Salvatore Vincent "Bill" Bonanno (November 5, 1932 – January 1, 2008) was the son of Cosa Nostra boss Joseph Bonanno. Although his father never intended for him to be the underboss of the Bonanno crime family, his appointment to high positions in the syndicate precipitated a "mob war" which led to the Bonanno family's exile to Arizona. Later in life, he became a writer and produced films for television about his family.
Bill Bonanno was the first child of Joseph and Fay (née Labruzzo) Bonanno. Bill first attended school in Brooklyn. In 1938, after his father purchased property in Hempstead, Long Island, he next attended school there after the family relocated. At age 10, Bill developed a severe mastoid ear infection. To aid in treating this ailment, his parents enrolled him in a Catholic boarding school in the dry climate of Tucson, Arizona.
Between 1950 and 1952, Bill studied agriculture at the University of Arizona, but never graduated. On August 18, 1956, Bill married Rosalie Marie Profaci (born April 14, 1936), daughter of Salvatore Lawrence Profaci, Sr. (1905-July 1954). Salvatore was a brother of Profaci crime family boss Joseph Profaci. Salvatore served as Joseph's consiglieri in the Profaci crime family from 1931-1954. Designed to cement an alliance between the two crime families, the sumptuous wedding had 3,000 guests. DeCavalcante crime family boss Sam DeCavalcante later remarked on Bill's poor treatment of Rosalie: "It's a shame; the girl wanted to commit suicide because of the way he treated her". Bill and Rosalie eventually had four children; Charles, Joseph, Salvatore, and Felippa ("Gigi"); Charles was adopted by Bonanno and his wife in 1958.
Involvement with Cosa Nostra
Bill's first ambition (after a try at law school) was to manage the legitimate end of Joseph's farms, factories, and the real estate empire. In 1954, Bill was inducted as a "made man" into the Bonanno family. In later years, Joseph appointed him as family consigliere. However, many family members felt that Bill lacked experience and was too intellectual to lead effectively. These tensions only worsened when Bill advised his father against involving the family in the illegal narcotics trade.
In 1963, Joseph conspired with Profaci family boss Joseph Magliocco to assassinate their three bitter rivals on the Mafia Commission: Gambino crime family boss Carlo Gambino, Lucchese crime family boss Gaetano Lucchese, and Buffalo crime family boss and cousin, Stefano Magaddino. However, Profaci capo Joseph Colombo betrayed Joseph to the Commission, which then summoned Joseph to explain the assassination plot. In 1964, soon after the commission summons, Joseph was kidnapped off the streets of New York, allegedly by Magaddino's men. Many people considered this kidnapping to be a ruse meant to protect Joseph from the Commission's wrath.[better source needed]
During Joseph's two-year absence, Bonanno mobster Gaspar DiGregorio took advantage of family discontent over Bill's role to claim family leadership. Supported by the Mafia Commission, the DiGregorio revolt led to four years of strife in the Bonanno family, labeled by the media as the "Bananas Wars".
In early 1966, DiGregorio allegedly contacted Bill about having a peace meeting. Bill agreed and suggested his grand-uncle's house on Troutman Street in Brooklyn as a meeting site. On January 26, 1966, as Bill and his loyalists left the house, a phone call from DeGregorio's people trying to "reschedule " the meeting as a ruse to draw Bonanno outside, they were fired on by people hidden at various points along the roadway and between neighboring houses. A fierce, but short gunfight took place. No one was wounded during this confrontation, which led many observers to conclude that it never happened.
In 1968, after a heart attack, Joseph ended the family warfare by agreeing to retire as boss and move to Arizona. As part of this peace agreement, Bill also resigned as consigliere and moved out of New York with his father.[better source needed] In later years, Bill made the following observation about this period:
I always say I had only one goal in the '60s - actually two goals. When I got up in the morning, my goal was to live to sunset. And when sunset came, my second goal was to live to sunrise.
Exile in California and Arizona
In the late 1970s, Bill and his brother, Joe Jr., brought high heat in Northern California after getting involved with Lou Peters, a Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealer, in the San Jose, Lodi and Stockton, California areas. The Bonannos were looking to buy him out for $2 million. Peters, however, became an undercover agent for the FBI. He became close friends with Bill's father, Joe Bonanno Sr, even staying at Joe Bonanno's Tucson home. Though he was not arrested for this, this was one of the closest indictments in Joe Bonanno's career.
On January 23, 1981, Bonanno was indicted in Oakland, California on 21 counts of grand theft for defrauding senior citizens in California for home improvements that were never completed. In 1985, Bonanno was convicted of conspiracy and theft .
Author and producer
Bonanno worked occasionally as a television producer (primarily on mini-series and films related to his family's criminal past), and collaborated with author Gay Talese on the book Honor Thy Father, a history of the Bonanno crime family. He also co-wrote the novel "The Good Guys" with former undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone and scriptwriter David Fisher.
Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story
In his memoir, Bonanno theorized that Cuban exiles and the Cosa Nostra murdered President John F. Kennedy. He stated that several Cosa Nostra families shared close ties with members of the Cuban exile movement dating back to the mob casinos in Havana before the Cuban Revolution. According to Bonanno, both the Cubans and the Cosa Nostra hated Kennedy enough to kill him. Many exiled Cubans blamed Kennedy for the failure of 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. The Cosa Nostra felt betrayed when Kennedy's brother and Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, opened a strong legal assault on the mob, despite the mob's alleged support for Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election. Bonanno said that he realized the degree of Cosa Nostra involvement in the assassination when he witnessed on television Jack Ruby, an associate of Chicago Outfit mobster Sam Giancana, killing Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald while in police custody. Bonanno also claimed in the book that he had discussed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy with mobster John Roselli and implicated him as the primary hitman in a conspiracy instigated by the mob. According to Bonanno, Roselli fired at Kennedy from a storm drain on Elm Street.
George Anastasia wrote that the book "is not a mob tell-all, but rather a treatise on the demise of the American Mafia told from the perspective of someone... who witnessed and experienced it firsthand." According to Anastasia, Bonanno "writes longingly of a better time when honor and loyalty, not guns and money, were the cornerstones of the Mafia. It is a fascinating description. But like so much else in Bound by Honor, it is virtually unverifiable." Publishers Weekly said in its review that the book is "big on bluster and short on substance" and that the author's "only apparent goal is to exalt the world of his father". Discussing the allegation that Roselli fired from a storm drain in a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy, PW said: "overblown claims are just part of a bloviating style windy with references to 'our tradition' and 'our world,' phrases that would have struck a more resonant chord in the mid-70s, when Mario Puzo's books and Francis Ford Coppola's movies introduced the country to the peculiar mix of honor and violence that Bonanno crudely celebrates." Emil Franzi of the Tucson Weekly wrote: "This slice of high-level Mafia existence definitely belongs on the shelves of two different libraries -- collections on organized crime and those on the Kennedy assassination. Besides its obvious historical relevance, it's a fun read loaded with Tucson references."
Bonanno: A Godfather's Story
In 1999, Bonanno was an executive producer for Showtime's two-part television miniseries, Bonanno: A Godfather's Story. The production was based on Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story and his father's 1983 autobiography A Man of Honor.
In popular culture
Bill Bonanno was the main character in the 1971 non-fiction book Honor Thy Father. In the television miniseries based on the book, Bill was portrayed by actor Joseph Bologna. Actor Tony Nardi depicted the adult Joseph Bonanno in Bonanno: A Godfather's Story; Eric Roberts portrayed him in the 1993 made-for-TV movie, "Love, Honor & Obey: The Last Mafia Marriage".
- Dennis Hevesi (January 3, 2008). "Bill Bonanno, 75, Mob Family Member, Dies". New York Times.
- "Salvatore Bonanno, eldest son of Mafia boss wrote of mob life" Boston.com The Boston Globe January 6, 2008
- Telese, Gay (1971). Honor Thy Father.
- "Salvatore Bonanno Sought on California Theft Charges" NY Times January 24, 1981
- "Joseph Bonanno" La Cosa Nostra Database
- "Part II: The Mafia at War New York Magazine, July 17, 1972, page 32
- "Gaspar DiGregorio" La Cosa Nostra Database
- Bonanno, Bill (1999). Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story. New York: St Martin's Press. ISBN 0312203888
- "Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story". Publishers Weekly. March 29, 1999. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
- Anastasia, George (May 30, 1999). "Did the Mafia really manage JFK's assassination?". The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- Franzi, Emil (November 15, 1999). "Mob Rules: Tucsonan Bill Bonanno Takes Us Inside His Family". Tucson Weekly. Tucson, Arizona. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- Blumenthal, Ralph (July 18, 1999). "TELEVISION/RADIO; And Now for a Little Organized Revisionism". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved January 30, 2013.
- Flick, A. J. (January 8, 2008). "Bill Bonanno, Mafia scion, eulogized in private ceremony". Tucson Citizen. Tucson, Arizona. Retrieved December 16, 2014.
- Rosalie Bonanno with Beverly Donofrio (1990). Mafia Marriage: My Story. William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-07297-6.
- Bill Bonanno (1999). Bound by Honor. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 0-312-97147-8.
- Bill Bonanno and Joseph D Pistone with David Fisher (2005). The Good Guys. Thorndike Press. ISBN 0-7862-7506-5.
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Nicolino "Nick" Alfano