NOTE: The main source for this article comes from Netflix’s Get Gotti, but additional sources include The Mafia, by Al Cimino, Jo Durden Smith, M. A. Frasca; Gotti: Rise and Fall, by Jerry Capeci and Gene Mustain; This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti, Victoria Gotti; The Valachi Papers, by Peter Maas, Wiseguy, Nicholas Pileggi; Family Dynasty, John H. Davis; The New York Daily News, April 13, 1986; The New York Times June 18, 2002.
What Were Gotti’s Family Connections?
Get Gotti, like most documentaries on John Gotti, begins with the execution of Gambino Crime Family boss, Paul Castellano. The man who would take his place did not magically materialize in that position, parked up the block from Sparks Steak House on Dec. 16, 1985. Gotti had a past. Born in the Bronx on Oct. 27, 1940, John was the fifth of the 13 children, two of whom died at birth. His parents, a wandering laborer named John Joseph Gotti Sr., and Philomena DeCarlo, who the family called Fanny, were born in New York City, but their people came from San Giuseppe Vesuviano, in Naples, Italy, not Sicily.
The Gotti family moved to East New York, Brooklyn, when John was 12, and he got in with the Fulton-Rockaway Boys gang. Membership was a stepping stone to the local mob scene. John tried to steal a cement mixer from a construction site when he was 14, and got injured giving him a noticeable life-long limp. Gotti attended Franklin K. Lane High School, but dropped out when he was 16.
Gotti married Victoria DiGiorgio on March 6, 1962. She had a child from a previous marriage, to which they added five children: Angela, Victoria, John Jr., Frank and Peter. Gotti worked as an assistant truck driver, and a presser in a coat factory, but couldn’t resist the extra money to be had in the other life. Gotti was not born immune to conviction. He did two jail stints by 1966.
Gotti, his brother Gene, and a childhood friend were arrested in 1968 for stealing Northwest Airlines cargo from a truck hijacked at JFK airport. All three pleaded guilty, John was sentenced to a three-year term, and released in 1971. In 1973, Gotti earned his button, committing his first murder. He was given the venerated task of shooting Jimmy McBratney, who kidnapped and murdered Carlo Gambino’s nephew. Gotti was apprehended in 1974, and handed a for-year sentence. He was released after serving half his time, and when he got out of jail, Gotti became an initiated, burning-card-holding member of the Mafia Family.
Gotti also had a tight-knit family at home, kept close in all aspects of life and work. His brothers, Eugene “Gene” Gotti and Peter Gotti, were made men. Richard V. Gotti moved up to the rank of caporegime by 2002, the same year Vincent Gotti promised his life to this thing of theirs. John Gotti Jr. was made acting boss of the Gambino Family during Gotti’s incarceration, though he ran operations from his jail cell, and after the don’s death.