As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. To me, being a gangster was better than being President of the United States. Even before I first wandered into the cabstand for an after-school job, I knew I wanted to be a part of them. It was there that I knew that I belonged. To me, it meant being somebody in a neighborhood that was full of nobodies. They weren't like anybody else. I mean, they did whatever they wanted. They double-parked in front of a hydrant and nobody ever gave them a ticket. In the summer when they played cards all night, nobody ever called the cops.
Hundreds of guys depended on Paulie and he got a piece of everything they made. And it was tribute, just like in the old country, except they were doing it here in America. And all they got from Paulie was protection from other guys looking to rip them off. And that's what it's all about. That's what the FBI could never understand. That what Paulie and the organization does is offer protection for people who can't go to the cops. That's it. That's all. They're like the police department for wiseguys.
One day some of the kids from the neighborhood carried my mother's groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect.
For us to live any other way was nuts. Uh, to us, those goody-good people who worked shitty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work every day and worried about their bills were dead. I mean they were suckers. They had no balls. If we wanted something, we just took it. If anyone complained twice they got hit so bad, believe me, they never complained again.
For most of the guys, killings got to be accepted. Murder was the only way that everybody stayed in line. You got out of line, you got whacked. Everybody knew the rules. But sometimes, even if people didn't get out of line, they got whacked. I mean, hits just became a habit for some of the guys. Guys would get into arguments over nothing and before you knew it, one of them was dead. And they were shooting each other all the time. Shooting people was a normal thing. It was no big deal. We had a serious problem with Billy Batts. This was really a touchy thing. Tommy'd killed a made guy. Batts was part of the Gambino crew and was considered untouchable. Before you could touch a made guy, you had to have a good reason. You had to have a sitdown, and you better get an okay, or you'd be the one who got whacked.
Now the guy's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with the bill? He can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy's gotta come up with Paulie's money every week, no matter what. Business bad? "Fuck you, pay me." Oh, you had a fire? "Fuck you, pay me." Place got hit by lightning, huh? "Fuck you, pay me." Also, Paulie could do anything. Especially run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody's gonna pay for it anyway. And as soon as the deliveries are made in the front door, you move the stuff out the back and sell it at a discount. You take a two hundred dollar case of booze and you sell it for a hundred. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. And then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank or buy another case of booze, you bust the joint out. You light a match.
Saturday night was for wives, but Friday night at the Copa was always for the girlfriends.
See, you know when you think of prison, you get pictures in your mind of all those old movies with rows and rows of guys behind bars...But it wasn't like that for wiseguys. It really wasn't that bad. Excepting that I missed Jimmy. He was doing his time in Atlanta...I mean, everybody else in the joint was doing real time, all mixed together, living like pigs. But we lived alone. And we owned the joint.
You know, we always called each other goodfellas. Like you said to, uh, somebody, "You're gonna like this guy. He's all right. He's a good fella. He's one of us." You understand? We were goodfellas. Wiseguys. But Jimmy and I could never be made because we had Irish blood. It didn't even matter that my mother was Sicilian. To become a member of a crew you've got to be one hundred per cent Italian so they can trace all your relatives back to the old country. See, it's the highest honor they can give you. It means you belong to a family and crew. It means that nobody can fuck around with you. It also means you could fuck around with anybody just as long as they aren't also a member. It's like a license to steal. It's a license to do anything. As far as Jimmy was concerned with Tommy being made, it was like we were all being made. We would now have one of our own as a member.
[about Tommy's murder] It was revenge for Billy Batts, and a lot of other things. And there was nothing that we could do about it. Batts was a made man and Tommy wasn't. And we had to sit still and take it. It was among the Italians. It was real greaseball shit. They even shot Tommy in the face so his mother couldn't give him an open coffin at the funeral.
For a second, I thought I was dead, but when I heard all the noise I knew they were cops. Only cops talk that way. If they had been wiseguys, I wouldn't have heard a thing. I would've been dead.
If you're part of a crew, nobody ever tells you that they're going to kill you. It doesn't happen that way. There weren't any arguments or curses like in the movies. So your murderers come with smiles. They come as your friends, the people who have cared for you all of your life, and they always seem to come at a time when you're at your weakest and most in need of their help.
It was easy for all of us to disappear. My house and cars were either registered in the name of my wife or my mother-in-law. My driver's license and social security number were phony. I never voted; never paid taxes. My birth certificate, arrest sheet, and my service record from the Army were all that existed to prove to the government I was ever alive.
See, the hardest thing for me was leaving the life. I still love the life. And we were treated like movie stars with muscle. We had it all, just for the asking. Our wives, mothers, kids, everybody rode along. I had paper bags filled with jewelry stashed in the kitchen. I had a sugar bowl full of coke next to the bed. Anything I wanted was a phone call away. Free cars. The keys to a dozen hideout flats all over the city. I'd bet twenty, thirty grand over a weekend and then I'd either blow the winnings in a week or go to the sharks to pay back the bookies. Didn't matter. It didn't mean anything. When I was broke I would go out and rob some more. We ran everything. We paid off cops. We paid off lawyers. We paid off judges. Everybody had their hands out. Everything was for the taking. And now it's all over. And that's the hardest part. Today, everything is different. There's no action. I have to wait around like everyone else. Can't even get decent food. Right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.
One night, Bobby Vinton sent us champagne. There was nothing like it. I didn't think there was anything strange in any of this. You know, a twenty-one-year-old kid with such connections. He was an exciting guy. He was really nice. He introduced me to everybody. Everybody wanted to be nice to him. And he knew how to handle it.
I know there are women, like my best friends, who would have gotten out of there the minute their boyfriend gave them a gun to hide. But I didn't. I gotta admit the truth. It turned me on.
We always did everything together and we always were in the same crowd. Anniversaries, christenings. We only went to each other's houses. The women played cards, and when the kids were born, Mickey and Jimmy were always the first at the hospital. And when we went to the Islands or Vegas to vacation, we always went together. No outsiders, ever. It got to be normal. It got to where I was even proud that I had the kind of husband who was willing to go out and risk his neck just to get us the little extras.
But still I couldn't hurt him. How could I hurt him? I couldn't even bring myself to leave him. The truth was that no matter how bad I felt I was still very attracted to him. Why should I give him to someone else? Why should she win?
[to young Henry] Everybody gets pinched. But you did it right. You told 'em nothing and they got nothing...I'm proud of you. You took your first pinch like a man and you learned the two greatest things in life...Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.
I've been telling you your whole life, Don't talk on the fucking phone, and now you understand, huh?..Don't worry, I think you gotta good chance of beating the case.
Henry: You're a pistol! You're really funny. You're really funny!
Tommy: What do you mean I'm funny?
Henry: It's funny, you know. It's a good story, it's funny, you're a funny guy!
Tommy: [dangerously] What do you mean? You mean the way I talk? What?
[Everyone becomes quiet]
Henry: It's just, you know, you're just funny. It's funny, the way you tell the story and everything.
Tommy: Funny how? I mean, what's funny about it?
Anthony: Tommy, no, you got it all wrong —
Tommy: Oh, oh, Anthony. He's a big boy, he knows what he said. [to Henry] What did ya say? Funny how?
Anthony: You're right.
Henry: Just —
Henry: Just, ya know, you're funny.
Tommy: You mean, let me understand this, 'cause, ya know maybe it's me, I'm a little fucked up maybe, but I'm funny how? I mean funny like I'm a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to fuckin' amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?
Henry: Just... you know, how you tell the story — what?
Tommy: No, no, I don't know. You said it! How do I know? You said I'm funny. How the fuck am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me?! Tell me, tell me what's funny!
Henry: Get the fuck out of here, Tommy!
Tommy: Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him! You stuttering prick, you! Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.
Karen:[narrating] After awhile, it got to be all normal. None of it seemed like crime. It was more like Henry was enterprising, and that he and the guys were making a few bucks hustling, while all the other guys were sitting on their asses, waiting for handouts. Our husbands weren't brain surgeons, they were blue-collar guys. The only way they could make extra money, real extra money, was to go out and cut a few corners.
[Cuts to Henry and Tommy hijacking a truck]
Tommy: Where's the strongbox, you fuckin' varmint?!
Karen: [narrating] We were all so very close. I mean, there were never any outsiders around. Absolutely never. And being together all the time made everything seem all the more normal.
Karen: [narrating, at a makeup party with other wives] It was rough seeing the wives of other gangsters. They did not take care of themselves; they looked beat up and their faces were caked with makeup. Most of the time was spent talking about how rotten their kids were; how they decked them or whipped them with electrical wiring and the kids still wouldn't pay attention. [later in her bedroom] I don't think I can do it, Henry.
Henry: Do what?
Karen: This whole thing. Jeannie said her husband was sent to jail. God forbid, what if that happened to you?
Henry: Bet she didn't tell you why her husband went there?
Karen: How come?
Henry: To get away from Jeannie! Karen, when it comes to the Mafia no one goes to jail unless they want to. We beat the system and I got it all figured out. I am organized; I got my shit together. You know who goes to jail? Nigger stickup men and dumb rednecks who fall asleep in their trucks right after committing a crime! So don't worry; I am never going to jail.
Tommy: Just don't go bustin' my balls, Billy, okay?
Billy: Hey, Tommy, if I was gonna break your balls, I'd tell you to go home and get your shine box. [To his friends] Now this kid, this kid was great. They, they used to call him Spitshine Tommy. I swear to God! Now he'd make your shoes look like fuckin' mirrors. 'Scuse my language. He was terrific, he was the best. He made a lot of money, too. Salud, Tommy!
Tommy: No more shines, Billy.
Tommy: I said no more shines. Maybe you didn't hear about it, you've been away a long time; they didn't go up there and tell you. I don't shine shoes anymore.
Billy: Relax, will ya? You flipped right out, what's got into you? I'm breakin' your balls a little bit, that's all. I'm only kiddin' with ya.
Tommy: Sometimes you don't sound like you're kidding, you know? There's a lotta people around...
Billy: Tommy, I'm only kiddin' with you. We're having a party and I just came home, and I haven't seen you in a long time, and I'm breakin' your balls, and right away you're getting fuckin' fresh. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you.
Tommy: I'm sorry too. It's okay. No problem.
Billy: Okay, salud. [moment of silence as he takes a drink] Now go home and get ya fuckin' shinebox!
Tommy: [smashes his glass in anger] Motherfuckin' mutt! You, you fuckin' piece of shit...! [Henry and Jimmy restrain him]
Billy: [taunting] Yeah, yeah, yeah, come on, come on! Come on! Let him go!
Tommy: Henry, he bought his fucking button! That fake old tough guy! You bought your fucking button! Keep that motherfucker here, keep him here! [leaves]
Tommy: Spider, that bandage on your foot is bigger than your fucking head. Next thing you know he'll have one of these fucking walkers. But you can still dance. Give us a couple of fucking steps, Spider. You fucking bullshitter, you. Tell the truth. You want sympathy, is that right, sweetie?
Spider: Why don't you go fuck yourself, Tommy?
[Everyone, but Tommy, laughs]
Jimmy: I didn't hear right. I can't believe what I heard. [giving Spider cash] This is for you. I got respect for this kid, he's got a lot of fucking balls. Good for you! Don't take no shit from nobody! A guy shoots him in the foot, he tells him to go fuck himself. Tommy, you gonna let this fucking punk get away with that? What's this world coming to?
Tommy: [standing and shooting Spider] That's what the fucking world's coming to, how do ya like that? How's that?
Henry: What is wrong with you?!
Jimmy: What is the fucking matter with you?! What, are you stupid or what?! I was kidding with you. Are you a sick maniac?
Tommy: How do I know you're kidding? You breaking my fucking balls?!
Jimmy: I'm kidding with you, you fucking shoot the guy?!
Henry: [inspecting Spider on the floor] He's dead.
Tommy: [after a brief silence] I'm a good shot, what do you want from me?
Anthony: How could you miss at this distance?
Tommy: You got a problem with what I did, Anthony? Fucking rat, anyway. His family's all rats, he'd have grown up to be a rat.
Jimmy: Stupid bastard, I can't fucking believe you. Now, you're gonna dig the fucking thing now. You're gonna dig the hole. I got no fucking lime, you're gonna do it.
Tommy: Fine! I'll dig the fucking hole, I don't give a fuck. What is it, the first hole I ever dug? I'll fucking dig the hole. Where are the shovels?
Paulie: [about Henry's cheating] Karen came by. She's very upset. You gotta straighten this out. We gotta have calm.
Jimmy: We don't know what she'll do.
Paulie: She's hysterical. Very excited. She's wild. And you got to take it easy. You got children. I'm not saying go back to her right now, but you got to go back. You got to keep up appearances. The two of them come to my house every day. I just can't have it. I can't do it, Henry. I can't do it. Nobody says you can't do what you want. We all know that. This is what it is. We know what it is. You have to do what's right. You have to go home to the family. You got to go home, okay? Look at me. You got to go home. Smarten up. I'll talk to Karen. I'll straighten this out. I know just what to say to her. I'll say you'll go back to her and it'll be like when you first got married. I'll romance her. It'll be beautiful. I know how to talk to her. In the meantime, Jimmy and Tommy were going to Tampa this weekend. Instead you go with Jimmy.
Jimmy: You come with me.
Paulie: Have a good time. Sit in the sun. Take a few days off.
Jimmy: We'll have a good time.
Paulie: After that, you'll go back to Karen. There's no other way. No divorce. We're not animali.
Jimmy: No divorce. She'll never divorce him. She'll kill him, but not divorce him. [they laugh]
[Karen visiting Henry in jail, after she looked at Janice Rossi named in register]
Henry: What are you talking about?
Karen: I saw her name in the register.
Henry: Jesus Christ.
Karen: You want her to visit you? Let her stay up all night, crying and writing letters to the parole board.
Henry: What am I doing here? Where am I? I'm in jail. I can't stop people from coming to see me.
Karen: Good. Let her sneak this stuff every week. [Karen dangles a bag of illegal drugs in front him] Let her fight these bastards every week!
Henry: Look what you're doing! Stop it!
Karen: I'm sorry. Let her sneak this shit in for you.
Henry: Will you stop it, Karen? Will you stop it?
Karen: Let her do it! Let her do it!
Henry: STOP IT!!!
[Kids react to anger; Karen starts to sob]
Karen: Nobody is helping me. I am all alone. Belle and Morrie are broke. I asked your friend Remo for the money that he owes you, and you know what he told me? He told me to take my kids down to the police station and get on welfare.
Henry: Karen, It's going to be okay.
Karen: Yeah? Even Paulie, since he got out, I've never seen him. I never see anybody anymore.
Henry: It's only you and me. That's what happens when you go away. I told you that we're on our own. Forget everybody else. Forget Paulie. As long as he's on parole, he doesn't want anybody doing anything.
Karen: I can't do it.
Henry: Yes, you can. Karen, Listen to me. All I need is for you to bring me this stuff. I got a guy in here from Pittsburgh who'll help me move it. Believe me, in a month we're gonna be fine. We won't need anybody.
Karen: I'm afraid. I'm afraid if Paulie finds out...
Henry: Or I just say, Don't worry about him. He is not helping us out. Is he putting any food on the table? We've gotta help each other. We've just gotta-- Listen, We've gotta be really careful while we do it.
Karen: I don't want to hear a word about her anymore, Henry.
Henry: [sniveling] Paulie, I am really sorry.
Paulie: You fucked up good. You looked me in the eye and treated me like shit; like I was nobody.
Henry: I couldn't come to you; not after what you said to me. I was ashamed then; I am ashamed now. I swear on my kids, I am clean. I could really use some help now.
Paulie: Take this.
Paulie pulls a wad of cash out of his pocket and hands it to Henry
Henry: Thank you.
Paulie: And now I have to turn my back on you. There is no other way.
Henry: [narrating] My reward for a lifetime of service to Paulie: $3,200. It was not even enough to pay for my casket.
Jimmy: There was a kid we knew, turned out to be a rat.
Jimmy: Yeah. Found him hiding in Florida. How would you feel about going with Anthony, take care of that guy?
[Jimmy slips a message with information. Screen freeze-frames]
Henry: [narrating] Jimmy never asked me to whack a guy before. Now in the midst of all this he is asking me to go to Florida and do a hit with Anthony? [Screen resumes] That is when I knew I would never return from Florida alive.