Preview: DiDonato on Life in Gambino Capo Little Nicky's Crew

Andrew DiDonato
"As a street guy you know what survival is all about. John made that play because he knew his life was at risk. Other guys were facing the same thing as Gotti. Others who went along, like Sammy, saw more earning potential [with Gotti in the big seat].

"John was a blue-collar guy. He was one of us, the guys in the trenches doing the work.

"Castellano wanted top dollar from us guys.

"And we had a lot of respect for O'Neill [Aniello Dellacroce]... He was a serious guy.

"So was Paul. But O'Neill was also a legitimate tough guy. Castellano wasn't."

Andrew DiDonato, whose book "Surviving the Mob" underlines the old adage that true life is stranger than fiction, said those words to us during a recent interview. A former Gambino associate, the Brooklyn-based wiseguy started in the life at age 16 by selling protection to drug dealers (protection from himself, of course).

Life changed for him once he fell under the gaze of Gambino capo Nicholas "Little Nicky" Corozzo, another "legitimate tough guy," as Andrew called him. Corozzo was supposed to have been boss after Gotti went away (he was readying a plan to whack Junior Gotti, in which DiDonato would have played a role). Then Corozzo was arrested and ended up serving too many years to seize his opportunity.

The term "cowboy" is applied to both cops and crooks to denote an individual or group of individuals who are quick to ramp up the intensity and the violence. They are the first one in the door -- they are the ones who bring it on, full tilt... If Andrew wasn't a cowboy I don't know who was. He got into gunfights, firing from one moving car into another. He once shot a guy at point blank range in the head.("I'm not proud of that," he said grimly when we spoke.)

Andrew probably lived as deeply into the life of an organized crime associate as is possible.

And he was on the street at a unique time, historically speaking. It was the last gasp of the old New York Mafia, during the high-profile Gotti years, before it started its slow, deliberate descent underground.

Andrew walked the streets at the same time as gangsters like Roy DeMeo, William "Wild Bill" Cutolo, the aforementioned Gotti and Dellacroce, Carmine Persico and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso.

He managed to get out alive.

Watch for our story... 


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