Joe Gallo
Born April 7, 1929(1929-04-07)Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died April 7, 1972(1972-04-07) (aged 43)Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Occupation Criminal
Years active 1940's - 1972 (his death)
Spouse Jeffie Gallo (twice) Sina Essary (March-April 1972, his death)


add to related

Joe Gallo

Edit Block

Joseph Gallo (April 7, 1929 – April 7, 1972), also known as "Crazy Joey" and "Joe the Blond", was a New York City gangster for the Profaci crime family, later known as the Colombo crime family. Gallo and his crew would initiate one of the bloodiest mob conflicts since the Castellammarese War of 1931. His brothers were Larry Gallo and Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo.


Edit Block

Gallo was born and raised in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, New York and was a very colorful character and talkative by nature. In the 1950s he was nicknamed "Joey the Blond" because of his full chest of blond hair. In 1947, after viewing the Richard Widmark film Kiss of Death Gallo began to mimic Widmark's film character, "Tommy Udo" with his drowsy, heavy-lidded appearance and in later years would recite long passages of the movie's dialogue.

Criminal career
Gallo started as an enforcer and hitman for Joe Profaci. Gallo's reputation soared when it was suspected that he was lead gunmen in the execution of Albert Anastasia in 1957. He ran floating dice and high-stakes card games, an extortion racket and a numbers betting operation from an apartment building on President street in Brooklyn. He allegedly kept a pet lion in the basement of the President street hangout. He secretly owned several nightclubs on Eighth Avenue and two sweat shops in the Manhattan garment district where 40 or 50 women made fabric for dress suits.

Sometime in the early to late 1960s Gallo befriended African-American youths from the black-populated enclaves of Brooklyn, New York realizing that by joining forces with the African-Americans, rather than fighting them, there was a lot of money to be made. The idea of uniting the major African-American and Italian underworld leaders became an obsession with him which would be his life's credo. It was a philosophy later put in practice by several fellow capos and mob bosses and led to building ties to other criminal organizations.

While incarcerated at Auburn Correctional Facility Gallo acquired access to an easel in an attempt to become a painter of water colors and broaden his considerable talents in the legitimate employment field. He was an avid reader of Jean-Paul Sartre, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Alexandre Dumas, Victor Hugo, Leo Tolstoy, Ayn Rand, his literary role model and life icon Niccolò Machiavelli and The New York Times. Joseph was an outsider among his fellow incarcerated Italians and was constantly seen with an entourage of African-Americans. In prison he worked as an elevator operator in the prison's woodworking shop.

He had a philosophical outlook on life which was: if you're a cab driver, be the best cab driver in the world; if you're a gangster, be the best and do not settle for second rate. Donald Frankos would say, "Joe was articulate and had excellent verbal skills being able to describe gouging a man's guts out with the same eloquent ease that he used when discussing classical literature." While he was incarcerated at Auburn with Frankos he would tutor Donald on the principles of his hero Niccolò Machiavelli. Frankos in turn taught Gallo how to play bridge.

Gallo wars
In the late 1950s, Gallo tried to overpower Joseph Profaci to take control of the Profaci family. Gallo was abetted in the conflict by his brothers Larry and Albert and the rest of Gallo's crew. After a decade of loyal service, the Gallo boys began turning against their boss. Due to Profaci's unpopularity with his men, the Gallos believed they had a chance. The Gallo crew kidnapped Profaci's brother-in-law Joseph Magliocco and four Profaci capos and demanded a ransom of a bigger share of the profits. Profaci agreed, however when the captives were released, the Gallo-Profaci war started.

In May 1961, several gunmen tried and failed to kill Gallo. Profaci placed a soldier, John Scimone, into the Gallo gang as a spy. Scimone set up the murder of Joseph "Joe Jelly" Gioelli, who was one of Gallo's top enforcers and biggest hitters. Intense searches for Gioelli's body by the FBI proved fruitless and it is widely believed that Profaci gunmen kidnapped Gioelli and took him out on Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn in a fishing boat. Once on the water, Gioelli was shot and dismembered. His clothing was stuffed with dead fish and thrown in front of a restaurant frequented by the Gallo gang.

On August 20, 1961, brother Larry was lured to a meeting at the Sahara Lounge, a Brooklyn supper club. Once inside the club Profaci hitmen tried to strangle him. This reportedly included Carmine Persico who is suspected of setting it up and double-crossing the Gallos. A police officer, however, happened to walk inside the club and stop Larry's execution. The Gallos would later seek to kill Carmine Persico, opening fire on his car. Persico survived the attempt with wounds to one arm and his jaw.

In 1961, Gallo was convicted of extortion and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. After Profaci died of cancer that same year, the Gallo wars ended briefly. Underboss Joseph Magliocco was forced to step down after the Mafia Commission discovered he was plotting against them and Joseph Colombo became the boss. Gallo was cunning and conniving, who would politely invite fellow convicts into his cell and attempt to poison them, usually with strychnine. One time he nearly killed a fellow convict by offering him antipasto laced with the deadly chemical.

A prison friend of Donald Frankos became aware of Gallo's poisoning methods and brought Gallo poisoned lasagna and at the same time Gallo offered him anchovies marinated in strychnine. During a prison protest riot at Auburn, Gallo rescued a severely wounded corrections officer. The officer later testified in court and Gallo was released early for performing this civic duty. After talking down to his incarcerated fellow Italian mobsters and standing up for some African-American convicts, he earned the nickname "The Criminal" for his betrayal.

Gallo was released from prison after eight years, and became a figure with great status among elite society, a "must attend" on many guest lists. Members of the "in crowd" wanted him to attend their dinner parties and hung on his every remark as if he were royalty. His elevated status among the jet-set trend setters started when Jerry Orbach played a role in the movie The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight, in which the main character supposedly depicts Gallo. After he had dinner with Orbach and his wife Marta, she would later comment that he had "absolutely" charmed her. Gallo also became close friends with actress Joan Hackett, comedian David Steinberg and writer Peter Stone. The Gallo brothers were mob outcasts and some authorities on mafia question whether or not Gallo was ever actually inducted into the family.

Colombo war
Brother Larry had died of cancer, but Albert and the old Gallo crew knew that Joey was still ambitious and determined. Upon his release in 1971, Gallo started battling boss Joe Colombo and the renamed Colombo family. Gallo had been recruiting African-Americans to reinforce his crew. Gallo was one of the first mobsters to predict a shift of power in the Harlem rackets from the Italian Mafia to African-American gangs. While in prison, Gallo had made numerous connections with African-American gang members such as Nicky Barnes.

Gallo was allied with Carlo Gambino, who disliked all the publicity that Colombo garnered with his Italian-American League. Gallo was prepared to launch another violent campaign. Colombo was shot three times in the head on June 28, 1971 by an African-American posing as a photographer named Jerome Johnson, while Colombo was at a rally. Colombo went into a coma from which he never awoke. Johnson, who was immediately shot dead by Colombo's soldiers and policemen, was said by authorities to be a Gallo associate, thus shifting suspicion to Gallo. However even though the FBI and police were taping and photographing the rally, no pictures or film of Colombo or Johnson being shot has ever been released.

Personal life
Gallo was married three times, to two women. He married, divorced and later remarried the woman only identified as Jeffie for the second time in July 1971. Little is known about Jeffie other than, "Though she [Jeffie] had yielded to Joey [Gallo] as the dominant partner in their marriage, it was a highly qualified surrender. She would abide by his decisions only if she approved of them. Mutual respect was her watchword, and if, on minor matters, she did sometimes give away against her better judgment, she would always make it clear to him that this was without prejudice." But after his second divorce with Jeffie he began pursuing Sina Essary. He married the 29-year-old Italian-American dental assistant in April 1972, three weeks before his death.

Joe's best man was his close friend, comedian David Steinberg. Sina would later comment about her first encounter with Gallo in 1971, shortly after he was released from prison after ten years, saying he appeared, "extremely frail and pale. He looked like an old man. He was a bag of bones. You could see the remnants of what had been a strikingly handsome man in his youth. He had beautiful features - beautiful nose, beautiful mouth and piercing blue eyes." After marrying Sina, Joseph became the stepfather of Lisa Essary-Gallo, born c.a. 1962 who was ten years old at the time of her new stepfather's murder. Joseph's wife, stepdaughter and biological sister were all present and witnesses to his unsolved gangland slaying. Lisa Essary-Gallo became close friends to Joe's children who had been mothered by the unidentified "Jeffie Gallo".

On April 7, 1972, Gallo was celebrating his 43rd birthday with sister Carmella, his newlywed wife Sina Essary, her daughter Lisa, and his bodyguard Peter "Pete the Greek" Diapoulas at Umberto's Clam House located at 129 Mulberry Street in Little Italy, Manhattan. Between seafood courses at least two gunmen burst in through the rear entrance and opened fire with .32 and .38 caliber revolvers. Gallo was hit five times, overturning a butcher block dining table to protect his party, then drawing fire away from them by running toward the exit. Diapoulas, caught by surprise, was shot once in the buttocks as he dove for cover. Diapoulas then drew his pistol and fired at the getaway car.

Gallo, mortally wounded, stumbled into the street and collapsed. Rushed to hospital, he died in the emergency room before surgery could begin. Gallo's funeral was held under police surveillance and Gallo's sister cried over the open coffin that "The streets are going to run red with blood, Joey!". As the Roman-Catholic Church would later protest concerning the burial of Gambino crime family boss Paul Castellano later in 1985, Gallo was refused a proper burial by the local parish priest. His widow Sina arranged for a substitute priest to fly in from Cleveland to perform the ceremony.

Informant Joe Luparelli later testified that Gallo's killers were Carmine DiBiase a.k.a. Sonny Pinto, and two brothers whom he knew only as Cisco and Benny. Luparelli stated that mobster Phillip Gambino played a secondary role in the hit. Despite Luparelli's accusations, none of these men were ever charged with Gallo's killing. Pinto was sought, but never found, managing to evade police for over 30 years. Frank Sheeran in a series of confessions made before his 2003 death, claimed to have been the lone killer of Gallo. In the book I Heard You Paint Houses Charles Brandt proved, through research and eyewitness account of the night of Gallo's death, that it was a lone guman who killed Gallo. Teamster and mob associate Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran was the shooter.

Gallo's death would be the subject of Bob Dylan's 1976 song "Joey". Upon retiring as the head of New York's detective bureau, Albert A Seedman referred to Gallo as "That little guy with steel balls".

Gallo crew members

Edit Block

  • Albert "Kid Blast" Gallo
  • Larry Gallo
  • Frank "Punchy" Illiano
  • Nicholas Bianco
  • Vic Amuso
  • Joseph "Joe Pesh" Luparelli
  • Joe Gioelli

Some of the content on this page has been provided by the following page on

Up Next: Meyer Lansky
autoplay: OFF