I Interview Ex-Mobster William Cutolo Jr Whose Father Was A Hitman

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Bill’s dad: "William Cutolo (June 6, 1949 – May 26, 1999 Bay Ridge, Brooklyn), also known as "Billy Fingers" and "Wild Bill", was a Brooklyn-born mafioso in the New York based Colombo crime family who was a hitman for a renegade faction within the crime family. He was later promoted to underboss by Colombo family boss, Carmine Persico."

I talk to Junior Sunday afternoon. He’s working on a book about his life in organized crime with author Matthew Randazzo. It’s due to come out in 2010.

Luke: "Tell me about your father."

Junior: "Yes, he was a gangster, but he did a lot more than that. My father did so much for so many charities. He raised millions and millions of dollars for leukemia, battered women and children, guardian angels for the elderly. He was on committees for these charities… Every year he would raise millions and millions that would go directly to these kids. That’s something you don’t get to read about."

Luke: "Where are you in the birth order?"

Junior: "I have two sisters, one older, Barbara (one year older), and a baby sister, Christina, who’s four years younger than me."

Luke: "When did you realize your father was a gangster?"

Junior: "I guess I was about ten or eleven. I was outside the house in Brooklyn. I lived on 48th Street [in Flatbush]. There was an older kid who used to live on the corner. He was about 18 years old. He was doing something to a tree outside our house, he was picking off the bark and I said to him, stop, you’re killing the tree. He gaven an answer like, ‘You think I’m afraid of you because your father is in the Mafia?’

"From there, I ended up hitting him with a garbage can cover and he threw a set of keys at me that got stuck, that got injected into my elbow.

"I go home, not even crying, and my mother asked me what happened. I told her what this guy said. I said, what does this mean? She said, whatever you do, don’t tell your father what happened.

"I said, but why? What does that mean?

"She said, the day will come when he will explain to you what it is and what it means. But for now, just leave this alone.

"At that age, at that young age, you start realizing different things. You start noticing that the younger guys cling around him. It was a surreal kind of growing up.

"Around eleven or twelve was when I realized that he was not the average white collar guy who goes to work every day."

Luke: "How did that affect your childhood?"

Junior: "Things at school started to change as I got a little older. In junior high school, I ended up meeting a friend whose father knew my father well. This kid, his father was with the Jersey Family, the DeCavalcante family.

"This kid and I never got along, we used to fight all the time, until one day he comes to school and he says, ‘Our fathers are good friends.’ His name was Rudy Farone. He’s dead. We became friends. Word got around. We started a little clique.

"At school, at a young age, I started learning how to take bets, football tickets and stuff like that. It gave me a bounce in my step. I walked around like a rooster."

Luke: "How did other kids relate to you?"

Junior: "There were always two sets of friends that I had. There were the normal kids who studied and did their homework. My father was the type of guy that school was no joke to him. He wanted me to do well. And then I had a group of kids from Canarsie, where my high school was located. I started hanging around guys who were around Gambino guys. After hanging out with a couple of guys for a while, my father started getting wind that I was hanging out with guys from Canarsie. I was hanging out with it was guys around Lenny DeMaria, a skipper in the Gambino family and guys around Nicky Corozzo, the acting boss of the Gambinos."

Luke: "How did it affect girls and their interest in you?"

Junior: "Girls were always a dime a dozen when I was a kid, no disrespect to them at all. I was a pretty popular kid. If there was a kid getting picked on by a bully, they’d come to me and I’d always stuck up for the underdog. I always had money in my pocket. The girls? They were always attracted to the bad guy sort of effect. They liked that bad guy attitude. People were always afraid of you. Yeah, it was fun, the way the girls always reacted. I’ve got to say it was a fun period in my life."

Luke: "Was there an age or a time when you became a bad guy?"

Junior: "I was never a prince. There were times that I had to do things that I wasn’t proud of, whether I was told to do them or not. I was taught at a young age that for every action, there was reaction. I’d end up going out with some friends and some guys would be drinking and we’d look for the biggest guys and it’d be a fight almost every time we went out, until I got to about 17 or 18 years old when I started to realize that my father was dressing a lot more meticulously and he was taking things a lot more serious. At that time, he told me, keep your hands in your pockets. I don’t want to find out you’re putting your hands up to anybody.

"Did I do anything bad? I had counterfeit money. I had credit cards. Extortion. Your basic rackets. Loan sharking."

Luke: "Was there a time in your life when you started thinking of yourself as a bad guy?"

Junior: "I never thought of myself as a bad guy. My father always told me to stick up for the underdog. He also told me, don’t get f—ed.

"There were times when I hit people when they were late on payments. I had to do that. It was part of my job. Or, having to drop off three pounds of weed to somebody in Canarsie.

"I started thinking that something wasn’t right, let me see, I graduated Kingsborough Community College in 1990. My father said, what college are you thinking of going to now? I’m so proud of you. You’re the only one in the family who graduated college. What are you going to do now?

"I told him, I’m done with college. I want to be with you. He said, what do you mean you want to be with me? I said, I want to be with you.

"He said, we ought to have this conversation without your mother around. We’ll talk later. Let me just enjoy this moment.

"We go home that night and he says, what did you mean when you say you want to be with me? I said, I want to earn. You know that if there’s anybody you can trust, if there’s anybody who’s got your back, it’ll be your son.

"He explained to me that a father and a son in that life don’t usually hang around together, especially if they are both obviously straightened out. If that’s what you’re thinking, don’t just come into this life for that. It’s a treacherous life, my friend. It’s not the kind of life that a father would want to bring his son into. Please, you’ve got to promise me that if I bring you into this life, you’ve got to listen to me, to do as I say, not as I do. Do we have an agreement?

"I said yes.

"I started going up to the club. He introduced me to everybody. It was a proud moment for me and for him.

"It was a bittersweet moment for him. He was so proud of me graduating. At the same time, he was hurt that I didn’t want to go to school anymore."

Luke: "How long did you run with organized crime?"

Junior: "He started bringing me around 11th Avenue when I was eleven or twelve. At 16, I used to hang around and smoke cigars and stuff and they’d school me. My father used to teach me when I was young, just watch. When you walk into a room, evaluate the room and see where everything is. He used to test me. He’d send me into a room that I’d never been in before and he’d give me about 30 seconds and ask me to come out. He’d ask me, what did you just see? Where was this chair? Where was this person sitting? What was this guy wearing? He’d put me through drills like that.

"Once he started doing stuff like that, I realized that he thought that if I was going be involved in this life, I might as well learn it from someone who knows it well, which is him. I was his. I belonged to him. That’s where my honor and loyalty lied."

Luke: "When did you realize that your father was a hit man?"

Junior: "He was arrested for murder [when Bill was a child]. Probably around 11 or 12. I didn’t use that terminology of hitman. To me he was always a man’s man. When I used that terminology in my circle, people understood what I meant. The average person if you were to say someone was a man’s man would think he was homosexual.

"Probably around 11 or 12, I noticed that people feared him. I noticed the respect that they gave him. I was very young."

Luke: "Did it ever make you love him less?"

Junior: "No. Absolutely not. It’s kinda funny that you say that, Luke. The average person in the world knows the difference between right and wrong. Even though I knew that the life he lived was wrong, I convinced myself that it was right. So that meant I would do anything. If I had to follow him into the gates of Hell, I’m with you. He was my guy. He was worried about me. He was the only guy that I would take orders from.

"There were only two men in that life that I respected — my father and John Gotti. When I was in his presence, it was a feeling that I can not describe to you, Luke. To be able to sit down and laugh and joke and be able to talk sports and play cards with a guy like John Gotti, even fully knowing what he did and what people said about him. I wasn’t one to judge. I thought it was the right way to live. I just thought the law was wrong. The cops were wrong. Agents were wrong. They were doing the wrong thing and we were the good guys.

"My father had given me a quote when I had first asked him a question [about the Mafia].

"He used to make us go to church every Sunday. One Sunday after church, I came round and said to him, ‘Pop, we do what we do Monday through Saturday and then Sunday we come to church and we’re forgiven for everything that we did? It makes me feel very hypocritical. I don’t understand this whole going to church thing.

"He said, ‘It’s kinda like that Santa Clause thing. We’re children. We believe in him even though we don’t see him. It’s like people with God. People never see Him but they believe in Him.’

"He was more worried about me because he knew that he was the only person I listened to. I told him that time and time again.

"He used to tell me, if you want me to wear the pop hat, let me know. I’ll wear that hat. If you want me to wear the skipper hat, I’ll put the skipper hat on. How do you want to talk? Do you want to talk business? Or do you want to talk personal family business?

"He was afraid for me. If or when your number gets called, and it could be soon, I’m worried about you. You’re too much of a cowboy.

"He said, ‘The hardest thing in life, Willie, is to bury a child. And you, you scare me. I don’t want to think that I’m going to bury my son.’

"I told him, ‘I’m ok. I’m out there. People know I’m your son. But I can handle myself. I know what I’m doing.

"That worked very well for a long time."

Luke: "How long did you run with organized crime?"

Junior: "I started getting serious about it at 15, 16 years old. Every Wednesday night you had to be there at 7 sharp. You couldn’t be late. And every Saturday at noon. It was mandatory. If you didn’t show up, you better have someone call for you or get a message to my father somehow with a good reason for why you didn’t show up.

"I was 15 or 16 when I started being around guys and learning how to shylock, learning what vig was, the whole lingo. I sat and I was like a sponge. I just absorbed. And it came easy to me.

"One problem that I did have was that I have a soft heart. There was one instance when we had to go out and collect money from this guy who kept putting us off. We ended up hurting the guy. The guy had a family. After we hurt him, he was paralyzed from his right side down for the rest of his life.

"After that happened, I felt horrible. I knew his wife. I knew his son and his daughter. Even though I wasn’t the one who actually swung the bat, but I was there to make sure it got done, so I’m just as guilty.

"I started to realize that I did have a heart.

"My main concern was my father’s trust. If you need someone to go somewhere, I’m there. If you need someone to stand outside, I’m there.

"When he went to jail in 1994 for 13 months, I started handling all his stuff. I didn’t know how the guy did it. I was completely blown away. I didn’t know how the guy was able to work a union job, be a wiseguy, and do all his charity work. There wasn’t enough time in the day for the stuff he did."

Luke: "When did that life end?"

Junior: "It ended the day he died — May 26, 1999. That was the day I turned around and said, ‘My father bred me my whole life in honor and loyalty. I just asked myself, this is not honor and loyalty. This is vindictive. This is vicious. This is not business. This is personal.

"Once my father was gone, I knew that that life was going to be over.

"I had two choices. I could suit up that night. I thought I had a 24 or 36-hour window to get whoever I thought was responsible. But I didn’t know who to trust. I remember my father telling me during the war that for every guy you take down, two guys pop up.

"It was a no-win situation. Plus, instead of giving my mother what she deserved every week, that should’ve been $4,000 or $5,000 a week at least… They were offering her $600 a week. And they wanted to go through the house, knock on the walls, bang on the floors. They wanted the money.

"It was either kill them and go to jail for the rest of my life and never see my wife or my son, or do I heed what my father once told me, death on someone before jail.

"I reflected on that for a long while. Killing someone is too easy. There’s no suffering. What am I going to do? Shoot them in the foot, the knee, maybe the thigh, and work my way up and make them suffer? What is that going to do for me? I can’t live with my son with a pure heart.

"The night my father died, all these, I don’t want to use the word limericks, but all these words he used to say to me started to come to mind. For example, he used to tell me if I can’t hold a picture of my wife and my son or my loved ones and know that I might not be able to see them for 10, 20, 30, 40 years or the rest of my life, then don’t do what you’re about to do.

"That’s exactly what happened. That’s exactly why I didn’t kill Jackie or Harry."

Luke: "Did you ever kill anyone?"

Junior, long pause: "Umm, no."

Luke: "Did you consult your wife on this?"

Junior: "My decision was made strictly on my own. I brought it to her afterwards.

"Law enforcement asked me if I wanted anything. I said I want nothing but for you to leave my mother alone. Whatever money she finds is hers. And the house is hers. And please don’t bother her because she’s in no shape or form healthwise to be bothered.

"They said, you don’t want nothing for yourself? I said no. That would defeat the purpose of what I’m doing. I’m doing something because I think it’s righteous. That would defeat the purpose of what I’m doing. For me to accept money for it, I don’t want it.

"Obviously, after they took me off the street and I didn’t have a job, obviously I didn’t have a choice but to take whatever the stipend was every month."

Luke: "I was around the sex industry for over a decade. Everyone had these strong if arbitrary set of moral principles whereby other people were bad or other people were righteous, even if they were all dealing in smut."

Junior: "Yeah, it’s like, did you ever read Machiavelli?"

Luke: "Yeah."

Junior: "You’ve heard of Machiavelli?"

Luke: "Yeah."

Junior: "It’s like the ends justify the means. That’s exactly what we do. It’s very parallel to what you’ve just said. We could always find the means to justify what we’re doing or what we’re about to do, whether it is I want fame or fortune or notoriety."

"My father was old school. There was an article that came out after they found his body. One of the reporters had emailed me. I just said to him, the least they could’ve done was to have the decency to take his shoes off. All of a sudden, that became like a big f—ing joke between everybody.

"It’s an old-timer’s sign of respect that a guy such as my father who was so well respected and well known, if you took his shoes off, that meant it was strictly business. You liked the guy but he had to go. And they didn’t. If they thought about it or not, I have no idea. They were probably too stupid to even think of that. Even when you were killing him, you couldn’t even do it the right way.

"My whole cooperation was staggering. I took the reigns away from the person who’d held on to it for decades and now they’re finished.

"Operation Payback. The first time I put on a recorder in the car, I was talking to the guys and I said, we’ve got to name this something…

"I’ve got a nice story to tell. I hope my grandchildren will read it some day and think that I did the right thing."

Luke: "How difficult was it for you to go straight?"

Junior: "I had a tough tough time. Did you ever see the movie My Blue Heaven? Steve Martin plays the part of a gangster thrown into a witness protection program. He just doesn’t fit in. He’s still scheming and scamming.

"I got moved around so much. Somebody saw me here that knew me from Brooklyn. Somebody saw me there that knew me from Brooklyn. There’s an old saying that you can take the boy out of Brooklyn but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the boy. So no matter where I go, I always run into someone who says, that’s a Brooklyn accent. There are some guys here in the program that I know. Maybe one day we’ll start our own crew. We’ll sell Bibles."

Luke: "What were the toughest parts about going straight?"

Junior: "Scheming. You’re sitting in the car one day and your wife goes into the store and a Brinks truck pulls up and you’re looking at the driver and how many guys in the back and how many guys do I need?

"But then it goes away. I say to myself, what are you doing? What are you thinking about that stuff for? That’s not my life anymore.

"I’d go to Best Buy. The Best Buy truck would pull up. The driver would go get himself a soda and leave the truck running. If that was Brooklyn, forget about it.

"It was very hard, but the minute I look at my kids, it all goes away."

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About Luke Ford

I’ve written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).

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