Real-life Sopranos – inside violent mobster family that inspired hit TV show
Hit show The Sopranos showed the world the inner workings of a crime family – but some of the names and situations were inspired by a real-life criminal outfit.
The Boiardo crime family were known for being both shrewd in business and murderous throughout their active years.
Sopranos creator David Chase revealed to New Jersey Monthly in 2002 that "90% of [the TV show] is made up" but "it’s patterned after this family".
They were led by Richie “The Boot” Boiardo, whose nickname is from bootlegging, would destroy evidence any way he could, even burning people both dead and alive.
He also had legitimate business dealings which thrived thanks to deals from politicians, the New York Post reports.
The fictional show takes the name of The Boot’s son Anthony “Tony Boy” Boiardo in the new Soprano's prequel “The Many Saints of Newark”, with Tony Soprano’s father called Johnny Boy.
Both also feature thugs nicknamed Big Pussy with the original's John “Big Pussy” Russo’s time as a successful cat burglar, like the show’s Sal Bonpen-Siero.
The show’s star Tony Soprano is said to have been closely based on The Boot’s son Tony Boy, with both struggling with stress resulting in the need for psychiatrists.
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The Boot’s empire included racketeering, loan-sharking, gambling and criminal activities at the Port of Newark.
The Boiardo crime family actually started out legitimate by trading milk before illegally selling lottery tickets to those who bought from them.
This started his life of crime as The Boot took advantage of prohibition by producing and selling bootleg alcohol, which he learned through a gang led by John and Frank Mazzocchi.
By the 30s, the family had a crew and would deal with any competition through execution.
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His grandson Roger Hanos told The New York Post: “He executed the Mazzocchi brothers.
“Then my grandfather became a bootlegging king of Newark.”
The heir to the family was Tony Boy but many of the thugs in the family did not like him and how quickly he rose up through the ranks.
Richard Linnett, author of In the Godfather Garden: The Long Life and Times of Richie The Boot Boiardo, told The Post: “Tony Boy was raised with a silver spoon in his mouth. He raced around in fancy cars and threatened to kill people.
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“Little Pussy, Gyp and others resented it.”
According to Linnett’s book, an FBI report made note that: “As soon as Boiardo [The Boot] dies, his son will not have long to live.”
Tony Boy passed away at the age of 64 from a heart attack in 1978. His father The Boot outlived him by six years before suffering heart failure at 93.
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The Sopranos world is being brought back to screens in the prequel movie to the scene which shows how Tony Soprano rose to the top.
In the movie, Tony is played by the late James Gandolfini’s son Michael and the story is set against the backdrop of 1960s Newark, New Jersey during the infamous 1967 riots in the city.
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