Final look at Salemme’s history before sentencing

This is the end of the line for Cadillac Frank Salemme, the 85-year-old ex-boss of the New England Mafia. He will now die in prison, like Stevie Flemmi, Whitey Bulger, Larry Baione and probably Zip Connolly, not to mention Carl Velleca, the old-time thief known as “Blue Jay.”

A couple of weeks ago, at Salemme’s murder trial, I got a scribbled note from Cadillac Frank – “Blue Jay is looking over us. FS.” I guess not, or maybe Blue Jay is watching, and he knew Frank was guilty, and just wanted to make sure the jury knew too.

Anyway, before he disappears forever after his conviction Friday, let’s take one last look at Cadillac Frank and his thoughts on his lifetime of crime. This interview was recorded in 2003 in by Congressional investigators probing the endemic FBI corruption in Boston. Here are some of Salemme’s observations about the Boston underworld, especially his old partner Stevie Flemmi, the main witness against Salemme at this final trial.

“There’s two things with Flemmi paramount to everything,, “ Salemme said, “his money and his women… not necessarily in that order.”

On notoriety: “I have a reputation. I’m in the paper like seven days a week, you know, front page. Like I used to tell my son, I’m riding in a train and everybody stares at me. And he says, pa, look, that’s the front page of the Herald, you’re on it.”

On his use of underworld lingo, like “lamster”: “I keep going back to the vernacular. You can take the boy out of Boston but you can’t take the Boston out of the boy, and that’s not the university side of Boston, believe me.”

On corrupt FBI agent Zip Connolly: “He’s a windbag when he gets going.”

On why Stevie Flemmi became an FBI informant: “It gave him that sense of security that he could continue his criminal activity, and all he had to do was give up jerks like me, and he’d be all set.”

On the need to understand every gangland hit that occurred: “We were more interested in why he got killed and who was there. We always wanted to know who was capable of doing that, because you had to know who was out in the street that would do that.”

On the ineptitude of the Mafia in the North End: “I mean, they couldn’t find their way off of Hanover Street, believe me.”

On confronting crooked FBI agent Dennis Condon about framing four innocent men for murder: “He made the statement, ‘I wonder how Louie Greco likes it on Death Row, and he wasn’t even there.’ I was thinking, why is he saying this?… I said, you’re a Knight of Columbus, you’re Holy Name Society…. I said you won’t get by St. Peter at the gate, you can’t, you broke one of the Ten Commandments, thou shalt not bear false witness. You can’t get by him, Dennis.”

On why he preferred shooting people to blowing them up: “I could take them out very easily with a silencer, pick them up and bury them and they’d never be found… A bomb, that’s not my MO at all. I mean, I was involved in violence, but I’m not that type. You could do it another way.”

On Flemmi’s stepdaughter Deb Hussey: “That sweet little thing he ended up killing, she was part of his harem…. She was like a niece to me, she was his stepdaughter, molesting her at 13 and killing her at 26. I mean, I used to take this kid to the beach with my daughters. But if I had known that at the time I couldn’t have held back….”

On the wealth of Flemmi and Bulger: “I heard they were worth at least $20 million apiece. Bulger was a squirrel, and so was Flemmi. They’re not extravagant people. They’re not nightlifers or boozers. They weren’t gamblers and they didn’t do drugs, so they had plenty of money.”

On Boston cops watching Jimmy Flemmi commit a murder in the South End, then going to his brother Stevie and demanding $2500 not to arrest the Bear: “That’s the era it was, anything for money, even murder… It wasn’t considered illegal to do that kind of thing, as crazy as that may sound today.”

On Stevie visiting Frank’s first ex-wife after Flemmi was cut loose by his FBI friends for the same car bombing Salemme did 17 years in state prison for: “I’ll never forget this, strictly the dog-and-pony show, Frank’s my man, he’s this and that, he broke down crying. And there I was saying (to Mafia boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca), he’ll do the right thing, L.S., and him (Patriarca) telling me, he’s a phony, you’ll see it.”

On what happens to murderers like Roy French in prison: “He went soft after he set up his friend (Teddy Deegan). He didn’t have to do that. There’s a certain amount of honor you have to have even among thugs like us… Subsequently he did go a little nuts. He’d made an altar out of the toilet bowl and was blessing himself with the toilet water.”

On his lack of sympathy for Joe Salvati, one of the four guys who spent 35 years in prison after being framed by the FBI: “Joe’s a full-time (bleep), believe me and that’s the truth…Now he’s making himself off like sure you got screwed, so has everybody, that’s the life you chose, kid. You want to be a gofer, opening and closing the doors in the after-hours joints, that’s the price you pay.”

That’s not a bad epitaph for Cadillac Frank either, come to think of it. I wonder if Blue Jay would agree.

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