Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bullying and Beautiful Hearts and Gentle Souls, Johnny Gunther and his Mom and Dad, Saoirse Ronan, Julie Christie, Tyler Clementi, Michael McIlveen and Matthew Burdette and the Redemption of Mickey Featherstone

One day at his boarding school, Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, 16-year-old Johnny Gunther made a stop at the infirmary for some aspirin. He had a headache for a couple of days which just wouldn't go away. Johnny was a popular, good kid. He was also a serious student who made very good grades. But one of his teachers noticed that Johnny's concentration had suddenly begun to wander and he couldn't focus on his assignment.  Johnny told his teacher that he had a terrible headache. The teacher insisted that he go to the infirmary immediately.
After taking the aspirin and going back to his dorm, the headache only got worse and he developed a stiffness in his neck. Within hours he was back in the infirmary. When the school doctor came in and examined him, he quickly realized that it was much more serious than anyone thought. He immediately called Johnny's parents and together they made arrangements to have Johnny transferred to a hospital in New York. The school doctor also requested that Dr. Tracy Putnam, the pre-imminent brain surgeon in the US, take a look at the boy. Regrettably, Dr. Putnam quickly determined that Johnny might have cancer, a tumor, which was apparently growing unchecked in his brain.
Dr. Putnam scheduled Johnny for emergency surgery to relieve the pressure on his brain. He quickly determined that the tumor was a fatal glioblastoma. Regrettably, he had to inform Frances and John that their son was going to die. There was no cure and no treatment.  The surgical team might be able to extend his life through multiple surgeries, but they couldn't save him. Mom and Dad then had to tell Johnny. He took the news with stoic, resigned composure. Johnny then hugged and kissed his parents, never showing a moment's fear or regret. It was simply the hand that he was dealt and he would play his cards as best he could to the end.
As 17-year-old Johnny Gunther lay dying from an aggressive form of brain cancer, instead of lamenting his fate and wallowing in self pity, he took a significant amount of his remaining time and strength to cheer up his divorced parents. He loved his Mom and Dad and wanted them to know it. At that point in his short life, making them happy was the most important thing in the world to him.
Only one other thing mattered to him, graduating from Deerfield and getting accepted to Harvard University. He worked incredibly hard to do both.
Johnny was a smart kid. He had written a letter to Albert Einstein at Princeton asking questions about an assignment from class which intrigued him. Amazingly, Dr. Einstein replied to him. Dr. Einstein wrote that he was impressed with Johnny's intelligence, knowledge and curiosity, then proceeded to answer the boy's questions. Johnny always impressed adults with his maturity and quiet intelligence, even Nobel Prize Winners. As always, Johnny was modest, but his smile betrayed how he really felt, revealing how happy he was that the most famous scientist in the world had taken the time to reply to him.
Instead of retiring from life, he redoubled his efforts, throwing every ounce of strength he had into finishing his classes, so he could graduate from Deerfield and be admitted to Harvard.  A few weeks before his death, though Johnny was barely able to walk, the family made the trip to Deerfield. Johnny was determined not to use a wheelchair at his graduation. His classmates were all in awe as they watched him struggle step by step to the dais, then shared his joy as he smiled after receiving his diploma from Dr. Boyden. Unexpectedly, the crowd fell silent. Then an incredible crescendo of applause grew within the hall, until everyone was on their feet applauding and cheering their friend and his incredible accomplishment. On that day, Johnny was everyone's best friend and a proud member of every family there.
A few days later  he received the letter that he had waited for: an acceptance letter from Harvard. His Mom and Dad said that was the happiest day of his life.
Johnny showed his true mettle, the result of loving parents who loved him far more than any problem that they had with each other and for having chosen Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts for his education. His Mom and Dad taught him love and respect, his friends, friendship, and Deerfield's Headmaster Frank Boyden, faculty, staff and student body taught Johnny that success is measured every day by your heart and your character and how you share those things and yourself with the people who populate your life.

Johnny's life and death inspired his Dad to write one of the most beautiful books ever written about losing a child. The story about Johnny's good life and noble death was titled "Death Be Not Proud" from the poem by 16th Century theologian and poet John Donne.  If you ever have been curious what Johnny looked like, here is a photo of him at 15-years-old. If you, or anyone you care about, or anyone you know, loses someone they love, send them a copy of his book. It will be good for their soul and will show them what real love is. Hopefully they will see that love in themselves, their family and their friends. But most of all, in the person that they lost. The Irish say, you don't mourn the death, you celebrate the life. That is what Johnny's Dad did and his book is a masterpiece of love.

I went to New York in 2006 and wanted to buy a copy of "Death be not Proud" from a Barnes and Noble bookstore near Johnny's Dad's apartment off Central Park. I had given my copy to a friend who had someone die in their family. The clerk and I couldn't find it under biographies, even though their inventory said they had 4 copies. I then went to the Strand Bookstore off Union Square and bought a copy. Later, went back and the clerk said he found it under "Classics," which in its way is a fitting remembrance of Johnny, his Mom and his Dad.
    

Johnny Gunther Jr. born Nov. 4, 1929, died Jun. 30, 1947





Unbeliever’s Prayer
Almighty God
forgive me for my agnosticism;
For I shall try to keep it gentle, not cynical,
nor a bad influence.

And O!
if Thou art truly in the heavens,
accept my gratitude
for all Thy gifts
and I shall try
To fight the good fight.

Amen.
--John Gunther, Jr. May, 1946




Author John Gunther and his wife Frances, Johnny's Mom and Dad.



DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,         
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,  
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.


What is not beautiful


Several news stories have inundated the internet about Khloe Kardashian and how beautiful she is recently. No one believes that more than she does. This is a family of NO straight lines, everything is an angle, with only money and more air time on TMZ as the goal. And they definitely know how to "work it," whatever it is. Funny how the idea of beauty has changed over the years. I see nothing attractive in the Age of Kardashians, self-promoting, self interest is not beautiful or interesting.



 



Khloe and Kim Kardashian, is there really any difference, because neither has any appreciation that less is more.

What is beautiful?

When I was a kid I remember an interview with Julie Christie right after she made Dr. Zhivago. She was very much taken aback with how famous she had become, especially since she was actually quite shy. Julie had grown up on a remote farm in eastern India while it was under British rule. A lonely childhood and her parents divorce caused her to be incredibly shy. Because of that, fame scared her. She spoke wistfully of her previous quiet life with her friends and family before she was famous. Fame and success, to her, was something to be endured, not enjoyed.
Once Catherine "Deneuve" Dorleac gave an interview and said that she immediately lost interest in any conversation which started with someone telling her how beautiful she was. Talk to her like a person, an equal, and she could be engaged and interested, but put her on a pedestal, she would "escape" the conversation long before it ended.





Catherine "Deneuve" Dorleac from the haunting "Les Parapluies de Cherbourg"/The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) directed by Jacques Demy with its magnificent score by French Composer Michel Legrand. One critic said that any viewer would be torn between only watching Miss Deneuve or everything else in this incredibly beautiful film, which is as much an Impressionist Painting as a movie. If not, they need to have their eyes and their heart checked. It is a love story that has a happy ending, just not the one we hoped for, because the protagonists chose to do the right, selfless choice, not the popular, selfish one.




When Julie Christie won the Oscar for "Darling" in 1966, she broke down and cried as she ran onstage. Rex Harrison embraced and comforted her instead of the perfunctory handshake or kiss that an award winner normally receives, she was so overwhelmed that she quickly thanked everyone involved and ran off  the stage. Contrast that with stars now who throw temper tantrums when they or their friends don't win or worse, yet, start bragging about themselves and gratuitously putting down their competitors when they do.


And there is hope for the future, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who is a kind, gentle soul and a beautiful, intelligent woman is definitely not a member of the Kardashian, famous for being famous, generation. She has been nominated for two Oscars, first, for "The Atonement" when she was 13 and then "Brooklyn" in 2015. Critics universally describe the young actress as incredibly intelligent and talented.  Saoirse's name is Irish and means freedom.
She stands her ground too. Rupert Murdoch's Sky News called her British in a news story. Saoirse immediately and publically corrected the error. Not many people have the guts to correct Rupert and his minions, but she did. Though she was born in the Bronx, in New York City, her parents were from Ireland. Saoirse is very proud of being 100% Irish.
However, the best thing about her is that she doesn't take herself too seriously. She grew up in a happy family, her parents adore her and she adores them. She spoke on one program about how she cried when she moved to London and later New York, because she was going to miss her Mom and Dad. She looked for every excuse she could to call them and would chat for hours, but when time was pressing she just wanted to hear them say hi! She likes her independence, but never will forget her roots and her family.
Saoirse was on a talk show with House MD's Olivia Wilde.  Olivia chose Oscar Wilde's last name for her stage name, indicating unplumbed depths herself.  Being her friend is easy, because Saoirse makes friends with bellmen, cab drivers and casts, she just likes people wherever she goes. She also gives of herself and her time to the things which are important to her.
She has made a series of videos, helped raise money for and donated her time in support of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Irish Blue Cross which protects animals. She has actually donated her time and worked inside the Dublin Animal Shelter. She really does love animals, here she is with her dog, Sassie. She is Irish, what can you say. Yes, an admitted double-entendre.



You can tell a person's heart by the way they do things. Quietly, always focusing on those who they are trying to help, a good person with a good heart like Saoirse. Or calling TMZ or Access Hollywood, waiting until they arrive, then have a PR Event, maybe a few kids as props, well...is the way Kim and Khloe would do it.
Saoirse would ask how can I help and consider the press more a hindrance than help.
She is well grounded and willing take on challenges, like appearing in a major play like Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" in New York though she lacks major stage credentials.
She takes everything in stride. She is modest and always willing to share credit with her co-stars, friends and behind the scenes people. She isn't offended when people mispronounce her name, which happens all the time. She even appeared on the Late Show mocking herself with Stephen Colbert, telling Stephen that people mispronounce her name every way imaginable, even mispronouncing it as Suarez, although she didn't think that she looked Hispanic.
Saoirse is actually pronounced SUR-SHA, and she thought it was hilarious when Dennis Quaid butchered her name, pronouncing it as SHE-SHA, while announcing  that she had been nominated for a Golden Globe Award on TV. You would have thought that someone would have taken the time to decipher the indecipherable Irish name, so that it would be pronounced correctly on national TV. She thought his mispronunciation was hysterical.  Much like Lauren Bacall, you can imagine her as your pal, she is extremely friendly and fun, and there would be no greater joy than engaging her in captivating, intelligent conversations, great and small.  She even makes talking about a trip to her nail salon in Dublin, Tropical Popical, a wonderful adventure. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lMBx3LbcOQ

Ellen DeGeneres quite rightly calls her the Delightful Saoirse Ronan.

Inevitably, if  you have a beating heart and are breathing, you will soon fall for her charm. And that is enchanting.




Here is Saoirse as a guest of Stephen Colbert on The Late Show, at her most beautiful and beguiling.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hwstj9FJHGg

There is another difference,  the successful of yesterday take social stands, even when they will receive criticism for it. And there stands help us, not themselves. If you believe in something stand up and be counted.



If only Aaron Swartz had been able to turn to her... Julie would have fought for him too. 


Aaron Swartz was threatened  with 30 years in prison by a US Attorney for sharing information which was provided FREE on the internet, to anyone who wanted it. It wasn't security related, it wasn't proprietary, everything was freely and openly available at libraries throughout the world. Aaron made no money from what he did. Rather than spend the rest of his life in jail, Aaron chose to commit suicide. Later investigative reporting showed that the US Attorney pressured MIT into pressing charges. The US Attorney was a bully.  The University later apologized admitting that the prosecution had been a mistake. This was not JUSTICE and Aaron's death was the crime and a tragedy. It was the US Attorney who committed the crime, not Aaron.

The world is a less honest place, a less beautiful place, a less intelligent place without our brother, Aaron. Miss you, pal.

Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, were the ultimate BULLIES, a homicidal, genocidal maniac like Hitler and Rios Montt of Guatemala. At least Pol Pot didn't blame Jesus for his genocide like Preacher and General Rios Montt did. Montt killed 250,000 Catholic Mayan Indians so he could give their land to members of his Evangelical Church and his soldiers.

Julie Christie knew of the evil of Pol Pot, a man who exterminated 3,000,000 people.  Regardless of how shy she was, Julie could not remain silent in the face of this. When asked to be a spokesperson against the Khmer Rouge, she was glad to help.
One of the few interviews Julie has ever given was in 1988 speaking on behalf of the charity Oxfam(the same charity Chris McCandless of "Into the Wild" gave all his money to) and speaking against the genocidal Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX2gH2hMFO8   Julie took on the legacy of Pol Pot, the world's worst bully. She wasn't afraid of him or the Khmer Rouge, because she had justice and us on her side. In this interview she shows while she may have gotten older, she never lost her innocence or charm. She even tells the joke which got her kicked out of her Anglican Convent School in England. The times were much more innocent then.


The Age of Kardashians
But the worst symptom of self-involvement in the Age of the Kardashians are things like this photo of Nicki Minaj singing at the $12,000,000.00  Bar Mitzvah for a 13-year-old boy in New York. Wrong on almost every level.




The difference between a mother and father and a Mom and Dad

Whether this 16-year-old boy was kicked out of his parent's house for not following his parent's rules or for being gay or that he refused to accept the family religion, a step-father or mother who didn't like him or because he had a drug problem or that he was merely a disappointment to his parents, the fact that he ended up forced to live homeless on the street, unloved, scared and alone is an American Tragedy. It is not surprising that he would become the victim of crime. This photo was taken after he was mugged. But the worst crime is that any parent can turn their love on and off, because that is the difference between a mother and father and a Mom and Dad. A Mom and Dad would never do that.





When did we get to be so cruel? For a Vicious Bully it is always easy to be cruel.

Who does this? Tyler Clementi was a music prodigy at Rutgers University in New Jersey.  He was also gay. One evening he asked his roommate, Dharun Ravi, if he could have their dorm room for the evening. Clever roommate turned on his webcam and broadcast Tyler's intimate date. Dharun even used iChat and  Twitter to announce this invasion of Tyler's privacy. When Tyler found out he complained to the housing office and asked for a new roommate. They promised to resolve the matter in a few days. His roommate apologized saying that the webcam was left on by mistake and only discovered that fact when he accessed his computer remotely while checking his emails, but he promised Tyler that it would NEVER happen again.
Dharun was a LIAR, in addition to being a perverted PEEPING TOM. Later, Tyler found the pc camera turned on again and found out that Dharun had invited his friends and followers on Twitter and iChat for a second invasion of Tyler's privacy on a second date. Tyler didn't complain this time, he went to the George Washington Bridge and killed himself. Dharun is not an American Citizen and should have been expelled from our country for cold-blooded cruelty the second he was arrested. That is the best grounds for kicking someone out of the US that I've ever heard of.

On April 20, 2011, a Middlesex County grand jury indicted Ravi on 15 counts of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, tampering with evidence, witness tampering, and hindering apprehension or prosecution On March 16, 2012, Ravi was tried and convicted on all 15 counts for his role in the webcam spying incidents.
On May 21, 2012, Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 3 years' probation, 300 hours of community service, a $10,000 fine, and counseling on cyberbullying and alternate lifestyles. Both the prosecutors  and Ravi  have filed separate appeals. On June 18, 2012, Ravi was released from jail after 20 days of his sentence. Federal immigration authorities have said that Ravi will not be deported to India.
In February 2016, Ravi asked the courts to overturn his convictions. Shame on him for feeling that he is guilty of nothing. To US, Dharun is guilty of the ultimate cruelty: HE IS A VICIOUS BULLY and we have far too many of them already, he should go back where he came from, we don't need or want him.








Cruelty and bullying come in many disguises, sometimes they are disguised as patriotism

Bullying comes in different disguises, but it always leads to the same result, someone pays a mighty price for the cruelty of others. Some people call World War I the Great War. It wasn't. It actually started because of the stupidity of almost all the leaders across Europe. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia is very often is condemned as one of the worst. But in a way he was a hero, because he was the only one trying to stop the war before it started. If he had succeeded 20,000,000 lives would have been saved, including millions of children.
But for sheer cruelty, British doctors can lay claim as the most vicious, heartless and cruel.
The minimum age to enlist in the military was 17 in the UK during WWI. British doctors certified that these boys were 17. The reason you don't send 12-year-olds to fight in a war is that they are incredibly foolish and brave, while an adult would use caution, intelligence and tactics to do things like charge a German trench or attempt to seize a machine gun nest. These boys would blindly charge an enemy trench, regardless of the danger, and do so with such fearless ferociousness that it could lead them to suffer 100% casualties. If you wonder why armies suffered casualties like 500,000 killed and wounded at First Battle of the Marne September 5 through 12th 1914, less than 2 months into the war, this is why.

The  only thing worse than sending a 12-year-old into battle, is to cover up their existence, then deny them the recognition they deserve for their incredible bravery under fire because the military doesn't want anyone asking questions as to why the HELL were they on the battlefield in the first place.



Young British boys in basic training during World War I. No sane person can claim that they didn't know, because anyone can see that these are children, that these were not men.
One is tempted to want to shoot the doctors who declared that these boys were 17-years-old and fit for duty, instead of the German enemy. Possibly none of these boys survived the war, but I am pretty sure that the doctors who sent them to their deaths did.
And remember these are the kind of facts they don't put in history books, but their incredibly heroic lives and horrifically early deaths are the truth. These boys are heroes whose names should echo through the ages, instead no one even knows they existed. If you have room in your heart, give them a name and a home there.





The Great War, the Generals and the Politicians knowingly sent kids like these to their deaths for a stupid cause, which no one understood. Here is a boy after being burned to death by a phosphorous bomb fired by field artillery. It burned this boy's clothes off his body, then it started burning his flesh, as shrapnel ripped through his arm and body. This is why soldiers started wearing dog tags.  To die this way would cause the most incredible suffering imaginable, you were alive as your flesh was consumed in flame. The screams of these boys and men would haunt their friends and fellow soldiers the rest of their lives. Can you imagine how much worse it was when the screams come from a dying 13-year-old boy?

A great hero known only to God. Not quite the same story as the books tell you, is it?







The Truth Matters: How Bullies took a Great Kid and Made A Criminal Out of Him 




A good kid from Hell's Kitchen whose life went terribly wrong after being bullied






The Most Feared Gang in New York City in the 1970's was not the Mafia. It was a bunch of Irish kids from Hell's Kitchen on the upper Westside of Manhattan called the Westies.  The New York Times printed a story of a man who was threatened with extortion by the Westies. He called the New York City Police. The desk sergeant  told him that it would probably be better to pay the extortion, than to file a police report and put his life at risk. No one messed with the Westies, not even the police. 

This is the story of how a good kid from the neighborhood became the most feared criminal in New York City in the 1970's and 1980's.  All it took was one incredible act of cruelty to turn him into a man that even the Mafia feared.

But there is a happy ending, somehow he would find redemption thanks to the love of one beautiful, gentle girl. Mickey met Sissy Houlihan at Amy's Pub,  856 9th Avenue Manhattan,  in December 1975 and it changed him and his life forever.


Mickey Featherstone was a shy boy born into an Irish Catholic family of nine children. Mom worked at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, while his "DAD," Charlie Boyle was retired military and a US Custom's Officer. Everyone characterized the Boyle family as good people, the finest and kindest family in the neighborhood. Mickey's Mom hadn't divorced her first husband, Longshoreman Charlie Featherstone, for religious reasons, though he had abandoned his family many years ago, which accounts for Mickey and his two immediate, older brother's names, Henry and Joseph, being Featherstone instead of Boyle. But Mickey, his brothers and sisters, loved each other and they loved their Dad, who was a quiet, shy man who worked two jobs to support HIS family, without one word of complaint or regret. He loved his kids as much they loved him. Charlie Boyle never drew a distinction between his kids and loved them all equally.  Mickey confided to his school friends that he wished his name was Boyle. He wasn't the only one in the family who felt that way. 




Mickey was just an average, good kid from a poor Irish neighborhood on the upper west side of Manhattan, called Hell's Kitchen. Hell's Kitchen was a poor, high crime area centered around 9th Avenue and 48th Street. It was almost 100% Irish at the time Mickey was born June 3, 1949. The Boyle family lived at 501 1/2  West 43rd Street and 10th Avenue.
The only time Mickey ever got in trouble as a kid was when he was 10-years-old  and a teacher hit him because he fell asleep in class. Mickey picked up a chair and threw it in return. The case was thrown out of Juvenile Court.
Friends and family describe Mickey as a smart, timid, shy boy. Sometimes other kids would pick on Mickey or his brothers because they were poorer than everyone else. His older brothers would always rally to protect each other, but especially Mickey, since he was the youngest. No one ever messed with one Boyle/Featherstone kid, without having to fight the whole family. Neighbors and friends always cherished their loyalty to each other as their favorite memory of the family.

16-year-old Mickey and some friends were walking along the street in Hell's Kitchen at dusk when some thugs tried to mug them. They pulled guns on the boys, Mickey's reaction was to grab a broken Coke bottle off the street and started slashing at the guys. Once the muggers realized that they might have bitten off more than they could chew, they quickly retreated. Mickey used this incident to lobby his Mom and Dad to allow him to join the Army.

There was nothing extraordinary about Mickey until he enlisted in the Army at age 16  on April 27, 1966 to escape the poverty of the old neighborhood.  Mickey was already fully grown, 5'8" and 140 lbs.,  so the Army didn't question his 18-year-old brother's birth certificate. And they were grateful to have a kid like Mickey who was willing to serve where his country needed him: Vietnam. When he first got there he was as scared as all the other kids were, but what impressed his superiors was his determination and the effort he put into basic training, his military duties and his high intelligence. He had initiative too, when he scored high on the military IQ Tests and could have had any job he wanted,  including much easier jobs,  he instead chose to become a member of the tough, elite Green Berets. He was genuinely well-liked by his officers and all the men with whom he served.  
Though Mickey never fought on the battlefield,  he completed his assignments proficiently and quickly, never presented any type of disciplinary issues other than drinking, which arose from the boredom of being a supply and mail clerk in the GREEN BERETS, in the middle of a war. It literally drove Mickey up the wall that they wouldn't let him fight. He took his frustration out by way of the bottle. Everyone drank in Vietnam and more than a few took drugs too. It went with the territory.  Mickey was like all our other boys in not being happy to be there, but his reasons were very much different. He wanted to be like his Dad who had fought the Nazi's in World War II. His Dad was a hero to him and some day Mickey wanted to be a hero to his kids too.
Mickey requested assignment to a field unit repeatedly. Mickey went to Vietnam to fight.  That is why he joined the Green Berets in the first place. While many suspected that his superiors may not have known Mickey's true age, they weren't prepared to send a guy, who looked like a 16-year-old choir boy and was universally know as "the Kid," to his death.
Many of his fellow soldiers remember Mickey listening to their stories from the front. He was like a little kid drinking them in. Many felt the obligation to take the romance out of war and told him the horror stories too. Mickey reported watching summary executions, even of Viet Cong prisoners. The pleas for mercy may have been in Vietnamese but they were burned in the boy's memory. He would later report almost continuous nightmares from these stories and events like My Lai.  
If Mickey had made it to the battlefield like he wanted, he would  have been headed for a career in the military like his Dad.  A good start for any kid taking his first steps into adulthood.  And don't forget that he had a two year head start on everyone else..

Then something happened.  It had nothing to do with the war. It was an act of bullying directed towards a good 17-year-old boy. A vicious, cruel "practical joke" that his "buddies" perpetrated on "the kid".  His "buddies" deliberately got Mickey so drunk that he passed out. Then they got a medic to give him anesthetic so that they could circumcise his penis. Since they were drunk too, they did a horrific job of it, scarring him mentally as well as physically. They thought that this vicious act of cruelty was hilarious. It was the meanest thing that I've ever heard a bully do to a young boy.

When Mickey woke up, he freaked out.  It actually pushed him  over the edge and he  literally went crazy. The kid suddenly started drinking constantly and way too much. He also developed a  ferocious temper. Whereas he had been an exemplary soldier before, he became barely acceptable afterwards. He got written up and even lost a paygrade before the Army was forced to deal with the situation, whether they wanted to or not. The Army finally provided reconstructive surgery to undo the damage and gave him, after time stateside in a military mental hospital,  a medical discharge. But, worse yet, they  left him with a huge chip on his shoulder for the next 20 years.  We did this to him, a good kid, and we were about to reap what we sowed.



THE ULTIMATE INJUSTICE
A lot of books, newspapers and magazine articles have been written which smear Mickey by saying that he faked mental illness to get out of the military. THAT IS A LIE.  I think we can agree  that any 17-year-old kid who survived this act of vicious bullying would be messed up, possibly forever. But newspaper, magazine and TV Shows leave this part of Mickey's story out. Without it, you have a vicious barbarian. Including it, helps you understand the inexplicable.

"Something happens to my eyes and they just glare...and I scare the Hell out of People, I don't even realize that I'm doing it. I was just a neighborhood kid from Hell's Kitchen. I would never hurt anybody...until I came home from Vietnam."
NY Magazine 4/12/1982 


Mickey would later admit that his life of violence, leading up to and including the Westies, was a death/suicide wish. He engaged in that life secretly hoping that it would end his. The only thing that changed anything, because it changed everything, was meeting Sissy. She brought him back to the light and taught him what love was, then she made it real and his.

The TRUTH is Mickey Featherstone's best defense.

When he got sent back to the states, Mickey was sent to a mental health ward of a New York Military Hospital. He was given passes to Manhattan to see his family and friends.


After being back only a few weeks, Mickey was mugged by a guy with a gun. Mickey refused to give the mugger his wallet,  in self-defense Mickey picked up a garbage can lid and started swinging it viciously at the guy until he shot Mickey in the arm. At which point the mugger ran off.  There was a debate in the Featherstone/Boyle family at the hospital whether their Mickey was crazy or insanely brave. Future events didn't help clarify the situation.

On September 26, 1968 Mickey was drinking at the Market Diner on 43rd Street and 11th Avenue. Two boys from New Jersey walked in, brothers John and Jim Riley. John Riley approached Mickey and asked him for a cigarette. Mickey said he didn't have one he could spare.  John Riley said what do you call those, pointing at a pack of Kool cigarettes in front of Mickey on the bar. Mickey responded those are New York cigarettes, not Jersey cigarettes. Riley then hit Mickey. At that point the brothers were confronted by Mickey and his brother Henry, so everybody then stepped outside for a fight.  Luckily within a few minutes the cops came and broke everything up. The Jersey boys threatened to come back and finish the fight, Mickey and his friends told them that if they did, they would be ready for them. The cops escorted the Jersey boys to the Holland Tunnel and warned them not to come back. 

But they did. And the fighting picked up where it left off, quickly escalating leading to John Riley being shot in the arm by Mickey who grabbed a gun from inside the bar. The fighting continued until the police broke it up. An ambulance arrived which took Riley to the hospital.  John Riley died shortly thereafter. The DA threatened to file murder charges against Mickey, but the autopsy showed death was the result of a brain injury resulting from the fight, not the gun shot to the arm. Mickey was charged with manslaughter and illegal possession of a weapon. Mickey was found NOT GUILTY OF MANSLAUGHTER. The jury determined that Riley's death was the result of mutual combat instigated by the victim. And they felt absolutely no sympathy for the victim because the police told them not to come back, so he was obviously looking for trouble when he did.
But the jury did convict Mickey of illegal possession of a gun.


On September 28, 1970 Mickey aided his buddy in a neighborhood free-for-all. Apparently, some transvestites had been insulted by a buddy of the Featherstone boys, Frank McCarthy, who was out with his girlfriend. After insults flew back and forth a fight broke out. Mickey immediately joined in and though it was more a friendly Irish brawl than a fight, it broke up as soon as the cops arrived and no one wanted to press charges.


Mickey had a few close friends when he got back, other than his family, mostly buddies from the neighborhood who stuck by him, among them another good kid who went wrong,  Jimmy Coonan. Coonan grew up in a good, Irish Catholic family. His Dad was an honest, successful accountant.  Coonan had gone off the tracks as a teenager after a local hood, Mickey Spillane, kidnapped his Dad in an effort to extort money from his family. This bully viciously pistol whipped and tortured Coonan's Dad while he was held hostage. Everything agrees that this changed Coonan, he was never the same after this happened to his Dad. Coonan never forgot and never forgave and would later extract revenge as part of a vendetta against this mobster.



Mickey was with three friends in the Leprechaun Bar, 608 9th Avenue between 43rd and 44th,  in Hell's Kitchen when an outsider came in and started pushing everyone around on September 30, 1970. He was a 6'2" heavy set bully named Linwood Willis. He spoke with a southern accent but acted like he owned the place.  He was apparently a friend of the 250 lb. bouncer. He walked up to Mickey and his friends and told them he was going to run up a tab and Mickey and his friends were going to pay it. When Mickey and his friends protested, the guy announced that he had a knife and would cut them up if they didn't shut-up and do as he said. One source said that Willis told the boys that they were "little pussies," pulled out a buck knife and said that he and his knife would help them pass their physicals if they didn't do as they were told. That, if true,  was probably the worst thing that he could say to Mickey Featherstone. Had this bully been told the story about Mickey being the victim of a practical joke while in the Army? It was probably common knowledge in Hell's Kitchen, so it is possible. While other people might repeat the story when Mickey wasn't around, a bully would take obvious joy in humiliating the kid in person.


Mickey ran out of the Leprechaun and ran into Jimmy Coonan at Sonny's Café, 678 9th Avenue. Coonan always had a gun with him and even though they were only acquaintances, Jimmy agreed to loan it to Mickey.  Mickey came back and settled accounts with Willis by shooting and killing him. 

The People of New York v. Francis Featherstone   October 6, 1972 
A young attorney and former DA, Lawrence Hochheiser, was hired as Mickey's defense attorney by Mickey's sisters, Doris and Joan. When he went to meet his client in the Toombs, the New York City Jail,  he expected to meet a hardened, vicious criminal, instead he found  a nervous, timid, soft-spoken kid... who impressed the seasoned lawyer more as a street urchin from Dickens' Oliver Twist than a career criminal. 
In going through Mickey's voluminous military reports and psychological records he found that Mickey had seen and heard stories about atrocities in Vietnam, which had affected the sensitive boy deeply, causing him to have almost constant nightmares. These stories troubled Mickey, who felt that he was engaged in a noble endeavor defending his country and Freedom. These stories contradicted everything he was taught to believe by his Dad.
Then came the infamous bullying incident. As if the bullying wasn't bad enough, being  betrayed by his "buddies" made Mickey paranoid  because he didn't know who to trust anymore. These guys had been his friends when they betrayed him. And when he desperately needed anyone's reassurance the most, as any kid would after a diabolical "prank" like this, all they did was laugh at him. Someone should have put an arm on Mickey's shoulder and told him that he was going to be OK, then IMMEDIATELY walked him over to talk with an Army Padre or Psychologist. Beating the crap out of those jerks would have been entirely appropriate too. That is what his brothers would have done. And these "pranksters" would have had a long, long hospital stay when the Featherstone boys got done with them.
But most importantly, he needed someone to stick by him, showing that they were his real friend, someone who didn't enjoy his pain and embarrassment or think that the "prank" was funny. No real friend would have.
Unfortunately, Mickey found out that he didn't have any real friends there. For his last few months in Vietnam, he must have been the loneliest kid on earth.  It took a lot to drive a good kid over the edge, but this "prank" and the fact that no one reached out to help this young boy afterwards is what wrecked him.
This effect was intensified as he began to self-medicate with booze, street drugs, in addition to his Army prescribed medications, including the incredibly powerful Thorazine. Thorazine has the effect of turning you into a walking zombie.
Mickey had been in the Fishkill Prison's Mental Ward taking these medications for over a year. After taking this smorgasbord of medications, he was deemed by the state of New York as capable of aiding in his own defense and therefore ready to stand trial.

In talking to Mickey, Hochheiser became convinced that young Mickey was mentally ill. He always fought to win, whether as a DA or a defense attorney, sometimes Hochheiser took cases where he couldn't stand his client, whether victim or perpetrator, others where he fought the good fight, providing the most zealous prosecution/defense he could, but resigned himself to justice served should the verdict go against them, even if his clients or bosses didn't always agree.
Mickey was different than most of his clients. He liked him and recognized a lost soul, though he didn't exactly feel sorry for him. He had to acknowledge that Mickey was building a quite impressive resume of violence, but  he  also felt there must be a way out for this kid. That someone needed to reach him and get him back on the right, steady course. And he hoped that Mickey found that help before it was too late.


Law and Order/NBC

Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy: His first trial, and he knows just enough law to turn it into a circus.
District Attorney Adam Schiff: A circus? Three counts of murder? He's taking it seriously.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy: Then why doesn't he plead insanity?
District Attorney Adam Schiff: Because he's insane!


A case involving a very smart law student, who developed schizophrenia almost immediately after passing the bar, then was forced to live on the street.

But there were two problems in offering insanity as a defense in court. First, he had to convince Mickey to accept it. Everyone who knew Mickey, knew he wasn't the same kid who left for Vietnam. He was now a deeply troubled, confused young man. He didn't fit in anywhere. So he went back to Hell's Kitchen, at least they knew him there and they were loyal.  He was going through life in a haze of mistrust, fear and anger. But most of all, he was alone and no one could reach or help him.
With a wink and a nod, he told Mickey that he would use it as a ruse for his defense. It flew in the face of Mickey's Irish self-reliance and self-respect. Mickey initially opposed it on principle. It took some convincing, with the help of Mickey's family, who agreed with his lawyer and doctors' diagnosis, before Mickey finally agreed to the strategy.  
Hochheiser had read confidential reports from the military and public hospitals to which Mickey had been confined. They reported a deeply troubled young man with a confirmed diagnosis of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which was obvious to everyone, paranoia and possible schizophrenia. Mickey knew something was wrong with him, he had attempted suicide repeatedly since Vietnam, including slitting his wrists. Mickey asked him not to use those reports in  open court to protect his family.
The next problem was even more severe. Despite a popular misconception that criminals constantly avoided going to jail by using the insanity defense in court, no one, in fact, had successfully argued an insanity defense in a New York Court Room since the 1950's. Juries and judges almost never bought it, not even from sympathetic defendants.
Observers and reporters took note of one interesting phenomenon during the trial, jurors were intently studying Mickey while psychiatrists gave their testimony in court, first for the prosecution, then for the defense. Then they saw him on the witness stand. Mickey came across  as quite likeable, and did well in his examination and cross-examination. Finally the jury was able to form a picture of the young man from Hell's Kitchen. In the end they decided that he was a likeable young man, but felt that he was deeply troubled. And that it was as much our fault as his.

VERDICT: NOT Guilty by Reason of Insanity


Mickey went to a mental hospital until he supposedly got well. Geraldo did a famous report on mental hospitals at this time. It was sickening. The mentally ill were beaten, tortured, sexually abused, neglected and over-medicated, very rarely were they "cured". If Mickey had gotten the help he needed while he was there he might have been on the road to recovery, but at least he got out after a couple of years. The true horror stories were the people who never got out, because no matter how sick they were to start with, the were far worse the longer they stayed.

In one 10 year period since Mickey's case there were about 6000 murder cases tried, several hundred offered an insanity defense. of those only 7 were recognized by either judge or jury. That represents 1/10th of 1% of cases. THE NEW YORK TIMES


Sources:

1) Wikipedia
2) Various Forums(mostly Anonymous comments, backed up with some evidence from other sources), Book Reviews and Commentaries; Websites; Amazon and Barnes and Noble Customer Reviews
3) Imdb
4) The New York Times
5) The Westies/TJ English G. P. Putnam's Sons; March 19, 1990. This is the only book which explains the Westies, Jimmy and Mickey. It is well worth the time and money.

https://www.amazon.com/westies-T-J-English/dp/055382547X/


What happened next Coonan and Mickey were casual friends, but Coonan recognized in Mickey an incredible intensity, which told people don't mess with this guy. Taking advantage of Mickey's lack of fear and ferocious temper, they formed an Irish gang called the Westies in Hell's Kitchen. Mickey was the enforcer. The Westies earned an incredible reputation in only a few months. How good were they, well, actually, a better question: how bad were they?


On the street, Featherstone was known as a ''jungle killer.'' He was a Vietnam veteran with a haunted mien. At age 17, he had lied his way into the Green Berets and was sent off to war. ''It's a very emotional thing for him,'' says Jeffrey Schlanger, an assistant district attorney, who has spent hours interrogating Featherstone since last April. Schlanger says he is not sure Featherstone ever went into battle, although ''he talks about seeing people killed.''

Featherstone left the Army with a medical discharge in 1967, suffering from hallucinations and disorientation. For the next eight years he was in and out of mental hospitals. In between stays, he killed people.

''He'd do wild things,'' says Joe Coffey, a boyhood acquaintance of many of the Westies. ''Like he'd walk into a gin mill on the West Side and spray the place with machine-gun fire.'' Mickey Featherstone was a weapon waiting to be grasped by someone shrewder than himself. That person would turn out to be his buddy, James Coonan. NEW YORK TIMES
















A photo of Mickey around the time he came home from Vietnam.




James Coonan on the left and Mickey Featherstone on the right. Almost all photos of Mickey have been destroyed to protect him and his family since he went into witness protection.


After the real Mafia had several run ins with the Westies, all of which the Westies won, Godfather Paul Castellano sent an emissary to Coonan and Featherstone asking for a meeting.
Paul Castellano was the Capo di tutt'i capi. the head of the Mafia. He was smart enough to recognize talent, even if they weren't Italian. Still, the head of the Mafia didn't meet with people, especially people who weren't members of the Mafia. But a huge development, the $5 Billion Dollar Javits' Convention Center, was being built in Westies Territory and an accommodation would have to be made. Coonan and Mickey knew that a call for a meeting with the boss meant something very specific to a member of the Mafia, remember the scene in Donnie Brasco? It usually meant you were going to be hit. They worried it might be a trap and prepared for a fight just in case after getting the summons.  

Mickey carried the only weapon to the meeting, a hand grenade hidden in his underpants.
But Paul Castellano was a  very smart businessman, he realized that the Westies couldn't be beaten without a huge gang war and since they already had complete control over Hell's Kitchen and everything that happened there, he  would have to do the next best, smart thing: He hired the Westies to work for the Italian Mafia so everybody would make money. And that is how they became New York's toughest and  one of the richest gangs of New York.  You start to wonder how different things might have been if street hoodlum John Gotti hadn't killed the Boss. Maybe Carlo Gambino was right in choosing Castellano as his successor all along.


Big Boss Paul Castellano, extreme left, his predecessor, Carlo Gambino, standing third from right, and Frank Sinatra


There was only one fundamental difference between Coonan and Mickey. Mickey was a kid from the neighborhood, his whole life was focused on the people who lived there, they were all his family and  pals. When Coonan became a very successful "businessman", he went where the money took him. Eventually he became a wheeler-dealer with connections to everyone in the New York City Crime World, willing to go anywhere and meet with anyone for a deal. Somewhere along the line, he became one of them, not one of us.  Many felt that he forgot where he came from.
But Mickey always went home to his  family every night, because he never forgot.

In 1978 a Terrifying Message is sent to Mickey and Coonan, the Boss of Bosses wanted a meeting with them at a Brooklyn restaurant. It wasn't voluntary, be there or be dead.

Tommaso's at 1464 86th St, Brooklyn, NY 11228 was well known for great food, at least they would get a great meal before whatever happened, happened.










Mickey said he went with Coonan to a Brooklyn restaurant in 1978, leaving behind several Westies armed with machine guns and hand grenades in a Manhattan apartment to retaliate if anything went wrong. Both men relaxed, a little, when they found out that the meeting was at the favorite restaurant of Mob Boss Castellano.       
''If they didn't hear from us in two hours,'' Mickey said, the heavily armed gang members were supposed to rush to a Gambino club next to the restaurant ''and kill everybody in the place.'' Sitting at table #15 in the restaurant was a Gambino member who warned them not to admit ''anything about Ruby's murder or his black book." This was in regard to a hit the Westies had made as a favor to a member of the Gambino Family.      
 Mickey testified that he and Coonan were escorted into a room at the rear of the restaurant, where about 15 men were sitting around a large table. The group included Mafia Don Paul Castellano and other leaders of the Gambino and Genovese crime families.
Godfather Paul Castellano said, ''You guys got to stop acting like cowboys - acting wild.''       
'' 'You're going to be with us now,' '' he quoted Castellano as saying. '' 'If anyone is going to get killed, you have to clear it with us.' ''
Mickey testified that Castellano gave them permission to use his name as the head of the Mafia as their boss when doing business, but that they would have to give him ''10 percent of everything we made.'' In return there would be peace and everybody would make money. 
After the restaurant meeting, the whole group went next door to a club, Mickey testified. He said he and Coonan hurriedly ended the club session because two hours were up, ''and we didn't want the guys to come in here and shoot the place up.'' 'Got a Chain of Command.' The New York Times



One odd thing which set the Westies apart from their contemporaries and the viciousness of their world of crime was that civilians were almost always safe around them. Kids would actually get lectures from Coonan and Mickey not to follow the path they chose. The boys were very free with their money and would  even surprise kids in the neighborhood with bikes and dollhouses. But if you were a bad guy, a criminal, watch out.  Especially, if you preyed on the families in THEIR neighborhood.

Though Mickey was guilty of all kinds of crimes, including over 20 hits on other gang and mob members and recalcitrant, deadbeat customers, who didn't learn that they had to pay their debts. Mickey could commit an act of violence, especially when he was worked up, but that was it, once done he walked away.  He didn't enjoy  killing people, but he did it because the boss told him too. The nightmares haunted him. Worse yet was disposing of the bodies, he couldn't hack that. He would leave immediately after a hit. Friends described the only time that he witnessed the process, Mickey got physically ill.
Jimmy Coonan enjoyed being a criminal. He loved being the Boss. Beyond that he also took an odd enjoyment in participating in the dismembering and disposing of the bodies. He was also clever and applied science to the problem. One of the strategies Jimmy and the gang came up with for disposing of the bodies, was to dismember and puncture the bodies, after killing, then dump them in the Triborough Sewage Disposal Facility next to Randall's Island at high tide. The receding tide took the corpses twenty miles where they disappeared forever.

Though Mickey was in and out of jail and mental hospitals for over 20 years, he never once complained about his punishments. He figured he got what he deserved and was man enough to accept his punishment without complaint.
That isn't much comfort to his victims, but it came with the territory, dealing with the mob was never a pleasant experience for their competitors or customers.

That isn't to say that if you did anything criminal, yourself,  you wouldn't come under their thumb. You would and you would regret it, immediately. Loan Sharking was their main business, with a lot of drugs and some hijacking. You never wanted to owe them money, they were like the wrath of God if you were in their debt. And you better pay on time. No words can describe what awaited you if you welched on a debt to them. You were a dead man walking. And there was always a danger that Mickey could get carried away, like shooting up a bar over a debt and you might find yourself, a patron, injured as collateral damage. If you were on the straight and narrow, the Westies left you alone. But even if you were only dipping your toe into criminal waters, you were on their radar.  And you had just made the biggest mistake of your, possibly dramatically shortened, life.

In the late 1970's, the US Attorney, the FBI and the Manhattan DA, Robert Morganthau, began a serious campaign against the Mafia leading to the Mafia Commission Trials in 1985. They were greatly aided by a strategy developed by former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and his Associate Attorney General Robert Blakely, called the RICO Act.  The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act allowed prosecution of all members of an organization, the mob, for the acts of any particular member. Since the purpose of any such criminal organization was a criminal conspiracy for the profit of the group.  Tough times were coming for the gangs of New York.

At the same time something amazing happened in the life of one gangster. Mickey found a girlfriend, Sissy, and fell madly in love. They started dating like a normal romance, eventually got married and had the first of four kids(before he dropped out of sight). And then Mickey, out of the blue, did the most amazing thing, he quit being a criminal. And this would lead to his redemption and the end of the Westies.

Law and Order(NBC)

Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael: I have a solution that will make us all happy.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Jack McCoy: What's that?
Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael: No deals for anybody. Let's hang 'em all.


In January 1984, Mickey Featherstone got an order from Jimmy Coonan he couldn't follow. A lifelong friend of both Jimmy and Mickey, Bill Beattie, was behind on his loan shark payments to the gang and Jimmy wasn't going to cut him any slack. Jimmy gave Mickey the order to kill him. Mickey met Bill in Central Park and told him about the order to kill him. He said that he couldn't do it. They were friends and Mickey couldn't kill a friend.

But his family and friends recognized that there was an odd innocence at his core which didn't fit the typical picture of a criminal. Francis "Mickey" Thomas Featherstone had a heart and a conscience.  He acted one way around criminals, he could be incredibly cold and vicious, and that was what the newspapers reported and what most people in New York City remembered, but around the regular people and the kids in the neighborhood he was normal. He would help his Mom carry groceries home from the store. He would do that for elderly neighbors too. Mickey couldn't walk by a park as kids played basketball without shooting a few baskets himself and taking a minute or two to talk with them about sports.  He could have chosen to be the famous hood in Hell's Kitchen, but instead chose to be a regular guy that everybody, whether they understood him or not, liked. He just had a sideline which no one talked about, unless you were in the "business". There was a lot more to Mickey than the stories which appeared in the newspapers. 

One of the great conundrums of Mickey's life. When he tried to get a driver's license after coming home from Vietnam, he got a copy of his birth certificate.  Remember, that he used his 18-year-old brother, Henry's,  when he entered the military. Mickey had been told his whole life that his first name was Matthew.  Then to his great shock he saw his first name for the first time: Francis Thomas Featherstone. Where the hell did Mickey come from? And he was not at all happy that his name was the "girlish" Francis.
Here it was years later and he was even more miserable when he saw his indictment for the first time: The People of New York vs. Francis Featherstone. His attorney was amazed:  someone on trial for murder, for which he could be sent to jail for the rest of his life, would be so upset about his name on the indictment. He would later say that Mickey was an absolutely fascinating man. And he liked him.

Mickey believed in America and he believed in justice. He was genuinely shocked when he was convicted of a crime that he didn't commit. He had been arrested for murder. He was innocent. He went to trial and was convicted. The judge sentenced him to 25 years in prison. 
When the verdict was read the DA's congratulated each other for a job well done. The US Attorney and Manhattan DA continued to talk to Mickey hoping to use his statements to go after his associates in the Westies and the Mafia, but, amazingly, Mickey continued to protest his innocence so vociferously and with such apparent sincerity, it started to trouble the same prosecutors who had celebrated his conviction only a few days earlier. It was all very strange. 

How Mickey Got Justice
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau says that his office is also investigating Westies links to a real estate concern with holdings in New York and New Jersey. 

PERHAPS NOTHING would have stopped the Westies had Michael Holly not been murdered. It was yet another Westies revenge killing. The gang held Holly responsible for the 1977 shooting death of one of its members, John Bokun. Fearing for his life, Holly left Manhattan for two years, but returned and found a job as an ironworker at the site of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. On April 25, 1985, as Holly was walking down 35th Street near 11th Avenue, a man stepped out of a brown station wagon, screwed a silencer onto a gun and fired five shots at him.

Witnesses described the killer as short and slight, with light-colored hair. The car was quickly traced to Erie Transfer, the theatrical trucking company where Featherstone, who was making something of an effort to live a normal life, occasionally worked. When the police arrived at Erie several hours later, they found the car, its engine still warm. As they were interviewing employees, Mickey Featherstone sauntered right into their midst - short, slight and light-haired. The evidence seemed overwhelming, and the next day Featherstone was booked.


For once there were witnesses. The driver of a dry-cleaning van described the sequence of events, and identified Featherstone as the killer. In March 1986, Featherstone was found guilty, and faced a sentence of 25 years to life.


He was shocked. His lawyers, Lawrence Hochheiser and his partner Kenneth Aronson, had always brought home either a verdict of not guilty or a comparatively short sentence, even when Featherstone had committed a crime. This time, he was innocent. What's more, he knew the guilty party: the night before the murder, he was told by Kevin Kelly, a gang member, that Holly was going to be killed. So Featherstone fully expected to get off. ''He had this naïve belief that the system really works, in a sense,'' says Hochheiser.


Featherstone concluded that he had been framed by the gang and betrayed by his lawyers. He learned that John Bokun's brother Billy had confessed the crime to the attorney, Aronson, who represented both Bokun and Featherstone. Yet Bokun was never called to the stand. Hochheiser and Aronson contend that the attorney-client privilege prevented them from putting Bokun on the stand.


A week after his conviction, Featherstone called the prosecutors to claim that he had been framed, and he fingered Bokun. With his slight build and a light-colored wig supplied to him by Kevin Kelly, a gang member, Bokun could easily have been mistaken for Featherstone. Once prosecutors conceded that Featherstone might be telling the truth about his innocence, his wife, Sissy, in cooperation with the District Attorney's office, devised a plan to exonerate him.


Armed with a concealed tape recorder, Sissy Featherstone drew Bokun and others into conversations, sometimes when they came with regular payments for the family - the traditional organized-crime inducement to loyalty.


On one tape, Bokun can be heard enthusiastically re-enacting the hit: ''Boom! I just shot him. One-two-three-four-five. Back in the car. Ten seconds! No more!''


Mrs. Featherstone also got Bokun to state his belief that Kevin Kelly had provided him with the wig in order to frame Mickey, presumably to clear the field of a powerful rival - one of the last moves, perhaps, in the Westies never-ending internal warfare.


Last September, in an extraordinary event, Jeffrey Schlanger asked Justice Alvin Schlesinger of the New York State Supreme Court to overturn the conviction that Schlanger had been so gleeful about winning; Judge Schlesinger agreed. The New York Times



Sissy Houlihan came from a broken home and was a deeply troubled child. Six of her brothers and sisters died from drugs, murder or suicide. When she met Mickey, it was like Lennon meeting McCartney, two lost souls became one, because they both filled each other's need for total, non judgmental love. The only person who could understand the pain Mickey felt, was a girl like Sissy, who had experienced as much, if not more, pain than he did. They helped heal each other. Mickey tried to protect Sissy by keeping her out of the business. He only made one mistake, once he gave her counterfeit money to spend. And she got caught with it. When Mickey heard about what happened, he raced down to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. Mickey got there before they had even filed charges against Sissy. Everyone was stunned: Here was the ENFORCER of the most vicious gang in New York, the Westies, confessing to a crime and making an offer to the prosecutors, He would confess that it was his money and plead guilty, but only if they agreed to drop charges against Sissy.  Mickey kept his word and served a couple of years for doing the right thing and protecting the woman he loved.




Once the tapes were reviewed and his innocence proven, the prosecutors then decided to be HUMAN and reached out to Mickey as the son from a good family, an honorable man in his way, a good husband and a good father, because they knew what he had gone through. Mickey confessed to everything he and his gang had ever done wrong, testified against the Westies and the real Mafia and then went into the Witness Protection Program.
Another benefit, once he made the decision to go straight, Mickey's nightmares stopped, after he got through his last court appearance. These nightmares had haunted Mickey since Vietnam, they had become worse during the days of the Westies, but coming clean in court and making the choice to go straight, finally gave Mickey peace. Sissy and the kids gave him happiness.

Mickey under arrest
















Mickey was a lot stronger and a much better human being than Sammy the Bull Gravano or his cronies ever were. Sammy couldn't walk away because being a criminal was the life he preferred. He enjoyed being a mobster. Killing was just a part of the business. To him, it was no big deal. And that is what made Sammy dangerous.
Whereas, Mickey was haunted with nightmares most of his adult life, he did what he did, but it never made him happy, nothing did, until he met Sissy.
Sammy  "The Bull" Gravano always slept like a baby.
And the only way you were safe is to have nothing to do with them. You didn't even talk to them and more importantly you followed Sgt. Schultz's example: if you did see something, you never remembered anything. If you did, it was at your peril.



The Mafia had their own rules, sometimes even good people were hit to teach the public a lesson.
Young Arnold Schuster, a cousin of Simon & Schuster's Max Schuster, worked at a clothing store/haberdashery in Brooklyn. One evening  he was riding the subway home from work when he noticed a guy sitting in the seat across from him. He was sure it was Willie Sutton from the FBI's Most Wanted list. Willie was famously quoted by a reporter, who asked why he robbed banks, "That's where the money is".
Arnold followed Willie off the train to a garage, then phoned the NYC Police, who quickly picked up the bank robber.  Reporters flocked to Brooklyn to interview this young, brave soul. One of the people who saw  Arnold's interview was the head of Murder Incorporated, the Mafia's Hit Squad, Mob Boss Albert Anastasia.  Brooklyn was his territory.

Rosie "Midnight Rose" Gold was a widow in her 70's. She owned Rose's Candy Store at the corner of Saratoga and Livonia Ave in Brooklyn, which was a short distance away from where Willie Sutton was picked up and an even shorter distance from where Arnold Schuster lived. Unfortunately, in a rented room upstairs,  was the headquarters of Murder Incorporated, Mob Boss Albert Anastasia's Assassination/Hit Squad.




Anastasia decided to teach the squealer a lesson. On March 8, 1952, Arnold made the news for a second time:




The hood who shot him, shot the boy's eyes out to teach people that sometimes you can see too much and the groin to show that he wasn't a real man. Everybody was afraid of Mob Boss Albert Anastasia, pictured below. The FBI Wanted Poster that Arnold saw which cost him his life.





The Mafia had changed since Bugsy Siegel gave voice to one of Mob Boss Lucky Luciano's most famous rules. We only kill each other, civilians are off limits.

Sammy Gravano got a great deal from prosecutors in 1994, 5 years for 21 + murders, in return he gave testimony which sent John Gotti to jail for life. But he couldn't stop being a crook, in 2001 he was convicted of being a major drug supplier and got 20 years. The earliest he could get released on parole is March 8, 2019. Five years for 21+ murders, then 20 years for drug dealing in Arizona, he will be 74-years-old when released. His betrayal of his boss got him a little over a year of freedom

Mickey had two lives, the job and then his family. He never mixed the two. But there was never any doubt which life Mickey preferred: being married to Sissy and being a father to his kids made him happy. All he wanted was to spend every second he could with them in Freedom and Love. His Mom and Dad had shown him what true happiness was and now he wanted it for himself.


Irish Francis "Mickey" Thomas Featherstone was also a lot smarter than people gave him credit. When he walked away, he never looked back.

One old neighborhood buddy got a call from Mickey a few years ago. They touched all the bases, then Mickey brought up a contractor who was working on his house, who was lazy, not doing work on schedule and overcharging him. Mickey joked that things were a lot simpler in the old days. When a guy cheated you, it was a simple fix. Nowadays, he had no idea what to do, but he was probably going to leave it up to Sissy, though he would be there for back-up if needed. Mickey said the guy better be careful, though, when Sissy was mad, watch out. And they both laughed.


Mickey quit being a criminal because someone loved him, cared about him and healed his wounds. For the last 30 years nobody has ever heard anything about him, except his friends, his four kids and his family. Mickey finally got his life back. Mickey was a good kid, until bullies took his life away from him. It took a beautiful, sweet girl to give it back to him. Wherever Mickey, his wife and kid(s) are, I hope that they have found the happiness that they deserve.

Footnotes:
501 1/2  West 43rd Street  between 10 and 11th avenue Mickey's childhood home
434 West 49th Street Coonan's boyhood home
520 West 56th Street between 10th and 11th Avenue Mickey and Sissy's apartment
Sonny's Café 678 9th Avenue where Coonan was when Mickey asked him for a gun
Leprechaun Bar 608 9th Avenue between 43rd and 44th
596 Club 678 9th Avenue, bar owned by James Coonan 1972-79
Mickey meets Sissy at Amy's Pub in December 1975  856 9th Avenue

One of those anomalies which people find fascinating, Mickey testified in Federal Court that everybody called Jimmy and Mickey's gang The Westies, except the Westies. To them, they were just the guys.
In a lot of the forums there is a lot of nasty vitriol directed at Mickey, some even, astonishingly, at Sissy. But just like Henry McCarty was a great kid until his Mom died and a bully got a hold of him, Mickey was a great kid until the bullies got a hold of him too. There is a lesson there for even anonymous people on forums, stop a bully and you can save a kid's life.

If you ever see anyone pick on a kid or perform a heartless, cruel prank or even talk about one, STOP THEM. You may stop a kid from going through what Mickey Featherstone went through. And I know two people who will thank you for it, the kid you helped and Mickey Featherstone.




How you judge someone says far more about you than it does about the person you are judging. And it is always worse when an adult is a bully. 

A couple of years ago a 15-year-old boy named Christian Adamek of Huntsville, Alabama did something goofy. He streaked one of his  high school's football games.
I remember when I was a kid 40+ years ago. A boy did that same thing at my high school. Our principal told the local police to let him handle it. The boy got 2 month's detention, an hour before and an hour after school every day. His parents would have to drive him to school and pick him up. And he caught hell from them for it. But he never did it again. And we all chuckled and had an appropriate wise crack in the ready whenever we saw him. I remember he went to the University of Georgia and has had a quiet, successful life ever since. Although,  now, when he runs into one of us, he'll still gets the same wise cracks. At this point, we laugh with him, not at him.
What happened to Chris was very much different, his principal stood with the Preacher of the largest Evangelical Church in town, each held a press conference right after the event. They announced to the local press that they were going to make an example of Chris. They had Chris arrested and charged with a sex crime and were going to ask the court to have him tried as an adult, make him register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and be sentenced to jail.
Well, after Chris was released from custody, after being finger printed and charged, Chris prepared for his trial. 





Chris went home and killed himself.

Our principal, when I was a kid, was there to look out for us, help us and teach us. He was very conservative and wouldn't put with any non-sense or shenanigans. Our detention classes were always well attended. But he was fair and we knew he was trying to keep us on the straight and narrow. We got punished for what we did, but the punishment was proportionate and fit the crime. 
OUR PRINCIPAL would have judged himself a failure if one of HIS KIDS committed suicide. And he would be HORRIFIED if he contributed to the child's death in any way. We knew that we were the most important thing in his and our faculty's lives, because of the way they treated us and talked to us; they expected respect from us, but also gave it to us as well. And they would NEVER allow what happened to Chris to happen to us.






But you can have a clear conscience if you do it for Southern Christian Fundamentalist Family Values. In Alabama that is your get out of HELL free card.
This principal and this preacher decided to use this boy's mistake to prove some point in furtherance of their southern conservative religious views. Christian couldn't have mattered less, beyond being made an example. When criticism started to mount against the preacher and the principal, they stood firm. The boy shouldn't have committed the crime, if he wasn't willing to pay for it. They had decided what the appropriate punishment and it was Chris's problem if he wasn't man enough to face that. They both got to put notches in their crosses and proved that Chris's life was of little consequence---to them. To them, the death penalty was a totally appropriate penalty for this young boy. This man, a so-called "educator," may have the title of principal, but he certainly has no principles, nor is he any kind of educator.
The Romans had a punishment called damnatio memoriae, where the name of an evil doer was never mentioned again damning his memory. Let it be so with this EVIL man.
Our principal was a decent human being. A principal's first job is to get his kids safely to adulthood. If he fails at that, he is a 100% failure.  If only Chris had faced our principal, not "theirs," he would still be alive. And that is exactly what Jesus would have wanted regardless of what these "moral, good" men say.
These men have obviously never looked in the mirror to see who we see.









Bullying is NEVER Boys will be Boys,  but sometimes it is MURDER

















































Every time you see a bully, bullying someone, stop them. You have to call them on it. Accept no excuses or explanations. Hatred of someone that you don't know is the purest evil. Bullying someone smaller than you or someone who is hurting or is simply different is the ultimate cruelty. Bullies always start small and get better at it.
Irish Catholic Michael McIlveen, 15, was murdered in the centre of Ballymena, Northern Ireland on May 8, 2006. Four men grabbed Michael while he was walking home with friends within 200 yards of his house. The boys had been at an entertainment center, Michael has stopped by a take-away to pick up a pizza for his family's dinner. As the boys were walking, they were chased by some men, being smaller than his friends, the bullies were able to catch up with and grab Michael. They then took him to a secluded alley and beat the crap out of him with the bat, then  kicked him viciously over 60 times.
These four "men" were Protestant Unionists who hated Catholics. On the day in question they went out looking for trouble, they secured a bat and went looking for a Catholic to teach the lesson that Protestants were the boss in Northern Ireland. They saw Michael and kidnapped him. They didn't even know Michael, never met him. If they had they would have found out that he was a good kid, someone whom everyone liked. It took someone who didn't know him to TORTURE and murder him. Somehow Michael struggled home after his horrific beating, but his condition quickly deteriorated and he died on May 9, 2006.


This cruel, cold-blooded murder shocked and united almost everyone. While, as expected, Michael's murder was quickly condemned by the Catholic Church and Sinn Fein and leaders in the Irish Republic,  Archbishop Robin Eames, the Church of Ireland Primate, the Protestant Church of England in Ireland,  expressed the universal shock and revulsion when he said that Michael McIlveen was “the victim of sheer blind thuggery”.  Many, if not most, political leaders across Northern Ireland came forth and joined in condemning this barbaric act of vicious cruelty.
But everyone noted the silence which came from some quarters in the Orange Community. In some areas this silence was deafening. The Catholic Church has a doctrine which expresses this point of view.  Qui tacet consentire vidétur, by your silence, you give consent. In the magnificent movie "A Man For All Seasons" St. Thomas More, Robert Bolt, its author,  explains what this means and all of its implications.
But there were a few other voices which let themselves known and they were very much more accepting of Michael McIlveen's murder, Protestant Hugh Orde, Chief Constable of Northern Ireland, regardless of how he felt personally, took the far more forgiving or perhaps the more practical political line.  His first job was to not infuriate the Orange Order, which would cause them to bring their immense political power to bear. They ruled Northern Ireland with an iron fist.  He had a press release speaking about young people getting caught up in sectarian violence, which was, he said, a “two-way thing”.  It wasn't, each time a child, any child, is murdered, it is an attack on civilization.
But what is truly frightening, many people, especially in the Orange Order, even inside the police of Northern Ireland, ignored Michael's death altogether and immediately sought to change the subject to the IRA. As if Michael's death was inconsequential, not even worth discussing. Murdering a child is always inexcusable, each act is its own abomination, atrocity and crime against humanity.  These people weren't  troubled by four grown men taking one small kid and beating him to death. It fit in perfectly with the attitude of the murderers who felt absolutely no remorse or guilt. 
 Many feel that Michael's death created such bad publicity that it forced the police to act, whether they wanted to or not.
Justice is a two edged sword. It MUST protect the innocent and punish the guilty. And the fear of Justice can help too. Justice means a lot of kids will no longer live in fear, but more importantly more kids will survive their childhood, escaping suicide and murder.

Below Michael McIlveen, great kid, celebrating the birth of his Godson. He was an excellent student at St. Patrick's College Prep School. Michael was called Mickybo by friends and family described as a "brilliant wee fella" with a gentle, friendly nature, a boy with a very bright future. These bullies stole that from him and also stole happiness from his family. What amazed most people was the sense of compassion and forgiveness his family showed. That shows you that Michael came by his gentle nature honestly.


Why in the world would any decent human being say this immediately after the death of an innocent child. The answer, of course, is that no decent person would say it.

 ‘As a Catholic, Michael McIlveen won’t get into heaven. Catholics are not accepted into heaven’  DUP Councillor from Ballymena, Roy Gillespie, Member of the British Parliament from Antrim in Ulster and Evangelical Protestant. If you are curious where anyone would get the idea that 4 men torturing and murdering a child is OK, start here with Roy Gillespie, MP and BULLY, calling himself a Christian. It is amazing that any follower of Jesus would say that the 4 men who tortured and murdered an INNOCENT child would go to Heaven, while the child they murdered would not. May this MP's name live in infamy. 

A 15-year-old Catholic boy, known as Mickey-Bo, was beaten to death by four Protestant men armed with baseball bats while he was walking home with friends after watching a movie at the cinema. In response to the boy's death, local Catholic and Protestant teen boys and girls were determined to take a stand against religious hatred by attending Michael McIlveen's funeral together in his hometown of Ballymena in Northern Ireland.
The next Saturday, after Michael's funeral, an Orange Order Protestant Parade was held, as it turned the corner onto Broughshane Street near the dead boy's home, a tremendous chorus of “Fuck Mickey-Bo” arose among the marchers, most of whom were grown men, who then followed their taunt with death threats aimed at members of the crowd who protested their hectoring of the dead boy's family and friends. Ballymena News





If Mickey-Bo isn't in Heaven, then I have no interest in going there either.


No kid should ever feel this alone, ever...






I can’t do school anymore. I have no friends. I don’t want to kill myself but I have no friends.




In Ireland they have a campaign to end bullying by calling it what it is:


Bullying = TORTURE 



In memory of a kind, gentle soul, Matthew Sergei Burdette. Matt was an orphan from Orel, Russia who was adopted by a family in San Diego. A happy kid blessed with loving parents, Timothy and Barbara Burdette,  a devoted, loving sister named Masha and a loving extended family, who all adored him. Matt was a great kid working on becoming an Eagle Scout, already a successful athlete and an excellent student. He had everything going for him. Matt was also a very popular kid, everyone who knew him, liked him.
But for one mistake, a great kid would have grown into a good man. Incredible cruelty and bullying killed him.
Matt's teacher cast him out of the classroom because he was eating sunflower seeds in class. Without a hall pass, he had no where to go, except the boy's restroom, which would keep him under the radar until his next class began. Without anything to do, he decided to occupy his time as best he could until the bell rang. You would think the one place where any individual, by himself, could expect privacy was  a stall in the boy's restroom.

One stupid, vicious kid invaded Matt's privacy and stole his life from him, a bully who took a private moment in Matt's life, doing something which he, himself, was as guilty of, as are 100% of boys, and  held Matt up as a freak to ridicule and humiliation : this kid quietly stood on the adjoining toilet, stuck his camera phone over the partition which separated the stalls to spy on Matt and started filming, then published the video on the internet, after making sure to spread the word among the kids in school. He told everyone to watch Matt in a very human, private moment of weakness that every boy has experienced to one degree or another, which should have remained private and if discovered should have been ignored and forgotten.

That act is vicious cruelty, beyond measure and understanding. No kid could withstand the maelstrom which followed. Matt became the object of bullying, jokes and ridicule and faced this onslaught of humiliation, alone by himself. No one tried to stop it, no one stood by his side.  Matt must have been the loneliest kids on earth for the last two weeks of his life. His depression and hopelessness is easily understood by any feeling, sentient human being.

Addressed to the Teachers, staff and administrators of University City High School in San Diego, California, being an educator involves being a part of your kids' lives and going the extra mile for them. A kid in trouble, is your business. Helping them is the only thing which matters.

BUSINESS! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” Cried the Ghost of Jacob Marley to his friend Ebenezer Scrooge.  Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol"

The worst thing of all, everyone at school knew. The only ones who didn't know were Matt's Mom, Dad and family, to whom he was careful to never reveal his pain and humiliation. No one at school ever lifted a finger to help him. And worse yet, no one ever told his Mom and Dad that he was in trouble and needed help.  Matt was too humiliated to tell them himself. Evidence is that at least some teachers and administrators at the school knew what happened and amazingly they did nothing to help Matt either. That a teacher could hear this story and not investigate further is beyond comprehension. And indicates that they have made the wrong career choice. Regrettably, his friends didn't have the courage to speak up for their pal in the face of the tide of ridicule and humiliation.

Matt, like most boys, forgot that a situation like this are exactly what parents are for.  He was too embarrassed to tell his Mom and Dad what happened, even though they would have helped him through it. If you are ever in trouble, you can always tell your Mom and Dad, brother or sister or an aunt and uncle or a close friend. If you can't help them yourself or don't know what to do, tell someone else, someone whom you trust, and maybe together you can figure out what to do. The second a boy like Matt knows someone is there to help him, the problem is already half solved.

Matt's family asked that you give any gift in his memory to the Boy Scouts of America. One other thing that you can do in Matt's memory, make sure that what happened to him never happens to any other kid. And if you have a chance remember him in your prayers.





Matt with his Dad and Grandfather

If you ever see a kid in trouble, help them: do something, do anything, but never do nothing.


Don't be like everyone else, if you see a kid in trouble, don't wait on other people to do something. They probably won't, but you MUST do something, anything, because you are the one who is paying attention and the one who cares. The worst thing for a kid being bullied is feeling alone. You don't have to do a lot, in fact, even simple things help. If you see a kid being bullied, take the time to say hi, make sure that you call them by name and smile.  Trust me, they will notice, everyone needs to know that somebody cares about them, make sure that person is YOU







At least Mother Teresa and Johnny Gunther were there to comfort and welcome Matt into heaven. Matthew Sergei Burdette born June 14, 1999 in Orel, Russia and died November 29, 2013 in Crestline, California in the San Bernardino Mountains while on vacation with his family on Thanksgiving holiday. The world is the less for his passing. There are not enough good people in the world, we certainly can't afford to lose someone like Matt, Mickey, Chris, Aaron, Michael and Johnny.


When you get home tonight, hug your kids, if they are grown, call them and tell them that you love them. Never make them guess how you feel, then spend a few minutes, sharing your lives, but, more importantly, make sure they knew that they can share anything and everything with you. That is what love is, THEM.




Writing in the sand...




No man is an island, entire of itself;

Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind...

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.



Meditation XVII John Donne




"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto", "I am a man, nothing  human is alien to me."   Terence, Roman Poet (195 BC - 159 BC)


Bullies destroy people and can take a good kid and wreck his life. Even Billy the Kid was bullied after his Mom died
. You would think being an orphan was enough pain for a kid.



Most people don't know this but William Henry "Billy the Kid" McCarty was a victim of bullying too. Growing up, Billy was a terrific kid, straight A student, a bookworm, smart, talented and athletic; a boy who never got in a bit of trouble, but that was before his Mom died. His best friend was the Silver City, New Mexico Sheriff's son Harry Whitehill. The Sheriff  said that Billy was a terrific kid, who was always welcome in their home. He and his wife were even considering adopting him, but already had 12 kids.
Oh, by the way, Billy's Mom, brother Joe and his closest friends called him Henry, not Billy.  After his mother died and his Scottish stepfather abandoned "The Kid" and his brother Joe, their lives fell apart. Stepfather sold the home which Catherine McCarty had bought and pocketed the money.
Little known fact: successful restaurateur and laundry owner Catherine McCarty was a founder of Wichita, Kansas. Her signature is on the town charter.
Billy had no home and had to fend for himself at 14-years-old. He began wandering and wondering throughout New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. The town blacksmith in Camp Grant Arizona was a full time bully who used to beat up the 125 pound kid. The bully weighed a hundred pounds more than the "skinny, frail" orphan. Billy was working as a cook at the Hotel de Luna in town.  Click on the link below Billy the Kid's picture for the whole story.
 




For the whole story of Billy the Kid:
http://briankeithohara.blogspot.com/2014/11/billy-kid-was-more-likely-to-kill-off.html