John Travolta recently called his next movie, Gotti: Three Generations – in which he'll play Mob boss John Gotti Sr. – "the most interesting untold story in America."
But that doesn't mean the subject matter is sitting well with everybody.
Adding fuel to the fire was an April 12 New York press event to drum up publicity for the upcoming film. Besides Travolta, Lindsay Lohan, who's in the running to play Victoria Gotti in the picture, attended the gathering with the famous Mob daughter
As a silver spotlight is being placed on the family, both alleged victims and critics of the Gottis are expressing outrage over their glorification.
"It's like putting salt in an open wound," says Scott Favara, the son of John Favara, who accidentally killed the mobster's son, Frankie Gotti, in a 1980 car accident. (Favara was driving and didn't see the boy on his bike.) Favara soon disappeared and was last seen being shoved into a van. His body was never found, and varying accounts surfaced that mob associated murdered him and disposed of the body by putting it in a barrel of acid or entombing in concrete.
John Gotti Sr. "destroyed our family," says Scott Favara, now a policeman.
Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, who has a long running feud with the Gotti family and was shot several times in 1992 by a man later identified as an associate of John Gotti Jr.'s, also slammed the movie hoopla. "What we saw was an orgy of romanticism of organized crime," he says. "This movie is being billed as a love story between father and son. The media is just rolling over for them."
Gotti Jr.: 'Draw Your Own Conclusions'John Gotti Jr., 47, who sold the rights to his life story to the film's producer, Marc Fiore, says people can draw their own conclusions after watching the film.
"My father was an icon," said Gotti Jr. at the April 12 press conference. "He was a man larger than life. He stood true to his beliefs. Anytime you hear people say that 'John Gotti was a killer. John Gotti was a gangster' – yeah, he was."
But Jr. quickly added, "He suffered – he suffered greatly. He paid for every sin he may or may not have committed."
Gotti Sr., known as "The Teflon Don" because it was so hard for the feds to get criminal charges against him to stick, was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998 and died in jail in 2002, age 61, while serving time for multiple counts of murder, racketeering, extortion and tax evasion.
Exploiting RightsWhile some may find it outrageous, it is not illegal for the Gottis to make money from their story, so long as the film only depicts crimes committed by their father. The Son of Sam law, which prohibits criminals from profiting from their crimes, does not apply to his children.
"The person who commits the crime is the target of the Son of Sam law," says Leon Friedman, professor of Constitutional law at Hofstra University. "If the father does something bad, the children are not responsible for it."
Adds FBI spokesman Jim Margolin: "It's fair to say there are FBI agents who don't feel he is an appropriate person to glorify. But we haven't seen the movie yet."
For Favara, it's very simple: "They made John Gotti sound like a hero, which he was not. They are glorifying gangsters and they should think twice."
Reporting by KATHY EHRICH DOWD