Saturday, November 06, 2010

Boardwalk Empire Does Not Show the Real Uncle Al Capone

Deirdre Marie Capone isn't a TV critic, but she has some strong views on Stephen Graham's take on her great uncle, Al Capone, in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

"I have watched it," she tells me in a phone interview from her Florida home. "I think that Stephen Graham job does a great job. I don't like the character that he is playing at all."

"They had him cooking with his mother, the other night, in New Jersey. That never happened. They have him kidnapping people in New Jersey, which never happened.

"It's one more thing where they take his name and they create a character that is not really him," she says. "There's nothing I can do about it."


Well, there is something she can do, and Capone, the granddaughter of Al's older brother, Ralph, is telling her family's story in the new book "Uncle Al Capone."

It's a family story, including her memories of her great uncle (he died when she was 7). "I had my grandfather until I was 45, and I had Al's younger sister until I was 54, and I was very very close to them."

Her goal is to tell the story of a different Al Capone. "He would get down on the floor like a big teddy bear," she recalls. "He loved children."

It even includes recipes for some of her great uncle's Italian favorites.

She's not trying to say that Capone was just misunderstood. But she's still defensive about his line of work, saying there were few opportunities for Italian immigrants when he arrived in the U.S.

"There was no opportunity to be a doctor or a lawyer or a businessman," she says. "He could make money for his family.

"At one point, he ran over 350 speakeasies in the city of Chicago and he didn't have a fax machine and a cellphone... The only thing they could get him on is tax evasion, everything else is alleged."

The self-published book came out about a week ago, and is available from on-line bookshops, like Amazon. "I went round and round and round with publishers," she said, comparing that industry to the recording industry of a few years ago, out of touch with technological change.

That's why she went the self-publishing route, she tells me, although she's open to signing a publishing deal now that the book is out.

The 70-year-old Deirdre, by the way, is publishing the book under the name she was born with. "That is the name on my baptismal certificate," she says. But she's not revealing her married name, trying to hold on to a little anonymity for a while.

"It's going to be very hard for me to keep it private," she says. "It's going to come out."

But it's worth it, she says, since she had to tell this story.

"If I don't, who's going to?" she asks.

Thanks to Tim Cuprisin

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