Shabooty Interview Series: Johnny Fratto, “The Paris Hilton Of Organized Crime”
If you listen to the Howard Stern Show, you are very familiar with Johnny Fratto. Fratto, the son of infamous mobster Louis Fratto and owner of Beverly Hills Choppers, is best known for his on-air Eric The Midget escapades. The most famous -being when Eric The Midget called Johnny Fratto and ordered a hit on somebody – (audio here). When Johnny Fratto isn’t busy helping Eric the Midget get sweet nothings whispered into his ear at The Bunny Ranch, he’s busy building $250,000 Swarovski crystal encrusted choppers for Paris Hilton. This is the Shabooty Interview of Johnny Fratto: ‘The Paris Hilton of Organized Crime’.
Shabooty: Do you like being called a mobster, or being affiliated with the mafia life?
Johnny Fratto: It’s part of my heritage and part of my pedigree. It’s something that existed before I existed. I been around all of that and read about it before the time I was a little kid. I know guys that are “real guys”, I know guys that pretend to be real guys… it’s all the same: there’s good people and there’s bad people. I don’t believe it exists the way people believe it exists anymore. Maybe 25 years ago it was like that, but I think it’s still pretty much over. On a mob networking level, that doesn’t exist anymore. I am the Paris Hilton of the mafia, I haven’t done anything, yet somehow I seem to be the guy that’s always in the light.
How does a mob guy have such a good sense of humor?
Where I come from ya laugh to keep from crying. Along with all the good stuff, there was a lot of bad stuff. My father died when I was pretty young. I lost a brother in a plane crash with Rocky Marciano a year later. [When it comes to a sense of humor], everyone in my family has it in common. Gotta kinda laugh through all of this stuff, or you will go nuts.
How did you first get hooked up with The Howard Stern Show?
I had gone on the Howard Stern Show – it was kinda an accident. I was in NYC to unveil a motorcycle. [Beverly Hills Choppers] was doing a promotion with Warner Bros. KC [Armstrong - fmr. producer on the Howard Stern Show], was going to come on the show [while in NY doing work for BHC]. We pretty much on accident became guests on the Stern show, because KC wasn’t there.
KC was a no-show? Give me more details surrounding the BHC event that KC missed.
Beverly Hills Choppers was doing a cross promotion [chopper] with Warner Bros.’ “Tweety Bird.” WB was creating a brand that was Tweety Bird. [We were] one of only people to incorporate the Tweety Bird logo with our logo. We made a chopper for Nicky Hilton. We were in New York for the event, and KC was supposed to be with us, he didn’t show up. We got there [at Sirius and Howard] let us go into the [studio]. It was the biggest moment of my life to go on the Howard Stern Show. I was a fan, it changed everything, it really did. Everyone who knows me, knows me from The Stern Show. I give him all the props for success we had. I hired KC to work for BHC and the fact that he missed the event, got me on to the show. If KC would have been there, I wasn’t gonna be on the show. It was the one time I was happy KC didn’t show.
And as for Eric The Midget… how did you first get hooked up with him?
Jim Bennington was at my house and Jim knew Eric and he put me on the phone with him. I was one of the first people trying to get Eric to ‘fly with balloons’. That was the first contact…
Are you his manager?
No, just his friend. Someone looking out for him – I enjoy helping Eric out and he really is a good kid. He isn’t what people think he is… the ungrateful part.
Were you in on the recent meeting between Eric the Midget and ABC VP Robert Mills? How did it go?
Yes, it was great. It was bizarre. I didn’t expect Eric to really be able to take a meeting like that. Obviously he’s never taken a meeting in his whole life. He was very professional in that meeting. One of the things was, I didn’t wanna talk and hurt his situation. I kinda thought I was gonna end up talking. Eric really ended up carrying the ball, talking for himself really well.
What’s the difference between Beverly Hills Choppers (BHC), Orange County Choppers (OCC), and West Coast Choppers (WCC)?
They are building motorcycles, I am building scooters — in no way shape or form do I belong in a category with them. You can compare my product to a Vespa [scooter] on steroids. [BHC is in the] Vespa market, more so than a serious chopper. If I wanted one myself, I would go those other people… the Teutuls or Jesse James.
You’re friends with Paris Hilton?
Yeah, I am. I met her when I first got out here [Beverly Hills]. Paris is the nicest person that ever walked on the face of the earth. It makes me feel bad when people pick on her. She’s very generous and a good friend. Her and her friends treated us with kindness and respect. She’s a good person, everyone should have a friend like her.
When did you first call into the Howard Stern Show?
I was a listener a little bit… mostly that day I ended up on the show. Before, I had never been a caller. I watched it when it was on E! In 2006 I was there when they switched to Sirius. Right when the switch happened. I think I was on the first day [of Sirius]. KC was on complaining about Jessica Hahn.
Is the core of your business the BHChoppers?
Not the actual chopper, but the clothing lines, the jewelry lines, licensing the logo end of it, is mostly what I do.
Fratto Beich and Carrington co. new company [we're starting]. We brought in Heather Carrington, she does product placement integration into shows. She works for Mark Burnett on The Apprentice. That’s the newest thing… that’s what we do, and we have more plans for JFSC.tv.
Are you cool with Jesse James (of West Coast Choppers)?
I’ve met him, I don’t know him. Jesse’s not worried about us at all.
Aside from Eric the Midget, are you friends with any other Stern Show “Wack Packers”?
I don’t know the other Wack Packers. I’m close friends with KC — I feel like I’m KC’s father sometimes. Not really any one [wack packer]. High Pitch Eric will call me occasionally when he ha a problem, he’s a real good guy, he just takes what he’s doing too far. Deep down, I think he’s a good guy. I know Irish John – I communicate with Irish John and Double A [Awesome Angelo], they’re all great guys and good elements [of the Stern show]. And Marianne from Brooklyn, I think she’s actually hot. I can’t imagine that voice in a sexual situation, though.
And how did you initially meet KC Armstrong?
I met KC through a photographer. We were doing Beverly Hills Angels, (still doing it – ready to kick that back up). KC knew the photographer real well and we hired KC as kinda a scout to find ‘Angels’ (models) to photograph. KC did a fantastic and unbelievable job. He should work for Playboy. What a great job he did… maybe Playboy will read this and give KC a job, I’m not kidding you. KC’s a 10 magnet for girls. I’ve never seen anything like it – I been trying to talk KC into being an actor. This is something he should def. get involved in – girls love him. With all of the things that go along with KC (the problems), girls love this guy. I’ve never seen anything like it – really amazing. If KC calls and says he’s with a girl and she’s a 10, and she wants to stop by, she’s probably an 11 to you or me. [When KC calls], my son goes running.
How was the experience being in the Howard Stern Show Sirius studios?
Me and my son were there – they invited us to come into the couch and we didn’t expect that all. We thought we were in the green room and we were excited. You can imagine the pressure, I think we did a great job, for some reason Howard made me really comfortable. If anyone’s scared of Howard, that way, I gotta tell you I’ve never had a bad experience with the guy. He’s brilliant.
How long have you listened to the Howard Stern show?
I’ve listened to it off and on when I was in Iowa. We didn’t get it – we would watch it on E! and when I was driving to Chicago, I couldn’t wait to turn it on, because we couldn’t get it obviously. When I got to LA, it was on too early for me, it was on [terrestrial radio] but, I didn’t listen to it then. When Sirius came out, that’s when I really got hooked on it. Once you’re hooked on it, you’re hooked on it and you can’t get off.
Something really challenging for me… weird thing as a caller, when you’re dialing that number, you’re gonna say something and they’re gonna put you through to Howard — there’s an element I can’t explain to you. It’s like your first kiss with a girl – either gonna go along with it, or gonna get shut down. It’s adrenaline – I love it. I don’t try to wear it out, either. Unless I feel like I got something to say, I don’t really call.
Who does the best Johnny Fratto impersonation on the show?
I love when Howard does it. Howard and Artie – both of ‘em make me laugh. I love when Howard does it. It’s really great when someone like that imitates you, it’s a wild thing. Artie does it great, too. I love the way Howard says it and what Artie says.
Are you ever going to write a book?
I am actually writing a book right now as we speak, with Neil Strauss and a guy named Matt Randazzo. Company called Igniter owned by Neal and Anthony Bozza, the guy who wrote Artie Lange’s book.
Is it a “mobster thing” to have gray hair early?
[Haha] It’s like an old man thing with stress to have the gray hair. I don’t think so – I was prematurely gray, I started to turn gray at 19 years old – by the time I was in my 30′s I was pretty gray. I’m probably the only guy around Beverly Hills with white hair around here. I’m not looking for anything. I’m embracing it – I’m a father, I have little kids, big kids… 5 kids, 35 years old is the oldest, and the youngest is 7 months. I am going to embrace my age gracefully. I’m not looking for anything. I’m not a leading man or anything. Best to be who I am. It’s a little unnerving, it’s a sign of mortality – I grew up with coal black hair… [gray] looks okay.
What’s your favorite mob movie?
Thief with James Caan. It was the most realistic. I like all them movies. I watch Goodfellas and Casino and Godfather obviously. I probably know every line to The Godfather like Artie does.
You ever run into Henry Hill?
I don’t know him, I never really run into him. I gotta be honest, I don’t think Henry Hill is my kinda guy. The idea of Henry being a snitch and turning it into notoriety and fame… when he talks he still wants to hold on to the mantle, that he’s a wise guy. That’s not something a wise guy does. He turned on people that weren’t bad people – they were good to him. They did illegal activities, but they were good to him. The only reason he snitched was to save himself. If you’re a wise guy who is a snitch, you’re not really a wise guy after all. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him and I don’t have a desire to meet the guy.
Does the fact that you know it’d be good radio, lessen the blow when Eric The Midget does something crazy at your expense?
Yes, I love for Eric to do something crazy at my expense. A lot of times I baited Eric into doing things, so that there would be some content [for the Stern Show]. If someone believes Eric could steal my credit card and do that to me, especially someone in the condition Eric’s in… come on, that’s a fairy tale. I laugh my ass off at how dumb people are – they want to believe that Eric’s not gonna steal a credit card, are you kidding? I’d be shooting baskets with him with my son, I’d turn [Eric] into the ball. It’s great radio, come on. He’s not ungrateful, but he is a prick — he really is arrogant that way.
What is the status of “Son of a Gun”?
‘Son of a Gun’ was a thing we were doing… a reality show concept, someone turned it into a reality show. We never wanted it to be a reality show – like everyday life. There’s a bit [in the pilot], a flashback to the 60′s, “Wonder Years meets The Sopranos,” that we’ve been trying to sell. It’s hard to sell it because to make it, it would be really expensive and we’d need the right people for it.
Aside from Paris Hilton, what high profile celebrities have you made a bike for?
We’ve done them for Nicole Richie, Nikky Hilton, Adrianne Curry, Nicole Eggert, a lot of them.
Did ‘Johnny Fratto Social Club’ (JFSC.tv) get birthed after the Eric the Midget phenomenon?
It exploded with it. It’s a good place for Eric to be. The only reason Ishai and Gina created JFSC, was to create a safe place for Eric. Other websites [Stern Fan Network (SFN)] are so bashing. Stern fans they will always take something too far. This was a place we built for him to be able to hold his own court, where he created Eric’s modeling agency, the Kendra [episode], etc.
The thing that’s bad about Eric, is there are people that bust balls and there are people that go way too far. I mean hurtful mean (not in a funny vein), illegal ways to mess with him. Those are Stern fans I don’t really believe are good Stern fans. SFN is a detriment to Howard Stern and a detriment to Sirius radio. They need listeners and new people if they’re gonna get the company out of trouble. Fans that present themselves in proper way – if I was brand new to the Stern Show, and I didn’t get it –we look everything up online, I would read SFN, and it would make me… I might not even listen to Stern with the vulgarity on that website. It goes beyond what’s even normal to me. That doesn’t rep. the real [Stern] fan. Real fans are normal people, most are. That cliq are the evil ones. It does a real disrespect to The Howard Stern Show and to Sirius radio.
Anyone that’s new, that’s where they find it online… SFN. I’m not endorsing JFSC, I’m endorsing no hate — JFSC started on SFN and it was a real popular thread. The point or the idea was that it was a no hate thread. No hate in a thread, look at how out of control things have gotten, I mean the mean shit.
Do you listen to every minute of the Stern Show?
I listen to every bit of it. I listen to it all day. A lot of times, I’m up at 3 AM listening. I don’t really have a schedule that forces me to sleep, so a lot of times I’ll be up on JFSC talking to Eric, telling him what to say (we might be IMing him).
What saying are you best known for? “This f-ing guy”?
The saying when people walk up to me is ‘YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO!‘ Everyone that’s saying it to me, acts like I’ve never heard it. Another saying people say to me is: “them fucking kids.” And, “the little fucker, how’s the little fucker.”
L: Johnny Fratto & Paris Hilton. R: Uncle Frank “One Ear” Fratto” & Zsa Zsa Gabor (Paris Hilton’s Great Aunt!) Photo taken 50 years apart.
- Beverly Hills
- Beverly Hills California
- eric the midget
- howard stern
- howard stern show
- johnny fratto
- los angeles
- Louis Fratto
- new york
- Orange County Choppers
- Organized Crime
- paris hilton
- Paris Hilton of Organized Crime
- Rocky Marciano
- warner bros
- West Coast Choppers