Op-Ed: Marjorie Copley On Why Certain Women Are Attracted To Gangsters

For women like us, there were three little words more potent than any drug, words that could impair our judgment. Just three little words: I need you.

A friend and I went to see the movie Black Mass as soon as it opened last weekend. I had a personal interest in how the movie portrays the women who loved Whitey Bulger—a convicted murderer and former organized crime boss of the Boston Irish Mob crew known as the Winter Hill Gang—Catherine Greig, in particular. Catherine and I had things in common.

On Thursday June 23, 2011, the news story on NPR that morning was local. The FBI’s most wanted fugitive Whitey Bulger, was captured along with the woman who loved him, Catherine Greig, after living on the run for 16 years. I knew about this fugitive story, but like everyone else I didn’t realize that they lived just a few blocks from my home in Santa Monica, California.

I knew about Catherine, in whose shoes I almost walked. She and I are the same type of woman: capable of loving men who were older than us, married men, men who were in long committed relationships, men who were criminals. Catherine and I were both 60. Years ago we had both been asked to flee with our lovers who were facing prosecution. Catherine had said yes. I hope I would have said no, but for me the decision was made by seven tiny pieces of lead when my lover Gino and I were ambushed. He died in my arms.

Catherine and I are not unique among women. Women in my generation grew up with role models of mothers subservient to their husbands. In those families, the men did not model love and respect for women or show their daughters that they were loved. For some of us, our first exposure to violence was from those men. If we were, by nature, vulnerable and in need, the chances of us looking for love from an older man was well established. Women like us tend to interpret being loved not by how well we are treated, but how much we feel we are needed. I believe women like us have deficits not only in self-esteem, but also in self-awareness. We are simply trying to get our needs met.

Johnny Depp’s outstanding acting shows us what kind of a man Whitey was. Unlike Whitey, my lover was an educated man, a former Manhattan Assistant District Attorney at face (he doubled as a Genovese crime family associate). Gino was a tall handsome man, polished and charismatic. He was the type of man who could charm you with words and read what you needed. He owned me at our introduction.

After Gino’s murder I was taken into protective custody and worried for several years that I would one day be killed. But I knew I had nothing useful to tell and as time went on, nothing happened. Each year since the hit I received a call from the FBI, to keep me informed that they knew where I was living. The final call came in August 2005. Over time, I grew and developed self-esteem and empowerment. A new feeling for me.

Today I am a retired business owner. I have two sons and enjoy the “normal” life that I had always dreamed of. There were some dramatic times along the way, but I am at peace.

I imagine Catherine considered herself content. I am sure there was no actual happiness in her relationship with Whitey, or in the 16 years of hiding in plain sight. I hope there is some level of peace for her now that it is all over.

And whether you see the movie or not, know this: You can’t judge a woman unless you’ve walked a mile in her shoes.

This op-ed originally was posted at www.rolereboot.org. Marjorie Copley began writing her memoir A Warhol, A Madam and A Murder, as a means to continue healing. By exploring and coming to terms with the events in her life, she hopes to understand how they have shaped the woman she is. She is an ordinary woman who triumphed over extraordinary experiences.

Leave a Reply