Sammy “The Bull” Gravano (@gravanothebull) is the host of the Our Thing podcast, former second-in-command of the Gambino organized-crime family who played a major role in prosecuting “Teflon Don” John Gotti, and subject of Peter Maas’ Underboss: Sammy “The Bull” Gravano’s Story of Life in the Mafia. [This is part one of a two-part episode. Make sure to catch part two here!]
What We Discuss with Sammy “The Bull” Gravano:
- How does someone growing up in a relatively “normal” family get involved in a life of crime?
- What compels someone entrenched in the comforts of the gangster lifestyle to reject it?
- How has the code by which the mafia lives changed over time?
- What kinds of people do you meet when you spend half a decade behind bars?
- How true does on-screen gangster life ring to reality?
- And much more…
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What does it take to bring down an organization that’s been eluding justice on the regular since its medieval origins and lucrative expansion to the New World? Just cross the wrong guy and find out.
The Gambino family found out thanks to today’s guest, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, once “Teflon Don” John Gotti’s second-in-command before being thrown under the proverbial bus and deciding to do a little throwing back in return. Join us on this two-part episode as we talk to Sammy about what turns someone into a mob underboss, and what compels them to turn their back on the lifestyle’s extravagances to tear it all down. Listen, learn, and enjoy! [This is part one of a two-part episode. Make sure to catch part two here!]
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Miss our two-part conversation with Jack Garcia, the undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family of Cosa Nostra in New York for nearly three years? Catch up by starting with episode 392: Joaquin “Jack” Garcia | Undercover in the Mafia Part One here!
Thanks, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Underboss: Sammy the Bull Gravano’s Story of Life in the Mafia by Peter Maas | Amazon
- Our Thing Podcast
- Sammy “The Bull” Gravano | Website
- Sammy “The Bull” Gravano | Twitter
- Sammy “The Bull” Gravano | Instagram
- Sammy “The Bull” Gravano | Facebook
587: Sammy "The Bull" Gravano | Mafia Underboss Part One
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to our sponsor Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky. For the next few weeks and for the previous few weeks, you've heard me talk about Glenfiddich, the highly recognizable stag icon that now adorns our show art. They've got a bold new body of work that aims to challenge the traditional notions, commonly portrayed in culture, of what it means to be wealthy and live a life of riches. Glenfiddich believes that beyond the material, a life of wealth and riches is about family, community, values, fulfilling work, and these are the values that led Glenfiddich to become the world's leading single malt scotch whisky. This week's guest Sammy "The Bull", you could say he is or was all about family, but I don't think it's quite what they had in mind. You'll find out why later on in the episode. More from our partners at Glenfiddich coming up later in the show.
[00:00:38] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:41] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: So when the agent asked me at one conversation, "What did you say and do to get all these people to do things? How come they never ratted on you? They were afraid of you." I said, "No. Listen, why would they rat on me? Everybody around me made money. What is he going to come and tell you? 'I'm so mad at Sammy. I made 200,000 more than I have normally made. I get tickets when I'm going on vacation with my wife.' There is nobody ratting. There's an army of people who want to be around me and that's business. When you're good with people, nothing's going to go wrong for you. It's when you're a piece of sh*t — going in and threatening people, "Give me the job, I'll kill you," you're going to get in trouble.
[00:01:23] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, spies, and psychologists, astronauts, entrepreneurs, even the occasional former cult member, mafia enforcer, or extreme athletes. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:50] If you're new to the show, check out our starter packs. These are collections of favorite episodes, organized by topic. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/starts to get started or to help somebody else get started.
[00:02:04] Today on the show, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, he was the former underboss of the Gambino crime family under John Gotti. Now, as many of you know, the old school Italian mafia was from Sicily in the 12th century. They later fled Mussolini and fascism because they were getting picked off. That was actually something that made Mussolini kind of popular back in the day. Sammy "The Bull" from the New York-Italian mafia that resulted from that migration. He later flipped on John Gotti after, of course, he was thrown under the bus, depending on who you ask. And as a result of his testimony, 30 convictions of other mobsters followed suit, having a big hand in helping take down the mafia in New York and in the east coast in general.
[00:02:41] Now, today I have a bit of a different conversation with Sammy. I've known him for a while now. You're going to hear me, tease him a few times and push the boundaries of the conversation in ways that you might not normally do with somebody who has killed 19 people, that we know of. I also skipped some of the basics such as how and why he flipped on John Gotti. That stuff has been covered repeatedly all over the place. It's easily available online for those that are interested. I didn't want to rehash that old ground, especially in the interest of time. Sammy is very upfront about his past. He doesn't pretend to be a good guy. This episode deals with murder, gangs, violence, and the fallout of a life lived in organized crime. I found this one fascinating. I know you will as well, even if you're not normally into these sorts of subjects.
[00:03:24] If you're wondering how I managed to book all these characters on the show, it's because of my network and I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the guests that you hear on the show, subscribe and contribute to the course. I won't lie, Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, former mafia hitman, is not in my networking course, but many of the other guests are. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:03:45] Now, here's Sammy "The Bull".
[00:03:50] All right. So tell me about growing up. I know you had pretty normal parents.
[00:03:53] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: I have very normal parents, legitimate people. My mother was a seamstress. My father was a painter. Back then, they had lead in the paint. He couldn't paint anymore. He got lead poisoning and I started working with my mother. They opened up a small dress factory in Brooklyn, New York. They got some contracts from Jewish contractors in Manhattan. They loved the way my mother was able to put things together and it seemed like every Italian woman was a seamstress. They knew a hundred of them in our family and outside our family. It was good.
[00:04:27] Jordan Harbinger: I know you used to help your mom or your family at the dress factory. It's humanizing to think of this mafia underboss that has killed multiple people and done some crazy sh*t working in a factory, helping his mom sort of sew dresses together.
[00:04:42] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Well, I'm not sewing dresses. I'm not doing anything like that. What I would do is help clean up the falling threads on the floor. It's not like the floors of today. There was just a wooden floor and it was a pain in the ass trying to clean up. I did that. There was heavy bundles that came in. So I would take those bundles and put them on the deck. So my father could distribute. Each bundle had different pieces to the garment and you'd have to put them — so I would do that. I would help them with the payroll. I would help them with different things. When they were shipping, I would put plastic over the dresses and stuff like that and get them ready for shipping. Certain days, I came in. Certain days, I didn't come in. I didn't work, as a job, full time. I just went there to help from time to time.
[00:05:25] Jordan Harbinger: I think my point was less used sewing and more — a lot of people have this image in their head that, "Okay, he's in the mob or he was in the mob. So he must have had bad parents, been a bad kid, joined gangster day one." You know, they watched The Godfather, and they were like eight years old throwing rocks at the store that didn't pay the extortion money. You remember this from the movie?
[00:05:43] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Not really.
[00:05:44] Jordan Harbinger: I could be getting confused myself. The kids were kind of hired by this mafia guy to break the windows and wreck this guy's fruit store, this grocery store because he wouldn't pay him. And I think a lot of people assume that if you grow up and you end up a mobster, that you had something seriously wrong in your childhood, especially with your family.
[00:06:01] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: No, I didn't have anything wrong with my family. Like I said, they were good, hardworking people, very, very legitimate people. So I never had that. What you're talking about was in movie. Movies are real bullsh*t anyway. So they hype things up for the movie, which are not really true. Now, I was dyslexic. I had trouble at school. I got kicked out of school. I joined the gang, the Rampers. So that was where I learned the streets, stuff like that, but not from my family. I had two sisters. Years before I was born, I had a brother who passed away and one of the sisters was a twin. She died too. Back then you died from pneumonia. The medicine wasn't like today. So two of them died before I was born and I had two sisters who were like two mothers around me. One was nine years older than me and one was five years older than me. I came a little later in life and they would take care of me like they were mothers. So I didn't have any kind of f*cked up background, family-wise.
[00:07:03] One of the reasons I got kicked out of school was that people — a principal once said, which what you're saying about the movies and about their parents, that I broke his f*cking jaw. So let's be careful with the questions.
[00:07:15] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. Well, I'm definitely not going to be that careful, but I am far enough away from you that I think I can get away.
[00:07:21] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: All right.
[00:07:22] Jordan Harbinger: I don't know. You are pretty fast though still. I saw you at dinner last night. You were still pretty fast. So that is something for me to think about. I know you punched the principal. He said, "Look at all—" what did he say? "These greaseballs, look at these, how these people are."
[00:07:34] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: He said greaseballs — again, that's what we use, we use those terms too, zips, grease balls. And our terminology towards them, greaseballs or zips, they are people who were born and raised in Italy and they come over. We are Italians. We're the same thing, but we were born and raised here. We're more Americanized, but it's not an insult to us. I mean, it is in a way, but it really is not a way that we would really argue or fight about it. When he said those things, I didn't really care until he started referring to my family in a negative way. "These greaseballs, this is how they raised their kids." When I heard sh*t like that, now you were putting down, not me as a person, but my mother and my father. And I stepped up, I got up. I was already arrested over there for truancy. A truant officer caught us and we went in. I wasn't really like arrested by the cops, but the truant officer brought us in because he caught us playing hooky. I was a little drunk and I was sitting there and when I got up—
[00:08:37] Jordan Harbinger: How old were you at this point?
[00:08:38] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Oh, I'm a kid. I got — listen, my mother and father had to get me out, sign me out of school. Before I was 16, I was thrown out.
[00:08:47] Jordan Harbinger: Because we were drinking though, even still because you said you were a little drunk, so you're like 15, 14 years old.
[00:08:52] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah.
[00:08:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:53] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Oh, yeah. I told them. I said, "Listen, it has. Nothing to do with my mother and father. You're referring to my family. It has nothing to do with them. I'm a bad kid. You caught me, stay with me." He turned away from me like I was nothing and told somebody, "See these greaseballs," and that's when I popped him. And I broke his jaw in a couple of places and I was thrown out of that school. It was Shallow Junior High, and I was thrown into what they call a "600" school. This is a school for f*ck ups. So at that point I was a f*ck up and I got thrown out. I first went to McKinley Junior High. I was thrown from Shallow to McKinley from McKinley to the "600" school.
[00:09:29] And from there, the board of education called my mother and father in. I was about 15 and a half. They said, "He's not old enough for you to sign him out. On his 16th birthday, come here and sign him out. And if you don't, we'll put them in reform school." So I stopped going to school when I was 15 and a half.
[00:09:45] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like your parents must have been pretty upset because they were earning an honest living and it must've been like, "What's your problem?" Right?
[00:09:52] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: They were upset. My father never raised his hands to me. My mother would hit me with a broom or a mop or some f*cking thing. I mean, that's how women are, but they were more broken hearted. I saw that. You know, of course, every parent wants to see the best for their kid. I obviously wasn't the best. I was dyslexic as well. It was very, very hard to see numbers and letters look different. So reading and learning was really, really hard. They didn't know what it was back then. So you were just stupid to them.
[00:10:23] So I had trouble a lot in school. I think my biggest problem wasn't parents. It wasn't even the neighborhood. And it was that, being dyslexic. Later on, I hooked up in a gang. And that's another part of the problem, a different mentality altogether, stealing, robbing, stealing cars, hanging out. They didn't want to go to school no more.
[00:10:44] Jordan Harbinger: Was the gang, all Italian kids? Like different gangs were they ethnically based or was it just—?
[00:10:49] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: I think most of them were Italian. I think we had one or two Irish guys who used to hang out with us. We even had a Puerto Rican guy who's still with us. This guy, Jimmy, who was a Puerto Rican, but we didn't have any black guys with us. But the neighborhood was predominantly Italian growing up and Jewish, little bit Irish, not much, and very little blacks. So even the schools were more segregated back then.
[00:11:15] This guy, his name was, I think, I think his name was Sam Wick. This guy used to catch a beat in every day. I stepped to the plate one time and I said, "Sam, why do you keep coming back here, bro? You're in fights every day. You're not winning any of the fights." He was a tough guy, but he kept getting jumped. So one day, I came out with him and the guys asked me, "Now, what are you doing, Sammy?" I said, "Nothing. I'm walking with him." I said, "I don't think what you're doing now is fair. You're hitting him with two, tree guys. Somebody wants to step to the plate with him, go ahead, but if he's jumping, I'm jumping in on his side." And he never got jumped again.
[00:11:52] We wound up as friends until I got kicked out. He was a good guy, but we didn't have any racial stuff or anything like that. There really weren't that many black people in our neighborhood.
[00:12:03] Jordan Harbinger: Do you think that if back in your day, the schools had known how to treat learning disabilities and they didn't just think, "Oh, he's dumb and misbehaved." Do you think that you could have turned out differently, like become a different sort of productive member of society?
[00:12:15] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Without a doubt. There's no question in my mind, I've been in business all my life. I'm not that educated. I've been very successful with business and everything I've done. So I think I've could have, and I did come from good parents. I didn't kill anybody until I was with mafia. So I never did that. I thought of it once when union people came into — you know when I was already in a gang.
[00:12:38] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, tell me about this.
[00:12:39] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Union people came into my mother and father's shop. I was in the back putting plastic over the dresses, getting it ready for shipping the next morning. And these two big Irish guys came in with the union and they were like threatening my father and telling him, "You're a non-union. You got to pay." And there was shaking him down or trying to shake him down. I was tempted to come out, but my father didn't look like he was bothered by it at all. So I didn't do nothing or say nothing. But they had told him when they left, "When we come in tomorrow, you better have an envelope or we're break your f*cking legs and we'll shut you down."
[00:13:16] Now that night I went back to the Rampers. This guy, Gerry Pappa, was the leader of the Rampers. And I told him what happened.
[00:13:23] Jordan Harbinger: This is the gang, yeah, the gang.
[00:13:24] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah. And I want them to get a couple of guys that come in, these were pretty big guys. That we would go to work on them if they came in and did anything. And Gerry Pappa lifted up his shirt and said, "Take this," and he had a gun. He said, "If they hit your father, shoot these motherf*ckers, give me a call. And we're going to get rid of the body."
[00:13:44] Jordan Harbinger: What did you do with bodies back then? Just throw them in the river.
[00:13:46] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Back then, we were just throwing them in the street if we would've done it. But as long as they're not in the factory, but anyway, we were kids. We were stupid. So we do stupid things at that point, all these kids.
[00:13:57] So anyway, I went back, I never killed anybody. I was thinking about it and thinking about it. And I was in the same place when they came back the next day. And I was thinking, sweating, nervous. And I said, "F*ck it." He raises his hands — as soon as they raise their hands, I'm going to come out blazing. They didn't raise their hands. They came in with a card, giving him a card. "Gerry, why didn't you tell us? Your compadre is Zuvito." I knew this guy Zuvito was my father's friend, skinny little old man. And it seemed like they were petrified that my father knew him or he was his compadre.
[00:14:32] Jordan Harbinger: Compadre just means what like—?
[00:14:33] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: They're born and raised in the same area in Sicily. But he, I found out later, was a made guy from Sicily. And I think he got made in the United States as well, because these two are different.
[00:14:45] Jordan Harbinger: Made is like officially inducted into Cosa Nostra.
[00:14:50] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah.
[00:14:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:14:50] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: So when they left, they actually gave him a card. If anybody bothers you, give us a ring. Nobody will bother you no more. And when I came out, I talked to my father. I said, "What was that all about?" And he says, "I told you once these guys that are close with us and guys you see on the corner, they're bad guys. They are bad guys. We know them. I called my compadre, told him the situation. He probably reached out and they'll never bother us. That's what we do. They protect us." So I said, "Well, if that would've happened, I was ready." "What do you mean?" I picked up my shirt and that was the gun. My f*cking father flipped out on me. It was the first time I think he almost hit me. He took the gun away from me. "We don't do this. We're legitimate people. If we have trouble like this from people like that, we go to people like my compadre, Zuvito."
[00:15:47] And that's when I found out later — I got the gun back. He gave me the gun back because it wasn't mine. It was Gerry Pappa's gun, but that really woke me up how a small, skinny little guy had the power over these big, big, physically big guys to just back up like that. And I wondered what kind of power is this. And later, I found out he was a made guy in Italy and a made guy here in the United States. And it caught my interest in the mafia at a very, very young age, but I wasn't all that interested. I went back to the gang, I just hung out and stuff and I didn't want no part in the mafia, but I understood their power now.
[00:16:28] I started understanding that my neighborhood was entrenched with the mafia. Guys on the corner, hanging out like you see in Goodfellas, shooting crap in the street. Police car parked there and a guy leaning in there talking to the cops. The bar was there. They're all dressed up, diamond pinky rings, the whole nine yards. So I started to understand the mafia and the power. And then later on a guy was found in a trunk and then another guy was found in a trunk. It became very normal growing up. Oh my God, that's a mafia hit. That's this, that's that. So I started to become, I understood the mafia. But I had never had anybody in my personal family that was in the mafia.
[00:17:10] My sisters didn't go out with mafia guys. One of my brother-in-laws was a Navy guy. He was in the Navy and she went out with him. He became an engineer. My other brother-in-law later on in life, because that was the one that was five years older than me was Eddie Garafola. He was really a plumber but he knew people in the street, but he wasn't a mafia guy.
[00:17:33] Jordan Harbinger: You got your own diamond pinky ring now. I was saying at dinner, like that's new since I last saw you.
[00:17:38] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah. This is — well, we're making a few bucks now.
[00:17:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:17:41] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: So we get some bling-bling on our fingers.
[00:17:43] Jordan Harbinger: All right. So when you make it, does it just grow proportionately to how much your YouTube channel grows?
[00:17:48] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yup. If I make more money that bling-bling will be a little bit more.
[00:17:52] Jordan Harbinger: Like same setting, but the stone is bigger.
[00:17:54] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah. Maybe some grill with some—
[00:17:56] Jordan Harbinger: You're going to get a grill?
[00:17:57] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Maybe a grill with some diamonds in my mouth. Let's see what happens.
[00:18:00] Jordan Harbinger: I heard those are hard to clean, but look, if you can just take out all your teeth now at age 74 or 76, you could just put them all on the glass at night.
[00:18:07] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: That's right.
[00:18:08] Jordan Harbinger: Do they have those in stock or do they have to dig up someone's grandfather to get you that?
[00:18:12] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: No, no, no. I have a friend who owns a jewelry store. You know, at mafia, we have a friend of a friend—
[00:18:17] Jordan Harbinger: Always.
[00:18:18] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Friend always.
[00:18:19] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:19] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: So I got a friend there. They made this up for me. You know, I picked out what I wanted. I told them what I wanted. They showed me a few designs and I said, "This is nice." And they got the diamond, they made the setting, called me up, and gave it to me.
[00:18:32] Jordan Harbinger: Nice.
[00:18:33] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: It was.
[00:18:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It definitely stands out. I noticed that yesterday at dinner.
[00:18:36] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah, it's a nice little ring.
[00:18:37] Jordan Harbinger: And I know that you got a certain way where you sit, right? We were having drinks yesterday or appetizers and you had one hand down, one hand over the top, so the pinky's on top, right? That's deliberate.
[00:18:45] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah. Yeah. Well, for the waitress. See the way the waitress was looking at that diamond.
[00:18:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. She thought she was getting a bigger tip.
[00:18:52] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah.
[00:18:54] Jordan Harbinger: So how did you end up joining — you saw the power. How did you end up joining?
[00:18:57] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: And then I was going to be, you know, very gracious at dinner because I knew you were picking up the check and I was going to tell you, "Give her a $50 tip." You would have probably—
[00:19:06] Jordan Harbinger: No, no. You know, I love doing that kind of thing actually. I do that a lot. She was good.
[00:19:09] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah, she was cool, right?
[00:19:10] Jordan Harbinger: I gave her a nice big tip. Servers right now are—
[00:19:13] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: They're f*cking ripped off.
[00:19:14] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And they're getting yelled at by idiots every day.
[00:19:17] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: I know. And they got to wear a mask and this and that. And it's crazy. I feel for them too.
[00:19:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, me too. It's not a great job, probably for most people when there isn't a pandemic. So yeah, now it's — if you're in a fortunate place in life, the best thing you can do is tip those people what they're worth.
[00:19:30] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:19:31] Jordan Harbinger: Or more than they're worth because everybody else is screwing them over.
[00:19:33] So how did you end up joining? You saw the power, what shifted from, "You know, that's not for me," to, "You know what, let's give it a try."
[00:19:40] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: In the gang, the Rampers, we were young, again, and we were like, "F*ck the mafia. We know who they were." I knew exactly who they were, where they were. We didn't f*ck with them. They're dangerous. So that's what happens in the neighborhood. So it was like we had our own little gang and click and it was f*cked the mafia. It's us-against-the-world type of attitude. That was our saying.
[00:20:05] And when I hit 19 years old, I got drafted into the army. The Vietnam War was raging on. It was 1964. So I got drafted. I went into the military for two years. Now, if you join the military, it was a three-year hookup. If you got drafted, it was only two years. We trained. I was in the infantry. Then from the infantry, I went into communications, the people behind the lines, getting communications from the guys in the front so that they could shoot these bombs. Ahead of them, they give them information on what's going on. And then my job was to run to the front line, to talk to them. We'll make sure the communications were right. As soon as I make that right, I get the hell out of there and go back to the tent, go back further. So I was in and I was taught to kill there first.
[00:20:53] When I got out, I was 21, I went right back into the Rampers, but most of them had hooked up with the mafia. That bullsh*t, it's just us against the world. Most of them hooked up with somebody, Colombo family, Genovese family, Gambino family. In the neighborhood, you couldn't open up a card game or a club or a disco or anything without paying somebody something. So it was time to hook up. And a friend of mine, Tommy Spero, his uncle, Shorty Spero, was a heavyweight. They were in the first Gallo War. I know who they were. He wants to see me. He made an appointment. I went to see him. And he had a good conversation with me. He was a good guy, ex-fighter, tough guy pose, smashed nose, but he was good.
[00:21:41] He said, "Listen, Sammy, you got a hook up. You're a tough kid. You're in fights. You know, what's going to happen. Someday, you're going to hit the wrong guy. They're going to find you in a trunk. You come with me. You'll be part of a family." It was music to my ears. "I'll never lie to you. I'll never backstab, whatever I ask you to do, I've done. And I will do it with you." And I know exactly what he was talking about, but I liked his pitch and I shook his hand. And I was with them at 23. I was an associate in the Colombo family. So that's when I hooked up at the age of 23.
[00:22:20] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Sammy "The Bull." We'll be right back.
[00:22:25] This episode is sponsored in part by Peloton. It's tempting to wait until the new year to start achieving your fitness goals. I know it's cold. The roads are too hazardous to go out, but Peloton makes working out simple, convenient, and fun. And they make the workout experience so entertaining, you'll actually look forward to working out. Peloton has got a powerhouse roster of instructors. Like Jen's favorite Cody Rigsby, who brings an infectious energy to class and always makes everyone laugh out loud. If you get motivated by being around others that are also breaking a sweat, you never have to work out alone on Peloton. There's a camera. You can video chat while you ride with coworkers, family, friends, sweat with each other. Virtually, you can work out with interest groups like working moms of Peloton or Peloton parents and send high fives on the leaderboard. The community really is something special. They've got going there with Peloton. Peloton also has endless class variety to keep your workouts feeling fresh, cycling, strength, yoga, bar, meditation, and more.
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[00:25:18] And don't forget, we have worksheets for many episodes. If you want some of the drills and exercises talked about during the show, those are all in one easy place. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:25:29] And now back to Sammy "The Bull."
[00:25:32] I know you later had — there was some sort of nonsense conflict that was made up by somebody. That's in your podcast, which we'll link in the show notes. So I won't have you tell that whole story, but you essentially ended up switching to the Gambino family—
[00:25:44] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah.
[00:25:44] Jordan Harbinger: —as a result to kind of keep — was it Spero's son? You were butting heads because he was jealous or something like that.
[00:25:51] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: His brother.
[00:25:51] Jordan Harbinger: His brother, okay.
[00:25:52] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: He was trying to cut. You know, he is like a rising star in the Colombo family. Carmine Persico was using me. So he was trying to cut me down with this bullsh*t story. I became so infuriated with that. I got a gun and I went to his house to kill him.
[00:26:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:26:05] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Now, this is my boss's brother. So this thing blew up. There was a major, major sit down between the Gambino family because I know a lot of them and I was talking with them on different things. I would score stick ups with some of them. So they were sitting down for me. The Colombos recognized that I was right, so they didn't want to kill me for what I did. They said, "You should have never went to the house." "What do you want me to do? Kill him right in front of his wife." I was going to — Suzie came through the doors when I killed him. I didn't give a f*ck who he is.
[00:26:38] Jordan Harbinger: So you really didn't think that through at that time.
[00:26:39] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: No, and I already did a piece of work. I killed someone in the Colombo family for them already. So they knew I wasn't a joke. They knew this was going to happen. They didn't want to kill me because they said I was right. And they made a decision with the Gambino family. Carlo Gambino was talking for me, the bosses and the Colombo family. We can't keep them together. We got to split them up. "What we will do is we'll transfer him over to the Gambino family with this guy, Toddo, who was very powerful captain. I actually knew and grew up with his son, Charlie boy. I never knew his father, Toddo, but I knew of him. I was going to be placed over there with him. This whole thing would go away. I had to give my word, I would never kill him. And I didn't. He was told to stay away from me. And if he ever opened his mouth about me or did anything, they would kill him. So what happened was the decision.
[00:27:33] Jordan Harbinger: That was the end of that then, right?
[00:27:35] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: That was the end of it. And I was now in the Gambino family.
[00:27:38] Jordan Harbinger: This might be an obvious question, but how are the families named? So obviously, it's the founder's name or something like that. But if Paul Castellano was the boss, why is it still called the Gambino family and not the Castellano family? Why do they leave it as the older name? Because I know the family sometimes switched names but I don't know when that happens, versus when it doesn't.
[00:27:58] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Most of the times it doesn't happen because the guy, why would he want to take that kind of heat, Paul Castellano being—
[00:28:04] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, yeah, good point. "Hey police, I'm in charge now."
[00:28:07] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: "Hey, I'm the boss, I'm this—" The whole news media knows it.
[00:28:11] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:28:11] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: The whole world knows it. Even if you get pinched, this is the boss. Everybody knows you're the boss. I mean, why would you want that label? So they just left labels that started earlier.
[00:28:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. You can tell I didn't think that went through. Alright, so that's fine.
[00:28:25] How do the families differ then in sort of culture and types of crimes? Because I think you had mentioned in one interview that some families do way more violent stuff than others and others are more racketeering than others.
[00:28:36] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Well, I'll give you an example. The Colombo family, for instance, I was in there. Everything was, beat this guy up, shoot this guy, break his legs, do this, do that. And in the second part of the war with the Gallo, I was with them. I wasn't with them when the first part, everybody went to jail, it stopped. When they came back out, it started again and Shorty had told me, "Go home and get your clothes. We're going to hit the mattress." So I was in the second part of that war. So I was already hitting the mattresses and Shorty and them explained to me, because I had a girlfriend. "You're done with that. You're done with people owed you money. You're done with that. You're going to just live with us every single minute of every day. Eat, sleep, and ship with us." And I didn't even hardly understand that why. He said, "They're a pack of wolves. And then watching us. When somebody strays, they're going to kill him. They're going to be there to kill. And we're a pack of wolves doing the same thing against them. So the only way you could survive is you got to stay with us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you have a job, quit." I didn't have a job, obviously, but you're done with everything. "You're going to live with us all the time. Forget the girls. Forget everything." And I did. So it was a different lifestyle.
[00:29:52] When I got with the Gambino family, it was totally different. It was more into unions, open up businesses, scam shakes, all kinds of different things, opening up businesses, bakeries, different things. So it was a whole different mindset. Not that they couldn't kill you or wouldn't kill you, they could, but violence to them, set second. It's only as a last resort to kill. Sort of mentality was totally different.
[00:30:21] Jordan Harbinger: Cosa Nostra means our thing. Right?
[00:30:23] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yes.
[00:30:23] Jordan Harbinger: So what does that really mean? Is it just kind of like, that's the low key name for, "This is our private business"?
[00:30:30] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: No, our thing is Cosa Nostra, it is "Our Thing." it's our thing. It's not a gang. It's not a different organization. It's our thing. The Cosa Nostra is our thing. It's the code we live by, the rules we live by, it's our thing. It doesn't pertain to the rest of the world.
[00:30:51] Jordan Harbinger: So what does it mean to be then made? How does that happen? A lot of people know the term, but not necessarily what that entails. You know, a lot of people don't understand that there's sort of different rungs on the ladder.
[00:31:01] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: When you're an associate, you don't join to get made. You don't ask to be made. Someone like in my case titled after years of being with them and all kinds of different situations, he proposes me to become a made member. Now, he's a captain. He brings us right up to the bosses. The books will close from 1955 to 1975.
[00:31:25] Jordan Harbinger: That means no more made guys.
[00:31:27] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Nobody got made.
[00:31:28] Jordan Harbinger: Why did they lock it down?
[00:31:29] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Oh, there were stories of people paid to get somebody made. They didn't really belong. They made mistakes. You have to earn what you are. And somebody has got to have that kind of an interest in you. And if you make somebody and you're making a major mistake, you can die for that. So they make sure that they know you, what you did, where you grew up, who your mother father was, how you think, how you were when you got arrested, did you kill, didn't you kill for what reasons? All of these things. They take everything into consideration.
[00:32:01] So it opened up in 1975. I was still an associate. I never even dreamt — I mean, I dreamt, I would have loved to get made because a lot of these people were my idols, but I never thought it was possible for me to get made. I didn't have family members. I had nothing. So Toddo proposed me in 1976. I finally went in and got made. One day, he says, "Get dressed, suit, shirt, tie. We got to go to a meeting. No questions. We're going to go." And I went, his son was coming too. Me and his son got made the same day. We went to this house. Eventually, there was 10 of us. Each guy went down one at a time. When he went down, he obviously got made. I was the last guy out of the ten to go down and I went down.
[00:32:50] It was a little strange at first.
[00:32:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:32:51] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: A guy went down and he never came back. I joked with Charlie, but I kind of knew what was going on at that point. I didn't know when I first went there that day, but I started understanding. So I told Charlie, I said, "Bro, nobody comes back. Who goes downstairs? Nobody comes back." He said, "Oh no, we'll be all right." His father must have told him what was going on. He didn't tell me. But anyway, I went down, there was Paul Castellano standing there. I went in, I stood by him and I took the oath.
[00:33:22] Jordan Harbinger: Paul Castellano is the boss.
[00:33:24] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: He is the boss.
[00:33:25] Jordan Harbinger: You took the oath of Cosa Nostra. So what is that? In short, what is it?
[00:33:29] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Long story short, they give you their saint. They take blood from you, put the blood on the saint. They put it in your hands, in between the hands, and they put it on fire. So you don't burn your hand much. You juggle it back and forth as it's burning and they talk to you and you repeat after them. And you take this oath of Cosa Nostra.
[00:33:50] At the end of that ceremony, you're a made guy in the mafia. You go around the table and you'll meet everybody. In there, they're either a made guy or a captain or the boss, the underboss, the consigliere, and then all the captains. And the guys who went down before me was sitting at that table. They were now made members. So I was made. They did a small little celebration and then me, Toddo, and Charlie boy went back to Toddo's club, where there was other guys who were previously made and they were waiting for us. They knew what was going on.
[00:34:24] Jordan Harbinger: What are the rules then? Like there's ways you introduce each other and stuff like that, right?
[00:34:28] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yes. You can't introduce yourself. You can't acknowledge you. You can't say I'm the made guy. You can't introduce yourself. Even if I knew you were a made guy, there's somebody who has to be a made guy who's introduced properly to you. That guy is necessary for him to introduce you to me. Then we can accept and only then could we accept that we're both made guys. This guy, if he ever made a mistake and introduce somebody and it was wrong, he'll die for that. So they're very tight about doing that. So you can't break that circle and more or less you might've known he's a made guy or he's a captain and he's making that introduction. So he's already met you as a friend. He already knows me as a friend. Now, he's introducing us as made guys, as a friend of ours. Now, we know each other. We may know hundreds of guys who are may guys, but we can't acknowledge that until there's that third person who introduces us as a made guy.
[00:35:34] Jordan Harbinger: And that's to avoid me accidentally telling somebody who's not made some sort of — you don't want any disclosure. You don't want any outsiders.
[00:35:41] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: No, no, it's a secret society and a brotherhood. You don't want to break that code and you can't break that code. I'll give you an example. I was in the Westchester Premier Theater, and a made guy who was introduced, who came over to me and said, "There's a guy here, Jimmy the Weasel." He's a boss now in California. I was in the Westchester Premier Theater with my wife. He says, "He wants me to introduce guys who were friends to him," and I said, "I wasn't by myself. I'm with my wife. Not now. I don't want to meet him." And he went and told this guy.
[00:36:14] And the guy came back to me. I was sitting with my wife. And he was really rough with his language, talking to me, "Who the f*ck you think you are?" I say, "Listen, bro, I'm with my wife. You don't want to talk to me." My wife says, "Sammy, what's going on?" "Nothing, go by the bar and get a drink." And I said, "Listen, don't talk to me like that in front of my wife. You know who I am? I don't give a f*ck who you are." I never met him as a friend. So I don't owe him no respect whatsoever. And he talked to me a little bit, "I'm a boss." "I don't give a f*ck what you are. If you don't get the f*ck away from me. You keep talking like this, I'm going to knock your f*cking teeth down your throat." And he walked away, super mad.
[00:36:50] The next day I'm called into Paul Castellano. Toddo tells me that he wants to meet you. "What'd you do?" I said, "Nothing. I had an argument last night with this guy, Jimmy the Weasel." He took me to Paul Castellano and Paul asked me. He says, "You talk to him like that?" "Yeah. Paul, I thought this is the code. I never met him. Somebody says he's a boss. I never met him as a friend. He's telling me he's a boss. He's telling me that I'm a made guy. And I'm not supposed to respect that and I didn't. And he was a little boisterous and, yeah, I told him I will knock his f*cking face." Paul said, "You did right. F*ck this guy. He knows the procedure and he's breaking the procedure."
[00:37:30] A couple of weeks or a month or two or whatever it was, later, he said, "He's not the f*cking boss. Number one, he bullsh*tted people. He was made, but he wasn't a boss. And he was actually a confidential informant."
[00:37:43] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:37:45] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: I heard that later on. And Paul, second time, told me, "That day you did that, I wish you would hit him," but you know, that's when they caught him back, but you can't break into this. There's a guy, somebody tells me, he's a boss. He can't tell me he's a boss. He can't tell me sh*t until somebody comes over and says, "Sammy, he's on megan nostra. He's a friend of ours. He's Jimmy the Weasel. He's a friend of ours. He's the representative or the boss of whatever f*cking family he comes from." And he was from California. So I don't give a f*ck who he was really. I didn't want to meet him. I just want to — I was with my wife. I just want them to have dinner.
[00:38:20] Jordan Harbinger: What movie were you watching?
[00:38:21] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: No, it was a show where they had entertainers come and sing on stage and stuff like that.
[00:38:26] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, okay. I wondered if you remembered. That's interesting. So that keeps everything confidential and keeps everything buttoned up.
[00:38:32] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Right.
[00:38:33] Jordan Harbinger: So what are the ranks in the mafia? So I know you at the top where the underboss, there's the boss above, below that is what? Made, captain?
[00:38:40] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: A boss, an underboss who's usually his right-hand man and his muscle. There's a consigliere. Consigliere is third-in-command. He's like a lawyer. He knows Cosa Nostra good. He could sit with the families to argue situations. He could even represent somebody in the family. That's having a disagreement with the boss. If you're a lower level, the worst thing you could have is a disagreement with the boss. So he'll talk with the boss and maybe try to reason for him. He didn't mean what he said or this or that is. He's like a peacemaker.
[00:39:12] Jordan Harbinger: So really he's like a lawyer.
[00:39:13] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: He's like a lawyer, more or less. He's a counselor or consigliere. Below that, there's captains, caporegimes or captains. And each one of those captains has made guys, under hand or crew of made guys and some associates.
[00:39:27] So I got made in 76. The following year, for Christmas, Toddo took us all to a restaurant. We were in the back room. He excused everybody who wasn't a friend of ours. They were associates, good guys, but they can't be in that kind of a conversation. And he said, "I never had an acting captain and acting caporegimes." He said, "This year, I think it's time for me to put somebody as an acting captain." And it was a table, maybe about eight, nine of us in that room. I just got made a year ago. There was guys, older guys there who'd been made. God knows how many years they've been made. So he picked up the glass and everybody picked up the glass and he says, "As of today, Sammy, Sammy "The Bull" is my acting caporegimes. Anytime you have anything and I'm not around, you can come to him first and then come to me. I may be in the hospital. I may be in prison. No matter where I am, or I may be out of town, you could talk to Sammy, like you talk to me. Tell him what your situation is, and he'll bring it to me. Or make the appointment for you to come." So I was totally shocked.
[00:40:37] Jordan Harbinger: So you didn't see that coming. You didn't know what's happening.
[00:40:38] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: No no, absolutely. I'm only made a year and I'm still a pup. I'm still young. I was 31 when I got made. Now I'm 32 years old. These guys are in their 50s, 60s, some of them 70. I never saw that coming in a million years. His son is there.
[00:40:52] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:40:52] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: So he may mean the acting caporegimes, which was a tremendous honor to me that night. It was more of an honor later on. A couple of years went by, maybe not a couple of years, maybe a year and a half, two years, the most, one of the guys in the crew came and said, "Sammy, I know why Toddo made this decision now. And he made the right decision. You are the right man for this job." And through that time, as before I knew him, he would tell me a lot of times, he wouldn't want me in the back for different reasons. When there was a meeting of some sort, he would tell me, "Just sit in and don't open your mouth." Once or twice, I asked him, "Why do you want me in there? Is there a problem?" "No," he says, "I got a feeling that someday you're going to be sitting in my chair and I want you to learn the life," which was a big compliment.
[00:41:40] Now, he was doing that all the time with me. Whenever that was a problem, it's always, "Sammy, how was the acting? Sammy, drive me to Paul's house. Drive me to this meeting." One time, he was on the lam. He was in Florida. He made his sons get a good phone where we know it's not bugged. And he got me on the phone and he told me, he says, "Do me a big favor. There's a couple of things I want to ask you, not on the phone. My sons are going to give you an airline ticket. Get on the plane." Tommy Bilotti was with him. He said, "Tommy, we'll pick you up at the airport and I want to see you. Just for a day or two." And I did, I did that.
[00:42:18] I mean, I was up and coming and going more and more. I was into businesses now, unions and stuff like that. I was just going up. My name and reputation. Everybody thinks it's because I was efficient as a hitman, which I was, but I was efficient in business, with unions and businesses. I mean, history shows I had five or six construction companies going. I was one in three or four different unions and it showed that I became extremely powerful and a lot of people think I became extremely powerful because I threatened people. It wasn't that way at all. It was just the opposite.
[00:42:54] I was fair, honest, open. I always try to keep that in mind. Like Shorty said I'm not a backstabber and I treated people the right way. So people enjoyed sitting down with me at a sit down. Now, "I'm going to go with Sammy. That's great. He'll work out a good deal for us with these guys and other families." So my reputation that way was actually bringing me more strength, more notoriety than the killing part when I did cooperate.
[00:43:24] To give you an example, my reputation in business and unions and stuff like that was much more explosive than the violent part of me. So when I cooperated with the government, they said in the conversations, "How many murders are you involved in, you involved in the Castellano?" "Yeah, a couple." "What's a couple?" I say, "I really don't keep count. I don't do that." "How about approximately?" "18, 19, 20." They will f*cking dumbfounded. So the government—
[00:43:57] Jordan Harbinger: They thought it would be more, they thought it would be—?
[00:43:59] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Less. They had no f*cking idea. I was — so people think now they know the number.
[00:44:05] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, okay. Before they think, "Oh, he's diplomatic."
[00:44:08] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: He's diplomatic. He's doing this, he's running unions. He's important and he's involved in the Castellano and a few other hits, probably, but they never knew I did that kind of work. They really weren't that afraid of me that way. Of course, they knew I was a tough guy and I must have been involved in a couple of murders, but to give you an example, even when I cooperated, I talk with the government, "All right, Sammy, we know you were involved in the Castellano hits, and probably a few others. How many hits are you involved in?" I said, "You know, I'm involved in the Castellano hits and I'm involved in a few others." I said, "Listen, I don't keep count. I don't know." "Give us an approximate."
[00:44:47] Jordan Harbinger: Did you really not keep counting? Or you just weren't going to volunteer that information?
[00:44:50] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: No, no, no, no. I really didn't keep count. It's not something I liked doing. I noticed maybe it's going to sound like bullsh*t to people, but it's not something I like. And I'll tell you why in a little bit. But anyway, I said, "Approximately 18, 19, 20, I don't know." They were dumbfounded. So the government never realized how much of a hit guy I was. They were after me, more for the unions and businesses and stuff like that. And they figured behind John, he was involved in a couple of hits, but he was the power behind the throne. They really got excited about me in that way. They didn't know I was involved in that many murders.
[00:45:29] And like I'm saying, the whole neighborhood didn't know that they knew why I was capable, but I got a bigger reputation on my legitimate end. Of course, now people say, "Yeah, it must have been easy. He's involved in 19 murders. So everybody was afraid of him." They didn't know. I didn't walk around and tell nobody I didn't brag. I didn't do sh*t like that. That wasn't really — my rising star was business, unions, dealings, and how I dealt with people.
[00:45:59] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Sammy "The Bull." We'll be right back.
[00:46:04] This episode is sponsored in part by apartments.com. Apartments.com knows that we've been doing everything from home lately, working from home, exercising from home, schooling from home, breakfast, lunch, and dinner-ring from home, listening to this podcast from home, wishing we were anywhere else on the planet-ing from home. But with all of that extra time we've had inside our homes, we've gained a new found appreciation for making sure our place is the right place for us. That's where apartments.com comes in. Apartments.com has the most rental listings across apartments, houses, townhomes and condos, as well as powerful search tools. So it's easy to find that special somewhere that offers exactly what you need. You can now explore your potential new place from anywhere that includes such exotic locales as your boudoir, walk-in pantry, your al fresco dining area. Even your guest powder room if you're feeling adventurous. Just about anywhere with an Internet connection. So let your fingers enjoy a stroll across the nearest keyboard and visit apartments.com to start your rental search today. Apartments.com, the most popular place to find a place.
[00:48:03] This episode is also sponsored in part by Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich breaks from the single malt scotch whisky norm, and helps redefine what it means to be rich. It's easy to get bogged down in material success when the currency of the new rich is getting more time and enjoyment out of what we've already got. And I believe in being rich and experiences rather than in material things, I think, you know, especially the more that I earn now that I'm older, the more I realize that experiences are where it's at. When I think back to the most memorable times in my life, it always comes down to time I've spent with loved ones and friends and these are the things that cannot be bought with money. That's one of the reasons why I worked so hard to make the most of my time off, spending it with family or doing something wild with friends, like a recent trip to the Peruvian Rainforest, which was absolutely incredible. Now, despite the common belief at the time that it would never work, Glenfiddich was actually the first company in 1963 to export single malt scotch whisky and brand it as such outside of Scotland, effectively creating the global category. It's no wonder Glenfiddich is the number one selling single malt scotch in the world.
[00:49:02] Jen Harbinger: Skillfully crafted, enjoy responsibly. Glenfiddich 2021 imported by William Grant and Sons Inc. New York, New York.
[00:49:09] Jordan Harbinger: And now for the rest of part one with Sammy "The Bull".
[00:49:14] Yeah, how do people get paid in Cosa Nostra? There's no payroll, obviously. You're not getting a check from Paul Castellano or John Gotti, right? So revenue generation is, you said, robbing and rackets. How does the union construction racket work? You told us about this at dinner, like last year or two years ago, how the scheme worked to generate money.
[00:49:32] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: When you are controlling the unions, you're controlling big construction jobs, 50, 60, 70 million-dollar high rise jobs and stuff like that. So, you know, having a lot of power. So they didn't know that, that I'm controlling that kind of power. I could shut a job down in a blink of an eye. I could cause a strike to happen. It's a lot of power. When they're building a high rise, they got this fence going around the entire project, the guy who stands at the fence that's open and allows the trucks to go in and out is a teamster foreman. I control the teamsters in the construction industry. So I could tell a teamster foreman — your teamster foreman, and I'm going to tell you, you know, what you do? When the truck comes in — this is legal — ask for his license, check his lights, his brake lights, this that, makes sure you sit with that guy for 20 minutes to a half hour, calling up, checking if his union dues are up-to-date, do everything three hours goes by there's 50, 60 trucks lined up, can't get in.
[00:50:37] Jordan Harbinger: Because they're supposed to go and drop off the dirt or the pipes or the whatever—
[00:50:41] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Concrete, all this stuff.
[00:50:43] Jordan Harbinger: Like every 15 minutes, whatever.
[00:50:45] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: 10, five minutes, they got to be going in and out, in and out, in and out. They need that flow. So in two hours, whoever the major — I'll use Trump as an example, Trump is now calling Bobby Sasso. "Who's the head of the union? You're killing me. What are you doing? There's a guy down here. You can't get through to the thing." "Oh no, no, he's doing his job. You know, what do you want me to do? Well, I'll talk to him and I'll try and straighten this out. By the way, the little guy—" He used to call me the little guy. I'm the little, "The little guy was a little confused. He bid the drywall job, a seven-million-dollar job. He didn't get it." "Oh, listen, listen, I got another project coming up. Let him come up and pick up the blueprints." That's sheer power. I'm getting that next job. He's never going to go through that again.
[00:51:38] When he answers like that, Bobby Sasso says, "Sammy, here's the next job. He wants you to pick the blueprints up." So I go back to you. You're a young thug making 65,000. It's half a no-show job. Just let the trucks go. Have your coffee joke with people, go home early, come in a little late. Don't worry about it. Just keep the f*cking thing open. So now I tell you, "Listen, stop breaking balls with the trucks, go back to drinking coffee, do X, Y, Z. It's back to normal. So I make his life come back to normal.
[00:52:10] Jordan Harbinger: You control the bottleneck of the whole construction site. You've got—
[00:52:14] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Right.
[00:52:14] Jordan Harbinger: They're losing 50 grand or 100 grand a day or whatever it is.
[00:52:18] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Maybe more than that.
[00:52:19] Jordan Harbinger: Literally like time is money in this case and you can make time slow down to a crawl.
[00:52:23] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Snail's pace. And I could actually, if I create a union strike a problem, something blows up and all of a sudden, people are there with pickets, and there's a legitimate problem. All the unions, plumbers, carpenters, everybody don't pass that picket line.
[00:52:40] Jordan Harbinger: So nothing gets done.
[00:52:41] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Nothing gets done. Everybody's f*cking complaining. And this little guy from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn is making that up or not happening. So that's sheer power. So now I'm doing my drywall work. Sometimes, it's union and sometimes it's not union. Nobody's going to f*ck with me. You got container company. "Bro, I'll go partners with you with container. And we can get some good work. I got connections to buy good containers. This happened. How much do you make a year, profit?" "About a hundred thousand a year." "Okay, from this point on, put the hundred thousands here on the site. Anything you make above that hundred thousand, give me 25 percent." "Okay."
[00:53:30] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good deal.
[00:53:32] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: So at the end of the year, I come back to you. "How did we do?" "I made 400,000 this year." "Well, that's hundreds on this site. So on the 300,000, 25 percent of 75,000, you got to give me." Boom, he gives it to you in two seconds.
[00:53:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:46] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: He picked up two and a quarter more than he normally does. So when the agents asked me at one conversation, "What did you say and do to get all these people to do things? You threatened them out." I said, "I never threatened them." And then they said, "How come they never ratted on you? They're afraid of you." I said, "No. Why would they rat on me? Everybody around me made money. What is he going to come and tell you? 'I'm so mad at Sammy. I made 225,000 more than I would have normally made.'"
[00:54:13] Jordan Harbinger: "I'm retiring 10 years early. I'm so mad"
[00:54:15] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Yeah, I'm so f*cking mad.
[00:54:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:54:16] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: And now he doesn't threaten me. I get tickets when I'm going on vacation with my wife. The teamster foremans, every time there's a move, I throw them a bone. So you're making 60, you're a street thug, you're making 65,000 a year as a teamster foreman, keep your nose clean and listen to what we tell you. And he's happy as a pig and sh*t. Every once in a while we make a scorecard. Contract after a while, they'll say, "Sammy, give me a good teamster foreman." Yeah, okay. That's a hundred thousand. You could text someone onto my contract, and I'll get the money and I pay Bobby Sasso and they come down to you. Little street thugs make things happening.
[00:54:58] I tell him, "Hey bro, this sh*t go on vacation for you and your wife. Put this 5,000 in your pocket and enjoy. You, your wife, and your kids go on vacation. They love me." Making 65,000, here's another $5,000 bonus. That don't happen once. That happens multiple times. I'm fair, honest with everything. There is nobody rating. There is nobody complaining. There's an army of people who want to be around me and that's business. When you're honest, open, sincere, and good with people, nothing's going to go wrong for you. It's when you're a piece of sh*t, go in and threatening people, "Give me the job, I'll kill you," you're going to get in trouble. So I told the government, "That's why they never ratted on me. Why should they? Maybe he had an argument with his wife when he was on vacation that I paid for. What the f*ck is the guy — why would he tell you anything?"
[00:55:48] Jordan Harbinger: So it's the carrot, not the stick.
[00:55:51] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: It's the carrot, not the stick. I mean, they always knew that I was capable. I had the stick in my back pocket. They knew that, but that wasn't the motivation for people to be around me.
[00:56:02] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:56:02] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: I believe you can threaten people once or twice. They can't wait to get the f*ck away from you if you betrayed people. Nobody wants to do business with you if you're a liar, a fake, a phony. Who the f*ck wants to be with you? I know I don't want to be with people like that. So I'm sure if I was like that, they don't want to be close to me. I understand that. I understand business and I understand human nature.
[00:56:25] Jordan Harbinger: How much do mobsters make each year if they're doing it right? I know it's, of course, different for everybody, but like, what's a good take for somebody who knows what they're doing?
[00:56:33] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: There's all different kinds of things that they do for this. There's different numbers. There's no such thing as one thing. If you're the boss of the family, you're getting it from so many different people. Every captain is kicking up. So he kicks up. At one point in our family, the Gambino family, they had 21 captains. Now who's bringing in 5,000? Who's bringing them 50,000? I have no idea, but the numbers are enormous. So the higher you're up on the ladder, because everything in the mob goes up. An associate gives that made guy a piece of something. If he's got 10 associates, 10 guys are giving him. He's given a piece of that whole pie to the captain. The captain is getting it for 5, 6, 8 wise guys, and maybe some associates. A piece of that is going up to the administration, the boss, underboss, consigliere, but it's to the boss. It's up to the boss what he wants to give to the underboss or consigliere. It doesn't have to be a split. It doesn't have to be what — it's whatever he wants, but none of them are broke because all of them had this tremendous life. So when they get up that high, they were all pretty wealthy.
[00:57:44] Jordan Harbinger: What do you think the boss was making at any given point or would you share how much you've made in a good year?
[00:57:50] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Or the last year before I got pinched, I go home once a week, I would do all my books who owed me money. I had a million and a half in the street, shylock money. I would—
[00:58:01] Jordan Harbinger: Like loans out to other people.
[00:58:02] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Loans and stuff. So what I did is every week I would take how much I had in cash. And I would say, okay, this much is going, went to these people. I paid them this much. I did for party and this bunch I did with this. Now, what was I left with? I was left with approximately $45,000 in cash a week, almost on a steady diet. So I can honestly say I was making about 45,000 a week in cash on a steady diet. And my legitimate businesses, the last year when I filed, I filed 750,000 was my legitimate earnings. And so if you take all those numbers and put them together, I was making a lot of money.
[00:58:48] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So it was millions of dollars a year. And this is, is this 1980s money?
[00:58:52] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: I got pinched in 90. So this is in the '80s, upper '80s, '90s because I wasn't doing that. But upper '80s 90, I went away December 90 and that was my last tax thing I paid.
[00:59:06] Jordan Harbinger: Caleb, can you do inflation adjusted income for, let's say $200,000 a month in tax-free and then 750 on top of it for let's say it's 1985?
[00:59:19] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: Now, if you could do that, I'm going to hire you right now. I'm going to need you in my office.
[00:59:24] Jordan Harbinger: There's an inflation calculator — yeah, per month, times 12. So 2.4 million plus — I think that's six million. Yeah, I think it's six million bucks.
[00:59:36] Sammy "The Bull" Gravano: In our time?
[00:59:38] Jordan Harbinger: That's six million bucks. So that's a lot of money, especially since a lot of it's not taxed. Right? You're not going to the IRS, "By the way, I'm making 200 grand from shylock money."
[00:59:50] If you're looking for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to sink your teeth into here's a preview with a former undercover FBI agent who infiltrated the Gambino crime family in New York for nearly three years, resulting in the arrest and conviction of 35 mobsters and get this, he's not even Italian. Here's a bite.
[01:00:09] Jack Garcia: Jordan, I've done everything. I mean, I have posed as a money launderer, I've worked as a drug dealer. I have worked as a transporter for drug deals. I worked as a warehouse guy, the whole gamut. My career of 24 out of 26 years was solely dedicated to working undercover. If I wasn't working for the FBI, I would have been investigated by the FBI.
[01:00:31] Jordan Harbinger: Exactly. Yeah.
[01:00:32] Jack Garcia: I walk in, I'm in the bar and there's a barmaid there, good looking young lady. She's serving me. "What would you like?" Usually, my drink was, "Give me a Ketel One Martini with three olives, a glass of water on the side." I finished the drink, the guys came in, I'm going to go. Go in my pocket, take out the big wad of money, that knot with the rubber band on it. Bam, I give her a hundred dollars. You're not a guy who takes out a little leather wallet and he's going to change or he's doing that.
[01:01:02] Can you imagine four gangsters sitting around going, "Let's split it up. I had the soup, you had the sandwich and French fries." "Well, what about the tip?" Sometimes we get into a bidding war. A guy goes, "Hey, your money's no good here." "What are you doing? You're embarrassing me over here." "What do you mean you paid a lot?" "Let me get this. Forget about it." "You pay for it."
[01:01:19] If I would've gone in there and become a guy who had never a penny, never went into his wallet, never picked up a tab, never had a dime, never kicked up money, never given tribute payments, I'd be on my ass. They threw me out. If you're with the mob, I say, "Hey Jordan, you're on record with us." That means we protect you. Nobody could shake it down. We can shake you down but you're on record with us.
[01:01:43] Jordan Harbinger: For more including tricks wise guys used to know who's legit and who's not, mob culture, and the rules that govern the always upward flow of money and how Jack became so trusted by the highest levels of the organization that they offered him the chance to become a made man, check out episode 392 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Jack Garcia.
[01:02:06] That's it for part one. Part two, coming up in a few days. Thanks to Sammy for being on the show. We'll have links to all his stuff on the website in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links if you buy books from the guest, in any country, any sort of book, audiobooks included. That does help support the show. Worksheets for the episodes are in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes, and there's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn. I love connecting with you there.
[01:02:35] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use every single day. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. There's no catch. No nonsense.. jordanharbinger.com/course is where you can find it. I'm teaching you how to dig the well before you get thirsty. And most of the guests on the show, not Sammy "The Bull", I will admit he is not in the networking course, but many/most of the guests on the show do subscribe and contribute to that course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:03:04] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in the mafia and old mobsters or not so old mobsters, definitely share this episode with them. I hope you find something great in every episode of this show. Please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show — maybe not like the murdering people thing though — so you can live what you listen and we'll see you next time.
[01:03:44] This episode is sponsored in part by Chinet. Chinet is a people-focused brand, disguised as a premium disposable tableware brand. Chinet prides themselves on being part of authentic human connections and playing an important role and togetherness. They've been a part of American culture for over 90 years, providing durable plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, and table covers. Chinet is the go-to brand for cookouts, holidays, birthdays, game nights, baby showers, and more. Chinet brand believes that not only should everyone have a place around the table, but that everyone should be welcomed with open arms and a full cup. Chinet Classic, Chinet Crystal, and Chinet Comfort products are all made in the USA with at least 80 percent recycled materials. Chinet brands products can handle anything from the sauciest ribs to the most generous slices of cake. Made to be microwave safe and leftovers' best friend, easy cleanup, environmentally conscious. Great for the upcoming holiday gatherings and perfect for all of life's get-togethers. Visit mychinet.com to find out more.
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