(September 19, 2017 – Toronto, ON) If you are of a certain age and lived in Montreal at a certain time it was accepted as fact that members of the underworld walked amongst the population, owned businesses including busy restaurants and, according to a popular rumour of that era, owned a number of parking lots. Why parking lots? This was the time before ATMs and bank cards and the policy was always strictly cash. The thing about an all-cash business is that at the end of the day when you take the money to the bank no one asks exactly where it came from. Could have been from parking. Could have been from any number of other sources.
It was also accepted as fact the local police more or less turned a blind eye to these activities. And if a body turned up now and again it was seen as the bad guys settling scores amongst themselves and as long as the general public didn’t get hurt…
There was a time when you would read about the exploits of the Cotroni family as if it was the weather forecast; no one paid much attention unless there was a violent storm. One of Cotroni’s associates was Nicolo “Nick” Rizzuto. The Cotroni family was from Calabria, the Ruzzutos were from Sicily. Territory, history, heritage, lineage is always a potent combination when it came to carving up the spoils of life just below the surface. Nick Ruzzuto eventually formed his own crime family and was inked to the Bonanno crime family in New York, who could also trace their roots to Sicily. Born in 1924, Nicolo Ruzzuto came to Canada in 1954 and settled in Montreal. His son Vito Rizzuto became a prominent mob figure.
All of this is detailed in a fascinating book, Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War by Peter Edwards and Antonio Nicaso. That book has been turned into a mini-series, Bad Blood, which makes its debut this Thursday, September 21. The series will be broadcast in English on CITY-TV stations and FX and in French on Radio-Canada. Filmed in Montreal and Sudbury, Bad Blood stars Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) as crime boss Vito Rizzuto, Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy, pictured above) as his right-hand man Declan Gardiner and Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) as patriarch Nico Rizzuto Sr. When Vito Rizzuto is suddenly arrested and extradited to Colorado’s Supermax Prison for the 1981 murders of three Bonanno crime family members, the powerful empire he built begins to crumble. Rizzuto watches helplessly as his family and friends are killed one by one. Upon his release from prison in October 2012, a Shakespearean-level revenge tale unfolds, leading to the brutal murders of his closest companions, and ultimately, to the death of Vito Rizzuto himself.