First question: Who knew Whitey Bulger liked to take photographs, especially at the funeral of a good criminal pal of his from Alcatraz who may have also been his boyfriend?
Second question: What exactly is the meaning of the jottings and numbers on the back of one of the pictures that the serial-killing gangster snapped at the 1988 funeral of Clarence Carnes, aka “the Choctaw Kid”?
Here is what Whitey scribbled on the back of one of his photographs:
Yes, Rajab is a month in the Islamic lunar calendar, but Whitey is not a Muslim. As for the number, it’s got one too many digits to be a Social Security number and it doesn’t appear to be a foreign phone number, either.
You can see all five of Whitey’s cemetery photographs (plus the two-page funeral bill) on my Web sites - thebrothersbulger.com and howiecarr.com. Whitey left the photos behind when he went on the lam in December 1994, before he was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, with a $1 million reward on his head.
The fugitive is now 77 years old. There has not been a confirmed sighting of him since 2002.
For those not familiar with the (love?) story between Whitey and the Choctaw Kid, it dates back to the legendary federal penitentiary in San Francisco Bay, where Whitey was imprisoned for bank robbery from 1959 to 1962.
Clarence V. “Joe” Carnes was only two years older than Whitey, but he’d been at Alcatraz since age 17 after killing a gas-station attendant during a robbery in Oklahoma. In 1946, he took part in the famous prison uprising, when Army troops had to storm the island to regain control.
In later years, as he piled up bodies and bucks, Whitey used to say that Carnes saved his life in a prison riot. But there was likely more to their relationship, considering Whitey’s bisexuality, dating to his days as a teenage male hustler in the gay dives of Bay Village, where he first met corrupt FBI agent H. Paul Rico.
By the late 1980s, after ratting out most of his fellow gangsters to the FBI, Whitey began edging out of the closet, posing in Village People drag as a cowboy in Provincetown and sipping brandy Alexanders at the bar at Jacques.
Meanwhile, the Choctaw Kid was finally paroled. But he had spent too much time in the stir to make a go of it on the outside. He was soon back in the joint, where he contracted AIDS and died on Oct. 3, 1988. He was buried in the graveyard at the federal prison hospital in Springfield, Mo.
Whitey knew that the Kid had desired more than anything to be interred back home in the Indian Territory - Oklahoma. And by then, Whitey had more than enough cash to make it happen.
He called Robert Embry at the Atoka Funeral Home in Billy, Okla. After Whitey obtained permission from the Kid’s next of kin, Clarence Carnes’ body was dug up, placed in the expensive bronze casket in the photograph and shipped back to Atoka County in the white hearse. Whitey flew to Dallas with his girlfriend, Teresa Stanley.Years later, the funeral director said that Whitey had cut quite a swath at the services. He was wearing a sport coat, slacks and an open shirt. Pulling out the proverbial roll that would choke a horse, Whitey peeled off $100 bills and passed them out as tips to all concerned, the preacher, the singers, even the funeral director. No wallet, just a wad of bills.
And he took photographs. And on the back of one of them he wrote RAJAB 0819686538.
For years afterward, Whitey occasionally called Embry, the funeral director, just to chat, usually late at night. After a while, Embry would say, “We’ve been on the phone a long time, haven’t we?”
“Well,” Whitey would say, “it’s my nickel, ain’t it?”
Boston Herald Columnist
Sunday, May 20, 2007
[image caption: Fugitive murderer Whitey Bulger snapped this photo during his friend’s 1988 funeral. (File)]
Click to view image: '54494-whitey_ltp05202007.jpg'
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