Biography[edit | edit source]
Hesh is a loan shark and an advisor to Tony (the same role he performed for Tony's father, mob captain Johnny Boy Soprano). Despite Hesh's long-standing closeness to the Sopranos, as a Jew, he is not and never can be a made man. Nevertheless, Tony frequently seeks out Hesh's advice on a number of issues. When Tony was estranged from his therapist he sought out Hesh as a sympathetic ear but found his listening skills not quite up to his standards, and often Tony gets annoyed in several scenes because Hesh keeps talking. Hesh has the lowest profile out of anyone in the crime family. He is frequently seen in the back room of Satriale's Pork Store and the Bada Bing nightclub, playing cards with Tony's crew or eating with them.
Hesh is an intelligent and shrewd businessman, having made his fortune in the recording industry by founding "F-Note Records" during the 1950s and 1960s by bringing many young black musicians to prominence, getting royalties by having his name added as a co-writer on many songs. Apart from an unabashed greedy streak, Hesh is largely cool-headed and good-natured. He is also unique among Tony's inner circle in that he is well educated. Outside of business, Hesh's passions include his stable of horses and a penchant for statuesque black women. Hesh has a son-in-law named Eli who is also involved in his loan-shark business. Hesh has an encyclopedic knowledge of Soprano criminal activities.
Hesh first appeared in the pilot working with Tony on setting up a scam to defraud HMO medical insurance companies through their debtor Alex Mahaffey. Hesh accompanied Big Pussy to a waterfall to intimidate Mahaffey into participating, although both did it in a non-threatening way, and Mahaffey knew that non-cooperation would end his life, making threats unnecessary. Later, Hesh advised Tony against getting involved with the Teitlemanns, a family of Hasidic Jews, in a dispute over ownership of their hotel. Hesh's predictions of their obstinacy proved correct. Hesh was able to help Tony end a particularly arduous "negotiation" with a novel torture threat.
In "A Hit Is a Hit" Hesh helped Tony's nephew Christopher Moltisanti to realize that his partner and girlfriend Adriana La Cerva had little aptitude for work in the music business. Chris also made contact with Hesh on behalf of Massive Genius -- a rapper who claimed Hesh owed compensation to the widow of a black musician he allegedly defrauded. When Hesh refused to pay, Massive threatened litigation; Hesh shrewdly threatened a counter-suit of his own, alleging that the samples used in Massive's music infringed on his copyrights.
In "Christopher" Hesh helped Silvio in his Christopher Columbus day dispute by putting him in touch with a sympathetic Native American casino owner through his friend Jerry Schwartz. Hesh also sold Ralph Cifaretto the ill-fated racehorse Pie-O-My.
In the Season Five episode "In Camelot" Tony discovered that his father, Hesh and Phil Leotardo had been co-owners of a racetrack and that his father had promised a share to his comare Fran Felstein. Tony arranged a sit-down with Phil and Hesh to secure the share which they reluctantly gave up.
In the Season Six premiere "Members Only" Hesh and his son-in-law Eli were attacked by members of Phil Leotardo's crew - they had targeted Eli because they thought he was making collections on their turf without permission. The mobsters set fire to Eli's gas tank to get him and Hesh out of the car and then set about beating Eli. Eli was seriously hurt when he was the victim of a hit-and-run trying to escape the mobsters. Hesh was punched in the face. Hesh demanded and received restitution from Phil at a sit-down mediated by Tony. Hesh visited Tony in the hospital when he was recovering from his shooting.
In the final season Hesh gives Tony a $200,000 bridge loan to help Tony cover a string of gambling losses. Tony fails to repay the loan on time and starts berating Hesh about the vig on the loan which was $3,000 a week, leading to bad blood on both sides. When Hesh's girlfriend, Renata, dies of a stroke, Tony repays the loan out of loyalty but offers only brief and impersonal condolences to his once-close friend, suggesting that the financial dispute has strained their relationship. There is even some evidence that Renata's death is, in fact, all that saves Hesh from being taken out by Tony, as a cheaper way to dispose of the debt. As of the end of the series, Hesh's fate remains unknown.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- The character is based on Harold "Kayo" Koningsberg a legendary Jewish hit man and mob associate who was sentenced to life in prison for murder. Konigsberg first became involved in organized crime working for New Jersey mob boss Abner "Longy" Zwillman, he became one of the crew's most prolific hit men. Konigsberg was described as a troublemaker from the beginning, "a malevolently wild creature in a house full of Sabbath-keepers". After being taken under the wing of Zwillman — the so-called "Al Capone of New Jersey" — Konigsberg became a violent and feared racketeer in Jersey City and Manhattan. He earned a reputation as a major loanshark who pummeled deadbeats with a lead-lined rubber hose. Konigsberg also stole, ran numbers, hijacked, assaulted, extorted and murdered. He was known to be charming - "adorable" even, according to one of his many lawyers - but at the bottom, a sociopath.
During his years as a mob hitman, Konigsberg was suspected by police in more than 20 mafia hits. Retired NYPD detective and veteran mob buster Joseph Coffey said of Konigsber, "I knew him well and he was the worst of the worst", "He enjoyed killing and enjoyed getting paid for it." Coffey said it was very unusual for the Mafia to use non-Italians to do their hits, but Konigsberg was an exception because of his ruthlessness.
- The character of Hesh Rabkin may be a composite character inspired by music mogul Morris "Mo" Levy, founder of Roulette Records, who had connections to the Mafia and owned a string of racehorses and Gaetano "Corky" Vastola who was a member of the Mafia in New Jersey and worked with Roulette Records.