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CRIME ARCHIVES From The Archives From The Archives NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized Violence

Memories of Crazy Joe Gallo

The way Bobby Kennedy told it in his book, The Enemy Within, it was all very sinister. Joey Gallo showed up for a private pre-hearing interview in a black shirt, black shoes, and black suit, scuffed the office rug with his foot, and said, “This would be a nice place for a crap game.” The way the surrogate Nicely Nicely told the story subsequently in the Corner Bistro was, if not more accurate, certainly more entertaining. “I read that bullshit,” he said, “and just for openers I didn’t have a black shirt on. I was wearing a one-buck work shirt I picked up at an army-navy story on Sixth Avenue.

“The first thing he told me was if I helped him get Hoffa” — the occasion was Gallo’s 1958 appearance before the Senate Rackets Investigating Committee, Robert Kennedy counsel — “I’d never want for nothing. When I told him the hell with that and that I was going to take the Fifth he said: ‘You’re not so tough — I’d like to fight you myself.’ And when he came around from behind his desk and started to peel off his coat, I told him, ‘I don’t fight,’ and I reached in my pocket and pulled out a mezuzah that Sid Slater had given me and shoved it in his face.”

Joey laughed at the thought of using a mezuzah on Kennedy as one might use wolfbane on Lon Chaney, Jr. Laughter was central to his life, the private life he lived in the Village apart form the cruelties which were his public life. Without defining it, Joey’s private role playing had him as Dick Powell playing the last Billy the Kid, the white Malcolm X, but he loved to laugh at himself if anyone was paying attention and attention was compulsory. Sitting once in the late Waverly Lounge in the Earle Hotel he said: “My brother Larry’s public enemy number one or number two — I forgot which because I’m the other one.” Then he emitted a small laugh, one with an edge on it because it was 1962 and he was on trial, and he turned to Laurie Brewis, who is also late and was then piano player, and said, “I’ll bet the papers are out now,” and Laurie who was small but no smaller than Joey, scuttled out to Sixth Avenue as if someone were shooting at him and came back with the Mirror and the News and both had lengthy stories about the trial of Crazy Joey.

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He explained his name that night and it made perfect sense to Leo, who owned the bar. “They put me in this nut factory, the Kings County Hospital,” he said, “because they wanted to keep me for 90 days and they didn’t have any other way to do it. So this doctor came around and showed me something and asked me what it looks like. ‘It looks like somebody spilled ink on it and folded it over,’ I say, and so they say I’m crazy. I say to the doctor that he’s paid by the taxpayer’s money and so is the D.A. and so is the police commissioner and I’m not talking to any of them and they tell me I’m crazy again. I pass my time painting and they come around with my paintings and they say, ‘Would you like to live in a house like this?’ If I could answer questions like that I would be crazy.

“Finally I tell the doctor, ‘You tell me I’ve got a persecution complex. Well, it happens that I am persecuted.’ But I tell him, I’ve got a lot of friends. He asks, ‘Are you threatening me?’ Well, I told him I wasn’t but you know what? He gave me better marks than my own shrink does. Does that sound crazy to you?”

Joey loved the Village as only those who move here from some other where can. He spoke of his Brooklyn home as someone else might speak of Ashtabula. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, when he was at war with the Profacis, it used to be a regular police number to run over to 49-51 Pres­ident Street in Brooklyn, the of­fice of his Direct Vending Machine Company and, upstairs, what was known as the Dormitory for his associates, and pick up maybe a couple of dozen of his friends, then to scour the Village and Little Italy looking for Joey. One night he issued a blanket invi­tation to everyone in Jack Barry’s to breakfast with him at Luna’s at 112 Mulberry Street — half a block from where he was killed the week before last — and when he was told the cops were looking for him he and everyone else went out the back. The only reason a participant remembers the event is the sight of Gallo boosting a lady over a fence, an event sexually stirring for the onlooker, if not the lady.

Joe lived for a time at 63 East 11th Street but his last home before he went up was in a build­ing now gone next to the Ameri­can Youth Hostel, also now gone, where there is now a series of shops at 14 to 22 West 8th Street. He lived there, in a ground floor apartment, with his wife, Jeffie, when they ran into Jeffie’s first husband, Gerry Mulligan, who was playing at the Village Vanguard. It must have been a bad split because, Joey said, laughing, “He looked me up and down and then he turned to Jeffie and said: ‘You must have scoured the gutters of the Village to find somebody lower than a jazz musician.’ ”

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Joey got sent up, he always maintained, on a bum rap. It was extortion and he freely admitted — cheerfully admitted might be more accurate — that he was trying to extort money from a man named Ted Moss. The thing was, Joey said, that the cops said he was trying to extort a piece of Moss’s bars. One night in one of the bars, the one at the corner of 12th Street and University Place, where Shine’s was later, he ges­tured to the only other customer in the bar and said: “Look — this joint takes in maybe $150 a week. Do I need to muscle a guy for a lousy $75? But the bastard is shylocking and this is my territory. Let him keep his fucking bars but let him keep out of my business.” The cops, Joey claimed, couldn’t admit in court that they were talking about shylocking so they doctored their telephone tapes. He stood mute, thinking that he would win on appeal, and did 10 years as a result of that mistake.

Even that mistake was made with a little Gallo panache. His lawyer, David Price, was ill and Joey asked for a continuance. General Sessions Judge Joseph A. Sarafite refused and, instead, ap­pointed a lawyer, Irving Men­delson, to defend him. Joey took Mendelson aside and said, “That goddamned dago judge is never going to give me a fair shake.”

When Mendelson said Sarafite certainly would give him a fair shake and that he could vouch for it because the judge was a lifelong friend, Joey said: “You just told me all I want to know” and thereafter refused to speak to the judge’s lifelong friend. Sarafite subsequently hit Joey with the maximum possible sentence.

His daughter was born after he was sent up and Joey refused to see her or Jeffie on the theory that he was in and they were out and the hell with it. On a train back from Ocean Beach one summer Jeffie explained all that and said that when Joey got out the baby would be in her teens, she would be in her 40s, and that they both needed someone to love them. “But who?” she asked. “Would you marry me?” There was laughter and Jeffie laughed, too, and then said: “That’s the trouble. Who’s going to marry Joey Gallo’s wife, the chief of police?” She did have something of a problem, one that was resolved only when Joey gave her specific permission to get a divorce and re-marry.

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New York is a tough town and no one who remains alive ever knows quite how tough. Sid Slater, who gave Joey the mezuzah he flashed at Bobby Kennedy, turned out later to have been something other than what Joey used to call his “token Hebe.” He was also Frank Hogan’s token fink, and it may be a mark of Joey’s class that when he had him beaten he had him beaten in the Copacabana. But Sid was a gangster and one night he left Joey’s apartment with Pat Wilson, the singer, and another friend, and started walking own MacDougal Street. He heard a heavy clomp of running feet behind him, reached into his coat, pulled out his piece, and whirled around to discover a Villager running to keep up with his Dalmatian who never knew how close he came to meeting Mr. Death.

Now that Joey is dead it seems to be a popular idea — perpe­tuated, it would seem, by his sup­posed biographer — that he be­came bright only in prison where he is said to have read Camus and Sartre. Men do not become bright in their 40s by reading books in li­braries. Joey was sitting in the late Jericho Tavern on Sixth Ave­nue one day talking about a certain Lieutenant Hoffman who had raided the Dormitory on Pres­ident Street the night before. He was asked if it was the same Hoffman who, as a detective, had picked him up for running a dice game when he was 16. “‘Yeah,” Joey said. “I forgot about that. You know, that son of a bitch is playing ‘Les Miserables’ with me.” Joey had read books before he went to prison.

Joey, as has been said, loved to laugh, but there was a thread of bitterness in it. “They say I’ve been picked up 15, 17 times,” he once said. “That’s bullshit. I’ve been picked up maybe 250 times but they don’t make a note of it. I’ve been worked over so many times my hat sits on my head like I’m a midget. I’ve been picked up at least 50 times for consorting with known criminals — my father and my brothers.”

When Joey got out of the can last May he moved to 14th Street and, after the shooting of Joe Colombo, found himself suddenly an object of radical chic by those who had gotten bored with the Panthers. He talked into tape re­corders and sent miles of tape up to Viking to be written by anonymous editors and, one must think,­ in the fastness of the night he laughed.

Vale, Joey.

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From The Archives NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Violence

Crazy Joe Gallo, Playing the Godfather Game

“Poor Crazy Joe, he should have stayed in jail where he was safe,” said a newsman while Rome fell down around us. We were in front of Umberto’s Sea Food Restaurant at Mulberry and Hester Streets and it was 10 a.m., five hours after Crazy Joe’s shooting by an unknown as­sassin. The street was mobbed.

There were neighborhood kids and a gang that called itself “the Elizabeth Street Crew,” delivery truck men, an Italian tv outfit (the anchorman held up a copy of “Honor Thy Father” and said the word “Mafioso”), random old folk, plainclothesmen in brim hats, and cops. They weren’t allowing the press into Umberto’s. Chief of Detectives, Albert Seedman claimed it wasn’t his idea, but Oscar Ianello, the manager, had had it and enough was enough. So I peered through the plate glass windows. Beyond the cramped bluecoats, I could spot a dozen or so butcher block tables with chairs piled sky high, a tiled bar, a jukebox, and a couple of men with tape rulers measuring distances between tables. I could see a sign that said Italian pastries and one that said home­made clam chowder, scungilli, calamari, and a plant with a red ribbon streaming from its green leaves — a good luck gift to Um­berto’s on its opening, seven weeks before. And a couple of waiters sweeping the floor of debris and a cop with a mop.

Around the corner on Mott Street, Paramount shot the scene from The Godfather where Marlon Brando as Don Corleone was gunned down at the fruit stand. And on Grand Street, only a block a way, last week, a heist of $55,000 from Ferrara’s. Killing is met with a shrug in Little Italy, but to rob a “family” establishment on Easter Sunday, a place where you take the wife and kids, you don’t do.

But someone did, and someone got to Joey, and someone said “Praise God, they got Joey” and someone else said “Don’t go out tonight, there’ll be shooting on the streets” and the manager of Ferrara’s wasn’t talking about the heist.

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The press conference that Chief Seedman and Police Chief Murphy called for 3 p.m. began with a four-foot diagram of Um­berto’s Restaurant attached to a blackboard and wheeled out to the waiting cameras. Little red dots indicated where bullets were found on the restaurant floor. An X marked the table in the back of Umberto’s where Gallo sat with his party. The back doorway where the gun-man entered and got away was marked, and circles indicated tables where other patrons sat and a horizontal line showed the clam bar and a square indicated the kitchen in the back. Murphy held a long pointer and detailed the chart. He said there was another outbreak of gang violence in the city that involved or­ganized crime and proceeded to explain the wherefores of the shooting, if not the whys.

Then Seedman took over. Gallo, his wife, stepdaughter, sister, bodyguard, and bodyguard’s girlfriend had been to the Copaca­bana earlier for Don Rickles’s opening and to celebrate Joey’s 43rd birthday. About 4 a.m. they hopped into Joey’s 1971 Cadillac­ and drove to Little Italy for an early morning snack. They decided on Umberto’s. Joey had never been there before. The theory is that he was fingered and trailed from the Copa. The shooting occurred at a time when the Gallo party was in a particularly festive mood. The assassin entered. About 20 shots in all were fired, some by the killer (three 38s hit Joey), some by Joey’s bodyguard, Pete the Greek, some by a stranger seated at the clam bar who chased the (gunman) out of the restaurant, firing at him and missing. Joey himself had no gun. Hit, he staggered out the front door. The killer kept firing. Gallo collapsed and died in the middle of Hester Street, near his Cadillac.

“Any questions?” asked Seedman, about the morning’s events. Plenty. “Was it a profes­sional hit?” “Seems like it.” “Is it true that the organization never fingers a victim when he’s with his family?” “There’s nothing to make us come to this conclusion.” “What did Gallo’s death do to the Colombo investigation?” “So far nothing. There may be no connec­tion at all.” (This remark bought a snicker from the newsmen.)

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The questions continued. “Was Gallo in some way responsible for the Colombo shooting?” “Mere supposition at this point.” “Was Colombo responsible for the Gallo shooting?” “Same answer.” “What’s happened to the Jerome Johnson murder investigation?” “We’re still in the process of put­ting it together.”

Seedman has been in the process of putting it together since July 1971.

There are a few other murders that Seedman is either in the process of putting together or, for some reason, has abandoned com­pletely — these three in particular have certain similarities:

BOBBY J. WOOD: His bullet­-riddled body was found on a Queens street on February 18, 1970. Wood is the former owner of the Salvation Restaurant at 1 Sheridan Square. He left letters with his lawyers telling how the mob muscled in. The letters alleged extortion and threats and named names, among them Thomas (“Tommy Ryan”) Eboli, who controlled Tryan, the vending machine operation on Jones Street; John Riccobono and Andrew B, both employees at Wood’s restaurant; and Joseph Riccobono, an alleged consigliere in the Carlo Gambino family.

Two months after Wood’s murder, the Salvation re-opened with a new name, the Haven, and with a new policy: it was now a teenage gay-straight drug drop juice joint without a liquor license, operating under a state charter as a social club. On many weekends, Sheridan Square looked like a freaked-out circus. Finally, through pressure from Community Planning Board 2 and the residents of the area, the Haven was closed in September 1971. Proprietor Nicolas De Mar­tino, who was also vice-president of TelStar (a reputed Mafia organization under which the Haven had received its state charter), was found guilty on a contempt charge by the State Supreme Court. At his trial in January, De Martino said he hadn’t a pot to piss in. He claimed he had mended his ways and received a fine of $250 and a lecture by the judge. He has since found a gold­en cauldron for his urine — he is fronting a son-of-the-Haven type operation in the East 80s. Sepa­rate from that, a new night spot is being talked about by new people at the old Haven. Vincent H. Petti and Robert Santopietro have rented the place and applied for a liquor license. If it does open as a Haven type operation, it’ll be “over the dead bodies” of the Washington Place–Sheridan Square Block Association. And the man behind the dead body of Bobby Wood still roams the streets, unless he too has got hit, Gallo style, saving the depart­ment the bother.

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SHELLY BLOOM (real name: Allan Gold). On March 21, Bloom was shot in the stomach and chest and had his skull fractured in his plush Gramercy Park bathroom. According to police, robbery was not the motive — $14,500 was found in the apartment, plus an assort­ment of expensive jewelry. Bloom and Seymour Seiden operated the Sanctuary at 407 West 43rd Street, a midtown version of the Haven. Bloom’s murder, coincidentally, occurred two weeks before the Sanctuary was closed down by the Supreme Court and by Lee Miller, the state prosecuting attorney who successfully handled the Haven case. Coincidentally, too, the Sanctuary’s closing came as a result of pressure by the 43rd Street Block Association. The place was also under surveillance by the police.

Behind the walls of the former church Sanctuary, the depart­ment discovered the workings of a stolen car operation. It discov­ered stolen credit cards, counter­feit money, plus “a supermarket in drugs” (33 drug busts in three consecutive nights, three em­ployees arrested for pushing meth and amphetamines). There was little overhead. On a good week­end, the Sanctuary would net $4000 a night.

Incidental disjointed facts: the late Bloom and his Sanctuary partner were also partnered in Poutassa, a discotheque that still operates at 1234 Second Avenue. Both men were frequent visitors at the Tambourine. Speculation is they were involved in that opera­tion, too. The Sanctuary building is owned by Seymour Durst, who also owns a number of buildings on that West 43rd Street block and is one of the six people working with the city on planning the West Side Convention Center. The West 43rd Street Block Association is fighting both the commer­cialization of its neighborhood by big time real estate operators (it is waging a war against Durst, who is trying to get a zoning variance in order to construct two 46-story apartment buildings) and the drug sore spot that, until its recent closing, made the block a murderously dangerous reality. Coincidentally, again, at the same time that the Sanctuary was get­ting its final “move away” papers, Shelly Bloom got his final “move on.” What’s up?

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PETER DETMOLD. Killed by knife wound, January 6. No arrest made. Detmold was executive director of the Turtle Bay Associ­ation Board, and was hassling a sore spot in its midst, the Tam­burlaine. It was located at 148 East 48th Street, an offshoot of the Haven, a sister of the Sanctuary, basically the same customers, same of the same front men. The day before Christmas, the Tam­burlaine was mysteriously gutted by fire. It never re-opened. Two weeks later, Detmold was found murdered

With Seedman as Chief of Detectives, it will be interesting to see how long the Wood and Bloom and Detmold murders remain un­solved, how long before we know the identity of that mysterious gunman who gave it to Crazy Joe on his birthday, how long before we know who bumped off Jerome Johnson and why, and how many more rounds of the Godfather game will be played, and who’s playing the game, before we get to the final reel.

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CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized Violence

Dylan Dallies With Mafia Chic: Joey Gallo Was No Hero

Whenever Bob Dylan puts out a new album, it is sure to generate a lot of talk. What is he thinking, what is he saying, what does he mean? A cynical person might respond that he releases these things, no matter how sloppy they are and no matter how long we might have to wait for something half-baked, precisely so people will keep talking about him. History is, after all, a rather gray address. It is automatically assumed that every Bob Dylan album is an event, but there are times — the Rolling Thunder tour is probably a good example — when our sense of the enterprise in question as an event eclipses whatever signifi­cance and integrity it might possess.

As for Desire, much has been made of Dylan’s support of Hurri­cane Carter’s defense, and of his return to topical songwriting in general, but I think there are grounds for questioning his mo­tives. Does Bob Dylan really care about Hurricane Carter, Joey Gallo, and, in retrospect, George Jackson, or might not our same hypothetical cynic contend that he is merely using all these people to insure his own continuing “rele­vance”? The answer can only he found in Dylan’s handling of these people in the songs which purport to convey the folk/street truth be­hind the headlines. I am not so much interested in Rubin Carter — ­and I think most listeners would have to admit that they feel the same way — as I am in whether Bob Dylan is being straight with me or not. The man does, after all, have a reputation second only to David Bowie’s for image-mongering, and second to none for mythmaking. One tends to wonder if the myths he has made, even when they deal with actual historical personages, might not devolve to an endless alienated outlaw narcissism; if he has not, in fact, been talking about himself all the way down the road. I believe that; I don’t think he is being straight with his audience anywhere on Desire, but is rather exploiting both them and the subjects of his songs to keep his own image polished.

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I think you can find all the evidence you need in Desire’s longest cut, the ponderous sloppy, numbingly boring 11-minute ballad “Joey,” about yet another folk hero/loser/martyr, mobster “Crazy Joey” Gallo, who was murdered by other mafiosi in Lit­tle Italy in 1972.

During the ’60s, there were five Mafia “families” dividing up the pie of various turfs and rackets in New York City, under the control of one Godfather-like “boss of bosses.” Although the modern Mafia encourages more of a “busi­nessman” image and tries to play down the bloodletting, the families are usually fighting among themselves for greater power and influ­ence, and one of the most successful families during the ’60s was the Profaci family, which later be­came the Colombo family. In in­termittent but very bloody opposition to them was the Gallo family, led by the brothers Larry, Joey, and Albert “Kid Blast” Gallo, who were never quite able to attain equivalent power even though they remained the overlords of one small section of Brooklyn. Accord­ing to a detailed analysis of mob warfare by Fred J. Cook in the June 4, 1972, New York Times, “The severe bloodletting in the Profaci-Colombo family began when the greed of the Gallo brothers set them lusting after [the former’s] power. Indeed it touched them with the kind of madness that drives a shark berserk in a blood-stained-sea,” and the Gallos tried every lethal ploy that they could think of to muscle their way into a bigger piece of the action. In October 1957, according to some reports, Joey Gallo acted on a Profaci contract and blasted the notorious Albert Anastasia, one time lord of Murder, Inc., out of his barber’s chair in a celebrated rub-out, thus paving the way for Carlo Gambino to become, and remain, boss of bosses through the ’60s and early ’70s. But the Gallos never found any more favor with Gambino than they had with his predecessors, so they embarked on an all-out war with the Profacis that lasted from 1961–63; though there were no real winners, the Gallos were no match either in numbers or tactically for the Pro­facis, and the war ended in early 1962 when Crazy Joe Gallo was sentenced to seven to 14 years in prison for extortion, and, a few months later, Joseph Profaci died of cancer.

While Joe Gallo was in prison, he read extensively, becoming a sort of jailhouse intellectual, and when he was finally released in 1970 he began to cultivate contacts in the literary and show business worlds, who welcomed him to their parties and obviously considered him an exotic amusement indeed. Jimmy Breslin’s book, The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, had been inspired by the legendary inepti­tude of the Gallo family in their early-’60s bids for power, and Joey developed close contacts with Jerry Orbach, who played a char­acter corresponding to him in the movie based on the book, and his wife Marta, with whom, in the last months of his life, Joey began collaborating on various autobiographical literary projects. Out of Radical Chic bloomed Mafia Chic; he became something of an above-ground social figure, and told col­umnist Earl Wilson that he was ‘”going straight.”

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Apparently that was a lie, howev­er. While Joey was in prison, his gang languishing and awaiting his return, a new figure had arisen from the Profaci ranks to bring New York mob power to a whole new, all but avant-garde level: Joe Colombo. Colombo founded the Italian American Civil Rights League, an organization ostensibly devoted to deploring and “legiti­mately” opposing the “prejudice” which caused most Americans to link mob activities with citizens of Italian descent. Between 150,000 and 250,000 Italian-Americans ulti­mately joined the league, and the impact on politicians was consi­derable, which was how Nelson Rockefeller and Louis Lefkowitz ended up having their pictures taken with underworld toughs. Joey Gallo returned from prison with his power on his own turf intact but of course completely cut out of the Colombo empire. On June 28, 1971, Joe Colombo was gunned down by a supposedly lone and uncontracted black man in front of thousands of his horrified followers at a rally in Columbus Circle. The consensus was that Crazy Joey was behind it, espe­cially since he’d perplexed other mafiosos by hanging out with black prisoners during his stay in the joint, and ostensibly aimed to start a black mob, under his control, when he got out. According to many inside sources, there was a contract out on Gallo from the day Colombo was shot, and on April 7, 1972, as he celebrated his 43rd birthday in Umberto’s Clam House on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, an anonymous hit-man walked in off the street and shot Crazy Joey to death much as Joey himself claimed to have murdered Albert Anastasia. It was the end of a gang war that had lasted almost a decade and a half — a few more of their henchmen were disposed of, and the Gallo family was decimat­ed, their power gone. Mobsters in general breathed a collective sigh of relief — the Gallos had always been hungry troublemakers — and went back to business as usual.

It is out of this fairly typical tale of mob power-jostlings that Dylan has, unaccountably, woven “Joey,” which paints a picture of Joey Gallo as alienated antihero reminiscent of West Side Story’s “Gee, Officer Krupke!” lyrics — “He ain’t no delinquent, he’s misunderstood.”

Always on the outside of whatev­er side there was
When they asked him why it had to be that way
Well, the answer — just because

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Joey Gallo was a psychopath, as his biographer, Donald Goddard, confirms, although the analyst who examined him while he was in prison diagnosed Joey’s disease as “pseudopsychopathic schizophren­ia.” Joey’s answer: “Fuck you. Things are not right or wrong anymore. Just smart or stupid. You don’t judge an act by its nature. You judge it by results. We’re all criminals now… Things exist when I feel they should exist, okay? Me. I am the world.” Toward the end of his life, his wife routinely fed him Thorazine, which he docilely took, even though it still didn’t stop him from beating the shit out of her.

Dylan then goes on to paint a romantic, sentimental picture of Joey and his brothers in the gang:

There was talk they killed their rivals
But the truth was far from that
No one ever knew for sure where they were really at.

Well, according to the DA at Joey’s early-’60s extortion trial, “In the current war taking place between the Gallo gang and es­tablished interests, there have been killings, shootings, stran­gling, kidnappings, and disappearances, all directly involving the Gallos. Interestingly enough, since the defendant’s being remanded on November 14 in this case, there have been no known offensive ac­tions taken by the Gallos in this dispute. This would give some cre­dence to the belief that Joe Gallo, is, in reality, the sparkplug and enforcer of the mob.” But who believes DAs, right? Okay, try his ofttimes enormously sympathetic biographer:

“Almost all the charges ever brought against him, even in the beginning, were dismissed. No witnesses. Once people got to know that careless talk was liable to bring Joe Gallo around to remon­strate and maybe make his point with an ice pick, witnesses in Brooklyn became as scarce as woodpeckers. Once the story got around that Joey had gripped a defaulter’s forearm by the wrist and elbow and broken it over the edge of a desk to remind him that his account was past due, the Gallos had very few cash-flow problems with their gambling, loan-sharking, and protection business.”

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Later in the song Dylan asserts that “The police department hounded him.” Considering the number of rackets that the Gallos were involved in, nothing could be further from the truth. Goddard:

“Right from the start, relations between the Pizza Squad [NYC anti-Mafia cop team] and the Gallo gang had been imbued with a grudging professional respect, which, in certain cases, shaded into something close to affection. They played the game by the rules.” Adds a cop:

‘They’re a peculiar mob… They knew what we had to do and they weren’t going to question it. They treated us like gentlemen. That don’t make them good guys, but they had a little more savvy [than the Colombos]. It was like ‘Why stir the pot? If you’re going to be down here, let’s make it pleasant for both of us.’ It’s a game. If you get caught, you get caught.”

Perhaps most curiously of all, Dylan says that “They got him on conspiracy/They were never sure who with.” Funny, because everybody from Goddard to the courts and cops agree that Joey’s down­fall came when, early in May 1961, he tried to muscle in on a loan shark named Teddy Moss. Moss resisted, and, in the presence of undercover cops, Joey said “Well, if he needs some time to think it over, we’ll put him in the hospital for four or five months, and that’ll give him time.”

But how can Dylan have a mar­tyred Mafioso without an evil judge:

“What time is it?” said the judge to Joey when they met
“Five to ten,” said Joey
The judge says, “That’s exactly what you get.”

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This is what, for want of a better phrase, must be termed poetic license. The truth is that Joey’s lawyer was as lame as his gang, and never made it up from Florida for his trial, and Joe refused to have anything to do with the two other lawyers appointed to repre­sent him, choosing to stand mute while the DA delivered a steady stream of evidence that was pretty solid in the first place and never disputed. That Joey allowed this to happen suggests, not that he was railroaded, but merely that he was incredibly stupid. Goddard:

“Readily concurring that Joey was ‘a menace to the community,’ Judge Sarafite chalked up the first victory in the attorney general’s [Robert Kennedy, who once branded Joey Public Enemy No. 1] assault on organized crime by handing down the maximum sentence of seven and one-quarter to fourteen and one-half years’ imprisonment.”

Dylan: “…10 years in Attica/Reading Nietzsche and Wilhelm Reich.” He also read Freud, Plato, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer, John Dewey, Bergson, Santayana, Herbert Spencer, William James, Voltaire, Diderot, Pascal, Locke, Spengler, Wilde, Keats, Shakespeare, Goethe, Will Durant, Oliver Crom­well, Napoleon, Adenauer, de Gaulle, Lenin, Mao Tse-tung, Clarence Darrow, and Louis Nizer, as well as taking part in a homosexual gang rape about which he bragged at a cocktail party after his release:

“He described how, with several other convicts, he had spotted a pretty young boy among a new batch of prisoners and laid in wait for him. Dragging him into the Jewish chapel, they ripped his pants off and were struggling to hold him down when one of them heard the rabbi talking in the next room. A knife was immediately put at their victim’s throat with a whispered warning not to cry out, and the rape proceeded in an or­derly fashion, each man taking his turn in order of seniority. They wanted this kid, Joey said, while his asshole was still tight.”

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This was most likely not, howev­er, the reason that (according to Dylan) “his closest friends were black men.” It was “Cause they seemed to understand what it’s like to be in society/With a shackle on your hand.” And also, as pre­viously stated, because Joey for a while entertained dreams of launching a black Mafia when he got out. The psychoanalyst who interviewed Joey in prison voices agreement with Dylan in more clinical terms, but adds “Joey was a terrifically prejudiced guy… on a strictly, and deeply, personal level, he was a knee-jerk nigger-­hater,” and also allows that it was “entirely possible” that “I was conned by one of the greatest con artists of all times.”

After Joey is finally sprung, Dylan has him blessing both the beasts and children: “’Twas true that in his later years/He would not carry a gun.” Of course not; no Mafia chieftain ever has, unless in unusually dire fear for his life. The cops would like nothing better than to send one of these guys up on a carrying concealed weapons rap, and anyway that’s what the wall of protective muscle that accompan­ies them everywhere is for.

“ ‘I’m around too many chil­dren,’ he’d say/‘They should never know of one.’ ” Again true — mob leaders have always been scrupu­lous about keeping their wives and children universes removed from the everyday brutality of their work. Anybody who saw The Godfather knows that. But as for Joey’s magical touch with children, let his daughter, Joie, speak: “He would come home and say, ‘Make me some coffee,’ And I would say, ‘Daddy, I have home­work. Can I do it later?’ ‘No. Now.’ It was like I was refusing him, and nobody ever did that. He was the king, and I couldn’t stand it… He used to abuse Mommy terribly, and I resented him coming be­tween us. He broke her ribs once… I used to complain to Mommy about him and bug her to leave him. ‘What a man you picked,’ I’d say. ‘Who’d want to live with that maniac? You’ve got to be crazy to put up with this.’ So then I’d divorce him as my father. I’d take a piece of paper and draw a very fancy certificate that said, ‘I, Joie Gallo, hereby divorce Joey Gallo as my father.’ ”

Joey, Joey… what made them want to come and blow you away?

There are several theories in answer to that question. The most prevalent was that, since most people took it for granted that Joey was behind the shooting of Joe Colombo almost a year before, there was an open contract out on Gallo by the Colombo family, meaning that Joey had effective­ly committed suicide in having Colombo shot. Two other theories advanced by investigators ex­tremely close to the case have Gallo once again trying to muscle in on territory occupied by other, more powerful mob factions. In one case, he could have told two thugs to crack a safe for $55,000 in Ferrara’s Pastry Shop in Little Italy, a landmark frequented by Vinnie Aloi, at that time a very powerful capo in the New York Mafia. This would certainly have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in regards to the mob bosses’ patience with Gallo’s hust­les, as would another incident reported in the June 4, 1972, New York Times:

“Three weeks prior to Gallo’s getting killed, he, Frank (Punchy) Illiano and John (Mooney) Cutrone went out to the San Susan nightclub in Mineola, L.I., in which John Franzese [another powerful capo in the Colombo family] is reported to have a hidden interest. Joey is reported to have grabbed the manager and said, ‘This joint is mine. Get out.’ In other words, he was cutting himself in. This was the first sign we had that Crazy Joe was acting up again.”

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In any case, any of these courses of action (and Gallo may well have undertaken all three) amounted to signing his own death warrant. An interesting sidelight is that at this time Joey was broke, practically reduced to the shame of living off his bride of three weeks; his mother had already mortgaged her house and hocked her furniture to pay for bail bonds. Meanwhile, of course, he had begun to hang out with what Goddard calls “the show-biz, tablehopping cheek­-peckers’ club”: Jerry and Marta Orbach, the Ben Gazzaras, Neil Simon, David Steinberg, Joan Hackett and her husband — people that, as his bride Sina warned him, “might be exploiting him for the thrill of having a real live gangster empty their ashtrays and talk about life and art.” Marta Orbach told him Viking Press was interested in publishing whatever liter­ary collaboration he could cook up with her, so they began making daily tape recordings of his reminiscences at her house. At first it was supposed to be a black comedy about prison life, but then there was talk of an outright autobio­graphy and even a meeting with an MGM representative to discuss selling it to the movies — so there is also the remaining possibility, as a final theory, that just about any­body in the underworld, getting wind of this might be nervous enough about possible indiscre­tions to want him snuffed.

The two key points here are that (a) by this time he was totally pathetic (Goddard: “He had outgrown the old life. To allow himself to be forced back into it was unthinkable — a submission to circumstance, a confession of fail­ure. As for his new life, the pros­pect was hardly less humiliating. It entailed another kind of surren­der — to show-biz society and public opinion. His self-esteem would depend, not on his power and sover­eign will, but on how long an ex-gangster could stay in fashion. Like an ex-prizefighter, he might even be reduced someday to mak­ing yogurt commercials.”), and (b) Dylan got even the very last second of Gallo’s life wrong: “He could see it coming through the door as he lifted up his fork.” Gallo was shot from behind. So all that remains now is the question to Bob Dylan: Why? Although that is one that I doubt he is going to answer, I was able to get through to his collaborator on “Joey” and the rest of Desire, Jacques Levy, who explained the way he and Dylan had worked on the album, and had a ready defense for the lionization of Joey Gallo: “Bob liked the work I’d done with [Roger] McGuinn, said, ‘Let’s get together and see what happens.’ So we’d sit around tossing ideas back and forth until a song was finished. Bob would have an idea, or I would have an idea, and we would write the songs together, throwing lines, words, rhymes, plot schemes back and forth. It wasn’t even a case of writing every other line.

“I suggested the Joey song to Bob; I took him to dinner with Jerry and Marta Orbach, we told him about Joey, and he became excited about the prospect of the song. I don’t think he ever read much more about Joey than what most people did; but we had all known Joey very well, and told Bob all about him. You know, Bob has always had a thing about outlaws, people on the outside of whatever side there was. Would you call John Wesley Harding [sic] a small-time hoodlum? I think calling Joey that is labeling someone unfairly, and he wasn’t a psychopath either. He was just trying to build something, to help his people and family, and I don’t mean family in the Mafia sense. Yeah, he was a victim of society — of growing up poor, and if you look at the results of the Gallo-Profaci war, say, you’ll find that it’s never been proved that the Gallos killed anybody, but plenty of Joey’s people got killed. And I don’t think he set up Joe Colombo. If there was a vicious side of Joey, I think that people like myself, the Orbachs, people who were around him for at least a year before he died, would have seen it come out.”

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But, I interjected, Joey himself bragged that he had killed Albert Anastasia. Levy almost laughed: “That was Joey’s wise-guy side bragging about something like that is not proof of having done it. That was Joey posing as the tough guy, the Hollywood Richard Widmark–Jimmy Cagney stereo­type.”

Levy and I ended up agreeing that we would never agree on this subject. He had known Joey; all I had were the biased accounts of Donald Goddard, Joey’s ex-wife and first daughter, journalists, cops, and judges. The reader can draw his own conclusions, although I do think that Dylan can stand accused of not doing his homework. But then he’s a poet, and poets aren’t expected to do homework, right? It seems to me that the reason why Dylan’s Joey is so at variance with most ac­counts of Gallo is the same as the reason Dylan doesn’t like to do retakes of his songs — he is simply lazy. I also think Desire is an exploitation record, that the answer to the question, “What is Dylan thinking? is that he is not thinking at all, and that the only thing remaining is to suggest antihero fodder for future Dylan compositional products: Elmer Wayne Henley, William Calley, Arthur Bremer, and that kid who tried to rob a bank at 13th Street and Sixth Avenue and ended up drunkenly requesting replays of the Grateful Dead on the radio. Certainly they all qualify as alienated victims of our sick society, every bit as much on the outside as Joey Gallo.

One does wonder, however, what Gallo would have made of Dylan’s tribute to him; and one receives a possible answer in Goddard’s book, where Gallo’s ex-wife describes borrowing a hundred bucks from Joey’s father to buy records so that the Prince of Brooklyn, always a fan of contemporary music, could catch up on what had been happening in soundsville during the decade he’d been away reading Reich in the slams: “He got especially mad over a Byrds album called ‘Chestnut Mare’ that I wanted him to hear. ‘Listen to the lyrics,’ I said. ‘They’re so pretty and well done.’ ‘I don’t want to hear any fags singing about any fucking horse,’ he says — and he’s really venomous. ‘It’s not about a fucking horse,’ I said. ‘If you’ll listen, it’s about life.’ But he doesn’t want to hear about life either.… Next thing I know, he jumps out of the bathtub, snatched the record off the machine, stomps out in the hall stark-naked, and pitches it down the incinerator.”