Mobsters and Lobsters
By Gloria Kabulo
Mobsters and Lobsters is a unique tour that has stops at mob hangouts and jewelry heist locations in Boston. The tour finishes with a classic Boston dinner of lobsters and wine from the Boston Winery. Led by South Boston native Tom Collins, the tour highlights Boston’s underground world. “It’s a place where you can put the sites with the story,” said Marcia Weaver, Collins’ business partner.
The venture began to take shape as Collins shared stories from his past. Infamous mobster James “Whitey” Bulger’s arrest and recent trial decision piqued interest in South Boston or, as locals refer to it, Southie. Weaver and Collins took this opportunity to launch Mobsters and Lobsters, performing successful test runs first with their friends and family before going public. The attraction of the tour continues; charters are now offered to groups of 20–40 people, with an option to be picked up at any requested location in Boston.
“We have a great guide; he has a great Boston accent...and a great sense of humor,” said Weaver about Collins. The tour gives a fresh perspective on Boston, unlike that of traditional tours.
Collins was raised during the time when Bulger dominated the drug trafficking market in South Boston. Bulger had a significant hold on the small businesses in the area. In places like the Rotary Liquor Store, “…if Whitey wanted a piece of that... he could force himself onto it...and he made collections on some of [the] businesses,” said Weaver.
At every stop, Collins regales the tourists with tales of the corrupt, violent, and interesting secret world. There was an air of mystery around Whitey’s dealings, and very few people saw him face to face. “[He] was keeping other drug dealers out of Boston,” said Weaver. Bulger kept the drug dealers out of Southie in order to eliminate the competition in the drug world. It was only later that “...people saw how murderous he was...” said Weaver.
“People idolized [Bulger],” commented Weaver. As the head of the Winter Hill Gang, Bulger grew an empire that exerted its influence on Southie through drugs and corruption. “It was kind of a Wild West time of existence; there weren’t any ramifications,” said Weaver. The peak of Bulger’s gang activity was in the 1970s and the 1980s. “There was more of a neighborhood feel in South Boston before it changed,” said Weaver. Today, Southie is an up-and-coming neighborhood filled with condominiums, locally owned stores, and restaurants. People are intrigued by the mobster lifestyle, partly because “it’s part of the fabric of Boston. People are fascinated with any kind of history,” said Weaver.
Several films have tried to capture what life was like in Southie, including The Departed, starring Matt Damon, and Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp. Weaver suggests The Departed depicts Bulger as “...a little intense…” Although the facts are accurate, there are more “...checks and balances,” Weaver said, in today’s world, where the same level of crimes and corruption would not go unpunished.
Boston’s intriguing crime history—from the jewel heist at the Omni Parker to the stolen paintings at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum—continues to attract many. “It was like a perfect storm...law enforcements that were intertwined with politicians...” said Weaver of the corrupt nature of Boston in the 1970s and the 1980s. Even today, there are known organized crime families that thrive on the streets of Boston. “Can you even imagine that right now? Those things could be happening,” said Weaver.