To celebrate the release of the new biopic covering the brutal life of the infamous New York don, we look at some of the need-to-know facts about this fascinating figure.
John Joseph Gotti was born in the Bronx in New York on October 27, 1940, to John Joseph Gotti Sr. and Philomena Gotti. He had 12 siblings, four of whom became Mafia ‘made men’ in the Gambino Crime Family.
While growing up in Queens, New York, Gotti formed his own street gang called the Fulton-Rockaway Boys, which operated in his local neighbourhood. By the time he was 21, he’d been arrested five times for petty crimes including street fighting and stealing cars.
In 1973, Gotti committed his first murder, killing Irish mobster James McBratney outside a bar. The murder was payback because McBratney had previously kidnapped and murdered a member of the Gambino crime family.
On 18 March 1980, Gotti’s twelve-year-old son Frank was killed in a car accident when John Favara, the Gotti family’s neighbour, accidentally hit him. Soon after, Favara was kidnapped near his home, never to be seen again. It has been speculated that Favara’s body was dissolved in a vat of acid.
In December 1985, Gotti orchestrated the murder of the then-Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano outside of the Sparks Steak House in Manhattan before taking over control of the crime family.
During his reign as head of the Gambino crime family, it is estimated that Gotti personally earned between $10 and $12 million a year. Gotti also made the Gambino crime family incredibly wealthy, raking in $500 million during his time as boss through a variety of illegal activities.
Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra once made up an excuse to get out of dining with the Don. Gotti didn’t take this well, sending a goon who reportedly threatened, “’The next time John sends for you and you make up an excuse, I will be the last face you will see on this earth.”
During the mid-1980s, prosecutors couldn’t make any charges stick on Gotti. He earned the nickname the ‘Teflon Don’ after being acquitted of assault and racketeering charges three times in a row.
Gotti later earned the nickname the ‘Dapper Don’ because of his love of fine suits. In fact, he was so interested in maintaining his ‘Dapper Don’ image that during his trials he would often change his suit at lunchtime.
During his 1986 trial, Gotti avoided prison by paying off a juror to the sum of $60,000. The juror in question later spent three years behind bars for obstruction of justice.
In the early ‘90s, investigator Robert Mueller finally took down the ‘Teflon Don’ putting him away for the rest of his life. Interestingly, this is the same Robert Mueller who is currently investigating US President Donald Trump over his alleged collusion with Russia.
Mueller’s masterstroke was when he signed a deal with hitman Salvatore ‘Sammy the Bull’ Gravano who turned into a star witness and testified against his former boss. Sammy had 19 homicides to his name but got off with a relatively light sentence in return for revealing Gotti family secrets.
Gotti’s son John Gotti Jr. went on to become acting head of the Gambino crime family between 1992 and 1999, following his father’s incarceration. Due to his ability to evade conviction, Gotti Jr. has been referred to as ‘Teflon Jr.’
In 1996, a fellow inmate accused Gotti of using a racial slur and gave him a beating. In retaliation, it was reported that the Don hired the Aryan Brotherhood to put a hit on his attacker.
The life of the Dapper Don came to a distinctly unglamorous end. He spent much of his prison sentence in solitary confinement, up to 23.5 hours a day according to his son.
John Gotti Jr. turned down an offer from Sylvester Stallone to make a movie about his father, eventually deciding to work with John Travolta on the film instead. Seven years in the making, the movie quickly became a passion project for the Hollywood star.
In fact, John Travolta’s Gotti get-up wasn’t a ‘costume’ at all, but the actual clothes were worn by the man himself, as given to the actor by Gotti Jr. From the shirts and neckties right down to the pocket squares and cufflinks, everything was authentic. He even wore the cologne of the notorious former owner.
Travolta wasn’t the only one on set in borrowed clothes; portraying Gotti’s wife Victoria was Travolta’s own wife Kelly Preston. The former Twins star slipped on the actual wedding ring of her real-life counterpart, along with a second ring that had never been removed from the hand of Gotti’s spouse until filming.
Travolta joined social media for the first ever time to promote new movie Gotti, and his first post was dedicated to his kids Ella and Ben who convinced the star to get online.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK presents Gotti on Digital 17th September and Blu-ray & DVD 24th September.
Amazon pre-order: http://amzn.eu/eQJLAUt
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.