Sammy ‘The Bull’ Gravano reflects on Mafia, legendary hit and what’s changed in new podcast

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They were the shots heard around the underworld.

It has been 35 years this week since the most brazen mob hit, rivaling the Valentine’s Day Massacre, and the most daring since the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, took place on a New York City sidewalk.

On Dec. 16, 1985, the sharp sound of gunfire pierced the evening rush hour on a Midtown Manhattan street, and the Boss of Bosses, Gambino crime family head Paul Castellano, and his driver, Tommy Bilotti, fell to the ground. The two were ambushed, shot dead in front of Sparks Steakhouse on East 46th Street.

“There were many reasons that Castellano was shot,” Sammy “The Bull” Gravano told Fox News. “He broke a lot of rules himself, he did a lot of things. He had a captain in the Gambino family. He gave the Genovese family, ‘Chin’ Gigante (Genovese family boss Vincent “The Chin” Gigante) permission to kill him. Killing somebody, especially a made guy or a captain outside the family, was definitely a no-no to all of us. That was horrible.”

“There were many reasons that Castellano was shot. He broke a lot of rules himself, he did a lot of things.”

— Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

Castellano, who also fancied himself a respectable businessman, was killed by John Gotti with Gravano’s assistance so Gotti could ascend to the top of the family, and rule the Mafia Commission, composed of the five Mafia families in New York.

Gotti and Gravano parked on the corner, notified the shooting team by walkie-talkie that Castellano’s car was near the restaurant, and afterward slowly drove by the bodies. Castellano had decreed that dealing drugs would be punished by death, and Gravano said that was the major impetus for the rub-out; Gotti crew member Angelo Ruggiero was caught on tape talking about heroin deals.

“When you put the whole package together, we thought it was time to let John (Gotti) and Angelo (Ruggiero) live, take Paul out, take La Cosa Nostra back to what it was supposed to be — and that resulted in the killing of Paul Castellano and Tommy Bilotti,” Gravano said. 


Gravano rose to the top of American organized crime, becoming the underboss of the Gambino crime family, the No. 2 to John Gotti. He later flipped and testified in a deal with the government in a case that put Gotti away for life.

Gravano admitted to 19 mob murders, went on to write a best-selling book with author Peter Mass, “Underboss,” and after serving five years in federal prison was released to the Federal Witness Protection Program. Later, Gravano was arrested in a 2000 Arizona drug case and then freed from prison in September 2017.

The podcast

I covered Gotti and Gravano in the 1980s and ’90s as a local television reporter and sat down with him in 1999 in Phoenix, where he lived. He was in exile from the streets of New York City that he clearly missed.

But the memories of his days in the Mafia now continue with his latest endeavor: The underboss has started a podcast.

“I thought it was time for me to do a podcast to tell my life’s story, in detail, the good, the bad, the ugly. Whatever I did,” he said.

Now at age 75, his focus is not on the Gambino crime family, but his own family.

“I’ve been bad-mouthed, there have been so many lies told about me, for so many years I kept my mouth shut and I absorbed it, I took it,” he explains. “My kids could live with something that was the truth. My grandchildren, my great grandchildren after I am gone, this is my legacy, to tell the truth. This is my life story. I wanted people to understand the Mafia.” 

“This is my life story. I wanted people to understand the Mafia.” 

— Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

Gravano’s podcast, “Our Thing,” is available at He also has a YouTube channel, “The Bull,” that has nearly 100,000 subscribers.

The first podcast episode starts with the 1990 federal raid on Gotti’s Manhattan headquarters in Little Italy, the Ravenite Social Club. It includes interviews with FBI lawmen who helped put Gravano away and his daughter Karen’s shocking reaction when he told her he decided to cooperate with the feds.

He said killing Castellano, and the rise of John Gotti in such a public manner, actually boomeranged on organized crime.

“It hurt the Mafia in a lot of ways,” he said. “Today it’s so different that it’s incredible.”

In the ensuing decades, American organized crime has given way to other dark forces. Mexican and South American drug cartels, Russian and Eastern European mobsters, MS-13 street gangs and others have supplanted the traditional Italian operations in some areas.


“(The feds) have a lot of people who cooperate. They are CI’s, confidential informants,” Gravano observes.

‘The times moved ahead’

“The whole morale, the whole thing died down. As far as cooperating, a couple of people including myself have a reputation for that, but hundreds of guys cooperated now. They are all over the place. So many people cooperated, that it is ridiculous.”

He also notes that American society has unraveled and the tight-knit city neighborhoods that helped support the Mafia are a thing of the past.

“The times moved ahead and changed. It changed everything. When you look at the country today, when I look at the country today, society, families like I grew up with, it’s different. Kids go to college, they leave their homes, they are gone, they are gone forever.”

“When I was a kid, somebody owned the house, you’re grandmother and grandfather. When they died, your mother and father took over, when they died, you took over. You were in these neighborhoods forever. You have generations of families and friends and people we knew and it was different times.”

The Ravenite Social Club, where Gotti and Gravano used to meet with their crews was packed weekly with made men and associates playing cards, smoking cigars and eating the best of the neighborhood’s food.


It is no more. The storefront has since become a trendy shop, and, as an indication of the change of times, apartments in the former tenement rent for as much as $7,500 a month. But the original tile floor dating back to when the building was built in 1900 remains, a nod to its history.


“Everything changes, all the time,” Gravano said. “Whether it is families, politics — change is a constant.”

Follow Eric Shawn on Twitter, @EricShawnTV. And watch “Riddle: The Search For James. R. Hoffa” exclusively on our streaming service, Fox Nation. Three episodes about the Hoffa hunt are currently available on Fox Nation, with a new one coming early 2021. Gravano’s podcast:

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