From my viewpoint, I'm a huge fan of the Mob genre, as to be expected. But before we jump into the new film a bit, I wanted to discuss the past when it comes to this subject material. If anyone goes back a bit, in 1996 HBO put out a version simply entitled GOTTI. Famed actor Armand Assante played the role of John Gotti, while Vincent Pastore played Angelo Ruggiero, and the list sorta went on and on.
I, like many sat at home and anticipated a terrific film. From an acting standpoint, it wasn't bad, the one thing that HBO did well, was cast. There were some questionable casting decisions in my opinion, but Armand Assante carried himself well. If you were watching this film and assuming it was based on fact, you'd be very mistaken. I would assume HBO went with books for information because some of the more simple facts, were completely etched in falsehood. I could point out a million different examples but I won't. The film was good in the respect that it was fun to watch, but unless you know the mob genre, and the truth behind many of the stories, the film GOTTI was atrocious. I will never forget watching it with some guys and laughing at the bullshit unfold. While entertaining, it was historically inaccurate, and I felt like they really took the essence out of who John Gotti was. It's impossible to clone him, but Assante played him coyly, and made him a confused, scared man. Not even close to who John Gotti really was. All that aside, when it ended I sorta was more confused. The end sequence of "John Gotti," lamenting his life of crime, and having regrets, mixed with a pompous ego about the mob life without him, was perhaps the most disingenuous part of the film. It was almost as Gotti had given up. But reality is....
Reality is that John Gotti never stopped fighting. He ate 500 plus meals alone, refused medical care, and thumbed his nose at the FBI and prison officials. In fact, if you read John A. Gotti's book "Shadow of My Father," you realize that it was the prison water that likely gave John J. Gotti cancer. He never complained, never lamented, and fought until the end. He breathed Cosa Nostra. He was Cosa Nostra.
His detractors, usually use the same picket line when it comes to John Gotti, and we aren't going to paste those here. Everyone has an opinion and that's fine, but the reality is, half of these people who have mouths couldn't do a day in solitary let alone ten years plus. The bottom line is, John Gotti for everything everyone says, the truth is, John Gotti was a beyond tough human being. He accepted his fate, accepted his punishment like a man, and that's more than I can say for Salvatore Gravano who snitched, then sold drugs to kids like a punk. That's not a man, but pond scum. But moving forward...
When I first heard that there would be another story about John Gotti, I was sad. I didn't know at the time it would be based off of John A. Gotti's book "Shadow of My Father," but after reading his book, which was a gift from Angel Gotti, I had a feeling it was just the right way to go. I think from my perspective separating myself from what I do know, seeing John Gotti Sr, from his son's eyes, was a different perspective entirely.
I read the book, and couldn't put it down. Nobody knows John like his son and family. Too many times, we see iconic films based on real people and it falls flat because the family won't have anything to do with it, or they have too much to do with it. There is a delicate balance to it all, and if this was filmed anywhere close to the book, believe me everyone is in for a real treat. When my own father died, I found myself telling stories, encapsulating who my father was. All those moments, sad, happy, funny, harsh. I discuss it all when people ask, and what comes from those moments is a rawness, and brutal honesty that my father for however great and honorable had flaws like all of us. That's the thing, boys look at their fathers like superheroes. They can beat anyone or anything, stand tall in the wind, and are impenetrable. The reality is, they aren't. That's the toughest part about this life, we realize while they have all these attributes that life has a way of handing down sentences that are unfair and cruel. We take with us precious memories, like John Sr said "make memories because in the end that's all we have." No words could ever be more true.
This film, which hasn't been released yet, sometime in November I hear, is going to be direct from the horse's mouth, as they say. I don't think, and I say this because of detractors, but this isn't going to be a John Gotti fluff movie. It's going to be exactly what it should be. Hollywood when it comes to these types of films generally likes to make it blood and guts and brutal, which sells. Somehow though, I think you will see some of that, but I really believe that there is no way John A. Gotti would settle for anything less than the truth. He's not going to hide anything, and that takes incredible balls. Why?
What nobody seems to ever talk about but me, is the personal side to all of this. When you say the name GOTTI is comes with faces, shrugs, smiles, and fear. It's the reality of the past. What journalists and book writers focus on is some sort of blood and guts tale, which is often repeated, and repeated inaccurately.
People on the outside don't know the Gotti family, and they believe what everyone writes, or they take what the FBI says as gospel, without considering any other information. The Gotti's are great people, not what you would assume. People don't stop and consider them as human beings with feelings, and they certainly don't see them as loving and caring people. Not to say that's the average assumption, but many of the tremendous things they do for others they do in silence. They don't need accolades, but it's a shame more people didn't see that side of them, because it changes the bullshit narrative people put out there about them. Too many take the name before the people, and that's really a shame. Behind the wall of gossip, rumors and lies, is a family who stands up for each other and those they love and care about, and will do anything for anyone who needs help. If you listen to what the Government says or book writers, they are turned into some sort of horror show, with vampires, ghouls and whatever else.
I mention that because nobody ever just tells the truth. They want to talk about mayhem not anything else. It's important for me to bring that up, because this film, however tough, is made with love. The love for a man who was a father, brother, uncle, and grandfather. To bring down the wall and allow others to peek inside is not an easy thing to do. While many think "it's a film, nothing more," you'd be so wrong.
Forget the icon that John Gotti was for a second, he was a dad to Angel, John, Frank, Peter, and Victoria, husband to Victoria. They see him differently than anyone else, and you think it's easy to relive everything like that? You think this is about money? There is no price to pay to open pandora's box and deal with the feelings associated with this. If you think it's a simple thing to do, then let's open your life up, and peer inside at every single detail and see how you feel at the end of the day. I can appreciate the emotional stuff they all must have to endure.
What John A. Gotti has done, is open himself and everyone else up. They have allowed us to peer in, and experience it for ourselves. They have all shared their father with us. There is no bigger gesture of love, then to share someone you love so dearly with the world. They could be selfish and say "nope, never." They haven't. They know what comes with it, and yet they forge ahead as they always do with their heads up, and eyes forward saying, "here we are, see for yourself."
I hope for everyone involved, the film will be a huge success. In many ways, it already is, whether or not anyone realizes that. Not only did John A. Gotti pen an emotional, beautiful book about his father, but he set the record straight. He boldly put it out there, and said "here's the truth.." He has, nor do the Gotti's have any reason to lie. The last 30 years their lives have been front and center. It's about time they are able to speak the truth, without worrying about retribution from those who were hell bent on serving what they call "justice," on any level. This film isn't just about a son's love for his father, it's about all our fathers. Just because your father may have been a janitor, or a street sweeper, doesn't mean you cannot draw parallels. Their is something in this for everyone.
In final, while John Gotti was a father, icon, mob boss, and the list will go on forever, let me just say this. Even though John Gotti was who he was, he belonged to the people. He belonged to us. He was one of us. Angel, Peter, John, Victoria and Frankie-boy may have called him "Daddy," but he really did belong to the people of New York, and while all these rats can come out and say what they want, 100 years from now, when we are all gone, nobody will remember Alite, Scars, or any of these other losers, but they will remember John Gotti. He is ours, he's New York, and always will be.
*** A side note to this, is the GOTTI'S have an A&E Family Documentary coming out just prior to the film, and you won't want to miss that either.
RIP JOHN GOTTI