This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti

This Family of Mine: What It Was Like Growing Up Gotti

by Victoria Gotti


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781476792835
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 10/04/2014
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 112,415
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

This Family of Mine “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”
Winter 1952

The door blew open with driving force; shards of wood like shrapnel sprayed the cold, cramped Brooklyn railroad flat. To a twelve-year-old, the U.S. Marshal’s arrival came in the form of an unfathomable explosion that would haunt his dreams into adulthood. Two local police officers and one marshal from the housing department had been dispatched to evict a poor and hungry family of thirteen—despite the fact that Christmas was less than one week away.

My father lay huddled with his six brothers, all forced to survive in one room, on two mattresses, in the musty three-room apartment. It was in the dead of winter and none of the Gotti children—seven boys and four girls, ages five to sixteen—had clothing suitable for protection against the elements. Dad would later recall that evening as being not only unbearably cold but accompanied by a dark, empty sky.

The Gotti children were accustomed to sharing tight quarters. If it seemed unnatural, even cruel, it was nonetheless preferable to sleeping on a cold bare floor “or being homeless,” as my father used to say. The family bounced around in those years, from a poverty-stricken section of the South Bronx to a modest apartment in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. My grandfather, John Senior, made some money in an all-night card game and moved the family into a middle-class neighborhood; however, it wasn’t long before his luck (and money) ran out. Within a few months the Gotti clan ended up in more humble surroundings, a shabby apartment in Downtown Brooklyn. “Times were hard,” my father said. “And they were about to get a lot harder.”

The eviction in 1952 was swift and heartless. Dressed only in worn flimsy garments, the Gotti children and their mother, Fannie, stood shivering in front of the dilapidated apartment complex that only a few minutes earlier had been their home. John Senior was out that night, off on one of his business trips. Monthly rent on the apartment was a paltry sum, but even that proved more than my grandfather could manage.

Philomena “Fannie” DeCarlo Gotti was a hardworking housewife who often took on odd jobs outside the home—doing the neighbors’ laundry, cleaning apartments, bagging groceries at a local market to help make ends meet. But lately there never seemed to be enough money. The family was barely able to keep food on the table and heat in the apartment. Conversely, my grandfather, John Joseph Gotti, was a perpetual adolescent, forever in search of excitement and fun. An avid gambler, drinker, and womanizer, he rarely held a steady job; whenever he got the “itch,” as Grandma called it, he would take off for parts unknown, typically accompanied by some barmaid he’d only recently met.

There were times when Grandpa hit the road on one of his so-called “business trips” and didn’t return for months. For a while he had a job as a camera grip for a major film studio and even traveled to Hollywood on one occasion. This failed to result in any sort of legitimate career, but it did produce a handful of entertaining tales. My grandfather was fond of embellishment, and so he would tell anyone within earshot of his work-related war stories, like the time he met Jane Russell.

During the filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Grandpa swore the gorgeous actress was attracted to him (forget for a moment the professional chasm that separated the lowly tech and the leading lady), and that she looked for excuses to talk to him. According to his story, she even winked at him on occasion.

Then there was the time he met Tony Curtis at the studio commissary. Grandpa insisted the two had become fast friends.

“That guy is a class act,” Grandpa had often said. Then he would smile and laugh. “Very personable, too.”

So instantaneous was their bond that Grandpa and Tony Curtis went out together that very night and took the town by storm. They drank themselves blind, eventually winding up in a seedy motel with a “couple of real lookers.” Or so Grandpa claimed, anyway.

The odd brush with greatness apparently was far more important to my grandfather than the mundane responsibilities of family life. It seemed not to matter that he had a large family to feed, or that there was never enough money to pay the rent or heating bill. And every so often, the Gotti family was kicked to the curb.

This naturally produced a degree of cynicism in my father, who years later would erupt any time he read a cliché-ridden newspaper article or book that described Grandpa as a hardworking Italian immigrant.

“These fuckin’ bums that write books—they’re worse than us,” he would rail. “Lies. All lies! My father was born in New Jersey. He’s never been to Italy in his whole fuckin’ life. He never worked a day in his life. He was a rolling stone. He never provided for his family. He never did nothin’. He never earned nothin’. And we never had nothin’.”

DAD RECALLED HIS mother’s reaction while standing at the curb on the night of the eviction, in the freezing cold, wearing a tattered sweater over a worn and faded house-dress. She was only in her mid-thirties, but looked closer to fifty. The years, overloading her with work and anxiety and neglect, had not been kind to her. Grandma was a “cold woman,” Dad often said, hardened by years of sacrifice and disappointment. Mostly, Dad blamed his father for this. A man was supposed to take care of his family: put a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and keep them warm in proper winter clothing. But, rather than struggle to fulfill his responsibilities and obligations, Grandpa chose instead to run—usually to the nearest bar to drown himself in his failure as a husband and father.

On this evening my father saw that she was understandably upset. Although Grandma rarely showed weakness in front of her children, the tears streamed down her cheeks. She stared at the old apartment building, then out at the street, and then back to the apartment building. Her eyes, my father noticed, were empty and sad, and the expression on her face frightened him.

The Gotti clan stood shivering outside for nearly an hour that night, a mid-winter drizzle chilling them to the bone. “An hour,” Dad said. “But it felt like an eternity.”

Exhausted and fearing for the welfare of her children, Grandma finally took action, marching the entire, rain-soaked clan nearly a mile through the streets of Brooklyn to the House of the Good Shepherd, a church-sponsored residence for “wayward girls” (the facility catered to young, single women who had unplanned pregnancies). It must have been painful for Grandma to beg—she was a proud woman, after all—but that is what she did. For the sake of her children, she asked for mercy, and Sister Mary Margaret, dressed head-to-toe in black, responded with kindness, showing Grandma and the Gotti children to the building’s attic.

In reality, it wasn’t really an attic at all; it was a four-room apartment, a conversion made in the early 1940s to accommodate housing needs for the staff. Although the apartment had only an efficiency kitchenette, it was better than nothing, and Grandma saw its potential. The living room was really more of an alcove, adjacent to the kitchenette; it would likely serve as a fourth bedroom for the oldest male children. The two other rooms would be shared by Grandma and the remaining children, including my father, at least until Grandpa could find his way to the family’s new home. No one knew when that would be, but at that point, one of the three bedrooms would then be used as a master, resulting in eleven children sharing two small rooms. Tight quarters, to be sure, but, as Dad explained, “It was definitely better than the alternative.”

The days that followed would prove nearly as bleak. At the age of twelve, Dad was forced to hit the streets and find work, as were the other Gotti children. Everyone was expected to pull their own weight, especially the boys.

Dad combed the neighborhood looking for employment. Options, he quickly learned, were limited. A corner service station on Fulton Street had recently dismissed two mechanics in an effort to cut costs. A local deli already had two full-time day workers and three part-time night staffers. The manager at the A&P supermarket offered little encouragement, telling Dad he was too young for anything but carrying bags for customers. My father gave that one a moment’s consideration before spotting a crowd of eager boys fighting over customers in the parking lot. Realizing that his pay would consist only of tips, and that the store already seemed overstaffed, he walked away.

Not enough customers, not enough hours, not enough money.

SIX WEEKS LATER, my grandfather ambled down the street to the House of the Good Shepherd, having easily tracked the family down through a network of friends and acquaintances. Along the way, he’d been told of the eviction and the dire circumstances faced by those whom he had abandoned. If his father felt guilt or remorse, Dad said, it wasn’t readily apparent. Accountability was not high on Grandpa’s list of virtues. He preferred to play the victim, forever damning the world and cursing God for having dealt him a raw hand. And so he rationalized his behavior and his vices—the alcohol, gambling, loose women, and the nasty temper as well.

Grandpa turned up at the attic apartment late one night, itching for an argument with my grandmother. At first he rang the bell and waited patiently, but there was no answer. After three tries, he began pounding the door like an impulsive child—pounding and kicking with such force that Sister Mary Margaret nearly called the police. Realizing who the belligerent man was, she told him, “Please, sir. Use the top bell.”

MEANWHILE, OBLIVIOUS TO the commotion three stories below, my grandmother and her brood slept peacefully. Of all the Gotti children, only two were awake. Dad was restless and couldn’t sleep, and one of his younger brothers, I believe Ritchie, was wide awake because he had to go to the bathroom. Since there were seven boys in a single room, and only two beds for them to share, the Gotti sons took turns. One night someone was lucky to get a semi-comfortable cot, and the next one was handed an old army blanket and relegated to sleeping on the floor. That particular night, my father was lucky to have been assigned a cot.

Or so he thought.

Since the attic apartment was a considerable distance from the main plumbing, a bathroom had never been installed. What had begun as a generous offer of temporary shelter for my grandmother and her children had evolved into a more permanent arrangement. In exchange for room and board, my grandmother was expected to clean and maintain the House of the Good Shepherd. This meant washing and waxing the massive wood floors every night, as well as cleaning the mess hall after dinner. And there were additional duties: monthly window cleaning, repairing and sewing (such as pillows, blankets, and quilts), and any other household repairs that had been neglected. Given that my grandmother already had a full-time job at a local butcher shop, this wasn’t the most ideal arrangement, and it surely took its toll on her health and temperament. But it was the best that Grandma could manage at the time; until she had saved enough money to rent another apartment, or until her husband returned (hopefully with a few dollars in his pocket), it would have to do.

The bathroom was actually one floor below the attic apartment, and since heat was scarce throughout the old building, the hallway was usually frigid. Not surprisingly, the Gotti children dreaded those nights when they had to navigate a cold and unwieldy trip to the bathroom. Dad would slide out from under his blanket and weave his way through a minefield of sleeping bodies, all the while shivering uncontrollably. If he was unlucky enough to step on someone’s hand or foot, the ensuing yelping and fighting would provoke an angry appearance from my grandmother—something none of the kids wanted.

While Dad continued to toss and turn, his brother Ritchie fought the urge to pee as long as he could—and when the pressure turned to pain, he jumped from the bed and stumbled toward the door. As luck would have it, the door wouldn’t open. Uncle Ritchie desperately jiggled the handle from side to side, pushing in the door, ever so slightly, and then pulling back.

Push . . . pull. Push . . . pull.

Still nothing.

With Ritchie’s bladder on the verge of giving out, he frantically sought another option. He looked around the room for a container, anything he could use to relieve himself. But a quick scan turned up nothing. He was ready to explode. Dad watched his brother make a mad dash for the bedroom window rather than soil himself or his cot. He ripped it open, and peed into the cold night air. How could he possibly know Grandpa was standing beneath the window?

My grandfather was a terror; his ill temper had the shortest of fuses. Beatings were the norm; even at twelve, Dad couldn’t escape them. Sometimes the violence was so severe that my father would miss school for days; the blackened eyes, swollen lips, and bruises too painful and shameful to be shown in public. The poverty and abuse, both mental and physical, that my father experienced as a child helped shape his outlook as much as anything else.

When my grandfather finally made it inside and upstairs to the attic apartment, he headed for the back bedroom—straight for the person responsible for his unexpected shower. Of course, my father was scared speechless. He hopped back into bed and pulled the old army blanket up over his head, trying hard to stop trembling. My grandfather pushed in the old wooden door and stormed into the room, stepping over bodies, poking each kid with the tip of an umbrella. The first to jump, he figured, was the one already awake, and thus the most likely culprit. But Uncle Ritchie lay still as a rock—while Dad, still unable to sleep, tossed and turned. He jumped when Grandpa poked him. So naturally, he got the blame.

The beating Dad endured that night was worse than any he’d ever received before. His face was so badly bruised that my grandmother pulled him out of school for several days. As a boy, Dad and his siblings did their best to avoid pissing off their father; what none of them had counted on was the possibility of pissing on their father.

THE FOLLOWING WEEK, my father managed to get a job delivering laundry. He worked after school and all day Saturday for fifty cents an hour, plus tips. He used an old pushcart with rusty wheels to haul the large packages around Downtown Brooklyn, about a mile or so from the Gotti household. At the end of the week he handed his pay over to my grandmother, keeping only $1.50 for himself. The fact that Dad was forced to turn over most of his wages didn’t bother him in the least; mature beyond his years, he felt proud of being able to help support his family.

Unfortunately, his happiness was short-lived. Three months later, in the spring of 1952, my grandfather got restless and left home again. This time my grandmother fell apart. To my father’s eyes, the change was remarkable. Fannie became depressed and withdrawn. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.

The days that followed were dark times for the entire family. And for a twelve-year-old, Dad shouldered an unusually heavy burden. It wasn’t just the beatings that had stripped him of his innocence; it was the constant verbal abuse dished out by my grandfather. As my father once said to me, “How many times can a kid hear that he’s a piece of shit before he begins to believe it? How many times can a kid hear that he’ll never amount to nothing, because he is nothing?”

According to Dad, there were two strict rules necessary for survival in the Gotti household (at least whenever my grandfather was in residence): “Keep your mouth shut—and run like hell.” Usually he received advance warning before an actual event took place. Simply listening to my grandfather’s rants provided insight as to what was likely to happen next. Still, there was no way to know for certain when the proverbial shit would hit the fan.

Perhaps the most cataclysmic event took place in the middle of the night in mid-February 1952. Sister Mary Margaret roused the Gotti children from a comfortable sleep and gathered the family in a downstairs parlor. Dad knew that something was terribly wrong. Where was their mother? Even Sister Mary Margaret’s offer of hot chocolate and cookies couldn’t mask the dread and fear that hung in the air.

The children, who lived in a state of perpetual hunger, ate voraciously, anyway. When they were finished, Sister Mary Margaret calmly issued the bad news. Their mother had fallen “ill,” euphemistically referred to back then as “exhaustion.” Today, of course, the condition is more commonly referred to as depression. In its most severe form, it results in a complete emotional collapse. The years of trauma had finally exacted their toll, all the bickering and fighting, the sickness that permeated every aspect of her marriage to my grandfather. It had become too much for Fannie to bear, and when my grandfather took off the last time, she withdrew into herself, to the only place, perhaps, where she felt safe.

Grandma, Sister Mary Margaret explained to Dad and his brothers and sisters, had been admitted to a local hospital and placed in the “hardship ward.” Because there were no relatives willing to accept financial and custodial responsibility, the Gotti family was effectively splintered. The children were separated and sent to various places, some more toxic than others. Most of the kids went to live with old neighbors who had become friends; a few weren’t as fortunate. My father and his older brother, Pete, for example, drew the shortest straws and were dropped off at the Brooklyn Home for Boys, not knowing when—or if—their mother would ever come back for them.

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This Family of Mine 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 95 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book is surprisingly well-written and a heartwarming story in many ways. This Family of Mine will spark similar memories of your own growing up in a close-knit family proving that no matter what your differences are with your parents or siblings, and your history, family comes first and nothing else in life can replace that. A thoroughly enjoyable and a seemingly candor perspective of exactly what it must feel like to grow up with a family of hidden secrets and drama. Read this book and I promise, you will not want to put it down. I loved the touching memories she shared growing up. Congrats to Victoria for an excellent triumph.
katieross More than 1 year ago
like all things Gotti--I could not put down this book! From the father, John Gotti and now the daughter and now the rest of the family, I find everything Gotti fascinating! especially since all the public has is the tabloids to depend on when it comes to info on one of the worlds most talked about families--Victoria Gotti lets readers and curiosity-seekers inside her secretive world for the first time and I could not put the book down! A definite page turner....K. Ross
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and would recommend it to any person interested in truly understanding a family's journey from poor to rich. The only problem is this daughter did not agree with how her father got there...just that he provided for his family no matter what he had to do. I was intrigued, disgusted, sad, and worried all at once while reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this out of curiousity, and was reasonably surprised at her story telling capabilities. The author provides a realistic account of what it was like growing up sheltered while inside 'the life'. Still tragedy and mayhem follow their family as a result of their ill-gotten gains and choices they've made in life. VG gives a human element to her perspective while trying to make a few bucks off her story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Literally was unable to put this book down. I am absolutely enamored in story of John Gotti and "The Life" in general. Something about the mystery and the secrets just intrigues me beyond reason. I was impressed and pleasantly surprised with how well written this book was. Victoria Gotti is a well educated and well versed author, and shame on me for ever thinking otherwise. It was difficult for me to even put this book down. I kept on wanting to know and learn more. I hope something in the near future will come out from her on a similar subject. I know she is also a fiction author, but I'd much rather read her non-fiction like this story. EXCELLENT BOOK!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put the book down it was a well written book.
Sher273 More than 1 year ago
Very Honest.
pmsing247 More than 1 year ago
Victoria, I enjoyed your book and I am going to read all the books on you and your father, I could never imagine your life and all you and your family went through. I think you are so beautiful and fun.. I wrote you a letter a while back asking you to help me and my family out. I did not receive a responce which surprised me. I will tell all my friends and family about your book and pass my copy on to whom ever is interested in reading it. keep writting, you made me feel as if were there and part of your family. If you are ever interested in a good story about someone that has been though hell and has gotten screwed over. I will be more than happy to share it with you. Love you lots. Dolores
myyorkies More than 1 year ago
upriver More than 1 year ago
Victoria Gotti, is a far better writer than I would have suspected. The book held my interest in an unusual climate for me. I didn't feel the writing was slanted towards or against anybody or any organization. More of a fact finding experience to the reader.I left the last page with the thought,"no matter what our occupation, interests, endeavors in life, there are many similarities in all of them, good and evil, allowing all of us to be grouped into the same species." Ms. Gotti, did an excellent job of letting us realize her father was indeed a mobster, indeed a human being, indeed kind and loving, after all, there is good in all of us.
missy34 More than 1 year ago
i thought i knew alot about the mafia & the gotti family. i guess i didnt know that much until i read her book. this book made me laugh, cry, and get angry. i loved the part where her uncle peed on her grandfather. i was laughing so hard. i felt bad for ms.gotti w/her health problems and i felt bad for mr gotti. i couldnt believe how much ms.gotti had gone through and the lies from her exhubby. man she went through hell. i think what the prison did to mr.gotti when he died was disrespectful to him and to his family. they could of at least respected his wishes and placd him in a coffin and not a body bag.
Candi38 More than 1 year ago
In reading the this book, I became angry, sad, and even frustrated with things that happened in the past with the Gotti family. Victoria takes after her father with her positive attitude and being a strong individual in general. I was very familiar with what happened with her father , but had no idea the problems in her life with her ex husband Carmine and with her health issues. Victoria is a good example of why GOD is good. From miscarriage, birth, abortion, health, death issues , my heart went out to this woman, and I am really am happy to know she is alive and well. Although she is still going through so much issues regarding her personal and professional life, she will get through it, I pray that she does. Victoria in my opinion is a strong, dedicated, no bull-****, type of person, and a woman like her is the type of women young adults should look up to, not celebrities such as Brittany Spears, etc. I smiled, cried, and laughed in this book, it was well written and made you feel the emotions she was going through as if you were going through it yourself. A definite must read. But enough already, let the remaining Gotti family live in peace!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be filled with so many contradictions. I would not recommend this your money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. A realistic, honest story of "the life" and her life. Don't pay attention to the negative reviews. Its a very interesting book. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, and its very down to earth. I give Victoria Gotti a lot of credit, as I do her family. I did not know her father, but wish I had. I wish the family nothing but good luck.
KWoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Found this book at a thrift store. Each chapter is entitled with a song title, and Ms. Gotti doesn't hold back any punches in this intriguing, interesting book about growing up with her Mob father. She brings you into the family in a way you didn't expect to be. Almost makes me wish I was a Gotti!
mjmbecky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Victoria Gotti's story of her family growing up, and later marriage and family of her own, had me enthralled from the opening chapters of the book. Not only could I not put it down until I had read every last page, but I also found myself understanding elements of her upbringing that I thought I would never be able to wrap my head around. John Gotti is not painted to be some Mike Brady who walked in the door every night, ready to teach and moralize to his children. He definitely was a strong father figure in their lives, but one that was tough, wouldn't take excuses, and was judge and jury in many cases that no one was privy to. I got the sense that he protected his family and their way of life, but was the definite head over them all. Victoria's own life story was gut-wrenching and had me cheering her on. Through all of her problems, health and otherwise, her one desire was to be a mother. She got her wish, but watched as her father was sent off to prison and later died of throat cancer, her younger brother "Junior" was sent to prison, and her own husband was shockingly sent to prison for his own criminal activity, but not before her marriage became volatile and she had proceeded to divorce the man her father had warned her about.I really loved reading Victoria's story. There is something so strangely wrong, yet empathetic about the mafia, with their family ideals and fight against the stereotypes of Italian-Americans leveled at them for generations. As wrong as organized crime is, with its selfish control of monies earned in dishonest endeavors, and judge and jury for behaviors deemed unacceptable, there is also something fiercely protective about the mafia that tries to protect its own at whatever cost. I think that Victoria is an amazing woman, with a definite strength to carry herself out of her family's infamous past, to raise three sons on her own, and to continue to struggle to provide for the shambles of a life her ex-husband left her in. I can't say that we know to what extent Victoria really knew about her family's criminal activity, but it is obvious that she was a part of the culture enough to know that her father would protect her, and that her family was her most important asset.Told like all autobiographies, this life story is one I think was well-written and that gives a personal inside look at an infamous family. Personally, and irregardless of my own fascination with the mafia, I would recommend this autobiography as one that will tell a story of a culture and family that won't soon be forgotten.
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LORYLT More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. It's a great read for anyone that is interested in how things were in the mob life. Victoria Gotti's book is very well written and showed how she viewed things through the eyes of a child and adult in the life. It is very interesting to see how much the family went through and I just thought it was a great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tee1 More than 1 year ago
A stunning memoir by a daughter about her father. Yes, his name was John Gotti .. Dapper Don, Teflon Don, Boss of Bosses, yada yada yada. And for those who are Cosa Nostra-obsessed, you'll get your fair share of 'inside' information about one of the most interesting Family figures since, i supposed, the family itself began. But there's another whole story in this book, as it explores the relationship between father and daughter. For me, it touched off so many memories of my own relationship with my Father .. the hero, the tough guy, the poet, the prisoner but, always .. my father. Victoria Gotti sees the flaws .. but the love between them sustains her always, and this is what i found in the book .. not the sensationalized 'mafia princess' stories .. but the story of a father and her daughter .. the love, the anger, the admiration, the loyalty, the unending connection .. and in the end, the impossible goodbye. Absolutely beautiful book. Congratulations, Victoria!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok, my review may be a little biased, as I am a HUGE Mafia buff. I always found the subject interesting and mysterious, so when I saw that the Don's daughter had an inside view of the life, I could not wait to get my hand's on it. She told a good story, and really gave some insight into her family and what it was like for all growing up. It allowed you to see what may have made them the way that they were. Not meaning it justifies some of the things that were done over the years, but it was eye-opening. I was impressed with how well written it was (I wasn't expecting much) and it seemed to flow nicely and keep my interest. Good read for a lazy weekend.