Joe Adonis (November 22, 1902 - November 26, 1971) was a New York mobster who was an important participant in the formation of the modern Cosa Nostra crime families.
1 Early years
2 Castellammarese War
3 Criminal empire
4 Government scrutiny
t] Early years
Adonis was born Giuseppe Antonio Doto in the small town of Montemarano, Italy, near Naples. In 1915, Doto stowed away on an ocean liner to the United States and settled in Brooklyn, New York. Doto started supporting himself by stealing and picking pockets. During the course of his criminal pursuits, he met another few young thugs looking to make it big: Charles "Lucky" Luciano and Settimo "Big Sam" Accardi. The three men became fast friends and Doto developed a strong loyalty towards them both that would last for years. Both Luciano and Doto involved themselves in petty rackets such as prostitution and gambling. There is a persistent rumor that Giuseppe fathered a son named Frank Adonis who went on to become a Hollywood actor, writer and director whose most memorable role was portraying Anthony Stabile in the 1990 film Goodfellas. This is incorrect. Joe Adonis did in fact have one son, but his son's name was Joseph A. Doto, Jr.
In the early 1920s, Doto changed his name to Joe Adonis, from the Greek god of love, Adonis. This was due to his liking the title after it was first given to him by a chorus girl, enamoured of him, who he was having a sexual affair with at the time. Extremely vain, Adonis spent a great deal of time in personal grooming. One time, Luciano saw him combing his thick, dark hair in front of a mirror and asked him, "Who do you think you are, Rudolph Valentino? Adonis replied, "For looks, that guy's a bum!" Sexually promiscuous, Adonis was jailed during this period for raping a woman who resisted his advances.
During the 1920s, Adonis became an enforcer for Frankie Yale, the boss of Italian-American rackets in Brooklyn. While working for Yale, Adonis briefly met future Chicago Outfit boss Al Capone, who was also working for Yale. Meanwhile, Luciano became an enforcer for Guiseppe "Joe the Boss" Masseria, who ran an organization loosely based on clans from Naples and Southern Italy.
During the late 1920s, Masseria became embroiled in the vicious Castellammarese War with his arch rival, Salvatore Maranzano. Maranzano represented the Sicilian clans, most of which came from Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily. As the war progressed, both bosses started recruiting more soldiers. By 1930, Adonis had joined the Masseria faction. As the tide of war started to turn against Masseria, Luciano secretly contacted Maranzano about switching sides. Since Adonis' loyalties were to Luciano, he was quick to join the plot. On 15 April 1931, Adonis, Benjamin "Busgy" Siegel, Vito Genovese, and Albert "Mad Hatter" Anastasia, all part of the Masseria organization, ambushed Masseria at restaurant in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, killing him.
With the death of Masseria, the war ended and Maranzano was the victor. To avoid future wars, Maranzano reorganized all the Italian-American gangs into families with him as the "boss of all bosses". Luciano quickly became dissatisfied with Maranzano's power grab. When Luciano discovered that Maranzano had ordered a murder contract on him, Luciano struck first. On September 10, 1931, several gunmen attacked and killed Maranzano in his Manhattan office.
With the murder of Maranzano, Luciano was now the most powerful criminal in the country. However, rather than declare himself the new top boss, Luciano instead established a National Crime Syndicate that united all the Italian-American gangs across the country under its authority. For his part in the attack on Masseria, Adonis was given a seat on the Syndicate's "board of directors". Many politicians and high-ranking police officers were on his payroll. Adonis used his political influence to assist the criminal rackets of members of the Luciano crime family, such as Luciano and Genovese, and associates such as Meyer Lansky and Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, the head of Murder, Inc..
Adonis came to control the area around Broadway and Midtown Manhattan. He ran this empire from Joe's Italian Kitchen, his restaurant in Brooklyn. Adonis made large profits from illegal alcohol sales and prostitution, building himself a criminal empire worth millions of dollars. Adonis bought car dealerships in New Jersey. When customers bought cars from his dealerships, the salesmen would intimidate them into buying "protection insurance" for the vehicle. Adonis soon moved into cigarette manufacturing, buying up machines by the hundreds and hijacking factory products, and made a 100% profit. By 1932, was also a major criminal power in Brooklyn.
In the late 1930s, Luciano had achieved great notoriety and U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Dewey started looking for ways to break his power. In 1936, Dewey succeeded in prosecuting Luciano on pandering charges and sent him away to prison in Upstate New York for 30 years. Adonis remained relatively untouched by this crackdown because he was a relative unknown to Uncle Sam. In Luciano's absence, Adonis took over as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Syndicate.
After spending 10 years in prison, Luciano was able to walk out of jail in 1946. During World War II, the U.S. Government had agreed to reduce Luciano's prison sentence in return for his help controlling possible Nazi sabotage in U.S. East Coast ports. However, as a condition of this deal, Luciano was to be permanently deported to Italy at the end of hostilities. In December 1946, after the deportation, Adonis and Luciano were briefly united at the famous Havana Conference in Cuba. It was Luciano's goal to take over active control of his crime family from Cuba and Adonis willingly relinquished power to him. However, the U.S. soon discovered Luciano's presence in Havana and pressured the Cuban government to deport him back to Italy.
By the late 1940s, the government had begun watching Adonis. During this period, prosecutors had successfully recruited Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, the second-in-command of Murder, Inc., as a government witness. Reles provided them with valuable information on Adonis and his power. Called before the U.S. Senate Kefauver Committee hearings on organized crime, Adonis repeatedly refused to testify, citing his right against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. No charges were filed against Adonis.
In August 1953, after the U.S. government discovered Adonis was an illegal alien, they immediately deported him to Italy. Adonis moved to a luxurious villa outside Naples, very close to Luciano. However, the two men never again spoke to each other after Luciano was deported. It was speculated that Luciano was angry at his old friend for ceding too many New York City rackets to Genovese. On January 26, 1962, Luciano died of a heart attack in Naples at age 64.
On November 26, 1971, Italian police took Adonis from his villa and transported him to a small hillside shack for interrogation. The police were on a campaign against all known mafiosi. During the lengthy questioning, Adonis suffered a heart attack and died.
Adonis had a quiet funeral attended only by his immediate family. He was buried in Madonna Cemetery in Fort Lee, New Jersey.