WALTON COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — “Goodfellas” and “Donny Brasco” are movies based on real-life mafia crime figures. A local man, who lived the same lifestyle, is hoping his story is also headed to the silver screen.
Jim Burton said he has lived a fast and flashy life. In fact, he’s even written an autobiography entitled “Life in the Fast Lane.” But, Burton’s experiences were also dangerous and illegal.
Burton was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in a predominantly Italian neighborhood in North Babel on Long Island.
“We grew up in a neighborhood similar to that in the movie Goodfellas,” said Burton.
Burton said his father’s side of the family was involved in law enforcement while his mother’s side was all Irish mafia.
This allowed him to navigate the criminal world, without getting into trouble.
“If you had the money you could do whatever you wanted to do,” he said. “I could get away with murder.”
As a young man, Burton trained for a normal career.
“I had an opportunity to go to medical school, so I did,” said Burton. “I became an OR technician.”
His training involved working in New York hospitals, but it took a bad turn.
“How do you get in trouble in medical school? You do operations,” he said.
After challenging one of his instructors, the professor responded by pressuring Burton to perform surgery.
“So I took the scalpel thinking he would take it away at any minute and he didn’t,” he said.
This took place at least one other time. The operations were successful until the media found out. Burton said the professor fled to Texas to avoid an investigation, and Burton left as well.
His next career was managing properties, like actress Eva Gabor’s estate. Burton was also a delivery driver for a chain of art galleries and by the time he turned 24, he had earned enough money to buy the art gallery chain.
“I got the opportunity to do a framing for the king of Saudi Arabia.”
It was a portrait about 10 feet high with a gold leaf frame and silk linings. Burton said the king sent a group of soldiers to pick up the framed portrait.
“As all the soldiers came to the warehouse, they liked a lot of the art so what I did was trade with them for guns, ammo, and stuff, which we couldn’t get here in the United States,” he said.
The weapons deals led Burton to get more involved in the New York underworld and in questionable, but legal, financial dealings.
“During the course of the art business, I found a loophole in the credit card system,” Burton stated.
From 1974 to 1978, Burton’s art business was booming.
“I was the third-largest art dealer in the country,” he said. “I started out on the right foot.”
Art wasn’t Burton’s only business at the time, he also worked as a limo driver. One of his main clients was the head of the Gambino crime family, John Gotti, and that is how Jim Burton became a wise guy.
“We got paid to do dirty deeds for them and that’s how I got into the so-called mafia guys,” he said.
In part two of Life in The Fast Lane, Burton explains how he became more deeply involved in the mafia.