Tuesday, September 18, 2007

It Can't Be Whitey

If that's Whitey Bulger, I'll eat my scally cap.

Our favorite fugitive serial-killer-cum-FBI-informant, Whitey - Jimmy, to you - has been on the lam for 12 years, and it has become an article of faith that every couple of years the FBI trots out somebody saying they almost caught their former stool pigeon.

The latest story is great stuff altogether because it comes with video.

Better yet, it comes with all sorts of undeniable plausibilities.

Can't be Whitey. Too much hair. And Whitey's too vain to put on all that weight.

Ah, but isn't that a perfect disguise?

Can't be Whitey. He wouldn't go to Sicily because his erstwhile criminal associates in the Mafia would find and kill him.

Ah, but isn't that just what our Jimmy, who spent all those years in Alcatraz studying counterintelligence, would do? Hide among the enemy and they won't look for you.

The latest installment of "Is That Whitey?" has provoked the wrong question. The real question is, "Is That Cathy?"

Cathy Greig, Whitey's moll, would be 56. The woman in the pictures looks a lot older than that. Whitey spent his entire life with women who looked like his daughters, and now we're supposed to believe he's spending the winter of his years with someone who looks like Barbara Bush? That doesn't sound like our Jimmy. Besides, Cathy had a ton of plastic surgery before she and Whitey hit the road. Guess who paid for it?

As for Whitey fearing La Cosa Nostra, his long, eventually obvious association with the FBI suggests he did not consider his LCN goombahs to be the brightest bulbs. Whitey hung around for seven years after the Globe's Spotlight Team exposed him as a rat for the FBI, so he had concluded that the local franchise of the LCN was either too stupid or too incompetent to kill him.

If they couldn't or wouldn't kill him in Quincy, why would he fear them in Sicily, where the dons have a lot more to worry about than exacting revenge against some low-rent Irish gangster who gave up Larry Baoine's barbooth game in Lowell? The Mafia hasn't been able to kill even a fraction of its own members who have violated the code of omerta, which translates from the Italian to "I ain't doin' time."

Still, if it was Whitey, you've got to appreciate his sense of irony in selecting Taormina as the place for him and Cathy to dress up and play Ozzie and Harriet on vacation.

Taormina was the name of the restaurant in New York's Little Italy where the Teflon Don, John Gotti, used to hang out. The payphone at Taormina had a sign that said "WARNING - THIS PHONE IS BUGGED."

Who needs bugs when you've got rats? Whitey always loved sticking it to the Italians.

Pat Nee and Howie Winter, who besides being retired gangsters are standup guys, told the Globe's Shelley Murphy they're convinced the fellow in the photos is not Whitey.

Chip Fleming, who used to work intelligence for the Boston police, and who knew Whitey as well as anyone, doesn't think it was, either.

That's good enough for me. But there are state cops and DEA agents, who really want to catch this guy, who think it is.

This whole episode shows just how much of a secular society we have become. It used to be, every few years, some peasant in some Third World hamlet would see an apparition of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Now we have Whitey sightings every few years. But - did you notice? - none of the Whitey sightings are in places you'd never want to go.

Jimmy, if you're reading this online somewhere, take some friendly advice: Head for Montenegro. The wine is cheap, the beaches are spectacular, you can buy the local cops with a case of beer, and, trust me, no one will come looking for you, because the airport at Podgorica is a dump.

Thanks to Kevin Cullen

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