The Chicago Syndicate: Sopranos

Showing posts with label Sopranos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sopranos. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

John "Big Man" Venizelos Scheduled to Plead Guilty to Narcotics Trafficking, #BonannoCrimeFamily #HellsAngels

A Bonanno crime family associate charged with joining a Canadian drug lord to become one of New York City's largest marijuana suppliers is scheduled to plea guilty to narcotics trafficking charges.

John "Big Man" Venizelos, 33, is believed to have secured a plea deal from Brooklyn federal prosecutors that will significantly reduce his time in prison - averting the life sentence he faced if convicted at trial, sources said. But because Venizelos honored the mob's omerta code of silence and refused to hand over information to the feds, sources said, he's expected to face approximately 10-14 years in prison when sentenced eventually by Brooklyn federal Judge Raymond Dearie.

Venizelos - who sports horn-rimmed glasses and wears Ralph Lauren Polo ensembles - held a "straight job" before his arrest managing "Jaguars 3", a Brooklyn nightspot run by Vincent "Vinny Green" Faraci, a Bonanno crime family soldier. The nightclub, located in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, attracts patrons that have included several cast members of "The Sopranos” — including Tony Sirico, who portrayed the fictional mob family's “Paulie Walnuts”.

It was his sideline as an alleged drug trafficker, however, that attracted attention to Venizelos. He was arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents earlier this year and charged with being one of the biggest New York customers of French Canadian drug kingpin Jimmy “Cosmo” Cournoyer.

Cournoyer - who is awaiting trial in Brooklyn federal court - allegedly lies at the center of $1 billion narcotics ring and operated through alliances he created between the Hells Angels, the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel, the Bonanno crime family, and the Montreal Mafia, The Post first reported.

Only weeks after Venizelos' arrest, federal prosecutors accused him of trying to intimidate witnesses who might testify against him.

Prosecutors say Venizelos sent encrypted BlackBerry messages to a colleague explaining that Cournoyer had bankrolled a special "murder fund" to underwrite hits against informants in the high-profile international narcotics case.

Prosecutors also say they seized letters written by an unnamed colleague of Venizelos that discussed the Bonanno associate’s ties to organized crime - including references to sit-downs with captains in various New York La Cosa Nostra families The DEA also utilized informants to secretly record tapes of Venizelos discussing drug deals, officials said, and then seized a number of unlicensed handguns when they searched Venizelos' residence.

John Meringolo, a New York Law School professor who represents Venizelos, initially insisted that the $100,000-plus seized by feds at Venizelos' residence wasn't drug money - it was simply cash for tipping exotic dancers at the "Jaguars 3" club.

Meringolo told the judge today that he had reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and the judge adjorned the hearing until Wednesday on procdural grounds.

Cournoyer's attorney, Gerald McMahon, says he plans to vigorously fight the case against the French Canadian at an upcoming trial this summer.

Thanks to Mitchell Maddux.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Stars from "The Sopranos" Join "The Westchester All Stars Christmas for Wounded Veterans" Concert

Former Yankee outfielder and Latin Grammy nominated jazz guitarist Bernie Williams will join "Sopranos" stars Vincent Pastore and Tony Darrow to lend their talents to "The Westchester All Stars Christmas for Wounded Veterans," a holiday concert to be held Friday, November 30th at 7:30 p.m. at the Irvington Town Hall Theater. The star-studded holiday spectacular will spotlight original holiday music performed by 13 Westchester County based bands and musicians. The proceeds from the event will benefit wounded veterans organizations, including The Gary Sinise Foundation, Veterans Adaptive Sports Inc, and The Montrose Veteran's Administration Hospital.

"November 30th will be an evening to remember in support of a noble cause," said Westchester All Stars founder Bill Edwards. "These extraordinary musicians, actors and recording studios jumped at the chance to record the 'Christmas For Wounded Veterans CD' and are volunteering their time to help make the concert a night of spectacular to raise money for wounded veterans. So many people in Westchester County have asked, 'What can I do to help veterans?' This is an event the whole family can attend that will benefit those brave men and women who have given everything for their country."

In addition to Mr. Williams, other performers scheduled to perform include: Vaneese Thomas, Jon Cobert, Tom Dudley Blues Buddha, Stolen Moments, Bill Edwards, Buried In Blue, Duchess Di and Dave Keyes, Scott and Mia Staton, Johnny Feds And Da Bluez Boyz, Gary Adamson, Chuck St. Troy, and Kristen Capolino. The artists and celebrities are donating all performances and appearances.

According to the Defense Department, more than 50,000 Americans have been wounded in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Equally insidious unseen wounds of war - post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other forms of combat trauma - have affected nearly 42,300 patients. The health care bill for these veterans could reach half a trillion dollars over the next several decades, yet there is no money set aside to pay for their future health care costs. Veterans are dependent on appropriations approved by Congress. Without the tireless efforts by organizations such as The Gary Sinise Foundation,Veterans Adaptive Sports, Inc. and The Montrose Veteran's Administration, the road back for these veterans would be even more difficult.

Tickets for "The Westchester All Stars Christmas for Wounded Veterans" concert are $25, $30 and $50 and are tax deductible. Tickets can be ordered online here, or by calling the Irvington Town Hall Theater box office at: (914) 591-6602. Photos, artist bios and sponsor information for the "Christmas for Wounded Veterans" CD are available at the Westchester All Stars Christmas website, www.westchesterallstarschristmas.com.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Oral History of The Sopranos

“I’m still in love with Edie,” says James Gandolfini of Edie Falco, the woman who played his television wife, Carmela, for six seasons on The Sopranos. “Of course, I love my wife, but I’m in love with Edie. I don’t know if I’m in love with Carmela or Edie or both. I’m in love with her.” Falco reveals a similar possessiveness over her HBO-wedded husband. “It was weird to sit down at a table read with the actresses playing Tony’s girlfriends. Occasionally I would get a sharp twinge at the back of my neck,” she recalls. “I’d have to kind of keep my bearings and remember, No, no, no, this is your job, and at home you have your life. Even years later, I remember when I saw Jim in God of Carnage on Broadway, and he was Marcia Gay Harden’s husband, and I had this ‘How come I have to be O.K. with this?’ kind of feeling.”

“In the five long years since the screen went black and The Sopranos went off the air, on June 10, 2007, there has grown up a kind of omertà around the show,” writes Vanity Fair contributing editor Sam Kashner in the April 2012 issue, in which he speaks to David Chase, along with many of the actors, producers, directors, and writers who have never before spoken so candidly, about what it felt like to be part of this extraordinary cultural phenomenon.

James Gandolfini never thought he’d get the part of Tony Soprano. “I thought that they would hire some good-looking guy,” he tells Kashner, “not George Clooney, but some Italian George Clooney, and that would be that.” Edie Falco says she was surprised she got the role of the Mob boss’s wife. “I would have cast me as Dr. Melfi, but, luckily, I was not in charge.” But she tells Kashner that she quickly took to the role of Carmela. “I immediately knew how she felt about things, the way she wanted to look.”

Drea de Matteo tells Kashner that Chase told her, “You don’t look Italian. You look like a hostess of a restaurant.” The actress, who would play Christopher Moltisanti’s girlfriend, Adriana, in the series, played a restaurant hostess in the pilot. “Later on I hated saying ‘Christopher’ with my accent. I would beg David to let me say ‘Chrissy’ because I felt like my accent sounded really, really fake. Now when I walk down the street, people say, ‘Just give me one Chris-ta-fuh.’”

The actors tell Kashner about the emotional toll inherent in playing such complex characters. “I had to suck the life out of myself to play her,” says Lorraine Bracco of her character, Dr. Jennifer Melfi. “I mean, I don’t think Dr. Melfi ever smiled. I wanted her repressed and sad. And she also had to pay attention to not give an inch with Tony, because he would have eaten her up. I wasn’t going to let that happen. So I had that strength, but emotionally I suffered.” James Gandolfini says he used to call the writers the vampires. “Say, what have the vampires come up with this week? What blood are they sucking this week?” he would ask.

Tony Sirico recalls pleading with Chase to not make him kill a woman when his character, Paulie Walnuts, was scripted to do just that. “David, I come from a tough neighborhood. If I go home and they see that I killed a woman, it’s going to make me look bad.” David would not change the script. “Here’s the thing. We did the scene,” Sirico recalls. “I had to smother her. First he wanted me to strangle her; I said, ‘No, I’m not putting my hands on her.’ He said, ‘Use the pillow.’ After it was all said and done, I went back to the neighborhood, and nobody said a word. They loved the show; they didn’t care what we did.”

According to writer and executive producer Terence Winter, who went on to create Boardwalk Empire, even real mobsters loved the show. “One F.B.I. agent told us early on that on Monday morning they would get to the F.B.I. office and all the agents would talk about The Sopranos,” he recalls. “Then they would listen to the wiretaps from that weekend, and it was all Mob guys talking about The Sopranos, having the same conversation about the show, but always from the flip side. We would hear back that real wiseguys used to think that we had somebody on the inside. They couldn’t believe how accurate the show was.”

Thanks to Vanity Fair

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If You Like The Sopranos: Here Are Over 150 Movies, TV Shows, and Other Oddities That You Will Love by Leonard Pierce

Of all the classic takes on the Mob, be them in the movies or on television - The Sopranos holds a special place. The show revolutionized both the way the Mafia is presented, and the very nature of TV itself. If You Like The Sopranos: Here Are Over 150 Movies, TV Shows, and Other Oddities That You Will Love (If You Like Series)is part of the If You Like series from Limelight Books. As the title suggests, this is book contains a number various films and shows that fans of The Sopranos may be interested in.

That description is the short version of what this book is all about. What If You Like The Sopranos really provides is something of a timeline, which traces the evolution of the media’s treatment of the Mafa through the twentieth century and beyond. We begin with the early movies such as Little Caesar (1931) and the original Scarface (1932). Author Leonard Pierce draws the parallels between Tony Soprano, and the characters played by Edward G. Robinson, and James Cagney in these pre-Code films.

The rise of Film Noir is next discussed, and as Pierce points out, the show had plenty of Noir-ish moments - especially in the dream sequences. The code of an outlaw family was the next big development, played out in movies such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967), and of course The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather Part II (1974), not to mention GoodFellas (1990).

The developments in television are also scrutinized, from the obvious The Untouchables, to the rise of the nighttime soaps. The rise of the running “story-arc” of such hits as Dallas and Dynasty in the eighties was a huge factor in establishing the format of The Sopranos. Perhaps most importantly was the development of HBO itself, without which - a series like The Sopranos would never have existed. As Pierce sees it, a perfect storm came together to spawn the show, and the timing of the debut in 1999 could not have been better.

After a discussion of The Sopranos itself, Pierce goes on to explore serial television post-Tony. These include such critical favorites as Deadwood, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. The final chapter is titled “Welcome To America: Crime Drama For A New Millennium.” This intriguing section concerns other media, such as games (Grand Theft Auto), music (A Prince Among Theives by Prince Paul) and even books (the Underworld USA trilogy by James Ellroy).

As advertised, If You Like The Sopranos talks about a great number of films and TV shows (for the most part) that fans of the program should find interesting. There is a lot of good information packed into this relatively concise book.

Thanks to Greg Barbrick

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another Soprano's Actor Sent to Prison on Mob Related Charges

The actor who played mafia capo “Larry Boy Barese” on the HBO mob drama “The Sopranos” turns out to be gangster in real life.

Anthony Borgese, who uses the stage name "Tony Darrow," pled guilty in Brooklyn federal court to one count of participating in an extortion conspiracy to collect a debt.

Borgese, who has also appeared in mobster films “Goodfellas” and “Analyze This”, apparently used enforcers connected to the Gambino crime family.

The conspiracy occurred in Monticello in upstate New York in 2004 and Borgese was indicted on the charges two years ago.

Under a plea agreement with the US Attorney's Office in Brooklyn, the 72-year-old Borgese is expected to serve between 33 and 41 months in a federal prison.

According to press reports, had Darrow gone to trial rather than plead out, he might have faced up to 20 years in the slammer. "It's a difficult time for him," his attorney, Kevin Faga, told reporters. "He's not going to make any comment."

Darrow is hardly the first actor from The Sopranos to get in serious trouble.

Tony Sirico, who played the murderous, but hilarious, “Paulie Walnuts” on the popular program was a low-level associate of the Colombo crime family in the 1960s and 1970s and served prison time for armed robbery.

In more recent years, Richard Maldone, who played Albert Barese on the show was arrested in connection with a drug-dealing ring that operated out of Howard Beach, Queens, N.Y. Maldone and a crew of about 45 co-horts were nabbed for selling marijuana, cocaine, Ecstasy and ketamine. Maldone also reportedly served time in the 1990s for assault.

Another actor who had a small part in the Sopranos, Lillo Brancato, was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2009 for first-degree attempted burglary in connection with the murder of a New York City Police officer. Brancato, who played “Matt Bevilacqua” on the show, was cleared of murder charges.

Thanks to IBT

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Making of "Chicago Overcoat"

Chris Charles says he warned his star up front: "But I don't think it really registered till his first day of shooting in downtown Chicago."

Charles had cast Frank Vincent as the lead in Chicago Overcoat, an independent drama that received its world premiere Saturday, October 10, at the Chicago International Film Festival. Known almost exclusively for playing gangsters—including New York crime boss Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos and Billy Batts, who ends up in a trunk in Goodfellas—Vincent, 70, got to the set in October 2007 and realized that most of the crew were in their early 20s. "He's looking around like, 'Where'd all these kids come from?'" says Charles, who's now 25.

Chicago Overcoat was the first full-length feature produced by Beverly Ridge Pictures, a company formed in 2005 by six Columbia College film students, including Charles. Writer-director Brian Caunter, now 26, and writer-producer John Bosher, now 25, developed a sideline producing promotional and music videos while roommates at Columbia. Their "booty video," as Caunter calls it, for Joe Glass & IROC's "Two" got heavy rotation on BET Uncut in 2004. The next year, Caunter and Bosher joined forces with Charles, Philip Plowden, Kevin Moss, and William Maursky to form Beverly Ridge, named after Moss's far-south-side neighborhood. "The name sounds Hollywood, but it's also kind of Chicago," Caunter explains. They used Givens Castle, a Beverly landmark, as their logo. Charles directed Beverly Ridge's first production, a short adaptation of the Ray Bradbury short story "The Small Assassin."

In 2006 the six friends worked on a low-budget thriller called The Devil's Dominoes, directed by Scott Prestin, owner of the now-defunct Wicker Park bar Ginbucks. "We realized from that experience that we were more prepared than we thought to make a feature," Charles says. They were all fans of gangster films and figured they could make one without incurring a lot of extra production costs by taking advantage of Chicago locations.

"For months all we had was a title," says Caunter. His grandmother in Ohio had suggested "Chicago Overcoat," Prohibition-era slang for a coffin. The Family Secrets mob trials were in the headlines at the time and wound up providing inspiration for the screenplay.

Vincent plays Lou Marazano, an old hit man for the Chicago Outfit, who accepts his first contract in years—going after witnesses in a union pension-fund embezzlement case—to finance his Vegas retirement. Another Goodfellas vet, Mike Starr, is the underboss who exploits Marazano's money troubles. Another Sopranos alum, Kathrine Narducci, plays Marazano's old flame and alibi. Armand Assante plays the jailed boss facing trial. Chicago-based actor Danny Goldring is the alcoholic detective who's been chasing Marazano since the 1980s. And Stacy Keach does a cameo as a retired investigator pulled off the case when he got too close to city corruption.

"We were huge fans of The Sopranos," Caunter says. "We decided to write the script with Frank Vincent in mind so when he read it he'd feel like the main character is Frank Vincent. His book A Guy's Guide to Being a Man's Man was our character outline." The partners figured that "if we could create roles from scratch for celebrities, knowing they'd want to play something different, something challenging, we'd have an easier time recruiting them," Charles says. "We usually see Frank as a high-rolling mobster, higher on the food chain. In this film he's very humbled, very flawed, taking orders from guys younger than him."

Charles got the script to Vincent's people, and Vincent responded even though it came from unknowns in flyover country. "What appealed to me was the sensitivity of playing the softer side of a mob guy," Vincent says, "a guy who's not in control, who's looking to get the control." Vincent says he met a lot of mafiosi while touring as a drummer for Del Shannon and Paul Anka in the 1960s, helping him perfect a persona he's portrayed in Scorsese masterpieces and B movies alike. "They all have a way of looking at you, of intimidating you," Vincent says. "They're all evil. I can give a look or a stare that people read as evil."

Caunter and Charles signed Vincent at a place called Goodfellas Ristorante near his New Jersey home. "Frank walked in in a jumpsuit with a gold chain, looking like he walked off the set of The Sopranos," Charles says.

Once Vincent signed on, the other leads followed. Joe Mantegna was cast as the detective but dropped out weeks before shooting to take a role on CBS's Criminal Minds. "That was tough," Charles says. "I'd worked very hard to cast Joe." Goldring, who played the last clown killed in the opening bank heist sequence of The Dark Knight, stepped in. "They're so young, but they really got the writing for old-timers down," Goldring says.

The mother of cinematographer Kevin Moss, JoAnne Moss, who runs a real estate title insurance firm, personally invested "hundreds of thousands of dollars" and helped raise the rest of the $2 million budget, according to a report in Crain's Chicago Business. "Originally it was a smaller film. But as we found some success attaching talent, the budget increased," Charles says. "The project just kept getting bigger."

The filmmakers' youth "concerned me, absolutely," Vincent says. "They were younger than my kids. I've never experienced that before in all the films I've done, such a young team. . . . I figured if they were going to screw up, they'd screw up right away. As we progressed into the shoot, it became clear that they really knew what they wanted, and that was enough to make me confident."

Caunter, who turned 24 during the shoot, says he felt like "a chicken with its head cut off. Most of the time you have no idea what's going on. You feel like the world is going to end. You shoot for 12 hours, you come home and feel like you failed. The next day you feel like you want to redeem yourself. I think that's what makes a good movie—the struggle. If everything went your way it might feel kind of washy. I never had that experience, so I don't know."

The biggest adjustment for Caunter was learning to adapt to each actor's approach. "Frank is quite easygoing," he says. "Armand is the polar opposite. Armand would scream obscenities at the top of his lungs before the take. That alone would scare half the set, and then we'd roll the camera."

"They turned me loose," says Goldring. "That can be a dangerous thing for any actor, but they also had the good sense to rein me in. I'm a passion merchant. Doing Chicago Overcoat allowed me to let my passions out. The [character] is . . . ornery. He likes to tip back a few. Even though I don't do that anymore, I can play one on TV."

Accusations of ethnic stereotyping have dogged many of Vincent's projects. Last spring, MillerCoors pulled a series of ads featuring Vincent and Starr as mobsters after complaints from the Order Sons of Italy in America. Chicago Overcoat is no exception. After principal photography wrapped in November 2007, Bosher got an e-mail from Bill Dal Cerro of the advocacy group Italic Institute of America. Dal Cerro wrote, "It saddens—and yes, sickens me—that you are reverting to the oldest game in the book in your quest for Hollywood fame: namely, stoking prejudice against Americans of Italian descent by producing yet another pointless Italian 'mob' movie."

"I told him they can't force us to stop making movies that people want to see," Bosher says. "They have to change people's minds." Let them protest, adds Vincent, who sells "mobbleheads" of his Goodfellas character on his Web site. "It'll do the movie good."

It's going to be tough to recover the $2 million budget in today's independent film market, which is arguably in a deeper slump than the rest of the economy. Todd Slater of LA-based Huntsman Entertainment is shopping the film to distributors. "We've had a lot of offers from smaller companies," Charles says. "We've been waiting patiently for the right buyer. We want an offer we can't refuse."

Thanks to Ed M. Koziarski

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sopranos Movie in the Works?

'Sopranos"
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producer David Chase remains coy about the possibility of a big-screen followup to the hit HBO show,but loose-lipped cast members are suggesting a script is already on the page.

It's been speculated that a major holdup to the big-screen version is a strong reluctance on the part of James Gandolfini to sign on to the project. But, according to a chatty Lorraine Bracco, that rumor is way off the mark.

"I don't think it's that at all," says Bracco about Gandolfini's supposed cold feet. "I think it's really trying to get the right script. Without the right script, it's really not worth doing."

Bracco isn't shy about making her concerns heard. "We've all talked to David to give him a kick in the booty to get it right," she says pointedly.

While HBO mouthpieces yesterday shot down any talk about the existence of a script, claiming it is "just rumor," Steve Van Zandt recently added to the buzz.

The "Sopranos" alum and Bruce Springsteen bandmate let slip to a Belfast newspaper that his character, Sil - who was struggling for his life in the show's abrupt ending - "is still alive."

Go figure. And Bracco doesn't sound like she's planning to stop at just one movie.

"I want us to be like 'Sex and the City' or 'The Bourne Identity,'" she gushed. "I want to make a million of them."

Thanks to Gatecrasher

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Sopranos Adriana Gets Engaged to Musician

Drea de MatteoDrea de Matteo, Adriana La Cerva on 'The Sopranos' is getting married to Shooter Jennings. and boyfriend Shooter Jennings are ready to tie the knot. Just ask anyone who was in attendance at Jennings' Thursday-night concert.

Jennings — a music artist and son of the late country singer Waylon Jennings — proposed to the former Sopranos star during his performance in Utica, N.Y., according to People.

The musician also tweeted about popping the question. "Asked Drea to marry me on stage tonight. I'm a lucky man. I'll never forget Utica," he wrote.

Jennings, 30, and de Matteo, 37, have been dating since 2001. They had a daughter in 2007.

In addition to her role as The Sopranos' Adriana La Cerva, de Matteo also starred in the Friends spin-off Joey and has appeared on Sons of Anarchy. Her next slate of projects includes New York, I Love You, which also features Blake Lively and The Hangover's Bradley Cooper, among other stars.

Thanks to Anna Dimond

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Frank Vincent Defends "Protection" Commercials after Miller Lite Orders the Ads Whacked

MillerCoors executives just announced they are pulling the Miller Lite “Protection” commercials that have been broadcast for the last month in a national television campaign for the beer company.

Frank Vincent ('The Sopranos') and his sidekick, Mike Starr ('Dumb & Dumber'), play mobsters who offer a store clerk and bartender 'protection.'

The spots are being pulled in response to protest from representatives of the Italian-American community. In the commercials, Frank Vincent (“The Sopranos”) and his sidekick, Mike Starr (“Dumb & Dumber”), play mobsters who offer a store clerk and bartender “protection.” The employees tell them “no thanks,” because they have all the protection they need with Miller Lite’s taste protector lid. Italian music plays in the background, and the actors wear the typical Mafioso attire. The commercials were created by Chicago-based ad agency DraftFCB.

"We seem to be the last breed in America that ad agencies think they can take a shot at," said Lou Rago, founder of the Italian American Human Relations Foundation of Chicago. On Monday, Rago and Anthony Baratta, the Chicago-based national chairperson for the Commission for Social Justice, had a conference call with MillerCoors executives. Initially, the beer company agreed to run fewer “Protection” commercials. But when Rago and Baratta threatened a national boycott of Miller products by Italian-Americans, the executives agreed to pull the ads within a week.

The controversy hit headlines on Wednesday, June 3rd when the Chicago Sun-Times broke the news. Frank Vincent received a Google alert notifying him about the article, and felt compelled to offer his side of the story. “I think both of these groups should have a better sense of humor,” Vincent told the Sun-Times. “The humor is there in the commercials, and a lot of people were enjoying the work.”

Vincent also went on The Roe Conn Show on WLS AM Wednesday afternoon to discuss the controversy with Roe Conn. When asked if he was perpetuating a stereotype, Frank said he didn’t think so, “Because it’s a character, I’m an actor. I’ve played good guys, I’ve played cops, I’ve played bad guys. I’m acting.” Vincent said.

Frank argued that the mob is not just synonymous with Italian-Americans. History has proven that many different ethnicities have all run organized crime outfits. He wonders why these Italian-American organizations have singled out the Miller Lite commercials. “How about Bugsy, how about all the gangster movies in the 30s and 40s, when they depicted all the original gangsters that came here. The Jews, and the Germans, and the Irish…this argument can go on forever and ever.”

Vincent and Starr both star in the soon-to-be released film “Chicago Overcoat”, filmed by local film production company Beverly Ridge Pictures. The movie also stars Armand Assante (“American Gangster”), Kathrine Narducci (“The Sopranos”), Stacy Keach (“Mike Hammer: Private Eye”) and local actor Danny Goldring (“The Dark Knight”). Vincent looks forward to returning to Chicago to attend the film’s world premiere later this year.

Sopranos/GoodFellas Actor Charged with Real Life Strong-Arming with a Reputed Gambino Soldier

A veteran actor with roles in "The Sopranos" and "GoodFellas" played a tough guy in real life, too, prosecutors say.

Anthony Borgese - along with a reputed Gambino crime family soldier - was charged with trying to strong-arm cash from an unlucky soul who owed money to a loanshark.

Borgese pleaded not guilty Friday to charges he tried to extort the unidentified man in upstate Monticello in 2004. The longtime character actor, who grew up in Brooklyn, uses the stage name Tony Darrow and calls himself the "Goodfella of Comedy" on his Web site.

He was busted by FBI agents at LaGuardia Aiport as he arrived home from a film shoot late Thursday, sources said.

The 70-year-old actor looked haggard in court Friday after spending the night at the federal lockup in Brooklyn.

He declined to talk to the Daily News after he was released on a $750,000 bond secured by his upstate home and $50,000 cash. "I can't comment until I find out what this is about," he said as he hauled a cart with his luggage out of Brooklyn Federal Court.

Also charged in the two-count indictment were reputed Gambino soldier Joseph (Joey Boy) Orlando, who is serving a 33-month sentence for a separate extortion conviction, and alleged mob associate Giovanni Monteleone, who was released on bail.

"This is a violent crime, but we are satisfied that with the bond being posted the community will not be at risk," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Buretta said.

Borgese is best known for his role in "GoodFellas" as Sonny Bunz, the beleaguered owner of the mobbed-up Bamboo Lounge. The timid Bunz fights over a bar tab with hothead Tommy DeVito - played by Joe Pesci - who breaks a bottle over his head.

He also appeared as Larry Boy Barese in 14 episodes of "The Sopranos," and several Woody Allen movies, as well as having a Vegas nightclub act.

"I travel a lot," Borgese told Magistrate Roanne Mann Friday. "I do autograph signings and personal appearances."

Borgese worked in the real Bamboo Lounge in Canarsie, Brooklyn - a hangout for Luchese crime figures Henry Hill, James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke and Tommy DeSimone, whose stories were the basis for "GoodFellas."

In an interview with The News in 2000, the East New York-bred Borgese said: "Most of my friends from the old neighborhood are either dead or in jail. Sometimes I wonder, 'Why did God forget me?'"

Borgese isn't the first "GoodFellas" cast member to be linked to the Gambino crime family.

Earlier this year, at the trial of hit man Charles Carneglia, prosecutors introduced into evidence a photo of actor Frank Sivero - who died on a meat hook as Frankie Carbone in the film - posing with the Gambino goon.

Thanks to John Marzulli

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Soprano's Last Supper

The The Soprano's Last SupperSoprano's Last Supper is an interactive dinner show that will have you laughing, dancing and singing. Fast paced entertainment complete with a special scene where you are part of the fun!

Opening: Friday, April 24, 2009 at the Tropicana in Las Vegas

Show Times: 7:00pm Tuesday - Saturday. Doors Open at 6:30pm. Dark on Sunday and Monday.

Ticket Prices: Starting at $55 plus tax

Friday, March 20, 2009

Real Life Tony Sopranos Seeing More Real Life Dr. Melfis

In scenes familiar from the television series The Sopranos, the so-called "men of honour" are no longer content to keep their problems within their families, researchers have found.

A study by Palermo University on the island of Sicily found clinical anxiety in 20 per cent of Mafia relatives and personality disorders in 17 per cent.

Dr. Jennifer Melfi on The SopranosGirolamo Lo Verso, a psychologist who led the research, said: "Psychiatric problems are steadily rising among the families, a sign that the monolithic culture of Mafia society is crumbling."

Dr Lo Verso's research, The Psychology of Organised Crime in the Mezzogiorno, studied the cases of 81 patients linked to Italy's three main Mafia organisations - Sicily's Cosa Nostra, the Camorra in Campania and Calabria's 'Ndrangheta.

Dr Lo Verso said: "These people are victims of terrible identity crises because they aren't used to seeing their world view challenged.

"They're like fundamentalists, but as soon as something happens that brings the security wall down, they have crises.

"That's why they go and see a psychiatrist and many say that they feel a lot better for speaking to someone about their problems."

Dr Lo Verso said that food disorders, anxiety and depression, sexual problems and a sense of inadequacy and shame at failing to live up to macho stereotypes were the most common problems encountered.

"In one real-life case, a homosexual son of a top ... boss rebels against his father's code and dares to come out of the closet, causing personal pain and wider clan uproar."

In the hit television series about New Jersey mobsters, Tony Soprano confided his depression and panic attacks over his "business" to a psychiatrist, while in the Hollywood blockbuster Analyze This, Robert De Niro's Godfather also talks over his anxities on a psychiatrist's couch.

Thanks to Nick Pisa

The Corleone Family of Kansas City

Shot point blank in the head six times.

That was typically how people died if they messed with the Kansas City Mafia.

That's right, the Kansas City Mafia, who ruled this town for more than 50 years.

While the term Mafia probably conjures images of New York gangsters and episodes of "The Sopranos," maybe images of Southwest Boulevard and the River Market would be more appropriate.

A tyrannical organization led by hard-boiled Italians, the Mafia dominated everything from beer to the political machine.

Even Harry S. Truman, our 33rd president, was ushered into the Senate with a little help from the mob.

A brand new local documentary "Black Hand Strawman" covers the history of the Kansas City gangsters in full detail.

Directed and produced by Terence O'Malley, the film opens at the Screenland Theatre on Friday, March 20th - the 37th anniversary of the release of "The Godfather," an ironic date due to the fact the Mafia bought out entire theaters for that night in 1972 to prevent audiences from seeing it.

The Mafia thought it was "misrepresentative" of Italian culture.

What wasn't misrepresentative was O'Malley's film, which is full of information about the lives of the people involved with the Mafia.

The documentary covers the humble beginnings of the mob, when they were deemed "The Black Hand."

Back in 1912, the Black Hand was comprised of a small group of people from Kansas City's Little Italy, now recognized as Columbus Park, who occasionally shot at or threw bombs at enemies - usually people who were doing well financially.

If you got a threatening note on your front door with a scrawled-out drawing of a dagger dripping blood, you knew you were in trouble.

It was only later that members of the Black Hand became more organized and informally assumed the name of Mafia, which according to O'Malley, is actually an Italian acronym for Morte Alla Francia Italia Anelia!, or "Death to the French is Italy's Cry!"

"It occurred to me that nobody had ever given a serious treatment of K.C. organized crime on film before," O'Malley said. "I have always been drawn to storytelling, and have a very real sense of what the Italian culture is all about. That's why I made this film."

The documentary proceeds like a long list of Santa's wicked children.

Murder after murder ensues as O'Malley weaves together an intricate story of men like Joe "Scarface" DiGiovani who earned his name from a huge scar on his face inflicted by an explosion and Solly Weisman, a huge man who packed four revolvers and a switchblade at all times.

"Black Hand Strawman" covers nationally-recognized events such as the Union Station Massacre, or the Kansas City Massacre, of June 1933.

UMKC's own professor of Communications Studies Robert Unger was featured in the film speaking about the event, which he wrote a book about, titled "The Union Station Massacre: The Original Sin of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI."

"His book is the definitive source on the subject because he breaks the event down to such detail that the truth of what happened is revealed," O'Malley said.

Beyond the inclusion of UMKC faculty within the film, the director feels that UMKC students can connect directly with the subject.

"In many ways the history of organized crime in Kansas City tells the story of Kansas City in general," he said. "Organized crime is a reflection of the times, the culture, the community, the music and the politics of the day. UMKC students will walk away with an appreciation of this town's history they could never have had before."

Indeed, the film presents an astounding number of photographs taken throughout Kansas City's history.

Not only will the mug shots of criminals appear on screen, but also events such as the construction of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

While it may not have the technical resolution of "The Godfather," "Black Hand Strawman" has more heart in many ways.

It's the true tales of Kansas City's own people.

It's tales of the good times of the rise of the Kansas City jazz scene. And it's tales of the bad times of the death threats and street shootouts.

Fill some of your free time and see this film if you want to see the truth in the aptly named "Killer City" at the Screenland Crossroads, 1656 Washington St. Kansas City, Mo. 64108.

Just make sure to arrive early to score a seat in the row of red recliners.

Thanks to Corey Light

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Sopranos "Salvatore 'Big Pussy' Bonpensiero" Testifies at Trial

Actor Vincent Pastore, who played a gregarious gangster on "The Sopranos," said Friday he wept when he realized the former fiancee he is accused of assaulting did not love him.

The Sopranos - Salvatore 'Big Pussy' Bonpensiero - Testifies at TrialPastore, fighting actress Lisa Regina's $5.5 million civil assault lawsuit, testified that their dispute began when she tried to call a former boyfriend while they were driving to New Jersey on April 2, 2005.

They yelled and cursed each other, and Pastore admitted he yanked her out of his car and dumped her and her luggage on a street in Manhattan's Little Italy. She says he hit her, causing cuts and bruises.

Pastore pleaded guilty in 2005 to attempted assault on Regina and was sentenced to 70 hours of community service.

On Friday, he said he never hit her.

Regina, 47, says she suffered psychiatric harm from the incident, but Pastore's lawyer, Barry R. Strutt, told the jury he will offer treatment records to show she had emotional problems before the dispute.

Pastore said that as they argued, he returned to a corner near Regina's apartment and ordered her out of his car, but she refused to go.

"I was upset," the actor said, "because I knew Lisa was with me because of her own personal goals. It had nothing to do with love."

"I said to her, 'That's as far as you go. You're out of my life,"' the 62-year-old Pastore testified. "I got angry. I started to cry. Lisa said, 'Stop it! People know who you are. You're embarrassing yourself."'

"We were both angry, both yelling at each other," he said. "I had both hands on the steering wheel. I did not hit her on the back of the head, and I did not hit her head on the gear shift," as she has said.

Pastore said that when he got out to open the passenger-side door, Regina started yelling, "Big Pussy's beating me up! 'Sopranos!"' He testified that he was actually standing against a wall, and she was in the car. "Nobody was touching anybody," he said.

Called as a hostile witness by Regina's lawyer, Pastore agreed that his weeping was the culmination of many things.

"You felt used?" asked the attorney, David Perecman.

"Yes," the actor answered.

"You felt taken advantage of?"

"Yes."

"You felt unloved?"

"Yes."

Regina filed her lawsuit against Pastore in Manhattan's state Supreme Court on Jan. 5, 2006. The trial continues Monday.

Pastore played Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero, a mob killer with a congenial personality, on the hit HBO series.

Thanks to Samuel Maull

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Mob Museum Taking Some Hits

Las Vegas’ proposed mob museum has taken some hits of its own in recent weeks, targeted on late-night talk shows and Capitol Hill as an absurd showcase for the likes of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Meyer Lansky and Anthony “Tony the Ant” Spilotro.

Museum backers say the critics don’t get it. This won’t be some sideshow exhibit celebrating the mob’s role as a storied part of Las Vegas’ past. Rather, it will offer a serious examination of organized crime and law enforcement’s efforts to combat it.

During this episode, the underlying message received by those planning the museum was clear: As they move forward, they need to be ever careful about the museum’s image.

“We want it to be serious and we want it to be balanced, but we need it to have appeal,” said Dale Erquiaga, a museum board member. “It’s always on our minds as planners that we stay right on that line,” said Erquiaga, formerly an advertising strategist with R&R Partners. “It’s in every conversation we have.”

Most cities, it’s fair to say, would have cringed at the contemptuous national attention the mob museum received. Stand-up comedian Lewis Black said on “The Daily Show” on Jan. 14: “A mob museum? I thought Las Vegas already was a mob museum!”

And yet, the museum may have been aided by the dust-up, which Mayor Oscar Goodman and other museum proponents boasted likely resulted in more than $7 million worth of free publicity.

Several of the 13 board members of the 300 Stewart Avenue Corp., the nonprofit group working with the city on the project, likewise said in recent interviews that they are pleased with the museum’s progress, in terms of fundraising, collecting exhibits, and simply raising awareness of the museum’s mission.

A big part of that awareness-raising, as several board members pointed out, is making sure the public knows that the museum will be going out of its way not to glorify the Mafia.

“You have a very significant number of people in town who don’t want to glorify the mob. I count myself among them,” said board member Alan Feldman, senior vice president of pubic affairs for MGM Mirage. “There isn’t a sympathizer, if you will, among us,” he said, including fellow board member Goodman, a former attorney who zealously defended several vicious local figures.

According to Feldman and other board members, the marketers for the museum are doing everything they can to straddle the line between avoiding the mob’s glorification and keeping the museum and its exhibits interesting and entertaining. That struggle was reflected in a rough-draft museum brochure, which will be used to raise funds, garner exhibits or both, Feldman said.

On one page, the words “City Planner or Gangster?” were superimposed over a large black-and-white photo of mobster Bugsy Siegel. On another, “Tax Revenue or Skim?” is written over a photo of a spinning roulette wheel with gamblers in the background.

Feldman said that struggle was also reflected in the museum’s naming, which was finalized last spring at a meeting in City Hall.

After a long debate, consensus was reached on both a brand name — the mob museum — as well as the longer, more complete institutional name — The Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement — which was to show that the museum’s purpose was equally to tell the story of the police and G-men who chased, and ultimately brought down, the mob.

“My motivation for volunteering on this project was to ensure that law enforcement, in particular the FBI, would be fairly and accurately represented,” said Ellen Knowlton, head of the 300 Stewart Avenue Corp., and the former special agent in charge of the local FBI field office, in a statement. “I also wanted to make sure that the lifestyle of those involved with organized crime would be accurately depicted and not ‘glamorized.’ ”

Though Goodman said that he wanted as much federal stimulus money as he could get for the museum, plans for the project shouldn’t be altered if none is forthcoming, officials say.

According to city officials, the museum has raised about $15 million so far, including $3.6 million in federal grants and another $3.5 million in state and local grants.

The museum has a $50 million price tag. Ultimately, according to a museum fact sheet, that will include $7 million in grants and $8 million in city funds, with the remaining $35 million to come from bonds from the city’s redevelopment agency.

Construction on the interior of the city-owned museum building — the old three-story post office and federal courthouse building downtown — is set to kick off this spring. The city is hoping for an opening date of sometime in 2010.

Looking at some of the exhibits the museum has lined up, it’s difficult to say whether preventing the mob’s glorification will be something easily achieved.

At a charity auction in June at Christie’s in New York, a mob-museum-contracted designer spent $12,450 to purchase four artifacts from the blockbuster HBO series “The Sopranos.”

Included among the items was the black leather jacket, knit shirt and black slacks Tony Soprano wore in one of the series’ final episodes, “The Blue Comet.”

In the episode, actor James Gandolfini wore the outfit as he went to sleep clutching an AR-15 machine gun that his brother-in-law, Bobby, who had just been shot to death, gave him as a birthday present.

Thanks to Sam Skolnik

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Despite Winning Multiple European Film Prizes, The Academy Awards Appear to Snub "Gomorra" for Now

OVER THE years, your correspondent has always been puzzled by the huge success of the American TV drama series The Sopranos , a work which dealt, in an often humorous way, with the everyday vicissitudes of a New Jersey mobster and his family.

Sure the series was cleverly scripted, brilliantly acted and intelligently told but, in the end, its hero was a violent godfather and the underlying protagonist was organised crime.

How would Irish viewers react to a soap opera about the Murphys in mid-80s Belfast and the difficulties they faced in trying to resolve the conflicting requirements of home life and being effective Provo operatives?

One suspects that no matter how well written the series was and no matter how many intriguing philosophical, social or political themes it touched, many in this country would still be outraged.

Organised crime is neither funny nor entertaining.

The point was perhaps made this week when Matteo Garrone’s film Gomorra , based on a hard-hitting expose of the Neapolitan Mafia, the Camorra, was adjudged by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts not good enough to make a shortlist of nine for the Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Language Film.

The academy boffins will no doubt tell us that, interesting as it is, Gomorra simply was not up to the mark.

Yet, how come the film picked up the Grand Prix award at Cannes last year, not to mention five prizes at the 2008 European Film Awards?

How come Gomorra , based on the two-million-plus bestseller by Roberto Saviano, has won widespread critical acclaim not only in Italy but also across Europe? No, clearly this is a good and important film but one for which Hollywood simply does not have the stomach.

The Mafia are just fine when it is a question of mobster Tony Soprano in a heart to heart chat with his therapist but a lot less appetising, it would seem, when we we are talking about the grizzly, bloody and violent everyday drug-reality of today’s Naples.

Naples-born Italian film director Gabriele Salvatores, himself a Foreign Film Oscar winner in 1992 with Mediterraneo, finds the exclusion of Gomorra “absurd”.

He believes Academy members tend to prefer films aimed at the widest possible public, telling Turin daily La Stampa this week: “Sure, Gomorra might seem difficult because there is no obvious storyline to follow, no central character with whom to identify and because it doesn’t have a happy ending, but we are in 2009.”

Maybe the Academy has a point. Cinema and show business, after all, are about entertainment and there is nothing entertaining about organised crime.

The grimy, grubby cinéma vérité style of Gomorra has been called “too realistic” by one British critic, who said he had difficulty working out whether he was watching “real people or professional actors”.

In truth, this was a fair observation since at least three members of the Gomorra cast have subsequently been arrested for Camorra-related offences. It seems that some small-time godfathers just could not resist the chance of acting in a film, acting out their own everyday lives.

Curiously, in the very week that Gomorra was being overlooked for the Oscars, life not so much imitated as outstripped art when wanted Camorra killer Giuseppe Setola was arrested near Caserta, close to Naples.

Setola, a member of the Casalesi family, which features in Saviano’s book, was arrested on Wednesday after a three-day flight that began with him escaping down a sewer and ended with a dramatic rooftop chase. Wanted by police for no less than 18 murders in the last nine months, (including the killing of six Africans at Castel Volturno last September), Setola allegedly has a great devotion to the Kalashnikov rifle.

One ex-Camorrista, now turned state’s witness, told investigators that when he was deciding to pull off a “job”, Setola would tell his “soldiers”: “I’ve already got a life sentence and I’ve nothing to lose, so we’ll do this my way – we go in shooting, we’re not here to make jewellery.”

In today’s world, much has been (correctly) made of the fact that organised crime has long since moved into a whole series of legitimate businesses, including high finance, as a way to recycle its drug-created money. Setola, however, was not one such “financier”.

Describing him this week, senior Neapolitan mafia investigator Franco Roberto said: “Setola is no psychopath. He is neither mad nor a fanatic. He does not kill in the name of Allah, he kills only for business.”

Living in grime and filth, and literally like a sewer rat, hardly makes for your average Hollywood hero. The problem about Gomorra is that it features many such unappetising characters.

Perhaps, this is just one case where the Hollywood boffins simply cannot stand too much reality. That is, of course, unless the Academy intends to give the Best Picture Award to Gomorra and prove us all wrong.

Thanks to Paddy Agnew

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oscar Goodman Supports the Federal Stimulus Package Funding Mob Museum

After taking a hail of bipartisan bullets in recent days over the suggestion that a federal stimulus package should help pay for a proposed $50 million museum here on the history of organized crime, the project’s godfathers are returning fire, complaining that Washington pols are scapegoating the museum and the city.

The planned Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, a k a “the Mob Museum” on its own Web site, is to include interactive exhibits where visitors can snap their mug shots, stand in police lineups and wiretap one another. Such a center, Mayor Oscar B. Goodman said in an interview Thursday, is “absolutely falling within the four corners of what President-elect Obama is trying to achieve.”

Oscar Goodman Supports the Federal Stimulus Package Funding Mob Museum“This is a project where all the plans are in place and we can start it within 30 days,” said Mr. Goodman, a former criminal defense lawyer who represented several Mafia figures in the 1970s and 1980s.

Citing studies showing that 250,000 tourists a year would visit the attraction and noting that tourism is to Las Vegas what car sales are (or were) to Detroit, the mayor continued: “I don’t know why Mitch McConnell would take on this project. It’s a great project.”

Senator Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican and the minority leader, attacked the museum this week as a kind of localized earmark project that does not belong in legislation Congress passes to jumpstart the flailing economy.

Jon Summers, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat and the majority leader, said Mr. McConnell’s statements were “moot because Senator Reid has been clear that there will be no earmarks” in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, as President-elect Barack Obama calls it. Instead, Mr. Summers said, the money is likely to go to federal agencies for disbursement based on criteria not yet decided.

Slated to open in 2010, the museum would occupy the entire 42,000 square feet of a three-story neoclassical building that was the first federal courthouse in Clark County and one of the sites of the 1950 hearings into organized crime led by Senator Estes Kefauver, Democrat of Tennessee.

The creative director of the planned museum, Dennis Barrie, who also curated the International Spy Museum in Washington and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, said the structure was the second-oldest in Las Vegas and needed a $26 million restoration.

So far, $15 million has been raised, including about $3.6 million in federal grants and a nearly equal amount in state and local money, since 2001. A full-throttle fund-raising effort is to begin later this year. The federal government deeded the building to the city for $1 in 2000 with the stipulation that it be put to a cultural use. Restoration has begun.

“I’m sure it’s good fodder for politicians,” Mr. Barrie said, “but the interesting thing about the mob museum is that it’s a real look at the history of organized crime in America that goes back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the mob came out of the various ghettos and how it influenced America. A lot of people, what they know about the topic is what they learned from Hollywood.”

That said, Tony Soprano and Michael Corleone would get their due in a room about the Mafia’s influence on popular culture, and visitors would be exposed to unvarnished tales of the exploits of law-enforcement and mob figures, said Ellen Knowlton, a retired special agent in charge for the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is the museum’s chairwoman.

“We’re trying to make sure this project is as accurate as possible,” Ms. Knowlton said, “so there are people involved who have had organized crime in their life or family. I don’t want to go beyond that to say who is participating. But it’s interesting that a number of people want their family’s side of the story told accurately.”

Even within Las Vegas, though, the project is controversial. The mayor acknowledged that some Italian-Americans were so alarmed when he first hit upon the idea in 2002 that he backed off quickly, joking that he had actually proposed a “mop museum.”

The F.B.I. supports the museum and has agreed to lend records and other artifacts to be exhibited. But among those opposed is a former federal prosecutor, Donald Campbell, who had a hand in breaking the mob’s hold on Las Vegas in the 1980s. “I don’t think we should ever romanticize a criminal activity,” Mr. Campbell said.

A spokesman for Senator McConnell, Don Stewart, said the senator was not attacking the idea of the museum so much as Mayor Goodman’s inclusion of it on the list of projects he would jumpstart with stimulus money. “The parameters for this bill need to be, does it create jobs, is it a waste of the taxpayers’ dollars, is it something that will help us long-term, not just a temporary thing, ” Mr. Stewart said.

Supporters say the museum will do just what the bill intends.

“This project exactly meets the criteria," said Alan Feldman, a museum board member and senior vice president of the casino giant MGM Mirage, the state’s largest private employer. “It is a construction project. It’s a legacy project; it’s a project that stimulates the economy by putting a wonderful tourist attraction downtown.”

Either way, Mr. Goodman is clearly enjoying the national attention the museum financing plan has prompted. “This is $1 million worth of publicity for us,” he said. “I love it. Just spell my name right.”

Thanks to Steve Friess

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