Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tony Sirico

Sirico was born Genaro Anthony Sirico Jr. in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York. He has played gangsters in numerous films, some poorly made, some pretty decent, including, in the latter category, Fingers (probably his earliest mob film worth watching; Harvey Keitel plays the lead), GoodfellasInnocent BloodBullets Over BroadwayMighty AphroditeGottiCop Land, and Mickey Blue Eyes.

Before turning to acting, Sirico was reportedly an associate of the Colombo crime family serving under Carmine "Junior" Persico -- and had been arrested an amazing 28 times, it has been said. There is even a Sopranos reference to Tony’s real past, when he, as Paulie, said in one of the last episodes in the series: "I lived through the seventies by the skin of my nuts when the Colombos were goin' at it." And indeed they were: The Colombos have had three family wars, the first two in the ‘60s and ‘70s courtesy of the Gallo brothers taking on the boss – first Joseph Profaci, when the family had his name, and then Joseph Colombo, whom the family was renamed after because the Commission wasn’t pleased with the mess Profaci left behind when he died: namely, a street war and an attempt by Profaci’s successor, brother-in-law Joseph Magliocco, who had been underboss, and Joseph Bananas Bonanno (Was everyone in the mob named Joseph in the 1960s and '70s?) to wipe out the Comission and take over all the New York families a la The Godfather.

In 1967, Sirico was sent to prison for robbing a Brooklyn after-hours club, but was released after serving 13 months. In 1971, he plead guilty to felony weapons possession and was sentenced to an "indeterminate" prison term of up to four years, of which Sirico ended up serving 20 months. In was during that stint in the can that Sirico got interested in acting – and gave up a life of crime for a life of playing criminals -- a wise move, safer and probably better paying.

His past was dredged up when the show "48 Hours Mystery: The Last Take" did a special on party girl, celebrity-chaser and wannabe-starlet Christa Helm, who was murdered late one night in a posh area of LA. It happened in front of her agent's house.

Sirico was involved somehow – but only as a witness, and was wanted for questioning, police said.

At the time of her murder, Helm was a gorgeous "B" movie starlet who hung around with the likes of Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Frankie Crocker. When she died, she left behind a semi-sordid past, plenty of suspects, and several "persons of interest" who, if they are still alive, may know more than they are saying.

One of them – Sirico, who knew Helm and was apparently dispatched by someone the day after her murder to "look after" her roommate. According to the show, he may also have taken away some of Christa's belongings, including incriminating sex tapes, diaries (which are still missing), furs and other personal belongings.

When recently questioned in tandem with the 48 Hours segment, Sirico reportedly told detectives that he "didn't know she was killed" and that he "hardly knew her." This was about 40 years ago.

Sirico was never a suspect, and his involvement appears to be limited to the missing tapes and diaries, which may have been weapons in Helm’s blackmail arsenal. She had the goods to nail the Shah of Iran and several of the hottest celebs of the day. The tapes could have been taken to protect them – or to protect her reputation.

Sirico, a proud member of the USO (he spent a few years in the US Army himself), is an Italian-American of Sicilian descent. Interestingly, in a minor—very minor, blink and you’ll miss him—role in Goodfellas (1990), he played a mobster named Tony who reported to a boss named Paulie. In The Sopranos (1999), he plays a mobster named Paulie who reports to a boss named Tony.

Now, it's Anthony Borgese, another Sopranos almunus, character name Larry Boy Barisi, who really has his pair in the ringer. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to extorting a debtor who was beaten by mob goons.

"I used extortionate means to collect a debt from a person who lived near Monticello," Borgese, 72, said in Brooklyn Federal Court.

The unidentified victim owed money to an upstate car dealership whose owner had sought Borgese's help in collecting the debt. The victim ended up with a broken jaw and broken rib. What were the car dealer and Mr. Borgese thinking? Or were they thinking? Who'd find a 72-year-old man who played a mobster on TV as intimidating as a real-life mobster?

Well, it appears in Borgese's case, the line between fiction and reality was blurred. According to The Mafia Today website, Borgese was involved with the Gambinos, who supplied the enforcers who broke the victims ribs and jaw.

In Goodfellas, Borgese played the luckless owner of the Bamboo Lounge, a successful restaurant/nightspot that the mob got their hands on and sucked every dime out of before setting it ablaze.

Borgese faces up to 41 months in prison when he's sentenced sometime in late summer so as to not interfere with a charity golf tournament he hosts every summer to raise money for United Cerebral Palsy.

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