As I ran out the door on Monday afternoon, yelling “Gotta run, got lunch with Mick Gatto!”, I am pretty sure those who caught the tail end of my exit, were left presuming that I was trying to be funny!  Gatto and his entourage arrived in Adelaide to promote and sign copies of his autobiography, I MICK GATTO!

No doubt some would question my choice of lunch companion, and I admit a fascination with the real life Mick Gatto, and then of course, as he is well aware, I also write a column and have a radio show, so ‘colourful’ characters such as himself, will always make for a good story!

I arranged to meet Mick towards the end of his book signing at Borders in Rundle Mall and said we’d grab a sandwich nearby.  I was intrigued to see not only how many people would turn up to meet the man himself, but also what type of people they would be.

Would it be a line full of wannabe gangster looking types, complete with gold chains, dark sunnies, and a pair of addidas trackie pants?  Or would it consist of women willing to cheat on their prison pen pal lovers for the chance to have a ‘no bars attached’ affair with the man who lived, breathed and survived Melbourne’s notorious Gangland wars?  Rising to further fame thanks to Underbelly of which Gatto claims depicted the truth  “60% accurately”!

After nearly 45 minutes the queue of Gatto fans still trailed down the Mall, leaving it pretty clear that the man that spent 14 months in solitary confinement in a Melbourne jail accused of the murder, and later acquitted, has become every bit the gang ’star’!

So is the book release part of keeping the fame candle burning as it would seem the likes of Roberta Williams has been doing?  And what of the rumoured movie about his life, said to be written by one of the writers of the Underbelly series?  “I was approached by one of the writers of Underbelly about having some input into a movie about my life, and I said ‘no’! I’ve written this book to get my story out before these guys make a movie!”  So there won’t be another book after this one? “There will be no other books” he says firmly.

Does he think Underbelly has fuelled a rise in wannabe gangsters, seeking a ‘rockstar’ status?  “I don’t know about that, but if it has, then they don’t know what my life has been like!  They weren’t there with me in jail!”  “People need to know that once you go down that track, there’s no going back!” Gatto describes his time living in the ‘concrete box’ that was solitary confinement, and how the conditions are all designed to ‘make me crack, and tell them what they want to hear!’

Gatto, didn’t crack, but when I say that I presume, maybe naively that after killing a man accidentally or otherwise, I would imagine that one’s fear of going to some sort of hell, or being haunted by the deceased must weigh pretty heavily on his mind, he tells me about the night, he thought Andrew ‘benji’ Venimen might just have come back for revenge.  “Well, I do remember waking up one night in jail, not being able to breath! It felt like someone had their hands around my neck and I did think, shit, maybe it’s Benji!”

And when his time is actually up, how does Mick Gatto want to be remembered? “As a colourful businessman!” he smirks with his undeniably charismatic smile. And then he looks me in the eye, in what is his trademark ‘now let’s get serious’ stare, “And a good family man!”

Love him or hate him, there’s no doubt, he’ll be remembered and debated for a lot more than that!  Would my mother be pleased about my expresso drinking partner?  Probably not, but I do know she, unlike the man himself, would eventually crack and demand to know “So what was Mick Gatto like?” Notice I’m sitting on the fence with the answer to that one?


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