If you ask his mother, you'll get a different story: "I really don't know what it was," says Judith Jordan. "He just had the devil in him."
At home, the Guglielmos were an ordinary middle-class Long Island family. Michael's mother cared full-time for Michael and his younger brother and sister. Their neighborhood in Northport, New York, was tree-lined and picket-fenced, with a cutesy Main Street strip that could be mistaken for a 1950s movie set.
"I had a great childhood, a beautiful home, and four squares,"says Guglielmo. "But I was just a fuck-up with a Napoleon complex who liked to kick ass and use a lot of drugs."
Jordan came to realize her son's twisted side when, at the age of 12, he got caught stealing a pistol from behind the counter of a local candy store. After that, she says, he took to looting local houses.
"As a young boy, Michael used to like to watch gangster movies," Jordan says. When people asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, she says, "He'd say the same thing to every one of them — he wanted to join the mafia. That's the only thing he wanted to do."
Guglielmo's friends were wild, too. They called themselves the Northport Gang: Bruce Lee devotees one and all, they studied martial arts and hung out on an abandoned supermarket loading dock smoking hash, munching Quaaludes, and deciding which enemies to trounce. Though he was just 5-8 and 110 pounds at the time, if Guglielmo revved the engine on his dirt bike outside of your hangout, you knew to reach for a weapon. "I gravitated toward bad things and bad people," Guglielmo says. "We terrorized that fucking town."
Things worsened after Guglielmo watched his grandfather deteriorate from cancer and dementia. Guglielmo came home to discover the patriarchal figure on their front lawn wearing nothing but underwear — he'd accidentally set the house on fire. In the year that followed, Guglielmo graduated from amateur shithead to professional criminal, getting locked up for the first time in 1978 for leading police on a high-speed chase through two counties while blasting the Doors: Break on through to the other side. He was 16, and served 60 days in county jail.
Soon after his first brush with the court system he began extorting drug dealers. One night, while collecting from a band of hippie weed suppliers known as the Circus People, he knifed one of his victims in the gut — his first time ever stabbing someone. Within seconds, Guglielmo was down on the concrete with the Circus People stomping him. He says he would have died there if not for being rescued by an old acquaintance— Morgan Carey, the brother of pop star Mariah Carey and one of the few Northport kids who were tougher than Guglielmo.
But that beatdown didn't teach Guglielmo anything. One night, he found himself in the heat of a donnybrook with his Northport posse, battering his foes with an aluminum baseball bat — "bing, bing, bing, bing," he remembers the serial assault sounding like.
That was the brawl that finally earned him an arrest warrant.
"When I was a kid, I knew I was a fucking loser, and because of that I became a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Guglielmo.