Henry Hill, the former New York City gangster and one-time FBI informant who inspired Martin Scorsese’s crime classic Goodfellas, has passed away at the age of 69.
Hill’s partner and manager Lisa Caserta confirmed to CBS News that he died in a Los Angeles hospital bed on Tuesday, stating that he “went out pretty peacefully, for a goodfella.” No specific cause was given for Hill’s death, though Caserta told CBS that complications from Hill’s recent heart attack — coupled with his heavy smoking — led to his demise.
It could have been worse. Anyone who has seen Scorsese’s masterpiece knows that Hill (portrayed onscreen by Ray Liotta) lived a dangerous lifestyle as a member of the Lucchese crime family for decades. Hill’s experiences with the mob first were chronicled in Nicholas Pileggi’s book Wiseguy, which Scorsese converted into a big-screen answer to Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.
Hill was arrested in 1980 on drug charges and avoided a lengthy prison sentence by testifying against his former bosses and entering the witness protection program.
"I was in trouble. I knew I was a dead man, no matter how you cut it. If I stayed in prison, I was dead. Went out in the street, I was dead. So, I mean, my choice was already made," Hill told journalist Charlie Rose in a 2009 interview.
Later in life, Hill became a media fixture, giving the occasional interview and becoming a regular, of sorts, on Howard Stern’s syndicated radio program. In fact, Stern opened his program Wednesday morning with a Hill tribute, saying:
"I loved having Henry on the show and I loved hearing his mob stories... But Henry was a despicable guy. I mean, he's killed people… He took the shortcut in life… There was no substance to the guy. He was a pathological liar."
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