I-Team Report: Blood Relatives
February 9, 2011 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The only son of Tony Spilotro talks about what it was like growing up in the shadow of one of Chicago's most notorious mob bosses.
When Anthony "Ant" Spilotro walked into a room, he caused hearts to race and sometimes stop. At only 5'5", Spilotro's power wasn't from muscle; it was from an ability to intimidate and an unpredictable temper.
Hollywood tried to chronicle Spilotro's life in the movie "Casino." Now, his own family videos and an interview with his son offer a different take on these blood relatives.
This is what most people remember about Tony Spilotro's life -- it ended in a midnight grave. It was June 1986. After a horrific beating, vengeful mob bosses drove Spilotro and his brother Michael to an Indiana cornfield where they were buried.
"I just want people to understand that he wasn't this monster," Spilotro's only son Vince told the I-Team.
Vince Spilotro knows that rewriting his late father's life story will be difficult. His father was arrested 13 times before age 20; he was initiated as a full Chicago Outfit member at age 25 after authorities believe he committed his trademark torture killing, putting a victim's head in a vice until his eyeballs popped out. From 1971 to 1986, Tony Spilotro ruled Chicago Mob rackets in Las Vegas.
"I just wanted it to come out that he was a man, he did have family, just the human side of him, just tell the truth about it. Even if you're going to tell something bad, tell the truth about it. You know what I mean? You don't have to make up a whole bunch of stuff, " Vince Spilotro said.
It is unclear how many people Spilotro killed during his Outfit career because he was never convicted of murder, but Outfit investigators put the number at between 12 and 20.
"I mean, I take this home with me every night. I mean, I've been taking this home for 20 years," said Vince Spilotro.
Now he is sharing it with the I-Team, and soon Vince Spilotro will be sharing it with the paying public.
Opening next month at the Tropicana Hotel, in the city limits his father once ruled, the interactive Mob Experience will feature Spilotro family memorabilia including baby shoes and pictures -- and guns and bullets.
"I knew what he did," said said Vince Spilotro. "He was just, you know, just a loving father."
And Spilotro family videos that show Tony "Ant" as Tony "Santa." At family parties, including Vincent's birthday's as a boy, where sometimes tony and the boys would play cards off to the side. On family trips to Disneyland, where even a budding Outfit boss waited in line.
GOUDIE: "Do you think your father saw you as someone who would eventually replace him?
SPILOTRO: No, not at all. Here's what happened. In the beginning he didn't, it was all school, you have to do this, you have to do that. In the end he was, he had quadruple bypass, he was getting tired. He was sharing more. I don't know if that's grooming me, but it was still, school, school, school."
When museum plans were unveiled last summer, Tony Spilotro's reclusive widow Nancy was also in attendance. Their family treasures will be on display with some from Chicago boss Sam Giancana and Vegas founder Bugsy Seigel.
GOUDIE: "What would your father think about you selling family memorabilia for a profit.
SPILOTRO: He wouldn't like it. It's a two-way street. I think he'd like that I'm telling the truth, selling it for a profit sounds a little seedy...These people are going to protect it, they're going to display it a little more classy than if someone bought it on eBay."
For the Spilotro family, it is a chance to tell inside stories about the days growing up in their Las Vegas home as the son of a Mob boss.
Spilotro said, "I helped when I was a kid, at 18 years old, helped design this room, at our house, it was a place called the 'Security room.' There was a steel door, which was covered with wallpaper, you never knew it was steel. A solid door with the frame. The walls were all insulated with concrete and stuff. I mean, you couldn't get in that room."
And after almost 25 years, the museum and this interview, are a chance to come to terms with the past.
"I just like to tell everybody that he's just a man that grew up, raised a family and got caught up in some things that maybe he shouldn't have, but he lived it the way he lived it," said Spilotro.
The founder of the Mob Experience museum says he isn't setting out to glorify the Chicago Outfit. He says that showing the living contradictions that were Chicago Mob bosses is aimed at giving the public new insight about a significant American criminal group.
i-team, chuck goudie
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