Quotations in Last of the Gladiators

By April 18, 2018 April 17th, 2019 No Comments


Last of the Gladiators: A Son’s Memoir of Love, Redemption, and Indomitable Spirit

The Legendary Life & Times of Trial Lawyer Jimmy La Rossa
As Told by His Son and Lifelong Confidante
James M. La Rossa Jr.

Origins: Last of the Gladiators

“Last of the Gladiators comes from a place deep within me and has swept me to a destination I had no idea that I could even reach. My father had a strong inner core of tranquility and reasonableness—qualities that he endeavored to pass to me as his life wound down. Jimmy was and always will be my ‘Last of the Gladiators.’”

“That is how the world of words and ideas are passed through the ages, from generation to generation, in those that love and trust us to do right by them, forever and always, amen.”

”When it came to Jimmy, I left nothing to chance.I kept hidden in my room a loaded, powerful over/under twelve-gauge breach shotgun and a 9mm pistol with two loaded clips.”


“For almost five years, my father refused to die so that he could enjoy the dinners I would make for him. While we ate, we retold the stories of our lives. That was the way we hung on to one another, day in and day out.”

“I can’t help being the lucky one. I was the namesake of a man blessed by the universe. Still, looking back, I don’t know how I skipped through it all without ending up like the hapless Sacco and Vanzetti”

“Friends and family have thanked me for ‘saving’ my father and ‘giving’ him those last five years. The fact is, I didn’t save him—he saved me. I became a better man and father thanks to him—a more joyous, grateful, and grounded soul.”

“For more than fifty years, we were the dynamic duo—Batman and Robin, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Santiago and Manolin, the Green Hornet and Kato, Thelma and Louise. I was a sentence ahead of most people and he was four ahead of me.”

“Things just happened out of the blue with great regularity. Between Dad’s at-home antics and his frenetic ‘day job’—the lawyers, guns, and money part of the equation—our lives were like a circus act without a net.”

“I’ve never loved anyone as much and wanted to strangle anyone as much as I did my Dad. If I could clone Bob Hope with Darth Vader, I’d have my beloved father back!”

“I was the son of a man blessed by the universe, and some of his luck rubbed off on me…I knew, somehow, at an early age, that I was living a unique life in my father’s wake. To this day, I often find myself saying out loud what I have often thought: That I just can’t help it if I’m lucky.”

“My upbringing suggested that the Ten Commandments existed as a kind of celestial test—to see if you could outwit them without being caught.”

New Yorkers

“When a born and bred New Yorker leaves New York City permanently, they spend a good chunk of the rest of their lives asking themselves why they ever left. And so it was with Jimmy and me.”

“No matter where Jimmy and I went, when we defined ourselves as born and bred New Yorkers, that definition was met with universal admiration and envy. The lyric ‘If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere’ is part of the fabric and myth of The City. No one would deny that Dad had certainly ‘made it.’”

Food and Laughter

“Then some mob captain started piping off about how he and only he made the best meatballs. He quoted all this mumbo jumbo ‘proof’ like how he used a special wine and probably some bald eagle sperm to bind it all together in a freshly slaughtered rhino horn. Then, they all started to argue about who made the best meatballs and sausages, as mobsters often do.”

“This was the start of what would become my arch nemesis. Imagine, if you can, a man dubbed the ‘Bionic Mouth of White Color Crime,’ whose obituary characterized him as the ‘last of the gladiators’…still sharp as ever but physically immobilized in a California beach house, with unfettered access to the bane of my existence: THE FOOD CHANNEL!”

“Our pantry was always stocked with enough provisions that I could cook Marcella Hazan’s landmark The Classic Italian Cookbook front to back.”

Crime/The Mafia

“If John Gotti had been a prescient man about the events that would follow December 16, 1985, he would have dug another grave for himself.

“They say in New York City, there are only two types of people: the quick and the dead. Jimmy wrote the book on being quick. A gentleman to the end, he’d shake your hand, smile, turn to the jury— and you were as good as done. He may as well have taken your face in his two meaty hands and given you the KISS OF DEATH—right on the lips.”

“Dad could bring a mob boss to tears on the witness stand. That same mobster, at the defense table, would shudder at Jimmy’s toughness and guile. As was said more than once about my father, ‘He’s a mean motherfucker, but he’s MY MOTHERFUCKER.’”

“For the next twenty-five years, Jimmy would try to outwit some of the most complex RICO trials the Feds would ever attempt. The timing could not have been better. Jimmy was at the height of his skills, in the right place, at the right time. He was ready.”

“Almost eighty years later, the Scotto and La Rossa families were well matched to fight side by side. Not even they could have known, however, that as the jury was seated in The Unites States v. Scotto in September 1979, that the future of RICO—and the survival of organized crime at the end of the twentieth century—was on the line.”

“As a trial lawyer, Jimmy could care less if his clients were assassins or saints. The courtroom was his pitching mound. Like a good baseball pitcher, he didn’t focus on the batter, but kept his eye on the target he would have to hit in order to throw the perfect pitch to send the batter back to the dugout.”

“The sensational front-page killing of Paul Castellano shook me in a way I had not felt before. I could only kid myself for so long about the dangerous worlds that Dad traversed.”

Legal Events

“From the early 1970s, Dad was on trial for the next twenty-five years without as much as a hiccup. Jimmy was everywhere and nowhere.”

“Born in Flatbush, Brooklyn, to a mailman and a housewife, educated by the Jesuits, overlooked by the big New York law firms because of the ending vowel on his last name, and disgusted with the bullying government he had gladly gone to war for, James M. La Rossa Esq., who would become the lawyer of last resort in the most important city in the world, stood to address the high court..”

“Jimmy’s life was a roller coaster, and his resume read like a roadmap to the most brash crimes and ‘eccentric’ clients of a generation.”

The reign of the Gambinos was over. The Life of organized crime would be over for all of them soon- er than they could have imagined. The Commission Trial was the nail in the coffin of the American Mafia.”

Historical Events

“The event that day was still a secret to me, but if you haven’t recognized the date yet—August 9, 1974—my father wanted me to watch with my own eyes as Richard Nixon, thirty-seventh president of the United States, walked to a Marine helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House, made that awkward wave, and disappeared into history to end the long national crisis called Watergate. There had been no coup d’état or revolution—just the majesty of American law working out one of the worst kinks of the twentieth century.

“Then there was the fight of January 28, 1974. There was Jimmy and me sitting ringside at The Garden while Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier fought the second bout of their legendary trilogy. We were so close that when Ali blocked a glancing blow from Frazier with his arm, his sweat popped off his body with much of it landing on me.”

“The bass of the organ, the crowd, and the haze of smoke that hung in midair ripped through your body. It was like walking into a carnival…There was Clyde, Earl the Pearl, Willis Reed, DeBusschere, and Bill Bradley—in the flesh! I was flying with adrenaline and glee, and I think Dad was too.”

“It seemed the whole world tuned in to monitor the trial. The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Daily News, the New York Post, and every local and national TV station covered the trial every day. The great New York columnist Jimmy Breslin dubbed the Scotto trial ‘the best show in town.’ RICO was about to be launched to either great fanfare or death by a thousand objections at the hands of Jimmy for the defense.”

“I don’t quite remember how I found myself standing on the wharf trying to catch the eye of a pretty girl who must have been a production assistant on a film that had the whole town buzzing. The crew making Jaws was off that day and she stood next to the mechanical shark—nightmarishly emerging halfway out of the water, it’s mouth open and snarling like something prehistoric.”

“By that time, the pendulum had swung for good. The mob was decimated, Tammany Hall was a quaint reminder of smoke-filled back rooms, and Rudy Giuliani—along with a man known throughout the City as ‘The Donald,’ who we severely under- estimated as a buffoon—were taking us to a place we could not have remotely predicted when I gave Mr. DeSapio my last English Oval.”

Mental Illness

“In all honesty, I don’t recall when I realized that something was wrong with me. Growing up and watching my father’s tenacity as he overcame many of life’s obstacles was the example I took on my journey to overcome these mysterious manic impulses that wound me down every rabbit hole I crossed.”

“As I went farther down this rabbit hole of ‘self-medication,’ it became harder and harder to tamp down the beast—to be able to filter my words and deeds and to act “normal.”

“I stood at the top of the construction site at law school that day contemplating the end of my life. I knew then that I would never fulfill my birthright and I wasn’t sure I could live with that.”

“As the mysterious mental illness grew in me like an alien worm throughout my youth and young adulthood, I might not have survived without my Last of the Gladiators, who would have my back no matter what. As a meridian of longitude, Last of the Gladiators is a constant. As a metaphor for my father, however, it was a state of being unrestricted by direction.”

“At that moment, as I stared him down, I imagined how easily I could rip his bottom jaw from his face. I seethed with the blood of a thousand years of my ancestors. I let them see my hatred and my momentary lust for homicide. All of this running through my head in one look.”

“Something snapped in me when my mother began her rapid slide into major depression. Jimmy was too busy lawyering to be my appellate sounding board, so I used my mother’s suicide attempt to my advantage.”


“There’s little doubt that my day of reckoning is coming soon enough. In our years in Southern California, I not only indulged Dad beyond all reason, but I was responsible for keeping him alive against all odds.”

“How I wound up in the perfect place at the most opportune time of my life in order to save my father from certain death is still a mystery that borders on the divine.”

“The truth is, prior to my son and then my father joining me in Southern California, I was lost—adrift in the hedonistic lifestyle that seems to perfectly contour the Southern California landscape as effortlessly as the miles of bougainvillaea dot Southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast.”

“Nothing could prepare me, though, for the intense spiritual pull of the Pacific. One glance at the Pacific Ocean from the hills of Manhattan Beach warmed my very soul—as if I was an infant and she was my mother, warm and sensuous.”

Cheating Death

“For almost five years we had dared death when it was thick in the room…It wasn’t merely a shaky hand that delivered the cold beer to his puffy, dry lips. It was sheer, superhuman willpower—simple as that.”

“In the last years we spent together—when death was often at our door—I never once heard him pray, or address God in any way. His mother was the single unforgivable heartbreak of his life. It was the grudge of all grudges, and Jimmy took it to his grave.”

“In my heart of hearts, I knew that Jimmy and I were not done yet, and that fact buoyed me. The story I had to tell was dicey for many reasons. More than a few of the lives that Jimmy intersected with were just that: still living; I would have to write with care, or face the consequences.”

“As I come to grips with life without Jimmy, I am at peace knowing that my father and I fought the fight of all fights, laughing rhapsodically as we spread good cheer to everyone who crossed our paths. We were on borrowed time—so we celebrated our conjoined lives each and every day as if it was Christmas Eve and Dad and I were the mischievous elves loading the big sleigh. We’d put a whoopee cushion on Santa’s seat when no one was looking and run for the highest hill as the sleigh took flight to hear the big fart as Santa plopped down his big, red ass. From the distant sleigh we’d hear Santa’s exasperated voice saying, “Those LA ROSSA BOYS!” And we’d roll down the snowy hill to accept our lumps of coal without a care in the world.”

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