According to author Jon D’Amore, from the 1930s on, New Jersey gangsters littered Bergen County with homes both spare and palatial (depending upon how far up on the Mafia food chain they were) while working in Hudson County and, of course, across the river in New York City. D’Amore’s self-published book is called The Boss Always Sits In The Back: A Memoir. He’s been wanting to tell this story for years but didn’t dare. Now the time is right as all the made men of The Mob with whom he cavorted, with whom he participated in many a Las Vegas scam, and with whom he pledged his allegiance, are all dead.
The D’Amore family lived in Secaucus and Jon always knew that certain members of his family were, shall we say, extremely well-connected. The cover says it’s a memoir. The author admits it’s more of a novel based on true events. If there’s a key character here, it’s his Uncle Jerry who served as an underboss to a very high up soldier—Rocco Casiano—in the Genovese crime family. A few unsavory folks get whacked in this book. D’Amore admits he changed the names of every character not named D’Amore.
This Jersey tale of wise guys takes place primarily in Las Vegas where the author—a session musician by trade—allowed himself to be drafted into a major mob sting of various hotel casinos. The sting was so successful, they’d come home to Jersey with satchels of money every time upwards of a quarter or half a million a pop. (Vegas changed its rules about credit lines in 1977 as a direct result.) The point is, though, Jon loved it. He loved the action. He loved the women. He knew who not to cross. (It was the early ‘70s and he was in his twenties.)
If the reader can suspend disbelief during the more violent antics (Jon describes things in intimate detail despite not having been there at the time), the book does, indeed, give the reader the vicarious thrill of ripping off the casinos at the dice table, lounging in the early afternoon sun with a margarita or seven, luxuriating with the beauties (whether they were paid for or not) and living the kind of life that us mere mortals can only dream of.
It reads fast, smart and rather exciting. Jon claims that when Uncle Jerry was dying of lung cancer in 1999, he brought him a portable tape recorder, lots of blank tape and asked him to fill in the blanks of a story he already knew all too well. From those tapes came this book.
The book hit home hard for me. You see, my own father, Harold “Pee Wee” Greenblatt, was in cahoots with one Anthony Spero [1929-2008]. Spero was a consigliere and one-time acting boss of the Bonanno crime family, inducted personally into La Famiglia by Carmine Galante himself on June 14, 1977. He was also Pee Wee’s best friend.
I always wondered why my dad—who left my mom with no money and no food when I was three when he went out for a pack of cigarettes and never came home—would move from place to place in the middle of the night without paying his rent. After extensive research on my part, I found out he also racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars of gambling debts and never paid a damn dime. How could he not get whacked? The answer is simple. Nobody in any of New York’s five families would dare touch my dad because he was, indeed, Spero’s best friend. Spero even set him up with his own limo service.
I looked him up once. Rode with him in his limo. That’s when I found the bloody baseball bat in the back seat in full view. Yeah, my dad did favors for Spero. I didn’t ask. Spero ultimately was put away, deep away, for ordering the murder of one Louis Tuzzio. He had killed twice before and had gotten away with it. Pee Wee wound up living a long if not prosperous life. When I got the call telling me where and when the funeral was, I didn’t go. Fuck him.
The Boss Always Sits In The Back by Jon D’Amore is a great read, a lot of fun, and is currently being shopped around in Hollywood as a movie.