Everyone has a Mafia story. This one is mine. On a hot June day in the late 1980’s, I was walking up Lafayette Street, in what’s now called NoLita, with two friends. Noel was in from Baltimore, and Lucia managed an architectural detail store that made plaster moldings, gnomes, sconces and the like across the street.
Almost every week we would bring in wine and other things, close the store, put on good music, and begin partying. People would look in, think we were having an opening, knock on the door, and try to get in. If we liked their looks they might get in. Sometimes we would go out afterwards. On more than one occasion Lucia and I crashed there.
We were almost at the firehouse when we heard the fire bells peal. But the firemen didn’t run out. The fire bells pealed when important people passed it. Important meant needed by the neighborhood. Lucia, Patrick and I weren’t really listening. The bells are city sounds, as common as car alarms but nicer.
I had a good figure, and my mother (bless her) had brought me up to show off my assets. I was wearing a blue flowered bustier dress that looked like a Marilyn dress from the waist down. Just to be clear on this, I was wearing a matching bathing suit bottom; the yellow flowers were slightly smaller…
When the dress blew over the subway grating, I wasn’t concerned. I couldn’t understand why Patrick and Lucia were desperately trying to keep the dress down. I turned around, to see four very well dressed men trying their hardest not to laugh. One of the men looked very familiar.
Now it was my turn to blush as I tried to get the words out. Uh, Mr. Gotti, if you’re going to remember me”and, uh, you will, try to be kind. I was under pressure, and couldn’t remember the real quote. Then I burst into hysterical laughter as did the man for whom the bells were tolling, his son John Jr., and their bodyguards.
Lucia, Noel, and l regained a sort of consciousness, looked at each, and bid the Gotti’s a quick adieu. When we were half way up the block, I turned around. Mr. Gotti was looking at me as his son and associates talked. We smiled and walked into our own worlds. Lucia and Noel remember it slightly different than I do. They claim I wasn’t wearing underwear.
If I wasn’t wearing underwear, wouldn’t I have wanted to die on the spot?
Would I have claimed ownership of this story if I didn’t have anything on under my dress? I’m too respectable to even dream that. I was counting on John Gotti to affirm my version. But he’s dead, and I’m going to have to listen to Lucia tell her version for the rest of our natural lives.