The newest Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman” depicts the violent life of Frank Sheeran, a labor union leader who claimed to have worked for years as a hitman for the Bufalino crime family — and who also claimed to have been responsible for the death of Jimmy Hoffa, the well-known leader of the Teamsters union whose 1975 disappearance was never solved and continues to baffle true crime fanatics to this day.
While there are plenty of doubts about Sheeran’s confession — Vince Wade, who reported on Hoffa's disappearance in 1975 laid out inconsistencies in Sheeran’s Hoffa confession for the Daily Beast and former FBI agent John Tamm told Slate he doesn't think Sheeran was even a hitman at all — the explosive claims do make for a riveting film. And while many scenes are packed with bangs and explosions — often literally — there are also some violent scenes involving mere whispers. Well, people named Whispers, to be more specific.
In the movie, Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is approached by a guy named Whispers who asks him to blow up a Cadillac Linen Service, which is partially owned by the mob, unbeknownst to Sheeran. When the mob finds out about the sabotage, they tell Sheeran to kill Whispers, making it his first hit. In a moment of comic relief, Sheeran makes it clear that this Whispers is different than another Whispers he knows of who got blown up.
Who are these Whispers (plural) that “The Irishman” is referencing?
The Whispers that approached Sheeran is Whispers DiTullio, according Charles Brandt’s 2004 book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” which details Brandt's interviews with Sheeran and is the basis for the movie. Although he did not disclose DiTullio’s actual first name in the book, he made it clear it’s not the same person as John DiTullio, who went by the nickname “Skinny Razor.”
John DiTullio owned Friendly Lounge, a Philadelphia bar, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was also rumored to be a local Mafia underboss. While legend says his nickname came from his habit of carrying a razor and possibly using it to kill people, his son claimed the moniker actually came from his skinny stature and his knack for dressing as sharp as a razor.
In the book, Sheeran claimed that Whispers was not related to the bar owner but said this Whispers did push money for him. He said Whispers approached him for a job, asking him to either “bomb or torch or burn to the f--king ground or do whatever you choose to do to disable the Cadillac Linen Service.”
He wanted the establishment to get put out of business because they were competing with another linen supply service house that Whispers was pushing money to, according to Sheeran.
Well, that didn’t work out because the mob that Sheeran claimed to work for learned of Whispers' plans and, instead of killing Sheeran, asked him to murder Whispers instead. In both the movie and the book, that’s just what Sheeran does: He shoots Whispers at close range with a .32 with no witnesses around and leaves him to die on a sidewalk in the movie, just like he described in the book.
In the book Sheeran also clarified that this was one of two Whispers he knew of, just like in the movie.
“This was not the same Whispers they [the mob] blew up when they bombed his car around the same time,” he said in “I Heard You Paint Houses.” “This is the other Whispers. I didn’t know the one they blew up; I just heard about it.”
It’s unclear if so-called car bomber Whispers is a real person or not.
It looks like the clear identity of both Whispers will remain quiet for now.
"The Irishman" is currently playing in select theaters. It will start streaming on Netflix on November 27.
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