It’s a truism in journalism that the most interesting stories don’t always end up on Page 1.
Take, for example, a story on page A23 of the Sunday New York Times. An irresistible story, accompanied by two captivating photos, was ensconced five pages from the back of the section.
Titled “A Gangster’s Gal Was Loyal to the End Of Life on the Lam,” it was about Catherine Greig, the 60-year-old girlfriend of notorious Boston gangster James (Whitey) Bulger, who was arrested along with Greig outside their Santa Monica, Calif., apartment last week.
Bulger, 81, and Greig had been on the run for 16 years, having left Boston after an FBI agent with whom Bulger had been cooperating tipped Bulger off to the fact that he was about to be arrested.
The FBI finally got Bulger, who is charged with 19 murders, among other crimes, following a tip that came in after the FBI ran TV ads in several large markets, asking people to be on the lookout for Greig.
From photos, it appears that Greig was a good-looking woman at one time, with platinum hair and pleasing features. She was proud of her appearance, too.
“She had her teeth cleaned once a month and frequented hair salons, even on the run,” wrote Katharine Q. Seely, one of The Times’ top-tier reporters. “…She also underwent numerous plastic surgeries, including breast implants, a nose job and a face lift, according to the FBI.”
She and Bulger, who were going by the names of Carol and Charlie Gasko in California, paid for everything in cash; more than $800,000 in cash was found in their apartment.
Seelye described Greig as “a supporting character in the long-running Bulger crime drama, overshadowed by her larger-than-life companion and always dutifully subordinate.”
Indicative of the twisted roots to their relationship, Bulger was carrying on with Greig back in Boston while he was living with another woman, named Theresa Stanley. Furthermore, Greig had previously been married to a Boston firefighter who had two brothers who were members of a rival gang to Bulger’s. Bulger or his henchmen killed both men.
As Seelye put it, “It was a sign, perhaps, that if she could overlook his (Bulger’s) possible involvement in the deaths of her two brothers-in-law, she could overlook a lot more.”
Makes you gulp, doesn’t it?
When the tipping point came in 1995 — after the FBI agent informed Bulger he was about to be arrested — he unceremoniously dumped Theresa Stanley, dropping her off in a parking lot and saying, “I’ll call you.”
Well, as Van Morrison says in his great song “Domino,” “If you don’t hear from me, that just means I didn’t call.” And that was the end of that.
Bulger then picked up Greig “and they disappeared into rural America,” Seelye wrote, leaving behind Grieg’s beloved poodles, whom she had pampered and kept well groomed.
All along, Bulger had Greig firmly under his thumb, and for some reason — money? fear? perverted loyalty? — she put up with it.
A man who knew the couple in Louisiana, where they stayed for a while, told The Boston Globe that Bulger believed that “women should be seen and not heard.”
“He (the man who knew them) added that Mr. Bulger had boasted that all he had to do was clap his hands and Ms. Greig would jump,” Seelye wrote.
When they were arrested last week, Greig’s hair had gone white…but still well coiffed.
Greig is now charged with harboring a fugitive and faces five years in prison. With Bulger undoubtedly headed to prison for good, the most interesting tentacle of this story to follow after the trials and sentencings will be this:
Who Greig team up with next?