Final Farewell To Gotti

Mark Knoller CBS

John Gotti, nicknamed "Dapper Don," was buried Saturday as throngs of onlookers lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the larger-than-life funeral procession carrying the legendary convicted mob boss.

Gotti was mourned in a non-church, private service and taken to a cemetery that also holds other top mobsters. The Catholic Church had denied his family's request for a religious service.

Gotti, known for his movie star panache, swagger and elegance, was laid to rest in much the same way he lived his life -- in style.

Several helicopters hovered above the massive funeral procession of about 100 cars, including a stream of black limousines and nearly two dozen flower cars holding arrangements fashioned into a cigar, royal flush and martini glass with olives, among other things.

Spectators gathered early this morning to say their farewells and photographers perched on ladders trying to get a shot of the man who left a trail of bodies behind as he climbed the ranks of the Gambino crime family.

Some 300 onlookers met the procession at the cemetery.

Gotti, the boss of one of the most ruthless and richest of America's organized crime families, died on Monday at a federal prison hospital after complications from cancer. Gotti, 61, was serving a life term.

After the brief private service, Gotti's brother, Richard, nephews and best friends carried out his bronze casket from the Papavero funeral home. Gotti's brothers Peter and Gene and his son John were unable to attend the funeral because they were serving time in federal prisons.

Many aspects of Gotti's life resembled Hollywood television and movie hits about mobsters, sparking a curiosity among the public and gaining him celebrity-like status. That curiosity carried over into his death.

Some might say he was notorious. Law enforcement might say he was infamous," said Bruce Cutler, Gotti's lawyer. "I say he was a sincere man, a remarkable man, an extraordinary man, a man that caused all this attention not because of the government allegations but because of the way he carried himself and the way he lived his life."

The procession passed by Gotti's home and then the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, the social club Gotti and his crew frequented, before arriving at St. John's Cemetery in Middle Village, Queens, about two hours after leaving the funeral home.

At the cemetery Gotti was laid to rest next to his son Frank, who was run over by a next door neighbor when he was 12 years old. The neighbor subsequently disappeared and his body has never been found.

When Gotti took over the Gambino mob, it was the biggest and most powerful of the city's five Mafia families. As recently as this month, 17 alleged members and associates of the gang were indicted on 68 counts including racketeering, extortion, gambling, money laundering and witness tampering.

Many spectators at the cemetery said they had admired the notorious mobster nicknamed the ``Teflon Don'' for his longtime ability to avoid conviction and the ``Dapper Don'' for his expensive suits.

``There's a lot worse out there,'' spectator David Fitzgerald said outside the cemetery. ``I've always enjoyed the man. He was a great character. He stood up against everyone and everything.''

The funeral service was not a Mass of Christian Burial, as the family had hoped. Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Daily, head of the Diocese of Brooklyn, ruled that Gotti was not entitled to a funeral Mass.

At issue was a church precept called "scandal" — the idea that the wrong message would be sent to the church faithful by granting a funeral Mass to someone who lived outside church teachings. The denial is not a judgment on the deceased's lifestyle, since the church believes only God can make that determination.

Daily did allow Gotti's burial in the Catholic cemetery, where a who's who of 20th century Mafiosi are buried. Some, like Carlo Gambino and Joseph Profaci, died of natural causes. Others, like Carmine Galante and Joe Colombo, were victims of their lifestyles — both shot to death. The infamous mobster Charles "Lucky" Luciano also is buried there.

Gotti's final resting place is in a family crypt inside an imposing mausoleum at St. John's, next to his son, Frank, who died at age 12 when he was struck by a neighbor's car near his home. Though ruled blameless by police, the neighbor was abducted weeks later and never seen again. No charges were ever brought.

Gotti was a street capo running a gang out of the Bergin club until he orchestrated the 1985 murder of his predecessor, "Big Paul" Castellano. Within two years, he had captured public attention like no mobster since Al Capone.

An Andy Warhol portrait of Gotti appeared on the cover of Time magazine. He wore $1,800 designer suits, with hand-painted ties and a pinky ring. He dined at fine restaurants, and thumbed his nose at the FBI agents that made him public enemy No. 1.

But in 1992, Gotti was convicted of murder and racketeering, and sentenced to life in prison.
  • Brian Dakss

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