As a result of my reading of this intense story, I was able to conduct an interview with Tony Napoli which appears below. I think you will find my very personal and probing questions illicit the most interesting responses. Read it below and I am sure you’ll want to get a copy of My Father, My Don. You will also find an excerpt of this great book and a book review. I think all this material will indeed show you a great book that is worth investing your time in.
Steven Clark Bradley Author of Nimrod Rising, Stillborn, Probable Cause & Patriot Acts
My Father, My Don
by Tony Napoli with Charles Messina
It was my Mother who encouraged me to pen my story when I was just a youngster, about 24 years old, when I started. So, for the next 2 years, when I reached my 26th Birthday, I was taking notes about the family business which was a part of my story, when my Father found my notes, he got very upset. He didn't want me to reveal to the public, how we operated our illegal number business. This I stated in chapter 2 of my book, how upset he was and destroyed the notes, I had taken for over 2 years. However, it was much later on in life that I was motivated to continue on after I found Sobriety.
The motivation came from the recovering alcoholics and veterans, who I help in their every day of life, for the past 15 years. With the alcoholics, I use my home as well as the VA facilities to council them in the 12 steps of Sobriety. With the veterans I have an office in my home with filing cabinets as well as a computer set-up to help them in obtaining their service-connected compensation, free of charge. I work as a Volunteer, for the past 15 years, just like I'm doing for recovering alcoholics. I am also involved with an organization called Ring 8, VBA, Veteran Boxers Association of NY in helping Indigent Boxers who can't afford to buy their own Medication, because they have no Hospitalization coverage, after their retirement. There are those who become disabled from Boxing and can't find a decent job. That's when Ring 8 helps them out financially too. Through the past 15 years, doing this Volunteer work, with these people in need, is what really motivated me to finish writing my book. I feel, by now, I have so much more to tell.
I got down to serious writing (excerpts) to turn over to 3 other writers, who assisted me in completing my story. Charles Messina, was the last of the 3 writers I kept on for the last 2 years in completing it. I decided after paying him for his services to expose him as my co-writer and place his name and picture on the front and back covers of my book. My Motivation came from the people I've been helping, and to let the world know I found a better way in life when I left the Mob to go into Sobriety.
2. How do you feel about having been raised primarily by your mother and your father's absence?
My answer is that by being raised mostly by my Mother, helped me to be more heart worming and understanding. As I live my type of life, in the Mob and then into Sobriety, I often think of the warmth and loving care, my Mother gave me. The Hardships and Suffering, she went through by being both Mother and Father, for most of her life. It was because of her teachings and my Father's discipline, even though he was an absentee Father most of my early life. As a teenager, I was considered a Momma's boy, which only taught me how to fight and defend myself. Even as I grew older, I had to prove how a Momma's boy can be tougher than a crooked cop. Read chapter 17 in my book and in Tougher Than a Wiseguy in the Cleveland mob, read chapter 23. After, my Mother died of Cancer in 1962 and I was on the lam for 3 1/2 years not knowing she died, till my Father found me in New Mexico, is when I got closer to him. I've learned from him what respect, integrity and Dignity, all mean.
3. Considering your father's job, when you were with your father, did you have a close feeling to him, or did his presence give you a certain apprehension?
I would have to say that I never considered my Father's position of being a Job, but more like a man who people looked up to in order to survive in the Mob life. A man respected for his position in life, that to keep his status, one has to have the Integrity and never lose his Dignity. When I was in his company, I would observe his manner of speech, the low tone of his voice and calmness in the way he handled serious situations. I'm talking not only at Mob sit-downs, but settling business deals for legitimate people as well. He was so unique, it was hard for me or anyone else to copy him. I would have to say, that I was always on the defense, when I was in his company. Thinking, when he would ask me a question about a decision he made. Should I say, I agree, or disagree, or just tell him what I really thought. Most of the time I disagreed with his decisions, but, I dear not tell him. Because, he was always giving too much away and I knew why, he wanted everybody to leave the table happy, even if it cost him to have less. While I was in his company, I usually felt like an outcast. He never asked me to join in the conversation he was having among his business associates, till after they all left the table. Then he would ask for me to join in a private conversation, just he and I, about why he made his decisions with his associates. He wanted everybody to leave with an afterglow of smiles. When he passed away, I had that saying printed on his mass card.
4. You very eloquently said you have lived nine lives. Are there any of your past lives that you could say were the best years of your life?
When I was a Casino Host is probably the life-style I best loved. The respect and loyalty I received from the Celebrities, Mob Guys, all the riches both money and the red carpet treatment I received, during my years in Las Vegas. But if I had to do it all over again, I know that I could not control my drinking and probably fall flat on my face again. Because, the wine woman and song all go together and it can surely shorten one's life. I know it would mine. Remember, I was considered the Prince of Vegas.
5. You stated that your father was the reason you lived the life you have, in so many different ways. Could you tell us how your father accomplished this in your life?
He was a man in a very high position with the Mob people, which made him very influential in just about every life-style I lived. He had complete control over me. He was a man of not many words, but a man who often spoke with his eyes. He didn't use hypnotism; he didn't have to, if you knew who he was. His spirit still has control of me, only, in the sense, to follow his spirit with helping Indigent Boxers and helping others who need comforting arms, which coincides with my Sobriety. Would you ever think that my Father had some sort of Sobriety in his life too? When I wrote my book, people would say to me "why don't you let your father rest in peace and don't open up a can of worms." My answer is "when it comes to my father, I will be opening up a carton of CAVIOR"
6. One very powerful part of your book was where you learned of your youngest daughter having been hurt by a boy. You were enraged and obviously dangerously enraged. If that unfortunate situation had happened now, in the life you lead, how would you have reacted?
First of all it wasn't my youngest daughter who was attacked by a punk, it was my third born, I have four daughters. If such a disgusting thing were to happen now to one of my Daughters, I would stand by what I told the honorable judge, Joan O'Dwyer before she handed me my 3 1/2 year sentence, and spending 8 months in treatment at the VA Hospital, in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, NY in the alcohol substance abuse program (ASAP) that I would direct my children to report the incident to the nearest police station. I make this statement time and time again for others to know not to take the law into your own hands. I say my SERENITY prayer every morning to remind me of my GOD
7. You spoke about the time you spent in prison and started writing down your life. Your words seem to show the reader that the process of writing had a great impact on you. Could you explain how writing your story changed your life and if writing served as a means of therapy to help you see your need of changing your life?
Whenever I would pen my story, where ever I was in Jail, doing my time in the ASAP program at the VA Hospital, or sitting in social clubs in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, was certainly the atmosphere I needed to remind me of the crazy life style I lived before Sobriety. Yes, by writing my story in such places, gave me the therapy I needed to remember such foolish events that caused me to go into an alcoholic coma and rushed to the nearest VA Hospital where I remained for 10 days and nights in an alcoholic coma. While I was taking notes about my story, I often thought of my Mother and what she used to teach me in doing my homework when I was a kid. She would say write things down on scrap paper before you put it into story form. This way you can remember things when the time comes to complete your project. What I'm trying to say is this "that by my writing my story, I started to think more often about my Father and Mother. The good, the bad, the worst is all there in My Father, My Don."
My Father, My Don
I’ve Gotta Be Me
It was a cold November afternoon in 1993 when, in a feverish burst of fury, I pulled the young punk’s pants down to his ankles and cut his balls off with the switchblade that he had stupidly pulled on me.
The students and teacher crowded together in the back of the classroom, their backs against the large map of the world. They were probably scared that they might be next. After all, I must have looked like some mad drunk wildly slashing a student. For what reason? How would they know? They were just part of a freshman biology class at a community college in New York City.
If every man has his moment of clarity, this was mine. As I looked down at the punk—spurting blood from where no man wants to bleed from—I thought about how he had put his filthy hands on my daughter. He was going to pay for what he had done. And he was going to pay for everything that I had done to everyone and for everything that had been done to me. He was the sacrificial lamb, the beast of burden who would take the brunt of every terrible memory I stored inside of me. The memories were making one final, violent push to be purged from my system. Yes, I knew that this was it for me. A lifetime of harming and being harmed was coming to an end. A voice inside me said that this was going to be my last drunken rage. I wasn’t going to get away with this one. Strangely, I didn’t even want to get away with this one. But I did want to see him suffer.
I stood over him writhing in pain, covered in his own blood, squirming for dear life. I had sliced the punk—calling him a rat bastard repeatedly—at least a dozen times. But there is no reason to continue, a voice inside me said. And then I really felt my insides surge and turn as I watched him bleed.
Sixty years of insanity had come to this. I had gone off the deep end, once and for all, in the most unlikely of places—a community college classroom. I had come home that morning from another of my 72-hour benders of drinking, gambling, and living the wise guy lifestyle that I had been living for…well, most of my 59 years on Earth. I would drink so much and for so long that I would almost drink myself sober again. So when I staggered into the house that morning, I was dazed from lack of sleep and from watching day turn into night and back into day. Everything seemed larger, closer and louder to me.
When I walked into the house that morning, it was eerily quiet. I called out to Laura, my wife. No answer. I noticed the crack of my daughter Tanya’s bedroom door. I went to open it. She was on her bed asleep, curled up in a ball. I closed the door and headed to the kitchen. Laura stood over the stove.
My voiced sounded hoarse from my three-day spree. “Why’s Tanya still sleeping?” “You haven’t been home in three days. Did you forget yesterday was her birthday?” “Let me ask you again and maybe I’ll get a straight answer this time.” My voice went up, “Why is Tanya sleeping? Why isn’t she at school? Is she sick?” Laura turned and walked past me and out of the kitchen. I followed her.
“Are you gonna answer me or what?” She kept walking in silence, avoiding the question and trying to avoid me. Like the thick-headed Calabrese that I am, I wasn’t going to accept no answer. I followed her into the living room.
“What the hell’s goin’ on?”
Laura avoided eye contact. She knew that engaging a drunk, especially this drunk, was a bad idea. She had lived with me long enough to know that. When some people get drunk, they get jolly, they fall down, they make an ass out of themselves, and it’s all in good humor and fun. That wasn’t me. I was a nasty drunk. Aggressive and violent, and I wasn’t one to let something go.
“Is somebody gonna tell me what the hell is goin’ on in this house?” Veronica looked over to Laura, who was still looking away. I moved a little closer to her, thinking that I could push her into saying something. My physical presence might intimidate the words right out of her. I was good at bullying. Of course, it worked. Veronica talked.
“Tanya…had a little problem in school yesterday.” “A problem? What kind of a problem?”
I tried to control my rage, but I was never any good at that, so why would I think I could start here? I grabbed Tanya by the arm and pulled her from the bed. I didn’t realize then that manhandling someone after she’s been through that type of a trauma is one of the worst things you can do. But even if I had known it, I probably wouldn’t have cared anyway, because drunks are self-serving people who put themselves above everyone else. I was turning this situation, like most situations, into something about me. I was mad. I was going to avenge what had been done to my daughter. I. I. I. Drunks live in the world of I; except when the time comes to accept responsibility for what they’ve done. Then it’s everyone else’s fault.
But here I was, not 30 seconds removed from hearing that some scumbag had touched my daughter, on her birthday no less, and what was my first reaction: I was going to get revenge.
Tanya was shouting and pulling away from me and crying. Laura and Veronica pleaded with me, but it was no use. I had reached the point where my anger was at the white hot point of no return. The liquor was still pumping through my veins, fueling a freight train that could not be stopped from reaching its final destination.
“You’re coming with me and you’re pointing him out,” I ordered.
“No, Daddy, I don’t want to!” she wailed and resisted. “Tanya, throw somethin’ on and let’s go. Don’t make me raise my voice.” My voice was already raised. “It’s all over. I went to the doctor. I just don’t want to see him again. Please.”
Seeing her fear and her hurt just made me angrier. Everything that she tried to say to calm me down, to make it better, just made it worse. She was my daughter, my baby, and seeing her like this made me lose all reason, and all control. The bastard who did this was going to hurt ten times—maybe a hundred times more—than she was hurting.
“You don’t have to see him. All you gotta do is point in his direction. I’ll take it from there.”
“What are you going to do?” “Don’t worry about it. I’m just gonna talk to him.”
“No, you’re not. I know you.” “Don’t concern yourself with what I do with him.”
“Just promise you won’t kill him.” “Tanya...” “Daddy...promise!” “Okay, all right, I promise.” I didn’t know if I could keep it, but it was a promise that I had to make to get her to come with me.
“He’s a big guy, Daddy...a gang leader from Astoria...he carries a knife in his boot.”
“Get dressed.” I had one of my guys drive us down to the college that wasn’t too far from our apartment in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I took Tanya by the hand and we walked into the school, father and daughter.
The lobby was crowded, so we blended in with the others. Nobody could guess what my mission was. We looked like any father and daughter walking together. Tanya had pulled it together and wasn’t crying anymore. Her anxiety over what I might do replaced her sadness or distress over what had happened. No one could see that under my dark tinted sunglasses was a man with fire in his eyes and whose wrath would soon be unleashed.
Walking down a long, busy corridor, Tanya pointed out the punk who had grabbed her. “That’s him. Right there. The tall one.” I nodded and kissed her on the forehead. “Go ‘head, go back to the car,” I told her. She first looked at me, then down the hallway at the punk, who did not see her.
“Go ‘head. I’ll be right out.”
Tanya turned and rushed off. Students filed into their classrooms, but the punk remained in the hallway,
leaning against a wall with one leg tucked up behind him. I marched down the corridor toward him.
This walk must have taken me ten seconds at most. Yet I could see my whole life flash before my eyes as I took it. I could see my father, who had died a year earlier, and I could hear him tell me, “Don’t let the liquid courage rule you.” But it always ruled me. To that point in my life, at age 59 it had always won.
I remembered other guys, like this punk, whom I had straightened out over the years. There were a lot of them. Probably too many. I could see all that I was, and I all that I had been. I had been given nine lives to live and had used each one of them up. I could see them all now, right there in front of me, as if they were being reflected in my sunglasses. There I was: a boxer, a soldier, an enforcer, a casino boss, a fugitive, a hustler, a tough guy. A drunk. They were all me.
I could hear the soundtrack of my life too, playing right along with every image, with every misstep, every triumph, everything, good and bad, mostly bad, that I had ever done. The song was Sammy Davis Jr’s “I’ve Gotta Be Me.” That was my song. It could have been written for me. I’ll go it alone, that’s how it must be I can’t be right for somebody else If I’m not right for me I gotta be free, I just gotta be free, daring to try, to do it or die, I gotta be me.
I could hear the words, playing over and over again in my head. Their meaning, or at least the meaning I gave them, pushed me forward…giving me strength...goading me to take that one, last, long-time-coming step over the edge. I stopped right in front of the punk. “Hey punk.”
He looked at me for a second and then spoke, with a slight Italian accent: “Who the fuck are you?” He really was a punk bastard, with a sharp tongue and a chip on his shoulder. Any thought of turning this ship around—not that I had had any such thought anyway—went right out the window when he cursed at me.
“Who am I?” I took a breath. I wanted to say something more to him. But words escaped me. My rage had built to a fever pitch. This was not a time for words, it was a time for action. “This is who I am...”
The gates of hell flew open and the hurt was on its way. My life was about to change forever. I unloaded a right hand on the punk’s jaw, knocking him back into the wall. Then I grabbed him by the collar with two hands and spun him around, pushing him up against another wall. Or at least what I thought was a wall. Turns out, it was a door. The door flew open to a biology class in session. The punk fell to the floor. The students and the teacher were scared shitless.
The punk reached for his boot. I remembered what Tanya had said about his having a knife in there. I kicked his hand away and pulled the knife from his boot. That’s when the slicing started…
(Click one of the links below to get your own copy of this powerful and honest book.
You’ll not stop until you’ve read it all!)
My Father, My Don
Tony Napoli with Charles Messina
I applaud the author for winning in the biggest battle he faced and turning his life into a life of giving back to others. Read this book if you have any interest in the NY mob, fathers and sons, or just want an afternoon read that transports you. By Karen Davidson
"My Father, My Don"
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