Gaetano "Tommy Horsehead" Scafidi turned state's evidence against his fellow South Philly mob associates in 2001. Though he's had enough of the witness protection program, he can't go home again.
Another veteran mob watcher, Kitty Caparella of the Philadelphia Daily News, also gave Horsehead good reviews. "I thought he was fabulous," she says.
After Horsehead testified, Merlino, Borgesi and Mazzone, as well as four other mob associates, were convicted of extortion and racketeering, and got prison sentences ranging from six to 14 years. The Merlino gang is still in jail. But after serving another 18 months, Horsehead was free to go.
"I'm tired of people calling me a rat," Horsehead says. "I did it for one reason and one reason only: They were gonna kill me."
Horsehead says the media has given people the wrong idea about the mob. He watches The Sopranos every Sunday night, but he's no fan. "The Sopranos is fucking down and out bullshit," he sneers. "If a guy talked to a boss the way them idiots talk to Tony Soprano, they would've got killed. If a boss went to a psychiatrist, he would've got killed. That show denigrates the Italians. It really does."
He also didn't care for GoodFellas. "All Joe Pesci did was curse," Horsehead gripes. "We don't talk like that. I'm Italian, and I'm proud of my heritage. We don't talk like that. Every other word isn't eff this or eff that."
Mobsters watch so many mob movies, Horsehead says, that they act this stuff out in real life. Like the attempted Halloween night hit back in 1989 on Nicky Scarfo Jr. at Dante and Luigi's at 10th and Catharine. Horsehead alleges it was carried out by his old pal Joey Merlino. (No one was charged with the attempted murder.)
"Nicky Scarfo Sr. loved The Godfather," Horsehead recalls. "At a lot of the homicides, Nicky told them to leave the guns," as a tribute to the scene in the first Godfather movie where Michael Corleone shoots a crooked cop and a rival mobster in an Italian restaurant, then drops the gun on the way out the door.
Nicky Jr. is an old friend of Horsehead's who used to sleep over Horsehead's apartment and date the same girls Horsehead dated. That night at Dante and Luigi's, Nicky Jr. was shot in the chest, neck and arm by a hooded assailant who was dressed in black and wore a Halloween mask. The assailant dropped a 9 mm machine pistol on the way out of Dante and Luigi's.
"Joey, he left the gun there that night because he wanted to send a message to Nicky Sr.," Horsehead says. "He left the gun to stick it up Nicky's ass, because that's what they did in The Godfather."
Horsehead's favorite gangster flick? "A Bronx Tale was the best mob movie ever made," he says. The 1993 film about a young boy named Calogero who's torn between following the path of his straightlaced father who drives a bus for a living and the flashy gangster who rules the neighborhood.
"If I had a dollar for every time I talked about A Bronx Tale," Horsehead says. "Go watch the movie. That'll show you the whole tale about the mob."
The two themes of the movie-"wasted talent" and "nobody cares"-are what grab Horsehead. If you're in the mob, you're wasting your life, and when it's over, Horsehead says, "nobody's gonna give two shits about you and your family if you get killed or go to jail."
Horsehead has creative ambitions, while he works the straight life as a cook. "I want to write a book," he says.
"It's not glamorous," Horsehead says of his former life. "It's all smoke and mirrors. Whoever gets involved with the mob, one of three things is gonna happen: Either you're gonna get killed, you're gonna go to jail like a sucker for the rest of your life ... or your gonna sell your soul to the devil, and that's the government."
He admits he wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for the government. "Yeah, they'll save your life," he says, "but after they get done with you, they don't give a fuck about you. If I had to do it again, I wouldn't get involved with none of them. You don't win with the mob, and you don't win with the government. Either way, your life as you know it is over."
David Fritchey, the assistant U.S. attorney who sponsored Horsehead for the witness protection program, didn't want to discuss whether Horsehead was still in the program because "it can endanger people."
Fritchey says the program can give former mobsters like Horsehead a fresh start in life, but whether they stay in the program is up to them. "They have to adjust their behavior to the mores of society, and that can be a lot more difficult for somebody of Tommy's background, who in fact grew up in a mob family and was a fourth-generation mobster," Fritchey says. "[Horsehead] doesn't come from an American family where a conventional sense of responsibility was drummed into him."
|School daze: Horsehead says he had no time for homework, and bribed his teachers for passing grades.|
PW's 2015 Gift Guide
Dinner with Luke Palladino