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Joseph R. Gannascoli as Vito Spatafore
|First appearance||"The Happy Wanderer" (episode 2.06)|
|Last appearance||"Cold Stones" (episode 6.11)|
|Created by||David Chase|
|Portrayed by||Joseph R. Gannascoli|
|Aliases||Vince, Thad McCone|
|Occupation||President of Spatafore Construction|
|Title||Soldier in season 2-4, Capo in season 5–6|
|Family||Bryan Spatafore (brother)
Jackie Aprile, Sr. (uncle, deceased)
Richie Aprile (uncle, deceased)
Liz La Cerva (aunt)
Jackie Aprile Jr. (cousin)
Adriana La Cerva (cousin)
Phil Leotardo (cousin-in-law)
|Children||Vito Spatafore Jr. (son)
Francesca Spatafore (daughter)
Vito Spatafore Sr., played by Joseph R. Gannascoli, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. He was a member of the DiMeo Crime Family and a subordinate of Tony Soprano. He was married to Marie Spatafore with two children, Francesca and Vito Jr., and was a closeted homosexual. This was revealed in the show's fifth season, and became one of the more prominent subplots in the sixth season.
Fictional character biography
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Vito Spatafore was introduced on The Sopranos Season 2 episode "The Happy Wanderer" as a nephew to fellow mobster Richie Aprile and later a cousin to Adriana La Cerva and Jackie Aprile, Jr. However, Joseph Gannascoli also had a minor role as a pastry shop patron named "Gino" in the season one episode "The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti", a rare example of a single actor playing two separate roles in the series. His main character, Vito, appears in season 2 and is inducted into the Aprile crew upon Richie's release from prison and quickly rises through the ranks to capo after the deaths of capos Richie Aprile, Gigi Cestone and Ralph Cifaretto.
Crimes and rise to capo
In the season 3 episode "Another Toothpick", Vito's brother, Bryan Spatafore, is violently beaten with a golf club by a young hot-head known as Salvatore "Mustang Sally" Intile and put into a coma. Vito is vindictive and demands someone render Sal's comeuppance. Tony Soprano enlists the help of Bobby Baccalieri's father, Bobby Baccalieri Sr., to perform the hit on Mustang Sally.
In 2001, in the season 3 finale episode "Army of One", after Jackie Aprile Jr. had gone into hiding after he and his friends hit Ralph Cifaretto's card game - an incident which itself involves Jackie Jr. shooting and killing Ralph's card dealer, Sunshine, in a panic - Ralph Cifaretto is pressured by Tony into setting things right by having Ralph order a hit on Jackie despite Ralph and Tony's wanting to give him a pass. Vito performs his first on-screen murder by shooting Jackie Jr. in the back of the head. Although the cover story for Jackie Jr.'s death was being "killed by African-American drug dealers", his sister doesn't buy the story, given the fact they grew up in the Mafia world and stating, "He was killed by some fat fuck in see-through socks. Take your pick. They all look alike."
In 2002, in the Season 4 episode "Whoever Did This", Tony Soprano brutally strangles and beats Ralph Cifaretto to death after it is believed by Tony that Ralph is responsible for the death of their prized racehorse Pie-O-My. Vito is subsequently promoted to capo of the Aprile Crew, as he was second-in-command.
In 2006, Vito shoots an unnamed New England resident in the back of the head after the man insists on filing a police report for insurance purposes after a drunken Vito crashes his automobile into the man's parked truck.
By the Season 6 premiere "Members Only" in 2006, Vito had lost over 160 pounds and appeared in a weight loss commercial. Tony was shot by Uncle Junior in the same episode, and was in a coma for the next two episodes. While Tony's recovery seemed uncertain, Vito hinted at the idea that he should take over as boss. At the time, Silvio Dante was acting boss, but ended up suffering an asthma attack from the stress. Vito informed DiMeo Family capo Larry Boy Barese that he was the best candidate for boss since he was the capo of the highest-earning crew in the family. While Tony was comatose, Vito also provided information to Paulie about the location of $1 million in drug money hidden by Colombian drug dealers. Paulie and one of Vito's men stole the money, although they were nearly killed by two Colombians guarding the stash. Paulie was seriously injured during the theft when one of the dealers kneed him in the groin, causing serious medical problems. Paulie demanded a higher cut because of his injury. Paulie and Vito also became angry when Silvio demanded a higher percentage of the cut go to Carmela in case Tony did not recover. Tony finally awoke from his coma, which made everyone ecstatic—except Vito who was hoping to step in and take Tony's place. His weight problems and attempts to lose weight resemble the health problems which were suffered by Colombo Crime Family capo Gerald Clemenza.
In 2004, in the Season 5 episode "Unidentified Black Males", it is disclosed to viewers Vito is a homosexual when he is seen performing oral sex on a security guard early one morning at the Esplanade construction site by Meadow's boyfriend, Finn De Trolio. Vito intimidates Finn into silence, conveying the impression that if Finn lets the word slip the consequences could result in his own demise.
In the episode "Mr. & Mrs. John Sacrimoni Request", during the wedding of Johnny Sack's daughter, Allegra, Vito claimed he wasn't feeling well. He and his family left the wedding. But back at home, Vito informed his wife he was going to "make some collections". She found it odd that he would be making collections so late at night. Later, that evening while making a collection at a gay bar, two Lupertazzi Family associates, one named Sal Iaccuzzo, saw Vito dancing provocatively with a gay man. The Iaccuzzo character was based on real-life Genovese Crime Family capo Matthew Ianniello, who was known to extort and own several nightclubs in New York City that catered to homosexual clientele. Vito tried to play it off as a joke, although the two men were not fooled. Vito, fearing the consequences of his outing, went home to collect money hidden around his house before going on the run. He also takes a picture of him and Marie from when they were younger.
Petrified of the consequences if his homosexuality were made public, Vito went into hiding. He stayed at a bed-and-breakfast in New Hampshire and tried to pursue a new life away from the Mafia. Under the alias "Vince," he took an interest in antiques and claimed to be writing a book on Italian boxers. He contacted his family only once during a brief phone call. He also began drinking heavily.
He started a relationship with Jim Witowski (aka 'Johnny Cakes'), a short-order cook who worked at the restaurant where Vito regularly stopped for breakfast. Vito was impressed when he found out Jim was a volunteer fireman. When Jim first tried to kiss him, Vito pushed him away, called him a fag, and the two scuffled briefly. Several days later, Vito went back to the restaurant and apologized, saying, "Sometimes you tell a lie so long, you don't know when to stop." The two men reconciled. They drove on their motorcycles to a secluded spot by a nearby lake, where they picnicked and had sex. Vito moved in with Jim shortly thereafter.
Vito continued to spend time with Jim, but Jim eventually saw through his story about being a writer. Vito confessed to some of his past but continued to lie, claiming he was a divorced construction worker. Jim arranged for Vito to work as a handyman, but Vito soon tired of the tedium of a working life. Vito's drinking worsened. Finally, Vito decided to return to his former life in New Jersey. He cooked a dinner for Jim and left the next morning while Jim slept. Having discovered Vito's disappearance, Jim remained angry and when Vito tried reaching out to him via phone, Jim told Vito to stay out of his life before hanging up.
Return to New Jersey
Vito eventually approaches Tony Soprano at a mall, while Vito's brother, Bryan, kept watch. Vito claimed that his homosexual behavior had been caused by medication. Wanting to "buy himself back" into the business, he offered Tony $200,000 and said he would run the family's Atlantic City prostitution and drug businesses. Tony was tempted by the offer, but realized this would bring him into open war with the Lupertazzis. Lupertazzi crime family boss Phil Leotardo, a virulent homophobe, demanded Vito's death, so Tony quietly arranged for Carlo Gervasi to make a hit on Vito. Meanwhile, Vito reunited with his family. He explained his absence to his children by claiming that he was an undercover CIA agent hiding out in Afghanistan, and warned them not to tell anybody. He later ran into Terry Doria, whom he agreed to loan $20,000 for child support.
That night, Vito returned to his motel room and was ambushed by Phil Leotardo and two of his soldiers, Gerry Torciano and "Fat Dom" Gamiello. Torciano and Gamiello duct-taped Vito's mouth shut and beat him to death while Phil Leotardo watched. It was later revealed that Vito was found with a pool cue in his anus, a message that he was killed because of his homosexuality.
Phil's unsanctioned murder of Vito proved to be a serious point of contention in his working relationship with Tony. The relationship was further strained when Phil correctly suspected the New Jersey mob in the disappearance of Gamiello, who had been killed by Silvio and Carlo Gervasi after making repeated wisecracks, in the wake of Vito's death, about the sexual orientation of New Jersey mobsters.
Phil Leotardo later told Vito's wife, Marie, that her husband was probably killed by two homosexual transients Vito had picked up at a bar. He told Marie that he loved Vito "like a brother-in-law," and suggested that Vito's death was probably best as a gay man would have made a poor role model for the children. However, a newspaper reported Vito was killed by mobsters after requesting to live an openly gay lifestyle. Vito's children read the story, destroying the illusion of their father being a CIA agent.
A year later, Vito's son, Vito Jr., began to go through a rebellious phase in reaction to his father's murder and cruelty from his peers in light of his father's sexual orientation, entering the Goth subculture and performing various acts of vandalism. His mother, Marie, asked Tony Soprano for money so she could relocate her family to Maine, where no one would know them or what happened to Vito. Tony asked Phil Leotardo to also intervene, because of his involvement in Vito's death. Both paid separate visits to Vito Jr. and told him to start acting more like an adult. Vito Jr. continued to act out and later defecated in a shower at school.
Tony decided to help Marie Spatafore move to Maine, but gambled away the money he had intended to give her. Instead, Tony told Marie he would only pay for Vito Jr. to attend a "tough love" camp in Idaho. The camp's counselors abducted Vito Jr. from his bed at night before taking him to the camp, much to Marie's despair. Vito's homosexuality may have been a contributing factor in Phil Leotardo declaring war on the DiMeo Crime Family, as Leotardo implies that others do not respect him any longer due to Vito's "disgrace."