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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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Gallo's story became the subject of the Jimmy Breslin book The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, which was later turned into a 1971 film. Even Bob Dylan came to admire the sharp tongued gangster, and even wrote a song in his honor, simply titled "Joey."
"I never considered him a gangster,
" said Dylan. "I always thought of him as some kind of hero in some kind of way. An underdog fighting against the elements."
Upon his release from prison in 1971, Gallo did little to squelch his own celebrity. He palled around with actors, most notably the late Jerry Orbach, who played Gallo in the movie version of The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.
"Joey compressed time with us because he knew in the back of his head that he might not have much time, that he could go at any minute," said Orbach. "Consequently, a minute spent talking to Joey was like an hour spent with someone else. There was no 'How's the weather?' or small talk. He was somebody who had to catch a train and get it all in now."
But not everyone was enamored with Gallo's famous status. On April 7, 1942, Gallo was gunned down by a team of shooters while he was eating dinner with his new wife and bodyguard at a restaurant in Little Italy.
His death, not surprisingly, was front-page news. And his celebrity status never waned. In the stories it was pointed out that Gallo had been slated to appear with writer Gore Vidal, Abbie Hoffman and film director Otto Preminger for a discussion of the topic, "How They Cover Me."
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