Shooting the Bull With Sammy the Bull

Coffee talk with a Mafia muscleman turned stoolie turned alleged drug kingpin

The skater took that as a no.

I asked Gravano if he regretted killing anyone, and he said, "Not really, no."

I asked him if he had any regrets at all.

"I regret not spending more time with my wife and children," he said. "I spent too much time taking care of the wrong family."

The crowd around him had grown, and this time Gravano stayed only as long as it took to finish his espresso.

Nearly a month passed before I saw Sammy the Bull again -- and for the last time.

He came in earlier than usual. There was no piano music, the place was nearly deserted. I approached him alone. He asked me again if I played handball. I said I didn't. He asked me if I knew how to play chess. I said I did.

This story would be a lot better if I could describe to you how Sammy the Bull channeled all of the cunning he used to plan mob hits into his chess game, how he was devious and ruthless and a master of diversion. But the truth is Gravano was so poor a chess player it was hard for me to lose and make it look good.

One move I badly misplayed. I didn't introduce myself as a reporter after we played chess. I wanted to write about him, and I am convinced he would have agreed. But I let Gravano out the door one too many times, and I never saw him in person again. He stopped going to the Gold Bar and remained a phantom to me for more than two years, until the Arizona Republic reported his whereabouts last August. According to the article, Gravano had lived in the Valley since he left federal custody and owned a construction business under an assumed name the paper agreed not to reveal. The Republic went through Gravano's publicist to get the interview.

By the time that article appeared, according to the 12 felony counts leveled against him on February 29, Gravano was spending his coveted quality time with his wife and kids running a drug ring. Gravano, his wife and offspring stand accused of importing 100,000 recreational doses of Ecstasy to the Valley each month, at a profit of $2 million.

The media hype following Gravano's bust has been a latter-day Reefer Madness -- a series of shocked gasps by reporters and editorialists whose breath and reason have been snatched away by the seductive revelations of law-enforcement propagandists.

The Mafia! White supremacist youth gangs! Drugs you've never heard of!

See, parents? All the evils were linked. Until we stopped them, Sammy the Bull and his drug distribution network, the white-power Devil Dogs, were trying to get your kids hooked at these deviant, all-night dance parties called "raves," where exotic species of dope are hawked openly, enticing the young and innocent to spasm 'til dawn, listening to a "Techno beat," which, we can only assume, carries subliminal messages from hell!

I have a few comments.

Like any drug, Ecstasy, a psychedelic stimulant originally designed as an appetite suppressant, will wreck anyone who abuses it. But having attended more than 100 raves in the Valley, I can also tell you that 500 kids on Ecstasy dancing is a far paler threat than 500 kids behind the wheel on booze.

Also, is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that the crew of Devil Dogs arrested with Gravano, whom the police tell us are white supremacists, look like a Benetton ad?

You watch the TV news, and here's some bubblehead prattling about how David Seabrook is a ringleader of this white-supremacist Ecstasy gang, and they cut to footage of Seabrook being led into court and, well, here's this kid who wouldn't be allowed to date the white girls at Bob Jones University.

As Gravano would say: "Two and two ain't fuckin' makin' four here."

It doesn't take a genius of journalism to ask why the street general of this so-called white-supremacist gang, along with most of its lieutenants, has skin the color of the Burnt Sienna crayon.

But such probing questions might interrupt the flow of juicy tidbits the cops have been steadily spoon-feeding a bibbed, high-chaired media since Gravano was taken down.

Ecstasy is being portrayed as the new, nightmare drug, purveyed by no less a villain than Sammy the Bull. "The Agony of Ecstasy," screamed a banner headline in last Saturday's East Valley Tribune. For the second time in six months, the Republic ran a photo of a young hand holding a bunch of pills identified in the caption as Ecstasy at a rave, but which bore a striking resemblance to Contact cold capsules (rave kids delight in messing with the media). Over the weekend, the Denver Postdispatched a reporter to do an exposé of raves in the Mile High City, using Gravano's arrest as the news peg. The current issue of Newsweekdelights in listing the colors and logo stamps of the Ecstasy pills Gravano is accused of pushing. They sound like a bowl of Lucky Charms: Blue Pandas, Pink Triangles. According to the article, the pills were "Painted like candy canes or adorned with Nike swooshes to appeal to high schoolers."

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