Doing Squats with John Gotti’s Lawyer

My first personal trainer job was a doozy.

I launched my career at New York City’s decadently scandalous Vertical Club — sort of the Studio 54 of gyms. On a nightly basis, I interacted with the Big Apple’s financial/social elite (and their myriad hangers-on).

As for celebrities, it was always veritable who’s who — from Arnold to Liza, Dr. J to Mr. T., Mick Jagger to Bianca Jagger, Clint Eastwood to Tom Hanks, Stallone to S.I. Newhouse, Fabio to Martina, Alec Baldwin to Alice Cooper, Bill Cosby to Mike Tyson, and beyond.

I guess you could say I made the affluent sweat.

An institution in the Vertical Club’s “free weight” room was one Bruce Cutler, a.k.a. John Gotti’s lawyer. Everyone and I mean everyone, called him “Counselor” and he’d regularly seek me out to spot him as he performed his abundantly heavy squats, all the while grousing about how (allegedly) old he was getting.

The tabloid’s favorite legal eagle was also quite a popular figure in the trendy gym — au courant for his menacing notoriety, for his weight-lifting prowess and dedication, and for his mannerisms and jocular sense of humor. The garrulous attorney never utilized a monosyllabic word when a longer, more captivating term could execute the task far more ostentatiously.

I recall shortly after I was introduced to the counselor, I was positioned against a mirrored wall, attending to a young woman on the bench press. It was an elbow-to-elbow kind of evening. Cutler and a training partner very much sought to attain possession of the bench in question.

He eyed what seemed to him the paltry amount of poundage in use and demonstrably wanted me to petition for a change of venue. Of course, the barrel-chested barrister could’ve simply inquired if the woman had a lot more sets left to do. Instead, he approached the bench and queried me, “Are you deeply ensconced back there, sir?”

Another incident effectively sums up the tenor of his idiosyncratic oratory. After meticulously setting up a bar on the ponderous squat rack, he settled his stout frame underneath it to commence lifting. As I approached to perform my spotting duties, I shouted a warning to him. He’d put more weight on one side of the bar than the other.

Sedately and deliberately, Counselor Cutler stepped back and appraised the incriminating evidence. After a beat, he announced to the room: “It appears my sense of symmetry is somewhat askew.”

One can imagine a slight contrast in his response when Bruce Cutler was barred by the  U.S. government from representing Gotti in the trial which eventually led to the Mafia Don’s life sentence. Whether or not Cutler had transversed the line from attorney to business associate was arduous to prove and it can be veraciously proposed that the government never succeeded in doing so.

Instead, having been humiliated by losing several high-profile cases against Gotti, the “good guys” cheated. Cutler was just too adept. So they concocted a tale to dislodge him and did not bother with the small issue of due process. It’s as fundamental as this: John Gotti deserves the same justice as any other American does.

Please note, I am not defending the comportment of one John Gotti. I’m merely demonstrating how, in the world of phallocentric hierarchies, some purveyors of male pattern violence are ranked higher than others. Consider Gotti’s right-hand man, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano.

This necrophilic wiseguy confessed to 19 murders — names, dates, times, everything — and suddenly he’s walking around free, living at liberty off of U.S. taxpayer dollars in the witness protection program (at least until he resumed his nefarious notoriety).

You tell me, what’s the main difference between Gravano and Jeffrey Dahmer — besides culinary preferences? One of them had something the Alpha Alpha Males wanted. Nineteen corpses and the best our law enforcement agencies can do about it is make an expedient deal.

They wanted to attenuate a high-profile mafioso like Gotti so desperately that they expunged his chosen counsel and then treated the admitted mass murderer of 19 humans like the confederate he doubtlessly was.

The United States vs. John Gotti, huh? How come we didn’t get to vote on how to pursue this case in our name? When was it my opportunity to have a say on how my tax dollars were depleted? Sure, John Gotti was a major-league lawbreaker but, from where I’m sitting, that doesn’t justify employing illicit tactics to convict him.

As Bruce Cutler might enunciate, “It appears our sense of justice is somewhat askew.”

Mickey Z. is the creator of a podcast called Post-Woke. You can subscribe here. He is also the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on New York City streets. Spread the word. Read other articles by Mickey.