Bonanno, Joseph (1905-2002)

Born Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Jan. 18, 1905.

Died Tucson, AZ, May 12, 2002.

Referred to in the press as "Joe Bananas," Bonanno is the unusual case of a long-time Mafia boss who wrote his own autobiography. Bonanno's book, "A Man of Honor," deals at length with the author's personal Robin Hood fantasy and very little with the assortment of crimes of which he certainly was guilty. (It was most likely written because even the duped Gay Talese had not reported all the the malarkey handed to him by the Bonannos during his research for "Honor Thy Father.")

Born Jan. 18, 1905 in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Bonanno first came to the U.S. with his family (established Mafia leaders) at age 3. The family returned to Sicily when he was about 7 to protect its interests there. Bonanno traveled back to Brooklyn in 1924. He entered the country illegally through Florida and settled with his Brooklyn NY relatives, the Bonventres.

Within a few years, Bonanno was actively bootlegging for the Cola Schiro organization. The group was cofounded by another Bonanno relative, Stefano Maggadino, some years earlier. It included a large number of Castellammarese immigrants.

Bonanno was a staunch supporter of Salvatore Maranzano in the Castellammarese War, but was welcomed into the new Mafia hierarchy after Maranzano's assassination in 1931.

Bonanno claimed he was made boss of the Brooklyn Castellammarese clan after Maranzano's death. He held that role and expanded his family's interests into Canada, Arizona, Colorado and California - with some serious competition (made famous in the press as the "Banana Wars") and occasional interruptions (he was once allegedly kidnapped) - into the 1980s.

After Bonanno's retirement, his crime family was kicked off the Commission in the 1980s.
Bonanno died of natural causes May 12, 2002.

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