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Who was Selvaggi's "Zio Trestelle"?

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message 1: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (tphunt) | 38 comments This is an interesting question that arose in another message thread. I thought it deserved its own thread.

In "The Rise of the Mafia in New York" by Giuseppe Selvaggi, the author quotes extensively from interviews held with a man identified only by the alias of "Zio Trestelle" (Uncle Three Stars). Who is Trestelle?

Selvaggi provides some hints:
He says Trestelle was born in Italy and entered the U.S. by stowing away on a ship from Naples to New York in 1912. He also noted that Trestelle was on friendly terms with many of the Prohibition Era's biggest Mafia names. By the time Selvaggi wrote his book (the English translation was copyrighted in 1978), Trestelle had been deported back to Italy. He was living in Naples and making periodic trips to Rome.

Unfortunately, the information Selvaggi attributes to Trestelle does not help us determine who Trestelle was. That is because Trestelle often relays information that was provided to him by others. It also seems that Selvaggi incorrectly reported some dates and other details to throw readers off the track.

I have a suspicion about Trestelle's identity, but I'll save it for another post.

- Tom



message 2: by Thomas (new)

Thomas (tphunt) | 38 comments OK. It seems to me that Joe Adonis (originally Giuseppe Doto) fits the description of Selvaggi's Zio Trestelle reasonably well.

Adonis reportedly entered the U.S. illegally, after stowing away aboard a ship from Naples to New York in 1915. This is a few years after Selvaggi said Trestelle arrived. However, Selvaggi also misses the date of some New York history from the same era by the same few years.

Adonis was very close to a number of Mafia bigshots, including Charlie "Lucky" Luciano, Frank Costello and the Mangano-Anastasia Family (later known as the Gambino Family) leadership.

The U.S. government ordered Adonis deported in 1953. He fought the deportation until 1956, when he returned to Naples.

He lived in exile there from 1956 to 1971. Selvaggi's original work seems to have been published by Edizioni Vetta in 1957, allowing just enough time for Selvaggi (born in 1923, he would have been 33-34 at the time) to interview the recently returned Adonis.

The "Trestelle" nickname too can be made to fit Adonis. When I initially heard the "Three Stars" alias, I immediately thought of the three prominent stars in Orion's Belt. It only occurred to me very recently that the legends of Orion and Adonis are very much the same. Both were great hunters in myth and were killed in a hunting-related incident. Both legends are also linked to the goddess of the hunt, Artemis/Diana.

If Selvaggi was looking for a veiled reference to the Adonis name, the alias "Trestelle" would have worked nicely.

I'm interested to hear about any other contenders.

- Tom


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