tv Steve Villano Tightrope CSPAN December 23, 2017 10:00am-10:22am EST
tutoro, national association for decade and won numerous awards and he has a digital poetry book called we, the book publishers of america in 2014 and if there's anything i left out, steve, please -- [inaudible conversations] [laughter] >> you don't? >> thank you, joanne. i have never heard a poet before get the words putana and madonna in the same phrase, it's priceless, it's priceless. this is -- i'm here today, there are a number of people who are my former colleagues from the
cuomo administration, a number of new friends, fellow writers who i met here and representatives of some 50 colleges and universities and sharing the panel with fred is really -- this is de ja vu all over again. 20 years ago i was working in an article about stereotyping italian americans, who did i call? the expert at soony brook and we had never met in person until today. it's pretty awesome for me to be here with fred on the same panel .
federal district court uniondale number 1998, i sat shoulder to shoulder with my 22-year-old nephew michael striked by resemblance of jfk, jr. and also to my brother at the same age. jet-black hair, large black eyes and dazzling kind smile. michael and i listened to federal prosecutors lay out their case against his father and any brother. earlier that morning, governor mario cuomo had called me at home after three years of working nearly round the clock with cuomo with the governors at the two world trade center offices in new york. laboring long hours, shut down the power plant for health and
safety reasons. you did good work, steve, the governor said, you have great, great ability and a great future. it's a pleasure working with you. well, you have a pretty good future yourself, governor, i said. oh, no, i have no future, steve, cuomo, joked, but you in a serious almost fatherly tone, you have a wonderful future. 90 minutes later that collided with my brother's present. i was hearing in a federal courtroom prosecutors asking fbi agent if it was true that my brother was a bad guy opinion john gotti. gotti and velono, both names spoken in the same sentence by federal law enforcement officials. my brother linked to gotti, i linked to cuomo. these were only allegations i kept telling myself.
my brother was not guilty of anything, he could not be, he was my brother's son. mario cuomo detested the bomb crimes as much as i did. even the expectation that he had to answer any questions about it outraged him since he believed that his whole life, quote, had been a statement about the crap, end quote. what if my family name became the issue? would he keep me on staff, would i have the courage to leave the public service work which i loved? i felt naked. nothing left to protect me. not my carefully calibrated career. not my conservative clothing, not my law degree, nothing. ub -- for years we shared the
same bedroom in my parents' house. michael, my brother vinny and me, our lives intertwined. i looked around courtroom and as i heard our name around the chair, the judge's desk. if only i had a sponge i would scrub the walls to make our name vanish. i wanted everything to disappear but could not keep myself away from the courtroom. i had to find out what i suspected but denied for years. yet there was something more, much more, i thought of my mother sitting in the living room in her small apartment in california watching her afternoon stories as the world turns in search for tomorrow, seeing how everything would somehow take place in the courtroom. i saw her big round glasses,
watching in disbelief, what a way to first-born child. i imagined her fingering her rosery beads and defending, forever defending her son. i could not leave. real mobsters an friends of mobsters flooded around our family as long as i can remember. unlike the characters played in movies or television by de niro, pacino, there was nothing funny or romantic about them. they used everyone around us as props. they mocked working stiffs like my father who for decades toiled in a beaten down boiler room in buildings in 142nd street to heat the offices of wealthy
accountants and lawyers on the floors above. on sundays my father swallowed anger and shame when he learned that his oldest son michael spent afternoon with gambino family capo, who married into our family and would serve as john gotti's real-life god father as well as my brother's. uncle charlie, as we called him, was not the romanticized. that was a caricature, start in first god father movie as the villain. in star contrast, picture pito
that should give you a good visual of the two. in star contrast who was a rising star in crime family and favorite of lucky lucianos patico was short and squat, local gang member. always meticulously dressed, fatico fit the tough -- tough guy street image of the gambino family. uncle charlie rose to capo and carlo gambino became the new leader. fatico earned his name from hijacking trucks, gotti, a 17-year-old high school dropout at the time and a localhood from brooklyn became a member of fatico's crew that year. hired by uncle charlie.
my brother michael, 9 years older than i was from a different world. growing up i idolized him as my mother's first and favorite child. he was common ways with me that my father frequently was not. had patience to all types of people but particularly for his little brother whose wide eye revealed motion. darker, unrecognizable version of someone to face his abilities was to appear down just waiting for me to slip. in 1985 and 1988 as gotti rose
in celebrity in power, law enforcement officials looked for anything or anyone to leverage against the new king of new york's crime families, my brother's friendship with gotti was attempting target to squeeze and federal court was the perfect place to apply that pressure. i studied the smooth, sweet lines of my nephew's face as he sat next to me in court to see if the turmoil and the years of tension took a physical toll on him. he listened as intently as i did to prosecutors talking about a prison term for his father, my brother. linking our last name tightly ever so tightly to gotti's. years later even john gotti, jr., writing with great emotion, in a few passages of his book, shadow of my father, own published memoir understood the terror of being trapped by
family history. and this is the son of john gotti, this is quotes from his own memoir published three years ago. death and jail have consumed many fellows, we were really selfish, wives with no husbands present, they were the innocent sufferers of our guilt, with the increased media attention to mobsters, the children of men in the life would be teased, still more revealing than that was a conversation between john gotti, jr. and his best friend john which was recorded in federal correction institute at ray brook near lake placid on october 5th, 2003. again, this is john gotti, jr. we used to go with our fathers, our fathers never really spent time with us. when they did, they drove us by the club, the fish club which,
by the way us, was founded by my uncle, dropped us off at the club and that was it. we were 10, 11, 12 years' old in a club full of men, you're almost force today -- forced emulate these people. i loved these guys, seemed that most of the people out there today, talking to his friend, most of the people today are real garbage, yeah, if we are stupid enough, then we deserve to die in jail. i'm sorry, but we do. my suggestion, john, to salvage our children, we have to move away, john, how to get away,
john gotti, jr., smart would have been running away a long time ago. i got trapped, all my brother had in this world and i was the only one to see him and running around with the lawyers and so on and so forth, i got trapped. i don't want to live in new york. i want to leave, i want to leave to carolina. i couldn't disappoint the guy. i had to stay. john gotti, jr. i did not care who i disappointed. i knew i had to flee to build a new life and reject the easy seduction of accepting the old one. my driving desire to get out over road any concern about whether my family's mob connections was bad for mario
cuomo's future if i had the opportunity to work for them. they were not me, i kept telling myself. carmine fatico was not me. pat, no matter how my father found him to be, was not me. even my brother michael as much as i worshiped him as a child and still wanted to believe the best of him as an adult despite mounting evidence of the contrary was not me. i was the third son of a third son. destined for special things. i was my father's hope. forget about trying to get to mario cuomo. i once over heard one of my brother's associates say to me it's unusual.
i was drawn by the power of cuomo's intellect, integrity, persona of bold contradiction to the destructive stereotypes of italian americans as uneducated bafoons, cuomo's visions and values were compelling to me, a chance to contribute to the greater world out there and still retain my family's love. if mario cuomo could do it based on different challenges, not speaking english till 8 year's old, so could i. how could i tell mario cuomo that a story would appear in the press the next day linking my brother, our name to john gotti. how do i talk about organized crime in my family with the one italian-american elected
official who personified the complete opposite. i pictured myself in the 57 nd floor in world trade center tower number two telling reporters that any notion of mario cuomo having mob connection was bull shit because the mob was in my family and the inside word about cuomo was that he was unreachable. as eyewitness condemn the mob rumors, instead i condemn myself for not protecting mario cuomo from my family and for being unable to resist the pull to work for him in the first place. looking at my work for cuomo pennants as the sin of my brother and i would do good to public service, i would clean up the family name. i got up and paced around my office and finally i sat down
and wrote out a script that i would read to the governor. this is the script. governor, i have unpleasant news which i feel obligate today share with you, my brother was sentence today three months in prison for tax evasion today in judge's federal court, judge and his decision expressed the belief that my brother had some association with organized crime. two news reporters were present, one of them long on you, i anticipate they'll be a story so i don't want you to learn of this secondhand. i read over my little speech hence trembling. there was no escaping now. no neat rationalizations. i could not pretend that everything would be as it was. the phone on my desk rang, it was the governor, i placed the script in front of me cling to
go it like a life preserver, hello, governor, i said, shaking, what's going on, steve, i read my script word for word, the governor was silent as i read. i finished, closed my eyes and waited for mario cuomo's response, my heart pounding. this is mario cuomo, i don't see how it should affect you without he'sation, i certainly feel for you but i don't see how it affects you. you are a superb public official and i don't think it should have any effect on you. stunned i thanked mario cuomo. i looked at the picture on my photograph, self-contained world which i escape 10 to 14 hours, world of public service and doing good with a brilliant
italian america, a world of my own sealed off from my family which no one could take away from me. i got up and focused on the twin towers tracing my finger between the north tower and the south. more than a decade earlier talked back and forth eight times across the cable from between them. he made it look easy an graceful. he spent months practicing for quarter-mile balancing act. visiting the world trade center 200 times, petit planned every detail accounting for factors like the wind that he could not control. i stepped back looking at the entire landscape, my mind jumping from tower to tower. my eyes stopped and i noticed
the shaft of light between the tower, taller than both, my high-wire ballet was just beginning, thank you. [applause] >> every weekend book tv officers programming focused on nonfiction authors and books u keep watching for more here on c-span2 and watch any of our past programs online at booktv.org. >> good evening, it should hardly come to as surprise that colleges and universities have become flash points for more heated cultural war conflicts of the day. h universities are now the sites of far left-wing students and violen