Henry Hill, whose outrageous real-life tales of life in the mob became the inspiration for the movie Goodfellas, died yesterday at the age 69. TMZ first reported that he passed away in Los Angeles after a long, undisclosed illness. Hill first made a name for himself in crime circles as part of the crew that pulled off the infamous $5 million robbery (a record at the time) of the Lufthansa airline terminal at JFK Airport in 1979, and also played a role in a famous point-shaving scandal involving the Boston College basketball team. After getting busted on drug-dealing charges two years later, Hill became an FBI informant, helping to send most of his former associates to prison.
Hill's story became the basis for the Nicholas Pileggi book Wiseguy, which was later turned into the 1990 Martin Scorsese movie, in which Hill was portrayed by Ray Liotta. Hill's love of the spotlight and inability to stay out of trouble got him kicked out of the federal witness protection program, and made numerous media appearances after the movie was released. However, most of the men he put behind bars had died in jail and Hill continue to live in public repeatedly sharing his story until his death. But for movie fans, Hill will always be the Liotta's wild-eyed, occasionally unhinged gangster with his insanely violent (but entertaining!) friends.