Despite what some might believe, the real Tony Montana has never been associated with cocaine and he is alive to tell his story. When he was merely a teenager, Tony was already learning how to increase economic wealth in his community through his association with the infamous Illinois gang Chicago Outfit. Now 79 years old, the notorious ex-felon defines himself as someone who knew how to fly under the radar.
Not to be confused with Al Pacino’s character in the movie “Scarface,” the existing Tony Montana is not Cuban, he’s Italian. You see, a lot of confusion about the real organized crime member began some time ago. As it turns out, the original Scarface, created in 1932, was a depiction of Al Capone because he had a scar on his face. It was a film about moonshining during the prohibition era, but the 1983 remake of the film switched the product from alcohol to cocaine. “Al Pacino was not supposed to be Al Capone because he was Cuban,” confirms Tony. “It’s a misleading thing. My name was taken because they liked my name and because I knew all of the players in the movie.” Furthermore, the authentic Tony Montana wants to make it clear that he nor the Chicago Outfit were ever involved in any drug trafficking.
“I am the real Tony Montana, I’m not a generic one. It’s an Italian name, not a Cuban name. Cuban names are Montaña, not Montana,” he declares.
Born and raised in an a community known as Chicago’s Little Italy or The Patch, an area that many Italian immigrants called their home in the 1930s, Tony, the youngest of 5 girls and 7 boys, became a product of his environment by getting involved in organized crime. During a time when it only cost five cents to watch a movie, seven cents for a bag of popcorn and 15 cents for a gallon of gas, the Chicago Outfit ruled The Patch in Illinois. He says everybody was a part of Chicago Outfit, including his neighbors.
When people in the community needed a job, Tony’s notorious crew would help. “It was not thought of as crime in those days. It was thought of working. People didn’t know that was crime,” he explains.
Despite his family’s monetary shortcomings Tony has a fond memory of his childhood and recalls it as being exciting. “At 14, I was making $15 a day. In those days, that was a lot of money and I used to bring it home to my mother to feed the kids,” he says. When he was a child, his family was coming out of the Great Depression. Growing up in a family of 12 was a financial hardship for his parents. His mother was a housewife and his father sold produce in the marketplace during the summer by buying fruit from the farmers and selling it to the stores. “I used to go with him when I was a kid on a horse and wagon and help sell his produce,” says Tony. Then, when it was the winter season, his father would sell wine so his family could survive.
He reveals growing up he had to use concealments for the holes in his shoes. As a means for providing for his family, Tony Montana became hip to the underground world of gambling and brothels. Tony started out as a lookout for the Chicago Outfits and made $15 a day. He kept an eye out for cops, rivals and any suspicious activity. That’s how it was back then during Tony’s adolescent days, everyone looked out for each other in their community. Think of it as your community filled with kin who you hold close to your heart. “If somebody got sick in the neighborhood, everybody in the neighborhood would make soup or food or clothing. We took care of each other because that’s the way they were in Italy. We were a big family,” he says.
Tony certainly rose to the top. Before the law took him down, he owned between 30 and 40 night clubs, restaurants and clothing stores in Chicago, IL, Atlanta, GA and Las Vegas, NV. He made sure not to intertwine his home life with his work. When Tony was married, his wife only knew that he owned a night club and nothing more. It was a private world. In fact, Tony says Outfit members never entered his home.
Tony was a father before he got married. He adopted a Chinese boy who had no sense of direction at the time. Tony’s friends who were also in organized crime asked him if he could provide shelter for the 12-year-old boy. The child used to stay in one of the Outfit member’s basements and clean their bar and in return, the child would get food. Currently, his son is living in Boulder City, NV.
Tony eventually became associated with Tony Spilotro and the Hole in the Wall Gang, and ended up serving two years in prison. Tony says it was all a conspiracy. Just because of his affiliation with the infamous Spilotro, Tony says law enforcement was out to get him. “I was more subdued and I would fly under the radar. My thing was to make money for them. All the way up to the time I went to jail in 1986, I had a clean slate. When I went to jail, it was a question of entrapment. I really didn’t have anything to do with that. They just wanted me off the streets because I used to be Tony Spilotro’s driver,” he says.
Surprisingly, Tony says if he had the chance to participate in organize crime today he would do it in a heartbeat. “That’s how exciting that world is,” he says. But he admits that the Outfit couldn’t exist like it did in the 1930’s because there are cameras all over and people are taking pictures all the time. “I was 15 years old before TV came out and communication wasn’t as quick as it is today. You got to put it in perspective. Everything in my time period was like slow motion,'” he says.
Currently, Tony is living in Las Vegas, NV where he works as a host at the restaurant La Scala and speaks at UNLV. And aside from explaining his story in numerous amounts of documentaries, he also plans to release a book and do a film called Mafia Heaven. Furthermore, the biggest lesson Tony has learned is how to survive. “Survival was big in my life all the way into my 40s,” he says.