Posts Tagged ‘Mafia’

Man of honor crimezine Joe Bonnano mafia

Joseph Bonnano—a man of tradition

Bon Vinuti Crimeziners, Comu va? The tiny town of Castellammare Del Golfo, Sicily is much more than a tiny fishing village, or a marginally pronounceable scrabble high score, it is also the birthplace of Mafia boss of bosses Joseph Bonanno.

For generations Castellammare has been a place of tradition, so it is perhaps no surprise that Joe Bonanno refers to himself as a man of tradition, in a similar way he refers to his associates as men of tradition. Joe eschews the word Mafia, but in his Autobiography, A Man of Honor, he tells us at a very early stage the true Sicilian meaning of the word Mafioso; an adjective that means—spirited, brave, keen, beautiful, vibrant and alive. Anything can be Mafioso he tells us—an apple a woman, a horse or a man.

The pejorative connotations of the word Mafia are something that Bonanno struggles with throughout the book. As a man of tradition, Bonanno prizes respect above all things and he outlines in great detail just what kind of respect he is talking about. He would have us believe that his kind of respect has little to do with the world of modern “gangsters”—people who confuse fear with respect.

Bonanno also wants to make clear he hates the sobriquet “Joe Bananas”. Bonanno means “Good year” in Italian; all educated people he assumes would know this.

In the 1920s Bonanno went to naval college, with big plans of sailing the world, but Benito Mussolini threw a spanner in his educational ambitions and Bonanno moved to Brooklyn, by way of Cuba and Tampa Florida; where he quickly hooked up with Salvatore Maranzano and the Castellammarese mafia clan.

Crimeziners who are interested in the genesis of the Sicilian mafia and the many stories this branch of organized crime gave way to, will find this book fascinating. Clear parallels can be drawn between Bonanno’s early career and Mario Puzo’s stories about the Corleone family for example.

Bonnanno is understandably coy about his nefarious dealings, however. He prefers to call himself a businessman and describes his legion of associates as like-minded men of tradition, helping each other forward in a strange country.

Bonanno rarely dishes the dirt in this book. He does however make notable exceptions. He doesn’t have too many kind words to say about Brooklyn crime lord Joe “the Boss” Masseria, nor does he have much time for Masseria associates Lucky Luciano, Frank Costello, or Vito Genovese. He also has a dim view of Big Al Capone of the Chicago Outfit, a man who gave him a gold watch upon their meeting. For Bonanno men like Capone and Meyer Lansky represented a new and unwelcome addition to his circle of business associates—men who were non-Sicilian—men without respect—professional gangsters.

Bonanno provides invaluable background to the November 14, 1957 Apalachin Crime Commission meeting/bust, that blew the lid of the American Mafia and changed the FBI focus away from chasing communists. Typically, Bonanno says he wasn’t there, and that his involvement was down to and underling who had his driving license getting busted in his place.

The discerning reader will quickly realize that while Bonanno spins a fascinating yarn, his version of events is often times doubtful at best. Throughout, he adopts an “I never done anything wrong, not ever,” tone that gradually becomes more wearing and less believable as the book goes on. A good example of which is his version of the career changing kidnap plot that saw him “retire” to his home in Arizona.

The Tucson years were plagued by ill health—he had three heart attacks—and a constant barrage of harassment from Federal Law enforcement. He also picked up a five-year felony conviction—a convoluted indictment, alleging he obstructed a San Jose grand jury investigation into his California assets. He served one year, due to ill health, which isn’t bad going considering he was 75 years old at the time, and had been at the top of his mafia game for decades.

Man of Honor was published in 1983 and at the time many New York mafia leaders, such as Gambino boss Paul Castellano and Joseph Massino, whined endlessly on Federal wire taps about “that rat” Bonanno; although it must be noted that Bonnano kept his vow of omertà to the very end, whilst Massino subsequently became the biggest rat the Bonnano family ever had, doing perhaps more damage to the mafia than even the Joe Pistone/Donnie Brasco undercover sting.

A man of Honor Joseph Bonanno

Joseph Bonanno—businessman, honorable man of tradition.

It should also be noted, that [former] United States Attorney and hat in the ring political crank, Rudolph Giuliani, has cited the mafia family chart in Bonnano’s book as instrumental in his landmark Mafia Commission trial of 1985; a prosecution that saw the successful RICO prosecutions and subsequent jailing of mafia kingpins such as ‘Big’ Paul Castellano, ‘Fat’ Tony Salerno, Carmine ‘the snake’ Persico and Tony ‘Ducks’ Corallo. The prosecution failed to snare Bonanno [although Bonnano family boss Phil ‘Rusty’ Rastelli caught a twelve stretch].

Man of Honor may not tell the full story, but the part it does tell is certainly very engaging. Check it out Crimeziners.

Joseph Bonanno died on May 11, 2002, of heart failure at the age of 97. He is buried at Holy Hope Cemetery & Mausoleum in Tucson, Arizona.


Steven Van Zandt as Frank Tagliano

Miami Steve Van Zandt or Little Steven as he is better known to millions of Bruce Springsteen fans, is no stranger to mafia gigs . He played the part of Bada Bing proprietor Silvio Dante in hit HBO show The Sopranos.

Now Van Zandt is back, as wise guy Frank ‘the fixer’ Tagliano, a man who has finked off mafia boss Aldo Delucci to the FBI. His reward? A new identity in the Federal Witness Protection Program, and a one-way ticket to Lillehammer Norway.

Why Lillehammer? Well, sports fan Tagliano, much impressed by the 1994 Winter Olympics, figures he could use some fresh air and the company of some hot Scandanavian ‘broads.’

We are talking Dramedy here though Crimeziners, so things quickly go badly wrong. Tagliano gets billeted next door to the middle aged Chief of Police—a woman who doesn’t exactly conform to his fantasies of Scandanavian blonde bombshell. Then there is the comedy clown car he is allocated a subcompact not best suited to the Norweigan winter.

And if that wasn’t enough, our hero is expected to get a job, trouble is the only job on offer is as a pizza delivery guy. No surprise that Tagliano quickly reverts to his wise-guy routines, with hilarious consequences.

Now I am sure you will all be anxious to see this new series that is released on Feb 6, trouble is all eight episodes will be released simultaneously on Netflix. That is right Crimeziners, that subscription you just junked will have to be renewed if you want to see this show. Curses!

Roberto Saviano,Gomorrah,Crimezine


Roberto Saviano is a wanted man. The Mafia have a contract out on him, that is official. The reason: his book, Gomorrah Italy’s other Mafia, a courageous, years in the making piece of investigative journalism, that blows the lid on the world of  the Neapolitan Mafia also known as  The CamorraThe System.

Saviano’s biblical pun, alluding to a land of sin and vice is an appropriate one. He paints a picture of a Mafia controlled black economy that is at least equal to the legitimate economy of Italy, a world where the Mafia controls business at every level, from high-fashion and consumer goods forgery, to construction contracts and lucrative toxic waste management programs.

While much of the staggering information and mafia background in this book will be new to the reader, the violence will not be. Saviano outlines in graphic detail how the Camorra are murdering all who stand in their way with impunity and it makes for grisly reading.

When you have read this tale of murder, slavery and environmental catastrophe, it will undoubtably make you think twice before you buy bootleg designer gear, or street corner cigarettes. This controversial book has made many Italians question the very system their country is founded on, and for that reason it is a Crimezine Classic.

Crimezine would discourage readers from seeing the Gomorrah movie, while it is an interesting, if low budget piece of European cinema, it bears little relation to this marvelous book.