I met John Gotti, the man who orchestrated the assassination of Paul Castellano, many times over the years, mostly in or outside the courthouse in which the Dapper Don happened to be on trial at that moment. I met Big Paul only a couple of times, however, in the late '70s, when he went to trial on federal loan-sharking charges in Brooklyn. He beat that case when the key witness forgot what he had told the grand jury that handed up the indictment (much like the Queens refrigerator mechanic would years later when he was scheduled to testify against Gotti). Like Gotti, Castellano was a gentleman who uttered one- and two-word answers when I got close enough to ask him a question. In the end, I think Castellano's main failing wasn't so much that he believed his own press clippings—that certainly was Gotti's—but that he forgot he was a gangster dealing with gangsters when he went to Sparks for steaks. He ended up like the waiter in last night's Sopranos. You had some interesting dealings with Castellano's kin, if I recall correctly?
I dare say that more than a few civilians end up like the waiter. Gene and I certainly documented quite a few in Murder Machine, and this week in Brooklyn, Luchese gangster Frankie Pearl Federico goes to trial for the 1989 slayings of two brothers-in-law, who together ran a private sanitation company on Long Island and were marked for death because they had the temerity to testify against the mob.
Unlike you, I happen to like the Dr. Melfi character, but I think maybe we should hold off for a while before we dissect her relationship with Tony and whether or not her therapy sessions were useless, since we agree that she was used wisely last night.
The Class of 2004 sure does promise much in the way of blood, guts, and gore for the remainder of the season. I'll get to that in a second. On your point about real gangsters getting out of prison now: While many were convicted and sentenced to life during the '80s and '90s, there are quite a few who got lesser sentences, have gotten out, and already have gone back again. Among the Lucheses you mentioned earlier, Carmine Avellino, one of the players in the killings that Frankie Pearl was allegedly involved in, just got out; his brother Salvatore and a few others, as well as a couple of top Gambino family wiseguys under Gotti—Little Nick Corozzo and Lenny DiMaria—are all due out this year. Some Colombo guys involved in the bloody '91-'93 war that left 12 dead are already out. Feech LaManna and the other new characters are definitely poised for action. Loved Loggia's description of how on his first day in the can, he picked out the biggest black inmate in the place and pummeled him to establish his bona fides as a tough guy not to be trifled with. I have heard similar tales from real wiseguys and other prison sources.
Your point about the reel New Jersey crew being better situated that the real-life family is well taken. There ain't too many of them around these days, but the Newark-based DeCavalcante family isn't quite dead—yet.
Say Jeff, what did you think of the reputed mob expert they trotted out at the start of the show to help lay the groundwork for the new wiseguys the writers were introducing? Think you could have done an equally good—or better—job playing the role of an all knowing mob reporter? (In the interest of full disclosure, the folks over at Sopranos central casting told me to take a hike after first asking me to read for the part.)