THE GENOVESE FAMILY
Gigante first used the mental-patient act to beat a conspiracy rap in 1970. He had been inducted for bribing the entire five-man police force of Old Tappan, N.J., in an attempt to obtain information regarding a state investigation into Genovese activities in that state. His attorneys hired psychiatrists who testified that Gigante was a paranoid schizophrenic, suffering from hallucinations. The ruse worked, and Gigante was acquitted. He apparently decided that it was a worthwhile preventative measure because he continued to play the role for years to come, reinforcing it with voluntary visits to St. Vincents Psychiatric Hospital in Harrison, N.Y. Between 1969 and 1990, he checked himself in 22 times. With support from his doctors, he managed to avoid prosecution for nearly three decades.
As a young man, before he allegedly went crazy, Gigante had tried to make it as a prizefighter, starting out as a middle weight, then fighting as a light heavyweight. Under the tutelage of his manager, future Genovese family boss Tommy Eboli, Gigante had a career record of 23 wins and one loss, though its said that he mainly fought palookas until he faced a real fighter, Jimmy Slade, who defeated him in seven rounds. By 1957 he had beefed up to over 300 pounds when he fired the single shot at boss Frank Costello and missed. Gigante was considerably slimmer by the time he was tried for the attempt on Costellos life, but no onenot even Costellowould swear that he was the shooter, and as a result he was found not guilty. In 1959 he became one of the victims of the plot to overthrow Vito Genovese and was sentenced to seven years in prison on drug charges.
Sometime after his release from prison, Gigante made the leap from reliable soldier to leadership material. By some accounts he served as consigliere under Funzi Tieri, and when Fat Tony Salerno was convicted in 1987, Gigante took over as acting boss. But some believe that Gigante became boss as early as 1981 after
Gigantes extraordinary degree of caution gave him one of the longest runs as boss in Mafia history. Genovese members were forbidden from uttering his name for fear of hidden listening devices. According to mob turncoat Sammy Gravano in Peter Maass Underboss, Family members were under strict orders never to breathe his name in passing on his [Gigantes] wishes. They were simply to point to their own chins when referring to him. (The nickname Chin did not refer to his face or taking it on the chin as boxers sometimes do. It was the shortened version of Vincenzo, which is what his mother called him when he was a child.)