Authors: Kevin Weeks; Phyllis Karas
THE UNTOLD STORY OF MY LIFE INSIDE WHITEY BULGER’S IRISH MOB
KEVIN WEEKS and Phyllis Karas
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK TO THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE:
The two people that I am proudest of, my sons Kevin Barry and Brian Michael. The person that was the best part of my life and my best friend, Pam, even though I wasn’t able to realize it at the time. My brothers and sisters, who believed in my good side. My friends who stayed with me through the worst times. And, lastly, to the few men in law enforcement—Dan Doherty, Steve Johnson, Thomas Duffy, Tom Foley, Brian Kelly, and Fred Wyshak—who were straight talkers and always played it down the middle.
To Sherry and Tom Bowman and Joy and Tom Glennon, who so graciously share their special daughters.
The reader of this book faces a quandary: how to deal with the violence, brutality, and amoral behavior of the characters and at the same time see how deceit, and wrong perceptions of what constitutes success, led my brother Kevin to become entwined in a life that is beyond the comprehension of “civilized” people.
You may not be able to comprehend how a father could be prouder of a son in crime than two sons who succeeded in other endeavors, but then you were not raised in an environment where violence was not only prized, but encouraged. You might not understand how his brothers cannot and would not condone the acts that were committed but love their brother in spite of his actions. You cannot understand how razor-thin the difference between taking the right or wrong road can be when you are caught up in an environment that is not within your control and in which you can only strive to survive with some sense of identity and self-worth.
The streets of Southie were tough, but not as tough as the apartment at 8 Pilsudski Way. There violence reigned supreme. What do you do when the streets are safer than your home? It was better to go out and take a beating (although mostly you were inflicting one) than face the consequences of failing. And you could win and still fail—you didn’t win by enough, the other person wasn’t bloodied enough or got up too soon after the punishment was inflicted. Do nothing, and you got a beating. There was a malevolence that permeated the air we breathed. We were the primary targets of it, and there was nothing we could do but survive it. And survive it we did, each in our own way and with any and all means and tools that we had within us and whatever external support system we could devise and utilize.
So one grew up inured to violence. It was a fact of life, nothing to get excited over. In fact, the absence of it was not necessarily a good thing, as you just wondered when it was going to occur and if you would be ready for it. It preyed upon your mind. It was actually easier to take the beating than to worry about when it was going to happen. Not
it would. That it would was never in question.
My brother Jack and I got out how and when we could. The train ride to Cambridge was in fact a ride to another world, one that was as alien to the people left behind as their world is (or should be) to you.
Kevin was not as lucky. You might feel that it was unthinkable that his parents would not want him to escape and better himself. But then you could not think in the terms that those who are supposed to be most influential in a child’s life saw the world.
The desire to control and dominate was uppermost. And the standards that were in place revolved around your “street presence.” Education had no street presence. It was not tangible in that it did not make you tougher, better able to fight, more feared by those around you. Sure, it was something to talk about, but you couldn’t use it in the same way that you could a pair of fast fists. Smart was good, but having the ability to beat someone senseless! Now
was real power. Education was often talked about in the apartment, but always with the implied threat that if your marks weren’t acceptable, be ready to give your soul to God because your ass belonged to our father. It seemed that it was just another excuse (as if one was needed) to justify the violence that would be visited upon the failing student. And A’s weren’t acceptable.
It is in a way unfortunate that all the brothers were good with their fists. If we hadn’t been, maybe Kevin’s life would have taken a different twist. Most of our ability to fight came from withstanding the blows that our dad would throw at us. We aren’t talking about slapping here. You had to be able to take a pretty good shot early on. Hell, you could get punched for blinking too much—true!
Kevin ended up following in his older brothers’ footsteps. Because we were able to fight, he had to as well. And he had to be better—that was also a rule—you had to outdo whoever preceded you. Kev was and is tough. But he is toughest in the streets, where there are no refs to make sure that the rules are followed, no bell to end a round, and definitely no decisions given on points. An incident occurred when he and Jack were arguing in the apartment in front of our parents. Jack, not wanting to continue the disagreement in front of them, asked Kevin to step outside. Kev said, “Sure,” and let Jack lead the way out the door. Jack had taken only a step or two when Kev suckered him, dropping him to the floor. Kevin felt no remorse, as he had been drilled to never give any opponent an advantage. The interesting thing is that our father was not upset, but rather proud that one son would cold-cock another!
So Kevin’s story is that of a smart, affable kid who was encouraged to make wrong choices. James “Whitey” Bulger got him at the age of eighteen, but he had been schooled in the ways of the streets since he was old enough to make a fist.
They say that you can take the kid out of Southie but you can’t take Southie out of the kid. That is true. You are always from Southie wherever you go. People from Southie do not, when asked where they are from, say “Boston.” They say “Southie.” It is a fact that you do not run away from, do not deny, and are not ashamed of. There are many negative stereotypes that are laid on people from Southie—racists, thugs, ignorant, and so forth—and Southie has always been a convenient place to look down on and feel superior to. But there are a great many good and decent people who hail from there and continue to dwell in that peninsula jutting into Boston Harbor. One thing that so many people not from Southie could never comprehend is the camaraderie that was so evident. In a way it was like a big unruly family, with internal feuds and bickering, but a united front against anyone not of the clan. As they say, when you are in a foxhole, you hope that the person next to you hails from Southie—you know he will have your back.
And like any family, Southie always had its black sheep, usually a whole flock of them. The blackest was Whitey Bulger. He was incredibly violent in a neighborhood that normally took violence in stride. Jimmy brought it to a different level, and Kevin found himself attracted to it. Kev was already a student of the art, and an excellent one at that.
Fighting teaches you to not think about the punch, just to throw it. There are times when you connect and knock someone senseless and not realize immediately that it was you who threw the punch. You are trained to react. In effect, a fast muscle twitch occurs before your brain has the time to process it. You see and react without thought. If you are conditioned to this since you are old enough to walk, you can become extremely formidable and dangerous. Where other people are working themselves up to throwing that first punch, you are already walking away from the bleeding, unconscious person on the ground. That is Kevin in action. When confronted with a threatening situation, immediate violence without remorse or fear occurs. He was invaluable to Jimmy. Smart, fearless, loyal, and without many of the internal constrictions or self-limiting awareness of society’s proper behavioral characteristics, Kevin found his niche in the world.
He led the good life, in the style of
—money, street respect (all that really counted), and the knowledge that everyone knew who you were, knew the power you held, and understood the consequences of crossing you.
Pretty heady for a young man. Hell, it would be heady for any man who was raised knowing that the streets were what counted. In terms of the street, he was a success.
One day in the late 1980s I was in a board of directors’ meeting at the company I worked for. One of the directors asked another if he saw the article about Weeks on the front page of the newspaper over the weekend. He replied that he had and another gentleman also said that he had read the article. As they spoke they realized that they had each seen a different paper and the Weeks in each of the three articles was a different brother, Jack in the
for a political campaign that he was heading up, Kevin in the
regarding a difference of views with law enforcement, and myself in the
for taking a proactive stance on sewers for areas of the town for which I was a selectman. The first director looked at the other two and then turned to me and said, “I guess you all come from a family of high achievers, no matter what you’re into.” Kevin was a very high achiever in a field that does not tolerate failure very well.
Kev is sorry for only a few things in his life. He loves his sons mightily and rues the things that he did that lost him his wife Pam. He followed the rules of the streets all the way, and it cost him almost everything. Sure, he enjoyed the fruits of his labor, but at the end he was almost relieved when the law was finally able to put a stop to it all. He never complained about the time he spent in prison. It seemed to actually give him the time he needed to assess his life and contemplate his future. Not his next career or where he would live, but what was meaningful in life and how he wanted to interact with those who mattered most to him.