In another century, in another city, in a different world, a rap on Sammy “The Bull” Gravano’s front door resonated with impending menace.
These days? Not so much.
“I got a neighbor, and she comes over and knocks,” recounts the former Gambino crime family underboss, now 75 and living in a sleepy Arizona neighborhood. “I open the door, and she’s giving me broth. I said, ‘What’s this?’ She says, ‘I know you’re living alone, and I don’t know if you’re eating right.’
“So she gives me the broth.”
It’s a new world for the Brooklyn-born Mafioso who admitted to 19 gangland rub-outs before turning government witness, putting 37 organized crime figures behind bars — including his old boss, John Gotti. Gravano has swapped the Mafia’s once-secret society and his vow of omerta for a social media onslaught.
Gravano, who entered and left federal witness protection after his devastating testimony in the ‘90s, is now available on Facebook and Instagram. He’s poised to launch his own podcast, and last year sat for a lengthy YouTube interview that garnered 8.4 million views ... and counting.
His Brooklyn accent remains unchanged a full 28 years after he moved west, and he still carries the baggage of his violent rise through the ranks of the Gambinos under Gotti. The Dapper Don, convicted after Gravano’s testimony, died behind bars in 2002.
“Everybody has regrets,” reflects Gravano. “No matter what life you’re in, everybody who goes forward has some sort of regrets. Of course. I’m involved in a lot of murders. When I talk about it for my podcast, I actually relive it — and it nauseates me to a degree.”
Count his time as Gotti’s second-in-command among those regrets.
“I think he single-handedly destroyed the Mafia,” says Gravano of his old spotlight-loving boss. “I think he made every mistake you could make. What John did, he hurt the entire Mafia. You could take 15 guys who cooperated, put them together, and they didn’t do as much damage as he did by putting the whole Mafia on front street.”
Gravano, who spends up to two hours before bedtime replying to questions on Facebook, doesn’t shy away from his infamous past. He speaks fondly of former Genovese family underboss “Benny Eggs” Mangano, and less so of one-time acting Luchese family boss “Little Al” D’Arco.
Gravano recounts the end of a productive business meeting with Mangano: “He gave me a smile, a hug and a kiss.”
And he recalls a less cordial conversation with D’Arco: “I told him, ‘The next time you see me, I’ll be the last f---ing person you ever see.’”
Sammy the Bull ascended through the Gambino ranks in the 1980s, sitting alongside Gotti as the pair drove past the corpse of executed boss “Big Paul” Castellano after a pre-Christmas 1985 hit outside Spark’s Steak House. He was also indicted alongside Gotti in 1990, only to turn his back on the mob and become a devastating witness.
Given a new lease on life, Gravano moved to Arizona. He quit the federal Witness Protection Program, returned to a life of crime. And he was arrested again in 2000 for running a Ecstasy ring, with a sentence of 20 years imposed before Gravano eventually walked free in 2017.
Gravano’s embrace of the 21st century included appearances on his daughter’s reality television show. Sammy admits he’s still a bit flustered by the new technology, although he’s assembled a team to assist in his acclimation to the new millenium.
“Listen, when I left home, these phones never existed,” he says with a chuckle while speaking on one. “As a kid, I would talk to the television and they thought I was crazy. Now if you don’t talk to the f---ing television, it doesn’t change the channel.”
Gravano says he’s comfortable living out west, although there’s something missing so far away from the streets of his hometown.
“I love New York, I love the attitude of people in New York,” he says. “I still know a lot of people in the Mafia out of New York. And there’s a lotta guys who flipped, they’re in touch with me every three minutes. But I don’t fit in there no more.”
Gravano’s new social media endeavors are reachable through his website, SammyTheBull.com/links.
“I still love the Mafia, cause it’s part of my heritage,” he says. “I still believe in it. I still think I’m a gangster. Now, my ex-wife will ask me all the time, ‘You can’t stop thinking like that?’
“And I say, ‘That’s me.’”
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