Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chicago Bus Tour Of Past Mob Boss Homes

With a half-dozen people aboard a tour bus looking on, Greg Gullo chipped grounders to his son with a fungo bat in his River Forest front yard.

The bus wasn't at his house so passengers could admire Gullo's swing last weekend, but there was a time when seeing the owner of the home in the 1400 block of Monroe Street with a baseball bat in his hands would have gotten a lot of attention. As tour guide John Binder explained, the four-bedroom house was an early purchase of up-and-coming mobster Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo — nicknamed by Al Capone for his skill at pummeling people with blunt objects.

"I think the first time the tour came by, my kids were actually out in the yard playing cops-and-robbers with squirt guns," Gullo recalled. "Everyone on the bus kind of stood up and watched."

The Gullos have gotten used to the occasional tours led by Binder, their neighbor, a mob history buff and a University of Illinois at Chicago professor. He began offering tours devoted to Oak Park and River Forest's upper-class underbelly in 2005.

To be sure, the area boasts more admirable figures such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway, but it has a rich mob history as well. The 10-mile circuit of Binder's tour passes more than a dozen homes that once belonged to top mob figures, including the Oak Park bungalow where Sam "Mooney" Giancana was gunned down in 1975.

"For the most part, the hoods appear to have wanted the same things as other folks in the suburbs: someplace quiet, away from work, with good schools for their kids," said Binder, author of the book "The Chicago Outfit."

A prime suspect in the killing, Dominic "Butch" Blasi, lived just three miles away from the Giancana house. The .22-caliber pistol used in the murder was found in a forest preserve between the two houses.

The Giancana hit was a rare instance of mob violence in the suburbs, Binder said. Like their neighbors in legitimate businesses, mob bosses commuted into the city to do most of their business. In fact, after Accardo's house was burglarized in 1978, mob hit men reportedly found, tortured and killed all six suspected burglars — a revenge spree that terrified hoods across the city.

Thanks to Andy Grimm

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