|Salvatore (Sammy Bull)
Gravano, the turncoat underboss who decided eight years ago to save
himself by turning his back on the mob and cooperating with the feds, has
to be worried about his future.
After living relatively anonymously
for the last five years, Gravano was outed Sunday by the Arizona Republic,
whose reporter portrayed him as a legitimate businessman who works 12 hour
days and lives in a modest bachelor bungalow with a "life-size dummy used
for a punching bag" and a little dog that "growls and sniffs at
The Republic, in a main story and
sidebar totaling a massive 2800 words, reported that after his release
from an Arizona federal prison, Gravano rented an apartment in the Phoenix
Metropolitan area and began running a construction company like the one he
ran in Brooklyn until his arrest in 1990. This time, though, he was
operating without the backing of the Gambino crime family or the aid of
extortion or other labor racketeering schemes.
"For a guy with the threat of a
bullet in the head, life was tolerable. Until two weeks ago," wrote
reporter Dennis Wagner triumphantly: "The secret died at his construction
office amid junkyards and vacant lots."
Wagner, 46 and a 23-year veteran
newspaperman, said Gravano, his lawyer, a publicist and a New York FBI
agent pleaded with him not to print the story, arguably one of the biggest
in his 15 years at the Phoenix-based paper.
"What would be so
interesting about me?" asked Gravano. "Running a legitimate business.
Being monitored by the government... I think it's
Wagner said Gravano told him he was
more concerned about the media than the mob, worrying that an article
could trigger an outpouring of reporters from New York. Gravano downplayed
the danger, noting that the Mafia probably knew where he is anyway. He
said that despite his decision to drop out of the Witness Protection
Program, he has lots of FBI and U.S. Marshal buddies now, and a sort or
sixth sense about people, estimating that perhaps 300 people in and around
Phoenix know his real identity.
But those around him -- and in New
York -- are very concerned about Mafia hitmen, who favor small-caliber
.22's and .380's as tools of their trade, instead of laptop computers and
"In the mob," said Gravano,
"anytime anybody flips, there's an open contract on him." In a phone call
from New York, FBI supervisor George Gabriel told Wagner that blowing
Gravano's cover meant one thing: "He's a dead man."
Faced with the disclosure of his
identity, his company name and information the paper had acquired about
family members, Gravano made a deal,
not quite as good as the one that got him five years for a life of crime
that included 19 murders. He agreed to be interviewed if the paper agreed
to withhold those details. The paper, with daily circulation of less than
500,000, in turn, magnanimously agreed, as along as it did not discover
that Gravano had done anything corrupt or naughty in
The pint-sized, former hit man was
nostalgic and witty and waxed poetic.
About plastic surgery that didn't
change his appearance, he said: "I asked the doctor if I could look like
Robert Redford, but he said no."
"I was the smartest, best-looking,
most charismatic of the underbosses who flipped," he
He said he was offered, and turned
down a role as a hit man in the HBO hit cable television series about the
vagaries of mob life, The Sopronos.
He even threw out a line
used by his former Mafia boss John Gotti, the onetime Dapper Don who burst
on the scene after they engineered the 1985 assassination of their boss,
Paul Castellano. Gotti
used it when he showed up at court a few days after Castellano was
gunned down and asked by reporters about FBI reports that he was the new
boss of the Gambino family.
"I'm extremely happy right now,"
Gravano told Wagner. "I'm a boss. Of my family. Of my friends. Of my own
At least for now, Sammy, at least