|New York|  Joe Adonis

Birth: November 22, 1902 - Montemarano, Italy

Death: November 26, 1972

Joe Adonis was an American mobster who became one of the most powerful figures in U.S. organized crime during the mid-20th century. He is the father of American actor Frank Adonis (born 1946-), who played, amongst others, in Goodfellas, Raging Bull and Ace Ventura.

Joe Adonis was born Giuseppe Antonio Doto in the small town of Montemarano, Italy, near Naples. He entered the United States illegally in 1915 by stowing away on an ocean liner and settled in Brooklyn, New York, where he made some money by stealing and pickpocketing. During the course of his criminal pursuits, he met another young thug looking to make it big: Lucky Luciano. The two men became fast friends and Doto developed a strong sense of fidelity towards Luciano. Both Luciano and Doto involved themselves in petty rackets, such as prostitution and gambling. Sometime in the early 1920s, Doto changed his name to Joe Adonis. He was an incredibly vain man, and the new moniker helped him envision himself as some sort of well-endowed Mediterranean love god. He became sexually promiscuous all over New York City and soon ended up in jail for raping a woman who resisted his advances. He forever combed his pomaded hair and primped in front of mirrors. One time, Luciano saw him combing his thick, dark hair in front of a mirror and asked him, "Who do you think you are, Rudolph Valentino?" Adonis turned around with a snarl he was beginning to perfect, and whispered in response, "For looks, that guy's a bum!"

Adonis went to work as an enforcer for Frankie Yale, who controlled the Brooklyn rackets; it was at this time that he briefly met fellow Yale employee and future Chicago crime lord Al Capone. Meanwhile, Luciano was serving under the then-kingpin of organized crime in New York City, Joe Masseria. Both men rose through the ranks of the underworld and by 1930 Adonis had joined Masseria's troops as well. However, his primary loyalties lay with Luciano, and when Lucky plotted the murder of Masseria, Adonis was one of the four gunmen (Bugsy Siegel, Vito Genovese, and Albert Anastasia were the others) who shot "Joe The Boss" to death at Scarpato's Restaurant in Coney Island on 15 April 1931.

After Luciano eliminated Salvatore Maranzano (Masseria's arch-rival) in a similar manner to establish himself as the country's top mob boss, he went about creating the National Crime Syndicate, which united all the top gangs across the country under its banner. For his part in the hit on Masseria, Adonis was given a seat on the Syndicate's "board of directors". Many politicians and high-ranking police officers were on his payroll, and he extended his political influence to the rackets of friends such as Luciano, Genovese, Meyer Lansky, and Louis Buchalter. Adonis came to control Broadway and midtown Manhattan, although his headquarters were situated in his own restaurant in Brooklyn, Joe's Italian Kitchen. Adonis made large profits from alcohol and ladies, which he reinvested, and built himself a criminal empire worth millions of dollars. He bought car dealerships in New Jersey, and when customers bought $10,000 Cadillacs, his men would coerce the customer to pay an extra $10,000 as "insurance" or else find their dog up the car's exhaust pipe. Adonis soon moved into cigarette manufacturing, buying up machines by the hundreds and hijacking factory products, and made a 100% profit.

Adonis controlled Brooklyn by 1932, and remained untouched through the U.S. government's crackdown on organized crime starting four years later; this was because he was a relative unknown to Uncle Sam. Lucky Luciano, however, wasn't so fortunate: he was deported to Italy after World War II and never again set foot on American soil. In his absence, Adonis took over the chair of the Syndicate, and as such controlled all major organized criminal activity in America. In December 1946, Adonis was a delegate to the famous Havana Conference, where Luciano briefly retook power from him. "Joey A." graciously stepped aside and returned to New Jersey, where he continued to make profits from both his legitimate and criminal enterprises. However, by the late 1940s, the government had begun watching him, due mainly to Abe Reles, the Murder, Inc. hitman-turned-federal-informant who pointed out that Adonis was one of the most powerful gangsters in the land. Called before the Kefauver Committee, he repeatedly cited the Fifth Amendment and got off the hook.

Joe Adonis watching the hands of
Frank Costello during the Kefauver hearings
In 1953, however, the U.S. government came to know that Adonis was not a naturalized American citizen. He was immediately deported to Italy in August (with millions of dollars in his pockets no less), where he lived comfortably in a villa outside Naples, very close to Luciano. However, the two men never talked after Lucky left America, perhaps because Luciano was angry at Adonis' cession of the New York City rackets to the sly, cunning, backstabbing Vito Genovese. Ironically, Joe Adonis met his maker not via his friends or his enemies. Instead, it came at the hands of the Italian police, who at the time were arresting all known Mafia figures. A squad of Rome policemen dragged him from his home on 26 November 1972 and took him to an abandoned hillside shack for questioning. During the lengthy interrogation, Adonis had a heart attack and died. His funeral was quiet, attended only by his immediate family, and he was buried in Madonna Cemetery in Fort Lee, New Jersey.

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