Celebrated in the Bob Dylan ballad "Joey", Crazy Joe Gallo was a charismatic beatnik gangster whose forays into Greenwich Village in the 1960s inspired his bloody revolution against the Mafia. Joey was the epitome of gangster chic, an anti-hero and counterculture rebel/philosopher whose readings of cigarette-burned copies of Camus and Sartre in Village cafés inspired him to "go to the mattresses" holing up with his gang in a Red Hook tenement with shotguns and grenades in an all-out street war.
Modeling themselves after B-movie gangsters in film noir classics, Joey made it into Women's Wear Daily and he and his brothers were regularly featured on the covers of the tabs dressed nattily in cheap black suits, skinny black ties and dark hipster Ray-Bans, a look so "gangster chic" that agnès b. dressed Harvey Keitel accordingly for Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Like a character out of Godard film, Joey always carried his press clipping around in his pocket.
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During the heyday of The Godfather, Crazy Joe became a radical chic socialite. He made the rounds of high society with Jerry Orbach before being gunned down mid bite at Umberto's Clam House on Mulberry Street in Little Italy. Coinciding with this year's 40th anniversary of the publication of The Godfather, The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld (Weinstein Books) tells Joey's tale and the true stories that inspired Mario Puzo's masterpiece. Watch this (make sure your volume is on):
What they said about Crazy Joe:
"I never considered him a gangster. I always considered him some kind of hero...An underdog fighting against the elements."-- Bob Dylan
"He almost became one of the Beautiful People." -- Gay Talese
"I wish I'd had the chance to talk to Joe Gallo before he died." -- Susan Sontag
"Laugh at Joe...you're liable to get your brains blown out." -- Pete Hamill