'Gorgeous' guilty, could be executed
Flamboyant Bonanno crime boss Vincent "Vinny Gorgeous" Basciano could become the first head of a La Cosa Nostra crime family to get the death penalty, after being convicted yesterday of ordering a hit on a fellow hood.
The verdict in Brooklyn federal court capped a monthlong trial that exposed the violent -- but often zany -- underbelly of life in the 21st century New York mob.
And the trial made Mafia history when longtime Bonanno kingpin Joseph "Big Joe" Massino -- once dubbed The Last Don -- became the first boss to turn rat and spill his guts about family business.
But it was the wacky day-to-day sideshows that gave the proceedings a circus-like atmosphere sure to become the stuff of wiseguy legend:
* Vinny gave the classic mob smooch the kiss of death, forbidding his crew from kissing each other on the cheek in case the feds were watching, a turncoat testified.
* Judge Nicholas Garaufis lent Vinny his own Brooks Brothers tie after prison brass refused delivery of the defendant's designer neckwear.
* A gangland-killer-turned-rat told the court how Vinny once tested his loyalty by having his gal pal try to seduce him. He passed the test.
* Vinny complained about the prison diet of cheap baloney sandwiches, so Garaufis came to the rescue again and Basciano noshed on a tasty chicken hero from the court cafeteria.
Basciano -- who refused to wear a headset for fear of messing up his perfectly-coifed 'do -- was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, murder in aid of racketeering, and an illegal gun charge. The jury will reconvene next week to decide whether he gets life in prison or execution by lethal injection. He's already serving a life sentence in prison for an earlier hit.
Several things jump out from this account. One is Nicholas Garaufis' behavior, which will be the subject of a future post. But one is just the monumental vanity of Vinny Basciano.
I am a vain man. I work out religiously, and I'm proud of having stayed fit to a relatively advanced age. Before I had LASIKS, I wore contact lenses. I often wear loafers even though running shoes feel better to walk in, and I used to wear tailored clothes.
But if I were on trial for my life, it would never even occur to me to refuse to show up in the courtroom if I couldn't wear the right tie. And it would never occur to me to not wear a headset in which I could listen to tapes relevant to my case because it might muss up my hair. This level of vanity is beyond mind-boggling. It could only be attained by an extremely narcissistic personality. (And in fact, given Basciano's murderous proclivities, it's safe to say sociopathic personality.)
Think of it this way. Basciano was a mob boss, which means no one was going to give him a nickname he didn't like. What kind of man chooses, or at least approves, the name "Gorgeous" for himself?
A man so vain he probably doesn't even think of himself as vain.