Using orchids and carnations to represent the life of a man who was larger than life, borough florists scurried to prepare for a flood of orders following mob boss John Gottis death from throat cancer June 10.
Dennis Rigas, owner of Dennis Rigas Floral Creations in Richmond Hill, closed his shop to other business, ordering his staff to create the sprays and arrangements necessary for Gotti.
He was a very important man, Rigas said. The size and quality of the flowers show respect.
Rigas estimated that each order he received was between $300 and $500, but said the pricey arrangements were appropriate.
No price, there was no price for the man, he said.
Calls to florists across the borough and city revealed that the intricate arrangements that included an eight-foot-long race horse, a giant Cuban cigar, assortments of broken hearts, a Yankees logo and a set of boxing gloves started at about $300.
Twenty flower cars transported the arrangements in a solemn procession from the funeral home in Maspeth that ended in the cemetery in Middle Village.
But the financial gain for area florists was not unprecedented. Gus Mastroianni, owner of Roslyn Florists, said he saw a bigger windfall a few years ago when a cousin of the Prince of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, died.
Its not as much as everyone thinks, he said, referring to profits stemming from the Gotti funeral. Its like a few thousand dollars.
The boxing gloves were the handiwork of Brian Stevens, manager of Glendale Florist. He said he had completed 13 to 15 floral pieces for the Gotti wake, including several large crosses. When asked about his customers, Stevens said he knew that Gottis immediate family had not ordered flowers, but he was not sure whether the requests were from friends or associates of the family.
Mastroianni said he had previous business transactions with the Gottis and received orders from them for the wake. I happen to be close with the family and they know me, he said. The daughter lives locally, so they know me. They like the work I do.
Jimmy Zelis, president of June Florist in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, created more than 35 pieces for the Gotti wake, including the Yankee arrangement, which cost $600, and a map of Missouri, the state where Gotti died in federal prison hospital at the age of 61.
When questioned as to how he felt about designing arrangements for a convicted criminal, Zelis simply said, I dont judge my peoples past.
Curious onlookers who crowded the streets outside the Papavero Funeral Home in Maspeth last week gawked at the intricate arrangements, but some felt they were too much.
They should send the money to cancer research, said Anne Mooney, of Maspeth, as she watched men load the flowers onto 19 black flower cars. He even died of it.
Bruce Cutler, Gottis friend and attorney for more than 15 years, said the Gotti family planned to donate the flowers to a festival for autistic children following his burial.
Reach reporter Jennifer Smith by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.
©2002 Community News Group
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