato was a member of the Gambino crime family for many years. He like others before and after him have discovered to their peril, organized crime is an ugly world. Much is said about the importance of loyalty, yet that loyalty seems to run in one direction, up the chain of command. When a foot soldier needs help he finds himself without a crutch. In Andrew’s case it was not the Gambino family that helped him in a time of need but a childhood friend from the Colombo family.
William (Billy) Cutolo Jr and Andrew were firm friends from the age of 12. His father Billy Sr was the number two man in the entire Columbo operation. Billy was not a ‘Made Man’ however he garnered great respect from all involved because of his father. I asked Billy why he did not take that step up, his answer was simple, the FBI would know about it before the ceremony was over! It would be like placing a target on yourself. Billy himself turned against the mob following the disappearance of his father in what was certainly a mob hit. It took 8 years to locate Billy Cutolo Sr’s body. During that time Billy Jr’s testimony helped ensure the successful prosecution of the killers.
Joining us from Up State New York we had author and crime writer Denny Griffin. He brings a veritable encyclopedia of organized crime in the US to the table. And his book The Battle For Las Vegas is a must read for anyone interested in how the Mob and Law Enforcement waged war to control the Nevada mecca of gambling.
My final guest was David Alan Johnson, his forte is not the American Mafia, but organized crime outside of the US borders.
The dynamics involved at street level are very complex. It transpires that there is a good deal of cross pollination between the crime families. Childhood friendships do exist, and those friendships extend into adult life. Unfortunately sometimes these friendships can lead to stirring up the family politics.
This was certainly the case with Andrew DiDonato and Billy Cutolo Jr, Following Andrews five years behind bars it was Billy Jr and Billy Sr that took him under their wing and got him back on his feet. Unfortunately some factions viewed Andrew and Billy Jr hanging around together with some suspicion. In fact Andrew went so far as to try and switch from the Gambino Family to the Colombo Family. This created a great deal of friction. At one particular Gambino meeting Andrew was told:
You were born here, and you will die here
Listening to Billy Cutolo and Andrew DiDonato discuss friendships and politics is a real eye opener. I have been involved in office politics in my time, but it was nothing as compared to the politics involved in organized crimes.
Honour and loyalty are mere words, and words that have no meaning within organized crime today. To quote Billy Cutolo:
Its a life for bums
Anyone that is contemplating organized crime as a career choice needs to listen to this program.