EXCERPT: 'This Family of Mine' By Victoria Gotti

The two women got into a heated argument. The landlady refused to give the television back. Now she had the broken radio and the black-and-white television—and Mom was furious! The women yelled until the landlady's husband came home from work. He was not a stupid man. He heard all about John Gotti and didn't want any trouble. So he insisted his wife give the TV back to Mom. The landlord's wife did so reluctantly. But, to be spiteful, she left the television on the ledge of the second-floor landing—knowing full well, Mom, being very pregnant at the time, couldn't carry it up two stories. Mom tried—when she got to the top of the third floor, huffing and puffing and utterly exhausted, she finally realized that she couldn't carry it up another floor. But rather than let the landlady win, Mom kicked the old TV with all her might and watched it bounce down the ten or eleven steps. She left it at the foot of the second landing and yelled down to the landlady, "Try and watch the TV now!" When Dad came home later that night, he found the broken television wedged between the second and third floor of the apartment building. It took him five minutes to climb around it in order to get to our apartment on the sixth floor.

Since few things upset my father more than seeing my mom distraught, Dad decided to go out and find her a color television the old-fashioned way: by paying for it.

Well, sort of.

He entered an all-night poker game, hoping his luck would change and he'd make some money. He did—nearly five hundred dollars. But instead of using it to buy fancy suits, or as a down payment on a new car, or even a security deposit for a nicer apartment to rent, he went out and bought Mom the biggest, most expensive color television he could find.

Dellacroce, who'd been at the poker match, had been duly impressed with Dad's success, which seemed fueled by equal parts luck and guts. Thus, Dellacroce often made unannounced visits to the Fulton Street Social Club. He wasn't thrilled with the location or the way it was so run-down. After a few of these visits, the club's headquarters was moved to a more discreet area in Ozone Park, Queens. The new club was a two-story building with a first-floor storefront; it was called the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, and was located near Kennedy Airport, in a small, close-knit neighborhood of Italian immigrants. The locals paid frequent visits to the social club; some were merely being cordial, while others understood the benefit of offering their respect to the new sheriff in town. If one had a gripe about something going on in the neighborhood, results were much more likely to be achieved by working through the social club than by going to the cops.

It wasn't long before the generous and eager-to-please John Gotti assumed the role of a modern-day Robin Hood in Ozone Park. When the law failed them, the locals often turned to Johnny Boy; if traditional justice was not forthcoming, then street justice would suffice. Ironically, the NYPD's 106th Precinct headquarters was just a few blocks away, but was of little assistance to the Italian immigrants, who were near the bottom rung of the social ladder, and absorbed nearly as much racism and hostility as the few African Americans who resided in the overwhelmingly white community.

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