Vincent Chin Gigante
On this day, December 19 in 2005, infamous mob boss Vincent Gigante died at the age of 77.
Known by the nickname “the Chin,” Gigante was the boss of the Genovese crime family from 1981 to 2005.
Known for walking around Sullivan Street in Lower Manhattan in a bathrobe and slippers mumbling to himself, “The Chin” is one of the strangest gangsters of our time.
Also dubbed the “Oddfather” for his bizarre behavior, Gigante feigned mental illness for decades to camouflage his position as one of the nation’s most influential and dangerous Mafia leaders.
His rise through the world of organized crime was just as bizarre.
The Frank Costello hit
In 1957, he was chosen by his Capo Tommy Eboli to murder Genovese Family boss Frank Costello, but botched the hit.
Gigante walked right up to Costello, famously said, “This is for you, Frank,” and fired. Just as Gigante fired his .38-caliber handgun, Costello moved, causing the bullet to graze the right side of his head. Because Costello fell down, Gigante thought the mob boss was dead and he sped away in a black Cadillac.
Gigante was tried for attempted murder, but was acquitted when Costello, true to Mafia tradition, refused to identify him as the shooter.
Luckily for The Chin, Costello got the message from the shooting and decided to step down from his status of family boss.
In The early 1980s Gigante had moved up to consigliere status. In 1981 then Genovese Family boss Tony Salerno had a stroke and took a six month hiatus to recover, it is suspected that the Family appointed Gigante as boss. Salerno was still presented as the family boss, but it was known within the organized crime world that Gigante ran the family.
With no one to hide behind, Gigante resorted to a tactic he had used to beat earlier attempts at criminal convictions, he acted insane and often checked himself into a psychiatric hospital. The sight of Gigante wandering the streets of Greenwich Village in his bathrobe and slippers, mumbling incoherently to himself, in what Gigante later admitted was an elaborate act to avoid prosecution, became common.
This act worked until 1997, when Salvatore Gravano testified that Gigante was sane and was the head of the Genovese Family.
Vincent chin Gigante never took a vacation in his life. Born in the Bronx in 1928, his incarceration in Southern and Midwestern prisons marked the first time he ever traveled more than 50 miles from New York City.
His only pleasure in life appeared to be the power he wielded as a Mafia boss. Asked by a prison guard if other inmates were bothering him, The Chin replied, “Nobody f***s with me in here.”
Vincent Chin Gigante dies
In 2005, Gigante’s health started to decline. He started suffering labored breathing, oxygen deprivation, swelling in the lower body, and bouts of unconsciousness.
“The Chin” died at the same federal prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where rival mob boss John Gotti died of cancer three years earlier in 2002.
Vincent Louis Gigante (March 29, 1928 – December 19, 2005)