The film Goodfellas was released 30 years ago this month and went on to become the gold standard for all mob movies of the future. Director Martin Scorsese’s 1990 classic told the story of New York mafia associate Henry Hill of the Lucchese crime family and his Robert’s Lounge crew run by James (Jimmy the Gent) Burke in Queens.
On December 11, 1978, Burke’s crew pulled off the biggest heist in American history with a $6,000,000 robbery of the Lufthansa Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport. Within days, bodies started dropping. Burke wanted the whole score for himself and no links to the robbery leading back to him.
Goodfellas depicts the heist and forthcoming slaughter of people connected to it on Burke’s orders, famously accompanied by Derek & The Dominoes’ piano “outro” to Layla. Robert DeNiro played Jimmy “The Gent” Conway, based on Burke, and Ray Liotta played Henry Hill.
THE GOODFELLAS HIT LIST (1978-1984)
December 18, 1978 – Robert’s Lounge crew member Parnell (Stacks) Edwards is killed in his apartment a week following the Lufthansa heist after botching his role in the job and not properly disposing of the getaway vehicle. Edwards, an expert in credit card fraud, was played by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie.
December 30, 1978 – Robert’s Lounge crew member Thomas (Two Gun Tommy) DeSimone disappeared on his way to what he thought was a mafia induction ceremony but is murdered instead. DeSimone had been one of the stick-up men in the heist and was most likely the triggerman in the Stacks Edwards homicide. He had angered mob powers in the Gambino crime family with the unsanctioned murders of William (Billy Bats) Bentvena and Ron (Foxy) Jerothe years earlier and upset his superiors in the Luccheses by trying to sexually assaulting a capo’s girlfriend. Joe Pesci nabbed an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of hot-headed “Two-Gun Tommy.” The Billy Bats hit was recreated on the screen in Goodfellas in the oft-quoted “Shine box” scene.
January 6, 1979 – Jewish mob associate Marty (The Rug) Krugman is killed after being too demanding for his cut of the proceeds from the heist. It was the loud and obnoxious Krugman’s tip about the lax security and his inside access at JFK’s Lufthansa cargo terminal that jump-started the conspiracy to rob the airport. Krugman, a bookie and scammer known for crazy television commercials for his male wig shop, was played by actor Chuck Low in Goodfellas.
Jan 17, 1979 – Robert’s Lounge crew member Richie Eaton is slain and left hanging on a hook in a meat truck after trying to scam Jimmy the Gent out of $250,000 of the heist proceeds that Burke had tasked him with laundering in Florida through a bar. Eaton’s murder itself wasn’t shown in Goodfellas, but his discovery in the meat locker was. The character in the movie that winds up dead in a meat locker was Frank Sivero’s “Frankie Carbone,” more based on Robert’s Lounge crew member Angelo Sepe than Eaton.
Feb 10, 1979 – Tommy DeSimone’s girlfriend, Theresa Ferrara, who worked with Richie Eaton in Ft. Lauderdale and helped Eaton skim off the top of the laundered heist cash, is murdered. Her body is never found. Burke believed she was an FBI informant.
March 8, 1979 – Robert’s Lounge crew member Louis (Louie Roast Beef) Cafora and his wife Joanna are murdered for Louie Roast Beef’s careless behavior in the direct aftermath of the heist. Cafora was Jimmy the Gent’s cellmate during a prison stint and one of the stick up men in the job. Like what was shown in Goodfellas, days following boosting the Lufthansa terminal, Louie Roast Beef (called “Johnny Roast Beef” in the film) bought a brand new pink-colored Cadillac Fleetwood and was going around town showing it off, raising eyebrows from law enforcement and drawing Burke’s ire.
March 22, 1979 – Florida bar owner Tommy Monteleone is killed for helping Richie Eaton and Theresa Ferrara steal money given to them by Jimmy the Gent, specifically earmarked to be washed through Monteleone’s Player’s Lounge nightclub in Ft. Lauderdale. Monteleone had staged a phony drug rip off to explain to Burke how the 250K went missing.
May 16, 1979 – JFK Airport “inside men” Joseph (Joe Buddha) Manri & Robert (Frenchy) McMahon are murdered execution style and found side-by-side in a car found in a New York parking garage. In the movie, their bodies are seen being discovered in a garbage truck. Both Manri and McMahon worked at the airport in the Air France terminal and were considered by the FBI to be members of Jimmy the Gent’s Robert’s Lounge crew. They had helped Henry Hill and Burke pull off the Air France Heist years before.
June 13, 1979 – Gambino crime family member Paolo LiCastra, the Gambino’s representative at JFK Airport, is slain, set on fire and thrown in a trash dump in a further attempt by Burke to eliminate any links between him and the heist.
July 18, 1984 – Robert’s Lounge crew member Angelo Sepe & his girlfriend Joanna Lombardo are killed in Sepe’s apartment after Sepe angered Lucchese crime family administrators by his brazen robbery of mob-backed drug dealers. Sepe was one of the stick up men in the heist and a triggerman in several of the follow-up murders ordered by Burke.