"Rare" Recording Of Former Gambino Boss Paul Castellano Holding Court

There is absolutely nothing like wiretap recordings: they instantly transform you into the proverbial fly on the wall of the room (or inside the car etc.) where the mobsters think they are speaking privately.

The problem with this one, and there is a problem, is that brevity is not always the soul of wit. This recording of former Gambino boss Constantino Paul Castellano, only 40 seconds long, is too damn short. And there's no need for a transcript because the spoken words appear on screen, so you can read along.

Still, this will be considered extremely fascinating by anyone who has ever wanted to hear Big Paul talk turkey.

His cousin/brother-in-law Carlo Gambino, the crime family's founder/usurper is mentioned, and they're discussing "having" Brooklyn, and an election, though that's about all I take away. Other than the chance to hear Paul Castellano speak, that is.

Castellano was born on June 26, 1915, in Brooklyn. The nickname Big Paul was due to his height, 6 feet 2 inches, but also to distinguish him from the other two Paul Castellanos then living in Brooklyn, both relatives of Castellano and both apparently shorter.

The now-defunct Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), formerly an agency of the United States Treasury Department, focused on organized crime in the decades when the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover denied it even existed. The FBN's infamous Mafia dossier, which Robert Kennedy used as a reference for his own Mafia investigations when he was named Attorney General in 1961, included an entry for Castellano. It listed Carmine Galante as among Castellano's criminal associates. Big Paul's modus operandi was that of a "strong-arm" in the Gambino crime family.

Except for living in an ostentatious mansion built in neo-Federal architectural style on Todt Hill, immortally dubbed ''the white house,'' Castellano kept "so low a profile that local and Federal law-enforcement agencies differed for a time about even his age."

He was among the youngest attendees at 1957's summit meeting in Apalachin, N.Y.

He was jailed for refusing to testify about the meeting. His only previous arrest was in 1934 when he served a one-year bid on a robbery charge in Hartford, Conn.

The Todt Hill "white house" is no longer in the Castellano family.

Perhaps one of the largest misconceptions about John Gotti's predecessor is that Paul Castellano was somehow the less lethal of the two.

"Paul was deadly!" as former Gambino capo Michael (Mikie  Scars) DiLeonardo, who knew Paul Castellano personally for years, once told me, adding that "people shook with Paul" when they earned his animosity.

Castellano was on trial for a car-theft ring at the time of his December 1985 demise. In that case alone, Castellano faced 25 murder charges, while John Gotti would be convicted of five murders, one-fifth of Big Paul's alleged body count. Still, let’s make no bones about it: Gotti was a killer. Quite a few people disappeared off the face of the earth after being seen hanging around the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, and there are chilling stories about some of those disappearances. That doesn't take anything away from the fact that Paul Castellano was still quite lethal, and it took little to trigger his fury.

One New Year's Eve party at Castellano's house, Gambino mobster "Charlie Boy" (who seemingly fell into the "young Turk" category, which was one of the demographics of the crime family from which Castellano reportedly had grown aloof) learned the hard way that it didn't take much to anger the boss.

Charlie Boy, whose father was a captain known as Little Toto, arrived and noticed that "Paul was deep in serious conversation," DiLeonardo related. Charlie Boy decided he'd better not disturb him.

He started to say hello to others, thinking he'd greet the boss once he was finished with whatever important matters were under discussion.

Big, big mistake. Charlie Boy had committed an egregious breach of Mafia etiquette.

"You go see the boss first," Michael explained. "You go up to him first, then you go down the pecking order. It doesn't matter what Paul was doing at the time."

Eventually, Charlie Boy noticed that Paul was free so he went over to say hello -- and got his ass handed to him.

"Glad you could find the fucking time to finally fucking say hello to me," Castellano said. Or words to that effect.

Paul proceeded to read him the full riot act and Charlie Boy was literally shaking as if Paul were poised to order his execution in the backyard of the Todt Hill estate.

Asked to draw a comparison between Castellano and John Gotti based on personal experience, Michael said, "you had to walk on eggshells when you were around both of them."

Read more about Big Paul Castellano here:

The Mob's Greatest Hits: Frankie Cheech Bomb Plot

What Did Roy Cohn Allege About Castellano Hit?