How is it that Whitey received widespread national coverage during his trial, even reports in some international media? What makes him such a figure that well over two dozen books have been written about him in which he plays a prominent part in one way or another? I’ve posited that Whitey was a run-of-the-mill viscous gangster. Yet forces united to elevate him to stratospheric levels.
When his trial ended media reports told us he terrorized the City of Boston for decades. But as I’ve noted few outside one section of the city, South Boston, and those were people involved in booking and drug dealing, ever heard about him. How can you terrorize people if no one knows you exist until after you’ve gone?.
One prominent media maven wrote that he “Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century.” From what I can tell there’s never been any public official in the state or city convicted of corruption because of an involvement with Whitey. It seems that the corruption we’ve seen among Massachusetts public office holders or officials has not implicated anyone involved with organized crime.
Speaking of corruption, there’s a recent article that spells out what states are the most corrupt in the United States. Massachusetts has 6.4 million people and about half live in the Metro-Boston area. Greater Boston has 4.59 million people. Had Boston been corrupted, you’d think that it would propel Massachusetts to the top of the list of states deemed most corrupt.
However four different surveys ranks Massachusetts as follows: Center for Public Integrity gives it a C placing it in the top ten least corrupt states; the New York Times ranks it 18th in the number of officials convicted; the federals show it ranks 27th in per capital convictions; and Business Insider ranks it as the 21st most corrupt.
As a state we are somewhere in the middle of the pack. If you’ve paid attention to the people who have been convicted who have placed us there, you’ll look long and hard before you find that organized crime, Italian, Irish or otherwise, had any involvement. If you look at the level of corruption, that is the money involved, you’ll see our public officials seem to go down for nickels and dimes.
If Whitey didn’t corrupt any public officials and if he didn’t terrorize the city, then what is it that makes him such a matter of fascination? It boils down to the smallness of Boston where something rather ordinary can be made into something extraordinary. But why pick out Whitey? He wasn’t the worst of the lot: John “Murderman” Martorano and Stevie “Benjiman”Flemmi, not to mention Larry Baione (Zannino), Gerry Angiulo and Frankie Salemme all surpassed him in cruelty and crime. I’ve suggested Whitey was made into much more than he ever was because it sated the Boston media’s appetite to foil his brother; and there was a need of other parties to jump on the ship to inflate his reputation for their own less than straight forward purposes.
Even had Whitey been the most sordid criminal in Boston, he paled in comparison to what New York City produced. I thought I’d put him up against another Irish criminal: James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke, out of New York City. I pick him since he was a contemporary of Whitey. He was born in July 1931 and Whitey was born in 1929.
I’m sure most of you are scratching your head and wondering who is Jimmy the Gent? You’re probably saying “there’s no way he’s in the same league as Whitey.” And I’d have to agree. He makes Whitey look like a small timer.
I never heard of the bum until the other day when I read an article about the infamous 1978 Lufthansa heist at Kennedy International Airport in which 6 million dollars were stolen. Jimmy the Gent was the master mind behind the robbery while living in a half-way house. So I decided to see what else I could find out about him.
Burke was an outright mean murderer. You might have heard how Whitey didn’t like a story Paul Corsetti of the Herald was planning to write. He made a plan to confront him at the Dockside in Quincy Market (according to Ralph Ranalli in 2001) or at P.J. Clark’s (according to Howie Carr in 2006) or “a bar in Quincy Market” (according to Howie Carr in 2011). Whitey was upset because the story was about his brother Billy, or about the Litif murder, or whatever.(Hard to pin down the reason.) We’re told that Whitey interacted with Corsetti, a combat vet from Vietnam, and whispered one of those “do you know who I am” talks allegedly telling him “I’m Jimmy Bulger and I kill people.”
I seems Jimmy the Gent had a problem with a column written by Jimmy Breslin the famous New York columnist. He confronted Breslin. Rather than whispering, he beat and choked him to within an inch of his life in front of a barroom full of customers. He walked the talk.
Many of the murders attributed to Whitey were done by others. He was allegedly in a crash car for a half-dozen who were murdered by Murderman nor did he have much to do with the Wheeler or Callahan murders. Jimmy the Gent was all hands on. He is suspected in over 50 murders. Most of the people who pulled the Kennedy heist with him he murdered so they either wouldn’t talk or complain about their cut of the loot. Yet no one has suggested that he terrorized New York City. He was but a minor blip in the annals of crime.
I find it a compelling story to see how a minor actor has become so blown out of proportion. Is it something that could only have happened in Boston? And if so, why is that?