My Father, My Don: A Son’s Journey from Organized Crime to Sobriety
Tony “Tony Nap”
Tony’s autobiography is a bold recounting of the confidential world that he and his father inhabited. In candid, no-holds-barred language, Tony describes his life as boxer, army soldier, enforcer, casino boss, fugitive, hustler, and offspring to one of the most powerful mobsters of the century.
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Interview with Tony Napoli
You're family history is unique with involvement in organized crime, but at home your family was close. What was it like in your home as a boy, and what do you think modern day families miss from their separation from the extended family?
My family is unique in the sense that through my Father's connections, politically and celebrity wise, I grew up in an atmosphere of influential people. Mostly organized crime people. When the old-timers got pinched (arrested) for association with organized crime people, they would say "my life is so disorganized, I consider that a compliment." What made my family even closer with friends more so than others was the fact that I was taught by my Father, to call all close friends, Uncle or Aunt. Even though they weren't blood related. As a young man I was taught to help my Mother wash and dry the dishes every night before I did my homework or go out for a couple of hours to hang out. Dinner in my house was always at , except on Sunday. That's when I had to sit at the dinner table with a clean white shirt at after my Father fished reading every word in the Sunday newspaper.
During the week, after school was out I had to take the bus to the Trinity Club and meet my trainer, who taught me about the art of boxing. My father wanted me to know how to defend myself. In fact it was mandatory in my household. He allowed me to enter amateur boxing events, and I was able to spar in the gym with the professional fighters, he promoted. I did all that until I was 20 years old. In October, 1955 my father encouraged me to join the Military to help defend this great country of ours. I decided to join the US Air Force, Strategic Air Command (SAC) under General Curtis La May. I feel that in today's world, we lack family tradition, discipline and accepting Mommy and Daddy as the true heads of our families.
What inspired you to write My Father, My Don?
It was on my 26th birthday when I decided to start writing my book. So, those of you who will read my book, chapter 2 will explain about the time my father came into my bedroom and caught me in the act of writing. He glanced threw my notes and destroyed them, because I mentioned names. He disapproved. Later that day, it was my mother who saw the tears in my eyes, and encouraged me to pen my autobiography as I got older. She said, "You will have a lot more to say." She died of cancer on
How did you go about writing your story? Was it all from memory, or did you have letters or other documents to work from?
I started working on my story again in 2002 after my wife, Laura, showed me her scrap book of newspaper articles she had saved. Most of the articles are about my father, when he was making headlines. Some are of me being arrested for loan sharking and for illegal gambling. I decided to hire a writer, and with my help put together a thousand pages of excerpts. In those excerpts is a trail of documented material about my grandparents, my father, my mother and names of business associate's who did business with my father and me. I accumulated a lot of information about my family tree from relatives and close family friends. Other information came from books where my father was mentioned. I found that paying three writers a fee in the past five years, was the most protective way for me to go along with the support of my immediate family and my estate. Most of my excerpts were put into story form by me and my memory.
Tell us a little about Charles Messina.
When it comes to Charles Messina, I met him through a mutual friend who actually thought Charles wasn't the writer to do the book with me. I found Charles to be dedicated and unknown. He showed me his desire to work long hours, and worked with me for two of the last five years I put into my story. He's a graduate of NYU and is known for writing screenplays and directing off Broadway shows. He's a very passionate and private person who doesn't party. He has a wife and a six-year-old, who he dedicates his whole life to.
How long did it take you to write your book? Did you ever struggle with writer's block? And did you use any tricks to prevent you from straying from finishing the book?
It took me and three other writers a total of five years to write and complete my book. There were times that I got confused when putting excerpts into story form. Such as, putting together years, dates and places in the right places. So, that nothing would stand in the way of completing my book, I would be on the computer late at night when it was quiet in the house, e-mailing my writers. We would go back and forth e-mailing each other, till the wee hours of the morning for years and months at a time.
How do you family and friends feel about My Father, My Don?
When I mentioned to my family and friends about my doing an Autobiography, most of my friends said to me, "Well, it's about time." My family, being very disciplined in following tradition in the household agreed. Their answer: "You're in control, Dad, whatever you think is best for us, go to it." It was a close friend of the family's that picked out the title for me, My Father, My Don. That's because he was involved with me in some of my escapades.
If you had it to do over again, would you do anything differently?
I financed my book as a self publisher in connection with a licensed publisher. With the experience I gained in book publishing, I might want to search around more thoroughly for both writers and publishers, before I made a deal. And, I would make sure that all errors, whether typo's or proof reading is correct, before the final edition goes to print.
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