Henry Hill, Gangster and Inspiration for Goodfellas, Dead at 69
Henry Hill, the organized crime boss whose fascinating life story was fashioned into the motion pictures “Goodfellas” and “My Blue Heaven”, died Tuesday due to an undisclosed illness. He was 69. According to TMZ, Hill is survived by his wife and two children.
Hill was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1943. As a kid, he was fascinated with the gangsters, crime, and the Mafia, due in part to the presence of the Lucchese crime family in his neighborhood. As a teenager, Hill started doing errands for Paul Vario, who was well-respected within the family at the time. Despite his numerous contributions to their cause, Hill was never officially a “made” member of the Mafia due to his ancestry. However, that didn’t dissuade Hill in the least, and it was only a matter of time before he left his own mark on the underworld.
Although he managed to get away with a number of crimes over the years, Hill was sentenced to ten years in prison for beating up a gambler who wouldn’t pay his debts. As it turns out, the victim was an FBI agent, and Hill was promptly arrested. During his time in prison, he made a number of drug-related contacts, which used to his advantage once his time had been served.
As his operations grew, so did his notoriety. Before long, Hill discovered that his name was on a hit list, prompting him to become a federal witness and enter the government’s protection program. His testimony ultimately led to the conviction of several top Mafia family members.
Hill’s life story was documented in the book “Wiseguy” by crime reporter Nicholas Pileggi. The book would later serve as the basis for Martin Scorsese’s mob classic “Goodfellas”, which found actor Ray Liotta portraying Henry Hill. Later, the former gangster’s life in witness protection was used as inspiration for “My Blue Heaven”, though Hill’s name was changed to Vincent ‘Vinnie’ Antonelli. The film, which was written by Pileggi’s wife Nora Ephron, starred Steve Martin as Vinnie and Rick Moranis as FBI agent Barney Coopersmith.
After being kicked out of the witness protection program for blowing his cover, Hill embarked on a quest to redeem himself, though he would face a number of drug-related charges along the way. In 2006, he posed with Ray Liotta in a photo shoot for Entertainment Weekly. In 2010, Hill was into the Museum of the American Gangster in New York City.
For more information about Henry Hill, pay a visit to Famous Dead.