In and around the Boston area, the James “Whitey” Bulger Trial is captivating. It’s a real-life Goodfellas, just cast with actual thieves, drug dealers, murderers and general scumbags instead of actors. Evidence photos are making the rounds, and they show an interesting slice of what gangsters and ordinary people caught in the crossfire were driving in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Some of the photos — like the lead photo showing a 1978 Chevy Caprice and this one, with the immediately recognizable rear half of a 1978 Buick Riviera — were taken at Lancaster Foreign Motors, the headquarters for Boston’s notorious Winter Hill Gang.
Lancaster Foreign Motors was located on Lancaster Street in Boston’s North End, not far from the old Boston Gaaaaaahden, where the Celtics and Bruins played when the circus wasn’t in town.
The tipoff for cops and the FBI — if they hadn’t been on the take and actually helping Whitey Bulger murder people — should’ve been that there weren’t any actual foreign motors at Lancaster Foreign Motors.
The one foreign car that came up in the evidence photos was this 1973 Mercedes-Benz W114-chassis 230D. Hit man John “The Executioner” Martorano testified that he and the Winter Hill Gang opened fire on the car with machine guns in a case of mistaken identity. The guy driving the car, Michael Milano, was a bartender giving two friends a ride home from North Station, and was killed at the wheel.
On March 19, 1973, Frank Capizzi was riding what appears to be a 1973 Buick Century “on his way to see his grandmother” (An 88 year old woman? at 10:00 pm? Really?) in the North End when a torrent of gunfire struck the car he was in, riddling him with lead and decapitating one of his friends.
“I was hit in the head and could feel warm blood running down my neck,” the 78-year-old testified in his testimony a few weeks ago. Capizzi wasn’t an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire, though. He was partners with a notorious hoodlum named Al “Indian Al” Notarangeli, who was extorting business from Boston mafia boss Gennaro Angiulo. The driver and front passenger in the Century were killed in the attack.
Roger Wheeler was the former chairman of Telex, and the former owner of World Jai Alai, who actually made an attempt to eliminate mob connections in this weird 1970s-era sport that was invented solely to gamble on.
Wheeler was killed in the parking lot of his Tulsa, Oklahoma country club on May 27, 1981 when John Martorano, wearing a fake beard and a paper bag over his hand, walked up to Wheeler’s car and shot Wheeler between the eyes. Wheeler was in the front seat of this 1981-ish Cadillac Sedan de Ville, as evidenced by the Cadillac script on the mirrors and the leather interior.
Judging by the high-back buckets and the script on the fender, this might be a 1970 Plymouth Sport Fury four-door hardtop. 1970 was the only year that model was offered in a four-door bodystyle. William “Billy” O’Brien — a nice man who spent four years in prison for killing a man in a drunken brawl and then immediately joined “Indian Al” Notarangeli’s gang upon his release — was driving on Morrissey Boulevard in 1973 when a car pulled up next to him. Police said that inside were James “Whitey” Bulger and John Martarano.
According to his testimony, Martarano, acting under Bulger’s and Howie Winter’s orders, shot and killed O’Brien with a machine gun from the passenger’s seat of the car.
The feet sticking out of the phone booth next to the Lincoln Mark IV belong to Eddie “The Bulldog” Connors, a former Marine, former boxer who once fought in the New England Middleweight Championships and lost, and owner of two gin mills across the street from each other on Savin Hill Avenue in Dorchester.
Connors was allegedly shot to death by Whitey and Stevie “The Rifleman” Flemmi as he spoke to another Winter Hill gang boss in the phone booth at the old Texaco station, also on Morrissey Boulevard, right up the road from the Boston Globe.
The other interesting thing to note is that about 2/3s of these cars are all shod with Sears RoadHandler snow tires. It is New England, after all.