I just wrote a story for my blog in which I interviewed the daughters of "Wild Bill" Cutolo. I thought I'd link to it, but also post it right here, to make it easier for you to read (the pics are exclusive, too, but didn't show up here after my cut and paste; you'd have to go to the blog to see the pics: http://cosa-nostra-news.blogspot.com/2013/03/billy-cutolo-jr-sure-can-talk-talk.html
- I bet none of you ever saw a real live Mafia capo letting his hair down in Disney World!)Billy Cutolo Jr. Sure Can Talk the Talk...
[i]Cosa Nostra News Exclusive[i]
Thanks to the American public's ongoing obsession with La Cosa Nostra – duly noted by the constant airing of shows like Mob Wives, I Married a Mobster, Mobsters, Bill Kurtis, Biography and even National Geographic (as well as the increasingly competitive blog landscape) – those formerly connected to “the life” but now out can still find ways to earn off the mob, lending their insight and perspective to the aforementioned television shows, as well as consulting with filmmakers (lot of money there).
The types of people who make money off mob involvement, and their reasons for doing so, are as varied as the people doing it. As the great French filmmaker Jean Renoir famously said: "Everybody has their reasons" -- and those in the audience can react however they like, spanning the full range of emotion, from incredulity to apathy.
I only have a problem when these "talking heads" don't make their best effort to tell the truth. As I noted in a previous post, television shows don't always give the backgrounds of their sources -- whether they are on or off screen. Case in point: Big Sal Miciotta, who can be seen on a few of these shows, as well as in newspaper editorials. It turns out that Big Sal was an informant who spoiled his deal by lying on the witness stand; he is unable to ever testify during any trial but can say whatever he wants to the media.
If no one is around to refute them, some of these people may decide to reinvent themselves by describing their past actions in a different light, maybe casting themselves as more heroic, tougher, more Cosa Nostra, than they really were. If this be the case, these "former mobsters" (or their "wives," "girlfriends," "lovers," etc.) have the power to literally rewrite the past and transform themselves into the person they wish they had been.
This would certainly seem to be the case when it comes to Billy Cutolo Jr., son of former Colombo underboss William "Wild Bill" Cutolo, according to Billy's sisters.
I have written extensively about Wild Bill, and his daughters Barbara Jean (or BJ) and Christina Cutolo have spent hours with me discussing their father and his life in the Colombo family.
In a nutshell: Wild Bill was a Brooklyn-born wiseguy who became a major player in the Colombo family during the civil war of the early 1990s; he later would be promoted to underboss of the Colombo family, but it was a set-up for him to be whacked. Outside "the life," Cutolo was named “Man of the Year” in 1988 by the National Leukemia Association for his charity work, and it also was typical of him to visit children’s hospitals dressed as Santa Claus.
The Cutolo sisters and I also discussed their brother Billy Jr., which is when they first told me how, fueled by a hyper-ego and love of money, he was attempting to lie his way through various television shows to make himself appear to be a tougher and more involved gangster -- acting like he knew more than he did, while conveniently forgetting elements of his past to allow for the creation of this enhanced version of himself.
I don't know Billy Jr., so this is not firsthand info; rather, it is from his sisters, as noted, who loved their father dearly and were very closely associated with private Cutolo family events to which no one else is privy. Having a forum to expose their brother is very cathartic for them on a personal level, they have told me.
"Billy likes to portray himself as my father's right hand man," said Christina -- also known as "Cricky," the nickname her father lovingly bestowed upon her. "But he never had anything to do with my father’s business dealings. He was never made and was always kept out of the loop. This is why he hated Big Dom so much; he was jealous of him and his relationship with my father and the opportunity he was given to earn.” (Big Dom was an associate connected to Wild Bill's crew back in the day.)
"He even says at one point said that my father gave him a gun – that never happened."
"My father didn’t want that life for my brother," Cricky added. "The only reasons my brother is doing this is because he wants money and his 15 minutes."
And if Wild Bill had gone on to live 100 years, his son still would never have been made, Cricky added. "My father said that to more than one person on many occasions. He even told my mother: 'Your son doesn't belong in this life and I'll never allow it.'"
Bill Jr. has told the story of how he grew even closer to his father when his father got out of jail having won a trial having to do with the early 1990s Colombo family war. But, according to the Cutolo sisters, his story is just that: a story.
“When our father came home from prison after winning his case, my brother was disappointed because he knew our father would soon find out all that his son had been up to, like stealing from him by taking any monies that were collected on my father’s behalf," BJ said.
“He also tried paying off an associate of my father’s with counterfeit money because he [Billy Jr.] lost the actual money gambling.
“He lived the high life with his then-girlfriend, on my father’s dime. My father actually disowned my brother one week after he returned home from prison. In fact, [my father] had to be subdued or he would have carried out his threat to kill him. Billy Boy ran away and spent a week in the Caribbean hiding out. He returned and my father shunned him.
“He wasn’t allowed near the club or anyone my father had anything to do with. It remained that way for over five months, until my brother got married, and slowly, my father began to talk to him – but he never trusted him again, a point he made known.”
It’s not like Wild Bill didn’t give his son a chance. In fact, he had given Bill Jr. some simple tasks to handle for him while he was cooling his heels in the can during his trial, the sisters said.
"Billy was going and picking up things at a couple of places for my father," BJ said. "He never turned over whatever he was supposed to; things never went where they were supposed to."
"He'd use my father's name all the time, and he expected things for it. After a while people began resenting him – he made a lot of enemies."
Cricky said: "When my father disappeared, [Billy Jr.] knew he had nowhere to turn; he had nothing but enemies."
One time, Billy Jr. was supposed to pick up some money from a jeweler for his father. Billy told the man he wanted an engagement ring, and that the jeweler should take the cost of the ring out of the amount owed to Wild Bill. [The jeweler must've been shaking over this one; he had to have known what likely could happen, given this is Wild Bill's green we are talking about here.]
Later, when Wild Bill was out of prison he discovered a discrepancy in the "amount" the jeweler had turned over to Billy Jr. Wild Bill wasn't very happy.
"Billy watched the jeweler get beaten – he lied about the money and didn’t admit to the engagement ring," BJ said.
Billy Jr., as I write these very words, is talking on my television set in an episode of Mobsters about Carmine "The Snake" Persico, the main man responsible for killing Wild Bill.
He also made a notable appearance in the debut episode of the short-lived Discovery channel series called “Mobster Confessions.” That first episode detailed the story of Bill Cutolo Jr.’s efforts to nail the Colombo family members who had whacked his father.
But according to the Cutolo daughters, not one word of what he said was actually true.
Billy’s first sentiment upon learning his father had been “disappeared” was to swear vengeance. “Three for my father,” he says he told Colombo mobster Jackie DeRoss after learning his father’s fate.
DeRoss, in response, gave Billy some time to cool off, then dropped by to see how the Cutolos were holding up. According to Billy, DeRoss offered with his condolences a veiled threat to the family.
Ultimately, Billy Jr. decided the best way to proceed was to not start whacking Persicos and other high-level Colombo mobsters. He said he found solace, and the right piece of advice, in some long-remembered words of his father, as I related in another story.
On TV, Billy Jr. said: "... let's face it, when it came to my father's disappearance, what [was my mother and sisters] gonna do about it?... They weren’t in the streets every day like me.
"I wanted to save them. I wanted to be the one that brought my father home... I knew I was the only person in a position to do anything. My knowledge of the players and how the game is played gave me the means to catch [the ones] responsible for my father’s death...."
To which BJ responded: "The only streets he 'was in' were the ones that he hung out on or that took him to the gym so he could get 'roided up and soil my father's good name. He couldn't save himself. He only cooperated to get himself out of an extortion charge, which he had gotten because he threatened a stockbroker for losing money that wasn't even his.
"He had overdrawn on an investment account that belonged to his wife's grandmother, and lost it all."
Added Cricky: "He caught no one. He lost his deal with the Marshall's office because of drug and alcohol abuse. He was even in a hospital for a while and underwent shock therapy.
"His testimony couldn't be used and the recordings he made [of Wild Bill's Mafia associates] couldn't be used to their full extent, either."
This apparently is a key reason why both DeRoss and Allie-Boy Persico had to be recharged; the district attorney, said BJ, "explained to me that if me and my mother didn't testify, [Allie Boy and Jackie] would have gotten off again. So we made sure my father's body was found. I myself physically claimed my father's remains and had a DNA test done to prove it was him. I am the reason my father is resting in peace and his remains are where my mother wants them."
The bottom line, the sisters said, is that Wild Bill never trusted his son, and in fact, was prone to saying that his daughters had more of his spark than anyone else in his bloodline.
With his father dead, Billy Jr. was more concerned about money, the sisters told me. Billy Jr. borrowed -- and then stole -- from his own mother, and eventually realized he was able to earn some more courtesy of shows like Mobsters.
One of Billy Jr.'s bolder moves, which I wrote of in a separate story, had to do with his accepting the apology offered by the man who actually pulled the trigger that ended his father's life. He certainly wasn't speaking for his entire family.
As the paper reported: "From the NY Daily News, a story you don't read very often in Mob Land.
"From deep within a federal prison, ex-Colombo hitman Joseph Competiello has sent an extraordinary apology to the family of a gangster he helped kill, the Daily News has learned.
"'As a young adult my actions are inexcusable and I am ready to accept responsibility for them for causing you pain over the loss of your loved one,” Competiello wrote in an email to relatives of slain capo William Cutolo.
"Perhaps even more stunning, Competiello’s apology was readily accepted by the dead man’s son.
"'I accepted his apology . . . If not for him, who knows if they would have found my dad,' Cutolo’s son, William Jr., told The News.
"'If [Competiello] didn’t do what he was told, he would’ve wound up in the hole with my father.'"
To which the sisters wrote me in response: "We don't forgive anyone that was involved in the murder of our father, and our brother's reaction is such a huge contradiction to everything that has happened up until now. In this life there is no forgiveness. Yes, people have to do things they may not agree with -- but those are your own demons, deal with them. Don't ask our family to ease your conscience because that's not going to happen.
"Billy apologized for the press and his own self-obsessed ego; that is what he's all about, getting press to help him make money because, God knows, he won't work for it."
To sum up, Billy wanted to capitalize on his last name, but knew that to do that, he needed to tell stories that portrayed him as a bloodthirsty, stone-cold gangster.
To his father's Don Corleone, he needed to be Michael, not Fredo. But Billy Jr. couldn't step into his father's shoes; BJ and Cricky had already filled them.