BiographyEditPeter Clemenza was born Pietro Clemenza in Trapani, Sicily, and emigrated to America at an early age, moving into Hell's Kitchen in New York and leaving behind his brother Domenico, who would become a Mafia boss in Trapani. He swiftly became friends with another savvy youth, Salvatore Tessio. He became known as a suave yet violent presence in the neighborhood, ruthless in the protection of his property and his businesses. For this, he became of interest to Massimo Fanucci, but Clemenza rejected the idea of having a 'boss', and Fanucci let him go. Clemenza instead turned his sights toward mentoring the Corleone youth.
Clemenza and VitoEdit
Clemenza became a friend of Vito Corleone after immigrating from Sicily. As a young man, Vito held a blanket of guns for him to prevent their discovery by the police. Clemenza repaid this favor by stealing a rug for Vito's family, with the unwilling Vito's help, thus facilitating the future godfather's first introduction to the rewards of crime. Their roles were later reversed when Vito killed Don Fanucci, establishing him as the group's leader. Friendly and jovial, Clemenza was known as a storyteller among many of his acquaintances and family members - a trait that endeared him to Vito, who loved listening to storytellers. Peter Clemenza got his start selling stolen goods such as dresses and guns with Vito and Tessio as far back as 1917, and became a key figure in the growing Corleone family. Vito kept him close through the years - even making him godfather to his oldest son Santino - though this was all to control his brutal and more ambitious tendencies.
Defeating SollozzoEditClemenza played a key role in aiding Michael following the shooting of Vito, despite initially being suspected of setting the Don up. When Paulie Gatto was discovered as the true traitor, Clemenza was entrusted with the task of eliminating him, enlisting rising associate Rocco Lampone to carry out the hit. Clemenza took Gatto's betrayal personally, having shepherded Gatto's rise through the family. In order to lull Gatto into a false sense of security, Clemenza and Lampone drove around in a car with him for a few hours, looking for good sites where the Corleone men could "go to the mattresses" in the imminent war. Clemenza ordered Gatto to pull the car over so he could urinate, Rocco then shot Gatto in the back of the head three times. Rocco succeeded Paulie as a button man and Don Corleone's new driver.
When Vito's youngest son, Michael, offered to kill both Virgil Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey, who was on Sollozzo's payroll, Clemenza taught him how to use such a gun and told him who would plant the gun inside the bathroom of the restaurant. The plan succeeded, and while Michael was hiding out in Sicily, Clemenza prepared for an all-out war against the remaining four families.
- "How bad do you think it's gonna be?"
"Pretty goddam bad. Probably all the other Families will line up against us. That's all right. These things gotta happen every five years or so, ten years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood. Been ten years since the last one. You know, you gotta stop them at the beginning. Like they should have stopped Hitler at Munich, they should never let him get away with that, they was just asking for trouble."
- ―Michael Corleone and Peter Clemenza[src]
Peter Clemenza later visited Sicily in 1950, where he met Michael Corleone in order to arrange his safe return to America and also to oversee the safe passage of a family friend, Salvatore Giuliano. At this time he was briefly reunited with his brother, Domenico.
Clemenza's familyEditIn the 1950s, Clemenza and Tessio requested the opportunity to start their own families, as Barzini had been chipping away at their territories. Michael told them to wait, and Clemenza reluctantly agreed, but Tessio did not and made a deal with Emilio Barzini, which resulted in his death. Clemenza remained loyal, helping to assassinate Victor Stracci during Michael Rizzi's baptism. He also garotted Carlo Rizzi, Connie Corleone's husband, in revenge for Carlo's purported involvement in the massacre of her brother Sonny. At a meeting with Michael, Rocco and Al Neri, Clemenza greets Michael as "Don Corleone" ("Don Michael" in the book) and kisses Michael's hand--a sign that Michael has become his father's successor in every way.
For his loyalty and years of service, Clemenza was given his own family and continued running operations from the old Corleone compound. He also stood in as consigliere for Michael when the family was making moves to become legitimate. Though old, he still retained the sharpness he had in his youth, and kept his ear to the street, with only the addition of a walking cane. It was through Clemenza that Michael learned about the rumors of homosexuality of his brother Fredo.
He died of a supposed heart attack in 1958, at the age of 68, while at his favorite diner, cooking food for his men. He was succeeded by Frank Pentangeli, his loyal lieutenant and long time friend. Rumors swirled that the Rosato Brothers had something to do with his death, though it was ruled heart faliure.
Personality and traitsEdit
A man whose jovial nature belied his street smarts, Clemenza was immediately seen as an asset to the young Vito Corleone, who utilized his violent tendencies for his own ends, although he attempted to curb them by naming Clemenza godfather to his oldest son, Santino, a duty which Clemenza took on with great pride and solemnity. He was known as quite the storyteller with a great sense of humor, being able to get a laugh out of Vito and even the more serious Michael; fittingly, he died after telling his junior associates an amusing story from his past. He also acts as an uncle to Michael, teaching him how to cook, as well as how to properly act out an assassination. Clemenza also confided in Michael and told him that Vito was proud that he joined the Marines and became a war hero.
Clemenza was known as a superb judge of talent. No fewer than five future capos got their start in his regime--Sonny, Lampone, Pentangeli, Richard Nobilio and Joey Zasa. Clemenza's vehicle of choice was the Cadillac Sixty Special.
In the video gameEdit
In the video game, Peter Clemenza notices talent in Aldo Trapani after witnessing him helping Fredo Corleone to save Vito's life. Aldo then helps him and his soldier Rocco Lampone to rescue Tom Hagen from the Tattaglia kidnappers. After rescuing Tom, Clemenza sends Aldo to help Michael Corleone to protect Don Vito Corleone from more Tattaglia's assassins. He later calls on the young associate to accompany him to murder Paulie Gatto, the traitor and informant for the Tattaglias. Clemenza also gives Aldo the names and whereabouts of several prominant Cuneo members. At one point his house is raided by the police in connection with a strike breaking at the Verona Warehouse, but his goods were moved away by Aldo to Paulie's apartment. After members of the Cuneos rob a bank, Clemenza sends Aldo and his Capo friend to steal money that the Cuneos had not yet taken. Clemenza also assists Trapani in the Moe Greene murder. During the baptism he accompanies Aldo to murder Victor Stracci at an old hotel. When Aldo is promoted to underboss Clemenza is at the ceremony to congratulate him. After this, he is not vital in side or story missions, but he can still be seen at the Corleone compound.
Peter Clemenza could be based on Frank Labruzzo, who was one of the most loyal capos of Joseph Bonanno, staying on his side during the "Bananas war" in the 1960s. Ironically, Labruzzo was portrayed by Richard Castellano in the made for TV movie Honor Thy Father, which was released one year after The Godfather.
The hit on Victor Stracci by Clemenza could have been inspired by the assassination attempt on Frank Costello, who was also shot in an elevator.
Behind the scenesEdit
Peter Clemenza was portrayed as a man in his fifties and sixties by Richard Castellano and by Bruno Kirby when he was in his twenties and thirties. Clemenza would initally return in The Godfather Part II, but due to a disagreement between Castellano and Paramount, his character was killed off and was replaced by Frank Pentangeli.