Henry Hill, Goodfellas Mobster, Dead at 69
"He had been sick for a long time...his heart gave out," revealed his long-time girlfriend, Lisa Caserta, who also added Hill spent his last years focusing on healing his relationships with family members.
The son of an Irish father and Sicilian mother, Hill could never be a "made" Mafia member because he wasn't a full-blooded Italian, but his charm and cunning made him welcome inside the Lucchese crime family. Hill soon became a close associate and friend of Paul Vario, one of the more respected Capos in the family. In his teenage years, Henry would do errands for Vario and his crew and eventually moved to more serious crime. His time in the Mafia would span three decades, beginning in 1955.
Like the character played by Ray Liotta in Scorsese's film, Hill lived up to the gangster image by having a number of affairs, staying out until all hours drinking, partying, and playing cards. After beating up a non-paying gambler whose sister happened to work at the F.B.I., Hill was sentenced to 10 years in jail. Once inside, he soon realized Mafia members received preferential treatment by convicts and guards, who were paid off by crime families.
After his release, Hill used his prison narcotics contacts to shift large amounts of cocaine from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh. As his operation grew, so did Hill's own addiction to the drug. It was only when Hill realized he was next on the hit list that he became a federal witness. Hill, his wife, and their two children entered the Witness Protection Program in 1980. His testimony brought down some of New York's most feared mobsters, including Paul Vario. Two years later, though, he was thrown out of the protection program due to his inability to stay out of the limelight.
Hill was the basis for author Nicholas Pileggi's book Wiseguy, which in turn, Scorsese turned into Goodfellas. Pileggi's wife, Nora Ephron, also used Hill as the inspiration behind the film, My Blue Heaven, which starred Steve Martin as former mobster Vincent "Vinnie" Antonelli. Some view it as a prequel to Goodfellas since it was released a month prior.
Hill, who took strides to reform his life and remained in the public eye up until his death, leaves behind his two children.
Got something to say?blog comments powered by Disqus
More from BIO Now
Actors With the Worst Onscreen Hair...Like, in All EternityMay 23, 2013 10:00AM byEudie PakDoes Ginger Rogers Look Like Christina Aguilera?May 22, 2013 10:36AM byThad Morgan