The kid from Brooklyn turned wise guy turned rat, Henry Hill started out running errands for the Lucchese family of mobsters at the age of 11. Henry worked his way up, became an “earner,” and proved himself worthy of playing a key role in the notorious heist of Lufthansa Airlines in 1978.
But the heist turned up the heat on all the guys connected with it. That, and Hill’s personal involvement in a drug ring, meant the feds were on to him. So, he became an informant. He and his family were put under witness protection. Suddenly, a man who never knew life outside of the mob, was walking the streets as one of us.
You can take a gangster out of the Mob, but you can’t take the Mob out of the gangster.
Welcome to Omaha, Mr. and Mrs. Hill
He still wore his expensive suits and shiny loafers, but he had nowhere to go except to the store for milk. The Hills weren’t given a choice of where to live, so they ended up in Omaha, Nebraska. He was a fish out of water but wanting to feel like himself, Hill took his family out to dinner on their first evening there at an Omaha-based chain called Godfather’s Pizza. Take that, middle America.
“It was like another country,” Henry later said. And Hill didn’t just bring along his wife and kids; he tried to take two of his mistresses into protection, too. He had a few cover stories under his belt, about how he worked for the government (not so far from the truth).
Facing the Frenemies From Time to Time
He told others that he was an insurance investigator for arson cases (completely fake, but he had some experience with torching places down). As for what he told his buddies at the bar, his cover was classic: he worked for the CIA. Over the years, he would fly to New York to testify against Paul Vario and Jimmy Burke, his old accomplices.
The seasoned gangster was still an anxious man. “It’s not easy getting up on the stand,” he later said of turning his back on his ex-mentors. He was back off the wagon – drinking, drugging – risking his cover while his family did everything they could to lay low. There was a reported two-million-dollar contract on his head and word was getting out that Hill was living in the Midwest.
From Small Town Nebraska to Even Smaller Town Kentucky
Hill was even making collect phone calls from Omaha to New York. According to his son, it was his father’s decision to get them out of Nebraska. They were moved to Independence, Kentucky, and were given new identities. Like a moth to a flame, Hill found his way to make money.
He started betting on Kentucky horses. Aside from betting at the tracks, he started operating a horse-drawn trolley tour of Cincinnati (making sure to show his passengers the fountain featured in the opening credits of WKRP in Cincinnati).
That Man With the Mustache Sure Looks Familiar
Yet again, the man who was supposed to be laying low was making too much noise. His thriving business made the front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer — he was seen in a photo with a perm and a fake mustache, clearly trying to escape the photographer’s frame.
The marshals in charge of keeping Hill alive were constantly shaking their heads, but Hill was a tad delusional. “I was the best Mob informant [they’d] ever get,” he later boasted. He bragged about having a “King’s X” – a term for being exempt from the rules of a game. In other words, he thought he had a permanent “get out of jail free card.”
Rule No.1: Don’t Swindle the Governor
In 1981, he was arrested for getting into a fight with some woman, and a month later for passing bad checks. Hill even managed to swindle the governor of the state he was hiding in: John Y. Brown, the former owner of the Boston Celtics who bought KFC from Colonel Sanders and became the governor of Kentucky.
For the third time in a year and a half, the Hills were moved again. With each move, came new identities. Funnily enough, in a way that fit his lack of concern, his latest identity combined the names of his favorite comics: Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
From Horse Play to Death Warnings
Hill was now going by the name Martin Lewis. This time, the family was placed in Redmond, Washington, and right off the bat, Hill spoke to an acquaintance in Kentucky asking him to ship one of the horses he had bought for his daughter to him, the one named Banana Split.
The born and bred New Yorkers were now hosting impromptu polo matches in their fields. But Hill, aka Marty, was bored, reckless, and started hustling more and more. It got to the point where one day, Hill’s wife picked up the phone and received a blunt warning: “Tell Marty he’s dead.”
Sherry and the Horse She Rode in On
Easy money wasn’t the only thing that wet his whistle. Easy romance was just as enticing. In the fall of 1981, Hill walked into El Toreador, his favorite spot where he found both of his vices in one package. That package was a woman named Sherry Anders.
Sherry and her roommate were seated at a table in the Mexican restaurant. The small and striking brunette, 31, was a beautician who grew up around horses and knew her way around the track. And she did it with style, too, riding her horses in heels and white clothes.
An Electric Encounter
In walked a likable 38-year-old guy who appeared at their table and introduced himself as Martin Lewis. He told Sherry of the Thoroughbreds he owned and raced and showed her a photo of a recent victory. Sherry was all smiles and all ears. After their first date, the two were inseparable.
“It was magic,” Sherry recalled. “The electricity during those months was just absolutely volatile, just screaming.” Raised a Mormon in rural Washington, the single mom was naïve, if anything. But even her most suspicious friends found something appealing about this Martin guy.
Little Did She Know…
What he lacked in the looks department he made up for with his charisma. Did she know of his past, his family, his involvement as an informant? Of course, not. Sherry had no clue. She knew nothing about who Martin Lewis really was – about his double life, his wife and two teenage kids.
She also didn’t know that anyone who became close to him was a walking target. Sherry was a hopeless romantic. He called her his Sherry Amour (“My Cherie Amour”) and told her she was the love of his life. She called him Morton and couldn’t stop talking about him to her friends.
Let’s Elope, Baby
Seven weeks after that fateful night in the Mexican restaurant, Hill/Marty just came out with it. “Let’s get married today,” he told her. Sherry was dumbfounded. “What do you mean? I can’t get married today. I have work.” It was his smile – that damn smile – that always worked on her.
That night, they packed their bags and hit the road in Sherry’s car with her 13-year-old son from a previous marriage. The decision was rash, but so was their whirlwind relationship. As they headed to Nevada for a quickie wedding, Sherry was on cloud nine. She had met her true love.
Creepy yet Magnetic
Her friend Vivian Walsh, who owned the salon Sherry worked in, had a bad feeling about Martin from the moment he walked into the salon to visit Sherry. He didn’t make eye contact with her, she recalled. “I said, ‘You know, I hope that’s not a red flag, but there’s something kind of creepy about him,’” Vivian later shared.
Vivian had always been protective of Sherry, who had a knack for choosing the wrong men. Still, under the creepiness there was something magnetic about Sherry’s new beau. They started double dating (with Vivian and her husband) and Hill always made an impression with his 100-dollar tips.
Martin moved into the apartment Sherry was sharing with her roommate and lifelong friend, Samantha, who had a son of her own. Martin was like a dad to the two boys, always giving them quarters for the arcades and making them laugh at his dirty jokes. He bought a foosball table for the basement and cooked everyone hearty Italian food.
He was always on the phone, walking around the house, dragging the long spiral cord behind him. He was busy, after all, writing a book under contract for Simon & Schuster. All he said was that he was writing about his life back in New York. His notorious smile kept the girls from asking any further questions.
Pack Your Bags; We’re Going to Canada
It helped that a bona fide journalist named Nick Pileggi – whom he introduced as his co-writer – would come by often. They would hang around the house, drinking and writing. Nick was around so often that he struck up a romance with Samantha, the roommate. For a while, the four of them were like two pairs in a pod.
One day, Hill announced that the four of them were going on an impromptu trip to Canada immediately. No one asked why it was so urgent for him to leave the country. Marty was the fun and spontaneous one, and they just wanted to go along for the ride.
History in the Making
In Vancouver, Sherry and Samantha went shopping as the guys wrote. The girls didn’t ask questions and tried not to disturb them. They didn’t know that the book would eventually become a classic of true crime literature, called Wiseguy, and that future cinema gold by the name of Goodfellas was being made right under their noses.
Their last night in Vancouver was spent at a Japanese restaurant where the four sipped sake and sat on cushions while Hill flirted with a server in a geisha outfit. Back in Washington, Sherry had to get back to work. Hill had to borrow money from her in between his installments from the publisher.
Playing With Fire
Not long into their marriage, his behavior grew more erratic. “You’re too good for me,” he told her one night, drunk. “I feel so guilty at my life.” One day, he even showed up to El Toreador in a T-shirt with the words “Witness Protection Program” on it. The man was flirting with disaster. Everyone in Redmond just figured it was a joke, of course.
His fights with Sherry (“I’m not your maid or your mommy!”) were followed by make-up sex. He told her that he had thought about it – and he only wanted to be married three days of the week. (Ha!) On New Year’s Eve, he didn’t show up for, leaving her crying for hours.
Then the Salon Door Opened
He would disappear for days (probably to visit his actual family). Sherry would lie to herself – it was the stress of a new relationship, that’s all. But somewhere deep down, beneath her gullibility, was the woman’s intuition. She knew something wasn’t right.
Her instincts proved spot on when one day an unfamiliar woman walked in to the hair salon. She was in her mid-twenties and said her name was Janet. To Sherry, she looked like a young Katharine Hepburn. As Sherry started cutting Janet’s curly blond hair, the two chatted – you know, a typical salon conversation. At least, at first.
Who Is This Woman?
Soon, Janet was asking Sherry personal questions. Of particular interest to Janet, was Sherry’s recent marriage to Martin. It seemed like this woman knew who her husband was. It felt like she was being interrogated. If you’re wondering if Janet was Hill’s wife, she wasn’t. She was, however, a private detective.
Janet Christensen had been watching Sherry for weeks and actually felt bad for the woman – so much so that she almost broke protocol and spilled the beans to her in the salon. But Janet was a professional (albeit only 25 years old) and had a job to do.
Finding Sherry to Get to Hill
The private detective had been hired by a New York law firm to look into Henry Hill, who was rumored to be in Washington. The firm represented Jimmy Burke, Hill’s former Mob boss, a man who wanted him dead. Janet and two other female detectives at the agency were dubbed Charlie’s Angels. “Brains, not beauty, solves cases,” Janet would say in interviews.
Burke wanted Janet to find Hill and get as much dirt as on the government’s star witness to discredit his testimony. Sherry, unwittingly a target, was Janet’s path to Hill. Janet and a few members of her team used disguises when necessary; they staked out Sherry’s home, salon, and the places she ate and shopped at.
Karen Hill, aka Kaylen Martin
Kaylen Martin would frequently get into her old Ford Pinto and drive, just to get away from it all. Well, that’s the alias the government allowed her to go by (she chose the name). Her name was actually Karen Hill, and the woman was tired of being moved around by marshals and being played by her husband.
Married to a mobster, Karen tried to maintain any form of normalcy in her chaotic life. Their lives were far from normal. At least in New York, she could hide most of the dirt behind humor and carefully placed words. But under witness protection, everything changed. What was once a general underlying anxiety was now full-fledged panic.
The Day the Two Wives Met
One day, Sherry saw a woman in the same car her Martin drove, a beat-up green Ford Pinto. The driver looked a few years older than her, weathered but attractive. Sherry asked the woman, “Do you know Martin Lewis?” She replied, “Yeah, he’s my husband.”
Sherry stared at her in disbelief – this must be a mistake. “He’s MY husband,” Sherry told her. “I just married him.” But Karen repeated herself: “No, he’s my husband.” That’s when Sherry said, “We need to talk.” Sherry followed the car to the family’s ranch-style home.
Just Imagine the Look on His Face
The two women who were married to the same man talked. Both were in shock over what they were each hearing. You can imagine the look on Hill’s face when he came home to see both his wives talking at the kitchen table. Wide-eyed and jaw on the floor would be correct.
On her way home, Sherry mulled over what she had just discovered – a massive blow to the bubble she was (sort of) living in. At the house, Sherry went upstairs and tossed all of Hill’s stuff out the window – his expensive pots, his Armani suits – all of it.
Unleashing His Wrath
It began to snow and soon enough, all of his stuff was buried under the white. When Hill showed up to find all of his stuff buried under snow, he raised all hell. But she had her own anger to unleash. “Don’t you ever f***ing come back here!” she screamed.
Soon enough, Sherry received a phone call. It was Janet. Now that the secret was out, Janet no longer had to tiptoe around. She wanted to meet, and Sherry agreed. As Janet went on and on about the details of Hill’s secret life, more and more of the puzzle came together for Sherry. How could she have been so blind?
Well, That Explains It
Sherry’s next move was breaking the bad news to her mother, who adored her son-in-law, and to her son, Kris, who was heartbroken. But Hill was still letting himself into Sherry’s house at odd hours, one time writing “I love you, Sherry Amour, HH” on the bathroom mirror in lipstick.
Sherry had to explain to Samantha who HH was. It explained a lot, like how her roommate found a mayonnaise jar filled with a white powdery substance that could only be described as an illegal narcotic. There was one day when Sherry ran into Karen – her fellow “survivor” – and had a chat about their husband’s past infidelities.
Why Not Make Some Lemonade?
“You want to have some fun?” Sherry asked Karen. The two women decided to make their unique situation a little more amusing. They knew Hill was going to go to a dance club, so Sherry and Karen walked in arm and arm. “Here’s wife Number One and wife Number Two,” Sherry announced. “Isn’t that special?”
In another jaw-on-the-floor moment, Hill drank himself dumb as he watched his wives have a hell of a night on the dance floor. Just like with the witness program, Hill assumed he’d get away with it. He even bragged about his double life to his friends.
Full-On Panic Mode
When Sherry was turning to Karen for support, she let slip the fact that a private eye had been investigating her for months. With this, Karen went into panic mode. Janet meant real trouble for her family. Karen knew that Burke and his goons wanted Hill dead. It was only a matter of time.
The Hill kids were struggling too. Making friends was hard given that they couldn’t reveal much about their lives. By the time they made close friends and felt comfortable enough to spill the beans, their friends disappeared from their lives – too spooked to keep up the friendships.
Dishes, Guns and Bulletproof Vests
To make it worse, the son, Michael, was busing tables at El Toreador, where he saw his dad with his drinking buddies. While he was worried about making any disturbances at work, his dad would be getting hammered at the bar. One time, his dad even pulled a gun on a cook.
The next day, Michael was fired. As for Nick, the co-writer, he knew of the danger of his involvement with the mobster. He was given a bulletproof vest to wear whenever he was with Hill, but he never wore it. There was a point where Nick heard he might be a potential kidnapping victim in a plot to get to Hill.
Cutting the Cord Wasn’t an Option
Whereas Hill was doing all the wrong things, Karen went into survival mode. First things first: she had to get her husband’s marriage to Sherry dissolved. And so, she pulled Hill by the collar and dragged him to Sherry’s house with papers in hand. Sherry refused to sign them.
Despite the obvious cons of being married to a con, she still loved him and had false hope that it would work out. Sherry wasn’t going to sign anything without an attorney. There was also another reason for why she didn’t want to cut the cord… Yes, she was pregnant.
From Mess to Mayhem
In the midst of Karen’s threats to Sherry over the phone, Sherry told Hill that she was pregnant. At first, he was happy to hear the news. But when he drank, he was a loudmouth, which was how Karen heard about the pregnancy. Disorder in the household turned into utter mayhem.
Hill went so far as to threaten Sherry with her life if she didn’t sign the divorce papers. “They’re not going to miss this little hairdresser from Bellevue, they’re going to come in and blow you away,” he told her. Janet, who thought Hill was a “Shmuck,” noticed the terror in Sherry’s eyes when they met.
A Gun Under the Pillow
Now that Sherry was no longer the target of her investigation, Janet started to sympathize with her and even became her friend. Sherry, who was paranoid about the whole situation, started sleeping with a gun under her pillow – just as Hill had when he first entered Witness Protection.
One day, Sherry’s nephew, a toddler, pulled her handgun out from her purse, nearly giving her sister a heart attack. Sherry needed to keep her son safe. Her neighbor, an older man named Corkie, let Sherry and her son hide in his cabin in the woods on Lake Crescent.
Inviting the Enemy In
But eventually, Sherry needed to head back to work to make money. Whenever she drove, it was like she was being chased, speeding down back streets and constantly checking her mirrors. And Hill was everywhere – she couldn’t hide from him.
Her roommate ran into him in town. He told her how much he still loved Sherry and managed to convince her to let him in the house. When Sherry came home from work that day, the man she was hiding from – the man who threatened to have her killed – was sitting in her living room. “I don’t want anything to do with you!” she yelled when she saw him.
Karen Goes Wild With Rage
As usual, Hill was drunk. Before he could properly get kicked out of Sherry’s house, he passed out. With nothing much that they could do, Sherry and Samantha put him in a room to sleep it off. The next morning, Karen noticed he wasn’t home. She stormed out of the house as her daughter called out to her, “Mom, what are you doing?”
“I’m going to bash Sherry’s face in, and then I’m going to beat your father,” Karen replied. She walked into Sherry’s home, which was unlocked, and went straight to the bedroom to find her husband sleeping. She then dragged him out of the bed by the crotch and beat him with a telephone.
Like the Psycho From Psycho
Believing that he had slept with Sherry the night before, she went to find her next. Sherry was in the shower, and just like the scene from Psycho, the curtains were viciously pulled back. There stood Karen, furious as can be, and she started beating Sherry with the same phone.
“I was never so scared in my life,” Sherry later recalled. She managed to flee by car. Not much later, Karen returned to the house to scream at Sherry and demand that she sign the papers. When Sherry said no, she got violent again. And again, Sherry escaped.
Kicked Out of the Program
Finally, Karen figured out a way to dissolve Hill’s marriage to Sherry. Although he had converted to Judaism for Karen, he was a born Catholic. What that meant was that the Church offered legal provisions for one-party annulments… under certain circumstances. The marriage was finally over.
The problem now was that the Hills were kicked out of the Witness Protection program, based on “continued arrests and breaches of security.” Hill was dealing drugs, which led to his arrest in a DEA sting. Hill was sent to prison.
Hill Hits the Slammer
It was only a matter of time until Hill landed in prison. He was put behind bars in 1987 and later claimed he dodged at least two attempts by Vario and Burke goons – who were in the same prison – to have him killed. He was eventually removed from the general inmate population.
It took quite a while for the DEA officials to confirm that their target Martin Lewis was actually Henry Hill, and when the news broke, choppers were hovering over the Hill house for weeks. Meanwhile, his book with Nick Pileggi, Wiseguy, was published. Hill’s prediction was right: it was a bestseller.
Sherry’s Horse Heist
In line with his eternal luck, Hill was rescued by the FBI. They wanted more information and his testimony. Although he was convicted on drug charges stemming from his 1987 arrest, the FBI and prosecutors pleaded with the court to release him. And so, Hill was released on probation.
As for Sherry, she went back to the Hill home to take back the horse she had sent for Hill’s daughter. The creature was emaciated and neglected, so after climbing the fence and entering the property, she crept into the barn and grabbed hold of Teriyaki, the horse’s name.
Sherry rode the white, bony horse bareback into the night, crying the whole way. She knew she had to get out of Redmond – her life there was poisoned. She even ended her friendship with Samantha, whom Hill told her he slept with one night (he never did).
Nearly broke, Sherry had no choice but to take her son to her hometown and move in with her parents. She suffered a miscarriage; likely due to the incredible amount of stress she was under. Hill later did a 180, claiming that Sherry was never pregnant, and they were never even married.
Slowly but Surely
Hill alleged that Sherry seduced him and kidnapped him (the word he used was “f***-napped”). Sherry may have been naïve, but she was no aggressor. Hill was the hustler – not her. As much as she tried to move on, Hill was always in her thoughts; she couldn’t get him out of her mind.
Years later, she admitted, “It was so devastating I wanted to kill myself, to be quite honest.” Slowly but surely, she moved on and started doing hair and makeup for movies and TV shows. Finding steady work at a local morning show in Seattle, she moved to the city.
Janet, who became a good friend of Sherry’s, helped the scorned woman find some closure by tracking Hill down. By then, he and Karen had divorced, and he was now married to a woman named Kelly in California. With Janet’s help, Sherry sued Hill for compensation of the money he siphoned off from her when they were married.
She lost the suit and the judge even ordered her to pay Hill’s legal fees. Yet again, he was saved by the government. The funny thing is he never even showed up to court. Sherry went with Janet to see Goodfellas in theaters when it came out.
A Chill Down Her Spine
When Hill (played by Ray Liotta) said that Karen (played by Lorraine Bracco) looked just like Elizabeth Taylor, Sherry felt chills down her spine as Hill had used the same line with her. She ended up seeing Hill one last time (she has always called him Martin).
It was about ten years after their wedding that Sherry got a call. “This is Henry Hill.” She told the voice on the phone, “No you aren’t. Henry Hill’s dead.” She really did assume that Hill was dead, with all the drugs and drinking and wild lifestyle he ran.
What Did He Want?
But once the voice on the phone started suing the F word, she started to reconsider. “What’s my son’s name?” she asked him. He immediately answered: “Kris Gregory Cowin.” The two met at a diner in Everett, Washington.
Sherry came with a small handgun in her purse, just in case, and asked her friend to call the police if she didn’t hear from her by 2 p.m. At the diner, seeing a table of uniformed cops offered her some relief. But what did Hill want from her after all this time?
He told her that he recently dealt with a medical crisis and almost died. He said he felt closer to God now. He was on a mission to apologize to all those whom he had wronged in his life. “I came back, and I had a second chance,” he told her.
Sherry accepted his apology. After their meal, she gave him a ride to Barnes & Noble, where she bought a copy of his recently published Wiseguy Cookbook (a collection of his favorite recipes), which he signed for her: “Sherry, You are the love of my life, HH.”
Forever and Ever
By the time she finished looking at what he wrote to her in the book she just bought, she looked up to see he was gone. She found him at the bar next door. “And here comes my second wife,” he bragged when she walked up to him. When they said their goodbyes, he kissed her hand and said, “I’ll love you forever.”
Henry Hill died in 2012 of natural causes. After he and Karen divorced, Karen went off the grid. Those who knew her well say that she’s surrounded by nature, which makes her happy. As for Sherry, she’s now around 70 years old and goes by Scarlett. “I’m done with Sherry,” she said in an interview.