Henry Hill, the onetime mobster whose life inspired the film Goodfellas, died in Los Angeles at the age of 69 yesterday.
Hill's fairy tale gangster life and his part in a record-breaking “Lufthansa heist” of 1978 were captured in the 1986 book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, which formed the basis of Goodfellas and …
… stoked America's nostalgia for Mafia culture perhaps more than any other film since The Godfather.
[Warning NSFW language]:
The website GoodFellaHenry last night stated:
Henry passed away in an L.A. hospital Tuesday. He leaves friends and family behind who enjoyed (?) his roller coaster vigor and enthusiasm for life and laughs. He will be missed.
TMZ states that Hill's girlfriend confirmed that he had died after battling an undisclosed illness for a while: ” … His heart gave out,” she told the site.
Goodfellas documented Hill's life as a Lucchese crime family associate who started out as a neighborhood errand boy in Brooklyn and worked his way up through the mob by taking part in successful robberies.
His criminal success was rare in the mob: Hill was only half Italian (and half Irish), which prevented him from becoming a “made man” or full member of the family.
After the Lufthansa heist he turned to drugs, become an informant, and ultimately entered a federal witness protection program.
Later he was booted out of the program for breaking the rules. Hill reveled in his mob history and even once opened a restaurant called Wisdeguys.
In later appearances on Howard Stern's radio show he didn't seem worried about the enemies he made as an informant and his lack of witness protection: By that time, most of his rivals, he noted, were six feet under.