Martin Scorsese’s new Netflix movie The Irishman features several real-life gangsters, one of whom is Anthony Salerno, played by Domenick Lombardozzi. However, who was he in real life?
Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno was a member of the Genovese family, serving as consigliere, underboss, and acting boss for the family. Known for his love of cigars and his fedora hat, he earned the nickname “Fat Tony” because of his thick stature.
Salerno was born in 1911 in East Harlem. He became involved in criminal activities at a young age while working for the Lucky Luciano crime family.
From his headquarters at the Palma Boys Social Club in East Harlem, he allegedly controlled the largest numbers racket operation in New York in the ’60s. Unlike most mob bosses, he was considered quite accessible to outsiders; mobsters from around the country would come to him for help with their disputes.
Salerno tended to avoid the ostentatious lifestyle that was often associated with mobsters. He avoided the nightclubs and the glitzy mob parties.
In 1981, he was appointed the head of the Genovese family, although it is now thought that he was just a front. The real power of the family is believed to have lain with Phillip Lombardo, who used various mob bosses as a front to protect himself.
Considered an old-fashioned gangster, he refused to sell drugs, thereby avoiding the more substantial convictions that plagued so many of his peers. In fact, he was 75 before he received his first significant conviction.
In 1985 Salerno was indicted along with eight other mafia bosses by the “Mafia Commission.” This commission affected all five of the New York families.
During the trial, he stuck to his Cosa Nostra oaths and the old mafia traditions refusing to cooperate with the FBI, which led to him receiving a 100-year prison sentence.
In 1986, Fortune magazine listed him as one of the most influential and wealthiest gangsters in America, although the magazine may have over-estimated his actual power.
He died in July 1992 at the age of 81 of a stroke in the Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri.
In The Irishman, Salerno played a key role in Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance.
Domenick Lombardozzi, famous for playing Herc in The Wire, took on the role of Salerno in the Scorsese movie. He was also portrayed in the gangster film Kill the Irishman in 2011 by Paul Sorvino.
Anthony Salerno is also considered to be the inspiration for The Simpsons character Fat Tony.