Henry Hill, the infamous New York mobster whose life became the basis for Martin Scorsese’s gangster movie “Goodfellas,” has died at 69 but not in jail, or by a mob hit as he long feared.
The notorious mobster passed away in a Los Angeles hospital from an undisclosed illness. “”He had been sick for a long time … his heart gave out,” his girlfriend told gossip site TMZ.
In his later years, Hill had spent much of his time mending relationships with estranged family members, including two children, according to the site.
Hill had an unlikely–and lucky life–as a hood growing up in Brooklyn. Although he worked for Lucchese crime capo Paul Vario, starting as a teen, he was never “made” in the La Cosa Nostra, because of his Irish father, although his mother was Italian.
His colorful life as a mobster led Scorsese to write and direct the 1990 mob classic “Goodfellas.” The movie was based on the book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi, who charted Hill’s rise and fall in the crime world.
Hill was played in the movie by a far better looking Ray Liotta. Robert Di Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino also starred as his criminal associates.
Hill gained fame in 1978 after his crew knocked over a Lufthansa Airlines flight at Kennedy Airport. They scored a then-record $5 million. But the successful robbery ultimately proved his undoing. His crew had a falling out over the money.
Fearing he might get whacked, he turned FBI informant after being arrested on drug charges. His testimony led to the convictions of dozens of criminal associates. Meanwhile, he avoided jail and spent years in the federal witness protection program.
He was booted from the program early 1990s after repeated arrests for drugs.
“The government said a couple of hundred million dollars went through my hands. But I just blew it on slow horses, women, drugs and rock ’n’ roll,” he once said in an interview on the 20th anniversary of the release of “Goodfellas.”
No matter where he hid, he said he always felt like he had a contract on his head.
“There’s always that chance that some young buck wants to make a name for themselves,” he said 2010. “I never thought I’d reach this wonderful age. I’m just grateful for being alive.”