Vito Spatafore, Sr., played by Joseph R. Gannascoli, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. He was a member of the DiMeo Crime Family and a subordinate of Tony Soprano. He was married to Marie Spatafore with two children, Francesca and Vito, Jr., and was a closeted homosexual. This was revealed in the show's fifth season and later became one of the more prominent subplots in the sixth season.
Vito Spatafore was introduced on The Sopranos in the Season 2 episode "The Happy Wanderer" as a nephew to fellow mobster Richie Aprile and, later, a cousin to Adriana La Cerva and Jackie Aprile, Jr. Joseph R. Gannascoli previously appeared as "Gino" in a minor role during Season 1's "The Legend of Tennessee Moltisanti". Vito is inducted into the Aprile crew upon Richie's release from prison and quickly rises through the ranks to Capo after the deaths of capos Richie Aprile, Gigi Cestone and Ralph Cifaretto. Vito's character is based on Vito Arena, a homosexual mob associate in the Gambino crime family. While Vito was a member of the Aprile crew, his brother Bryan Spatafore is violently attacked and beaten with a golf club by Salvatore "Mustang Sally" Intile. In retaliation, Tony Soprano orders a hit on Bryan's attacker, which was performed by Bobby Baccalieri's father, Bobby Baccalieri Sr. Vito's made his first on-screen hit by killing Jackie Aprile, Jr., as punishment for a botched attempt to rob a card game run by Aprile Crew soldier Eugene Pontecorvo.
In season 5, Vito's status as a closeted homosexual was revealed in the episode Unidentified Black Males. Meadow's boyfriend, Finn De Trolio, was given a job at Vito's construction site by Tony. One morning when Finn arrived early for work, he witnessed Vito performing oral sex on a male security guard. Vito, however, scared Finn into keeping his mouth shut. He invited Finn to a Yankees-Padres baseball game to intimidate him further, but Finn, frightened, never showed.
In the beginning of season 6, Vito was shown to have lost 160 pounds in order to appear in a weight-loss commercial. After Tony was shot by Uncle Junior in the season 6 premiere, Tony was in a coma for two episodes. While Tony's recovery seemed uncertain, Vito hinted at the idea that he should take over as boss. At the time, Silvio Dante was acting boss. But Dante suffered an asthma attack from the stress of being boss. Vito informed DiMeo Family capo Larry Boy Barese that he was the best candidate for boss since he was the Captain of the highest-earning crew in the family. While Tony was comatose, Vito also provided information to Paulie about the location of $1 million in drug money hidden by Colombian drug dealers. Paulie and an associate stole the money, although they were nearly killed by two Colombians guarding the stash. Paulie was seriously injured during the theft when one of the dealers kicked him in the groin, causing serious medical problems. Paulie demanded a higher cut because of his injury. Paulie and Vito also became angry when Silvio demanded a higher percentage of the cut go to Carmela in case Tony did not recover. Tony finally awoke from his coma, which made everyone ecstatic except Vito—who was hoping to step in and take Tony's place. His weight problems and attempts to lose weight resemble the health problems which were suffered by Colombo crime family capo Gerald Clemenza.
During the wedding of Johnny Sack's daughter, Allegra, Vito claimed he wasn't feeling well. He and his family left the wedding. But back at home, Vito informed his wife he was going to make some collections. She found it odd that he would be making collections so late at night. Later that evening while making a collection at a gay bar, two Lupertazzi family associates, one named Sal Iaccuzzo saw Vito holding hands with a gay man. The Iaccuzzo character was based on real-life Gambino crime family capo Matthew Ianniello, who was known to extort and own several nightclubs in New York City that catered to homosexual clientele. Vito tried to play it off as a joke, although the two men were not fooled.
Terrified of the consequences if his homosexuality were made public, Vito went into hiding. He stayed at a bed-and-breakfast in New Hampshire and tried to pursue a new life away from the mafia. Under the alias "Vince," he took an interest in antiques and claimed to be writing a book on Italian boxers. He contacted his family only once during a brief phone call. He also began drinking heavily. He started a relationship with Jim Witowski (aka 'Johnny Cakes'), a short-order cook who worked at the restaurant where Vito regularly stopped for breakfast. Vito was impressed when he found out Jim was a volunteer fireman. When Jim first tried to kiss him, Vito pushed him away, called him a fag, and the two scuffled briefly. Several days later, Vito went back to the restaurant and apologized, saying, "Sometimes you tell a lie so long, you don't know when to stop." The two men reconciled. They drove to their motorcycles to a secluded spot by a nearby lake, where they picnicked and made love. Vito moved in with Jim shortly thereafter. Vito continued to spend time with Jim, but Jim eventually saw through his story about being a writer. Vito confessed to some of his past but continued to lie, claiming he was a divorced construction worker. Jim arranged for Vito to work as a handyman, but Vito soon tired of the tedium of a working life. Vito's drinking worsened. Finally, Vito decided to return to his former life in New Jersey. He cooked a dinner for Jim and left the next morning while Jim slept.
Vito drank while driving back to New Jersey, and crashed his car into a parked vehicle. When he failed to convince the owner to keep the accident from the police, Vito shot and killed the man. Vito returned home and remained conflicted about whether or not to reinitiate contact with his old mafia family. Vito eventaully approached Tony Soprano at a mall, while Vito's brother, Bryan, kept watch. Vito claimed that his homosexual behavior had been caused by medication. Wanting to "buy himself back" into the business, he offered Tony $200,000 and said he would run the family's Atlantic City prostitution and drug businesses. Tony was tempted by the offer, but realized this would bring him into open war with the Lupertazzis. Lupertazzi crime family boss Phil Leotardo, a virulent homophobe, demanded Vito's death, so Tony quietly arranged for Carlo Gervasi to make a hit on Vito. Meanwhile, Vito reunited with his family. He explained his absence to his children by claiming that he was an undercover CIA agent hiding out in Afghanistan, and warned them not to tell anybody. He later ran into Terry Doria, whom he agreed to loan $20,000 for child support. That night, Vito returned to his motel room and was ambushed by Phil Leotardo and two of his soldiers, Gerry Torciano and "Fat Dom" Gamiello. Torciano and Gamiello duct-taped Vito's mouth shut and beat him to death while Phil Leotardo watched.
Phil's unsanctioned murder of Vito proved to be a serious point of contention in his working relationship with Tony. The relationship was further strained when Phil correctly suspected the New Jersey mob in the disappearance of Gamiello, who had been killed by Silvio and Carlo Gervasi after making repeated wisecracks, in the wake of Vito's death, about the sexual orientation of New Jersey mobsters. Phil Leotardo later told Vito's wife, Marie, that her husband was probably killed by two homosexual transients Vito had picked up at a bar. He told Marie that he loved Vito "like a brother-in-law," and suggested that Vito's death was probably best as a gay man would have made a poor role model for the children. However, a newspaper reported Vito was killed by mobsters after requesting to live an openly gay lifestyle. Vito's children read the story, destroying the illusion of their father being a CIA agent. A year later Vito's son, Vito Jr. began to go through a rebellious phase in reaction to his father's murder and cruelty from his peers in light of his father's sexual orientation, entering the Goth subculture and performing various acts of vandalism. His mother, Marie, asked Tony Soprano for money so she could relocate her family to Maine, where no one would know them or what happened to Vito. Tony asked Phil Leotardo to also intervene, because of his involvement in Vito's death. Both paid separate visits to Vito Jr. and told him to start acting more like an adult. But Vito Jr. continued to act out, and later defecated in a shower at school. Tony decided to help Marie Spatafore move to Maine, but gambled away the money he had intended to give her. Instead, Tony told Marie he would only pay for Vito Jr. to attend a "tough love" camp in Idaho. The camp's counselors abducted Vito Jr. from his bed at night before taking him to the camp, much to Marie's despair. Vito's homosexuality may have been a contributing factor in Phil Leotardo declaring war on the DiMeo Crime Family, as Leotardo implies that others do not respect him any longer due to Vito's "disgrace."