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  #1  
Old 09-27-2012, 11:59 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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"Goodfellas" Question: Running an "Independent" Crime Gang

This old flick was on yesterday-I watched some of it because I always enjoyed mob-type movies. at any rate, I understand that the movie version was pretty accurate..so I have a question:
the gang that Henry Hill belongs to is NOT a Mafia "Family"-it is an independent organization. In order to operate, it pays a percentage of its income to the local Mafia chapter.
But, as Hill finds out, it's extremely difficult to avoid stepping on some "Made Member's" toes- when his friend is invited to join the Mafia, they shoot him in the head (at the "coming out" ceremony.)
Was this how Henry's cocaine distribution business got busted? Was he working on someone else's territory?
I got the feeling that he was set up by the local Mafia-they told the police about the operation, and getting rid of Hill was obviously what they wanted.
In any case, Hill knew that he could never enlist in the regular Mob-you had to be 100% Sicilian to do so.
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  #2  
Old 09-27-2012, 12:02 PM
astorian astorian is offline
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
This old flick was on yesterday-I watched some of it because I always enjoyed mob-type movies. at any rate, I understand that the movie version was pretty accurate..so I have a question:
the gang that Henry Hill belongs to is NOT a Mafia "Family"-it is an independent organization. In order to operate, it pays a percentage of its income to the local Mafia chapter.
But, as Hill finds out, it's extremely difficult to avoid stepping on some "Made Member's" toes- when his friend is invited to join the Mafia, they shoot him in the head (at the "coming out" ceremony.)
Was this how Henry's cocaine distribution business got busted? Was he working on someone else's territory?
I got the feeling that he was set up by the local Mafia-they told the police about the operation, and getting rid of Hill was obviously what they wanted.
In any case, Hill knew that he could never enlist in the regular Mob-you had to be 100% Sicilian to do so.
Tommy DeVito did a LOT more than "step on toes." He killed Billy Batts, who was a made Mafia man. THAT'S what he was executed for.
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:13 PM
fiddlesticks fiddlesticks is offline
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Being "made" gave you a certain level of status and protection. I don't think it was ever implied or suggested that Henry was busted by the cops because someone from the Mafia-side ratted, he was busted because he got sloppy after he started using too much of his product. Yes, local boss Paul was against dealing dope, but he didn't have any role in Henry's getting pinched. Like Henry said in the voiceover, if he had crossed Paul irreparably, he would have been taken out like Tommy, not arrested.

Last edited by fiddlesticks; 09-27-2012 at 12:16 PM..
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  #4  
Old 09-27-2012, 12:48 PM
Laggard Laggard is offline
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Those old mob bosses hate drug dealing. I never understood if it was an ethical thing or if it just made it too easy to attract law enforcement .
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:49 PM
Covered_In_Bees! Covered_In_Bees! is offline
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As they said in the movie, cocaine and drug crimes in general get you a lot of time. Which in turn promotes someone ratting out a crew to not go to jail forever. Like what Henry Hill did and exactly why.
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Old 09-27-2012, 12:51 PM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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Those old mob bosses hate drug dealing. I never understood if it was an ethical thing or if it just made it too easy to attract law enforcement .
In the Godfather at least, they mention that the cops and politicians on their payroll find it easier to turn a blind eye to "harmless" vices like gambling and prostitution.
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  #7  
Old 09-27-2012, 12:59 PM
sciurophobic sciurophobic is offline
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Henry wasn't part of an "independent" crime family. He was associated with the Lucchese Family.

Henry Hill
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  #8  
Old 09-27-2012, 01:11 PM
puddleglum puddleglum is offline
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The reason the mob boss did not want Henry dealing with drugs is because prosecutors were targeting drug dealers with the RICO act. Pauly could have been prosecuted for Henry's drug dealing because Henry was under Pauly in the mafia structure regardless of any actual involvement in the drug dealing. In general the Italian mafia did not use police to arrest people they wanted gone, they just killed them. Henry knew about numerous illegal actions by Pauly and ended up testifying against Pauly and his other fellow criminals. If Pauly had found out about the drug dealing there is no way he would have gone to the police about it.
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Old 09-27-2012, 01:17 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
:
the gang that Henry Hill belongs to is NOT a Mafia "Family"-it is an independent organization. In order to operate, it pays a percentage of its income to the local Mafia chapter.
Incorrect. They acted under the wing of capo Paul Vario of the Lucchese family and were considered part of his crew which would include both made men and associates like Henry Hill and Jimmy "the Gent" Burke. That they operated semi-autonomously and paid tribute was pretty standard practice, made men or not. That's how the mafia worked. You were expected to go out and earn and that was how you accrued influence.

Quote:
But, as Hill finds out, it's extremely difficult to avoid stepping on some "Made Member's" toes- when his friend is invited to join the Mafia, they shoot him in the head (at the "coming out" ceremony.)
Tommy DeSimone was a psychopath and he stepped on far to many toes. In particular he appears to have attempted to rape Hill's wife who was having an affair with Paul Vario ( none of this is in the film ) and in retaliation Vario gave him up to the Gambino family for both the "Billy Batts" murder and another Gambino man Ronald "Foxy" Jerothe.

Quote:
Was this how Henry's cocaine distribution business got busted? Was he working on someone else's territory?
As noted in that entry on the Vario crew, the son of one of his partners got busted, which led the Feds to Hill, who then gave up his connections ( Vario and Burke most prominently ). Pretty standard working up the ladder police work.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 09-27-2012 at 01:19 PM..
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  #10  
Old 09-29-2012, 08:23 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Originally Posted by fiddlesticks View Post
Being "made" gave you a certain level of status and protection. I don't think it was ever implied or suggested that Henry was busted by the cops because someone from the Mafia-side ratted, he was busted because he got sloppy after he started using too much of his product. Yes, local boss Paul was against dealing dope, but he didn't have any role in Henry's getting pinched. Like Henry said in the voiceover, if he had crossed Paul irreparably, he would have been taken out like Tommy, not arrested.
Thanks for the reply. I was interested by your use of "pinched" for being arrested-I always thought that was a Boston expression.
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  #11  
Old 09-29-2012, 08:53 AM
aldiboronti aldiboronti is offline
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It's a myth that the old mob bosses hated drug dealing. Carlo Gambino, Joe Bonnano, etc, all made millions from narcotics. Joe Bonnano went over to Palermo in the 50s to set up an arrangement with the Sicilian Mafia to import heroin into the US. Of course, in his self-serving autobiography he trots out the usual nonsense that he never dealt in narcotics. What the bosses did insist on was that narcotic trafficking was engaged in solely under the boss's orders. If they set up deals for themselves and were caught then they died.

As for independent gangs, many of the guys that worked with the Mafia had their own crews. Like the Westies' deal with Paul Castellano, some of the independent gang's profits would be kicked upstairs to the Mafia and in return the gang would be under Mafia protection in their dealings with other gangs.

Core membership of the Mafia was kept deliberately small. Sometimes the 'books' were kept closed for years and years with no new members created, then they would open the books and some Italian-American associates would become 'made men' and full Mafiosi. (Another myth was that you had to be Sicilian. About the only NY boss that stuck to that was Salvatore Maranzano in the 1920s, but when Joe Bonnano took over that family the rule didn't last long. In general all you needed was both your parents to be of Italian ancestry. Albert Anastasia, for instance, was from Calabria and John Gotti was a Neapolitan. The Italian ancestry rule was strictly enforced, if only one parent was Italian you could never join the Mafia.)
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  #12  
Old 09-29-2012, 09:04 AM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Thanks-the Mafia bosses who ran the outlying cities (Boston, Providence RI, Buffalo) were a pretty low rent lot. Raymond Patriarca (Providence Mob Boss) was notoriously cheap-his "cover job" was running a vending machine company-which lost money. The last Boston boss to be busted was running a cheese shop.
But some of the associated gangs were terrible (the "Westies"-an Irish east Side mob-NYC) handled the contract killings for Paul Castellano-they were true psychopaths.
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  #13  
Old 09-29-2012, 10:13 PM
WreckingCrew WreckingCrew is online now
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
Thanks-the Mafia bosses who ran the outlying cities (Boston, Providence RI, Buffalo) were a pretty low rent lot. Raymond Patriarca (Providence Mob Boss) was notoriously cheap-his "cover job" was running a vending machine company-which lost money. .
Patriarca's vending machines did not lose money for two very good reasons. One, people had to pay him rent to have his machines in their businesses. It was cover for his protection racket. Two, most of them were cigarette machines selling packs he never paid taxes on. All in all much nicer than having to haul garbage for your cover.
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Old 09-29-2012, 10:28 PM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
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Originally Posted by aldiboronti View Post
As for independent gangs, many of the guys that worked with the Mafia had their own crews. Like the Westies' deal with Paul Castellano, some of the independent gang's profits would be kicked upstairs to the Mafia and in return the gang would be under Mafia protection in their dealings with other gangs.

Italian ancestry rule was strictly enforced, if only one parent was Italian you could never join the Mafia.)
Why did your parents have to be Italian?

Do I understand correctly that the mafia's influence came from its ability to exert more violence than regular gangs and thereby protect other gangs? That would mean they had to be the biggest enforcer around. Yet their membership was small. How did they manage to set themselves up and continue to be the main source of violence/protection from other gangs if their membership was small?
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Old 09-29-2012, 10:45 PM
AClockworkMelon AClockworkMelon is offline
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Originally Posted by MichaelEmouse View Post
Why did your parents have to be Italian?

Do I understand correctly that the mafia's influence came from its ability to exert more violence than regular gangs and thereby protect other gangs? That would mean they had to be the biggest enforcer around. Yet their membership was small. How did they manage to set themselves up and continue to be the main source of violence/protection from other gangs if their membership was small?
"Membership" is just referring to made men. Presumably they had a far greater number of associates.
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Old 09-29-2012, 11:08 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Why did your parents have to be Italian?
Bigotry . Also having an insular in-group at one time allowed greater internal control. Remember the mafia was more or less imported from Italy and was originally a highly clannish group.

Quote:
Do I understand correctly that the mafia's influence came from its ability to exert more violence than regular gangs and thereby protect other gangs? That would mean they had to be the biggest enforcer around. Yet their membership was small. How did they manage to set themselves up and continue to be the main source of violence/protection from other gangs if their membership was small?
Again, it is mistake to say associates are not part of the mafia. They're not part of the inner leadership, but Gotti was still interested in killing Tommy DeSimone not just for the killing of made man "Billy Batts", but also ( if to a lesser extent ) for the killing of associate "Foxy" Jerothe.

If for example you go peruse the wikipedia on the Lucchese family, which Hill operated for, you'll see they list membership at 115-140 made members and 1,100+ associates. You can still make a pretty penny and gain a lot of influence without ever being made, a la Jimmy Burke. You just were locked out of the upper hierarchy. And if you were Italian, you could eventually hope to be made one day, as nearly happened with police infiltrator "Donnie Brasco."

Gangs like the Westies that were not part of a crew, but rather were more like independent sub-contractors, usually didn't buck the system because they simply didn't have the organization or numbers that the Five Families, and on a more national level The Commission, could bring to bear. The Mafia dominated organized crime for so long because they were exceptionally well-organized and remained relatively impenetrable to outsiders for decades, in part due to that Italian clannishness.

If you add up all the made men that wikipedia lists for the Five Families ( we'll set aside how accurate they may or may not be ) you get currently 670-820 made men and 5,000+ associates. That's a lot of potential organized muscle and there were undoubtedly more back in the day.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 09-29-2012 at 11:09 PM..
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  #17  
Old 09-29-2012, 11:14 PM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
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If I may ask broader questions:

How was the mafia well organized?

You mention being a made man and the upper hierarchy. What advantages and obligations did being a made man bring?
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Old 09-30-2012, 12:13 AM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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If I may ask broader questions:

How was the mafia well organized?
They had a loosely hierarchical organization, reaching all the way up to a national governing structure ( The Commission ), as well as regional structures like the Five Families and for brief time a quasi-familial enforcement arm ( The Combination ). This allowed them to apportion territory and rackets, as well as smooth feuds in a more organized fashion than any local gang. For quite a long time its national reach was unrivaled by any other criminal group.

It was still chaotic and prone to internal violence - these are career criminals after all . But it was like the difference between say, the vicious military junta in Burma and the chaotic warlords in Somalia.

Quote:
You mention being a made man and the upper hierarchy. What advantages and obligations did being a made man bring?
Potential advancement up the ranks ( from soldier to capo for example ) and a slightly greater degree of protection from casual murder mostly. One could run your own crew ( or sub-crew ) without it ( like Jimmy Burke ), but even Burke theoretically had to step to it in public if any made man snapped his fingers. Course with Burke you were liable to end up dead if you did ( as with Batts or Paolo LiCastri ), but he had to make damn sure he didn't get caught.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 09-30-2012 at 12:13 AM..
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  #19  
Old 09-30-2012, 10:44 AM
Lochdale Lochdale is offline
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The Chicago Outfit, arguably the single most powerful family of the Italian mafia had non-Italian made members.

Low life reprobates come from all walks of life.
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  #20  
Old 09-30-2012, 10:54 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Huh. He died on my birthday. (Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were also killed on my birthday. And Gregory Peck, Medgar Evers, and Bill Blass, among others.)
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  #21  
Old 09-30-2012, 01:27 PM
Lochdale Lochdale is offline
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I'm not much of a fan of the gangster movie genre as they tend to glamorize scum. Goodfellas, however, did a nice job of avoiding that cliche. Indeed, one of the arcs was to glamorize the lifestyle at the beginning and then through the course of the movie show the reality of the grubby, sad lives they had.

Last edited by Lochdale; 09-30-2012 at 01:28 PM..
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  #22  
Old 09-30-2012, 05:57 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is online now
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So, except for how he misinterprets the movie on five or six major plot points, the OP raises a valid question?
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  #23  
Old 09-30-2012, 06:09 PM
GrandWino GrandWino is offline
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The Chicago Outfit, arguably the single most powerful family of the Italian mafia had non-Italian made members.
True story... My boss at my last job is dating a member of the Chicago Outfit. He's married but she's been his piece on the side for a few years now. If you Google his name, you get all kinds of fun info on him including his name on an org-chart of the Chicago Outfit put out by the FBI, as well as news articles about two different murders he was accused of (acquitted both times.) There's also an old book (70s, I think) about the Chicago Outfit that has his picture in it.

I've spent time with the guy a bunch of times, including hanging out at some old Chicago bars/restaurants that are definitely "connected." He's very nice, and soft-spoken, but if you piss him off he'll stare daggers right through your soul. He doesn't take kindly to cracks about Italians or organized crime (not me, but someone else made that mistake.)
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Old 09-30-2012, 06:29 PM
Ashley Pomeroy Ashley Pomeroy is offline
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Huh. He died on my birthday. (Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman were also killed on my birthday. And Gregory Peck, Medgar Evers, and Bill Blass, among others.)
Can you explain why you have this compulsion to kill on your birthday? Is it something to do with confronting our own mortality - and aren't you worried that the police might finally realise that it was you all along? I mean, the pattern is dead obvious.

Anyway, who do you have lined up next? You've got eight months to pick someone. You weren't responsible for this, were you? Sorry about all the questions by the way. I'm not famous, so I'm probably not on your list. Good.

Last edited by Ashley Pomeroy; 09-30-2012 at 06:29 PM..
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  #25  
Old 09-30-2012, 08:35 PM
Ike Witt Ike Witt is online now
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I am curious as to how come Hank and Jimmy escape punishment for Billy Batts death?
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Old 09-30-2012, 10:15 PM
ExTank ExTank is offline
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I am curious as to how come Hank and Jimmy escape punishment for Billy Batts death?
I can't say for certain how it all really went down, but in the movie, it was only Tommy getting mouthy/violent to Batts, while Henry and Jimmy were respectful and trying to calm things down.

As Big Pussy Bonpensiero told Christopher, "They know, but they don't know."

As such, I think they didn't have enough to make a case against Henry and Jimmy, while Tommy's getting clipped was, in the words of Henry Hill, "It was revenge for Billy Batts, and a lot of other things."

Ike, you're a New Yorker from way back, right? What do you remember from back then?
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  #27  
Old 09-30-2012, 11:47 PM
The Other Jeffrey Lebowski The Other Jeffrey Lebowski is offline
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But some of the associated gangs were terrible (the "Westies"-an Irish east Side mob-NYC) handled the contract killings for Paul Castellano-they were true psychopaths.
The Westies operated out of Hell's Kitchen, which is on the West side of Manhattan.

Last edited by The Other Jeffrey Lebowski; 09-30-2012 at 11:48 PM..
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  #28  
Old 10-01-2012, 01:18 AM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
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The Westies operated out of Hell's Kitchen, which is on the West side of Manhattan.
So their name wasn't a clever ploy to throw off the police?
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  #29  
Old 10-01-2012, 02:56 AM
The Other Jeffrey Lebowski The Other Jeffrey Lebowski is offline
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No, but it might have been a ploy to throw off ralph124c.
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:39 AM
Ibn Warraq Ibn Warraq is offline
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
This old flick was on yesterday-I watched some of it because I always enjoyed mob-type movies. at any rate, I understand that the movie version was pretty accurate..so I have a question:
the gang that Henry Hill belongs to is NOT a Mafia "Family"-it is an independent organization. In order to operate, it pays a percentage of its income to the local Mafia chapter.
But, as Hill finds out, it's extremely difficult to avoid stepping on some "Made Member's" toes- when his friend is invited to join the Mafia, they shoot him in the head (at the "coming out" ceremony.)
Was this how Henry's cocaine distribution business got busted? Was he working on someone else's territory?
I got the feeling that he was set up by the local Mafia-they told the police about the operation, and getting rid of Hill was obviously what they wanted.
In any case, Hill knew that he could never enlist in the regular Mob-you had to be 100% Sicilian to do so.
Henry Hill was associated with the Lucchese family.

Paul Cicero(played by Paul Sorvino) was in actuality Paul Vario, a lieutenant(or Capo if you prefer) for the Lucchese family.

For those not aware, most of the people in the movie were given slightly different names than their real life counterparts. For example Jimmy Conway(played by Robert De Nero) was actually Jimmy Burke.
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Old 10-01-2012, 09:54 AM
puddleglum puddleglum is offline
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Originally Posted by MichaelEmouse View Post
If I may ask broader questions:

How was the mafia well organized?

You mention being a made man and the upper hierarchy. What advantages and obligations did being a made man bring?
The advantage of being in the hierachy meant that everyone under you had to pay you part of their earnings. It is like multilevel marketing the more people under you the more you get paid for not working.
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  #32  
Old 10-01-2012, 10:09 AM
Philster Philster is offline
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Goodfellas and The Sopranos nailed it. There are nuances so well nuanced that most people will never understand how right they got it.

There are no set rules about some things, such as drugs. Drugs were an issue to some individuals, families, parts of families, etc. There's a set of intangibles about certain things that prevent anyone from making absolute statements.
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  #33  
Old 10-01-2012, 10:45 AM
Ibn Warraq Ibn Warraq is offline
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So their name wasn't a clever ploy to throw off the police?

Actually that was a nickname given to then by the newspapers.

IIRC, they always referred to themselves as either "Coonan's crew" or "Hells Kitchen's Irish Mob."
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  #34  
Old 10-01-2012, 10:50 AM
Jophiel Jophiel is offline
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For those not aware, most of the people in the movie were given slightly different names than their real life counterparts. For example Jimmy Conway(played by Robert De Nero) was actually Jimmy Burke.
I always assumed this was for artistic latitude; you didn't have to worry so much about straying from the truth since the characters were nominally fictional. Was there any additional reason or was that it?
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Old 10-01-2012, 11:07 AM
Ibn Warraq Ibn Warraq is offline
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I always assumed this was for artistic latitude; you didn't have to worry so much about straying from the truth since the characters were nominally fictional. Was there any additional reason or was that it?

Possibly to avoid getting sued. Also it allowed them to compress certain events. For example, Henry Hill never went on double dates with Tommy DeSimmone(Tommy DeVito in the movie). Those were with Paul Vario's son or nephew(I can't remember which).
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  #36  
Old 10-01-2012, 11:12 AM
Jophiel Jophiel is offline
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I consider compression to fall under "Artistic latitude" (telling a better story) but didn't know if there was a realistic chance of someone suing either for damages due to defamation or for part of the profits with their likeness being used.
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  #37  
Old 10-01-2012, 11:54 AM
GrandWino GrandWino is offline
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Just have to add in my favorite bit of Goodfellas trivia. When Nicholas Pileggi was researching his book "Wiseguys," which the film is based on, he conducted a lot of interviews with Henry Hill. With Pileggi at those interviews was Pileggi's wife, the late Nora Ephron. Ephron took her own notes during the interviews and used them to write her own movie based on Hill - the Steve Martin/Rick Moranis mob/witness protection comedy My Blue Heaven.

My Blue Heaven came out a month before Goodfellas, so you could accurately call Goodfellas a prequel of MBH.
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  #38  
Old 10-06-2012, 04:06 PM
Ike Witt Ike Witt is online now
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Ok, I had no idea about the genesis of My Blue Heaven. I'm going to have to watch it again.

And I'll watch Goodfellas again, because I don't seem to ever get tired of it. I may read Wiseguys again too.

Last edited by Ike Witt; 10-06-2012 at 04:07 PM..
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  #39  
Old 12-07-2012, 05:57 PM
skdo23 skdo23 is offline
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You mention being a made man and the upper hierarchy. What advantages and obligations did being a made man bring?
In the book Donnie Brasco, FBI Agent Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp's character in the movie version) emphasizes that one of the advantages to being "made" was that you were allowed to be present when Mafioso discussed business involving other crews/families or otherwise referenced activities that the made guy was not directly involved in. Of course, this would have been of extra importance to an undercover agent such as Pistone/Brasco, as being made would have made him privy to much more information that he could provide to the FBI.
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  #40  
Old 12-07-2012, 07:13 PM
terentii terentii is offline
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With respect to the narcotics trade, isn't it true that the old Mafiosi had no objection to selling drugs in Harlem and other black neighborhoods, but were vehemently opposed to selling them to whites? (IIRC, this was a point made in The Godfather.)

If so, when did this change? The '70s? '80s?
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  #41  
Old 07-24-2013, 06:13 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Human Remains Found in Jimmy Burke's Backyard?

I saw a brief report on this, some months ago-supposedly, the NYPD dug up part of (the late) Jimmy Burke's back yard-they found human remains. Nothing since then-is there anything new on this?
Burying victims in your own property? Kinda declasse, I'd say!
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  #42  
Old 07-25-2013, 09:55 AM
Hypno-Toad Hypno-Toad is offline
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Maybe Jimmys Uncle Teddy buried them there after his aunts gave them Arsenic Tea.
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