Salvatore "Big Pussy" Bonpensiero, played by Vincent Pastore, is a fictional character on the HBO TV series The Sopranos. Not to be confused with fellow New Jersey mobster "Little Pussy" Malanga, Big Pussy was one of the men who worked for Tony Soprano and the two were close friends.
The son of Lino Bonpensiero, Salvatore Bonpensiero started out as a cat burglar, and was affectionately known as "Big Pussy" because of this early career. He also ran an auto body shop with his brother Edward "Duke" Bonpensiero. He married his wife, Angie in 1976. He was an associate of "Johnny Boy" Soprano, whom he supported during the unrest of 1983. Bonpensiero was made some time after this and acted as a soldier in the Soprano crew from then onwards. He remained loyal to the Soprano family and backed Johnny Boy's wishes to have his son, Tony Soprano, become capo of the crew following Johnny Boy's death in 1986. Bonpensiero worked alongside other longtime Soprano associates Paulie "Walnuts" Gualtieri and Silvio Dante throughout his career in the Mafia. Bonpensiero also took on Johnny Boy's tradition of dressing as Santa Claus and giving out presents to local children at Satriale's meat market at Christmas time.
Bonpensiero was a kind-hearted man who doted on his wife Angie and their three children, and was a long-time friend of Tony's. However, the money he made from the mob was not enough to raise his three children and put them through college and he began trafficking in heroin on the side. Soprano, his capo, and Jackie Aprile Sr., then acting boss of the family, were aware of his sideline and urged him to stop dealing.
It was around this time that he was caught by the FBI and given the choice of either working for them as an informant against Tony Soprano and his mob family or facing the possibility of life in prison. He agreed and was assigned FBI Agent Skip Lipari as a handler — he was revealed as an informant in the episode "Do Not Resuscitate."
In Christmas 1995, Bonpensiero was instrumental in organizing a sit-down between Junior Soprano and Acting Boss Jackie Aprile. He traveled to Boca Raton to persuade Junior to return to New Jersey and settle a trucking dispute he had got into with Aprile. He was suspiciously late for the actual sitdown and blamed health problems with his comare's mother. He arrived to the Christmas celebrations that year already in his Santa suit and appearing drunk. He became angry when Gualtieri hugged him, quizzed Soprano about business and almost got into a fight with Christopher Moltisanti. Soprano later remembered these events and decided Bonpensiero must have turned informant shortly before this.
In 1999 Bonpensiero was an essential part of the Soprano crew's operation and was exposed to a number of things he could have reported. He intimidated a debtor into starting up Hesh Rabkin and Soprano's HMO insurance scam. He also helped associate Christopher Moltisanti dispose of the body of Emil Kolar — killed in a dispute over the crew's Tri Borough Towers garbage routes. As the crew's car expert he was assigned to retrieve a car stolen from Tony's son's (A.J. Soprano) teacher — he found the thieves and kidnapped them but the car had already been chopped. He came up with a novel solution — steal a car of the same model and repaint it. He was present when Soprano and the other capos discussed their problems with new figurehead acting boss, Junior. When indictments were threatened he fled and burned papers in his back garden — perhaps a sign that he was not co-operating fully.
Later that year he was arrested at a card game run by Soprano family capo, Jimmy Altieri. He tried to escape but threw his back out and was caught on the corner of the block (he was later criticized for breaking the Mafia's policy against physically running from the authorities). He was quickly bailed out by Angie but was confined to his house popping pain killers. Shortly afterward, dirty cop Vin Makazian told Soprano he had a rat in his organization and pointed the finger at Bonpensiero. Soprano assigned Gualtieri to see if he could feel out where Bonpensiero's loyalties lay by checking him for a wire, even authorizing him to kill his old friend if he saw one with his own eyes. Soprano was obviously distressed to have to ask Gualtieri to do this to a trusted member of the crew. Gualtieri then surprised Bonpensiero with a trip to a bath house, where he refused to undress and left — blaming high blood pressure. This served to heighten his crew's suspicions. After this unnerving experience, he disappeared. While he was away, Gualtieri took over his collections and the crew killed Altieri (believing him to be an FBI informant), taking some heat off Bonpensiero.
He resurfaced at Soprano's home in 2000 claiming to have been in Puerto Rico getting treatment for his bad back from an acupuncturist. When reporting to Lipari after the meeting, Bonpensiero lied about Soprano; showing a reluctance to give anything up. He was left out of the crew's trip to Italy to discuss exporting stolen cars with a local mafia family. While meeting Lipari in a distant party goods store, he was spotted by an Elvis impersonator called Jimmy Bones. Lipari reassured him that they had handled it well. However, Bonpensiero later went to Bones' house and killed him for fear of being revealed.
Since his return, he and his wife had been having trouble and she discussed leaving him with Carmela Soprano, who dissuaded her because of their Catholicism. Angie settled for sleeping in separate bedrooms.
Upon his return from Italy, Soprano re-organized his crew — Gualtieri would be a capo now that Tony was acting boss, Dante would become Tony's consigliere, and new addition Furio Giunta would be on an equal footing with Bonpensiero despite his years of long service. Bonpensiero was obviously distressed at the new order, openly hostile to Giunta and complained to Lipari that "this thing of ours" turned into "this thing of mine." His reservations about informing on Soprano began to dissipate.
Lipari persuaded Bonpensiero to wear a wire to A.J.'s confirmation, but he spent most of his time upstairs with A.J. telling him that his father would do anything for him instead of talking business. He ends the evening sobbing in the bathroom, still trapped in an impossible situation.
Following Moltisanti's shooting by associates Matthew Bevilaqua and Sean Gismonte, Bonpensiero fell back into his loyal soldier role; he tracked down the escaped Bevilaqua, phoned Soprano, met him at Satriale's to tool up and took him to get the traitor. They drew out the murder, talking to the frightened upstart for a while before unloading their weapons into him. Soprano took Bonpensiero for dinner afterward, and it seemed to be just like old times. When Lipari called Bonpensiero, saying a witness to Bevilaqua's shooting identified Soprano and "a second, husky figure," he flatly denied any involvement. Lipari chose to believe him but pressured him to get a confession from Soprano on tape. The FBI's murder case fell apart when the witness withdrew his statement after realizing who he had identified.
Bonpensiero eventually began to co-operate and gave Lipari information on Soprano's stolen airline ticket scam. Lipari said that Bonpensiero had a case of Stockholm syndrome when he suggested that he could work in law enforcement once he finished helping the FBI build their case. Bonpensiero began recording notes and tailing members of his crew. He ended up in a car accident in an unrequested "stake-out" gone wrong.
Soprano eventually abandoned the blinding affection he held for Bonpensiero and realized his old friend's betrayal after a portentous dream where Bonpensiero appeared as a fish and told him that he had known all along. Soprano decided he had to be sure, so he visited Bonpensiero's home to search for evidence while Silvio distracted him. Soprano found a wire (recording equipment worn on the body for secretly taping conversations) and had Bonpensiero meet him on the pretense of checking out a new boat. Soprano, Dante and Gualtieri confronted their former friend once they got out to sea and got him to admit that he had informed on them. Bonpensiero claimed that he had been acting as a double agent as a strategy to feed misinformation to the FBI. Soprano, Gualtieri, and Bonpensiero had some Tequila. Dante came down into the cabin and Bonpensiero realized that he would not make it off the boat alive and requested to not be shot in the face. Paulie Walnuts told Bonpensiero, "You were like a brother to me" before Soprano opened fire. Paulie and Silvio also shot at Bonpensiero. They didn't hit him above the neck. Paulie took some jewelry off Pussy's body and the three bagged him up, weighed him down and threw him overboard. All three have since been haunted by the memory of their old friend's betrayal and murder.
Bonpensiero was survived by his wife, Angie, and children, Matt, Kevin, and Terry. He is also survived by his illegitimate child, Joey LaRocca, as revealed in the videogame The Sopranos: Road to Respect. Angie assumed his share of the Body Shop and continued his involvement with the DiMeo Crime Family.