Today’s guest is someone I’ve been very keen to speak to for a couple of years now and I’m absolutely delighted that he’ll be joining us for what is set to be one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had in some time.
Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano is the former underboss of the Gambino crime family and one of the most notorious mobsters in Mafia history. He spent 22 years behind bars and was the right-hand man for the infamous John Gotti at the height of his powers in 1980s New York.
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Sammy has lived a life very few could ever or would ever attest to, and at 77 years of age is as sharp-witted and switched-on as a man half his age. It all started in Brooklyn back in the 1950s when a young Sammy, born to Sicilian immigrants, got his first taste for troublemaking and dalliances with the wrong side of the law as part of a young street gang called the Rampers.
Sammy’s parents were, as he puts it, legitimate people, they ran a reasonably successful dressmaking factory in the neighbourhood of Bensonhurst. They were honest hardworking people and Sammy’s childhood, at least his home life, had no red flags. In fact, it was at school where Sammy struggled, dyslexia caused impatience and Sammy became disruptive and a challenge to authority.
From here things just seemed to spiral. Sammy was expelled from school for attacking a teacher and quickly earned a reputation for his bullish physicality and willingness to stand toe-to-toe with anyone who did him wrong.
Despite a stint with the US army during Vietnam, Sammy quickly became affiliated with the Colombo crime family. As an associate, he was involved in hijackings, armed robbery and every manner of theft imaginable, but his time with the Colombo’s was short-lived. A rivalry with another member of the faction spiralled out of control and Sammy was shipped off to the Gambino’s, one of New York’s other five families.
From here Sammy really made a name for himself and became one of the most feared enforcers the New York Mafia had ever seen. On top of this, he was a serious earner. Sammy in his own words was like a “madman” – and anything that wasn’t nailed down, got pinched.
He became a made man in 1976, once the books reopened after a 20 year hiatus and Sammy moved into legitimate business. He was heavily involved in construction and ran the unions, while on the side he was proprietor of his very own nightclub. Sammy was making millions and keeping the bosses happy at the same time.
“I literally controlled Manhattan, literally. You want concrete poured in Manhattan? That was me. Donald Trump, all these guys – they couldn’t build a building without me.”
If it sounds like the typical mob life, that’s because it was. However, there was another side to Sammy, something that would mark him out as one of the most dangerous individuals in the game. His absolute willingness to deal with the darkest side of mafia life. Sammy was responsible for 19 hits between 1970 and 1990 – which works out at almost one a year.
He was an expert in violence and would stop at nothing to fulfil the orders of the higher ups, and maintain the integrity of Cosa Nostra (Our Thing), by dealing with anyone who strayed from the strict set of rules that made the Mafia such an impenetrable force.
One such hit made headlines across the country as reigning boss Paul Castellano got whacked to make way for an ambitious wannabe kingpin, John Gotti. As a thanks, Gotti made Sammy his underboss and the man to deal with any unwanted distractions. But, it was a doomed alliance. Trust and paranoia are never far from the surface in the mafia underworld and after Gotti and Sammy got arrested on racketeering charges in 1990, something had to give.
Sammy agreed to turn state’s evidence and testify against Gotti and in the process he confessed to being responsible for the deaths of 19 men. It blew the organisation wide open and Sammy became the highest ranking member of the Five Families to break his blood oath and cooperate with the government.
It sent shockwaves through the underworld and stunned everyone else as Sammy openly laid bare the violent retributions he had carried out. Gotti received life in prison without parole and Sammy for his cooperation received five years, of which he had already served four.
Sammy’s openness about his brutal past does not sit comfortably with most and he doesn’t expect it to. Sammy lived in a world few of us understand and find even harder to comprehend. Which is why his story is so compelling, and has made his second career so successful.
Sammy or as he’s now known – The Don of Social Media – has become one of the most watched, shared and commented on individuals on the internet and videos from his flourishing YouTube channel have racked up tens of millions of views.
He has become a huge presence online and his exposés on the nuances of the criminal underworld make for a fascinating watch. I’ve spoken to people from all walks of life, the good, the bad and everything in between, and I can’t wait to take a deep dive into Sammy’s story.
He doesn’t apologise, glamourise or ask for forgiveness. Sammy The Bull is the product of a way of life very few of us can relate to and that’s why we watch and listen. It’s a real life Scorcese script that at times is hard to believe.
So make sure you join me for this mind-blowing life story, as I have a “sit-down” with one of the most notorious gangsters still alive to tell his tale.
“The Cosa Nostra is Our Thing. It’s not a gang. It’s not a different organisation. The Cosa Nostra is our thing. It’s the code we live by, the rules we live by, it’s our thing. It doesn’t pertain to the rest of the world.”
A number of clips from this exclusive interview are now available to download, share and repost. Spread the word: grab these clips today!
- How does it feel to be a YouTuber?
- Producing the Our Thing podcast
- I broke a golden rule of La Cosa Nostra
- It took balls to do what I did
- I have two sides of me
- How did La Cosa Nostra start?
- The real history of the mafia
- Killing Johnny Keys
- I changed after I killed Johnny Keys
- The Mob hit on Paul Castellano
- Taking out Paul Castellano was the right thing to do
- John Gotti betrayed me
- Pleading guilty in the drug ring case