Thursday, April 16, 2009

PS 179's most notorious graduate

Today I learned from a very old friend that mobster Joey Gallo was actually a Kensington resident who grew up on East Fourth Street between Ditmas and Cortelyou Road. In fact Gallo once walked the same halls as I did at PS 179, and probably bought a "bullet bar" from Morris our ice cream man too. Gallo's father owned a coffee shop where Walgreen’s is now back in the 40’s and 50’s, and Joey was a fixture on McDonald Avenue and Church for quite some time.

Joey Gallo was Kensington's neighborhood "loan shark" too, and if you ever owed him any money, you better just pay up . Because Joey Gallo never believed in a "grace period", no, that was for banks and charge cards and not "tough guys" from East Fourth Street Brooklyn.

Here’s his Wikipedia Biography…

“Joseph "Joey" Gallo, also known as "Crazy Joe" and "Joe The Blond", (April 7, 1929 – April 7, 1972) was a New York City gangster, gunman, and racketeer of the Profaci crime family (later known as the Colombo crime family). Joey and his two brothers would initiate one of the bloodiest mob conflicts since the Castellammarese War of 1931. His brothers were Lawrence Gallo and Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo.”

Early years
Born in Red Hook, Brooklyn to Neapolitan parents, Gallo earned his nickname in mafia circles as a hitman who, along with his brothers Larry and Albert, were believed to be responsible for the barbershop hit on Albert Anastasia. His two brothers, Lawrence and Albert, would later follow their older brother into the life of organized crime and align themselves with the Colombo crime family. Joseph is also the brother of Carmella Fiorello-Gallo. He is the father of Colombo crime family associate Aldo Gallo who was born to Jaffie on March 9, 1954 in New Hyde Park, New York and is alive as of 2007. He would follow his father into a career of organized crime, but not be as successful as his father or uncles.
Joseph was a very colorful character and talkative by nature. In the 1950s he was nicknamed "Joey the Blond" because of his full head of blond hair. In 1947 after viewing the Richard Widmark film Kiss of Death Joseph began to mimic Widmark's film character, "Tommy Udo" with his drowsy, heavy-lidded appearance and in later years could recite long passages of the movie's dialogue.
Joseph Gallo was married twice. He married, divorced and later remarried the woman only identified as Jeffie for the second time in July 1971. Little is known about Jeffie other than, "Though she [Jeffie] had yielded to Joey [Gallo] as the dominant partner in their marriage, it was a highly qualified surrender. She would abide by his decisions only if she approved of them. Mutual respect was her watchword, and if, on minor matters, she did sometimes give away against her better judgment, she would always make it clear to him that this was without prejudice." But after rekindling his first attempt at a failed marriage with Jeffie he began pursuing Sina Essary. He finally settled down and married in April 1972 to 29--year old Italian-American dental assistant, the former Mrs. Sina Essary who he had married a mere three weeks before his death in April 1972. The wedding ceremony was performed by the same priest who conducted the ceremony for musician Tiny Tim and Ada Jones. Joe's best man was his close friend David Steinberg. After being released from prison after ten years Sina would later comment about her first encounter with Gallo in 1971 saying he appeared, "extremely frail and pale. He looked like an old man. He was a bag of bones. You could see the remnants of what had been a strikingly handsome man in his youth. He had beautiful features-- beautiful nose, beautiful mouth and piercing blue eyes." After consummating his marriage to Sina, Joseph became the stepfather of Lisa Essary-Gallo, born c.a. 1962 who was ten years old at the time of her new stepfather's murder. Joseph's wife, stepdaughter and biological sister were all present and witnesses to his unsolved gangland slaying. Lisa Essary-Gallo became close friends to Joe's children who had been mothered by the unidentified "Jeffie Gallo".
He secretly owned several nightclubs on Eighth Avenue and two sweat shops in the Manhattan garment district where he had forty or fifty girls make fabric for dress suits. He also ran floating dice and high-stake card games and extortion.
Sometime in the early to late 1960s Gallo befriended African-American youths from the black-populated enclaves of Brooklyn, New York realizing that joining forces with the African-Americans, rather than by fighting them, there was a lot of money to be made. The idea of uniting the major African-American and Italian underworld leaders became an obsession with him which would be his life's credo. It would later be a philosophy that was later put in to practice by several fellow capos and mob bosses and led to building ties to other criminal organizations. While incarcerated at Auburn Correctional Facility Joseph took up the hobby of painting, trying to become a painter of water colors and broaden his considerable horizons in the legitimate employment field. He was an avid reader of Jean-Paul Sartre, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Leon Tolstoy Ayn Rand, his literary role model and life icon Niccolò Machiavelli, and The New York Times. He had a philosophical outlook on life which was: if you're a cab driver, be the best cab driver in the world; if you're a gangster, be the best and do not settle for second rate. Donald Frankos would say, "Joe was articulate and excellent verbal skills being able to describe gouging a man's guts out with the same eloquent ease that he used when discussing classical literature". While he was incarcerated at Auburn with Donald Frankos he would tutor Donald on the principles of his hero Niccolò Machiavelli. Donald in turn taught Joe how to play bridge.
While in jail, Joseph was an outsider among his fellow incarcerated Italian counterparts and was constantly seen with an entourage of African-Americans. In prison he worked as an elevator operator in the prison's woodworking shop.
[edit]Gallo-Profaci war
In the late 1950s, Gallo tried to overpower mafia boss Joseph Profaci to take control of the Profaci family. Gallo was helped in this war by his brothers Larry and Albert. Albert was himself nicknamed "Kid Blast". Due to Profaci's unpopularity with his men (he was seen as somewhat stingy and required constant tribute), the Gallos and their chief ally, Carmine Persico, believed they had a chance (Persico would later switch sides and rejoin the Profaci ranks).
In May 1961, several gunmen tried and failed to kill Gallo. Profaci also placed his soldier, John Scimone, into the Gallo gang as a spy. Scimone set up the murder of Joseph "Joe Jelly" Gioelli, who was one of Gallo's top enforcers and biggest hitters. Profaci gunmen kidnapped Gioelli and took him out on Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn in a fishing boat. Once on the water, Gioelli was shot and dismembered. His clothing was stuffed with dead fish and thrown in front of an auto shop frequented by the Gallo gang. On August 20, 1961, brother Larry was lured to a meeting at the Sahara Lounge, a Brooklyn supper club. Once inside the club Profaci hitmen, reportedly including Carmine Persico who is suspected to have set it up and double crossed the Gallos, tried to strangle him. However, a police officer happened to walk inside the club and stop Larry's execution. The Gallos would later seek revenge on Carmine Persico, opening fire on his car. Although it failed to kill him, Persico was wounded in the arm and jaw.
In 1961, Gallo was convicted of extortion and sent to prison for the next ten years. After Profaci died of cancer, underboss Joseph Magliocco was the new target of the Gallo revolt. Eventually Magliocco was forced to step down after the Mafia Commission discovered he was plotting against them.
[edit]Attempted poisonings
Joe was a very cunning and conniving man who would politely invite fellow convicts into his cell and attempt to poison them, most of the attempts were made with the use of strychnine, and one time nearly killed a fellow convict by offering him antipasto laced with the deadly chemical. A prison friend of Donald Frankos became aware of Gallo's poisoning methods and brought Joe poisoned lasagna, and at the same time Joe offered him anchovies marinated in strychnine. During a prison protest riot at Auburn Joe saved a severely wounded corrections officer. The corrections officer later testified in court after the riots and Joe was released early for his civic duty. After talking down to his incarcerated Italian Mafioso and standing up for some African-American convicts he earned the nickname "The Criminal" for his betrayal. After his release from prison he became a figure with great status among elite society, a "must attend" on many guest lists. Members of the "in crowd" wanted him to attend their dinner parties, and hung on his every remark as if he was royalty. His elevated status among the jet-set trend setters started when Jerry Orbach played a role in the movie The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, based on the novel by Jimmy Breslin in which the main character supposedly depicts Gallo. After he had dinner with Orbach and his wife Martam she would later comment that he had "absolutely" charmed her. Joe also became a close friend of actress Joan Hackett who found it amusing when he called her a "broad", comedian David Steinberg and the writer Peter Stone.
The Gallo brothers did some work for Carlo Gambino and also had a close relationship with one of Vito Genovese's most powerful capodecinas, Anthony Strollo, until Genovese had him killed.
[edit]Colombo murder
Upon his release in 1971, Gallo started battling family boss Joe Colombo and the renamed Colombo family. Gallo was one of the first mafiosi to predict a shift of power in the Harlem rackets from the Italian mafia to African-American gangs. While in prison, Gallo had made numerous connections with African-American gang members such as Nicky Barnes. Gallo was allied with Carlo Gambino, who disliked all the publicity that Colombo garnered with his Italian-American League. Joe Colombo was shot on June 28, 1971 by an African-American gunman named Jerome Johnson. Johnson, who was immediately shot dead by Colombo's bodyguards, was believed to be a Gallo associate, thus shifting suspicion to Gallo.
On April 7, 1972, Gallo was celebrating his 43rd birthday with friends including his bodyguard, Peter "Pete the Greek" Diapoulas at a restaurant, Umberto's Clam House at 129 Mulberry Street in Little Italy, Manhattan. At least two gunmen burst in the doors and opened fire with .32 and .38 caliber revolvers. Gallo was hit five times while he burst away from his table. Diapoulas was shot once in the hip during the melee. Joey stumbled into the street and collapsed while his killers sped away in a car. The gunmen were never positively identified. At his funeral, Gallo's sister cried over his coffin that "The streets are going to run red with blood, Joey!"
As the Roman-Catholic church would later protest concerning the burial of slain Gambino crime family mob boss Paul Castellano later in 1985, Joe was refused a proper burial by the local parish priest. His widowed wife Sina arranged for a substitute priest to fly in from Cleveland to perform the ceremony.
Informant Joe Luparelli later testified that Gallo's killers were Carmine DiBiase a.k.a. Sonny Pinto, and two brothers whom he knew only as Cisco and Benny. Luparelli also stated that mobster Phillip Gambino played a secondary role in the hit. Despite Luparelli's accusations, none of these men were ever charged with Gallo's killing. Pinto was sought, but never found, managing to evade police for over 30 years.
A differing account of the murder was offered by hit-man and union activist Frank Sheeran in a series of confessions made before his 2003 death. Sheeran claimed that he was the lone triggerman in the Gallo hit. Distant relatives include Nicholas and Patrick Gallo.
[edit]In popular culture

The 1969 novel and 1971 film The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight are a roman à clef of the life of Joey Gallo, whose fictional counterpart is played by actor Jerry Orbach in the film. Gallo and Orbach were longtime friends, with Orbach attending Gallo's funeral despite negative press.
In the 1974 film The Godfather II, the character Frankie Pentangeli, played by Michael V. Gazzo, survives a strangulation attempt in a bar that is reminiscent of the attempted strangulation of Larry Gallo in the Sahara Lounge. Ironically, the Rosato brothers are most probably based on the Gallo brothers themselves, right down to their beef with the Corleone family i.e. Profaci family.
In the 1990 film Godfather Part III, the character "Joey Zasa", played by actor Joe Mantegna, is based in part on Joey Gallo.
Singer Iggy Pop's song "Play It Safe," from the album Soldier, includes the lyric "slippin' and slidin' like Joey Gallo."
Joey Gallo is portrayed by actor Peter Boyle in Carlo Lizzani's 1974 film Crazy Joe.
Joey Gallo is referenced in the 1990 film Goodfellas by Henry Hill, played by Ray Liotta, when he states "It was before Crazy Joe decided to take on a boss and start a war."
In an episode of The Sopranos, Jon Favreau, playing himself, expresses an interest in producing a film based on Gallo.
The album Desire by Bob Dylan includes a version of Gallo's life in the song "Joey." The lyrics are a collaboration with Jacques Levy.
[edit]Gallo Crew members

Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo
Frank "Punchy" Illiano
Nicholas Bianco

Brandt, Charles. I Heard You Paint Houses: Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran and the inside story of the Mafia, the Teamsters, and the last ride of Jimmy Hoffa. Steerforth Press, Hanover (NH, USA) 2004. (ISBN 1-58642-077-1)
Hoffman, William, and Headley, Lake, Contract Killer: The Explosive Story of the Mafia's Most Notorious Hit Man Donald "Tony the Greek" Frankos Thunder's Mouth Press (1992)
Albanese, S. Jay Contemporary Issue in Organized Crime
[edit]External links

Gallo article at
Death of Gallo at
Joey Gallo at Find A Grave
Former Umberto's Clam House at Google Maps
Categories: 1929 births | 1972 deaths | Italian-American mobsters | Americans convicted of murder | Murdered Italian-American mobsters | Colombo crime family | Unsolved murders | Burials at Green-Wood Cemetery | People from Brooklyn | American murder victims | People murdered in New York

Ron Lopez


Phyllis Charney said...

Hi, I found your Joey Gallo article while Googling my old school: yep, PS 179. First I went to PS 164 for kindergarten, then 179 for part of 1st grade before we moved to Long Island in 1957. I don't recognize your name so we may not have been in the same age group, but I was wondering what high school I would have attended if I stayed at 1560 38th Street. Which h.s. did YOU go to? I was born in 1950, graduated h.s. in 1968. What is also intriguing about Joey Gallo having attended is that my best friend next door's father, of course I didn't know at the time, and only found out decades later, was "connected." I guess he was just a midlevel mafioso because he lived in an attached house like us, :) Thanks.

Pete said...

I remember Gallo when I was a kid - he'd rub my head as he said hello to my folks - and his dad had a little shop right next to Silver Rod when it was where Denny's is now...I think it was a shoe repair.

Benny said...

My aunt and uncle lived on east 4th
and near courtelu and joes mom lived a few houses away from ditmas
ave.My aunts house was always open to anyone in he neighborhood stopping by playing cards joe was their sometimes and when mister softy came around he bought all the kids on the block ice cream.
I loved brooklyn between ocean parkway and east 5th where I lived was a little candy store that made the best malts that will never be matched the man who ran it was mister fink.He and his wife were really good people. Its hard to believe that at 5 years old we could go up to the store by ourselves now you have to watch your kids always.If we could do it all again.

Anonymous said...

I also went to ps 179 and my grandmother live on east 3rd I never knew that joe went their I later went to st rose of lima off ocean parkway,and then back to 179 before we moved to staten island.
Staten island was ok but I wish i had fully grown up in brooklyn.

Evan Dahill said...

My fifth grade teacher -- the AWFUL Rachel Goodman -- bragged about having had Joey Gallo as one of her students.

Anonymous said...

Hey does anyone know if there was a woman married into the gallo family named ruby cause that was my grandmothers first husband I'm thinking his name was al and she had a son named Larry they were from new York so I'm just curious