During all the press coverage of the trial in Boston of James “Whitey” Bulger, one of the stories of his many years on the run from law enforcement may have been missed and has a Sacramento connection to it. “Whitey” was apparently a client for a time of a local Sacramento hairstylist who, to protect the stylist’s identity, will be referred to as ‘X’.
I recently spoke with X and learned about this possible Sacramento connection to this infamous and recently convicted Boston mobster.
The story takes place in 2008 when Whitey was on the lam from Boston, Massachusetts and federal authorities. Unknown to them at the time, he had moved out to the warmer climes of California. These reports by LA Times and the authors of books on Bulger document some of his movements. At this time, X was working in the hair center of a local Sacramento big box store as a stylist.
It was a routine work day for X. The usual big box store clientele and a few regulars were getting haircuts and styles. A grandfatherly-looking gentleman walked in the hair center and picked out X to be the person to cut his hair that day. X, not aware at the time of the gentleman’s identity, proceeded to take care of cutting and styling Whitey’s hair. X made the usual conversation with the new client. When asked his name, he merely replied in his best Boston accent , “Call me, Grandpa. I like to be called ‘Grandpa’.”
X thought this a little strange but went along with the man’s request. He was very outgoing and likeable, but X sensed there was something more to “Grandpa”. Underneath the friendly surface, X sensed something more…dark and intimidating. After X finished the first haircut, Whitey looked at himself in the mirror and approved of the work. “You,” he told X, “are going to be the person I come to for my haircuts from now on.” He smiled, a friendly grandfatherly smile, and paid for the haircut, giving X a generous tip.
Grandpa returned a few other times to have X cut his hair. Each time he was charming, and yet…
In 2011 when James “Whitey” Bulger was arrested in Santa Monica, his face was plastered all over the internet and the television news. X realized at that point who ‘Grandpa’ was. It was a big surprise for X as you can imagine. X understood why the seemingly harmless and grandfatherly man had an air of menace and intimidation.
As a film buff, I can picture Jack Nicholson in the role of ‘Grandpa’ when I visualize the events X related to me. Nicholson portrayed a character based, in part, on Bulger in the 2006 movie, The Departed. Perhaps if they ever do a sequel or someone produces a movie based on the years James Bulger was on the run from the law, they can include a scene of him stopping in the hair center of a Sacramento-area big box store.