Birthday: April 7, 1929
Nationality: American, Italian
Died At Age: 43
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: Joseph Gallo, Crazy Joe, Joe the Blond
Born Country: United States
Born in: New York, New York, United States
Notorious As: Mobster
Height: 1.68 m
Spouse/Ex-: Sina Essary (m. 1972), Jeffie Gallo (m. 1971–1971)
father: Umberto Gallo
mother: Mary Gallo
siblings: Albert Gallo, Carmello Fiorello, Larry Gallo
children: Joie Gallo, Lisa Essary-Gallo
Died on: April 7, 1972
place of death: New York, New York, United States
Joseph Gallo, also referred as Crazy Joe, was an Italian-American mobster and caporegime of the Colombo crime family. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia following an arrest, however managed to became an enforcer in the Profaci crime family and eventually formed his own group with his brothers Larry and Albert. It was speculated that Gallo and his crew murdered Albert Anastasia, the Gambino crime family boss, following orders of Joe Profaci. Gallo later rebelled against Profaci inciting the First Colombo War. He was sentenced to seven-to-fourteen years in prison being convicted of conspiracy and extortion. He reportedly befriended and coached an African-American gangster while serving his prison term and upon his release recruited black soldiers in his crew. He attempted to seize power from Colombo crime family boss Joseph Colombo. The latter survived an assassination attempt which the Colombo family believed was plotted by Gallo. In less than a year Gallo was shot to death while he was celebrating his 43rd birthday at Umbertos Clam House in Little Italy, Manhattan. The rivalry paved way for the Second Colombo War which continued for several years.
Childhood & Early Life
Joseph Gallo was born on April 7, 1929, in New York City, New York, US, to Umberto and Mary Gallo. His father, who hardly did much to restrict Gallo and his two brothers from taking part in local criminal activity, was a bootlegger during Prohibition.
Gallo started mimicking the gangster character of "Tommy Udo" played by Richard Widmark in the film ‘Kiss of Death' (1947) in 1949. Following an arrest, in 1950, Gallo was hospitalised in Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn. There he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. By this time his brothers, Larry and Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo, became his criminal associates.
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Stepping into the Crime World & First Colombo War
Gallo began his criminal career as an enforcer and hitman in the Profaci crime family under Joe Profaci. He operated an extortion racket, a numbers game betting operation, and floating dice and high-stakes card games with ‘The Dormitory’, an apartment on President Street in Brooklyn, as his headquarters. It was alleged that Gallo had a pet lion called Cleo in the basement of the apartment. In the next few years, he went on to secretly own two sweet shops and many nightclubs in Manhattan.
Meanwhile Carlo Gambino, underboss of Anastasia crime family, wanted to replace boss Albert Anastasia and gave the murder contract to Profaci, who then allegedly asked Gallo and his group to murder Anastasia. The latter was shot and killed on October 25, 1957, at a barber shop at the Park Sheraton Hotel in midtown Manhattan by two men who had covered their faces with scarves. As killers of Anastasia have never been conclusively identified, no one was charged in the case, however speculations on his killers have centred on Gallo among others. It was later claimed by Carmine Persico that he and Gallo killed Anastasia. Persico also joking mentioned that he was part of Gallo's "barbershop quintet".
The Gallo siblings were summoned to Washington, D.C. in 1958 to testify on organized crime before the McClellan Committee of the United States Senate.
The Gallo brothers kidnapped four of Profaci's top men including his brother Frank Profaci and underboss Joseph Magliocco on February 27, 1961. They demanded a more favourable financial scheme for release of the hostages and following a few weeks of negotiation, Profaci , who eluded capture and went to a sanctuary in Florida, and his consigliere, Charles "the Sidge" LoCicero, made a deal with the Gallo brothers thus securing peaceful release of the hostages.
The incident however triggered the First Colombo War with Profaci dishonouring the peace agreement and giving orders to murder two members of the Gallo crew including Joseph "Joe Jelly" Gioielli and Gallo’s brother Larry on August 20, 1961. While Gioielli was murdered, Larry survived a strangulation attempt made by Persico and Salvatore "Sally" D'Ambrosio. Although earlier Persico joined hands with the Gallo brothers against Profaci, his eventual betrayal led the Gallo brothers to call him “the Snake”. As the gang war started, which resulted in nine murders and three disappearances, Gallo and his crew retreated to the Dormitory. Persico was later charged with attempt to murder Larry, however the latter refused to testify and the charges were dropped.
Conviction & Imprisonment
Gallo was convicted of conspiracy and extortion in November 1961, and sentenced to seven-to-fourteen years in prison on December 21 that year. During his prison term, Gallo was kept at three New York state prisons at different points of time namely Green Haven Correctional Facility, Attica Correctional Facility, and Auburn Correctional Facility.
While staying at Green Haven, he befriended African-American drug trafficker Leroy "Nicky" Barnes and trained the latter on the way to upgrade his criminal organization. Gallo also sued the Department of Corrections on August 29, 1964, alleging that because he allowed a black barber to cut his hair, he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by the guards at Green Haven.
While serving his term at Auburn, Gallo rescued a seriously injured corrections officer from agitated inmates during a prison riot. Later the officer testified for him during a parole hearing.
Turn of Events, Release from Prison, Death & Second Colombo War
While Gallo was in prison, Profaci died of cancer on June 7, 1962, following which Magliocco took over as boss of the Profaci crime family and continued the gang war with the Gallos. The Gallo crew failed in their attempt to kill Persico on May 19, 1963, following which a peace agreement, negotiated by Patriarca family boss Raymond L.S. Patriarca, was reached between the two factions.
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Meanwhile Magliocco was forced to resign in 1963, after his plans with Bonanno crime family boss, Joseph Bonanno, to assassinate several rivals on The Commission were revealed by one of his top hit men Joseph Colombo. The latter was then awarded the Profaci family which then became the Colombo crime family.
Gallo’s brother Larry died of cancer in May 1968. Upon his release from prison on April 11, 1971, Gallo mentioned that the 1963 peace agreement was not applicable to him as he was in prison at the time of negotiation. Colombo then made a peace offering of $1,000, but Gallo demanded $100,000 to settle the dispute, which was however rejected by Colombo.
Meanwhile Gallo became part of New York high society. The American Mafia comedy film ‘The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight’, a film adaptation of 1969 novel of Jimmy Breslin bearing same title and based on life of Gallo, released on December 22, 1971.
An assassination attempt was made on Colombo by an African-American gunman Jerome A. Johnson at an Italian-American Civil Rights League rally held on June 28, 1971, in Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Colombo survived the gun shots but was paralyzed, while Johnson was immediately killed by bodyguards of the crime boss. The Colombo leadership alleged and was convinced that Gallo was behind the murder plot, however after questioning Gallo, the police came to the conclusion that Johnson acted alone.
Gallo was shot dead at around 4:30a.m. on April 7, 1972, at Umbertos Clam House in Little Italy, Manhattan, while he was celebrating his 43rd birthday. Different accounts did the rounds as to who murdered Gallo; however no one was ever charged resulting in no arrests. His funeral took place under police surveillance.
Seeking revenge on Gallo’s murder, his brother Albert made an unsuccessful attempt to kill Joseph Yacovelli, Persico‘s son Alphonse Persico, and Gennaro Langella. The Colombo family was then pushed into a second internecine war that continued for many years, until an agreement was made in 1974 leading Albert and his surviving crew to join the Genovese family.
Family & Personal Life
Gallo was married to Las Vegas showgirl Jeffie Lee Boyd sometime in the 1960s. They remarried in July 1971; however Jeffie divorced Gallo again later that year. Together they had a daughter called Joie.
In March 1972, Gallo tied the knot with former nun and a 29-year-old actress Sina Essary. Sina had a daughter called Lisa Essary from her previous marriage.
In Popular Culture
Following Gallo’s death, Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis produced the 1974 crime film on the mobster titled ‘Crazy Joe’. It was directed by Carlo Lizzani and starred Peter Boyle in the title role. Life and death of the mobster also found place in Bob Dylan's song ‘Joey’ from his 1976 album ‘Desire’. The Martin Scorsese directed and produced 2019 American epic crime film ‘The Irishman’ starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino among others also featured Gallo’s character portrayed by Sebastian Maniscalco.