My Father My Don - Hollywood East
A Son's Journey From Organized Crime To Sobriety
On The Scene At Halvatzis Astoria Studio
January 14, 2014 / Astoria Neighborhood / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. I had an opportunity to watch the filming of a new indie in the making. The film is based on the book, My Father My Don, by Tony ['Tony Nap'] Napoli.
The story is an autobiographical account of Tony Napoli's life which began in 1935. But the book reaches back into the 1880's in recounting how Tony's father 'Jimmy Nap' began his life of crime. Jimmy Nap ran one of the biggest illegal gambling operations in America in the 1970's and 1980's. Jimmy Nap's gambling operations, which he ran for the Genovese Crime Family, is believed to have grossed many, many hundreds of millions of dollars.
Tony was the son of this infamous Brooklyn mobster, who among other things, did bootleg runs for Al Capone in his early years. Tony's story is one of redemption, as he used to be a mob enforcer, making sure people paid up on their numbers and other gambling debts. He worked for his father, his don [don means boss]; and eventually took to the bottle to numb the pain.
In the photo above we see the film crew in action at the offices of Halvatzis Realty on Ditmars Blvd in Astoria [aka Halvatzis Astoria Studio]. In this scene Tony's father, Jimmy, is called into Al Capone's office after finishing a bootleg run.
Producer Hussain Ahmed wrote and is directing the 20 minute short film in Queens. Click here to read the rest of our report, including a photo slide show of the production of the independent film, My Father, My Don in Queens NYC, and a brief interview with Tony Napoli, the author and resident of Forest Hills in Queens.
My Father My Don - Hollywood East
A Son's Journey From Organized Crime To Sobriety
Independent Film Production in Queens NYC
January 14, 2014 / Astoria Neighborhood / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. It was in the early evening that I made my way to the real estate offices of George Halvatzis in Astoria. It seems George had decided to transform his friendly neighborhood realtor's office into the backroom offices of the infamous 1920's / 1930's gangster Al Capone for an independent film shoot.
Kim Parshley, a Halvatzis realtor and Associate Producer of the film, had made the arrangements and greeted me as I came into the dimly lit locale where the filming had already begun. In the photo at left, one of gangster Al Capone's men, stands in the hallway waiting for Jimmy Napoli.
Tony Napoli, now 78 years of age, was on the 'set' and in between shoots, we discussed the film, his autobiography and his life. Tony grew up in the Greenpoint / Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, starting in the mid 1930's. His father, Jimmy, was an Italian immigrant who had taken to crime and had become a member of the mob, working for the Genovese Crime Family.
My Father My Don - Based On Book About Jimmy & Tony Napoli
As mentioned in the introduction, Jimmy Napoli had done liquor runs during the Prohibition, which is how he met Al Capone. After the Prohibition ended, Jimmy turned to the numbers and after hours gambling rackets. Eventually Jimmy became one of the top members of the Genovese Crime Family, running one of the largest illegal gambling operations in America out of Crisci's Restaurant in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Jimmy Napoli, Tony's father, was convicted of multiple crimes and indicted for conspiracy to murder a member of a rival family.
Tony entered mob life through his father, following a stint as a military policeman in the U.S. Air Force. Tony's work in the mob was filled with mistakes, and his father became his don or boss, who covered up Tony's errors along the way. Tony worked as a gambling enforcer, taking to the bottle to numb the pain. Tony told me that he began writing the book in the early 1960's and that he'd done intermittent jail sentences for the crimes for which he had been caught and convicted.
I asked him if he had hurt people and he said he had. I inquired about how far he'd gone in that direction [hurting people] and he told me that he only did as much hurting as was necessary in order to get paid - and that he'd never taken a life. Based on some accounts, apparently the same was not true of Tony's father Jimmy. In the photo above are Jimmy Napoli [father] and Tony Napoli [son age 12].
Book & Film About Redemption & Real Family Life In The Mob
I found it difficult to see the 78 year old Tony as a hardened criminal / mobster. It seems becoming a member of organized crime wasn't a life Tony had chosen, so much as one into which he had been born. His mother died early, leaving his father, Jimmy, with one girl and four boys. So his father remarried and went on to have two more daughters. Jimmy Napoli died in 1992.
I asked Tony to boil down what the book was all about. He told me it was about his life, which was a transition from growing up and working in the mob and from taking to alcohol to numb the pain - to a normal life. He said, "if I can recover from that, anyone can". One book reviewer said that the book was one of the more interesting, real and unjudgmental accounts of what life was really like growing up in an Italian mob family.
Tony published the book in 2008 and it's easily purchased on bn.com and amazon.com and it is available on both the Kindle and Nook readers.
You can also order the book from Tony's website which is http://myfathermydon.com. A copy of the book cover is shown at left.
Hussain Ahmed - Making An Independent Film In Queens
Tony met Hussain Ahmed, Producer & Director of My Father My Don via Facebook. They began communicating in the first half of 2012. Tony was interested in transforming his book into a film, and Hussain was beginning to emerge as a talented feature film producer.
I had an opportunity to spend a few moments with Hussain in between takes. Hussain told me about his life, which by the tale of it is as interesting as Tony's. Hussain is a Kurd who was born in Iraq and emigrated to Iran at age four. In Iran Hussain and his family were kept in a prison until they escaped to Pakistan at age eight. In Pakistan Hussain and his family were political refuges living for seven years before they were given an opportunity by the U.N. to move anywhere in the world. They chose Kentucky, which Hussain told me was a somewhat random selection by his father.
Producer Hussain Ahmed is shown in the photo at right, during one of the breaks between takes, at Halvatzis Independent Film Studio in Astoria.
Producer & Author Team Up On Personal Account Of Life In The Mob
In the year 2000, at age 15, Hussain and family arrived in Kentucky. Hussein developed a knack for storytelling while in high school given his rich personal history and exposure to pain, cruelty, drama, suffering and the impact they have in shaping one's personality through judgment and choice. Hussain began making films using these themes and has shown promise as an up and coming Producer of dramatic films.
One of his more recent accomplishments includes the completion of a short film In Dangerous Minds [http://indangerousminds.com/story.html] which tells the story of two Middle Eastern policemen on the Lexington Kentucky police force. While these two officers come from the same geographic region, they are very different people. The film shows how the two men react to situations based on their personal pasts which has shapped the people they have become. The photo above right is a still from the independent short feature In Dangerous Minds.
Hussain took an immediate interest in Tony's story and after some discussions, began writing the script. Tony told me that he'd shopped the story around in Hollywood, but that the studios wanted to own the script. He decided to go the independent film route and eventually found Hussain.
Film Production In Queens - Halvatzis Studio Astoria
We saw them shoot the scene where Tony's father is summoned to meet Al Capone after the completion of a bootleg run. Jimmy Napoli is met at the door by some of Capone's men before being ushered into Capone's office. Matthew Schultz [of matthewschultzmusic.com] plays Tony's father as a young man wearing the white shirt above left.
We want to thank Tony Napoli and Hussain Ahmed for the interviews, permission to use their photos and the production of what looks to be an engaging film; as well as Studio Mogul / Realtor George Halvatzis for his gracious hospitality during our stay at 'Halvatzis Studio Astoria' and Associate Producer / Realtor Kim Parshley for her help with the background and introductions. George Halvatzis, Tony Napoli and Kim Parshley on the set of My Father My Don in Astoria.
The film is expected to be completed this Winter. After which they will begin to submit the short feature to film festivals around the nation.
My Father My Don Photos - Independent Film Production in Queens NYC
Click here to view our slide show of independent film production in Queens NYC and the filming of My Father My Don in Astoria.
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