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Old 01-11-2019, 02:03 AM
russian heel russian heel is offline
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The "Hostess Party" scene in movie Goodfellas never made sense to me

This scene always confused me. Karen Hill is at an all-woman party with what I assume are fellow mafia housewives/girlfriends putting makeup and other beauty products on each other.

She laments the other women have bad skin, too much makeup, and their faces look beat up. She also complains about their clothing, they are wearing double knits, pant suits and their clothing looks "thrown together".

Finally, the housewives also complain how horrible their kids are and how much they have to beat them, which also horrifies Karen.

I'm assuming this is a mafia housewife party so why are their wives wearing bad makeup and wearing cheap clothes? Don't mobsters make a lot of money and therefore should be able to make sure their wives look as great as possible?

Is the point that mobsters do NOT make as much money as people think?

Or is this some sort of Long Island thing?

Or do mobsters tend to marry "low"? In other words mobsters and their wives are some sort of "trash"?

Can anyone explain the Hostess Party Scene?

Last edited by russian heel; 01-11-2019 at 02:06 AM.
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Old 01-11-2019, 02:27 AM
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I got the impression that Karen's family was "old money" even though they were not too wealthy - that is they moved in what would be considered somewhat elite social circles, where as the mob wives were "new money" and though they had some wealth they couldn't shake their lower class upbringing.
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Old 01-11-2019, 02:41 AM
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In other words mobsters and their wives are some sort of "trash"?
Hit the nail on the head with this one!

Karen's family may not have been rolling in money, but they were light-years ahead of the mobsters in terms of education and upbringing.
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Old 01-11-2019, 02:55 AM
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It comes from the stereotype that exists even today that Italian-Americans value the presentation of high class while actually still being low class. It's very much a Long Island/New Jersey thing of Italians valuing wealth and class but not actually knowing what that entails, they just like the illusion of it.
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Old 01-11-2019, 03:22 AM
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It's a stereotype that essentially applies to all "new money" people or "arrivistes", whatever their particular method of generating that money was. People who are first-generation wealthy. Whether they're Italian, Indian, Russian, or just Middle American good ol' boys who hit it big with a contracting business or car dealership. "You can take the [x] out of the [y] but you can't take the [y] out of the [x]."

Most of Henry Hill's associates and his wife's friends weren't high-level players either. The guys at the top of the pyramid, the bosses of the families and their close subordinates, and business associates who raked in serious money with legit-looking front operations, I think they and their wives would have dressed more formally and conducted themselves in a more polished manner.

Karen's family wasn't exactly "old money" but they were upper middle class Jews of the New York suburbs, she was a member of a country club, they were if not the archetypical "doctors and lawyers" stratum, at least "modestly successful businessman" level, whose idea of good taste was more along the lines of their WASP counterparts than the more gaudy (but less boring!) Italians.
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Old 01-11-2019, 06:25 AM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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in the movie Karen's neighborhood looks very nice , don't know if that is supposed to be based on where she grew up.

interesting that I've never seen a picture of Karen Hill. The kids wrote a book about growing up but they had no pictures of Karen. Also saw a mob wives TV show that had pictures of other wives but not Karen.
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Old 01-11-2019, 06:52 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Mobsters are not all rich and this is indeed one of the biggest points of the movie. The crew that Henry runs with is a low-level street operation run from neighborhood bars.
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Old 01-11-2019, 07:00 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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These guys make most of their money from stealing cigarettes and even that has to be mostl paid up the chain to the big bosses.

Paulie is their crew chief. Does he look rich?

These guys aren’t rich and they’re not even all that smart either. That’s why they work with people who can’t follow Jimmy’s instructions after their one big score.

And that’s the way the vast majority of mobsters live. They’re petty thieves and thugs. Yes, they have somewhat better clothes and cars than the people around them but that’s because they’re stealing it most of the time.

So no their wives don’t have the money to buy the best makeup and clothes in New York. But also, they probably wouldn’t even know what truly rich people wear.

It’s like Trump hotels. It’s all cheap crap that looks shiny and is priced high enough to make poor people think it’s classy. That’s the kind of people these mobsters are.
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Old 01-11-2019, 07:42 AM
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It's another example of what I think of as The Tackiness of Evil -- criminals are shown to have no taste. Other examples are the Bad Guy gang in the first version of Robocop and the gangsters in Little Caesar. It's sort of the polar opposite of the Refined Villain who invites his victims to a gourmet meal (a la Dr. No, or Blofeld, or Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back)

I did a thread about it two years ago -- https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...=banality+evil
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Old 01-11-2019, 08:49 AM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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It’s like Trump hotels. It’s all cheap crap that looks shiny and is priced high enough to make poor people think it’s classy. That’s the kind of people these mobsters are.
Is this any different than, say, hotels near Las Vegas on the strip? Or a typical Intercontinental? I've not been in a Trump hotel, but I've seen two of them from the outside (I'm always close, but never to choose to pay what they're asking; Intercontinental is about where I max out). I'm not sure what a truly "classy" hotel is, or aware that any actually exist. I'm not a billionaire, though.
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Old 01-11-2019, 09:06 AM
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Remember, at the country club, Henry doesn't know what to do. Heck, I don't even know what Henry is supposed to do. He's supposed to just sign the bill? And I guess, Karen's father gets the charge for the refreshments they ate? In the movie Caddyshack, at least, people paid for their lunch, don't they have to pay at Karen's country club?

And Henry wants to tip. And probably wants to tip generously, as he was taught to do, by Jimmy when Henry was a kid. But Karen stops him. Henry shouldn't tip? How will Henry prove to everyone he's not some mook mooching off his girlfriend?

"Clearly, Arkcon:, you have no idea of country club life."

So I'm listening. Does that make sense to everyone else? If so, that's another example of nouveau riche vs old money.
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Old 01-11-2019, 09:39 AM
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Remember, at the country club, Henry doesn't know what to do. Heck, I don't even know what Henry is supposed to do. He's supposed to just sign the bill? And I guess, Karen's father gets the charge for the refreshments they ate? In the movie Caddyshack, at least, people paid for their lunch, don't they have to pay at Karen's country club?

And Henry wants to tip. And probably wants to tip generously, as he was taught to do, by Jimmy when Henry was a kid. But Karen stops him. Henry shouldn't tip? How will Henry prove to everyone he's not some mook mooching off his girlfriend?

"Clearly, Arkcon:, you have no idea of country club life."

So I'm listening. Does that make sense to everyone else? If so, that's another example of nouveau riche vs old money.
Many (I would guess most) exclusive country clubs or social clubs are "cashless," meaning the member signs the bill, and receives a monthly or quarterly invoice that includes all the charges incurred throughout the period. It prevents members from having to wave money around at the club, which is considered gauche in the same way that old-money families consider overtly discussing their wealth to be gauche. It's part of the ritual, and not recognizing the custom in these settings may be regarded as a sign of one's inferior social status and breeding.
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Old 01-11-2019, 09:41 AM
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Many (I would guess most) exclusive country clubs or social clubs are "cashless," meaning the member signs the bill, and receives a monthly or quarterly invoice that includes all the charges incurred throughout the period. It prevents members from having to wave money around at the club, which is considered gauche in the same way that old-money families consider overtly discussing their wealth to be gauche. It's part of the ritual, and not recognizing the custom in these settings may be regarded as a sign of one's inferior social status and breeding.
Yep. A friend of mine is a member of a fairly high end yacht club. When I was visiting him, he briefed me on how to order/pay at the restaurant & bar so I didn't expose my plebeian roots. Which was pretty funny when I saw how utterly destroyed all the old-money aristocrats were at the bar on a Saturday night.
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Old 01-11-2019, 09:50 AM
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At many high end golf clubs, especially back in the day, membership comes with a mandatory bar/restaurant tab. You are already charged $x per month for food and drink so you just sign for stuff until that total is reached.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:02 AM
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Or do mobsters tend to marry "low"? In other words mobsters and their wives are some sort of "trash"?
As others have said, this was the surface point. Mobsters were low-life men and their wives were low-life women. Any class they had was just a thin surface veneer.

However the real point was directed back at Karen Hill. Sure, she looked down on these people; she had come from a better background.

But the reality was she was there at the party with them. She was now a mobster wife just like they were. She was now at the same low level everyone else was. But the rest of them had grown up on that level; Karen had willingly sunk down to that level.

This movie (and Donnie Brasco) were essentially reversals of The Godfather. The Godfather showed a view of the Mafia from the very top. Which is like trying to show what American politics is like by focusing on the President. Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco showed a more realistic view of the Mafia by showing it from the bottom.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:08 AM
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Thing is, when the crew does get some serious cash after Lufthansa, most of them don't live long enough to enjoy a boost in lifestyle.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:13 AM
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At some point in the movie, Karen says that their husbands aren't doctors or lawyers, but working class guys with money. Karen is used as kind of an outsider to this world to help the audience put their behavior in context. She's the closest thing to a regular person in all this who gets pulled deeper in to their world. The gangsters are all kind of sporadically wealthy, they'll be times when they have wads of cash and times when they're broke.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:19 AM
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Thing is, when the crew does get some serious cash after Lufthansa, most of them don't live long enough to enjoy a boost in lifestyle.
Well they tried to enjoy the boost in lifestyle ASAP, even though Jimmy told them specifically not to. And be honest, wouldn't it make you sick to turn money over to the guys who stole it, when you could just whack em?
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:22 AM
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Remember, at the country club, Henry doesn't know what to do. Heck, I don't even know what Henry is supposed to do. He's supposed to just sign the bill? And I guess, Karen's father gets the charge for the refreshments they ate? In the movie Caddyshack, at least, people paid for their lunch, don't they have to pay at Karen's country club?

And Henry wants to tip. And probably wants to tip generously, as he was taught to do, by Jimmy when Henry was a kid. But Karen stops him. Henry shouldn't tip? How will Henry prove to everyone he's not some mook mooching off his girlfriend?

"Clearly, Arkcon:, you have no idea of country club life."

So I'm listening. Does that make sense to everyone else? If so, that's another example of nouveau riche vs old money.
I just charge everything to the Underhill's account.(sorry wrong movie)
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:46 AM
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I just charge everything to the Underhill's account.(sorry wrong movie)
"Strangers in the night, exchanging clothing"
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:51 AM
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Well they tried to enjoy the boost in lifestyle ASAP, even though Jimmy told them specifically not to. And be honest, wouldn't it make you sick to turn money over to the guys who stole it, when you could just whack em?
”But still, months after the robbery they were finding bodies all over. When they found Carbone in the meat truck, he was frozen so stiff it took them two days to thaw him out for the autopsy.”

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Old 01-11-2019, 10:53 AM
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I just charge everything to the Underhill's account.(sorry wrong movie)
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"Strangers in the night, exchanging clothing"
You're really funny. It's funny, you know, that story, it's funny, you're funny guys.
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Old 01-11-2019, 10:56 AM
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I got the impression that Karen's family was "old money" even though they were not too wealthy - that is they moved in what would be considered somewhat elite social circles, where as the mob wives were "new money" and though they had some wealth they couldn't shake their lower class upbringing.
Interestingly, the wives suddenly falling into money and showing it off like that comes back around after their big hit and the guys start buying expensive cars and fur coats.
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Old 01-11-2019, 11:15 AM
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If they were really NY area Italians they should have had plastic covers for the sofa and other furniture.
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Old 01-11-2019, 11:19 AM
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At many high end golf clubs, especially back in the day, membership comes with a mandatory bar/restaurant tab. You are already charged $x per month for food and drink so you just sign for stuff until that total is reached.
At the club I belonged to the yearly dues included $XXXXX fee which was deposited in an account to be used at various bars/dining rooms/pro shops throughout the year. You signed the tab with your member number and your account was debited.
Often the result was at the end of the year some members had a good bit left in their accounts and would throw pretty nice parties for other members and their guests - it was a Use it or Lose it situation.
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Old 01-11-2019, 11:24 AM
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You're really funny. It's funny, you know, that story, it's funny, you're funny guys.
What do you mean, you mean the way I talk? What?
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Old 01-11-2019, 11:36 AM
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in case anyone is wondering Karen and Henry were in Omaha, then Cincinnati and then Seattle in the witness protection program.
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Old 01-11-2019, 01:33 PM
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Paulie is their crew chief. Does he look rich?
Paulie was rich, he just didn't flaunt it. But he wasn't the crew chief( Jimmy was that ), he was a caporegime. Everybody kicked up to him and he only kicked up one level - he sat near the top of the pyramid. One of the things that was intriguing about Henry Hill in real life was that owing to his upbringing he was unusually close to the RL Paul Vario, having an surprising level of access for a non-made man street-level mechanic.

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However the real point was directed back at Karen Hill. Sure, she looked down on these people; she had come from a better background.

But the reality was she was there at the party with them. She was now a mobster wife just like they were. She was now at the same low level everyone else was. But the rest of them had grown up on that level; Karen had willingly sunk down to that level.
A point driven home later when she is shown wearing the same sort of pantsuits and having the same hairstyles as the other wives. She started out country club, but quickly transitioned to blue collar mob wife.
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Old 01-11-2019, 01:34 PM
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in case anyone is wondering Karen and Henry were in Omaha, then Cincinnati and then Seattle in the witness protection program.
Like schnooks.
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Last edited by Bryan Ekers; 01-11-2019 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 01-11-2019, 01:39 PM
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interesting that I've never seen a picture of Karen Hill. The kids wrote a book about growing up but they had no pictures of Karen. Also saw a mob wives TV show that had pictures of other wives but not Karen.
This article shows the real life counterparts of the movie's characters, including Karen Hill.
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Old 01-11-2019, 01:44 PM
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This movie (and Donnie Brasco) were essentially reversals of The Godfather. The Godfather showed a view of the Mafia from the very top. Which is like trying to show what American politics is like by focusing on the President. Goodfellas and Donnie Brasco showed a more realistic view of the Mafia by showing it from the bottom.
Another movie that made this point in a humorous way was Ghost Dog, where the old mafia guys' headquarters are a back room they rent from from a Chinese guy, and they have trouble making the rent.
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Old 01-11-2019, 01:44 PM
Bijou Drains Bijou Drains is offline
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if you don't know at the end of Goodfellas Henry picks up the paper living in a suburb. as a tribute to Goodfellas every season of the Sopranos starts with Tony picking up the paper at his suburban house. and for the last season Tony tells Carmela he is not picking up the paper again.
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Old 01-11-2019, 01:53 PM
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Well they tried to enjoy the boost in lifestyle ASAP, even though Jimmy told them specifically not to. And be honest, wouldn't it make you sick to turn money over to the guys who stole it, when you could just whack em?
That was one of the themes of the movie; you can't succeed in the Mafia. If you fail then you fail (and probably get killed for not producing enough). But if you succeed then you also fail. You being a successful criminal means you now have money and you're surrounded by people who steal money.

Respect among thieves? That's a joke. The whole point of being a criminal is being willing to break rules when it's in your interest. Mobsters are just as willing to break the Mafia's rules as they are the law. The only thing that keeps mobsters in line is the fear of retaliation. And when you know you're surrounded by people who you know would betray you, the temptation is to betray them first.
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Old 01-11-2019, 01:55 PM
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IIRC, wasn't Hill kicked out of Witness Protection because he kept giving interviews?
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Old 01-11-2019, 01:57 PM
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IIRC, wasn't Hill kicked out of Witness Protection because he kept giving interviews?
More because he kept getting arrested.
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Old 01-11-2019, 02:17 PM
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IIRC, wasn't Hill kicked out of Witness Protection because he kept giving interviews?
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More because he kept getting arrested.
Sounds like Vinnie Antonelli.



SPOILER:
Loosely based on the life of Henry Hill, the same man who was the basis of Goodfellas (1990), after he went into witness protection program. The films' respective writers, Nicholas Pileggi and Nora Ephron, are husband and wife.
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Old 01-11-2019, 02:41 PM
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Sounds like Vinnie Antonelli.



SPOILER:
Loosely based on the life of Henry Hill, the same man who was the basis of Goodfellas (1990), after he went into witness protection program. The films' respective writers, Nicholas Pileggi and Nora Ephron, are husband and wife.
What a day for a mow, huh?
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Old 01-11-2019, 02:43 PM
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I'm not sure it's about old money vs new money rather than the fact that having money doesn't stop you from being crass. Can you think of any prominent individual in the US today who was born into wealth, lived all his life in wealth (despite some bankruptcies) and still has less class than a high school drop out meth-addicted trucker? Conversely, you can be working class and avoid bad skin, too much make-up, badly matched clothes and domestic abuse.

The point of the scene is that money doesn't make you a better person and the attraction of the mob life is gaudy gold-platting.

Last edited by MichaelEmouse; 01-11-2019 at 02:44 PM.
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Old 01-11-2019, 03:55 PM
Stranger On A Train Stranger On A Train is offline
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Like schnooks.
”Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup.”

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More because he kept getting arrested.
As portrayed in the unacknowledged sequel.

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