Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More

Here’s The True Story Behind The Irishman

The Irishman was adapted from the book I Heard
You Paint Houses, based on interviews with Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran. But there’s a problem, he’s not a reliable
narrator. Are you getting the real story of Jimmy Hoffa’s
disappearance? It’s complicated. Frank Sheeran is the title character at the
center of The Irishman, and events in the film were based on the claims he made in Charles
Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses. Essentially, Sheeran said he was coming clean,
he knew he was nearing the end of his life, and he wanted to confess the secrets he’d
been carrying around for decades. So what’s the real story? While there’s no real way to definitively
prove or disprove many of his claims, they did find that he was, by most accounts, a
minor player in the South Philadelphia mafia who really did hang with the likes of Russell
Bufalino. But those who knew him said he was a far cry
from the version brought to the screen. One of his contemporaries in the Irish mafia,
John Carlyle Berkery, described him like this: “Frank Sheeran never killed a fly. The only things he ever killed were countless
jugs of wine. You could tell how drunk he was by the color
of his teeth: pink, just started; dark purple, stiff.” Slate interviewed FBI agents, law enforcement,
prosecutors, and reporters, and found that no one had ever even suspected Sheeran of
killing anyone. He really was a World War 2 veteran, and he
really did get law enforcement’s attention a few times: he once beat up a non-union truck
driver, and he was also indicted two times for his alleged involvement in the slaying
of union rivals…but even in those cases, he was only accused of hiring other people
to do the actual killing. “I heard you paint houses” “Yes, yes, sir, I do.” Mob influence reaches a long, long way, and
The Irishman shows names being plucked from tombstones to register fake votes for JFK. Did that happen? According to an investigation by the New York
Herald Tribune and The Washington Post, yes, it did. Earl Mazo was a reporter who headed up a planned
12-part series on election fraud, and one of the things he found when he started matching
voter names and addresses was that some of those names were, indeed, taken from tombstones
in a Chicago cemetery. Only four of the stories in the series were
ever run. That’s not the only time claims of election
interference were brought up. In 1997, the Los Angeles Times reported on
a book that claimed JFK had been elected with the help of the mafia, who made sure he won
the state of Illinois. The book was, of course, highly controversial,
but the 1960 presidential election was surrounded by accusations of voter fraud, recounts, and,
says Slate, counties where the votes were so overwhelmingly in Kennedy’s favor that
they just had to be disputed. According to Sheeran, he was the one who killed
Crazy Joe Gallo as he dined with his family at Umberto’s Clam House. The motive? He says it was all because Gallo was rude
to Sheeran’s boss and friend, Russell Bufalino. Bufalino gave the nod, and Sheeran gave him
a hail of bullets. But that’s not the official story at all,
that was broken wide open by Nicolas Gage, a reporter for The New York Times who had
spent years covering the mob. He told a different tale. When The Times ran their story, they reported
the killing had come because of a dispute with the Colombo family. They had marked Gallo for death months before
he was killed, and everyone in the family knew it. When an informant named Joseph Luparelli saw
Gallo at Umberto’s, he got up, left, and headed straight for a nearby restaurant where he
knew he could find representatives of the Colombo family. He told them where to find Gallo, and within
45 minutes they were back at Umberto’s and armed to the teeth. Gallo was eating dinner with his family when
he was shot, and his new wife, Sina Essary, described the hitmen as, quote, “little, short,
fat Italians,” which is absolutely nothing like a description of the 6-foot-4 man known
as The Irishman. It’s just a single line, uttered by Joe Pesci’s
Russell Bufalino. It’s easy to miss, but it has huge implications. “If they can whack a president, they can whack
a president of a union.” He’s talking about the idea that the mafia
was behind the assassination of JFK, and one of the confessions Sheeran made to Brandt
was that he had been the one to deliver rifles to Dallas, rifles that were the same kind
used to kill Kennedy. Scorsese left that incident out of the film
because, he told IndieWire, it crossed just a little too far into conspiracy theory territory,
and he didn’t want to take away from the rest of the story the characters had to tell. But the real Sheeran did make the claim, so
is it true? No. The National Archives contains a huge amount
of information on things that have come out about the Kennedy assassination, including
details on the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle that had been left in the Texas School Book Depository. It had originally come from Crescent Firearms,
and was shipped to Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago. There, it was bought by someone using the
name “A. Hidell” and shipped to Dallas, Texas. The handwriting on the order form was a match
to the handwriting of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the P.O. box it was shipped to had been rented
by him as well. Jimmy Hoffa is a larger-than-life figure with
a life that’s just as fascinating as his death, and one of the claims made in The Irishman
is that he had his hands in pretty much everything, and he did. And yes, according to the Los Angeles Times,
that absolutely included loaning Teamster money to the mobsters that built Las Vegas. Throughout the 1950s and 60s, hundreds of
millions of dollars from the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund were funneled into Vegas
through mobsters like Moe Dalitz. Payments were made, and Vegas got built. “Do you want to be a part of this, Frank?” “Yes, I do, sir.” “Would you like to be a part of this history?” “Yes, I would. Whatever you need me to do, I’m available.” At the heart of The Irishman is the mystery
of what happened to Jimmy Hoffa. So how does what we know stack up with what
was depicted? Hoffa really was at the Machus Red Fox Restaurant
in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, on July 30, 1975. He had driven there in a green Pontiac Grand
Ville, and was waiting for Anthony Giacalone and Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano. The point of the meeting? To mend some fences, but The New York Times
says that both parties have consistently denied there was any such meeting scheduled. At 2:15, Hoffa called his wife to say he planned
on being home by 4 p.m. He never went home, though, and his car was
found in the restaurant’s parking lot the next morning. Hoffa’s disappearance came not long after
he received a controversial presidential pardon from Richard Nixon. Part of the deal was that he was supposed
to stay out of union business until 1980, but he was already in the process of trying
to take power back from Frank Fitzsimmons. The Irishman shows Hoffa getting into a car
at the Machus Red Fox, one driven by Chuckie O’Brien. Strangely, there’s several long conversations
about a wet spot on the back seat. “What kind of fish?” “I don’t know, the kind you eat? A fish.” According to a 1975 article in The New York
Times, investigators really did find stains in the back seat of a car owned by Joseph
Giacalone and borrowed by Chuckie O’Brien. He insisted that it was blood from a salmon
he had just delivered to a friend, and further investigation confirmed the story. As the precise, albeit strange, thing that
O’Brien had insisted it was, it quickly went from serious evidence to nowhere. Hoffa’s body has never been found, and there’s
a very simple, very logical explanation: he was cremated. Even Sheeran’s staunchest skeptics have to
admit that makes a lot of sense. Why transport the body somewhere and bury
it when you could just dispose of it permanently and easily right where he was killed? Some of the long-standing theories about what
happened to Hoffa are way more implausible than Sheeran’s story. Buried under Giants Stadium? Really? Talk about an unnecessary amount of work and
risk. In 1976, the FBI compiled the Hoffex, essentially
a list of all suspects and persons of interest in the case. Now, the big question: was Sheeran on it? Yes. He was the last entry in a section titled
“Suspects Outside of Michigan,” and he was described as a, quote, “known associate” of
Russell Bufalino. He was also known to have been in Detroit
at the time Hoffa disappeared, and was, indeed, known to be a close friend of the union leader. Here’s the thing about Sheeran, his tell-all
confessional to Charles Brandt isn’t the first time he spoke out about what happened to Hoffa. And it wasn’t just the second time, either. Sheeran has told a ton of different versions
of the story over the years. In 1995, he spoke with The Philadelphia Daily
News and made some wild claims. According to that story, he was going to tell
his then-biographer John Zeitts the truth, including: “I did not kill Hoffa. I had nothing to do with it. But I never had the answer until 1988.” He went on to claim that Hoffa had been killed
by contract killers hired by Nixon and the White House, and also said the body would
never be found. Within a year, he came forward claiming to
have documents that showed the location of Hoffa’s remains after all, and by then he
was claiming Nixon had hired Vietnamese mercenaries to kill Hoffa. It wasn’t until 2001 that Sheeran first claimed
to have been the one who actually killed Hoffa. At the time, various news outlets declined
running with his story because of his track record of making false claims, and between
2001 and 2003, he alternately said he had killed Hoffa in a car before destroying the
body and the evidence, that he just disposed of the body but hadn’t killed him, and then
finally he recited the tale that made it into The Irishman. “I’m behind you, Jimmy, all the way.” The Irishman includes one claim that’s been
repeated often, Hoffa’s long-time friend Chuckie O’Brien was the one who picked him up and
drove him to his death. That’s been said a lot, but according to former
Justice Department legal counsel and Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith, it’s absolutely
not true. Goldsmith has a personal connection to the
matter, he’s O’Brien’s stepson, and he was 12-years-old when Hoffa disappeared. He’s spent years trying to clear his stepfather’s
name, and has condemned The Irishman for repeating the accusations that destroyed O’Brien’s life,
in spite of the fact that he had an alibi and was never charged with anything. Goldsmith has written extensively on Hoffa’s
disappearance and on his stepfather’s innocence, and says there’s a few huge problems with
telling Sheeran’s tale in such a high-profile way. One is the repetition of O’Brien’s involvement,
which the FBI and law enforcement have acknowledged didn’t happen as it’s portrayed. That’s put a very bright spotlight on someone
who’s still alive, and Goldsmith says it also distracts from the larger issues of Hoffa’s
sprawling control over so many aspects of the nation’s economy, which is largely overlooked
in favor of telling the far juicier story of murder…true or not. Robert De Niro got the rights to make The
Irishman based on Brandt’s book in 2007, and investigative journalist and Hoffa author
Dan Moldea says he spent a good amount of time warning De Niro that he had been, quote,
“conned,” and that he was making a movie based on a completely false confession. When push comes to shove, many of the claims
made in The Irishman can’t be proven or disproven, and De Niro has since issued a statement addressing
the backlash around the accuracy of the film. He had this to say: “I wasn’t getting conned. I have no problem with people disagreeing…we’re
not saying we’re telling the actual story, we’re telling our story. I believed it.” So, there you have it. De Niro believed in it, not many other people
do, he doesn’t claim it’s the truth, and as for Hoffa’s disappearance? It’s still not known what happened to him,
and it’ll probably always stay a mystery. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
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