Joe Gallo — who features in new Netflix movie The Irishman — was an enforcer and hitman for New York City’s Profaci crime family, later known as the Colombo crime family.
He became very influential within the New York mafia. Born in New York in April 1929, he was executed in a gangland hit in 1972.
Formerly known as Joey the Blond because of his full mop of blond hair, he later became known as Crazy Joe. He got the new nickname after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after his first arrest in 1950.
He joined the Profaci crime family with his two brothers, and within that crime syndicate he took part in gambling, extortion and running numbers. He secretly owned several Manhattan nightclubs and a couple of sweatshops.
Gallo had a couple of interesting quirks for a gangster; including that he allegedly kept a pet lion in his Manhattan apartment. He was also considered quite a cultured individual who had read widely.
In 1957 Profaci allegedly asked Gallo and his gang to assassinate crime boss Albert Anastasia, and they obliged by killing him in a hail of bullets in a barbershop. Gallo avoided any prosecution for the crime.
He was later imprisoned in 1961 for trying to extort money from a cafe owner and spent the next 10 years serving time. On being released from prison, he soon became embroiled in the various family feuds that were so prevalent within the mafia of the 1970s.
The following section contains spoilers from the movie The Irishman, so don’t read on if you don’t want to know any details!
In the movie, Joe Gallo was ostensibly murdered by De Niro’s character Frank Sheeran for being rude to mobster Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci).
In reality, he was killed by four gunmen while celebrating his 43rd birthday in 1972 at Umberto’s Clam House in Manhattan’s Little Italy. The gunmen were associates of the Colombo family who had an ongoing beef with Gallo and his gang.
At the time of his death, it was reported that he was trying to reactivate a civil rights group called Americans of Italian Descent.
Comedian and actor Sebastian Maniscalco plays Gallo’s role in Scorcese’s movie.
The Irishman is currently streaming on Netflix.