The Villager Newspaper reported that The Museum of the American Gangster was to have this week received Vincent “the Chin” Gigante’s iconic bathrobe — the very one the often-called “Oddfather” wore when stumbling around the streets of Greenwich Village perpetrating what he eventually admitted was a faked “crazy” act to keep the Feds off his back.
His daughter Rita Gigante was to have been on hand for the presentation of the garment as well as to read from her autobiography, “The Godfather’s Daughter.”
Gigante’s feigning of mental illness went on for decades and did help to keep him out of prison for about that long. He started the act In 1969, escaping conviction on bribery charges by producing a number of prominent psychiatrists who testified that he was legally insane. The doctors said Gigante suffered from schizophrenia,dementia, psychosis, and other disorders.
Even the government’s many psychiatrists and doctors who examined the crazy-as-a-fox Genovese boss had long said that Gigante was neither competent to stand trial nor to be sentenced.
Even when not under indictment, he pulled hi act, knowing the FBI was probably training an eye on him at all times. He’d stumble around the Village in his bathrobe, accompanied by one or two bodyguards, and sometimes hover around the entrance to his social club, the Triangle Civic Improvement Association. Sometimes, he’d disappear inside and play pinochle and maybe engage in hushed conversations with senior Genovese caporegimes, such as Liborio Bellomo, John Ardito, Tino Fiumara and Daniel Leo, supposedly the current family boss.
According to the Chin’s New York Times obit: “Based on information from informers and electronic eavesdropping on gangsters, F.B.I. and New York City law-enforcement officials ranked Mr. Gigante as the pre-eminent Mafia leader in the early and mid-1990’s, and prosecutors identified him as the dominant force in the early 1990’s inside the Commission, the Mafia’s ruling body, which resolves significant disputes among the five major families in the New York region. His reach, law-enforcement officials said, extended as well to Philadelphia and New England, where he exercised veto power over the appointments of mob bosses in those areas.
“Salvatore Gravano, the No. 2 figure in the Gambino crime family before he defected in 1991, testified that even Mr. Gigante’s archrival, John Gotti, grudgingly acknowledged Mr. Gigante’s craftiness. “He’s crazy like a fox,” Mr. Gravano quoted Mr. Gotti as saying of Mr. Gigante after a summit meeting of New York City mob leaders in 1988. Mr. Gotti was the boss of the Gambino family until his own imprisonment forced him to relinquish undisputed control in the late 1990’s. He, too, died in a prison hospital, of cancer in June 2002.
“Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and federal and state prosecutors regarded Mr. Gigante as the most elusive Mafia leader of his era and the most difficult to bring to trial. “He was probably the most clever organized-crime figure I have ever seen,” said John S. Pritchard 3rd, a former F.B.I. supervisor, who led a squad that investigated the Genovese family in the 1980’s.”