Son of Mafia Boss
The son of crime boss Joseph Bonanno (Joe Bananas), Bill Bonanno embodies one of the few examples of nepotism in the Mafia—the theme of The Godfather notwithstanding. Long dreaming that his son would take over his leadership of the crime family, the elder Bonanno provoked the so-called Banana War, which littered the streets of Brooklyn with corpses. When Bonanno disappeared from the scene for an extended period of time, execution of the conflict was placed in the inexperienced hands of son Bill.
The younger Bonanno was the cooperative subject of a book, Honor Thy Father by Gay Talese, which attempts, almost heroically, to counter the general mob belief that Bill was an incompetent. The effort was not wholly convincing to some.
The majority underworld opinion was perhaps best typified by the sentiments revealed in the celebrated “DeCavalcante tapes” — based on an FBI eavesdropping campaign that for almost four years recorded conversations in the offices of New Jersey crime leader Simone Rizzo DeCavalcante (Sam the Plumber). At the height of the troubles between the elder Bonanno and the rest of the members of the commission, the so-called overseers of Mafia affairs, DeCavalcante tried to act as a mediator and met with the younger Bonanno. He was later recorded discussing the meeting with his underboss, Frank Majuri. DeCavalcante said, “His son [Bill] is a bedbug. I’m not afraid of him [Joe Bonanno] so much as I am of his son. . . .”
Despite the elder Bonanno’s naming his son consigliere (adviser) of the crime family, young Bill never achieved a position of undisputed leadership. He was convicted on such charges as loan-sharking, perjury, mail fraud and conspiracy but was never accused of having carried out any of these activities with finesse.