Joey Gallo was a notorious New York City mobster
, who was immortalized in a book by Jimmy Breslin
, "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight
", and in a song by Bob Dylan
, simply titled "Joey
Gallo was born in Brooklyn in 1929, the third of five children. With his brothers Larry and Albert, he ran with local street gangs, which eventually led to working for the Profaci Family. Gallo was known as "Crazy Joe", both for his ruthless style and his psychiatric diagnosis. After his first arrest in 1950, for burglary, Gallo served no prison time, but was instead sent to the psych unit at Kings County Hospital.
The Gallo brothers became trusted associates of the Profaci Family, and were contracted with the murder of Albert Anastasia in 1957. After successfully completing the hit, the Gallos were "made"--inducted--into the Profaci Family.
However, the Gallo brothers were unhappy with the money they were making in the Profaci Family, and in 1960, led by Larry Gallo and Carmine Persico, they convinced almost 100 Profaci soldiers to defect. The Gallo and Profaci mobs then began a bloody battle for control of the drug traffic in Brooklyn. The Gallos struck first, kidnapping four of Joe Profaci's closest advisors. A temporary peace was achieved after this, and most of the Gallo mob returned to the Profaci Family.
In the summer of 1961, the Gallos murdered five Profaci soldiers, and in retaliation, the Profacis beat Larry Gallo nearly to death.
Joey Gallo was convicted of extortion later that year, and served a ten-year prison term. Not long after Joey's conviction, Joe Profaci died, and a struggle for control of the family began.
Giuseppe Magliocco was briefly the head of the Profaci Family, but was removed after an attempted hit on Carlo Gambino, boss of the Gambino Family. The power passed to Joe Colombo, and the family was renamed the Colombo Family. Joe Colombo also took his marching orders from Carlo Gambino, who would eventually control all Five Families in New York. Carlo Gambino was the last mobster in New York to be the "Boss of all Bosses".
Colombo would go on to form the Italian-American Anti-Defamation League in 1970, and this proved to be his downfall. While it was a successful racket, having a membership of 150,000, and siphoning over a million dollars in contributions directly into Colombo's pockets, it also generated alot of publicity, and this made Carlo Gambino very nervous..
Around the same time, Joey Gallo was released from prison. Joe Colombo sent him a gift of a thousand dollars, which Gallo returned with a message to "stick it up his ass". Gallo demanded control of all his old turf and all his old rackets, which Colombo was unwilling to give. It looked like there would be another civil war, one in which Joey Gallo was badly outnumbered. The Colombo family at this time was about 500 strong, and the Gallo gang had perhaps 20 members.
On June 29th, 1971, Joe Colombo was murdered at a rally of his Defamation League by a lone gunman, Jerome Johnson. Johnson himself was shot and killed by an unknown assailant before he could be taken into custody. It was assumed that this was the work of Joey Gallo. The heads of the Five Families met, and put a contract on Joey Gallo's head. For several months, the Gallo and Colombo mobs were at war, until, on April 16th, 1972, Joey Gallo was gunned down at a celebration for his 43rd birthday at Umberto's Clam House in Little Italy.
The gunman was a Colombo soldier named Carmine Diabiase. Gallo was shot twice in the back as he sat at his table, but managed to stagger out into the street and collapsed on the sidewalk next to his 1971 Cadillac. He was taken by ambulance to Beekman-Downtown Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
At his funeral, his sister Carmella said, "The streets are going to run red with blood, Joey", over his casket, and they did, as the Colombo family attempted to wipe out the remains of Joey Gallo's gang. Later that year, two innocent men were murdered in a bar by a Gallo associate; several feet away, five Colombo soldiers (who the hit had been intended for) looked on in amazement. No one had thought to provide the gunman with a description of his intended victims.
The Colombo Family eventually succeeded in wiping out the remnants of the Gallo mob, though interestingly, control of the Colombo Family passed on to Carmine Persico, who had sided with the Gallos in the 1960 mob war.
The Bob Dylan song came about because, at the time of his death, Joey Gallo was hanging out with Hollywood types and trying to sell a screenplay about his life as a mobster. He befriended actor Jerry Orbach, who also knew Dylan, and in 1975, Dylan recorded an 11-minute tribute to the dead gangster, for the Desire album, which does not rank with Dylan's better work, shall we say.
Dylan drew some severe criticism, mostly from Lester Bangs, for romanticizing (and sometimes just plain getting wrong) the facts of Gallo's life. In his defense, Dylan claimed the song was in the tradition of outlaw ballads such as those written about Billy the Kid.
Gallo's influence continues into the entertainment business today; the Sopranos character Richie Aprile seems to be at least partially based on Crazy Joe Gallo.
Bob Dylan and Jacques Levy, "Joey".