A&E will be airing their two-part documentary special on the Gambino Crime Family, Gotti: Godfather & Son, tonight. Although the documentary follows the childhood and life story of John Gotti Jr., his father, John Gotti Sr. will also be heavily featured for his notoriety as an organized crime leader and the eventual head of the Gambino Crime Family.
Gotti, who passed away in 2002, remains a fascinating figure in American history because of his life as what Vice calls a “Mafia icon” and “the real-life Godfather.”
Here’s what you need to know about John Gotti Sr.:
1. His Nicknames Were ‘Teflon Don’ & ‘Dapper Don’
The nickname “Teflon Don” arose as a result of his ability to stay out of prison. History.com says he earned the name “after escaping unscathed from several trials during the 1980s.” The name Teflon was because nothing could stick to him – he was acquitted a number of times before his eventual prison sentence.
The nickname “Dapper Don” was given to him because of his sense of style. Biography.com says he presented himself in “double-breasted Italian suits from Brioni, hand-painted silk ties and his halo of perfectly coiffed hair.”
2. His Parents Were Italian Immigrants
According to Biography.com, Gotti was the fifth child in a family of 13 children and his parents immigrated to the United States from Italy. He was born in the South Bronx on October 27, 1940, and his father was a day laborer. According to American Mafia History, “Gotti was known to resent his father for being unable to provide for his family;” they suspect he was hardened by poverty at a young age.
Once Gotti’s family settled in Brooklyn, Biography.com says he met Carmine Fatico spent his “formative years” running errands for the man in the early days of the Gambino crime family; according to Biography.com, he eventually committed his first murder in 1973 as a “Fatico crew captain.”
3. He Started a Gang When He Was 16
Biography.com says that Gotti dropped out of high school when he was 16 years old to start his own gang in Queens. The gang was called the “Fulton-Rockaway Boys;” Angelo Ruggiero was in the gang, and would later become a Gambino mobster. He and Ruggiero “were charged by the FBI with committing three cargo thefts and truck hijacking near JFK international airport.” They pleaded guilty, and Gotti’s sentencing was reduced to 3 years. When he was released, Fatico formally entrusted him within his crew.
4. His Youngest Son Was Killed at 12 Years Old
Gotti’s youngest son Frank was hit by a car and killed while he was riding his bike. The man driving the car was John Favara; while the death was ruled an accident, The Telegraph reported that Favara received death threats and harassment for being a “murderer.”
According to The Telegraph, Favara “was shot dead and his body dissolved in a barrel of acid.” Federal prosecutors said the murder was ordered by Gotti, to avenge his son’s death.
5. He Was Convicted in 1992 & Spent the Rest of His Life in Jail
In 1992, he was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty for “14 accounts of conspiracy to commit murder and racketeering.” According to Biography.com, when he was finally convicted, the head of the New York FBI Office James Fox said “The Teflon is gone. The don is covered in Velcro and all the charges stuck.”
According to American Mafia History, Gotti was diagnosed with throat cancer in the late 1990s. Despite surgeries done in an effort to treat the cancer, his health deteriorated and he died at the age of 61.