Looking for Whitey
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Beauty Brings Down the Beast: How Plastic Surgery Helped Snag Whitey Bulger

Laurie Essig teaches at Middlebury College and is the author of American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards and Our Quest for Perfection. Essig writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education's Brainstorm Blog, where this post originally appeared.

Catherine-Greig Have you seen the movie “The Departed”? Jack Nicholson played a character based on James “Whitey” Bulger, a Boston mobster and FBI informant who disappeared, seemingly into thin air way back in 1995. The now 81-year-old Whitey, who has been connected to 19 murders, had a $2 Million dollar reward on his head and managed to escape capture, despite sightings in London and around California. But it was his longtime companion, Catherine Greig, and her commitment to the beauty project that led to FBI to finally track him down yesterday.

According to the New York Times,

The arrest came after the F.B.I., stymied in its efforts to find Mr. Bulger, had doubled the reward for information leading to the arrest of Ms. Greig, to $100,000, and began broadcasting public service television advertisements on shows geared to women viewers, such as Dr. Oz, as part of an effort to find Mr. Bulger through Ms. Greig.

Ms. Greig liked to have a nip here and a tuck there (as well as lots of cosmetic dental procedures). Which is why the FBI targeted women’s shows as well as cosmetic surgery publications in their latest campaign to find Whitey.

In fairness to Ms. Greig, they were living in Santa Monica and letting herself go would have probably attracted more attention than her strict cosmetic maintainence did.  But one does wonder what sort of love held these two together that they remained a couple despite the obvious fact that it made them easier to track down?

Book Cover for American Plastic by Laurie EssigPerhaps they were concerned about the increased stigma attached to divorce? According to recent article, divorce is now less and less common among the upper middle classes (and with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in their apartment, these two certainly were of a certain set).  Not only is divorce less common, but there’s an increasing amount of shame attached to it, especially when there are children involved. And although Whitey and Ms. Greig did not have children, they did have a dog. Perhaps they thought it would be too traumatic for their canine companion if they did not stay together through thick and thin?

Whatever the reasons, it was beauty that brought down the beast. And although many in Boston may be mourning the end to a legend, a man of the people who escaped the law, we ought to be mourning how beauty and love are a trap for all of us, even a cunning criminal like Whitey.