October 2003 | Volume 54, Issue 5
Overrated John Gotti. A loudmouth truck hijacker in a thousand-dollar suit. He lacked brains, leadership, imagination, and couth. His blow-dried coif and monogrammed socks never added up to class. The press loved his swagger; the feds loved the hours of incriminating conversations he stupidly provided from his bugged headquarters. He undermined his criminal “family” and dragged his own sons into the rackets. Guys like Gotti give the mob a bad name.
Underrated Old Bill Miner. During a long criminal career beginning soon after the Civil War, Bill Miner lived all the clichés that Hollywood would later transform into our outlaw dreams. Born in Michigan in 1846, he robbed stagecoaches, held up trains, fought horseback gun battles, cavorted with dance-hall girls, and got away with sacks of gold dust. He served hard time in some tough jails but never abandoned his criminal vocation. Those he robbed reported him soft-spoken and courteous. Once popular, he’s now overshadowed by hoodlums like Jesse James. Miner robbed his last train in 1911. At the age of 65, Old Bill was filing off his chains for one last prison break. He liked kids and according to legend coined the phrase used by generations of six-year-old desperadoes: “Hands up!”