The nightmares and panic attacks suffered by Tony Soprano as played by James Gandolfini seemed authentic enough to anybody who had listened to the FBI recordings of a real-life New Jersey mob boss in the 1960s.
Simone DeCavalcante was the boss of the crime family that bore his name and a FBI bug recorded his every word to his secretary when he arrived at his office one morning in 1964.
“I had a terrible dream… about a bunch of cops!” he exclaimed, adding that the secretary had featured in it. “You were screaming… You had pearls on… Everything was so screwed up… Mary [his wife] woke me up…something about pearls… I don’t remember.”
The bug also recorded the then-52-year-old DeCavalcante being robustly intimate with the secretary. Her husband called the office and DeCavalcante chatted with him while periodically muffling the phone and muttering encouraging endearments to her.
When the transcripts were unsealed in court, it became apparent that the affair with secretary was just one of many liaisons. The wife, Mary DeCavalcante, remained remarkable restrained when a reporter showed up at her home in Princeton Township. She opened the front door and spoke over the yapping of her schnauzer.
“If you don’t mind, I’d rather not talk about it,” she said. “I don’t mind your asking, but I hope you appreciate my feelings.”
Underboss Frank Majuri was recorded telling Simone DeCavalcante that he “shouldn’t run around because Catena and Gambino don’t.” Majuri meant Gerardo Catena of the Genovese family and Carlo Gambino of the family of that name. The Genovese and the Gambino families were and are among the five New York families, the Ivy League of the Mafia. They operate in the realm made mythic by The Godfather and their bosses are figures of legend. DeCavalcante would have loved to be considered their equal.
“They don’t recognize more than five families,” a law-enforcement expert notes. “That’s it.”
Never mind that DeCavalcante had transformed a bunch of ever-warring factions into an immensely profitable operation. He had recently doubled the number of made members and he was taking full advantage of his native state’s remarkable propensity for corruption at all levels of government.
DeCavalcante can be heard on the recordings expressing some bitterness when Joe Colombo of the Colombo crime family was appointed to the ruling Commission at Carlo Gambino’s urging. DeCavalcante had hoped that he himself might get the honor and make his a sixth family.
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