The real gangster who inspired the sopranos


Former New Jersey mob boss Vincent Palermo is they say the inspiration behind Tony Soprano, and it’s easy to see why.

Born June 4, 1944, he was raised in a traditional American-Italian family in Brooklyn, New York. After earning the nickname “Vinny Ocean” while working at a fish market in New Jersey, he married into the DeCavalcante crime family. Thus began a long and memorable career in the New Jersey Mafia, as he became involved in loan sharking, illegal gambling, and even racketeering.

Much like Tony Soprano, he eventually became a capo. He received his own crew of soldiers following the death of a real estate developer, Fred Weiss, a murder in which Palermo was implicated. He then became the de facto boss of the DeCavalcante family after an inside power struggle, mirroring Tony Soprano’s rise to the top.

Even the crowd itself saw similarities. FBI tapes of the DeCavalcante family found them discussing the show:

“Hey, what the fuck is the Sopranos? What the fuck is this? Is it supposed to be us? Every show you watch, more plus, you take someone… There’s a pork shop. Yeah, in Jersey, right? They’ve got a topless joint there. Jesus.”

The recordings and their discussion of “The Sopranos” were used in court to convict four men of murder, racketeering, extortion, illegal gambling, bribery and organized crime.

Palermo even had a strip club called Wiggles, the inspiration for the Bada Bing! striptease in “The Sopranos”.

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