Vincent Gigante was born in New York City on March 29, 1928. He grew up in Greenwich Village, which is part of Lower Manhattan. He started what looked to be a promising legitimate life, attending a specialized textile high school, but quit to work on a number of different jobs.
In 1946, Vincent began his short boxing career. Out of 24 fights, Vincent won 23, but he decided to quit anyways after a number of fights that didn't go so well. This was when he began a life of crime.
Vincent married a woman named Olympia Grippa in 1950 and fathered 5 children. On the side, he fathered 3 children with a mistress named Olympia Esposito.
Vincent was given his first big opportunity by Tommy Eboli to do a hit on the Genovese boss Frank Costello. Vincent really botched the hit badly, despite hours of target practice in his basement. Vincent found Costello in a hotel lobby and shot him with a shotgun in the head, but Costello's head was only grazed by the shot and survived. Despite surviving the hit, Costello stepped down from the position of Boss anyways.
By 1970 Vincent had reached status of capo and by 1980, he was serving as consiglieri to Tony Salerno. In 1981, the family boss, Salerno, had a stroke and was hospitalized. The family decided to appoint Vincent as the boss and Vincent proudly accepted the position.
Vincent employed an excellent strategy for escaping the law - acting insane. He did this by wandering through the streets in his bathrobe, mumbling to himself, grinning, and talking to thin air. His acting was so convincing that he evaded numerous charges. He beat a bribery charge by having psychiatrists tell the court that he was a paranoid schizophrenic and suffered from hallucinations. Eventually the charges were dropped altogether. To help the insanity act, he checked himself into St. Vincent's Psychiatric Hospital 22 times over 20 years.
The FBI was unable to convict Vincent until 1997 for 41 racketeering and conspiracy charges. He was put in jail until 2010 (a few years were added recently on charges of obstructing justice). Once in jail, he slowly dropped the act until it became known that it was all just feigned.