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New York gangster Joey Gallo was both a hero and villain; a very public criminal who hung out with pop stars and was immortalized in the Bob Dylan song, Joey.
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Mobster Joey Gallo was born April 7, 1929, in Brooklyn, New York. The man commonly known as Crazy Joey also had a softer side. He liked to write poetry and became known for befriending pop stars and poets. But his self promotion did not sit well with New York's mafia leaders, and he was gunned down in mid-bite at his favorite New York restaurant on April 7, 1972.
Joseph Gallo was born on April 7, 1929 in Brooklyn, New York. One of three sons, Gallo grew up in a world shaped by crime. His father was a bootlegger during the Prohibition era, and he encouraged his boys—Larry, Joey and Albert, who went by the name of Kid Blast—to be "hoodlums and killers" and "remove all competition in their illegal enterprises."
Joey was small—he only grew to be 5 feet 6 inches—and had blonde hair that initially earned him the nickname "Joey the Blonde." From an early age, Gallo had a show business sense about him and his chosen profession. He saw himself as a Jimmy Cagney or George Raft, both stylish leading men of a number of early Hollywood gangster movies.
"I could have worked my way up to head soda jerk at Whelan's Drugstore," Joey said later in life, "but what kind of life is that for a guy like me?"
Joey had a ruthless streak, albeit one that was a bit schizophrenic. That was the diagnosis of the young hoodlum during his stay at Kings County Hospital in 1950. Within a decade, however, Joey was a mid-sized Brooklyn vending machine racketeer and the head of a gang he called the "Mod Squad," which included such members as Vinnie the Sicilian and Sammy the Syrian.
Gallo was enough of a player that, in 1958, he was called to Washington to testify before Robert Kennedy and the Senate Crime Committee. Gallo, undaunted by the setting, quipped, "Nice carpet you got here," upon walking into Kennedy's office. "Good for a crap game."
By early 1961 Joey and his brothers had assembled a successful jukebox racketeering operation. It had originally been under the auspices of the Profaci (later the Colombo) mob family. But then the Gallos broke away, and when they did, they did so with a brazen disregard for territory already staked out by more established syndicates. The Profacis declared war on Joey and his crew, beginning most notably with Larry Gallo's death. For months the two factions fought a bloody battle that only concluded when Joey was sentenced in late '61 on extortion charges.
At that point, however, Gallo was a regular front-page feature in New York newspapers. Reporters fell in love with the story of this rag-tag bunch of mobsters trying to move in on the bigger, more established syndicates.
Gallo's prison time amounted to ten years, during which he worked hard to establish alliances with African-American and Italian gangsters. He was careful to nurture his name recognition, too. From his prison cell, Gallo went public with his fight against the Klu Klux Klan influence he saw inside the prison system.
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Bootleggers, smugglers, drug dealers, hit men—all these occupations are the provenance of mobsters, who operate in ethnic, family and business networks. Mobsters' real life crimes, and Hollywood's fascination with them, has earned them a special place in the American imagination. From Al Capone's Chicago crime ring to Bugsy Siegel's Las Vegas racket, these mobsters have made their names notorious from coast to coast.
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Famous People Born in 1929 59 people in this group