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Old May 27th, 2007, 11:54 PM   #1
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The real Goodfellas and other places of Mob History (Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau Co.)

If you have watched the movie Goodfellas, you might know that it is based on a true story. I read the book on Henry Hill by Nicholas Pileggi and found the real story behind the movie to be more interesting than the movie itself.

So when I went to New York I checked out the places where the real characters that were depicted in the movie hung out and lived. The book had a wealth of information on places where the real story behind the movie took place: often it contained actual addresses, other times I had to deduce where things were.

Since I was in Brooklyn and Queens anyways, I also decided to check some spots where Mob history was made that have nothing to do with the movie itself.

Most of the areas I checked have changed dramatically since the 60s and 70s when most of the events took place and one could never guess that Cosa Nostra had a presence or conducted business in some of those buildings.

Let’s start:

Henry Hill is the main character and the only narrator in the movie, he’s played by Ray Liotta. This is his real childhood home in East New York, Brooklyn. The house looks fairly similar to what is shown at the beginning of the movie. The neighborhood seemed to be largely black, although I think it was mixed Italian and Jewishin the 40s and 50s.

This Auto Junkyard on Avenue D was once owned by Paul Vario, an underboss of the Lucchese Crime Family.

Paul Sorvino’s role as Paul Cicero was based on the real Paul Vario :

This building with a an employment agency for nurses used to be Geffkens Bar/restaurant, one of the places where Vario used to conduct business from.

A fence company right next to it

Since I was in the area, I went to the formerly Jewish neighborhood of Brownsville to check out the former headquarters of Murder, Inc.: a former organized crime group composed by Jewish and Italian gangsters who carried out countless murders for the mob and other criminals in the 1930s and 40s. Midnight Rose was a 24 hours candy store where the hitmen would assemble and get their assignments. It is now a Deli Grocery Store.

Then a detour heading north to Bushwick, specifically to Knickerbocker Ave., which was apparently once nicknamed the “the well” for its endless supply of drugs. Here Carmine (Lilo) Galante was murdered in 1979 in the grotto of what was once Joe and Mary’s Italian American Restaurant. The building looks plain and nondescript.

A photo of the murdered Carmine Galante with a cigar in his mouth I got on the internet:

Knickerbocker Ave. was bustling with shoppers.

Driving around Brooklyn:

Next stop is Ozone Park, specifically to the former Bergin Hunt & Fish club, which used to be the headquarters of boss John Gotti of the Gambino crime family. The Bergin was located on the left portion of this building, after the Gotti era it became a butcher shop and now it’s an innocent Medical Supply Store and Cat & Dog Grooming Salon

The Bergin as it used to be (photo from the internet):

Gotti getting on his mercedes in front of the Bergin (photo obtained from the net)

Some photos of Ozone Park:

Back to Goodfellas: the next stop was the infamous Robert’s Lounge, which was owned by Jimmy Burke (an Irish gangster played in the movie by DeNiro) and was a hungout for his crew. The well known Lufthansa heist (the biggest at the time, netting the robbers $5 million in cash and $875,000 in jewels) was planned here. The Heist had the approval of the Lucchese and Gambino crime families, which controlled criminal activities and union activities at JFK airport respectively). Jimmy Burke also used the backyard of the bar to bury Remo (his friend from San Remo, Italy, who betrayed him by becoming a police informant and) under a layer of cement next to the bocce court. The actual murder of Remo happened in a car: Remo was strangled using a piano wire. That murder inspired the scene of the murder of Morris (the guy from the wig shop) in the movie. Since that day, every time, Burke or Tommy DeSimone (who is played in the movie by Joe Pesci) played they would jokingly say, "Hey Remo, how're you doing?”. The body was removed before the police searched Robert’s Lounge. Now the bar has become a Caribbean restaurant.

While the actual Robert's Lounge building is not shown in the movie, it's fictionally represented as the small bar in the scene where the crew meets around Christmas to celebrate the success of the heist. Furthermore, it was in the basement of Robert's Lounge that the real Michel "Spider" Gianco was killed by Tommy DeSimone (played by Pesci, as mentioned earlier), as shown in the movie.

Photos of Jimmy Burke (played by Robert DeNiro) I found on the net:

Photos of Tommy Desimone (played by Joe Pesci in the movie) from the net:

The last stop is Paul Vario’s house on Island Park, in Long Island. He lived in this house in the idyllic suburbs and had his own boat, which he never named as he was quite paranoid about associating his name with anything: he didn't have a telephone, and anytime he was arrested he would give his mother's address to the police. Henry Hill moved in the neighborhood for a while after he got married but didn't remain long.

Someone with torpedoes on his front yard

After I was done with visiting the sites I wanted to, I went north towards the wealthy Anglo-Saxon neighborhoods along the Long Island Sound. Here are some pics of the Long Island sound at dusk

That’s the end. I hope you enjoyed the little bit of urban history presented here.

I took more photos during my trip to New York and visited Bensonhurst, Elizabeth (NJ), Easton (PA), and Camden (NJ). I will post more threads on these places soon.

Last edited by urbane; May 28th, 2007 at 05:43 PM.
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Old May 27th, 2007, 11:55 PM   #2
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Sorry, I meant it to be in the Cityscapes section.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 01:07 AM   #3
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That was so frigging cool man. Awesome stuff.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 01:31 AM   #4
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cool shit, you should put this in the NYC forum too
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Old May 28th, 2007, 02:02 AM   #5
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Thanks. I have added more information regarding Robert's Lounge as well as some historic photos I found on the net of the Bergin.

I've asked a moderator to move this to the Cityscape section.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 08:15 AM   #6
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Cool. Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies of all time. I'm also slightly into the old mob/mafia history too. That's weird to see the actual places where all of this stuff went down. Thanks.

To give you more info on what happened to Henry Hill (Ray Liotta's character) he was moved to where I live, Omaha, in the witness protection program. It's the place where he went to get spaghetti and got "noodles and ketchup". (On behalf of my city I don't know where this would actually happen. Must be a figure of speech.)

Hill also opened up restaurant in North Platte, NE (VERY rural, central NE) a few years ago but was busted for drug dealing twice. I'm not sure what happened to him after that. Now if you'll excuse me I've got a shinebox to get back to.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 08:53 AM   #7
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Wow, mobsters are so cool they even get killed with cigars in their mouths.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 09:16 AM   #8
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This has to be one of the most interesting threads I've ever seen on SSC. Really great work! Excellent research too.

Good work!
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Old May 28th, 2007, 08:44 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by city_thing View Post
This has to be one of the most interesting threads I've ever seen on SSC. Really great work! Excellent research too.

Good work!
Here here.

Loved the tour.
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Old May 28th, 2007, 10:19 PM   #10
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Awesome friggin thread! Good fellas is one of my favorite movies. Ive been to some of these places before. This is officially one of my favorite threads.

So uh, urbane, where's ma money? You aint give me nothin yet...
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Old May 29th, 2007, 12:28 AM   #11
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Great focking thread.
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Old June 4th, 2007, 06:55 PM   #12
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LOL! That's funny! The guy with the torpedo, he's at the end of my block, its like an arrow pointing to my house! The area is actually called Harbor Isle (the Island Park zip code is made up of the Village of Island Park, Harbor Isle and Barnum Isle which are not part of the inc. village).

While you were there you should have gone a little farther and taken a picture of Vincent Palermo's house. He was an acting boss for the DeCavelcante family (NJ) and is who Tony Soprano is based off of. Harbor Isle had a lot of mob history. On the south side are three bungelos where during prohibition a large amount of the alcohol was brought in by the rum runners. Harbor Isle, and most of LI was not developed at that point. My grandparents were one of the first to move into Harbor Isle in 1953.
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Old November 9th, 2009, 01:05 AM   #13
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This deserves a bump.
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Old November 9th, 2009, 06:37 PM   #14
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Really interesting photos you posted @urbane
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Old November 26th, 2012, 08:56 PM   #15
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Cool post. Do you have the address for Henry Hill's house? I'd like to go see it.
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Old May 14th, 2013, 03:05 AM   #16
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Great Post Urbane!

Thank you!
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Old May 14th, 2013, 10:41 AM   #17
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look nice!!

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Old May 14th, 2013, 03:39 PM   #18
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Interesting to see where these animals/peasants actually conducted their reign of terror.
World's 1st Baseball Game: June 4th, 1838, Beachville, Ontario, Canada
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I started my first photo thread documenting a recent trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Have a peek: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=724898
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Old May 15th, 2013, 03:45 PM   #19
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great stuff man. it was very interesting.
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