My ears perked up when (a few days ago) I heard on the news that Henry Hill had died (last Tuesday, June 12th). Reverie sets in, and millions of memories streamed through my head, as I recalled my own embracing of the Real Goodfella’s story, dating back to Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film.
I had to cue up Eric Clapton’s classic song, Layla, on iTunes, especially the second half of the tune that Martin had used to show all the mobsters whacked by Jimmy Burke; whacked to prevent them from singing, talking about the role they played in the notorious Lufthansa Heist.
Not that I’m required to repeat the class Henry Hill 101 one more time, since I’ve already made an A+ in it, but I did need to engage in some recaps, just to put the still shocking data back on the front burner of my mind.
Boy did I come upon some gems, which I’ll share with you now. I feel like an informer for the FBI, there’s so much good stuff on the internet now. Mob history must garner more interest than anything else, save Adolf Hitler or JFK!
Well, any way you look at it, Henry’s tales of JFK Airport hijackings, or drug dealing behind Paulie’s back (a no no with the bosses), his partnership with Jimmy Burke and the psychopath, Tommy DeSimone, will captivate you, and induce you to jettison other more fundamental obligations that are perhaps piling up on your desk.
But let’s face it, and let us not blame ourselves, the Lufthansa Heist of December 11th, 1978, is the Greatest Story Ever Told! Well, I don’t really mean that, but it was just a sorta Freudian slip (not exactly, but you get the picture).
I better stick with the prosaic task of giving you a few tips about what to read or what videos to watch on YouTube, so you can become as much of an expert on ‘just business’ as I am. The textbook for this course is the paperback, Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by (naturally) Nicholas Pileggi (1986).
My copy is in storage now, and is so beaten-up and dog-eared, it’s ready for the trash bin, but I’ll hold on to it for its sentimental value. A new edition was published last year, so maybe you (and I) need to pick it up.
A good starting place, is the Wikipedia entry for Henry Hill, which gives you a good summary of Henry’s life of crime and his unsuccessful escape (with Karen) into the witness protection program. Well, since Henry lived for some time (without getting whacked by Jimmy The Gent Burke), it was successful, really. The references and links are good, so click your mouse a little and see what you find!
I’m just going two give you two more, since there’s so much. I almost forgot! You’ll want to watch (if not own) Goodfellas as many times as possible. Well, don’t overdo it, but you may want to try and see where there were errors made, in the depiction of the real scenes lived out by Henry Hill. Two hints are: How did the real Billy Batts’ murder go down? And what was the real Paul Vario (Lucchese crime boss figure) like?
The History Channel’s Lufthansa Heist is quite excellent, and comes in three parts that are accessible on YouTube. I’ll link Part 1 for you at the end of my piece. I can’t get enough detail to satisfy myself on how this heist played out.
The documentary keeps showing the newspaper clippings that were published in real time, as the FBI tried to solve the case. I want to collect these relevant newspaper clippings, just since they’re interesting documents, and captured the public’s fascination with the case. I imagine the Lufthansa Heist must have sold lots of copies for New York newspapers.
If you can get away from this video for a moment (I’ve already watched all three parts three times this morning), I recommend The Real Goodfella (2006), which is Henry Hill’s actual account of what happened to him. How he managed to live until he was 69, I’ll never know!
One would think, his passing is a non-event, and yet for some reason, it’s just the opposite. We have to pull out all the graphic violence once again, and take a closer look at the other side of the American story. Let’s see here…