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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"I was a witness to 20 murders. I dug ten holes. I had to dig one up." Goodfella Henry Hill Talks

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2009 at 1:46 PM

  • Photo by Nicholas Phillips
One day after his arrest for disorderly conduct in Fairview Heights, Illinois, former wiseguy Henry Hill, whose life story inspired the film Goodfellas, agreed to sit down and chat with the Daily RFT.

Daily RFT: What did Goodfellas get right?

Henry Hill: Ninety-five percent of it. Marty [Scorsese] did an amazing job. Watching my life portrayed on the screen - and accurate - it was surreal.

What did the movie get wrong?

Nothing major. They had to combine three or four characters. Like, I had two girlfriends [laughs]. Things like that. I'm glad it wasn't the way they do Hollywood gangster movies. The kids that watch it, they're so fascinated. It's not like that.

How was the real wiseguy life different?
You don't sleep as good at night. I have a conscience, you see. I never personally murdered anyone. I was a witness to 20 murders. I dug ten holes. I had to dig one up.

How did you get into it?

I'm from a blue-collar neighborhood [Brooklyn, New York]. My father -- he was a good provider, we had eight kids, it was an Archie Bunker house. But when those people moved in across the street, and I seen the limousines, and I was so impressed, it just took hold of me. I thought I was a poor kid, even though I wasn't. These guys walking around with two girls on each arm, diamond rings the size of quarters, yachts. And at 12 - 13 years old, I was washing their cars, doing minuscule things. But it was addicting.

They had police under their thumb, the district attorney under their thumb, judges under their thumb, they controlled a bunch of unions. Paulie [Vario] had five brothers, each one had a union. And they had a big voting bloc. That gave them a lot of power. It was the '70s, late '60s, things were different, corruption was normal.

In gangster movies, there seems to be a recurrent tension between that which is business and that which is personal... 

It's always personal in that world. I'm telling you, you make a pass at a guy's girlfriend...They say it's about respect, but people don't respect you. They fear you. They fear what you're gonna do to them. That's not respect.  

How did it feel when the FBI finally played you the tape of your friends [Paul Vario and Jimmy Burke] conspiring to have you whacked?

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