BANGOR, Maine — Syndicated talk show host, author and Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr told an audience of more than 500 people Friday night that this has been a banner week for him.
“It’s been a good week for me. First it was Whitey Bulger that got convicted and then the program director at WRKO got fired — I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Carr, a Portland native, said during his sold-out show, “An Evening of Crime,” at Spectacular Event Center in Bangor.
“You know, Whitey used to say that Christmas was for cops and kids as he was filling the envelopes, but Christmas came in August this year,” Carr said of his two adversaries, drawing applause, hoots and laughter from fans.
As listeners of “The Howie Carr Show” know, the no-holds-barred coverage of James ‘Whitey’ Bulger and his partners in crime on Carr’s radio show, his columns and books earned him a spot on the crime boss’ hit list.
Bulger, who allegedly ran a criminal gang in South Boston from the 1970s through the early 1990s, was found guilty Monday of 11 murders, drug trafficking and other crimes. When he was captured in 2011 in Santa Monica, Calif., Bulger had been hiding from authorities for 16 years, according to published reports.
“He tried to kill me, so that’s why I’ve got an interest in it,” Carr said of Bulger just before taking the stage for his talk and slideshow about Bulger, his brother, former Massachusetts Senate President Billy Bulger and some of the key members of the Winter Hill Gang.
Carr’s entourage Friday night included his wife, Kathy, and two of their three teenage daughters, Charlotte, 18, and Christina, 16.
Also joining Carr Friday night was his producer, Nancy “Sandy” Shack, and Anthony Amore, director of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston since 2005.
For the past seven years, Amore has also served as the museum’s chief investigator into the 1990 theft of 13 priceless works of art from the museum.
Author of “Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists” with investigative reporter Tom Mashberg, Amore discussed some of the most infamous art heists of the 20th century, involving works valued $1 billion in total.
Chief among the heists involved one at the at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which alone resulted in the loss of $500 million worth in paintings, etching and other works that have yet to be recovered.
In that case, two men posing as Boston police officers were buzzed into the museum on March 18, 1990, after saying they were responding to a disturbance. They handcuffed the two night guards who were on duty and took them into the basement, where they were secured to pipes and their hands, feet and heads were duct taped.
Amore described how the thieves made off with priceless works like Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee, A Lady and Gentleman in Black and a Self Portrait, Vermeer’s The Concert and Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni, according to the museum’s website.
Not all art thieves, however, were so clever. Amore also regaled the audience with stories of robbers with more bravado than brains — among them Myles Connor, a notorious Boston art thief who unwittingly tried to sell works by Andrew Wyeth and NC Wyeth to an undercover FBI agent. He and several accomplices stole the paintings — along with several other famous paintings — from the Woolworth Estate in Monmouth, Maine, in the early 1970s.
“When you steal these highly recognizable paintings, there’s no market for them. There’s no one out there who’s going to buy a painting that everyone knows is stolen. Especially when, even if you’re paying pennies on the dollar, you’re paying millions of dollars. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that people don’t spend lots of money on things they can never show anyone.
“Myles found that out, he couldn’t find a buyer for these Wyeth paintings,” Amore said. “He looked and looked and looked and couldn’t find one. Then all of a sudden, he gets lucky and he comes across a guy named Bernie Murphy who wants to buy these paintings from him.”
Murphy arranged to meet Connor in the parking lot of a Cape Cod IGA store to discuss a deal.
“Myles is elated,” Amore said. “They go, they park next to each other, Myles opens his trunk and shows him the Wyeth paintings.” Unfortunately for Connor, the supposed buyer reaches into his pocket and pulls out his FBI badge.
Overall, the packed event on crime in Boston turned out to be a success for fans and Carr alike.
“We originally had 350 [tickets available], but when we sold out about two weeks ago, Bruce [Biette], the owner [of WVOM], got a bigger room so we sold 200 more tickets,” Carr said. “We sold out about Tuesday or Wednesday, so it’s been a good thing for us.”