Volume 75, Number 31 | December 21 - 27, 2005

Obituary

Vincent ‘Chin’ Gigante, 77; mafia don donned pj’s

By Albert Amateau

Vincent “Chin” Gigante, boss of the Genovese crime family, who was noted for walking the streets of the Village near his Sullivan St. social club dressed in pajamas and bathrobe and mumbling to himself, died in a federal prison hospital in Missouri on Dec. 19 at the age of 77.

He was serving a 12-year sentence for racketeering, conspiring to kill the late John Gotti for Gotti’s role in the unsanctioned killing of the Gambino crime boss Paul Castellano, and for obstructing justice by pretending — successfully for three decades — to be mad in order to avoid criminal prosecution.

Gigante died of an apparent heart attack at 5:15 a.m. in the same Springfield, Mo., federal prison medical center where Gotti and other underworld bosses died.

He was a promising light-heavyweight boxer whose ring career in the 1940s was managed by Thomas Eboli, a reputed mobster. Impressed by Gigante’s 21 boxing wins, the mob boss Vito Genovese took him under his wing. A doorman at The Majestic apartments on Central Park West identified Gigante as the shooter in the 1957 attempted assassination of the crime lord Frank Costello, whom Genovese was trying to supplant. Costello survived the shooting but refused to identify Gigante and the charges were dropped.

Gigante rose in the Genovese family and in 1985 became the boss, succeeding Philip Lombardo, according to a Daily News article.

But Chin began his bizarre and deceptive behavior as early as 1969 when he was first hospitalized for psychiatric examination. He finally gave up the mad act in 2003 after federal investigators found prison witnesses who heard Gigante speaking very sanely on the telephone, according to a Daily News article

Gigante got his nickname because his mother called him Vincenzo (pronounced Vinchenzo). Born March 29, 1928, he was the third of five brothers. His mother moved into the Mitchell-Lama co-op at 505 LaGuardia Pl., and Gigante — who always had an apartment of his own in the South Village — frequently visited there until she died a few years ago.

City Councilmember Alan Gerson, who grew up in 505 LaGuardia Pl. and still lives there, said it was known that Gigante often came by the apartment of his mother, who spoke little English and was affectionately regarded in the building.

“He spent quite a bit of time visiting his mother, both visiting and overnight,” Gerson said. “He was a frequent, regular visitor, until he went out of town, so to speak.”

Neighbors reportedly knew the building was sometimes under surveillance by federal agents and that Gigante brought associates there for meetings. The apartment is now home to a surviving brother, Reverend Louis Gigante, a retired priest, former Bronx councilmember and director of a Bronx nonprofit housing organization.

An older brother, Mario, 80, reputed to be an elder in the Genovese crime family, also survives. Vincent Gigante leaves five children that he had with his wife, Olympia, and three more children he had with another woman, Olympia Esposito.


With Lincoln Anderson

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