Underbelly: articles

Underbelly portrayal 'hits below belt', says Mick Gatto

UNDERWORLD survivor Mick Gatto has come out swinging over his portrayal in the Underbelly prequel.

Gatto believes a reference to him as a prospective hitman is defamatory and a "load of nonsense", but he's unlikely to consider legal action.

The scene from the movie-length premiere of Underbelly: a Tale of Two Cities, revolves around the search for a hitman to take out anti-drugs campaigner Donald Mackay.

It shows drugs kingpin Robert Trimbole instructing associate Gianfranco Tizzone to travel to Melbourne to find a hitman. Trimbole, desperate to distance himself from the job, is adamant Mackay must not be taken out in a mafia-style hit.

Tizzone enters a boxing gym where he speaks to violent criminal Les Kane and his brother Brian, who has been sparring with Gatto.

When Tizzone says "I'm looking for a shooter", Les Kane directs Tizzone's gaze to Gatto. Brian Kane says: "Mick Gatto? He couldn't hit the back end of a bull with a wet bag of rice."

Donald Mackay was shot dead outside a Griffith Hotel in 1977 over his vocal anti-drugs campaign.

Painter and docker James Bazley was convicted of conspiring to murder Mackay.

As was the case with the original Underbelly, artistic licence has been taken in the telling of stories.

The gym scene dialogue is designed to provoke a laugh and actually dismisses Gatto as being incapable of such an act of violence. But Gatto doesn't see the funny side.

"It's not true. It's not right. It's complete nonsense and they're just trying to dramatise things. But I've got no way of stopping it," he said.

"I've never sparred with Brian Kane. He was a welterweight and I was a heavyweight. I'd tower over the guy."

Under his fighting name The Italian Stallion, Gatto had his first professional fight at Festival Hall in 1973.

He won five of nine bouts before retiring in 1979.

Gatto said he was equally bemused by the original Underbelly series, which he said depicted underworld figure Mario Condello in events that never happened.

Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities premieres on Channel 9 on Monday.

By Darren Devlyn & Anthony Dowsley
February 04, 2009
Herald Sun