The handmade sign on the front door of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger‘s former home on 3rd Street in Santa Monica reads: “Go Away. People Live Here”. That’s the message I’d like to send to mobsters in Los Angeles and across the country. But they seem to keep popping up near where I live, or vice versa.
Bulger’s apartment in the Princess Eugenia building (3 blocks from palisades overlooking the beach and rent-controlled at $ 1,145 per month) was in the same neighborhood as a family member of mine. I walk her dogs in that neighborhood every week. For all I know, the dogs have sniffed Whitey Bulger’s legs. I walked by the Princess Eugenia with the dogs again yesterday, and a bunch of people were milling about in front, including one man with two copies of “Hitman”, a just-released book about Bulger’s Boston crew (conspiracy theorists, are you listening?) that he had purchased down the street at Barnes and Noble on the Third Street Promenade.
Back in the late 80s, I lived in Boston, where I first heard about Whitey Bulger. I remember thinking, only in Boston could the (allegedly) most notorious, most vicious mobster have a brother who was a very prominent local politician, a state Senator and then president of the Massachusetts Senate.
Before Boston, I grew up in the New York City suburbs, where I knew some (allegedly) “connected” guys and their wives, sons, and daughters. Contrary to the stereotypes and the portrayals in movies and on tv, including Jack Nicholson‘s psycopathic Bulger-based Frank Costello in the above clip from “The Departed” (warning: NSFW language), these folks weren’t necessarily doing violence. Often, if you read the indictments, they operated like the OPEC cartel, allegedly controlling particular industries or unions, fixing prices, doling out contracts, and skimming profits.
But even if you are not a direct victim of Whitey Bulger (allegedly) or other mobsters, they’re not exactly harmless entertainment. In many cases, their activities cause prices of goods and services, such as building construction, to be higher than they would be in the free market. In New York, it is called the “Mafia Tax”. And, needless to say, these folks don’t pay too many taxes on their ill-gotten gains. “This ain’t reality tv”, indeed. Only now there is a reality tv show called “Mob Wives”, but I’m not watching.
Instead, I’m glad Whitey Bulger was apprehended and sent back to Boston, and I would be happy if the rest of the mobsters would just go away. Because people live here.