Feature Articles

March 2007
Sonny Girard's Books
  • Blood of Our Fathers: A Novel of Love and the Mafia
  • Snake Eyes
  • Sins of Our Sons
    Sonny Girard is�"A Mob Guy Who's Obviously Been There"
    Nick Pileggi, author of "Wiseguys"

  • Good Friends Who Did Dumb Things

    In the course of my life in the streets, I have had some friends, who, while they did some bad things�okay, a lot of bad things (after all, they were mobsters), did some really dumb things that resulted in their deaths. You probably won�t recognize their names, but they were here�and, as I look back on memories, I remember them to you.

    1. Tony Gawk: "The Gawk," as he was known to friends and law enforcement, was a giant of a man, whose handshake reached halfway to my elbow, in a subculture where most participants were on the average to short size. Personally, I had trouble trusting anyone over 5� 9" or so. Gawk was an exception. He was a proven guy who law enforcement claimed "pissed ice water." He caused so much trouble in prison that they used to have him strip naked and hose him down in his cell as punishment. One time, when he was incarcerated, he set up a meeting with the FBI to discuss rolling over and changing sides, which, for wiseguys at that pre-Sammy the Bull time, was the exception rather than the rule, like today. Tony�s lawyer, who was also mine, was in shock. Couldn�t be that one of the toughest guys he knew would become a rat? Gawk got everyone together in a big courthouse conference room: the two Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District of New York who were handling his case, FBI Agents, our aforementioned attorney, and last but not least the court stenographer he insisted on. He then went about telling prosecutors and agents how he�d had sex with their mothers and sisters at various times over the last year. They dragged him out and practically had to carry the shocked attorney out on a stretcher.
    2. But Gawkie had two major problems. First, he was terrible at sitdowns with other mob guys. To me, he had an uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He knew it too, and sometimes begged off with a feigned illness, so someone else could represent his side, and was usually surprised if they won. More important, and ultimately deadly, he was scared to death of his bosses. He�d actually get physically sick�no faking�if he got called downtown by higher ups. Then he screwed up and got in trouble�the kind of trouble, drug selling trouble, that mandated a death sentence for anyone in the crew. He had befriended a drug dealer in prison, who offered him a deal when they both hit the streets. No one, not even yours truly, knew what he was up to. When the arrest came, no one could be more shocked than I was that he would take a chance like that. Once the arrest came, he knew his fate. Was he worried about dying? No. What worried him was that if he were killed and his body was made to disappear, his family�s properties and cash that they put up for his bail would be forfeited. Now he had real pressure from the Feds too, since he already owed parole time. Couldn�t rat; couldn�t hide. What to do, what to do? Gawk decided that the best thing was to go to a McDonald�s parking lot pay phone, call some friends, then blow his brains out with a .357 Magnum on the spot. Dumb. Discretion dictates that I can�t tell you what he should have done, but that wasn�t it. He even left a note that blamed FBI pressure for his suicide. Honorable in a way that went far beyond the call of mob duty. Just a dumb thing. R.I.P. Gawk.

    3. Richie "The Wig": Richie was a real longtime friend. He chauffeured me for awhile, and I stayed at his parents� house when I was on the lam on an early charge. At some point Richie and I parted company for a number of years, not because we weren�t friends anymore, but our paths just went in different directions. He wound up with the Lucchese crew, and eventually a right hand shooter for his boss, Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. When Gaspipe began murdering everyone he dreamed might betray him, and it was in madman numbers, Richie started dropping bodies for him all over the place. It never dawned on Richie that the numbers were becoming bizarre, and that getting rid of Casso would have ended the fratricide. He just kept shooting; piling up bodies for a pat on the head from a guy who would soon become a government witness. When, after being arrested for carrying out a good part of Gaspipe�s bloody rampage, Richie was offered a plea where he would have a chance to see daylight sometime in his life, he refused and insisted on going to trial. He was convicted in a matter of a few hours. According to "Gangbusters," by Ernest Vokman, when Judge Nickerson sentenced Richie, he prefaced the sentencing by mentioning that the defendant been convicted of forty-eight murders, Richie interrupted the judge by correcting the number as forty-nine. He got life. Once in prison, it dawned on the forty-something year old that he would never see the street again, he started coming apart at the seams, writing letters to me that seemed unrealistic and unfocused. Richie didn�t fully bust a seam, but his heart did. I knew him since we were teenagers, but if there were an organization for dumb, just those last acts for Gaspipe and in front of the judge would have made him its poster boy. R.I.P. Richie.
    4. "Hickey": I met Hickey when we were in prison. We became good friends. He was a bug, but a bright bug, and was great company. As with many extremely bright people, he was also a little off kilter mentally. His crazy acts delighted those inmates who were friends through mob relationships, and scared the hell out of others. Hickey was once released from MCC (the Federal House of Detention) on a furlough to go to his dentist, which was common practice at that time. Unfortunately for anyone who wanted a furlough from that point, he came back to the jail five years later, by way of Argentina. Sometime after being released when he completed the sentence he got upon his return, he had some problems within his crew. Instead of being able to squash the problem, it became more serious. When he saw a couple of guys lurking outside his house, he thought he was under attack and shot at them. Surprised when they identified themselves as FBI Agents, Hickey did what any lunatic in that situation would do. He stripped naked and ran out into the arms of the agents, while screaming about the aliens that had come down from outer space to take him back. He got a parole violation, which saved him at least for that time. When he was released, his problem was a serious as it had been before his sentence, so he took off for another state, far away from New York.

    As I said, Hickey was a smart guy. He had been involved in the case where Vatican banker Maurice Sindona got fleeced of millions of the Roman Church�s money. He took off for the West Coast, where he could enjoy life while those back East were making excuses why they couldn�t go to a strange place and dispose of him without getting caught.

    Then Hickey got dumb. The same homesickness that brought him back from Argentina after five years afflicted him. When he got a message that all was forgiven (the oldest trick in the book), he came back to N.Y. Dumb. R.I.P. Hickey.

    These are unsung anti-heros. They were bad guys in a time when it was made easy to be a bad guy by bribe-taking police and judges. As Michael Corleone reminded a Senator in Godfather II, "We�re all part of the same hypocrisy." Don�t misunderstand, I cannot and will not defend the bad things they did, and, believe me, they did a lot, but, in their own way each had a human side to the people who knew them intimately, including me. To us, they were also funny guys, tough guys, standup guys, sometimes sad or tormented guys, and good friends. Each died because they did something dumb. R.I.P. guys.

    end - Good Friends Who Did Dumb Things

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    Click these links to purchase Sonny Girard books online.....

  • Blood of Our Fathers: A Novel of Love and the Mafia

  • Snake Eyes

  • Sins of Our Sons

    Learn more about these novels at

    Other Features by this author:

  • By Sonny Girard, Feature Articles 379
    To Mob Wannabes:
    As someone who lived most of my life in organized crime, trust me, guys, there�s nothing left to wannabe.

  • By Sonny Girard, Feature Articles 376
    Fooled you, huh? You thought I was talking about illegals crossing the Mexican border.

  • By Sonny Girard, Feature Articles 374
    The Best True Mob Story
    In the case of traditional organized crime, you're watching American history unfold.

  • By Sonny Girard, Feature Articles 322
    Snake Eyes
    Sonny Girard, a former mobster, decided to have his protagonist be caught between three agencies: the GRU (Soviet Military Intelligence), the FBI, and�you guessed it�the mob.



         Though born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Girard spent most of his formative years in the Red Hook and Navy Yard sections of South Brooklyn. Making little use of an IQ of close to 150, he instead chose to follow the path of the only people in that desperately poor neighborhood who seemed to have money: "wiseguys."

         By the time a three-and-a-half year undercover operation by New York�s Organized Crime Control Bureau, targeted at Sonny Girard, was culminated with the arrest of seventeen, Girard was characterized by the New York Post as "�a middle echelon member" of one of New York�s five mob families. As a result of the arrest, Girard was sentenced to three years in State Prison, which he served to maximum time in Sing Sing, Dannemora, Downstate, and Arthurkill.

         In 1985, Sonny Girard was convicted of racketeering, under the RICO statute, by Rudolph Giuliani�s office, and was sentenced to seven years in federal prison. During that term, which he also served maximum time on, Girard became interested in writing. Along with another inmate, who had sold a manuscript to a major publisher, Girard helped form a fiction writers� workshop. It was during that time that Girard completed his first novel, BLOOD OF OUR FATHERS (Pocket/Simon & Schuster, hardcover, June, 1991; softcover, May, 1992).

         Due to his experience in and ability to communicate about organized crime, the author has been in demand from various television shows and newspapers as an expert on various crimes, including organized crime activities. He recently appeared on Fox Network�s "National Enquirer T.V.," to analyze the authenticity of HBO�s hit show "Sopranos," Fox News Channel�s "The Edge," with Paula Zahn, to discuss John Gotti�s legacy, and "The O�Reilly Factor," regarding the disappearance of Chandra Levy, and ABC�s "Politically Incorrect," with Bill Maher, for "Mob Week." He was also called in to consult with the screenwriter of record on "Mickey Blue Eyes," starring Hugh Grant, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and James Caan. Italy�s RAI T.V. has done a biographical piece on Girard, as have Italian national newspapers "Corriere Della Sera" and "Il Tempo."

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