Friday, May 22, 2009

Talking with Tony Napoli

Speaking with Tony Nap was something I never imagined I would get the opportunity to do. He has had an incredible life. He is the son of Jimmy Napoli, the original Italiano...long before there was Gotti. In his new book, My Father, My Don, Tony recounts his combat training, how he took the law into his own hands, found sobriety and rediscovered the strong bond between him and his father. This book is currently being given to those in recovery at many rehabilitation centers around the country. Although he helps hundreds of people turn their lives around for the good, he is first and foremost a family man...

It’s wonderful to meet you Tony, thank you for sitting down to discuss your book with me, it’s a great honor.

You’re welcome.

I see you collaborated with Charles Messina?

I hired a team of writers that I paid because I’m not the writer, I’m the author…I’m just telling the story, Charles was the last writer I hired and he finalized the book… it is now the 9th best selling organized crime book!

Sounds like he did a good job.

He did. The book can be purchased at, just go to book search and type in the title and they’ll have it to you in a couple of days.

Has Hollywood approached you about the book?

Yes, I’ve went to Vegas twice and Hollywood twice to promote my book…we’re all in talks of a movie.


Not anytime soon, there are some things they (Hollywood) would like to see changed but I won’t change.

Like what?

We do not live the Soprano lifestyle…we had to be at the diner table every night and Sunday by 3 PM and that was family time. We never brought the business inside the home. We never questioned my father. If we read about him in the papers…he was the king of the numbers racket of 5 boroughs of New York…we never asked questions.

Were there any similarities?

Sure, the night clubs, loan sharks, places like Va-Va-Voom, being the judge and jury, we didn’t call the cops. If there were any assaults, we handled it within the family…all domestic fights are handled in the family.

Are the roles they depict realistic in any way?

In some ways…usually the wife does stay home. She doesn’t go night clubbing with the husband and usually the man, especially if he has a title, travels with a group of people. And he might meet a broad but not on a steady basis…only if he was looking for a woman for the night. Wives were kept at home and it was a no-no for any man of the mob to fool around with a married woman, that’s a no-no.

When did you begin writing this beautifully articulated memoir?

When I was 26 years old but what happened was when I was writing (it) my father came in my room and ripped up my material…years later, I get older, everyone passes away. I get older, I get more material…

Oh wow…

In the year 2001, I hired some writers. The big boys…I’m from that blood line, like the FBI calls it. I started hiring writers six years ago in June 2001. I finished my story with a young writer from NYU; it took us two years to complete, from the year 2006-2008. He put the excerpts together...about a thousand pages of them…I still have over three hundred pages that I didn’t use.

That’s a lot of material!

My publisher and the young writer, who’s also a screen play writer suggested a second edition if it doesn’t go into a film first…I also have a screen play sequel and prequel to the book, My Father, My Don.
What is the moral of the story?

My story is about how a son journeyed from organized crime to sobriety. On the cover of the book, there are amazing quotes from Nick Pileggi "A must-read for anyone looking for an insider’s look at life in the mob"(wrote the screenplay for Wise Guy and Goodfellas, and Casino), Bill Gallo (Daily News correspondent) "A knockout! This powerful book examines, in great detail, Tony Nap's checkered past and his amazing comeback, including all the help he now provides former fighters through his work with the Ring 8 Veteran Boxers Association," Sonny Girard (writer of Snake Eyes and Blood of Our Fathers)"Unlike mob rats telling their stories with gratuitous and self serving lies, Tony tells his with honesty and a peacefulness of a man having come to grips with past conflicts in a peaceful way. Readers will see things as they really were, not as the writer wishes they might have been."…he learned to write while serving time in jail…and Sonny Grosso (producer of the academy-award winning picture, The French Connection).

Oh, I heard of Sonny Grosso, wasn’t he a cop?

Yes and at one point we didn’t get along but he changed his position with me because now we’re both on the same page. He said my story was “a true story told in the style of the French Connection.”

That’s fascinating. So where in your life do you start retelling (it)?

When you read chapter one of my book…how I took the law into my own hands when a punk in my daughter’s college sexually assaulted her…I said I’d ‘handle it’ and that meant I wasn’t gonna call the cops.

I would have killed him…I’m sorry, that’s such a tragedy.

I almost did. In chapter one, I detail the incident. After slicing the man's part of the body that he
doesn't want cut in the classroom, I was sentenced to three and a half years...

In the classroom? In front of the teacher and students?

I pushed the punk against the door that opened into a biology class dissecting a frog. That teacher went back to England after that and never came back!

You said you were sentenced to three and a half years?

The judge knew of my probable cause and believed I needed therapy more than a jail sentence and protected my daughter's honor and thought of it as a ‘sensitive case.’

That’s really honorable of you. Any father would have done the exact same thing. You were protecting your family…

The sobriety part of my life began July 11…15 years ago, that’s what helped me out of my life of crime, you can find you’re way into sobriety no mater what…

That’s amazing, getting sober is the hardest thing to do…how is your daughter now?

My daughter today is happily married and has two masters’ degrees, she’s doing fine now. Now she teaches teachers how to teach.

You’ve had many ups and downs...your story is such an inspiration. What was it like when you were sentenced to the VA hospital as a prisoner for therapy treatment?

I had classes six and a half hours a day, five days a week learning bout how alcohol harms the body. Before that I was considered 'The Prince of Vegas' hiring entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Sinatra, etc, etc. to work at Caesar’s palace, I was their employer… and all that drinking I did takes a toll. I thought my best years were my drinking years…but it was hard for me to handle my responsibilities. Thanks to the judge who sentenced me to the VA hospital where I found sobriety.

Do you sponsor people in the program now?

My phone is available for anyone who needs my help and I am responsible for retired fighters. I help raise money for those who can’t afford it and I’m a volunteer for the VA hospital, I bring to them the knowledge I had when I was a union rep.

How would you describe yourself now?

I’m dull; people say no, you’re more exciting now because you’re doing good things.
When you do bad things everyone wants to know about it, it’s not when you do good.

That’s so true; the media is obsessed about it when anyone famous screws up! It’s not right. What other celebrities did you meet?

Laura Bacall, Joe Lewis…I walked the floor at Cesar’s Palace as a floor boss with heavy weight champion Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis, Former Heavy-Weight Champ of the World, Paddy DeMarco, Light Weight Champ of the World.

What was it like meeting Sinatra? I am a fan.

Sinatra is in chapter 21 of my book and it tells of how he went to the casino manager at the Sands Hotel (Vegas, Nevada) in 1967 and caused a disturbance. I was a floor boss and Frank was looking for a 10,000 dollar marker at the craps table. That's when Carl Cohen, the casino manager told Frankie we sold the casino to Howard Hughes' people and their representative Bob Mahu changed all procedures stating, 'No Markers!' And Frank got mad and pushed Carl Cohen. And Carl escorted Frank to his suite and knocked a few of his teeth out because Frank said he would not perform that night and refused to work for Howard Hughes' people. That was the last time Frankie worked at the Sands Hotel and he went up the road to work at Cesar's Palace.

Would you have given Sinatra the marker?

Yeah, if it was up to me…I mean if a celebrity's working for you and his pay is $250,000 a week and you're paying him and he wants a $10,000 marker, you give it to him.

What else do you discuss in your book?

After I got discharged from the United States Air Force, I was a Sergeant…when I got discharged I had disagreements with my father and had to leave. I had to leave because I worked over a crocked cop who tried to shake me down! My father settled the dispute and I had to leave town and I went on a lamb for three and a half years. And changed my name to Tony Reo and I did my boxing and fighting under this name out West to make a living. While doing that I read the New York papers and it was printed in Forbes magazine that my father was number four as one of the richest men in the United States who never paid income tax. And I was picking cotton for 75 cents an hour! I traveled in carnivals as a fighter fighting spectators under the name of Tony Reo to eat. During this time of my life, I lost my mother to cancer and I was not aware of it.

There must be a lot of publicity surrounding the publication of your book?

Hollywood wants me for five segments of a TV show, a reality pilot, “Home Made." It's about seven ex-mobsters who want to go straight and open up a chain of "Home-Made" restaurants and compete with the likes of McDonalds...and there's another video called "Cooking with the Family" about the wise-guys favorite recipe...and the book trailer video, My Father, My Don that I narrate explaining my autobiography.

So at the moment, no movie?

I keep turning them down because they want me to sell my life rights. I don’t want it just to be entertaining…I want people to see the discipline, the family life. The way it was back then...the way only the father discusses the 'occupation', (Jimmy Nap was also a boxing manager, promoter, helped entertainers get jobs, a gambler, he banked the number racket for over 40 years in the five boroughs in New York). There'll be no movie if I have to sell my life rights.

I like that, that’s honorable.

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