4/7/1972 - One of the most famous hits in American organized crime history takes place in the Little Italy area of Manhattan at Umberto's Clam House ... the murder of 43-year-old mob rebel, Joseph "Crazy Joe" Gallo.
Born on 4/6/1929 in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn to Umberto and Mary Gallo, Joe is actually encouraged to go into the criminal business by his bootlegger father (his other two brothers, Larry and Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo also become mob thugs). He earns the moniker of "Crazy Joe" from his excessive imitations of Richard Widmark playing lunatic gangster Tommy Udo in the 1947 crime thriller, The Kiss of Death (Gallo loves the part in the film where Udo pushes an old woman down a flight of stairs to her death, all the while giggling!), and because in 1950 after an arrest, he is sent to Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn where he is evaluated as being schizophrenic (craziness that is put on display when called to Washington D.C. to testify against organized crime, Gallo flirts with Senate Consul Robert F. Kennedy's secretary and tells Kennedy the carpeting in his office would be perfect for rolling dice ... he also keeps a pet lion in the basement of his gang's headquarters for intimidation purposes ... and for its amusement value, at headquarters can also be found a little person mascot, a dwarf called "Mondo the Midget"). Starting out as a hitman and enforcer for the Profaci Crime Family of New York City (Don Corleone in the Godfather is said to have been based on the criminal career of Joseph Profaci), Gallo rackets include running floating card and crap games, extortion games on local businesses, and a numbers betting operation, and with the proceeds from his criminal endeavors, owns several city nightclubs and two garment sweat shops in Manhattan.
Widmark As Tommy Udo
In 1957, Gallo becomes a force to be reckoned with in the Mafia when he is one of the gunmen that takes out one of the most infamous killers in the organization's history ... the former head of Murder Inc. and the top dog of the Mangano Crime Family, Albert Anastasia. Rushing into the barber shop of the Park Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan with a scarf over his face on the morning of October 25, 1957, Gallo and partner Carmine Persico, hole Anastasia numerous times while the gangster is getting a haircut and a shave, leaving an opening for killer Carlo Gambino to take over the family's criminal enterprises.
Thinking the hit will vault him up the ranks of the Profaci Family, Gallo is instead first disappointed, and then incensed when his status doesn't change at all ... and he decides to go after his own boss, Profaci, attempting to kidnap the leaders of the family. Not a bad idea, except that Profaci manages to avoid being snatched and rewards Joe's betrayal by having Gallo consort, Joseph "Joe Jelly" Gioelli killed (notification will be sent to Gallo in the form of Gioelli's clothing being sent to Joe with a large fish stuffed inside), and almost having Larry Gallo strangled to death (as happens in The Godfather II, Gallo is in the process of having a garrote twisted about his neck in a Brooklyn supper club when a passing police officer interrupts the execution). The war is still going on between Gallo and Profaci when Joe, in 1961, is sentenced to 7 to 14 years in the New York state prison for conspiracy and extortion.
Not the normal criminal, Gallo also proves not to be the typical prisoner just trying to keep a low profile and serve out his time ... behind bars, Joe will manage to avoid two attempts on his life, becomes an ally to African-American drug king Nicky Barnes, sues the Department of Corrections for alleged "cruel and unusual punishment" by New York guards, takes up watercolor painting, reads the daily New York Times, operates the elevator to the prison's woodworking shop, becomes conversant on the works of Machiavelli, Ayn Rand, Leo Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, and Existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Satre, plays bridge with his buddies, and saves the lives of several guards during the infamous 1971 Attica prison riot.
Attica - 1971
Released after serving 10 years of his sentence, Gallo finds himself a New York celebrity when he returns to the city in 1971 ... his early days as a thug have been loosely documented in a 1969 book by Jimmy Breslin called "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, a 1971 movie of the book is being made, he is frequently written about in the city's papers, and Gallo begins chumming around town with actor Jerry Orbach (researching the Gallo role of Kid Sally Palumbro in "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight"), actress Joan Hackett, comedian David Steinberg, and writer Peter Stone while living in Greenwich Village. He also marries a former nun turned actress, Sina Essary. New friends, but very old habits ... despite his wandering through New York high society, Gallo never stops being a criminal.
Orbach - 1965
Essary & Gallo
Profaci dead from liver cancer while Gallo is serving time, upon his release, Joe is offered $1,000 in cash as a "get-out-of-jail" gift to bury the hatchet by new family boss, Joseph Anthony "Joe" Colombo, but crazy on display once more, Gallo demands tribute of $100,000 instead, and when told to stick his request in his ear, war back on with a different adversary, the mobster starts planning the death of Colombo. Hit okayed because Colombo has drawn too much attention to the Mafia by denying its very existence as part of the agenda of the Italian-American Civil Rights League he creates in 1970, the mob boss is shot by an African-American hustler, Jerome Johnson, disguised as a photojournalist, at a Italian Unity Day rally on June 28, 1971 (hit in the head and neck, Colombo will survive as a human hospital vegetable until his death from a heart attack at the age of 53 ... Johnson leaves a lot earlier though, as in immediately after shooting Colombo he is killed by an unknown gunman in the crowd before he can identify the hit as being hired out by Gallo).
Colombo - 1970
One enemy down, but the town is still full of other opponents that want Gallo planted as soon as is humanly possible ... a soon that arrives when Gallo lets down his guard on the occasion of the gangster's 43rd birthday. Big night planned, Gallo's birthday evening starts with a trip to the Copacabana Club, where at a ringside table, Gallo, his new wife Sina, Sina's daughter Lisa, his sister Carmella, comedian David Steinberg, actor Jerry Orbach and his wife Marta, and bodyguard Peter "Pete the Greek" Diapoulas (and a female companion) watch Don Rickles perform while drinking bottle after bottle of champagne. When the Copa closes at 4:00 in the morning, the party goes in search of breakfast, coming to ground at the only place anyone can think of as being open at that hour ... Umberto's Clam House on Mulberry Street. Entering and ordering a feast, no one notices Colombo gunman Joseph Luparelli sitting at the bar ... or when he leaves moments later to phone in his Gallo sighting. Raving about the restaurant's scungilli sea snails in clam sauce, Gallo is in the process of ordering a second helping of the dish when the door of the restaurant bursts in and four gunmen enter and begin shooting at Gallo. As if in a Hollywood movie, Gallo knocks over the thick butcher block table he has been sitting at, and uses its bulk to hide behind as he fires at the men trying to kill him. Over in a matter of seconds that seem to last forever, the hitmen fire 20 bullets at Gallo ... 17 ventilate the restaurant and its furniture, while 3 others fatally find Gallo (bodyguard Diapoulas is wounded in the exchange). Struck in the arm, leg, and neck, Gallo manages to exit the restaurant's front door, but falls in the street outside, and is dead from blood loss shortly after an ambulance arrives at the site.
Body Bag Ride For Gallo
No one is ever charged for Gallo's death!