Arthur Schaper: Anti-Tribute to James “Whitey” Bulger

Friday, December 06, 2013

Mugshot of James "Whitey" Bulger taken in June 2011.
I hate the mafia, organized crime syndicates, anything that smacks of corporate criminality in the name of doing good for “The Family”. They intimidate people, hurt those who cannot pay (ever owed money to a loan shark?), and kill those who compete with them (rubbing out the competitor: not capitalism at its best, I assure you). Academy award winner Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy did not lighten my heart for the dark underworld, either. They could never make me a deal that I would not refuse.

At least, I hope not! And keep the horse heads out of my bed!

When studying the history of Providence, Rhode Island, I read about the feared and hated Raymond Patriarca, who would order subordinates to kill their own parents, who infiltrated New England crime like a cancer that never ceases. That’s just evil. Imagine telling a craven lackey to bump off his own father for killing a good deal. Sick!

I have also learned about the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, where the mafia control everything in the city-state’s government. The trash is never picked up on time, for example, and anyone who stands up to these familial clans gets assassinated without delay. Human rights activists risk their lives stepping up against the mafia. One criminal organization, the N’Dragheta, requires members to intermarry, so that no one will ever snitch on another.

Such crime and corruption makes for good drama in the movie house, but I want it as far away from my house as possible.

I’ve dished on the Italian mafia, but then there’s the Irish mafia. Never knew about these breed (or brood?) of criminality until I watched Martin Scorcese’s The Departed, starring Jack Nicholson. I love Nicholson’s work. He never disappoints, even though he’s an LA Lakers fan. I can’t stand the Lakers. (I will root for the Celtics just to make my friends mad). Nicholson played Frank Costello, a local boss who played nice with neighbors, looked out for the kids, and even recruited some of them for his organization. In Scorcese’s film, Costello infiltrates the Boston State Police with one of his moles, yet at the same time the Boston police send one of their finest undercover to spy out Costello.

The Departed is filled with double-takes, double-crosses, and double-murders, which will have you seeing double. Only his sixth best movie (and a very good one), Scorcese finally won his best picture Oscar. What makes The Departed so important to me, though, is that the profile of main character Costello was based on none other than James “Whitey” Bulger, the head of the Irish mafia in Boston.

I am sure you have all heard of him.

Starting out in small-town, dirt-poor tenements in South Boston (or “Southie” to the locals), Bulger rose the ranks from enforcer to enforcing, with friends in high places (his brother was the state senate President), but also served as a rogue snitch for a handful of FBI rogues. Ruthless and cold, he would take down rivals and traitors without thinking twice about it.

I knew so little about Bulger, and cared even less, until I found out (as did the FBI, the honest ones), that Whitey was living undercover in a rent-controlled apartment in my backyard: Santa Monica, California. A Top Ten Most Wanted criminal, Whitey had been hiding in “The Princess Eugenia”. Ironic and creepy! But finally the Feds caught the creep. One lesson we can draw from organized crime: they take advantage of any legal thievery, like city ordinances which benefit bureaucrats. Santa Monica maintains its rent control board to this day, and even Republicans sit and arbitrate rent rates. Give me a break. Another lesson, of course: the bad guys may have their day, but in the end, they do not get away. Bulger had been hiding with his live-in girlfriend Catherine Grieg for nearly two decades (they even took a trip to Italy, how telling!). According to local reports, shortly after the mob boss got caught, Bulger had enjoyed staying in shape by walking along the beach. He took down hundreds, yet he and his companion took advantage of an early retirement. Wicked, but not in a good way.

In his apartment, FBI agents found $800,000 in cash, along with a cache of guns and grenades. Little kids in the park and nice neighbors down the street had no idea that the ruthless Boston Irish boss was stealing and stealing away.

On trial in a Boston federal court, Bulger claimed that a federal prosecutor granted him immunity for future crimes. That prosecutor had already died, and the presiding judge refused to let Bulger present his outrageous defense. From June to August, former mobsters, informants, and police railed (not rallied) against the infamous Bulger. He was summarily found guilty of racketing, tampering, and was implicated in eleven of nineteen murder indictments. Bulger received two consecutive life terms.

Bulger’s rent-controlled Santa Monica apartment has now achieved celebrity status. This past week, federal agents will auction off his goods as restitution to his many victims.

A fitting end to an unfit human being.

 

Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at arthurschaper@hotmail.com, and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.