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PEOPLE IN THE NEWS

Profiles of Paul McCartney, Jodie Foster, John Gotti

Aired June 15, 2002 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, nearly 60 and a newlywed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL MCCARTNEY, MUSICIAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a bit of fun.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A rock'n'roll icon who was devastated by the death of his wife, Linda.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTNEY: I just did what came naturally, and that involved a lot of crying, basically.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Now, he is discovering that all you need is love. The legend that is Paul McCartney.

Also, she's the veteran actress who's grown up in front of our eyes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JODIE FOSTER, ACTRESS: I only make the films that I really love and that I believe in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Her new movie and her new role, a little offbeat.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: I wanted to portray this villain in some ways as less villainous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Jodie Foster stars in "The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys" -- and no; it's not what you're thinking.

Then, a mafia boss whose picture graced the cover of "TIME" magazine. A cold-blooded killer wrapped in expensive clothing. A real-life Tony Soprano, who headed up a dysfunctional mob family.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's responsible for the deaths of scores of individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: A look at the life and death of the Dapper Don, John Gotti. Their stories and more now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Welcome to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. As rock-n-roll legends go, they don't get much bigger than Paul McCartney. So it's no surprise that the 59-year old former Beatle's marriage to 34-year-old Heather Mills this week would turn into a worldwide event. Here's Kyra Phillips with our "Person of The Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last July, the media jockeyed for position to hear the big announcement from a member of rock's royalty Sir Paul McCartney and his new love activist and former model Heather Mills told the world they planned to wed.

MCCARTNEY: Well, Peter, we're engaged. That's it. That's it. Where and when, it's all very private stuff, all that, you know. Anyway, we're standing here for the cameras and we're very happy. And we'll get married sometime next year. That's about it for details.

PHILLIPS: And with that, off they went leaving a pack of buzz begging for more information. The former Beatle and his bride-to-be would not name the time nor the place, sparking speculation and rumors on both sides of the Atlantic. Finally, this week, with the gossip columns in overdrive, they came clean with some details.

MCCARTNEY: What we're going to do is basically a family wedding. So we're going to have family and friends. And we're just going to have a bit of fun and -- we won't be up -- hello. So there you are. Thank you much for your support. We'll see you. Thank you. All right. Now, if you didn't get that, you didn't get it.

PHILLIPS: At last, the mystery was revealed. The ceremony was at remote Castle Leslie in Glaslough, Ireland. The nuptials did go off without a hitch this past Tuesday and the grounds of the 17th century castle were teaming with fans and photographers eager to get a glimpse.

Having the raft attention of the media and the public is nothing knew to this former Beatle. From the minute the shaggy haired British quartet deplaned in New York in 1964 with their matching black suits and impish grins, Beatle mania was born.

James Paul McCartney was dubbed the cute Beatle. It was in 1957 at a church party in Liverpool that it all started to come together. There, Paul heard a 19-year-old playing American rock 'n' roll as the lead singer of a local band, The Quarrymen. His name was John Lennon. That chance meeting led to a partnership that would last 13 years and produce a record number of number one singles. Paul joined forces with John, George Harrison, a young guitarist he rode the bus to school with every day and drummer Ringo Starr and they formed the Beatles.

In 1968, an American photographer was sent to capture some of the Beatle magic on film. Only on this assignment, Linda Eastman, also captured the attention of one of her subjects.

PETER CASTRO, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: She photographed Jimmy Hendrix, Jim Morrison, you know, The Rolling Stones. She was a big name. And she photographed the Beatles at some event, met Paul. They started talking. They really clicked and they never spent a day apart after that essentially.

PHILLIPS: After a year-and-a-half, the two tried to wed quietly without much fanfare. Well, it didn't work. Paul and Linda were mobbed by paparazzi and sobbing girls mourning the loss of the last bachelor Beatle.

In 1969, Paul decided to take a little rest from the public eye to spend time with his new family. But his fans wondering where he had gone came to their own rather ominous conclusions.

MARTIN LEWIS, BEATLES BIOGRAPHER: The notion was that Paul had died in a car accident in 1966. And the Beatles fearful that their popularity would waver had drafted in a Scottish actor, given him plastic surgery to make him look like Paul and a voice to sound like Paul and then miraculously, for some reason, he continued to write songs like Paul. It was insane.

RINGO STARR, BEATLES' DRUMMER: We all thought, oh well; we'll do a photo with Paul. And everyone will just say, well, that's the fake Paul. You know, it is just a bit of crazy rubbish at the time.

PHILLIPS: Eventually, it took Paul posing on the cover of "Life" magazine to squash the rumor. Very much alive, Paul was at the height of success with the Beatles, but behind the scenes, tensions were brewing and the fab four could not agree on how to go forward.

CASTRO: They broke up over very different philosophies. Paul really kind of wanted to keep touring and John wanted to be more of a recording artist in the studio and lawyers got involved.

PHILLIPS: Pretty soon, the four close friends couldn't even be in the same room without fighting. In 1970, the Beatles who had an unparalleled run at the top of the charts called it quits.

CASTRO: No one will ever know who instigated the break-up. It was ugly though.

PHILLIPS: Eager to forge a new identity with a band of his own, McCartney formed Wings in 1971 with his wife Linda.

CASTRO: Paul loved Linda so much and was so devoted to her and they had such a strong marriage that they could not fathom life apart. That's how in love they were. And it said, if -- obviously, if I'm going to have a band and I'm going to tour and I can't live without you, you're going to have to be a part of the band.

PHILLIPS: Against all odds, the band and the marriage thrived as they raised four kids together.

LEWIS: He and Linda set out to have -- to raise their kids as normal kids and they succeeded and that's the mark of any great marriage.

PHILLIPS: But their happiness would come to an end. The feisty photographer who was so devoted to her husband and her children was diagnosed with breast cancer. The news was devastating to Paul, who also lost his mother to the disease. After a painful battle, Linda McCartney died in April of 1998.

CASTRO: He essentially cried for a straight year, wept, you know, uncontrollably.

PHILLIPS: Paul virtually disappeared in the months following Linda's death. Friends and fans wondered if he would ever recover.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, Paul McCartney tries to pick up the pieces and move on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Former Beatle Paul McCartney is still setting out arenas 40 years after hitting it big.

MCCARTNEY: I just play what I like and I try and please an audience, you know, I do my best. And we're just having a great time. But don't ask me why or how, it's just -- it' happening.

PHILLIPS: The nearly 60-year-old rocker is having a great time now, but just four years ago, he was dealing with the death of his wife of 30 years, Linda.

MCCARTNEY: A lot of people said to me, "OK, get very busy and throw yourself into work." And I thought well, I don't really want to do that. So for the first year, I just did what came naturally and that involved a lot of crying basically and a lot of just letting it out.

PHILLIPS: After a period of mourning, the loving husband and devoted family man was asked the inevitable question -- would he find another great love? MCCARTNEY: I just take things as they come. I think -- as I said before, I think Linda would want me to be happy whatever that involves, you know.

PHILLIPS: To help heal the wounds of losing his wife to cancer, McCartney immersed himself in something new, painting. A book of his paintings was published amid much fanfare.

MCCARTNEY: I'm still a musician. I love that. But I do love painting. And so, eventually, I was like persuaded to show them, you know, just to the people who might like it. And it just seems to have gone down pretty well except with a couple of snotty critics.

PHILLIPS: In 1999, life took a major turn when he met Heather Mills at a charity event. She was a vocal landmine and disability activist, issues that became painfully personal to her when she lost her leg after being run over by a police motorcycle. The former model worked tirelessly to fit fellow amputees with artificial limbs.

HEATHER MILLS, ACTIVIST: I worked to develop them because the whole system in Britain was you can't ski, you can't do this, you can't do that. You're disabled, you know. And you must never do that and you must realize that disabled people don't do all of those positive things. And I think it hasn't sunk in psychologically.

PHILLIPS: Paul and Heather developed a relationship and soon he was helping her lobby to eliminate landmines. After a year long courtship, a diamond and sapphire ring from India sealed the deal. Paul and Heather became engaged.

CASTRO: I think following Linda's death, he mourned for so long that once he found Heather Mills and fell in love; it was sort of like a new life for him. And he's just -- he's just become this party boy now and he's just enjoying life.

PHILLIPS: And on April Fool's Day, the rock 'n' roll legend kicked off his first concert tour in 10 years.

MCCARTNEY: Can't buy me love.

PHILLIPS: Driving Rain USA racked up more than $50 million in sales.

LEWIS: Paul McCartney has a great gift for music and for writing the most enduring melodies that you cannot get out of your head.

CASTRO: He's a perennial. He's a classic. The genius of Paul McCartney is that he has written so many songs over such a long period of time, that very different age groups and generations identify with his music and they're all just bopping away together, having a blast.

MCCARTNEY: I'm back in the USSR.

PHILLIPS: With four decades of work to choose from, McCartney says he knows there are fans out there hoping to hear some classics. MCCARTNEY: If I was going to see a show of someone I liked -- let's say Neil Young or The Rolling Stones or someone -- I want to hear some hits. It's just who I am and I think I'm kind of a typical audience so we try and mix it up.

Jet!

PHILLIPS: His concerts also reflect a life tempered by the loss of those close to him. "Here Today," the poem Paul wrote after John Lennon's death now set to music. "Maybe I'm Amazed" to honor late wife Linda and an a cappella version of the song "Something," the George Harrison classic.

MCCARTNEY: I wanted to do some kind of thing for George. And when I thought about what to do, I immediately was reminded of the second to last time I saw him. We'd had dinner. And he -- we played ukuleles together. It was his thing. He really loved the ukulele. And at that point, I just made a little joke and sort of said, "You know, I do this number," you know and I played a little bit of something. And he made a joke back and said, "No, no, it goes like this." And we talked about it. It was a laugh. It was one of our last moments, I suppose, you know. And it was a lovely moment.

PHILLIPS: McCartney was also touched by the tragedy of 9/11. He wrote the anthem "Freedom" after the terrible events of that day.

MCCARTNEY: And we were on the tarmac at JFK at quarter to nine when the captain just sort of stopped the plane and said there's been a terrible accident. And we could see it out of the window.

My dad had been a firefighter. That was kind of part of it. I was always seeing the firefighters and God; my dad did that in World War II. So it really brought it home for me and I thought well, I want to do something for these people and for New York and for the U.S.

You live in freedom. Yeah!

PHILLIPS: Throughout his long career, Paul McCartney has managed to face tragedy and move on.

LEWIS: Paul has always had a relentlessly optimistic slant on life, which is impressive bearing in mind the amount of tragedy he's had. I mean he lost his mother to breast cancer when he was 14. He lost his wife Linda to breast cancer. He lost John to a murderer and George recently. So he's dealt with a lot of sadness, but he's cheerful. He takes that attitude. He has a positivism, which I think is why he looks so sprightly for a man of his advanced years.

PHILLIPS: And now with a new bride and his 60th birthday this Tuesday, Paul McCartney has reason to celebrate. And if his latest tour is any indication, he's got a lot of years ahead of him.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Coming up on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, Jodie Foster gets in the habit of playing a villain in this week's "Screen Scene," but first, here's this week's "Passages."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Legendary designer, Bill Blass, died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut after a long battle with cancer. Known as the gentleman of American fashion, Blass-designed clothes could be seen on America's elite women like former first lady Nancy Reagan and newswoman Barbara Walters.

Born in Indiana, Blass sold his first fashion designs for $25 when he was just 17. Bill Blass was 79.

Sex symbol Pamela Anderson can add one more title to her resume, magazine columnist. The former "Baywatch" babe will be penning a monthly column for "Jane" (ph) magazine starting in September.

The new gig came along after Anderson had called the magazine to complain about a cover story about her. Topics to be covered include health, parenting and domestic abuse. Topics not to be covered, how to look good in an orange bathing suit, gigantic hat maintenance and home videos made easy.

Rocker Mick Jagger proves that sometimes you can always get what you want. The front man of the legendary Rolling Stones is reportedly set to be knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Jagger will join the other knights of rock, Sir Paul McCartney and Sir Elton John and of course, Sir Mix-a-lot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Need more satisfaction from celebrity news? Then, pick up a special double issue of "People" magazine this week. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS with Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: In her new movie, Jodie Foster is an ultra-strict nun with one leg. And she's making life dangerous for a pair of brilliant but rebellious young altar boys. It's an independent film that mixes obsession, revenge and animation. "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys" is also the subject of this week's "Screen Scenes." Here's Kat Carney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAT CARNEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donning a habit, a Harley and a peg leg, actress, Jodie Foster takes on the role of a mean spirited nun in the independent film "The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys."

Set in the south in the 1970s, this coming-of-age story follows a group of alter boys rebelling against the repression of their catholic school.

FOSTER: Give it to me.

I thought it was a brilliant script and it really needed to be done very truthful, very raw.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE), front of the bus.

CARNEY: The boys' superhero alter egos are brought to life in the film through animation.

FOSTER: Animation really is about what's going on inside these boys and inside, there's just this turmoil and passion, drama and hysteria and anger and all that stuff. And that's all the stuff that they just can't let out. And I think it works very well as a counterpart for the rest of the film.

CARNEY: Jena Malone co-stars with Foster as Margie Flynn, one of her students.

JENA MALONE, ACTRESS: Do you think I'm crazy?

You know, there's just constant films that happen to have, you know, Jodie Foster in it that are female roles that are actually, you know, complex and interesting and vulnerable and hard and smart.

CARNEY: The role of the villainous Sister Assumpta is a far cry from the heroines Foster is best known for playing.

FOSTER: I wanted to portray this villain in some ways as less villainous. I really wanted to see the reasons why she was -- she felt the need to so dramatically put her thumb of authority on these boys. I think you can see her frustration, because it's not working. She's trying, but it's not working. And the harder she reins down on them, the more they go off and defy her.

FOSTER: You hold your tongue, young man. You're on a terrible downward spiral.

CARNEY: The independent film premiered at Sundance, and got rave reviews.

FOSTER: That's what drew me to it in the first place, was really, you know, wanted to see a film that reflected what it was like to be 14 or 15, which was my darkest time in my life. I am always amazed that I got through it OK and I am still standing.

CARNEY: During those dark teenage years, Foster was already a star.

She landed her first gig at age 3 as a Coppertone girl in a famous ad. From then, a string of Disney film roles.

FOSTER: I'm not completely mature in my figure yet.

CARNEY: At 14, she caught the attention of director Martin Scorsese who cast Jodie in his 1976 film "Taxi Driver."

FOSTER: Mister, it's your time, 15 minutes ain't long.

LEAH ROZEN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: She shows up in "Taxi Driver" as this child prostitute, this sort of foul-mouthed, self-confident child prostitute who the Robert DeNiro character feels he has to save. And that, she got a best supporting actress Oscar nomination.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT DENIRO, ACTOR: What's your name?

FOSTER: Easy.

DENIRO: Well, that's not any kind of name.

FOSTER: It's easy to remember.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARNEY: Foster's performance put her on the map as a teenage star and gained the attention of Hollywood. Unfortunately, not all the attention was good. In 1981, her world would be turned upside down. Obsessed with the actress, John Hinkley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Reagan in an effort to impress her. Jodie, then student at Yale University, kept a low profile during this difficult time. She would go on to graduate and head back to Hollywood, and eventually back into the spotlight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) kissing me (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hands all over my mouth.

ROZEN: "The Accused" was I think Jodie Foster's first breakthrough, grown-up, adult role. And when she came through in "The Accused," as this rape victim who didn't exact have the most spotless past, it really was the first time that most people said, oh.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you struggling?

FOSTER: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROZEN: It was a harrowing performance, and she deservedly won a best Oscar for it.

CARNEY: Her most memorable role was still to come.

ROZEN: She was this FBI agent who you just immediately identified with because you had that sense of here's someone who you know is good at her job, but also has certain insecurities, also has hesitancies. "Silence of the Lambs." It was her second Oscar performance. She had, what, two Oscars before she was 30, something I think no other actor had done.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: What is he doing? I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARNEY: At 39, Jodie Foster has an enviable career, even by Hollywood standards. The two-time Academy Award winner has more than 40 performances to her credit. Off scene, Foster has created a buzz and questions over who fathered her two children -- Charles 4, and Kit, age 1. Despite rumors, the single mom kept mum on the subject, keeping her private life private.

Foster co-produced this latest independent effort. She's also a respected director with two films to her credit, "Little Man Tate" and "Home for the Holidays."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FOSTER: This little kid is exactly the kind of person I want to be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARNEY: These days, Foster looks to spend more time behind the camera.

FOSTER: I really make very few films, but I only make the films that I really love and that I believe in. It is really more, do I like this and would I want to see it. And what does it mean to me. And will this bring me closer to understanding myself as a person. And that usually correlates with a good film.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Coming up, John Gotti lived in the limelight. He died in prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He may have been the most celebrated or the most recognized crime boss during his brief reign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The quiet end to "The Dapper Don," when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

He lied, cheated and murdered his way to the top of organized crime. And John Gotti did so with a bravado and swagger rarely seen among mafia bosses. At one time, he was invincible, the Teflon Don. But in the end, Gotti could no more escape justice than he could his own death. John Gotti died this week at a prison hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Here's Charles Feldman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about the witnesses?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Gotti.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Joseph Gotti. The mobster with a sense of style.

JULIETTE PAPPA, JOURNALIST: He was a thug in a great looking suit. And there is that wonderful chemistry about that.

FELDMAN: The "Dapper Don" they called him. A mafia chief who broke all the rules. Who murdered his way to the top. Who reveled in the public spotlight, and who, at least for a while, seemed to get away with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He beat the case once. He beat the case twice. He beat the case three times. And you know, he began to believe that he was the "Teflon Don."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think of John Gotti as a hero. I look up to him.

BRUCE CUTLER, GOTTI ATTORNEY: He is a most remarkable man. If you just think of the name John Gotti and what it conjures up, you see a person who has affected the world.

FELDMAN: To daughter and novelist Victoria, John Gotti was a commanding figure, and just like any other dad.

VICTORIA GOTTI, JOHN GOTTI'S DAUGHTER: We had to remain a close- knit family. And I think that growing up that my dad executed the values and the morals that he wanted us to take through life.

FELDMAN: But now refired FBI agent to helped put Gotti behind bars remembers him this way.

J. BRUCE MOUW, FORMER FBI AGENT: John Gotti is a stone cold killer, who is responsible for the deaths of scores of individuals. He is a very vicious and ruthless boss.

SELWIN RAAB, FORMER NEW YORK TIMES REPORTER: He may have been the most celebrated or the most recognized crime boss during his brief reign, but he was also probably God's gift to the FBI and to the prosecutors. He did more in five years to undermine the Gambino crime family than the FBI could have done by itself in 25 years.

FELDMAN: Effective or not, what cannot be argued is Gotti's larger than life status. But it certainly wasn't always that way.

John Gotti was born in 1940 in the Bronx. His own recollection of his father was that he was a drunk and a gambler. But he was also a laborer who went where the work was. So, by the 1950's, the Gottis settled in the Brooklyn neighborhood known as East New York. The Gottis were poor, and John Gotti had to learn the survival techniques of the street.

CUTLER: And this is one of 11 children who had nothing in life as far as money and opportunity. But he made his opportunities.

FELDMAN: In his youth, Gotti was arrested some five times on various charges. But in 1966, Gotti made a fateful move. He moved to Ozone Park in Queens, New York, and hooked up with the powerful mafia family named after godfather Carlo Gambino. When the story of John Gotti continues, how a small-time hit man became the most celebrated mobster since Al Capone.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FELDMAN: With Carlo Gambino firmly in charge of his crime family, John Gotti quickly graduated from small time heists to big time felonies. While still a mobster in training, Gotti's turf was John F. Kennedy International Airport where Gotti and his crew hijacked freight to earn money for the mob.

But in 1973, he earned his mafia bona fides by taking on the assignment to kill James McBratney, an episode dramatized in the HBO movie "Gotti." McBratney was a member of an Irish-American gang, suspected of kidnapping and killing the nephew of Carlo Gambino.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you do this for me.

FELDMAN: Gambino was grateful and Gotti was on the way.

RAAB: Carlo Gambino got him a very smart lawyer, Roy Cohn, and somehow he managed to get a murder in which there were two eyewitnesses reduced to second degree manslaughter.

FELDMAN: By the time Gotti finished serving a two-year prison sentence for the McBratney slaying, Carlo Gambino, who ordered the hit, had died. Paul Castellano, Gambino's cousin, was anointed head of the family.

While Castellano had a following among the older family members, Gotti's brash, even flamboyant style appealed more to the younger Gambino family generation, a generation that unlike Castellano's saw big bucks to be made in the heroin trade.

MOUW: In 1985, there was a serious dispute between the Gotti faction of the family and the boss, Paul Castellano. And the main issue was that Castellano suspected the Gotti crew was engaging in heroin trafficking.

FELDMAN: It wasn't that Castellano was against drugs, per se, it was the fear that drug dealing would bring too much federal heat against his family, which was making more than enough money controlling discreet businesses such as construction and private sanitation services.

MOUW: And a couple of other issues evolved. Other members of the family were worried about Castellano -- quote -- "losing his marbles." He had been indicted. They thought he might become a government witness. He had thrown his wife out of the house, was living with his maid. So there was a lot of other reasons for this riff, but the big reason was the narcotics issue.

FELDMAN: It was time for John Gotti to make his move. He decided to kill Castellano and to assume the leadership of the Gambino crime family. Mafia rules at the time required Gotti to seek approval for the hit from the heads of the other four main mafia families in New York City, collectively known as the Commission.

(on camera): Now, Gotti didn't go to the commission, did he?

MOUW: What Gotti did is that he reached out for two other families and had their -- quote -- "secrets apart" that this is very shaky as we all know. So he didn't get the approval of the Commission. He decided to go ahead and act. He did it and he was successful.

FELDMAN (voice-over): On December 16, 1985, Castellano was going to have dinner at Sparks Steak House in Manhattan. By the time Castellano and his driver arrived, Gotti and his hit team were already there. Castellano never even made it out of his car before he was pumped with bullets.

But in weeks, John Gotti with the consent of the various crew captains or capos, of the Gambino family was selected the new godfather. Operating out of the Ravenite Social Club in Manhattan and the Bergen Hunt and Fish Club in Queens, New York, Gotti quickly consolidated his power. Success changed John Gotti.

RAAB: And he changed overnight from windbreakers. He was suddenly wearing hand-tailored silk suits made by Italian tailors, monogrammed socks, everything.

PAPPA: He loved the limelight, which the other families weren't too happy about. But it was a star performance and the media eats that up. It is something to talk about. It is something to report on. And it was something new for organized crime to see someone here in New York that flashy. That hasn't really been around for decades, I would say.

JERRY CAPECI, GOTTI BIOGRAPHER: Well, I think he loved himself more than the media loved him. I mean he certainly, you know, flaunted it whenever he could. He always had a smile on his face.

FELDMAN: But what really made Gotti's reputation was the fact that over an almost four-year period beginning in 1986, he managed to beat not one, not two, but three criminal cases against him on charges ranging from assault to racketeering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We find him not guilty.

FELDMAN: He appeared invincible. Already America's most infamous gangster, Gotti further enraged law enforcement by throwing annual Fourth of July block parties for his old Ozone Park neighborhood.

RAAB: The Fourth of July parties were essentially another way of defying authority.

PAPPA: People loved it. I think they chose not to see what he did for a living.

FELDMAN: Throughout all of this, his long-time attorney, Bruce Cutler, refused to acknowledge that Gotti ran one of the most powerful crime families in America. In fact, as is still the case, Cutler won't say exactly how Gotti earned his money.

(on-camera): You said, Bruce, that he was a man of great strength...

CUTLER: Yes and principle and pride.

FELDMAN: ... principle and pride and inspiration to others.

CUTLER: Yes.

FELDMAN: What I'm asking you is...

CUTLER: Courage.

FELDMAN: ... courage.

CUTLER: He's a leader.

FELDMAN: He's a leader. What the heck did he lead? What did he do?

CUTLER: What he did is he fought the government on his own terms. He never took a step backwards. He never ran away from the people with whom he grew up. He never left his family. He never left his principle. He never left what was important to him, which is his way of life. He's not a 9:00 to 5:00 worker. You don't need to be a genius to figure that out, but that doesn't mean I have to sit and rationalize what he did for a living.

FELDMAN (voice-over): The smiling John Gotti the public often saw was a far cry from the private John Gotti, the one whose conversations were captured on numerous FBI surveillance tapes, tapes that include chilling instructions from the godfather of the Gambino crime family.

JOHN GOTTI, GAMBINO CRIME FAMILY: You tell this punk, me, John Gotti, will sever your mother -- head off, you -- sucker." Listen to me.

UNIDENTIFIED ASSOCIATE: I'm listening. GOTTI: Sever your mother -- head off.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: When the story of John Gotti continues...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's become bigger than life and appeared to be mocking the system.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: The downfall of the Dapper Don.

ZAHN: John Gotti's trials were national sensations with Gotti himself becoming a cause celeb. One of the stars to show open support for the Teflon Don was a Hollywood tough guy named Mickey Rourke. The actor turned boxer has seen his star fade since those heady days backing Gotti, which leaves us to ask, where are they now?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actor Mickey Rourke burst on to the movie scene with the film "Diner." He followed that up with starring turns in the 1986 film, "9 1/2 Weeks" and in 1987, in the critically acclaimed "Barfly."

The one-time Miami bouncer crossed paths with John Gotti when Rourke consulted with the Dapper Don to help him research for urban type roles. He was among one of the celebrities that testified on behalf of Gotti in 1992.

So where is Mickey Rourke today? Rourke's star faded when he turns his back on Hollywood to become a professional boxer 10 years ago. Although he went undefeated, Rourke admittedly regrets his decision. Now at age 48, he's trying to revive his acting career and he's had roles in movies like "The Rainmaker" and "Get Carter." He could also be seen playing a tough guy in the Enrique Iglesias video "Hero."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FELDMAN: By 1986, John Gotti had consolidated his power at the top of the Gambino crime family, but the Teflon Don was becoming careless.

CAPECI: He basically conducted his business on Mulberry Street, Broadway and downtown Manhattan and Little Italy and invited the FBI to come and take pictures of all the gangsters in his crime family who came to visit from New Jersey, Connecticut, the Bronx, Queens, whatever.

FELDMAN: FBI cameras captured it all, from a surveillance post blocks away from Gotti's headquarters in Little Italy. Before long, prosecutors were ready to file a new racketeering indictment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They charged Mr. Gotti with four murders, a conspiracy to murder another person, obstruction of justice, loan sharking, illegal gambling and tax evasion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the government frames him enough times maybe they'll get lucky once. But I certainly hope not.

FELDMAN: Unknown to Gotti's attorneys, this time the government had a secret weapon. For first time, a mafia family's under boss turned against his godfather, the proverbial nail in John Gotti's coffin. Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, as he was known on the streets, feared Gotti was about to turn on him. The killer himself, Gravano cut a deal with the feds -- his testimony in court in exchange for a lighter sentence. Mafia history was about to be made.

(on-camera): What was that like to be there when you have the under boss and a notorious killer in his own right, Gravano, taking the witness stand to testify against John Gotti of all people?

MOUW: Well, when Gravano testified it was the highlight of the trial, of course. And the tension in the courtroom was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. Sammy gulped a few times and swallowed. And he went through the initiation rights, how he was inducted into the mob. And once he went through that that, we all knew this was going to be fine.

FELDMAN (voice-over): The government tapes and the turncoat mafia witness, the Sammy "The Bull" proved too much for the Teflon Don. On the tapes, prosecutors told jurors Gotti could be heard ordering mob hits.

RAAB: He never used the word kill, but he really damaged himself this time, in the last trial, because he had Gravano who could come up there and it was -- in on most of the tapes and could interpret it and say this is what we really meant. This was a contract to kill so and so.

FELDMAN: Gravano was the Rosetta stone prosecutors needed to guide the jury through the dark underworld of a mafia family.

PAPPA: He sat on that witness stand and he was a very compelling witness. And he testified about John Gotti, about the inner workings of that crime family.

FELDMAN: On April 2, 1992, Gotti was convicted on charges that included five murders, and sentenced to life without parole.

RAYMOND W. KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: The Teflon is gone. The Don is covered with Velcro and every charge in the indictment stuck.

FELDMAN: The news nearly sparked a riot among Gotti supporters.

(on-camera): But he's not ready to give up running the family just yet, is he?

MOUW: No.

FELDMAN (voice-over): In the mafia, a boss either has to resign or be killed. Despite his prison sentence, Gotti was not about to be retire.

From prison, Gotti appointed a committee that included his son, 28-year-old John Jr. to run the Gambino family. Eventually, he named his son acting boss of the family, but older, more experienced family members resented Gotti's son.

MOUW: He was just an immature kid, who was over his head and running the major crime family. He cared about one thing, money. As long as he made the money, everything else could go to hell. He had a tremendous ego like his father and didn't know what he was doing. And the other families had no respect for him and so he was a very, very ineffective mediocre boss.

FELDMAN: Before long, on December 3, 1999, John Gotti Jr. copped a plea to federal racketeering charges, leaving the Gambino family in the care of the Dapper Don's considerably less fashionable brother, Peter.

A new 68-count federal indictment that includes racketeering and extortion charges has dealt a severe blow to the remnants of the Gambino crime family.

KELLY: I think these indictments will and have significantly undermine the hierarchy of the Gambino crime family.

FELDMAN: Seventeen alleged members, including Peter Gotti, have been charged. But any talk of the demise of this powerful mob family is premature.

RAAB: They're wounded but they're not dead. And they never will die, I mean not in our lifetime, not in my lifetime, certainly.

FELDMAN: As organized crime or whatever remains of it changes to fit a new century, John Gotti's image will surely fade -- or will it?

PAPPA: I think the Dapper Don will remain an image of the 20th century. I don't know if there will be one in the 21st century, but I think his looks, his power endures. I think he was an image that was unique to the time. He was perhaps a throwback to older times that you really didn't see anymore.

And he did have that star power, his aggressiveness, his looks, his dress; the image that he liked to portray was definitely out there. It was something sort of new for the time in the sense that it was a powerful and feared man running a huge organized crime family, and sort of dared to be out there in public, almost flaunting it.

FELDMAN: John Gotti was a mob boss who dared us to watch him, even like him, and the public ate it up. Something about Gotti's story appealed to us, something about Gotti's underdog persona grabbed our attention. Perhaps John Gotti simply made us an offer we could not refuse.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. Coming up next week: Movies, music and Angelina Jolie. The many careers, quirks and loves of Billy Bob Thornton. Plus, Tom Cruise and his latest film, "Minority Report."

I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us, and be sure to join me every weekday morning for "AMERICAN MORNING" right here on CNN. Thanks again for joining us.

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