Questions presented by Scott Williams-Collier of The True Crime Page
1) Tell us little bit about yourself and your background.
Jeff: I was born in Canarsie(Brooklyn) and spent a brief part of my childhood there. At age ten we moved to Providence, Rhode Island where my mom was from. She came from a really large family, and that’s actually where my parents met.(Newport, Rhode Island) I don’t exactly come from a traditional family in the sense of the phrase. Traditionally families have doctors, lawyers, you know professional people, and don’t get me wrong we have those too, but there is another side to all that which I will get into at some point, but let’s just say I come from a very political family and a family who could put “leg breaker” on a job application if that was universally acceptable as a job skill.
2)You recently started Mob Talk Radio, which has already built up a large following. What inspired you to do the show and what are your hopes for the Future?
Jeff: To be honest, I have a semi-pro background in hockey. I played semi-pro for a few years and I was online doing a lot of hockey commentary and radio shows about that topic. The Mafia topic was one I was interested in, but because of my family background I was very worried about going there and talking about that. The internal question I had was, how can I do a Mafia related show and not become what I despised the most, which is a snitch, rat, informer? Where I grew up that was the worst thing you could be in life, was someone who told on someone. So how could I do that type of show and skirt the obvious? I figured if I covered the subject in a historical aspect and didn’t relate myself to my own background, or didn’t give up current information then maybe it could be done. One day I just sorta went for it, and here we are. Looking back too, I wanted to teach, so many people read books and take it as gospel when in fact many books are very inaccurate. They may have the players involved but where they miss the mark is using some sort of “Godfather or Goodfellas” rationale. Those outside of the life take cues from movies, they believe the Mob does certain things in those ways because that’s what society and art has said they do. Big differences there for sure. They over-complicate things. The Mafia doesn’t. My hopes for the future, I don’t have any to be honest when it comes to this radio show because it honestly was never meant to be more than a handful of shows.
3) Did you expect Mob Talk Radio to be so well received?
Jeff: No. I knew enough to know I would have people from that life who wouldn’t like it one bit and I knew there would be those who were fascinated by it. It’s a double edged sword sometimes because you have those who genuinely want to learn something, then you have those who just want to call you out as a rat, snitch, etc. It’s amusing in a sense because they don’t know who I am, who I know, how I grew up, and they just launch into some vitriolic hate speech over assuming something I am doing. If it’s well received I’m the last to know because you should see some of the hate mail I do get, it’s insane. If someone learns something then I’m happy, that’s the only goal I have.
4)Who are your favourite characters from the organised crime world to talk about and why?
Jeff: I get asked this a lot. My favourite organized crime figure was Vincent “the chin” Gigante. Not only was he incredibly smart, but he was able to run a crime family without the typical problems we have seen with other families. He essentially made a fool of the FBI for years and it makes me laugh because anyone whose willing to piss themselves, and take a shower with a winter coat on and an umbrella is definitely dedicated. I admired his ability to think on his feet and outfox everyone. They don’t make men like him anymore. The other guy who comes to mind is Ray Patriarca(Rhode Island Mafia). Not only was he a cut from the same cloth as Gigante, but I knew him personally, and he was a great man. The public perception that they men all are morally deceased is really inaccurate. Ray took care of everyone. The streets were clean, not a drug in site. If you threw trash on the ground you would be sent for, and the results might as well have been a death sentence. It was a two fold purpose. He could keep the neighborhood under control and he could insulate himself. The neighborhood had his back and kept him safe. Sort of like the Sonny character from A Bronx Tale. He was that loved.
5) When did your interest in organised crime start and how did you build up the extensive knowledge you have on the subject?
Jeff: I don’t think I have told anyone this story ever. I was 11 years old, and I was at a local video store with my brother. I of course wanted to rent some Ninja movie. He wouldn’t have it and grabbed a copy of Goodfellas. He said it was important that I watch it, and I needed to understand it. I had no idea what he meant, but I started seeing things in that movie I recognized. The suits, the cars, the language. The whispered conversations. I had an immediate flash forward to my relatives. Things like “Uncle Jimmy talks like him, or Uncle Tony dresses like that.” The movie drew a parallel to the people I loved and called uncle, cousin, grandpa. All through that movie my brother kept saying “see, do you see.” It took me a while to understand but he was essentially telling me what my family did for living. There were other signs I began to put together a few years later, but I was totally intoxicated by what I saw. From that day on, any book I could get my hands on, or any whispered conversation I could overhear I wanted to be in the thick of it. I leaned to play dumb and listen to those conversations, and I could read between the lines. Things like “Joey had to go away, he was terminal”, followed by laughter, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what they meant. I was hooked from day one.
6)Being an expert on the Mob. What is your opinion on the current state of Cosa Nostra in America and do you ever think it will return to what it once was?
Jeff: I don’t consider myself an expert. Some people have thrown that in my face online, but expert? No. The difference between myself and others is that I come from a family whose line of work was, well, knock around work. So my perspective is completely different. I understand the why’s, the protocol, the reasons, where book writers often struggle with getting down to the real brass tax of things. The Mob today, is different. There seems to be a social argument that somehow the values are different, and while that may be the case, you also have to acknowledge that more is known today about the mob than before. They have the same problems, it’s just amplified. The FBI has more tools now than they had back in the old days, and it’s become trendy to make some money and just tell because nobody wants to do time. I think perhaps the big difference is, there seems to be no respect. These young guys come from wealthy families, they don’t understand what it’s about to come to this country and do whatever you have to do to survive. They have been spoon fed everything and have no ethics. The Mob will always be here in some form, but the glory days are over. Like life everything evolves, the Mob today is tech savvy and there is more emphasis on fraud and internet scams than say your traditional bookmaking. All the old rackets are there, they have just evolved into pump and dump schemes, wall street scams and etc.
7)Hypothetical question just for fun. If you had to pick 3 historical crime figures to run a crime family: a boss, under boss and consigliere. Who would you pick for each roll and why?
Jeff: For boss, Vincent Gigante, quick, smart and deadly. For underboss Ray Patriarca, smart, savvy and respected. Consigliere wise, I would have to go with Carlo Gambino. In my opinion those three are the very best of what that life represents. All three were crafty, smart, and treacherous.
8)As listeners to the show will know, you have had issues with the Gotti family in the past. Has all that died down now? And what is your opinion on the Gotti family?
Jeff: I had issues with them, but not anymore. It’s a really long story of how I even came to that point, but to save us all from that retelling, I will just sort of recap. It seems like online you are either team Gotti or team Alite. Both sides have there reasons for the onslaught of jabs online. For John Jr, it’s calling John Alite out as an informant. He wants to discredit John Alite for being who he was or who he says he was. John Alite wants to prove that John Gotti Jr is a liar and was never really the man he says he was. It comes down to a 302 that John Gotti jr signed off on with the FBI. The main argument is that Alite never would have testified had John Gotti Jr not had a proffer session with the FBI. It’s essentially two guys blaming each other. I reached out to Angel Gotti because things were getting way out of hand. Angel is perceived as a big mouth, but that’s not really the case. The abuse she takes online is atrocious. She gives it back to them, but she’s actually just defending herself and her family and she has a right to do that. I have said bad things about them, but she and I reached sort of an accord with this mess. All she wants is for it to end, and I agree with her. It’s gotten really out of hand. My opinion of the Gotti’s has changed a lot over the years for both good and bad. If John is out of the life, then people should let him be. He has a right to live his life in peace and quiet and so far it’s just been one thing after another. On the flip side of that his pride should let him just leave this bullshit online alone, but the Gotti’s are proud people and have never backed down from anyone. My hope is that they figure out that all this drama does is bring attention where it’s not needed. Both Alite and Gotti should be in prison for life, and you’d think that being able to sit down for dinner with your family, share moments would be a silver lining for them, but instead they focus on what people say. What’s left to prove?
9)Have you got any special guests lined up in the near future for the show and if so who?
Jeff: I have some guys on the burner as they say. Jimmy Calandra is a guy I would like to have on, but I I get requests for a ton of different people all the time, and I have to schedule it out and that’s not always easy. I have talked to Frank Gangi and I am still working on those details. I did a Q&A with Dominick Montiglio, he felt more comfortable going that route, but maybe I can convince him of otherwise. The big one is Nicky Scarfo. I reached out to him in prison to answer some questions and I am still waiting to hear from him. Apparently my show is listened to in prisons. I have no idea how, but too many people have told me otherwise so…who knows.
10)Who inspires you?
Jeff: My grandfather is my biggest inspiration. He was really special. It’s not just what he did, but it’s how he led his life. The lessons he taught me I still take everywhere with me today. Some might ask how I can love someone so much who might have done some pretty bad things. The answer to that is cliche’ but who did he hurt? They only hurt those in that life. He did whatever he might have done because the ends justified the means. He protected us, loved us, and I never saw that bad side of him ever. The only thing I ever saw was one time on Federal Hill. He went into a laundromat to pick up some clothes. There was a drunk guy inside hassling the owner. My grandfather tried to intercede. He was being diplomatic about the situation. The guy called my grandfather a WOP, and my grandfather threw him through a plate glass storefront window. I asked him later in life, why he did that, and his response was two fold. He said “your words can get your body in a lot of trouble if you aren’t careful.” He was teaching me that you never use racial slurs or ethnic slurs towards anyone, and that you also have to have respect for yourself. He was gentle, smart, loving, and truly one of a kind. They don’t make men like him anymore.
Jeff thank you very much for taking time out from your schedule to take part in this interview.
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