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‘The Sopranos’ was inspired by this real-life Newark mob family

In the late Sixties, the Newark, NJ, mob was in disarray. Its chief, Anthony “Tony Boy” Boiardo, suffered from crippling ulcers. His father, family capo ­Richie “The Boot” Boiardo, nearing 80, wished to retire, take care of his backyard and lounge at his gargantuan pool. But he stored getting pulled again in to assist his son, who was disliked by fellow gang members. At least two of them — troopers Angelo “Gyp” DeCarlo and ­Anthony “Little Pussy” Russo — have been caught on FBI wiretaps gossiping concerning the chance of Tony Boy getting killed by considered one of their very own. 

If this setup sounds acquainted that’s as a result of the Boiardo crime family inspired the HBO TV sequence “The Sopranos” and its new pre­quel film “The Many Saints of Newark,” which drops in theaters and on HBO Max Oct. 1. The latter, set in Newark amid the Sixties race riots, tells the story of a younger Tony Soprano as he started to make his bones. In the movie, Tony is portrayed by the late James Gandolfini’s 22-year-old son, Michael. 

The Boiardo crime family of Newark, first led by Richie “The Boot” Boiardo (center) and then his son, Tony Boy.
The Boiardo crime family of Newark, first led by Richie “The Boot” Boiardo (middle) after which his son, Tony Boy.
Getty Images

“Sopranos” creator David Chase revealed to New Jersey Monthly in 2002 that whereas “90 percent of [the TV show] is made up . . . it’s patterned after this family.”

Many names and conditions on “The Sopranos” and within the film are useless ringers for actual Jersey mafiosos. Riffing off Anthony “Tony Boy” Boiardo, in “Many Saints” Tony Soprano’s father is named Johnny Boy. Reality and fiction each function thugs nicknamed Big Pussy (the true genesis of John “Big Pussy” Russo’s nickname: he was a profitable cat burglar.) And real-life Tony Boy in addition to TV’s Tony Soprano each suffered resulting from their devious lives. They have been wracked by emotional maladies with bodily repercussions (ulcers for Tony Boy, panic assaults for older Tony Soprano) and employed psychiatrists to manage.

While Soprano’s periods with Lorraine Bracco’s Dr. Melfi are well-known to followers, these of Tony Boy, who witnessed his first homicide at 14, are much less so. “Tony Boy worked with a therapist who had been a military doctor, specializing in PTSD,” Robert Linnett, writer of “In the Godfather Garden: The Long Life and Times of Richie ‘The Boot’ Boiardo,” instructed The Post. “Tony Boy was dealing with the stress of being the Boot’s son and running a mob family, which he was ill-equipped to do.”

Tony Boy Boiardo (left) took the reins from dad Richie “The Boot,” and like TV’s Tony Soprano (right) had to hire a therapist to manage stress.
Tony Boy Boiardo (left) took the reins from dad Richie “The Boot,” and like TV’s Tony Soprano (proper) needed to rent a therapist to handle stress.
Getty Images; HBO

Like on “The Sopranos” when Tony took the reins from a jailed Corrado “Junior” Soprano, issues weren’t going nicely for the Boiardos within the ’60s. IRS brokers have been investigating The Boot — nicknamed for his bootlegging prowess — and feds had begun closing in. DeCarlo was battling most cancers whereas serving a 12-year jail sentence for numbers operating. Life journal ran an exposé on The Boot, his “brazen empire of organized crime” and 30-acre property in Livingston, NJ, with a house described as “Transylvanian traditional.” The undesirable publicity led to youngsters throwing cherry bombs over the fence. Frustrated, The Boot truly took potshots at two trespassing youngsters. 

Weirdly, within the midst of all this, he inspired his teenage grandchildren to patrol the grounds with lengthy weapons. “We hunted there and people thought we were bodyguards,” grandson Roger Hanos instructed The Post. “We kept guns close in case we saw rabbits or squirrels.” 

Before their world started to crumble, although, the Boiardos ran Newark. For a long time, the clan managed the town’s crime scene and benefited from racketeering, loan-sharking, theft, playing and no-show jobs together with different prison enterprises on the Port of Newark. “It was and is a candy store,” a law-enforcement supply instructed The Post. “The Port is a magnet for criminals. We’ve highlighted 500 longshoremen getting paid a total of $417 million for work that will never get done.” 

When Richie “The Boot” (left) stepped aside, he became increasingly detached and paranoid — the same as TV boss Corrado Soprano (right).
When Richie “The Boot” (left) stepped apart, he grew to become more and more indifferent and paranoid — the identical as TV boss Corrado Soprano (proper).
Roger Hanos; HBO

The family’s profitable, illicit commerce began out innocently, nonetheless, with milk. 

It all started with a pre-capo Richie delivering the healthful beverage. His family immigrated from Italy to the United States in 1901. And his mother and father, who adopted the boy they known as Ruggerio at age 6, principally lived on the straight and slender, however Richie had different plans. 

Around 1915, having labored in development and already saddled with a bust for operating an unlawful playing joint, Richie, then in his 20s, secured a Newark milk route. In quick order he grew to become greater than a milkman. “He had contact with households and started selling [illegal] lottery tickets to the families who also bought his milk,” ­Hanos stated. “It was a simple way to make ­extra money.” 

It additionally solidified his prison fame. 

In 1920, Prohibition hit and Richie took to producing and peddling bootleg alcohol. He realized the enterprise by means of a gang headed up by John and Frank Mazzocchi. By the early ’30s, The Boot assembled his personal crew and handled the competitors in basic mob model. “He executed the Mazzocchi brothers,” added Hanos, who prevented the family commerce and is now retired from his job as director of human assets at a New Jersey college. “Then my grandfather became a bootlegging king of Newark.” 

John “Big Pussy” Russo (left) got the moniker by being a cat burglar, just like TV’s Sal Bonpen-Siero (right).
John “Big Pussy” Russo (left) bought the moniker by being a cat burglar, identical to TV’s Sal Bonpen-Siero (proper).
Roger Hanos; HBO

Over ensuing a long time, The Boot made hundreds of thousands by being shrewd and murderous. On a wiretap, gang members laughed about The Boot hammering “a little Jew” within the head earlier than Tony Boy shot him. But he additionally had seemingly legit contracting companies that thrived through sweetheart offers from politicians who obtained kickbacks. 

When issues bought messy, The Boot had a manner of destroying proof. “You’d hear about him burning people, alive or dead. That was weird and scary,” stated Linnett, referring to what went down in a big fireplace pit on the rear of The Boot’s property. “Usually mob guys just put a bullet to the ear. There were not many mob bosses with their own crematorium. That’s brutal.” 

However, his son, to the manor born, lacked The Boot’s crafty. Tony Boy, after a short and unsuccessful army stint, bought concerned in crime within the early ’50s by working as a frontman to acquire a liquor license for his dad’s restaurant. He rapidly labored his manner up the ranks as a mobster, however many thugs disliked him. 

“Tony Boy was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. He raced around in fancy cars and threatened to kill people,” stated Linnett. “Little Pussy, Gyp and others resented it.” 

According to Linnett’s guide, an FBI report famous, “As soon as Boiardo [The Boot] dies, his son will not have long to live.” 

Richie “The Boot” Boiardo had a large swimming pool located at his Livingston Estate. He held parties almost every weekend.
Richie “The Boot” Boiardo had a big swimming pool situated at his Livingston Estate. He held events virtually each weekend.
Roger Hanos

It didn’t assist that Tony Boy famously screwed up. In the early ’60s, left in cost by an getting older Boot, he organized a gathering that turned to mayhem. It started when he known as numbers runner Pasquale “Smudgy” Antonelli to the Fremont Club in Newark for an early morning sit-down. The place was closed and Tony Boy was with Big Pussy and Jimo Calabrese, a Boiardo lieutenant and prolific killer. 

Exactly what occurred subsequent is shrouded in thriller. But it ended with Tony Boy, Big Pussy, Smudgy and Calabrese all with bullet wounds and needing medical care. Tony Boy was spirited to Florida. An affiliate of Smudgy was murdered a day later. Needing to wash up the mess, The Boot jetted dwelling from an Italian trip together with his sweetheart. 

“I would say he was pissed,” Linnett stated. “The innocent bartender who witnessed ­everything was killed. That was a case of The Boot’s brutality spilling over into the civilian world.” 

Throughout that decade, the family enterprise bought pushed into the bottom. Little Pussy, an affiliate named Jerry Catena and The Boot all landed behind bars on varied ­fees. “My grandfather went to prison, for a little over a year, in November 1970,” stated Hanos. “I felt bad about it. I drove my mother and aunt there to visit him in Leesburg State Prison. I fed his dogs and checked out his house. They let him have his own garden at Leesburg.” 

‘Sopranos’ (cast pictured above) creator David Chase says "90 percent of [‘The Sopranos’] is made up . . . [but] it’s patterned after the [Boiardo] family."
‘Sopranos’ (solid pictured above) creator David Chase says “90 percent of [‘The Sopranos’] is made up . . . [but] it’s patterned after the [Boiardo] family.”


Tony Boy died of a coronary heart assault in 1978, at age 60. His father handed six years later, resulting from coronary heart failure at 93. By then the Boiardo crime family was skeletal, however it didn’t mark the tip of Newark’s mob. 

“I fully believe there is an organized Newark mob,” stated ex-Secret Service agent Jan Gilhooly, permitting that cameras in all places complicate being a criminal. “But organized criminals spend 24 hours a day thinking about how to steal things. The Port is still heavy in loan-sharking and gambling. Plus you now have street gangs that need to be dealt with.” 

According to the law-enforcement supply, “organized crime remains alive and well. The mob had a check-cashing place [in the Newark area] through which they laundered $1 million per day. A container full of perfume got stolen [from the Port]; that was worth another million. There was a [wiretap] bug [on which gangsters] talked about NJ belonging to the Genovese family.” 

On one other faucet, they jawboned about one thing extra relatable. “Guys were arguing over which ‘Sopranos’ character is based on who,” stated the supply, including that the fellows additionally appreciated the present’s sensible portrayal of their backstabbing family members. “Even family members will try to do you.”

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