Goodfellas‘ Henry Hill says he’s an artist, a bullshit artist.
Take a quick trip through the windmills of the mind of Henry Hill, the infamous Brooklyn-born gangster who collaborated with Nicholas Pileggi on Wiseguy, the memoir that became of the basis for Goodfellas. These days he’s peddling his art on ebay.
Stops include spaghetti sauce, painting, the Voice, the Witness Protection Program, disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, and “learning to fuck again” after being circumcised as an adult.
Village Voice: …So how are you these days?
Henry Hill: Ugh, I’m tired right now. I had a rough weekend.
VV: What did you do?
HH: I went down to the beach with the bitches. No, I didn’t. It was eye candy, you know what I mean? I went and hung out at a couple of friends’ houses. All the same shit.
VV: Tell me a little bit about your art work. When did you start painting? I didn’t realize…
HH: My bullshit art, or my art? I’m a bullshit artist. No no no no. I’ve been painting for years. Actually I started painting when I was in the penitentiary, in Lewisburg, and I’ve been painting since. Kind of a little successful at it, you know? It pays the bills. I gotta put a kid through college, just started school. So I’m gonna keep fucking working. Ain’t no rest for the weary.
VV: Now you’re opening up a restaurant, too, is that right?
HH: Yeah, yeah, it’s on Boston Post Road. The address is… Fuck, I don’t even know the address, hold on. 848 Boston Post Road. It’s right by Yale. And there’s another school right there on the street, too.
VV: Who’s going to school there? Your son?
HH: No, my son’s not going to Yale. He’s going to another school down south. … Fucking kids. I don’t know if you’ve got any… But you’re going to be misfortunate some day.
VV: Where do you get your ideas from when it comes to the painting?
HH: I don’t know. It depends which side of bed I wake up on in the morning. I could do real good art, you know what I mean, but I like to do real fucked up art. You know what I mean?
HH: Well, you know, it’s just what comes into my head at that certain time. If I don’t have any beers in me then my hands are shaking and I’ve got to do abstract. That can get serious. It’s just a process. Whatever goes through my sick, fuckin’ mind.
VV: I mean, are you just capitalizing on the movie, or is it just stuff that goes through your mind?
HH: The windmills of my mind, you know what I mean? I don’t know, whatever… That’s what I paint. And it’s a healing process, you know? It is, actually for me, it’s like going to confession. I don’t know if you’re Catholic or whatever. But it’s like going to confession. Bless me father for I have sinned. Please forgive me God… you know.
VV: I thought you converted though.
HH: I don’t know. I flip flop back and forth. You know what I am? I’m spiritual. I go to all denominations, you know what I mean? I don’t prefer any one. Just do ‘em all.
VV: I thought an interesting subject for a painting would be the two dogs, one looking in one direction, one…
HH: Haha, yeah. That’s a lot of work and I’m working on it, you know what I mean? That’s Scorsese.
VV: That’s his mother’s actual painting, right?
HH: Yeah, yeah, his mother painted that.
VV: I mean, your work on perspective isn’t probably there yet.
HH: That’s a lot of work, that painting.
VV: So you’re not in the witness protection program these days, right?
HH: No, no, no. They threw me the fuck out of there.
VV: What happened?
HH: Naw, nothing nothing. I got popped up in Seattle for… for being a Goodfella, you know what I mean? Or whatever. Seven years with those guys every Goddamn two weeks on a fucking plane and going somewhere for neutral site meetings and debriefings. Seven years was enough for me. It wore on me, you know what I mean? It messed my family up. ‘Cause I was never home. I was always traveling, fucking being debriefed and all this other nonsense.
VV: You’re living more out in the open now, right?
HH: Oh sure, yeah, of course. I got nothing to worry about. All those people are dead. I’m the sole survivor. Remember the Sole Survivors?
VV: You’re not worried about any disgruntled… What about Jimmy Burke’s [the real-life “Jimmy Conway” who Robert DeNiro portrayed in Goodfellas] kids or something like that?
HH: I think he’s think he’s only got two daughters left, and they’ve got their own problems. I don’t even know if Micky’s still alive and I don’t really care. No no no. Friends still look out for me, you know what I mean? They watch my back. But I don’t do nothing wrong. I sell my art on eBay. I’m managing my stepson; he does beats. He lives in Malibu. Good kid.
VV: Beats for hiphop music?
HH: Yeah, yeah, hiphop music. Makes you crazy sometimes. But it’s good.
VV: Does he sell them or anything?
HH: Yeah, no, he sells them. He sells them all day long.
VV: He’s got a website?
HH: Yeah, a good website, too. He’s a good kid, you know what I mean? I want him to make some fucking money so he’ll get the fuck out of the house over here.
VV: What did you think about the NBA ref getting caught up in that point shaving?
HH: That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gotta eat. Stupid Irish fuck.
VV: But why’s that just the tip of the iceberg? What else is out there?
HH: This guy is facing twenty-four years, dude, and he’s going to sing like a fucking bird. You watch. You got him cold. He just took a plea.
VV: What do you suppose will come out though?
HH: He’ll do a little time. But he’ll do it in a rest camp, maybe. Maybe he’s real lucky and gets enough people… Well, he’s got the Gambino’s involved, plus a few players I’m sure, and a few more refs. So he’s just being debriefed. It’ll take a while. But the indictments will start when you’re out like confetti on New York’s Eve in New York. They’ll be flying, don’t worry about that. He’ll get out of the country, he’ll go somewhere, try to straighten his life out. He’s got to worry about his family. Cause there’s a whole bunch of people involved. Not that I know for sure, but you know. He’s singing like a Jay Bird, you know.
VV: A friend is having a boy, and talking about circumcision. I know you got circumcised later in life. Do you have an opinion on the subject? Would you do it for your own kid?
HH: Of course. It’s the healthiest thing to do.
VV: You don’t regret it at all? Having lived one way versus…
HH: Not at all. It took me a while to learn how to fuck again. It did. It was weird. With a foreskin and without a foreskin, it’s pretty difficult.
VV: What did you have to figure out exactly?
HH: Which way to enjoy the better. You have these memory lapses. Why did I get my dick cut? I had it to get married, get married by the rabbi, so I had to do it. You know? Well, whatever. No, I think it’s a good thing. Honestly I do. But Jewish or not Jewish, it don’t matter. As long as he’s a good kid, stays out of trouble, stays away from all that craziness out there. Well, you’re in New York. You know what’s going on over there. It’s fucking insane.
VV: What is?
HH: What? The world. The whole fucking world is insane… The guys walking around with fucking magnums, fucking 44s and 38s and whatever.
VV: Do you miss New York?
HH: Yeah, I’m going to be back there soon. I sneak in and out occasionally.
VV: Do you feel like it’s unsafe here more than other places?
HH: It’s the same all over. Look at L.A. They don’t even give you body counts out here, you know what I mean?
VV: No, what do you mean?
HH: How many kids got killed down in South Central? They don’t even give you body counts out there. They don’t even put it in the paper. The best kept secret, you know? And what are you going to do, you know what I mean? I mean you could mind your own business and walk down the street. Or your daughter could be playing in the front yard, some of these neighborhoods out here. I mean, I live in the mountains. I could worry about the coyotes eating my dogs or the skunks eating my fish. That’s my major problems, you know what I mean? Really terrible.
VV: What else do you do for fun these days?
HH: I have fun. I try to have fun.
VV: How old are you?
HH: I’m 64. I’m working on a couple movies. I’m doing The Final Four, which is about the Boston College stuff. It’s called The Final Four. Movie with Peter Doyle.
VV: Peter Doyle?
HH: Peter Doyle, yeah, he’s a good writer. Out of Yale. Matter of fact he’s up in my restaurant right now this afternoon, right now.
VV : I thought your restaurant didn’t open yet.
HH: It hasn’t opened yet. But he just went up there to check it out.
VV: It’s in New Haven?
HH: No, it’s in West Haven.
VV: What’s the name of the restaurant?
HH: It’s called Wiseguy’s Italian restaurant. It’s a metaphor, hahaha.
VV: It’s a metaphor for what?
HH: I don’t know. With a name like Hill, I’m Italian? Half Italian. God, and I couldn’t be made. I don’t do drugs no more. I work with kids. I do a lot of speaking stuff at different schools, colleges, law enforcement colleges, this and that. I try to give back a little bit. Hey, I’m so happy I’m alive, you know what I mean? Some day I don’t feel like I’m alive. I wake up in the morning and, you know, I feel terrible. But it takes you about two minutes to get over that. I do some push ups, go for a swim in the pool. But life is good. I got a sauce company, good marinara sauce. I’ll send you a case if you want me to. You’ll find it in all the health food stores. It’s all natural. It’s really good stuff.
VV: Do you slice up the garlic with a razor for the sauce?
HH: Absolutely. My partner Maria is up here. She’s working on a restaurant. My friend… the guy that bankrolled the joint. It’s 6,000 square feet! You gotta come up here, when it opens.
VV: Invite me to the opening.
HH: I think it was scheduled for October 4th, I don’t even know. October 6th is the grand opening. Party. Everybody’ll be there. You might even run into Bobby or Joey or Ray, you know what I mean? Might, never know. They owe me one I think.
VV: Anything else?
HH: No, just … my art work, that’s all. I just been… I’m interviewed out, actually, everybody with this asshole and the NBA… I tell you what, I love that Voice. It’s the Voice of the people man, the real people, not the fucking a-holes.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 24, 2007