Those of you familiar with the neighborhood may have heard of him. He could be often seen driving a sport bike around the neighborhood or an expensive German luxury car. Or even hanging out with a famous athlete or two. He’s always been a bit of a fitness nut and from a young age sported a build that would make even the toughest kid think before getting mouthy. Chinatown knows him as the white devil or “Bac Guai” because of his reputation in their underworld. An underworld that has been virtually silent in terms of mass media coverage when compared to it’s Irish and Italian counterparts.
I knew him as Johnny, he lived four triple deckers down and attended the Murphy School with me. Johnny Willis was a barrel chested kid and very big for his age. He was a gifted hockey goalie that even the older kids seemed to get along with because of his prowess between the pipes. I can still remember his Mom, she was a friendly raven haired lady with a big smile and an olive complexion. Never recall meeting Johnny’s dad…looking back he was more or less the man of the house and seemed very close with his mom. Even way back then Johnny showed an interest in Chinese culture. His bedroom was covered in Bruce Lee posters and you could always catch him at the Puritan Theater next to Lamberts watching double matinees when the Kung Fu flics were on tap.
Obviously Johnny left an impression on me…he was that older kid I looked up to. How we became friends in the first place is quite a story in itself. Over the years I would bump into him here and there. The guy never seemed to age….I used to give him shit and ask if he was taking some weird Chinese herb. He would always crack a smile and fire back with a wisecrack of his own. I never asked about his business because I didn’t care to pry. The rumors of his antics were never in short supply but I never gave them much credit. Maybe I took the rumors with a grain of salt because I like Johnny and there was a time when he looked out for me. I felt obligated not to play into any bullshit that may have been twisted in the grapevine….loyalty starts young for Dot Rats.
Well…last week my old friend got 20 years in Federal Prison and Hollywood is scrambling for the rights to his story.
Talk about being torn….the irony of this neighborhood is unlike anything I have ever seen.
Only in Dorchester can you find a kid that went from Deer Island to one of the most successful Hollywood moguls out there. Another family who’s daughter gives birth to the nations first Catholic president. A Saint Marks couple gives birth to the nation’s most notorious Irish gangster who in turn kills the innocent patriarch of another Dot family who’s sons stare him down in court 30 years later. Another clan loses a boy to terrorists at the Boston Marathon then the boy’s sister becomes a beacon of strength for terror victims everywhere.
And now we have Johnny…..
To be continued…..