BIOGRAPHY - JOE BONANNO: THE LAST GODFATHER

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Joe Bonanno The Last Godfather Hey, you! Come over here, pal. Come on. I promise I won't bite you. Well, I don't bite anyway. I stab. Stab and slash. Not to your face though. Nah! I'm not like that. I'll do it behind your back instead. When you least expect it. Like if you're ever thinking about watching this 45 minute documentary about Banana's made in 1998. Capisce!


Biography - Joseph Bonanno


THE STORY:
In this episode of 'Biography', Peter Thomas narrates the arduous life and times of 'The Last Godfather' of crime, Joe Bonanno. Furthermore, it is also furnished with stock-photography, numerous pieces of archive footage, as well as one on one pre-recorded interviews with people familiar with Joe's pastimes. These include, Author: Gay Talese. ABC News Correspondent: John Miller. Former Attorney's: Albert Krieger, Dick Martin, and Rudolph W. Giuliani. Criminal Investigator's: Joe Coffey and Stephen Fox. Plus Joe's own son, Bill, and his daughter in-law, Rosalie.

What now follows is a basic breakdown of how this program plays out:

  • How many times did Joe visit America as a kid?   According to legend, Joe travelled to America twice in his youth. Firstly, when his family briefly settled down in Brooklyn, New York, at the beginning of the 20th century. And secondly, in 1924, when his Mafioso Father and Mother pasted away.
  • Were their any other reasons why he made this move?   Yeah. Plenty. His family wanted to cash in on his inheritance. Mussolini wanted to eradicate crime in the area. Plus he wasn't able to pursue the naval career that he always wanted. 
  • How did Joe's criminal life start in New York?   When he was hired by the crime-boss, Salvatore Maranzano, to run his bootlegging operation for him.
  • When did Bonanno get married to Fay Labruzzo? After the known hit-man, Lucky Luciano, killed a local arch-rival called Joe Masseria. And before Lucky killed Salvatore and setting up 'The Commission' with Joe.
  • OK. So what's 'The Commission' when it's at home?   It was an open consensus set-up by seven New York 'mob-bosses' -- including Joe -- so they could 'run things' more amicably amongst themselves.
  • In a couple of word how could you sum up Joe's style of enforcement?  Underneath his business-like exterior, his greatest weapon was 'fear'.
  • Did Joe's son, Bob, ever dabble in the 'family business'?    Well, although he did try to partake in some minor criminal activities whilst he was at boarding school, ultimately, Joe tried to dissuade his son away from getting too 'hands on', and encouraged him to marry 'one of their own' instead -- Rosalie.
  • What happened when Joe took a trip to Sicily in the late 50's?   Certain members of 'The Commission' attempted to usurp his power, directly prompting the Authorities to close in on their criminal activities as soon as possible.
  • So how did this affect Joe?   Once he returned back home again, Joe went into hiding for a week or two, and appointed his son, Bob, to be his eyes and ears for him.
  • Did this tactic work?   No. Not really. In facts it kind of backfired on him when he was allegedly kidnapped by his Uncle, Stefano Magaddino, for two whole years. And then, once he was released from his confinement, Joe went into self appointed exile 'Way out West'. 
  • Oh! So did he ever get his revenge on those people who turned against him?   Yep. Damn straight he did. He published a memoir twenty years later, detailing how 'The Commission' actually worked. 

... and the rest -- as they say -- is now history. Criminal history.




THE REVIEW:
Now after watching 'Joe Bonanno: The Last Godfather', I've come to the realisation that the old saying 'honour amongst thieves' is a load of old b*llshit. Granted, I knew that it was a load of old b*llshit beforehand. Still, in a rather real sense, this program just hits home that you can never trust a crook, no matter how they might appear on the surface.


Joe Bonanno Face


Well, just take a look at 'Joe' for example. His father was a crook. He became a crook because his father was one. And once he's lived a criminal-life of ups and downs, he then takes it upon himself to stick two fingers up to those people like him.

Joe Bonanno A Man Of Honor Book
Listen. I don't want to call Joe 'a hypocrite'. That would be too easy for me. Instead, I would just like to understand how the f*ck he did what he did. Wait a minute! Maybe some of these Bonnano facts might give me the answer. (1) Giuseppe Carlo Bonanno was born on the same date as the actor, Chick Chandler Kingston -- the 18th of January, 1905. And he died of heart failure on the same date as the Canadian senator, Renaude Lapointe, died -- the 11th of May, 2002. (2) Bonanno was given the nickname "Joe Bananas", due to the fact that this fruit sounded very similar to his surname. Of course -- he didn't like it. (3) In 1931, after the death of the Sicilian crime boss, Salvatore Maranzano; Joe married Fay Labruzzo, and they had three children together: Salvatore, Catherine and Joseph. (4) Although Joe had an 'arrest record' dating back to the early 1920's, he has never been convicted of a serious crime, except for once, when he was charged $450 for being 'contempt of court'. (5) Joe is buried in the same cemetery as US Congressman: James Francis McNulty; Cowboy Advocate: John Harris Behan; and Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient: John James Mitchell. It's the Holy Hope Cemetery & Mausoleum, Tucson, Arizona. (6) Without a shadow of a doubt, Joe's criminal legacy has made a very large imprint on popular culture. He inspired the creation of Don Vito Corleone from 'The Godfather' series of films. He was referenced in an episode of 'The Sopranos', entitled, 'Members Only'. And he's even has a comic book character named after him: 'Joe Bananas', the Judge Dredd thug.


Joe Bonanno Prison Photo



No. None of these facts helped very much, did they? Nevertheless, maybe there was something in 'Joe Bonanno: The Last Godfather' that I never really thought about until now.

Joe Bonanno Wanted
You see, at the beginning of this program, there was a segment which explained how Joe had a rather family oriented and idyllic life in Sicily, until his kin and his country turned against him. Now, for arguments sake, let's just say that this really pissed Joe off. In fact, it pissed him off so much, that deep down inside him he wanted to abase his heritage by perverting his legacy. 

Now doesn't that make some sort of a sense? As it explains away why he decided to 'come clean' in his book, when the other Mafioso started to 'mutate crime'.

Psss! He saw himself in them and hated himself for it.

Anyway, enough of my 'armchair philosophy', dear reader, as you might have guessed, I just loved watching this show. It was engaging. It was evolving. And -- as per usual -- it is a must watch for all you crime-buffs out there.

Nuff Said.

THE RATING: A