Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Real Life Sopranos

Tony's Crew

Actor Tony Sirico as Paulie
Actor Tony Sirico as
Paulie "Walnuts"
Gualtieri
The Posts mob experts found real-life counterparts for other members of Tony Sopranos crew. Paulie Walnuts Gualtieri, played by actor Tony Sirico, is an old-school tough guy right out of central casting. Hes loyal to a fault and will do whatever Tony asks of him. Hes good with his fists and better with his gun. The experts saw a lot of Paulie in Genovese family hitman Anthony DeVingo, who was a master of intimidation but at the same time quite likeable.

Anthony DeVingo, police file photo
Anthony DeVingo, police file photo
Paulie Walnuts thinks of himself as a pretty good storyteller, though his associates dont always agree, especially when he has to stop and explain the jokes that fall flat. DeVingo was much better at telling stories than Paulie Walnuts and could be so entertaining, his audience would sometimes forget that he was a stone-cold killer. In the seventies and eighties he answered to legendary Jersey boss Ruggerio Richie the Boot Boiardo. Amazingly, DeVigno was acquitted of murder in 1980 even though the main witness against him was in the car when DeVigno shot the victim.

Actor Vincent Pastore
Actor Vincent Pastore
Just as Paulie Walnuts took part in the gangland slaying of Soprano soldier Salvatore Big Pussy Bonpensiero, Anthony DeVigno was reputedly involved in the 1979 murder of Jersey shore boss Anthony Little Pussy Russo who the Post cites as a possible inspiration for Big Pussy on the show. Russo was once a driver for boss Vito Genovese, for whom the family is named, but by most accounts Russo was small potatoes on the Jersey mob scene, running a small crew out of Long Branch. A king of non sequiturs and malapropisms, according to the Post, Little Pussy, who bears no physical resemblance to Big Pussy as played by actor Vincent Pastore, supposedly earned his nickname for his proficiency as a cat burglar in his younger days. Its hard to imagine the corpulent Big Pussy pulling off a stealthy break-in. Nevertheless, the two Pussies share one trait: they both ended up being assassinated by their employers.

Jerry Adler
Jerry Adler
One match the Posts experts overlooked was Soprano associate Herman Hesh Rabkin (played by actor Jerry Adler) and Gaetano Corky Vastola. Jerry Capeci in his online Gang Land column reported that when the feds overheard DeCavalcante capo Anthony Rotondo deconstructing The Sopranos in 1999, the real mobster pointed out the similarities between Hesh and Corky. Hesh made his fortune in the recording business, stealing royalties from black doo-wop singers back in the fifties by listing himself as the songwriter on many hits.

Gaetano
Gaetano "Corky"
Vastola.
The real-life Corky did the same, taking credit for hits like Hey Girl by the Wrens, Lily Maebelle by the Valentines, and You Baby You by the Cleftones. Corky Vastola was a high-profile mobster who hung out with Sammy Davis, Jr., promoted big-name concerts, and was a part owner of Roulette Records. John Gotti apparently felt he was a little too high profile, and Gotti was caught on tape planning Corkys murder, fearing that he would be a rat someday. Corky escaped the late Teflon Dons wrath but was convicted in 1988 on an array of racketeering charges and spent most of the 1990s in prison.

 

 

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