Goodfellas is, without a doubt, one of the greatest gangster flicks of all time. It is the fictional rehashing of the real life trials and tribulations of The Vario Crew (a faction within the Lucchese crime family), focusing on the stories of Henry Hill, Tommy DeSimone and Jimmy Burke, under the leadership of caporegime Paul Vario. The climax of the film is the 1978 Lufthansa where the crew hijacked $5 million in cash ($18.1 million today) and $875,000 in jewelry ($3.2 million today) from John F. Kennedy Airport. One of the players in the scheme was one “Stacks” Edwards, played by Samuel L. Jackson. He, too, was a real person. In fact, during the heist, Edwards knocked out a Lufthansa employee. Some aspects of his life were accurate, like his murdered by DeSimone’s silenced-.32 after drawing police attention by getting high on heroin and failing to ditch the truck after the heist. However, Parnell “Stacks” Edwards was more than some random guitar-playing guy “everyone loved.”
Stacks Edwards, born in the South Bronx, was a blues guitar player, with dreams of becoming the next James Brown or Sam Cooke. He regularly booked shows at the Vario’s infamous Robert’s Lounge, by Burke and at Hill’s night club, The Suite. Music wasn’t paying the bills though, and he was more valuable to the Lucchese family than that. He was an associate of the family who helped pull off robberies or thefts. He got on after befriending DeSimone in the 60’s, when the mobster was selling stolen Rolexes. DeSimone had adopted the notion of integration as a rule to live by, influenced by Colombo family member Joe Gallo and his associates. Edwards and DeSimone became close like brothers, and eventually started pulling off credit card scams and carjackings together.
Edwards’ role in the credit card scheme was, buyer. He had connections in women who worked for MasterCharge, a credit card delivery service and at a local ban. The associate at the bank would give him duplicates of cards yet to be shipped and the limit attached. His MasterCharge associate would alert him to security and credit checks. He would then hit stores where the Vario Crew was known with a panel truck and purchase items (there was a $45 limit at each spot) until the truck’s bed was full. Each mission would consist of around two hours of buying blenders, transistor radios, cigarettes, razor blades with stolen credits cards.
So, there you have it. Samuel L. Jackson was portraying a real crime figure in Goodfellas. One of the few Black associates of La Cosa Nostra.