Victoria makes three statements, and I quote: “I loved the man, but I loathed the life.” “Prosecutors say that my father was the biggest crime boss in the nation.” “If you really want to know what John Gotti was like you need to talk to my family. We lived this life.
And after hearing that you get drawn into the rest of the interview…Victoria explains that she realized, at a very young age, that her family was different from other families. Her parents tried to hide everything from their children. She says, “You grow up scared, anxious all the time.”
Peter says that he recalls that when he was a young boy he would wake up and be excited to see that his father was alive. When he heard him snore he was relieved because he knew he made it home. He didn’t know about his father’s life or lifestyle, he was just a son who loved his father.
Victoria says that her father represented what we saw in the movies; he looked the part, he acted the part, he was a real life Godfather. People showed him the highest respect, but she was angry with everyone for lying to her and as she got older and understood more, it was hard to accept his crimes.
Angel says it wasn’t like The Sopranos. They didn’t talk back to their father or ask him if he killed anyone. She now believes her father was the Boss, but she still loves him. Referring to her brother’s problems with the law, both sisters believe the FBI went after him because of their father. Angel says the children should not have to pay for the sins of the father.
Victoria wants to set the record straight. She wants people to know who and what John Gotti was. He was charged with mulitple counts of murder, but Victoria says you don’t want to believe that when you love someone. But, she says her father chose that lifestyle and knew he would have to do certain things and he didn’t care. In her book, “This Family of Mine,” she tells her story to address all the rumors, lies and gossip about her family. She talked to her father about writing a book before he died. He told her to write it as her life and asked her, “not to make me out to be an altar boy, because I wasn’t.”
The children were always protected from knowing anything about the mob. Peter tells the story of when the went to Rockefeller Center to see the tree and all his father could talk about was the roasted chestnuts and how much he loved them. Angela says her father was very funny.
Victoria says she was told that her father worked with a construction crew for a living. They believed what they were told. But she says all her father ever wanted to do was be a mobster. He was one of 11 children, raised in Brooklyn by an abusive father. He went into a life of crime and violence working for local gangsters. He saw how these men were respected and he made up his mind that is what he wanted to do.
In 1968, John Gotti was prosecuted for a hijacking at JFK airport and was sent to prison for 3 years. The kids never knew their father was in prison even when they went to visit him. Their uncle was in the same prison. Their mother told the kids he was working. Angel remembers driving to Pennsylvania to the prison and asking her mother about the big, giant wall. Her mother would say, “oh he built that wall” and Angel was so impressed that her father built that wall. She asked if her uncle Angelo helped build it. Her mother answered, “yeah him too.”
When she was 7 years old, Victoria realized she was not like the other kids. She remembers having to write an essay about who her hero was, and like most kids, she chose to write about her father. She wrote, “My dad is a construction worker and he builds tall buildings.” Then she went to the front of the room to read her essay when it was her turn. A young girl in the back of the class called out, “Her father is not a construction worker, he’s a jailbird, he’s in jail.” Victoria was taken aback and didn’t understand what the girl was talking about, yet at the same time it made sense. She remembers all the kids laughing at her. She got so upset and nervous she peed on the floor and she said she will never forget how the teacher made her get on her hands and knees to clean up the mess.
Victoria went home and asked her mother for the truth, was her father in jail. Her mother told her sometimes people do bad things and they have to pay for the things they do. Victoria asked her, “Where is my father?” Her mother looked at her and said, “he is in jail.” Those words haunted her for a very long time. The secret was out. She cried a lot worrying about her father and whether he would come home or get killed.
In 1973 Gotti was convicted of attempted murder and went to prison again. By the time Victoria reached her early teens, her father had been in prison for half her life. When he was released in 1977, Gotti became a “made man” in the mafia. He had earned it and rose up the ranks. He spent more time out of the house and on the town. His wife didn’t like it. Angel says that one time she had his armoire sent to his club. But when they weren’t fighting, they were enjoying the money he was making and living comfortably in Howard Beach, Queens.
Peter says he was 12 years old and had a crush for a girl at school. He asked her out. She said, “I would love to go with you, but my father said I am not allowed, your family are very bad people.” When he got home he started to cry. His mother told him “Your father loves you more than life. Forget everything else.”
In March, 1980, their 12 year old brother Frankie, was hit by a car while riding a mini bike. “Frankie Boy” as he was called by Gotti, died later that night. Victoria said her father came home later and just held his head in his hands and lost it. The driver of the car was Gotti’s neighbor, John Favara, who was very upset about the accident. Victoria claims he was driving erratically, it was no accident. She told her father, but he didn’t want to believe it and said she was wrong. She wanted revenge. Her mother went into a suicidal depression and made three attempts to kill herself after her son’s death. She was in bed for a year. In July, Gotti took the family to Florida, hoping to heal and help his wife. Three days after they left John Favara disappeared. He was abducted from work; hit over the head and thrown in a van never to be seen again. Victoria is positive her father had nothing to do with that. He may have had associates who took it upon themselves to get revenge. Angel said the thought did cross her mind that her father may have had something to do with it. The body was never found and there were no arrests.
On December 16, 1985 Gambino Boss, Paul Castellano, was killed at Sparks Steak House in Manhattan along with his number 2 man Bilotti. Gotti planned the execution along with Sammy Gravano. Within days Gotti was the new Gambino boss. The family didn’t believe what they were reading in the newspapers, that Gotti was the new boss of the Gambino crime family. They all started laughing, Angel said.
John Jr. was already in the family business, but it was a secret even his mother did not know. He became a made man in December 1988. Victoria thinks it was a way for her brother to get his father’s approval or make him proud. In the 1980’s the Gambinos were allegedly making 500 million a year, with Gotti allegedly getting a big cut. Victoria says the family never saw it, they never moved from their house to a mansion. But, Gotti was wearing silk custom made suits, cashmere coats, ate at the best restaurants and he loved to gamble.
Gotti kept his family life separate from his work life. In his first 5 years as boss, Gotti went to trial 3 times, but they couldn’t convict him. They allege he bribed a juror, threatened a witness and had a crooked cop on the inside, which helped he avoid prison.
He became a celebrity and the most notorious mobster since Al Capone. He also became the target of the FBI. He did all his talking “outdoors” because he suspected he was being bugged. Yet despite his precautions, the FBI got hundreds of hours of conversation on mob business. Thos tapes lead to Gotti’s arrest in 1990; there were many charges including the murder of Paul Castellano. The evidence was all in his own voice and on top of that, the FBI had the cooperation of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, who cut a deal and testified against Gotti. He told of how he and Gotti planned the execution of Paul Castellano and that he and Gotti were there when is happened. Victoria says that her father never planned Castellano’s murder, no one is that powerful. In her book she says it was planned by mafia bosses. She doesn’t deny that he had input, but she does not believe he did it alone.
On April 2, 1992, Gotti was found guilty on all counts and he was the only one ever tried and convicted for Paul Castellano’s murder. He received life in prison. Victoria knew she had lost her father, it was like he died. Peter knew he would never see his father again. His father had to eat 6,000 meals alone. He believes his father shielded him from the mob and his brother John protected him even more. He never got involved. John Jr. became acting mob boss when he father went to prison.
Angel didn’t know her brother was in the mob until he was arrested in 1998 for extortion, loan sharking, and gambling. He had been in the mob 10 years and his mother never knew it. His mother, Victoria Sr., believe her husband had put her son at risk and wasn’t speaking to him for a while. John Jr. was facing 20 years in prison and was considering accepting a plea. He went to ask his father’s permission to take a plea and also to leave the mob. Victoria Sr. went to see her husband and told him either he releases their son or she will never speak to him or see him again.
John Gotti spent his last days in a prison hospital with his son Peter. He never admitted anything. To his family he was a “fallen hero,” to the public he was “the last Don,” to the Gambinos he was a disaster. The family was very much weakened by Gotti’s reign. John left the mob to be with his family and raise his children. Both he and Victoria do not want their children involved in “the life.” The grandchildren want to remember Gotti as their grandfather, not as a Godfather.
This interview, in my opinion, is well worth watching if you have any interest in the Gotti family. It was very interesting to get the family’s perspective of what was going on in their lives and how they viewed their father.
48 Hours Interview: "Gotti: Their Father, the Godfather"