Tony Pro Says: 'I Love the Guy, but Jimmy Hoffa Became An Egotistical Maniac'
Anthony (Tony Pro) Provenzano looked like a man who had it made. Stretched out by the tiled pool in back of his $140,000 spread at Hallandale, just north of Miami, he sipped a vodka-and-tonic and flicked an unlit Havana. “What’s that Susan Hay-ward movie?” he asked. “I’ll Cry Tomorrow? I’m not cryin’ now. I’m enjoying the sunshine at my sanctuary.” These days, tough Tony has been basking in the Florida sun a lot. “We Sicilians like the hot climate,” he says. “I’m talkin’ about the heat, weather-wise.”
In his 58 years, Tony Pro has absorbed plenty of the other kind of heat. Most recently he was questioned as a suspect in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. On the day Hoffa dropped out of sight, friends say he told them he had a lunch date with Provenzano and two others in a Detroit suburb. But Tony Pro was conspicuously present in Hoboken that day, talking with Teamster friends. He and Hoffa had been allies in the brass-knucks days when Hoffa was shaping the Teamsters into the nation’s biggest, most powerful union, and Provenzano, boss of 100,000 New Jersey drivers, was one of his most trusted cronies. But reports persisted that the two had fallen out while both were doing time in Lewisburg Penitentiary (Tony served four years of a seven-year sentence for extortion). Tony vehemently denies everything and will only say, “As much as I love the guy, Jimmy became an egotistical maniac. It’s bad for a guy when he doesn’t know how to take a loss.” Then, speaking of himself, Tony adds, “I’m a human being. I just want to be left alone. I don’t do anything abnormal. I’m not a faggot. My great joy is my family.”
As soon as he established his alibi in the Hoffa case with the cops, Provenzano hurried to his palm-fringed pad. Since his release from the slammer in 1970, he has been, as he puts it, “temporarily retired,” unable to resume any Teamster activity until five years have elapsed. Meanwhile, the family still has a firm toehold in the union: bother Salvatore Provenzano took over as surrogate president of Local 560, largest in New Jersey and the base of Tony’s power. Another brother, Nunzio, is a Teamster official. Making a living is no problem either for Tony Pro. He receives $25,000 a year from the Teamsters in deferred income.
As a gentleman of leisure, Tony admits that his family is occasionally burdened by having him around the house all the time. “Sometimes my wife will say, ‘I’ve seen you all day, so I think I’ll sleep in the living room.’ ” He divides his time between his Clifton, N.J. home and the Florida retreat, jogs two miles, rides a bicycle and plays golf every morning, to keep himself (5’7″, 155 lbs.) more or less in shape. In New Jersey he raises homing pigeons and putters in his greenhouse. “I grow cactuses,” says Tony. “All they need is a kind word and a little water. They’re like a woman who needs no one. But when she wants you, she comes after you like a tiger and rips into you.”
Tapping his pinkie ring on a poolside table, Tony Pro yells into the house, “Hey babe, can you bring me another drink?” Moments later, his French-Canadian second wife, Marie, 50, appears with glass in hand. Fiercely protective, Marie wanted to sue the FBI and the police when she heard that her husband’s name had been linked to Hoffa’s disappearance. Tony is apparently a content homebody. “I’m happy with a brunette,” he says. “Why do I need a blonde?”
Provenzano’s name has been linked to the Mafia by law enforcement agencies. He scoffs. His daughter Doreen, a pretty 15-year-old, once asked him, “What’s the Mafia?” “Go look it up in the dictionary,” he replied ingenuously. Nonetheless, his relations with the Mob seem to be cordial and long-standing. “Look, I come off a truck as a kid. What would I be doin’ on a truck if I was Mafia? In those days they were called Black Hands. When could I have had the time? This is just a fabrication between the FBI, CIA and news media.”
Tony’s Florida home is a far cry from the Lower East Side slum where he and his five brothers grew up, supported by the meager wages of their ditch-digger father and seamstress mother, both Sicilian immigrants. In the sun-dappled circular driveway, a white Cadillac and a baby blue Lincoln Continental are parked. The windows of the house are burglar-proofed, and visitors are identified through an intercom speaker at the front door. Inside, the decor is black and white and orange, the floors are marble, and the sugary music on the stereo is pop singer Jimmy Rosselli, a family friend. Statuary fills the house and the terrace—a life-size ceramic cheetah, a bronze nude, concrete cherubs. Star-burst mirrors, jazzy lamps and plastic palm fronds adorn walls and tables. On the bookshelves stand a carved menagerie, but no books. “I never read a book in my life,” Tony brags. “I never started one or finished one. When people start talking algebra, I tell ’em to talk arithmetic.”
In the foyer is an oil painting of Tony’s mother, which he surrounds with fresh flowers every day. A pool table stands just outside the living room. The place needs only a backyard grape arbor to be a Sicilian immigrant’s dream house. “If the drivers see this place, they’re happy,” says Tony Pro. “They think I deserve it.”
Of the future, Provenzano says, “I’ve lost much being in jail, but I accepted it. Now my time is up and in November I expect to go back into the labor movement as a local figure. I’m just a local Hoboken truck driver. I want to go back where I came from.”