It's likely you know at the Coliseum Bar. A more than willing interview subject, who got into trouble with the Mob for moving drugs and who's battled addiction and a drinking problem (Hill was arrested in Illinois in December for an alcohol-related incident), the Topanga, Calif. resident was happy to sit down for a few minutes to speak with characteristic frankness about his art, cooking, whether he had fun in prison and why the hell none of his former associates have whacked him yet.
The Daily Page: So, you sell original artwork on eBay now. How'd you get into painting?
Henry Hill: Some treatment center I was in in Oregon -- that was part of our curriculum. I can't paint two stick figures. But I do watercolors. I enjoy it; to me, it's therapy. I just do it because I'm still on East Coast time. I live in California and wake up at three or four in the morning. So I knock out a few paintings. Cooking and painting is my therapy.
Yeah, you wrote a cookbook and cooked at an Italian restaurant in North Platte, Neb., for a while.
The Firefly -- it was in a hotel. I was doing a friend of mine a favor. This lady that owned the place, she was going tits up. I used to drink in the bar every day, and one day she walks in and said they were ready to put the padlock on the door. I said, "Why don't you change your menu to Italian? I don't want a job, but I'll help you out." I wound up there for a couple years.
You get around quite a bit. When I said I'd be talking to you, the first thing people wanted to know is how you can be in the public eye and not dead yet after informing on the Mob.
There's a man above. And all the guys I pissed off are gone now. Now I got wiseguys come to me with fucking treatments and scripts -- "Henry, do me a favor, get this made." It's not like it was 30 years ago. No one's after me; they buy me drinks.
It feels like the Mob isn't as powerful as it used to be. Now you hear about, like, the Russian mafia or the Chinese. Are the original Mafia still around?
Oh yeah. They control the unions; they control gambling. But I'm so detached from that world today. I don't bother nobody. The biggest trouble I get into is, I go to a park and I open a can of beer.
So what do you do with your time now?
I do a lot of charity work. I like to work with knuckleheads, I swear to God -- kids who don't have their head on straight. If I could change one, that guy may find a cure for cancer. Knuckleheads, gangbangers -- whatever they're calling them. They're so intoxicated with that lifestyle, and it's sad. And I do quite a bit of work for law enforcement. I go to Quantico and give lectures -- they transfer agents to organized-crime units, and I gotta meet with them. Thirty years ago, they were fucking shooting at me. Now they fucking clap.
The prison scenes from Goodfellas make it look like it wasn't too bad, with all the cooking. How true to real life are those scenes?
One hundred percent true. Back in those days, you could get away with -- we had two hacks that used to bring us five pints of booze a day and charge of $100. We used to send them to New York to pick up caches of lobster for us. It was a joke -- you sit around and play pinochle all day. But it's not like that today.
Do you still do a lot of cooking?
I haven't done cocaine in seven years.
Oops! Not cocaine -- cooking.
Oh, yeah. Italian. I cook. I watch CNN. I go fishing. We're working on a movie about Boston College. [Hill was involved in the point-shaving scandal the school's basketball team was enmeshed in the late '70s.] We got some producers interested in it. I'm doing an article for The Wall Street Journal, called "Agony in the Office." It's an advice column on what a mobster would do about these office problems. And it's the 20th anniversary of Goodfellas this year, so we're doing a thing in Vegas at New York New York.
You've had a pretty wild life. Any regrets?
After the Lufthansa robbery (the big heist that forms the climax of Goodfellas), the government clocked me for about $225 million, and I wish the fuck I had $225,000 of it back today. But I ain't hurting. I live in a beautiful area. I don't mind, I don't mind.