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kevin cullen

Traces of the old Southie

And on the seventh day, Stevie Flemmi rested.

He finally left the witness stand after implicating his former partner, Whitey Bulger, in every crime imaginable.

And not a moment too soon. Listening to Stevie distance himself from the murders of his girlfriend, Debra Davis, and stepdaughter, Deborah Hussey, was nauseating.

Listening to him complain about the conditions at some holding facility for cooperating witnesses was only slightly less sickening.

Whitey’s lawyer, Hank Brennan, talked about how cushy the joint is, especially compared to Whitey’s digs in Plymouth.

“You’re at a Club Fed,” Brennan said.

Stevie demurred.

Brennan suggested Stevie had access to a gourmet kitchen.


“I wouldn’t feed the food to my dog,” Stevie shot back.

Don’t you get smoked oysters?

“No,” Stevie said.

Don’t you have a big Fourth of July barbecue?

“The hot dogs were burnt,” Stevie whined. “The hamburgers were burnt.”

Stevie is an admitted serial killer, statutory rapist, lover of fine wine, mutilator of corpses. He added a new identity: grumpy old man. He sounded like Larry Fine from The Three Stooges who, when asked why he ate burnt toast and a rotten egg for breakfast, said he had a tapeworm and it was good enough for him.

We were all waving goodbye to Stevie when his seat was taken by Kevin O’Neil, the hulking former bagman for Whitey. O’Neil introduced some levity into what has been some very dark proceedings, telling prosecutor Zach Hafer that since he got out of prison he had “worked in a variety of jobs, mostly in women’s clothing.”

I was half expecting Whitey’s lawyers to ask O’Neil if, when working in such clothes, he was partial to Donna Karan or Lilly Pulitzer.

O’Neil was one of three brothers who owned Triple O’s, the bucket of blood where Whitey stood in back and eyeballed everybody, when he wasn’t shaking people down upstairs in the function room.


Hafer walked O’Neil through the time he picked up an envelope stuffed with cash from a real estate agent who had been summoned to Triple O’s by Whitey, who told the guy he had been hired to kill him. Whitey let the guy buy his life, and the guy handed the first installment to O’Neil.

O’Neil felt queasy handling cash from a shakedown that took place in his bar.

“I could lose my license,” he told Whitey.

Whitey shot him a look and said, “You could lose your life.”

That’s how Whitey treated his friends. O’Neil was forced to pay almost 10 times what Whitey did for a liquor store. But even that wasn’t enough. Whitey made him pay rent for a building he thought he bought.

Listening to this all play out in federal court, on a South Boston waterfront where Whitey is alleged to have gunned down two men in cold blood 31 years ago, it was hard not to look back to the days when Whitey ruled the roost. The waterfront was a dump when Whitey was king; now it’s shiny, full of young people and new money.

There was a belief, ridiculous as it turned out, that Whitey made Southie safe by keeping it dangerous; that if you stepped out of line, you’d hear from Whitey. It was ludicrous, endowing Whitey with an omniscience he didn’t possess. He was just a thug who pretended to care about his neighborhood while terrorizing its residents and unleashing his drug dealers to peddle poison.


Whitey’s Southie is long gone. But after seeing 24-year-old Amy Lord abducted from her Southie apartment at 6 in the morning, brutally beaten, terrorized, robbed, and killed, it’s tempting to long for an omnipotent neighborhood overlord.

It’s absurd to think that Lord’s slaying wouldn’t have happened when Whitey ran The Town. Women died brutally, allegedly in Whitey’s stranglehold.

The evil that killed them has no ZIP code.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.