Police have stopped digging up a field in Oakland, Michigan for crooked labor boss Jimmy Hoffa, who disappeared in 1975 after incurring mob displeasure. The tip came from cash-strapped Tony Zerilli, a long-time made man recently released from prison and peddling a manuscript.
According to senior citizen Z, Hoffa ”wasn't shot, he wasn't stabbed, nothing like that. A cement slab of some sort was placed on top of the dirt to make certain he was not going to be discovered. And that was it. End of story."
The FBI, which recently fumbled a tip on the Boston Marathon bombers, found that tale “highly credible” and encouraged the digging.
Meanwhile, back in Boston today, 72-year-old Johnny “The Executioner” Martorano after copping a plea is spilling beans about his former boss in the Winter Hill gang, 83-year-old Whitey Bulger on trial for ordering oh-so-many murders.
Maureen Dowd is watching Martorano with fascination:
“If anybody insulted, implicated or roughed up his brother or a friend’s brother, if anybody looked at him funny while he was with a date, if anybody ratted on his fellow gang members, if anybody could eyewitness a crime committed by an ‘associate,’ he grabbed a .38 or a knife, a fake beard, a walkie-talkie or a towel to keep the blood off his car, and sprang into action. And somebody usually ended up in a trunk somewhere, sometimes still groaning.
“’Family and friends come first,’ said the bulldog-faced enforcer, looking natty with slicked back, suspiciously black hair, a dark suit, pink-tinted wire-rim glasses and a kerchief the color of fresh blood. 'The priests and the nuns I grew up with taught me that. They always talked about Judas. A Judas is the worst person in the world.’”
When his former boss’ lawyer suggested that he might be one for turning on Bulger, Martorano patiently explained his inner feelings: “I didn’t like doing any of it...I never had any joy, never had any joy at all.”
And that, as an older and wiser Tony Soprano might tell his understanding shrink, makes all the difference.
Update: Only hours after posting this reminiscence about “The Sopranos” comes news that James Gandolfini, the brilliant actor who embodied Tony, has died at 51 of an apparent heart attack on his way to a film festival in Italy.
Grief at his passing is compounded by awareness that the lowlifes who inspired his performance have outlived him by decades. Eventually they will be deservedly forgotten, but Gandolfini will live on in one of TV’s most creative achievements.