Saturday, June 25, 2011

STANLEY FORMAN: "WHITEY BULGER, AMERICA'S MOST WANTED, AND ME"

David Boeri, for­mer WCVB reporter,currently with WBUR Radio wear­ing his Whitey Tee shirt after he was cap­tured. David is a great his­to­rian of Whitey and his exploits.


Via Stanley Forman

Whitey Bul­ger was cap­tured and I got the call at 2: am to head into the City (Boston) for cov­er­age of the big story. It brought back mem­o­ries of a con­fronta­tion I had with Whitey almost 40 years ago, way before I knew who or what he was.


The Plaza at the Pem­ber­ton Square Court House on Bea­con Hill was a gated area (still is, but now with a guard shack) and in order to park vehi­cles on the Plaza to cover a court issue you had to knock on the door lead­ing to the bow­els of the build­ing and get who­ever was on duty to unlock the gate. It was the same entrance where the pris­on­ers com­ing for a court appear­ance were brought and then put in hold­ing cells.

One day about 40 years ago I had to go in and out of the Plaza sev­eral times. Each time I knocked on the door look­ing for the “key per­son.” The man with the key got pissed off at me as he thought I was both­er­ing him. I was young, strong (I thought), and if noth­ing else I could take any­one on ver­bally. We spared back and forth yelling and swear­ing at each other, he opened and closed the gate and I moved on.

Later that day I called Dis­trict Attor­ney New­man Flanagan’s pub­lic rela­tions direc­tor Dave Rod­man. I told him the story and he knew imme­di­ately who I was talk­ing about and told me it was Sen­a­tor William Bulger’s brother Whitey and to let it go.

I did not real­ize what dan­ger I had been in till 20 years later when I started to know more about Whitey, read he had worked at the Court House and real­ized who I had had the con­fronta­tion with on that par­tic­u­lar day. It was a scary thought after read­ing he had dis­patched peo­ple for var­i­ous rea­sons and I prob­a­bly gave him good rea­son that day.

A cou­ple of years ago I was at a book sign­ing event for “The Soil­ing Of Old Glory” and Billy Bul­ger was the mod­er­a­tor as we talked about forced bus­ing in Boston in the 70s. I told him about the inci­dent. We both laughed as he said “I guess you are lucky to be alive!”

Through the years Whitey’s rep­u­ta­tion as the “Sav­ior of South Boston” cer­tainly dimin­ished and fear set in. There used to be news­pa­per arti­cles say­ing Whitey played it safe against the bad ele­ments of South Boston; only run­ning some gam­bling oper­a­tions and keep­ing drugs out of the area. Works out he was the drug run­ner and involved in pretty much every­thing ille­gal in the area, plus mur­der­ing peo­ple at will. He has been charged with 19 known mur­ders and believed to be involved with many more.

Paul Corsetti, a for­mer reporter I worked with, also had an inci­dent with Whitey. Paul was chas­ing a story on a South Boston bookie and not think­ing much about it when he got a call at the office. It said it was Whitey him­self telling Paul “I know where you’re fam­ily lives and the school bus your daugh­ter gets on every day.” Paul told Whitey it was not him he was look­ing into and gave him the bookie’s name he was watch­ing. Whitey light­ened up and gave Paul all the infor­ma­tion he needed to do the story and the two moved on.

Another time in South Boston at Pre­ble Cir­cle there was a call for a shoot­ing. I raced there and the area was hec­tic with EMTs work­ing a vic­tim and cops run­ning around look­ing for sus­pects. Dick Fal­lon, another news pho­tog­ra­pher, kept telling me they were look­ing for Steven “The Rifle­man” Flemmi, who it turns out, was Whitey Bulger’s part­ner both being FBI infor­mants. Steve’s brother Michael was a Boston Cop who later got him­self in trou­ble and ended up in jail like his brother.

In the late 60s I was cruis­ing with Record Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher Gene Dixon my col­league for 16 plus years when he heard the call for a per­son in the snow. It was on Har­vard Street in Dorch­ester and when we got there one of the Ben­nett broth­ers was curled up, bloody snow around him as he had been assas­si­nated. As I read up on the his­tory of Whitey it seems his mur­der was all part of the gang wars of those past days.

I grew up in Revere, Mass­a­chu­setts where it was said there was a bookie or gang­ster on every cor­ner. Not true– just on a lot of cor­ners but not all of them. My first “Mafia” hit took place dur­ing a gang war between local gangs. There was an infor­mant by the name of Joseph Baron Bar­boza. Joe was some­how involved in help­ing the police get to rival gang mem­bers and he and his friends were on a hit list. On a week­day night 35 plus years ago I cov­ered the mur­der of Domenic Dam­ico, and East Boston man. He was an asso­ciate of Barboza’s and had gone into a club in what was then called the Com­bat Zone on lower Wash­ing­ton Street in Boston to try and straighten things out. He had police pro­tec­tion and lost them think­ing he could make things right.

He was told to go to Revere and meet some­one near the Squire Club on Squire Road in North Revere. He did meet some­one or should we say some­one met him. When I got there he had been blown apart and was sit­ting slouched against the steer­ing wheel of his car about 100 yards from the club.

Another one of the group was Patsy Fabi­ano. Patsy was in hid­ing and at one point was put in the Charles Street Jail for pro­tec­tion. Kevin Cole, my col­league at the paper, got his pic­ture as he walked in the front door. Patsy was later killed gang­land style in the Boston area. I actu­ally knew Patsy; he hung out in Revere and went to Revere High.

Dur­ing this gang war time our great writer Harold Banks did a book on Bar­boza and word was out there was a “hit” on him. Harold was the City Edi­tor on Sat­ur­days at the paper and his Assis­tant City Edi­tor was Tom Sul­li­van. Harold was ner­vous about what might hap­pen and had police pro­tec­tion, One Sat­ur­day, Tom Sul­li­van put up a big sign on the back of his chair which read “I am not Harold Banks” with an arrow on the sign point­ing to the Harold. It brought on a lot of laughs.

We were tight with the Dis­trict Attor­ney back then and we were set up to pho­to­graph Bar­boza as he was being escorted from one court room to another at the Pem­ber­ton Square Court House. A very ner­vous Dick Thom­son a col­league was sent on a Sat­ur­day morn­ing and the sus­pect was led across the cor­ri­dor well pro­tected by police. Our Sun­day edi­tion was the only paper that cap­tured the image. The end finally caught up with Bar­boza on the streets of San Fran­cisco report­edly by a Boston area hit man!

I was on Prince Street in Boston’s North End when they raided the offices of Gen­naro Angiulo the local crime boss. The office had been bugged and after culling the infor­ma­tion that was needed they pulled out all of the files, safes and what­ever else was mov­able. Of course the late and great Globe reporter Dick Con­nolly was there, note­book in hand and watch­ing the scene. Dick was so good at what he did I would be sur­prised if he did not get to lis­ten to the tapes that were recorded.

I had a friend who was told after offi­cials lis­tened to those record­ings he was on a hit list. My friend had pissed some Mafia peo­ple and it was time to even the score. The “law” wanted him to help them but instead he fled the Coun­try for sev­eral years till things cooled down.

The Angiulo office was less than a mile from the Man­ches­ter Street garage Whitey used to hang out with along with his part­ner Steve Flemmi. Most of the pho­tos we see of Whitey and Steve were taken in the area of that garage. Mass State Police had set up sur­veil­lance in a build­ing across from the site. All of a sud­den the pair stopped going to the garage and the rife between the FBI became more pro­nounced as they thought there was a leak com­ing from that office. Works out they were cor­rect and his name was John “Zip­per Connolly.”

Reporter Pam Cross and I were in a dis­trict court fol­low­ing Frank “Cadil­lac” Salemne, a Mafia boss and hit man. He sur­vived an attempt on his life dur­ing a day­time try on Route One in Saugus, MA, when sev­eral shots were fired at him and although he was hit he sur­vived. Salemne at one time had fled Mass­a­chu­setts and was liv­ing in New York. FBI Agent John Con­nolly hap­pened to see him amongst 8 mil­lion peo­ple on a down­town Man­hat­tan Street and made the arrest. It was always felt he was one of the peo­ple Bul­ger and Flemmi dimed out and let Con­nolly know where he was. Salemne was sup­posed to be a friend of the pair.
Ray­mond Patri­arca with his attor­ney Joseph Bal­liro leav­ing a Boston court around 1967. Over Patriarca’s right shoul­der is Record Amer­i­can Reporter Tom Berube.



Ray­mond Patri­arca with his attor­ney Joseph Bal­liro leav­ing a Boston court around 1967. Over Patriarca’s right shoul­der is Record Amer­i­can Reporter Tom Berube.

The big boss of the Mafia in New Eng­land was Ray­mond Patri­aca, the Mafia Don from Rhode Island. Get­ting a photo of him was a big deal as he put the fear of God in every­one and he always had his tipar­illo cigar in his mouth and did not say pleas­ant things to the media.

The first time I saw him was at Fed­eral Court in Boston. We were all wait­ing for his appear­ance, every­one was talk­ing, and I was the only one that spot­ted him when he walked by us. I raced in behind him as he got in the ele­va­tor and got the only photo as the ele­va­tor door closed. About an hour later he came out the same door and walked right through the crowd, every­one was alert this time. Both the AP and UPI pho­tog­ra­phers got bet­ter images than I did and the Edi­tor of the paper hung them up in the photo depart­ment to make sure we all knew we got beat.

The last time I saw Ray­mond was at a New Bed­ford Court when they brought him in by ambu­lance and stretchered him into his hear­ing. I got a great photo of him laid out. When he died we all went down to Rhode Island to the funeral home and cov­ered peo­ple going in and out of the wake.

When I first began at the news­pa­per, bookie raids were big and we had sources to tell us when, where and every­thing we needed to know to be there when it hap­pened. I was dis­patched to the 411 Club on Colum­bus Avenue in Boston’s South End. The sus­pects were being carted out and from there I fol­lowed the group to the Fed­eral Court House in Post Office Square. There were not any metal detec­tors in those days so keep­ing up with the group was no problem.

I got into an ele­va­tor but lit­tle did I know I got on with some of the sus­pects. One of them being a major player in the rack­e­teer­ing group, Dr. Harry “Doc” Sagan­sky, a Brook­line den­tist and big time bookie. He was smok­ing a cigar and he turned to me flick­ing his ashes and said “If you take my pic­ture I will burn your eyes out.” I still have my eyes so you know what I did not do that day.

Another time the FBI was pick­ing up Mafia sus­pects along with Boston Police and they paraded the group across the street to the JFK build­ing from the Dis­trict One Police Sta­tion on New Sud­bury Street. It was a very orga­nized show and tell by the cops and at one point Vin­nie “The Ani­mal” Fer­rara, one of the key fig­ures, looks at me and says “get that light out of my eyes,” I said “yes sir” and moved onto some­one else.

I knew some of the vic­tims of Mafia hits. The beau­ti­ful wife of gang­ster Richie Cas­tucci, San­dra, used to shop at Arthur’s Cream­ery where I had my high school deliv­ery job. I loved going to his Revere Beach Boule­vard home as the tip was big and she was good to look at.

He report­edly felt oblig­ated to the FBI after they pro­vided some infor­ma­tion to him so he became a con­fi­dant. They found him wrapped up dead in the trunk of his car less than a mile from where Dam­ico was mur­dered on Lantern Road in Revere. This was sup­pos­edly part of the Whitey Bulger’s group of killings. Another mur­der tied to FBI Agent, John “Zip­per” Con­nolly, who is serv­ing what should end up being life sen­tence in a Florida Jail.

When these gang wars first began my col­league Gene Dixon took a great photo of one of the vic­tims near the back of the old Boston Gar­den. Gene had gone up on the express­way and even told Globe pho­tog­ra­pher Ollie Noo­nan, Jr. where there was a good view. The pho­tos the two of them made with the light­ing, gird­ers and high­way made it look like the scene from a movie.

The Record Amer­i­can did not use the photo as they thought it was too grue­some and Gene walked around for weeks show­ing and talk­ing about all the sug­ges­tive pic­tures on the movie pages of the paper where every­one appeared to being hav­ing sex (not the words he used). What really got him pissed was see­ing Ollie’s photo in a dou­ble page spread in Life Mag­a­zine doing a story on under­world mur­ders and this was a good example.

Today, while chas­ing the story sur­round­ing Whitey’s cap­ture I was first sent to his brother’s Billy house then to his brother Jack’s house, both in South Boston. I was sit­ting there look­ing around work­ing to stay awake and as I looked up at two men talk­ing I real­ized one of them looked like Jackie. I picked up my video cam­era and zoomed in, it was him.

I started tap­ing the scene, jumped out of the car as he began walk­ing towards me. He had this big umbrella in his hand and all I could think of was I escaped the wrath of his brother and now he would do me in. Not to be, I said “Hello, would you like to talk to me?” he very angrily said “I am not talk­ing” and he walked back to his apartment.


Stanley Forman's Pulitzer-Prize winning photograph "The Soiling of Old Glory" is featured in the exhibition "History's Big Picture" July 1 - September 25, 2011,