Memoirs of a Mob Lady-Angels by my side-Andrea Giovino
Memoirs of a Mob Lady
ANGELS BY MY SIDE
by ANDREA GIOVINO
I grew up in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York – the Italian quarter of East 2nd Street . I am the sixth of ten children, six sisters and four brothers born to Frank and Dolly Silvestri. My dad was a tractor-trailer driver who was as honest and square as the day is long. He never had a clue of what mom was up to until the police busted down our doors one night with pick axes and sledge hammers. Mom, you see, ran an illegal crap game in the basement of our house for “Crazy Joe” Gallo while she stayed home and took care of the kids. Times were hard and we were very poor. Joey Gallo paid her money every week for the privilege of using our home as a mob gambling den until the police arrived on our doorstep that long-ago evening in 1963.
My unsuspecting dad came home from his rounds and was dragged down to the police station in handcuffs, completely unaware of what his wife had been up to while he was away at work. Luckily for him he managed to convince the judge that he had been out making his deliveries all day and had nothing to do with illegal gambling.
Dolly Silvestri was Ma Barker in the flesh; a tough-talking, hard-as-nails kind of woman with a criminal mind who was only trying to score a few extra dollars for her family. Whoever gave her money would be queen for the day. My father never would allow mom to work outside the home. He always said, “women don’t need an education. They stay home, cook, clean, and raise children.” Mom pulled me out of school when I was in the seventh grade. We had to help out at home with the younger kids. We were cheated from an education, particularly my sisters and I.
Deep down in her heart she respected these men who came to our home to play cards and shoot crap and they accorded her a similar level of trust and affection. When mom passed away in 1995, these “men of respect” – from the various Mafia families of New York – attended her wake.
She often said of the wiseguys, that: “these are the men that have the money and the power, and people respect and fear them.” So, what would anyone expect a little girl to think? The wiseguys were the only ones in the neighborhood who could afford the big new cars, the fancy clothes, and the nightly visits to the expensive Manhattan nightclubs. They were always the best dressed and they possessed a certain style and charisma. So, we felt it was our duty to help mom serve them coffee and food while they gambled. My brothers and sisters thought we were living a normal, idyllic American life.
While I was growing up, all I ever heard my mom say was “Mob men are the only kind of men you should marry.” She always told me to look beautiful and use what you have. Make the men pay.
My dad was not cutting it financially driving a truck for Werner Continental . Mom felt he was just a simple, good-hearted truck driver trying to make ends meet in a work-a-day world. Thereafter, she encouraged my brothers to seek out the captains of the mob families and go to work for them.
By the time my brother Johnny was 17-years-old, he had already picked up a street name – “Johnny Bubble Gum” – because he was just a kid who was still snapping bubble gum when he carried out his first murder for hire. The Mafia bosses actively recruited under-age “mad-man” kids like my brother Johnny. If there was a problem with the feds, a minor enjoyed certain legal “advantages” when he stood before a judge.
So, for a time, he was the free-lancing “Bubble Gum Gangster” who was recruited by the Gambinos and Bonannos similar to the way recent college graduates are often selected and hired by the large Fortune 500 companies. My older brother Frank was already a top “earner” for the Colombo family by the time Johnny broke in. He was good at making “big scores” by extorting people. The mob respected his abilities because the boss would get his kickback and everyone else would make money. They always wanted these guys under their wing. That’s how it is in Brooklyn. Everything is about how tough you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re only 5’2” just so long as you can pull a trigger.
In Mafia circles it is possible, even common, for brothers, uncles and cousins to work for different families and opposing factions at the same time, even when they are at war with each other. Frank and John were never close when we were growing up in Brooklyn. Their differences only worsened as they got older. Today my two brothers are blood enemies who would probably want to kill each other if they were given the chance. Frankie was tied to the Colombos for a long time, but he is back home on Staten Island after serving two years in a Virginia prison for criminal fraud. Johnny is presently incarcerated for murder in a federal prison.
Mom loved the constant action, and as the boys drifted into the life, I often listened as she dispensed advice about murder technique and safe places for them to stash their weapons.
I look back at all of this now and realize that we were never given a fair chance in life. I was so smart in school; I could have accomplished many things in life if only I had had the opportunity to put my mind toward more creative pursuits. But mom’s influence was stronger than my will to remain straight. I remember when I was around six to seven years old she would wake us up at 5:00 a.m. – the crack of dawn – to run around the corner to a Jewish grocery store. When the delivery people arrived to drop off the milk, buns, and bagels, we would steal them blind.
I guess getting caught really frightened me. But at age seven you are supposed to listen to your mother, and so I did. I should have known better; my greatest fear was my conscience. I bottled up so many mixed feelings inside. But mom always had the upper hand in any dispute – including disagreements with my dad. She said that in order to survive in this world all of us had to pitch in. She was very street smart lady. She knew she could allow the young ones to steal because nothing would happen to them if they were caught.
My older brothers, on the other hand, were prepped for better things to come.
Given my background and life experience since my earliest years, I understand why I chose to live with the men I did. Today after all my ups and downs – and there were many of them – I could no longer allow myself to ever be involved in relationships with people who live on the edge of society, carrying out illegal activities.
The down times left deep and lasting scars, some of which I still bear. They are constant reminders of my closely held belief: Women everywhere should know the consequences when they allow themselves to be subjected to a life in the fast lanes. Mob men are career criminals and as history shows, their destiny is clearly written on the wind.
John Gotti is now doing life in the toughest maximum security prison in the U.S .
Sammy “the Bull” Gravano, a man I happen to know, has turned mob-informant and is constantly being pursued by the ones he betrayed. There are no happy endings to these stories – just cautionary flags.
I think Sammy did what he had to – but he’ll have to answer to his conscience for it I’m sure. In a way, he was smarter and much more resourceful than John Gotti.
If Gotti had had the same options, I am sure he might have done the same things Sammy did. Who knows. History will never provide us with answers. I personally know all these people. And although it may sound strange, John Gotti’s life is very sad. I can say this because John’s early years were just like mine.
He came from a large family and he was never taught differently.
Neither of us were presented with the “silver spoon option” early in life. More about that later.
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