Gotti died in prison in 2002 after a battle with throat cancer. To the end, he remained "a stand-up guy" -- high praise in the mob world where "rats" like Gravano are reviled.
The feds turned their attention to Gotti's son, "Junior," who, according to newspaperman Capeci, "was a household figure for several years." The feds tried four times in five years to convict him of mob-related charges but failed. Gotti claimed he was "retired" from the mob, and the feds finally threw in the towel in January 2010, saying in court papers: "In light of all the circumstances, the government has decided not to proceed with the prosecution against John A. Gotti."
"He was and he's still in the news," Capeci said. "He has commissioned a movie about him and his father."
There have been other mob movies over the years. "Goodfellas," starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, told the story of the late mob informant Henry Hill. Actress Lorraine Bracco made a career out of mob dramas, playing Henry Hill's wife in "Goodfellas" and Tony Soprano's shrink in "The Sopranos."
Jimmy Hoffa, Whitey Bulger and Tony Soprano are old world characters whose sagas long ago took on lives of their own. They were bad guys, perhaps, but they weren't all bad. They lived by their own code. It's just business. Fuhgeddaboudit.
While Hoffa has become more famous for being gone than for anything he did while he was here, Bulger was embraced for a while as a sort of Robin Hood in Boston's Southie neighborhood. The myth was spun, it later turned out, by his corrupt FBI handler.
As his trial began in Boston, Bulger's attorney admitted he was many bad things -- a bookie, a loan shark, a thug -- but denied that he'd ever been an FBI informant or that he killed two women who are among his 19 named victims. Such things went against the code.
For Bulger, 1999 was the beginning of the end. That's when a federal grand jury handed up the indictment he's now being tried for. "The Sopranos" also began that year on HBO, and Tony Soprano was a man for his time.
He wasn't real, but he was realistic as a Jersey guy in "waste management" who had panic attacks and bouts of depression and loved his kids.
" 'The Sopranos' is all about a guy at the turn of the century who wants to be Don Corleone, but he's got this horrible feeling that everybody perceives him as Homer Simpson," pop culture expert Thompson said.
"He's beating up this guy and he's talking about how 'I heard you didn't respect me.' He wants to be the classic mobster, but he's got these constant domestic issues with his mother, with his wife, with his shrink. He's leading this schlub life. That's what that show was all about: It updated the American urban myth."
He cited a favorite Tony Soprano quote: "It's good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that and I know. But lately, I'm getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over."
Sometimes it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. It turns out that Tony Soprano wasn't the only good fella to visit a shrink because of the stress in his life. Bulger has spent some time on the couch, too.
The feds who were looking for Hoffa might have come up empty-handed. But this week in Queens, other FBI agents hit pay dirt in somebody's basement, Capeci reports. They unearthed human remains.
"Officials believe the victim was killed by a Bonanno family gangster as a favor to Jimmy 'The Gent' Burke, the mastermind of a daring $6 million airlines heist who died in prison in 1996," he wrote on Gang Land.
Capeci also had a tip for members of the Lucchese family, now that budget cuts have thinned the ranks of the FBI mob watchers some 60% since 2008: "Memo to Big Frank, Bowat and Stevie Wonder: Relax: That woman you saw the other day who looked out of place probably wasn't an FBI agent. Neither was the guy who eyeballed you near your house. And don't worry about that suspicious-looking car that pulled up alongside you last week -- or fret about using your cell phone, for that matter. The FBI now has only three agents assigned to cover the entire Lucchese crime family."
You can't make this stuff up. There is no beginning or end to these larger-than-life stories, only lots and lots of middle. So, people keep coming back for more.
"What can I say? The beat goes on," Capeci said.
This concept certainly wasn't lost on the producers of "The Sopranos." Remember the Journey song playing on the jukebox as Tony and his family (with a small "f") gathered at a diner in the finale? Remember the lyrics of "Don't Stop Believin' "?
Oh, the movie never ends; it goes on and on and on and on.