Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Going once, going twice. Whitey Bulger’s possessions up for grabs.

My mother grew up in Chicago and remembers the news when Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger, was shot by G-Men outside the Biograph Theater. As Dillinger lay there bleeding, non-public enemies were dipping their handkerchiefs – and their popcorn – in his blood.

What possesses people? What primal, atavistic urge would get someone to do this? And what did they do with the newly prized possession when they got home with it?

The Depression was on. Did someone’s mother slap him up the side of his head for sullying a perfectly good hankie? Did she immediately throw it into a basin and try to bleach it out? Fast forward a couple of decades. Did someone find a square of fabric with dried blood on it, pressed into Aunt Millie’s scrap book, with “John Dillinger’s Blood,” written next to it in perfect Palmer Penmanship?

Today, of course, the goods – including, no doubt, the blood-drenched popcorn, would immediately show up on eBay.

I repeat myself: what possesses people?

We’ll find out this summer, when some of the belongings of Boston’s contribution to the Most Wanted list – Whitey Bulger – and his gal pal Catherine Greig will be auctioned off, with the proceeds – along with the cash found in his hide-out walls, the cash contents of his safe deposit boxes, and his Social Security benefits – going to the families of his many, many victims.

It will be interested to see who shows up – and how many of them there are – at the Boston Convention Center on June 24th.

A few years back, it was the kitchen mugs and swimming pool noodles of Bernie Madoff that were being sold off to reimburse victims, and I was asking myself what possesses people. But nasty as Bernie was, he wasn’t a stone cold murderer, just a garden-variety, his hand in your pocket, American psycho sociopath.

There hasn’t as yet been a list published of what’s on offer at the Bulger auction – at least not that I can find – but here’s a sampling:

The items include a replica Stanley Cup ring, a gold and diamond claddagh ring, Bulger’s collection of hats and hoodies, a boxing mannequin, and a rat-shaped cup he used as a pencil holder, the Globe has reported.(Source: Boston Globe)

There was also a brief flash on the TV news showing a bunch of small porcelain boxes – presumably the collection of Greig – that were up for grabs. They looked pretty cheesy – the sort of stuff that shows up in the local St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. Pretty old lady fare, given that Greig was only in her sixties when she and her beau were run to the ground in Santa Monica.

But the directly Whitey stuff?

Was he wearing that Claddagh ring when he ordered a hit? When he strangled Debbie Davis, girlfriend of one of his henchmen, to death? Did he practice his beat-downs on that boxing mannequin? Did he grab a pencil from that rat-shaped cup to jot down an appointment with John “Zip” Connolly, the disgraced FBI agent he consorted with as an informant (in exchange for getting tipped off on when the trail got closer)?

It is truly disturbing that someone would want any of Bulger’s trash. What do you do with it? What can it possibly mean to someone?

God knows I have plenty of “stuff” around, but most of it I’ve got a personal connection with. My father got that anchor bookend when he was in the Navy. My grandmother embroidered that sampler when she was 12. That plaster of Paris dental mold? My husband’s. And that was my other grandmother’s cookie jar, my mother’s vase, my aunt’s paperweight. I’m always happy to mention the “provenance” of my tchotchkes.

Pointing out Catherine Greig’s flowered porcelain box? No thanks.

But there is, apparently, quite a market for macabre souvenirs. Shopping online, you can get the program from Jeffrey Dahmer’s high school graduation. A clown portrait done by John Wayne Gacy. A demitasse that once belonged to Hermann Göring.

The good news – I guess – is that Bulger’s gun collection is not part of the auction.

Those who want a remembrance of Whitey will have to settle for the rat cup or the Claddagh ring.

What possesses people?

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