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Showing posts with label Big Jim Colosimo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Big Jim Colosimo. Show all posts

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Century of Chicago Mob Bosses

A thumbnail history of Chicago's mob leaders. Dates are approximate.

1910
"Big Jim" Colosimo (1910 to 1920). Chicago's vice lord runs brothels and nightspots, shot dead in 1920 at his popular restaurant. Death cleared way for Capone

1920
Johnny Torrio (1920 to 1925). Reserved boss, eschews violence, retires in 1925 after a fouled-up hit leaves him barely alive.

1925
Al Capone (1925 to 1932). Made Chicago mob famous. Perhaps the most successful mob boss ever, the subject of countless books and movies, done in by the IRS for tax evasion.

1932
Frank Nitti (1932 to 1943). With help from Jake Guzik, rebuilds the Outfit after Capone's departure. Commits suicide after he's indicted in 1943.

1943
Paul "the Waiter" Ricca (1943 to 1950). Has a son who's a drug addict and decrees no Outfit member can have anything to do with narcotics trafficking.

1950
Tony "Joe Batters" Accardo (1950 to 1957). Considered the most capable Outfit leader ever. Never spends significant time in jail. Always plays key role as adviser, but facing a tax case, he officially hands reins over to ...

1957
Sam "Mooney" Giancana (1957 to 1966). Attends the infamous Apalachin, N.Y., meeting that draws national attention to organized crime, draws even more focus on the Outfit with his flamboyance, shared a girlfriend with JFK, flees country for eight years, slain in 1975 at his Oak Park home.

1966
Sam "Teets" Battaglia (1966). Tough leader who is convicted in federal court same year, dies in prison.

1966
John "Jackie" Cerone (1966 to 1969). Considered one of the smartest underworld figures, a strong leader, then the feds pinch him.

1969
Felix "Milwaukee Phil" Alderisio (1969 to 1971). The mob killer is an unpopular leader, then he's convicted of bank fraud.

1971
Joseph "Joey Doves" Aiuppa (1971 to 1986). A Cicero mobster who ran gambling and strip clubs and grows into the job, with help from Accardo, Gus Alex and, later, Cerone. He is convicted of skimming profits from a Las Vegas casino.

1986
Joseph Ferriola (1986 to 1989). Heads the Outfit for only a few years before succumbing to heart problems.

1989
Sam Carlisi (1989 to 1993). Protege to Aiuppa and mentor to James "Little Jimmy" Marcello. Carlisi and his crew are decimated by federal prosecutions.

1997
John "No Nose" DiFronzo (1997 to 2018). Called mob boss by Chicago Crime Commission, but other mob watchers disagree.

2018
Salvatore "Solly D" DeLaurentis (2018 to Current?) Although not official, Solly D is considered by many mafia experts to be one the highest ranking mobster on the streets in Chicago although he has long denied these claims. It is said that his 2nd in command could be convicted mob enforcer, Albert "Albie the Falcon" Vena. Time will tell.

Friday, January 11, 2019

THE OUTFIT'S GREATEST HITS

The Chicago Outfit's Greatest Hits from 1920 to 2001.

1920: Big Jim Colosimo is slain in his popular Wabash Avenue restaurant, making way for the rise of Al Capone. Largely credited with taking the steps to create what would become known as the "Chicago Outfit"

1924: Dion O'Banion is shot dead in his flower shop across from Holy Name Cathedral. Chief suspects are his beer war enemies, the Genna brothers. Started hijacking whiskey right before the start of prohibition kicked in.

1929: Seven members of the Bugs Moran gang are gunned down, allegedly on orders of Capone, at 2122 N. Clark in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Moran himself, lucky man, is late for the meeting at the S.M.C. Carting Co.


38 Detective Special1930: Jake Lingle, a Chicago Tribune reporter in the mob's pocket, is slain in the Illinois Central train station. He had crossed many mobsters, including Capone. Shot behind the ear with a 38 caliber detective's special on the way to the racetrack, Lingle was given a hero's funeral. It was only later that it was learned that he was really a legman for the mob.


1936: Capone gunman and bodyguard "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn is gunned down at a Milwaukee Avenue bowling alley, the day before Valentine's Day. Given the timing, the Moran gang was suspected. In addition to his skill with a machine gun, McGurn was also considered a scratch golfer who considered going pro and boxed as a welterweight where he was known as Battling Jack McGurn. He is credited with over 25 mob kills and McGurn was also suspected of being the principal gunner and planner of the St. Valentines Day Massacre.


1975: Mob boss Sam Giancana is killed, while cooking sausage, in the basement of his Oak Park home after he becomes a liability to the Outfit. "The Don" calls Giancana the Godfather of Godfathers - The Most Powerful Mafioso in America. Started as a hitman for Capone. Rose to boss of the Chicago crime family. Friend of celebrities such as Frank Sinatra & Marilyn Monroe. Rigged the Chicago vote for John F. Kennedy in 1960.


Joe Batters1978: Six burglars who struck at mob boss Anthony Accardo's (AKA Joe Batters by the FBI and THE Big Tuna by the Chicago media) house are found slain across the city.


1983: Worried he will sing to the feds, mobsters gun down crooked Chicago businessman Allen Dorfman outside the Hyatt Hotel in Lincolnwood. Dorfman had already been convicted under operation Pendorf: Pentration of Dorfman, along with Teamsters President Roy Williams and Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, when he was hit by the Outfit afraid he would look to reduce his sentence.


1983: Mob gambling lieutenant Ken Eto is shot three times in the head. Miraculously, he survives and testifies against old pals.


1986: The mob's man in Vegas, Anthony Spilotro, and his brother Michael Spilotro are beaten and buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. Glamorized in the movie Casino in which Joe Pesci played "Tony the Ant". Opened up a gift shop at the Circus-Cirus Hotel and Casino where he based his operations. The Family Secrets Trial revealed that the two were originally murdered by a crew led by James Marcello in a house in Bensonville. 


2001: Anthony "the Hatch" Chiaramonti, a vicious juice loan debt collector, is shot to death outside a restaurant in suburban Lyons by a man in a hooded sweat shirt. Chiaramonti had been caught on a tape played at the trial of Sam Carlisi, grabbing a trucking company owner, Anthony LaBarbera, by the throat, lifting him in the air and warning him not to be late in paying juice loan money. LaBarbera was wearing an FBI body recorder at the time. Interesting enough, the restaurant where he was shot was a Brown's Chicken and Pasta, where I have had lunch a handful of times.

Thanks to the Chicago SunTimes and additional various sources.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Where the Mob Bodies, Bootleggers and Blackmailers are Buried in the Lurid History of Chicago’s Prohibition Gangsters

In 1981, an FBI team visited Donald Trump to discuss his plans for a casino in Atlantic City. Trump admitted to having ‘read in the press’ and ‘heard from acquaintances’ that the Mob ran Atlantic City. At the time, Trump’s acquaintances included his lawyer Roy Cohn, whose other clients included those charming New York businessmen Antony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno and Paul ‘Big Paul’ Castellano.

‘I’ve known some tough cookies over the years,’ Trump boasted in 2016. ‘I’ve known the people that make the politicians you and I deal with every day look like little babies.’ No one minded too much. Organised crime is a tapeworm in the gut of American commerce, lodged since Prohibition. The Volstead Act of January 1920 raised the cost of a barrel of beer from $3.50 to $55. By 1927, the profits from organised crime were $500 million in Chicago alone. The production, distribution and retailing of alcohol was worth $200 million. Gambling brought in $167 million. Another $133 million came from labour racketeering, extortion and brothel-keeping.

In 1920, Chicago’s underworld was divided between a South Side gang, led by the Italian immigrant ‘Big Jim’ Colosino, and the Irish and Jewish gangs on the North Side. Like many hands-on managers, Big Jim had trouble delegating, even when it came to minor tasks such as beating up nosy journalists. When the North Side gang moved into bootlegging, Colesino’s nephew John Torrio suggested that the South Side gang compete for a share of the profits. Colesino, fearing a turf war, refused. So Torrio murdered his uncle and started bootlegging.

Torrio was a multi-ethnic employer. Americans consider this a virtue, even among murderers. The Italian ‘Roxy’ Vanilli and the Irishman ‘Chicken Harry’ Cullet rubbed along just fine with ‘Jew Kid’ Grabiner and Mike ‘The Greek’ Potson — until someone said hello to someone’s else’s little friend.

Torrio persuaded the North Side leader Dean O’Banion to agree to a ‘master plan’ for dividing Chicago. The peace held for four years. While Torrio opened an Italian restaurant featuring an operatic trio, ‘refined cabaret’ and ‘1,000,000 yards of spaghetti’, O’Banion bought some Thompson submachine guns. A racketeering cartel could not be run like a railroad cartel. There was no transparency among tax-dodgers, no trust between thieves, and no ‘enforcement device’ other than enforcement.

In May 1924, O’Banion framed Torrio for a murder and set him up for a brewery raid. In November 1924, Torrio’s gunmen killed O’Banion as he was clipping chrysanthemums in his flower shop. Two months later, the North Side gang ambushed Torrio outside his apartment and clipped him five times at close range.

Torrio survived, but he took the hint and retreated to Italy. His protégé Alphonse ‘Scarface’ Capone took over the Chicago Outfit. The euphemists of Silicon Valley would call Al Capone a serial disrupter who liked breaking things. By the end of Prohibition in 1933, there had been more than 700 Mob killings in Chicago alone.

On St Valentine’s Day 1929, Capone’s men machine-gunned seven North Siders in a parking garage. This negotiation established the Chicago Outfit’s supremacy in Chicago, and cleared the way for another Torrio scheme. In May 1929, Torrio invited the top Italian, Jewish and Irish gangsters to a hotel in Atlantic City and suggested they form a national ‘Syndicate’. The rest is violence.

Is crime just another American business, a career move for entrepreneurial immigrants in a hurry? John J. Binder teaches business at the University of Illinois in Chicago, and has a sideline in the Mob history racket. He knows where the bodies are buried, and by whom. We need no longer err by confusing North Side lieutenant Earl ‘Hymie’ Weiss, who shot his own brother in the chest, with the North Side ‘mad hatter’ Louis ‘Diamond Jack’ Allerie, who was shot in the back by his own brother; or with the bootlegger George Druggan who, shot in the back, told the police that it was a self-inflicted wound. Anyone who still mixes them up deserves a punishment beating from the American Historical Association.

Binder does his own spadework, too. Digging into Chicago’s police archives, folklore, and concrete foundations, he establishes that Chicago’s mobsters pioneered the drive-by shooting. As the unfortunate Willie Dickman discovered on 3 September 1925, they were also the first to use a Thompson submachine gun for a ‘gangland hit’. Yet the Scarface image of the Thompson-touting mobster was a fiction. Bootleggers preferred the shotgun and assassins the pistol. Thompsons were used ‘sparingly’, like a niblick in golf.

Al Capone’s Beer Wars is a well-researched source book. Readers who never learnt to read nothing because they was schooled on the mean streets will appreciate Binder’s data graphs and mugshots. Not too shabby for a wise guy.

Thanks to Dominic Green.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The First Vice Lord: Big Jim Colosimo and the Ladies of the Levee

While some people are fascinated or repulsed by the evil crimes committed by Chicago mobsters, others have studied it. And one who has is studied the mob is Wauconda author Arthur J. Bilek, whose book is "The First Vice Lord: Big Jim Colosemo and the Ladies of the Levee."

"The First Vice Lord" covers the early years of the Chicago outfit through 1920. Bilek found that it began with Big Jim Colosimo, who came to the United States from Italy, worked as a Chicago street cleaner and rose in Chicago's political ranks.

The book details Colosimo's career through the time period. Bilek has also co-authored a book with William Helmer, entitled "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre."

Bilek's life of battling crime began after graduating in 1953 from Loyola University with a masters degree in criminology. He spent the rest of his life in law enforcement and education, climbing the ranks of the Chicago Police Department and was appointed Chief of Cook County Sheriff's Office in 1962.

He said he started the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Criminal Justice bachelor's of science program in 1966, was the associate director of Northwestern's Traffic Institute in 1989, He also worked on Cook County's Cold Case Task Force.

Most recently he was a board member of the Chicago Crime Commission and followed the Family Secrets trials. He believes the outfit still operates but its political prowess has dwindled since Colosimo's day.

Thanks to Ilene Haluska

Friday, June 02, 2017

The First Vice Lord: Big Jim Colosemo and the Ladies of the Levee

My tendency to either skim books or proofread them (from early magazine days) has encountered a new one from former Cook County police chief Art Bilek that I can’t put down: The First Vice Lord: Big Jim Colosemo and the Ladies of the Levee.

This is a masterpiece of writing and excruciatingly accurate research that describes how Big Jim Colosimo rose from a lowly street-sweeper to the most prominent operator of whorehousesThe First Vice Lord: Big Jim Colosemo and the Ladies of the Levee, gambling joints, and low-life restaurants in the days leading up to Prohibition, with the collusion of the police and politicians and the managerial skills of John Torrio and Al Capone. When his increasingly notorious Colosimo’s Café combined with his growing desire for respectability, love for a young songbird, and failure to exploit the opportunities afforded by Prohibition, Torrio (we must presume) had him murdered in the vestibule of his elegant restaurant in 1920—and the band marched on.

Nowhere has Chicago’s graft and corruption been so carefully and entertainingly documented, with special attention to the backgrounds of Torrio and Capone, who worked hard to weld the new and competing bootlegging gangs into the greatest illicit booze empire the country has ever known--one that did not factionalize into Chicago’s bloody Beer Wars that began with the killing of North Side mob-leader Dean O’Banion four years later. My own work has concentrated on the years following Prohibition, so I’m especially happy to report that Bilek’s book explains what made the Roaring Twenties possible.

Reviewed by William J. Helmer, courtesy of On the Spot Journal.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Kiddo, Joe Batters

Tony Accardo, is, without a doubt, the most successful, the most powerful, most respected and the longest lived Boss the Chicago syndicate, or probably any criminal syndicate for that matter, has ever had. During his long tenure, Accardo's power was long reaching and frightfully vast.

He was so respected and feared in the national Mafia that in 1948 when he declared himself as the arbitrator for any mob problems west of Chicago, in effect proclaiming all of that territory as his, no one in the syndicate argued.

He was the boss pure and simple. Unlike Johnny Torrio, Frank Nitti or Paul Ricca, Tony Accardo looked exactly like what he was, a mob thug who could and did dispatch men and women to their death over money or the slightest insult. He was a peasant, even he said that. But he was a reserved man and a thinker, unlike Big Jim Colosimo or Al Capone or Sam Giancana and all those who came after Giancana.

Unlike the other bosses, Accardo knew his limitations. He consulted often with Ricca, Murray Humpreys and Short Pants Campagna because he recognized their intelligence and wisdom and he used it.

He admitted to not having the outward intelligence of Ricca or Nitti or Torrio or even the flare and occasional self-depicting wit of Capone or Giancana. Yet it was Accardo who expanded the outfit's activities into new rackets. It was Accardo who, recognizing the dangers of the white slave trade, streamlined the old prostitution racket during the war years into the new call girl service, which was copied by New York families even though they laughed at the idea at first.

Two decades after prohibition was repealed Accardo introduced bootlegging to the dry states of Kansas and Oklahoma, flooding them with illegal whiskey. He moved the outfit into slot and vending machines, counterfeiting cigarette and liquor tax stamps and expanded narcotics smuggling to a worldwide basis. He had the good sense to invest, with Eddie Vogel as his agent, into manufacturing slot machines and then placed them everywhere, gas stations, restaurants and bars. When Las Vegas exploded, Accardo made sure the casinos used his slots and only his slots.

Watching someone as clever as Paul Ricca and as smart as Frank Nitti go to jail over the Bioff scandal, Accardo pulled the organization away from labor racketeering and extortion. Under Accardo's reign the Chicago mob exploded in growth and grew wealthy as a result.

The outfit grew because, outside of the Kefauver committee, there wasn't a focused attempt on the part of any law enforcement agency to bust up the Chicago syndicate. The FBI was busy catching cold war spies and they didn't acknowledge that the Mafia or even organized crime existed anyway.

Under Accardo's leadership, the gang set its flag in Des Moines Iowa, down state Illinois and, Southern California and deep into Kentucky, Las Vegas, Indiana, Arizona, St. Louis Missouri, Mexico, Central and South America. Accardo's long reign highlighted a golden era for Chicago's syndicate. But it also ushered in the near collapse of the outfit as well. In 1947, as Tony Accardo took the reins of power from Paul Ricca, the outfit produced $3,000,000 in criminal business per year with Accardo, Humpreys, Ricca and Giancana taking in an estimated $40 to $50 million each per year.

Accardo pensioned off the older members of the mob and gave more authority to the younger members of the mob, mostly former 42 gang members like Sam Giancana, the Battaglias and Marshal Caifano.

The money poured in, in hundreds of thousands of dollars every day from all points where Chicago ruled. The hoods who had survived the shoot-outs, gang wars, intergang wars, purges, cop shootings, the national exposés and the federal and state investigations now saw what they had hustled so hard for.

They had more money then they knew what to do with. Like any set of super rich men they hired the best crooked investors money could buy, not the Jake Guzak-Meyer Lansky types either, real investment experts with law and accounting degrees from Harvard and Yale who taught them all sorts of legal tax loopholes to get their cash out of the rackets and into legitimate businesses.

By the time he died in 1992, Tony Accardo, the son of illegal immigrant parents from an Italian ghetto in a Chicago slum, had legal investments in transportation as diverse as commercial office buildings, strip centers, lumber farms, paper factories, hotels and car dealerships, trucking, newspapers, hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.

He dictated to his men that "when things are in order at home, it's easier to concentrate on business" so although he allowed them their mistresses and girlfriends, it was his rule that his men spend times with their wives and children. Accardo himself was said never to have cheated on his wife of many years, Clarice.

He declared that no one in the organization could ever threaten or harm a cop or member of the media, no matter how annoying they were. In so long as they were honest and doing their job, they were to be left alone. Yet when an honest Chicago beat cop named Jack Muller ticketed Accardo car for double parking outside the Tradewinds, a mob salon on Rush Street, Accardo made sure that officer Muller was made an example of by his superiors. From that day on, it became commonplace to see hoods park their cars whereever they pleased along Rush street and other places.

Like his mentor Paul Ricca, it was Accardo's firm belief that in order to avoid the tax men, that the outfit should conduct itself as meekly as possible to avoid public attention. Accardo decided that he would keep the lowest profile a mob boss could have and he directed his underbosses to follow the same route. They did, except for Sam Giancana.

Like Ricca, Accardo preached moderation, low profile and patience in all things but unlike Ricca, Accardo seldom practiced what he preached. His estate in exclusive River Forrest, outside of Chicago was extravagant. Far more extravagant then he would allow for any of his men.

Accardo bought the place in 1943 when he started to roll in wartime profits. It had twenty-one rooms, a built in pool...in the house...a black onyx bathtub that cost $10,000 to install in the fifties, and a bowling alley.

The baths were fitted with gold inlaid fixtures, the basement had a large gun and trophy room that sometimes doubled as a mob meeting hall. It had vaulted ceilings, polished wood spiral staircase, a library full of hundreds of volumes of books, pipe organ and a second bowling alley. In the rear of the house stood a guest house.

His backyard barbecue pit, a status symbol in gangdom, was the largest in the outfit only because nobody was stupid enough to build a larger one than the bosses. The half-acre lawn was surrounded by a seven foot high fence and two electrically controlled gates. "It was," wrote Sam Giancana's daughter Annette, "almost obscene the way he flaunted his wealth."

His penchant for showing the world his wealth was in contradiction to his self-effacing ways. In fact, Tony Accardo lacked any real personal flamboyance at all.

A powerfully built man, Accardo was taken with loud clothes, expensive white on white dress shirts, and conservative suits that cost $250, four and half times the average amount for the price of a good wool suit in 1959.

An ardent fisherman, he often spent long weekends fishing the waters off Florida or Bimini or Mexico, most of the time taking Sam Giancana along as his bodyguard.

Over time, he made real efforts to improve himself. He traveled with his wife, or Frank Nitti's son or sometimes alone to tour the great museums and churches of Europe. When Clarice joined a group of educators and traveled around the world to study the living customs of other societies, Accardo sometimes joined her.

Otherwise, Accardo's attempts at respectability were often bumbling. Once, friends managed to have him brought into a private and very exclusive golf club. Everything was fine until Accardo called his thugs to a general meeting on the links. The boys brought no clubs and instead sped across the course in golf carts, ramming into each other and had a picnic on the sixth fairway. The membership was appalled and requested that Accardo resign, which humiliated him no end.

Accardo was a compulsive gambler and was one of his own best customers at his club in Calumet city; the Owl Club. Even towards the end of his life, when he wasn't able to get around as freely, Accardo phoned in his bets. He once said that if he died at the crap tables, he would die a happy man.

He enjoyed his role as the big boss, he liked having his men gossip about him, having them bow and fall all over themselves trying to keep him happy. Accardo made no secret of the fact that he looked down on them and made sure they understood that they were subordinate to him. However he was careful not to act superior around Paul Ricca, the man who had trained him for his position.

Unlike any that came before him or after him, Tony Accardo was totally in charge of his organization, from top to bottom, in large measure due to the fact that Accardo was a feared man and he ruled by fear, and he delighted in his reputation for brutality. But his ruthlessness was probably unneeded, since he was seldom challenged in his position, in large part, because Chicago is ruled by one family, unlike New York, which is ruled by five families. As a result, the control of the organization was easier.

He could be extremely moody and sullen and took offense easily and seldom overlooked even the most delicate of slights against his powerful, and he was powerful, position. "Tony," said one of his acqaintances, "could have the disposition of a rattlesnake, it depended on his mood."

When he snapped, the most accurate way to describe his temper tantrums, the stone cold facade of a businessman, and the thin veneer of respectability dropped away and the world got a peek at the real Tony Accardo.

He could be charming when he had to be, in so long as it wasn't for long periods of time, but otherwise he was surly, rude, crude, and foul-mouthed. "Basically," an FBI report read, "Accardo is a rather simple and often crude and surprisingly cheap individual."

Once, when a teenage waiter was too slow to serve him his hamburger in a restaurant, Accardo sat and fumed. When the teenager arrived with the hamburger, Accardo grabbed a knife off the table and slashed the child's arm open.

On another occasion, Accardo ordered the death of a lawyer for the Chicago Restaurant Association to be killed when the two had an argument over disclosing to the IRS Accardo's $125,000 retainer.

Only the pleading of the always level headed Murray Humpreys saved the lawyer from Accardo's gunners.

Accardo was born to Francisco and Maria Accardo, Sicilian immigrants, on April 28, 1906. He was baptized at the infamous Holy Name Cathedral, seven blocks away from his home on 1353 West Grand Avenue, near Ogden, on the West side.

However, there is some evidence that he may have been born in Italy, in or near Palermo, Sicily. His mother would later file a delayed birth affidavit with the federal government stating that Tony was born in 1904 in Chicago, a full year before she arrived in the United States.

One of six children, Accardo dropped out of the Holy Name Cathedral School in the fifth, or possibly the sixth grade, and took to petty street crime, working mostly in the loop.

While still only a child, he came to the attention of Vincenzo de Mora, AKA Machine Gun Jack McGurn, who was then the leader of the Circus gang, which was run out of the Circus Café at 1857 North Avenue. Both operations, the gang and the café, were owned by Claude Maddox. Maddox would later play a pivotal role in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

Among the tens of thousands of young and impressionable poor Italian boys who survived in the teaming slums of Chicago, Jack McGurn had an almost godlike stature, so, when McGurn chose Accardo to act as his Gofer, it was an honor.

On March 22, 1922, a young Tony Accardo was arrested for the first time, just six weeks before he turned sixteen, for a motor violation. Several months later, in 1923, Accardo was arrested for disorderly conduct inside a pool hall. He was fined $200 plus court costs. According to court records, Accardo said that he was still living with his parents, which is doubtful, and that he was employed as a delivery boy for a grocery store in Little Italy and later as a truck driver which apparently was true.

Most professional crooks kept a full time job, if in name only, to appease any judge that they might stand before. At that point in his very long criminal career, Accardo was restricted to muggings and pickpocketing inside the loop during the day and stalking on drunks and old people at night.

Like so many other Chicago mobsters who came up through the ranks, Accardo drove a Capone beer truck part time. He graduated to look-out status and then burglaries in the west side.

In 1923, when McGurn left the circus gang to join the Capone operation, Accardo was 17 years old and already an experienced and reliable full time criminal and a big time member of the Circus gang.

By 1925, Tony Accardo had been promoted from daylight muggings to driving for Jack McGurn around town. It signaled to everyone that Accardo was on the way up.

In the summer of 1926, when Al Capone was locked in yet another beer war, he told McGurn the operation needed new gunmen and to "go out and find somebody." The somebody that McGurn got was Tony Accardo who now had a first rate reputation as an enforcer due to a bloody incident that had happened at the start of the year.

In January of 1926 that year the Circus gang, almost exclusively Italian in its makeup, was having a problem with an equally tough Irish street gang called the Hanlon Hellcats, which made its headquarters at the Shamrock Inn. The Hellcats were creeping in on the Circus gang's territory and Accardo was dispatched to take care of the problem any way he saw fit.

At midnight on January 20, Accardo and at least three others blasted the hellcats to kingdom come with shotguns as they left the Shamrock. A police squad from the Austin district was nearby and gave chase but Accardo was shrewd enough to know the law, he ordered the guns to be tossed away just a few minutes before the cops collared him. They were released on bail and eventually the case was dropped, due to lack of evidence.

Now McGurn rushed Accardo over to Capone's office at the Lexington Hotel. Capone, still in his fire-engine-red pajamas at five in the afternoon looked Accardo over and said, "McGurn likes you, so I make you. So you are now one of us, if you fuck up, we take it out on McGurn. He is your sponsor. Fuck up, it's his ass. You work in his crew, he is your capo."

Accardo was assigned to be a hall guard for Capone, spending most of his time in the Lobby at the Lexington, a shotgun on his lap covered by a newspaper.

Capone took a liking to Accardo. Once, the story goes, after Accardo beat a Capone enemy senseless with a baseball bat, Capone saw him in the lobby of the Lexington and yelled, "There's my kiddo, Joe Batters!"

Joe Batters. The name stuck and Accardo loved it. Even years later when he was running the mob, Accardo, who insisted on being called "Mr. Accardo" by his people and their families, allowed a select few to always refer to him as Joe Batters.

Accardo was eventually assigned, with his partner Tough Tony Capezio, whom Accardo had brought into the organization, to kill Hymie Weiss of the Moran gang. Accardo knew Weiss from his childhood. They had attended the same schools and were both regular parishioners of the Holy Name Cathedral and that was where, on October 11, 1926, Accardo and Capezio killed Weiss as he entered his headquarters at 740 North State street near the Holy Name Cathedral.

Right after that Capone decided that it was time for Mike the Pike Hietler, a pimp from the old days of the Levy, to go too, after Capone learned that Hietler had been talking to the authorities.

On April 29th 1931, Heitler was found in the town of Barrington, his car still on fire and the only way they identified Mike the Pike was by his dental remains. He had been strangled and shot before he was set afire. Tony Accardo on has long been considered one of Mike the Pike's killers.

Accardo is also strongly suspected of having been the trigger man behind the Jake Zuta murder as well. It was Accardo who killed gangster Teddy Newberry after Newberry made an attempt to corner organized crime in Chicago.

Accardo may also have been assigned to the St. Valentines Day hit squad. Authorities believe that Accardo was the killer dressed as a Chicago policeman and armed with a double-barreled shotgun.

It was Accardo who set up and supervised the hit on union hustler Tommy Maloy. When Frankie Yale, Al Capone's old boss from back in his days as a Brooklyn thug, tried to take over the powerful Sicilian Union, it was again Accardo who was called in for his firepower.

By early 1940, Accardo was a power in Chicago and in the national Mafia.

Tony Accardo managed to have a 1944 arrest for gambling withdrawn, when he told the court that he intended to join the army. Accardo's lawyer, the legendary mob mouthpiece, George Bieber, told the court: "This young man is eager to get into the fight, don't deny him that right."

The judge released Accardo on the agreement that Accardo would report to his draft board, which he did. But, by then, Accardo was running the Chicago outfit since Paul Ricca was in jail. He already had a 21-room mansion, and an estimated income of $2,000,000 a year, and he wasn't about to give it up for the $21 a week paid to an army private.

Two days later Accardo appeared before the draft board, explained his background in crime, his position in the organization and was summarily rejected by the Army as morally unfit.

The gambling charges were dropped because Accardo had done as he was ordered by the court. In 1945, after he was instrumental in the release of his boss, Paul Ricca, from federal charges for his role in the Willie Bioff scandal, Ricca resigned as the outfit's leader, and promoted Accardo to the top spot.

Accardo held the position, off and on, for the next forty years but in 1958, Big Tony called the boys together at the Tam O'Shanter restaurant and introduced Sam Giancana as the new boss with the simple sentence: "This is Sam, he's a friend of ours."

Thanks to John William Touhy

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Crime in Chicago Seminar

Join The Chicago History Museum for an exploration of Chicago crime from historical and contemporary perspectives. Programs begin at 7:00 p.m.

Lecture - The Chicago “Outfit:” Traditional Chicago Organized Crime from its Earliest Roots to Operation Family Secrets
Tuesday, November 8, 7:00 p.m.

Arthur Bilek is the Executive Director of the Chicago Crime Commission, a civilian “watchdog” agency that has monitored organized crime activity in Chicago since 1919. Art served under Cook County Sheriff Richard B. Ogilvie in a key investigative role from 1962-1966, and is the author of two books “The First Vice Lord: Big Jim Colosimo and the Ladies of the Levee", and “St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone.” A recognized authority on the mob and its inner workings, Art will discuss the history of the Outfit from its earliest days through the defining government prosecutions of the 1990s and the recent Operation Family Secrets that has significantly crippled operations locally.
Cost: $10, $8 members


Bus Tour - Murder and Mayhem in Chicago: North by Northwest
Saturday, November 12, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

We’ll visit famous North Side and Northwest side crime scene locales and discuss what happened, the aftermath, and their historical implications on life in Chicago and the city’s identity.
Cost: $45, $40 members


History Pub Crawl - Booze, Bars, and Bootlegging! Prohibition Era Chicago
Sunday, November 13, 1:00 p.m.-4p.m.

Find out what makes Chicago untouchable. Get a taste of infamous speakeasies frequented by some of Chicago’s infamous gangsters like Capone, Moran, and Dillinger. On this trolley tour, learn how prohibition came to be, some fascinating facts about the era, and how it ultimately shaped the city and its image.
Cost: $30, $25 members

Film - Madness In The White City
Sunday, November 13, 1:30 p.m.

It’s 1893 and the Columbian Exposition is taking center stage in Chicago. Amidst all the new and wonderful buildings and innovations at the fair, was an evil predator that threatened the lives of many. This film takes a closer looks at the life of H.H. Holmes, one of America's first serial killers. In collaboration with Kurtis Productions. 50 Minutes.
Cost: Free with Museum admission



Lecture - Street Gangs in Chicago
Tuesday, November 15, 7:00 p.m.

John M. Hagedorn is a Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois and a subject matter expert on contemporary inner-city street gangs. He is the author of “A World of Gangs: Armed Young Men and Gangsta Culture (Globalization and Community),” and a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Illinois Chicago’s Great Cities Institute. Assisted by historian and author Richard Lindberg, Professor Hagedorn’s discussion will be framed around the historical roots of gangs in Gaslight Era Chicago; contemporary gangs and who they are what they represent today.
Cost: $10, $8 members

Bus Tour - Murder and Mayhem in Chicago: South and West
Saturday, November 19, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

We’ll visit famous South Side and West side crime scene locales and discuss what happened, the aftermath, and their historical implications on life in Chicago and the city’s identity.
Cost: $45, $40 members

Walking Tour - Crime of the Century: Leopold & Loeb and the Murder of Bobby Franks
Saturday, November 19, 3:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

On May 21, 1924, in the city of Chicago, a young boy went missing. The next morning his father, Jacob Franks, received a phone call informing him that his son, Bobby, had been beaten to death. This gruesome and senseless murder has stained Chicago history and still leaves many baffled. Join us as we return to the scene of the crime and tour the Kenwood neighborhood where we will visit sites relevant to Leopold and Loeb’s murder of Bobby Franks.
Cost: $15, $10 members

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Will Chicago's Mob History and Clout Mentality Follow Obama to the White House?

The city of Chicago is one of the few major metropolitan areas that runs away from its past at every opportunity. Yet, indeed, the very construction of the city led to the term “underworld.” And with rampant corruption controlled by infamous individuals like “Big Jim” Colosimo, Al Capone, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca, Murray “The Camel” Humphrey and Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, Chicago can hardly bury its past — no pun intended.

Since the turn of the 20th century, what Carl Sandburg referred to as the “City of Big Shoulders” was perhaps the center of organized crime in the United States. Though New York had its Syndicate and Detroit had the Purple Gang, many believe true power in America’s underworld was concentrated in something called the Outfit.

With the election of Barack Obama will come a great deal of history-laden baggage, which will make the movie “The Godfather” seem like a Walt Disney cartoon.

From David Axelrod, who was nurtured on the Daley Machine, to the political organizing, which Barack Obama so proudly claims a lineage, Chicago’s brand of one Party politics may be a model for the Obama administration in Washington, D.C.

It is no mistake the president-elect joined Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s South Side Chicago church. Obama wanted to learn the ropes of power politics and how it was played in the Windy City. There were no better teachers than Mayor Daley and his cadre of obliging aldermen who responded to the cracking of the political whip. A failure to do so would quickly leave them on the outside looking in — without protection from the media, the law and any other threat which loomed on the horizon.

The question is not whether Obama will use the lessons he learned in Chicago as president. The question is: How much of that lesson will become the modus operandi for the Obama adminstration? Some say it might become Chicago on the Potomac, when referring to the political mechanism Obama may surround himself with. If so, it will be our nation’s darkest nightmare come true. And combined with the Clinton-brand of Arkansas politics, there may truly be a new day in our nation’s Capitol.

But how did the Daley Machine take root in Chicago? A book titled, The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern Americawritten by Gus Russo and published in 2001 gave Americans a frigthening glimpse into the Daley Machine and how it got its start.

After Capone left power, due to his conviction on tax evasion charges in the early 1930s, it was Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo who truly called the shots in what many refer to as the Mafia. Even “Lucky” Luciano and Meyer Lansky, originators of organized crime in New York, would not make a move without consulting the Chicago Triumvirate whose innovation and power criminologists say was matched by none.

Since the hay-days of mob activity in Chicago, the city has done everything possible to shed its dark past. But its reputation lives on — despite the efforts of the current mayor, Richard M. Daley. In the early century, individuals like “Big Jim” Colismo controlled gambling and prostitution in the city. With the advent of Prohibition, organized crime found its true calling through the sale of bootleg alcohol, combined with the pandering trade. Added profits were topped off by a very lucrative illegal gambling racket.

After Capone’s departure, the mob moved into the numbers game — which had made millions for underworld entrepreneurs in the African-American community. Union corruption — which was master-minded by Murray “The Camel” Humphrey — brought great fortune to the Outfit as well. Eventually, the mob moved into the illicit drug trade. Until the early 1960s, the Chicago Outfit was ruled with an iron hand by Ricca, Humphrey and Accardo.

Though in later years, more flamboyant underworld figures, such as Sam “Mooney” Giancano and lesser players, including Joseph “Joey Doves” Aiuppa, and the Spilotro Brothers of the movie “Casino” fame, controlled organized crime in Chicago, the FBI virtually wiped out mob activity in the city — although remnants of the Outfit still exist today.

Chop shops and vending machines (poker, cigarettes, etc.) are still reported to be controlled by criminal entities. But the glory days of the Chicago Outfit are said to be long gone. Yet, the public doesn’t have to look far to find reminders of those wild times gone by.

Indeed, Chicago’s current mayor may not hold that office if not for the influence the Outfit had when it came to the election of his father, Richard J. Daley. Perhaps the Daley link with organized crime is one of the reasons why the city does all it can to obscure Chicago’s dark and corrupt history. You will not find city-sponsored tours of famous gangland hang-outs. Even historical landmarks, like the site of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre at 2122 N. Clark St., though an empty lot, are nagging reminders of a bygone era which City Fathers would rather forget.

The Outfit played a significant role in Richard J. Daley’s coming to power. Hizzoner "The Boss" was the protégé of 11th Ward Committeeman, Hugh “Babe” Connelly whose ties to the mob go way back to the days of the “Moustache Pete’s” who included prominent underworld figures like Johnny Torrio who first brought Capone to Chicago. Daley took over Connelly’s 11th Ward seat in 1947. In league with people like 11th Ward Ald. “Big Joe” McDonough, by 1955 the Mob was grooming Daley to be Mayor and, with the help of the Outfit, his election became a reality.

For example, in the very mobbed-up 1st Ward, Daley won a plurality of votes by a staggering margin of 13,275 to 1,961. After his election, Daley moved to solidify the Outfit’s power in the city. In 1956, Daley disbanded “Scotland Yard” an intelligence unit which had compiled reams of detailed records about Chicago crime figures. All this was to the grief of the Chicago Crime Commission who believed Daley’s election had set the city back a decade -- as far as the prosecution of organized crime.

Perhaps Richard M. Daley received much of his education from his father whose political coffers were stuffed with mob cash, according to the FBI. And perhaps the free rein given to organized crime by the Father implanted ideas in the mind of the son regarding possible revenue expansion through alternative sources. It’s possible today’s Chicago mayor learned a very important lesson from Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo, who secretly financed the Rivera Hotel in Las Vegas in 1955, the same year Richard J. Daley was elected mayor. For nearly a quarter of a century afterward, the Chicago mob skimmed literally hundreds of millions of dollars out of Las Vegas casinos while operating with near impunity in Chicago, their home base.

Richie Daley had to see the unlimited amounts of cash that could be directed into city coffers through the expansion of gambling in Chicago. And though most of what used to be underworld crime has been incorporated into white collar America, gambling becomes even more seductive, no matter what memories of Chicago’s past may be dredged up in the process.

Forensic Psychology programs can give you a great insight into the minds of the mob and also lead to a great career.

Thanks to Daniel T. Zanoza

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Print Edition of Informer is Now Available

Tom Hunt, the publisher of Informer is very happy to announce that a print edition of Informer's first issue is on sale through MagCloud, a branch of HP doing top quality, groundbreaking work in the periodicals field. In addition to printing and sales, the MagCloud service provides an online preview and a "subscribe" option, which alerts interested readers by e-mail when a new issue becomes available.

In the future, print (ISSN 1943-7803) and electronic (ISSN 1944-8139) editions of Informer will become available simultaneously.

Informer, The Journal of American Mafia History - Vol. 1, No. 1, September 2008
The Mob's Worst Year: 1957, Part 1, by Thomas Hunt / Capone's Triggerman Kills Michigan Cop by Chriss Lyon / New Orleans Newspaperman Reveals His Role in 1891 Anti-Mafia Lynch-Mob / A Look Back: 100 Years Ago, 75 Years Ago, 25 Years Ago / Book Reviews: Frank Nitti; The Mafia and the Machine; The First Vice Lord; The Complete Public Enemy Almanac / Author Interview: David Critchley / Ask the Informer: Joe DiGiovanni of Kansas City / Current Events: John A. Gotti, James "Whitey" Bulger / Deaths: John Bazzano Jr., Frank "the German" Schweihs, Carl "Tuffy" DeLuna.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sin in The Second City

Friends of ours: James “Big Jim” Colosimo

Karen Abbott started her first book scouring microfilm of the Chicago Tribune at the University of Georgia library. The sister of her great-grandmother had disappeared during a trip to Chicago soon after the two emigrated from Slovenia in 1905, and Abbott, an Atlanta-based journalist, was curious about the city and times that had claimed her. Her research led her to the Levee, Chicago’s red-light district, where many missing women were said to have ended up, and then to Ada and Minna Everleigh, madams of the infamous Everleigh Club. “It’s cheesy,” says Abbott, who spent three years writing Sin in the Second City, released this week by Random House, “but I came to think of them as family. I have pictures of them hanging up in my house right now.”

Little is known of the Everleighs’ background. They claimed descent from Kentucky aristocracy but are believed to have come from a Virginia family hit hard by the Civil War. Simms was their real name; Everleigh—a pun—was assumed, as were, the women insisted, their southern accents. “Just piecing together their whole background,” says Abbot, “they were ingenious in how they learned to present themselves.” After running a brothel in Omaha, the women moved to Chicago in late 1899 to establish a high-class bordello.

Ada and Minna bought a retiring madam’s mansion at 2131-2133 S. Dearborn and put out a call for women interested in work free from pimps, abuse, and indentured servitude. Madam Vic Shaw, the sisters’ greatest business rival, kept a professional whipper on staff.

The Everleighs hired women who were attractive, experienced, and drug- and alcohol-free; the minimum age was 18. Younger sister Minna instructed them in charm and culture, covering subjects ranging from literature to the art of seduction. She dressed them in couture and dubbed them the Everleigh butterflies.

House rules were strictly enforced under threat of immediate expulsion: no picking pockets, no knockout drops and robbery, and no boyfriends. The girls also had to pass monthly examinations for venereal disease. They were paid well and those dismissed were easily replaced from the Everleighs’ long waiting list of candidates.

To stay open the sisters had to placate crime lords and politicos alike. Ike Bloom, who fronted a sleazy Randolph Street dance hall, set a sum of ten grand a year for protection by the likes of Chicago Outfit founder James “Big Jim” Colosimo. “Tribute” was also paid to First Ward aldermen Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and “Bathhouse John” Coughlin.

Visiting the Everleigh was an experience available only to the elite. The parlors were lavishly furnished with paintings, sculptures, a perfume fountain, a gold-leaf piano, and solid gold spittoons. Clients could enjoy rare wines, string orchestras, and fireworks. The dining room served gourmet fare. “A lot of the patrons came just for the meals,” Abbott says. “The girls were almost a side attraction.”

By most accounts the sisters were high-hatted and tough as nails but had hearts as gold as their gilded parlors. The soft-spoken Ada was considered the brains of the operation—she balanced the books and was responsible for hiring; Minna socialized in the parlors with guests and was known for her sass. “I wish I could be more like her,” says Abbott. “To not care what anybody thinks ever is sort of liberating.”

Entrance was by referral letter only, and clients were expected to spend a minimum of $50 per visit or face banishment (a three-course meal could be had for 50 cents at the time). High-profile guests included Prince Henry of Prussia, who made a special stop at the Everleigh during a visit to Chicago in spring of 1902. “It was more of a gentleman’s club,” says Abbott. “The cachet of being able to go there, just because they turned down so many people. It became an exclusive badge of honor just to be admitted.”

Occasionally the house was caught up in scandal. When Marshall Field Jr., son of the store founder, was found shot at his Prairie Avenue home on November 22, 1905, rumor spread that one of the Everleigh butterflies had done it. The coroner’s report backed the official story—that he’d shot himself while cleaning his hunting weapon—but gossips insisted he’d been wounded during a visit to the club the previous night and smuggled back home by the sisters.

Unlike earlier Everleigh narratives like Charles Washburn’s Come Into My Parlor, Abbott’s account devotes a lot of space to the progressive politics of the era. The number of women who worked outside the home jumped from 3,100 to 38,000 in the 30 years between 1880 and 1910, she says: “Everybody was freaking out about women entering the workforce in such large droves, leaving their rural homestead and entering the big city.” Not all of them found legitimate work, and when women started disappearing the nation was gripped by a white slavery panic, fueled by anti-immigrant sentiment. The only way a good white Christian girl could become a whore, Americans were convinced, was if she was seduced, drugged, and sold to a brothel.

Religious reformers descended upon the Levee, preaching and pamphleteering in an attempt to shame patrons and “save” the district’s women. The Everleigh sisters referred to these late-night missionaries as “firemen” and welcomed them to the house to talk to their girls. None of the butterflies were said to have shown any interest in leaving.

Abbott says the Reverend Ernest Bell started preaching outside the brothels in 1902 after he was propositioned in front of the Chicago Theological Seminary. He admonished the district’s sinners to repent despite being bashed and gassed by Levee pimps. “If I were a novelist I wouldn’t have been able to name him Ernest,” Abbott says. “I think he really believed in what he was doing and his motives were true and good and upright. He really believed he was saving women from Satan’s clutches.”

Others reformers, like Clifford Roe, an assistant state’s attorney, jumped on board to further their own political interests. “I think Roe was a bit more Machiavellian and manipulative with the facts,” says Abbott. He developed a side business lecturing and writing books with sensational titles like Panders and Their White Slaves.

The white slavery scare was also used as an excuse to attack the non-Protestant immigrants pouring into the country. Both Bell and Roe pointed the finger at foreigners in their condemnations of theatrical agencies, dance halls, and ice cream parlors. “Shall we defend our American civilization, or lower our flag to the most despicable foreigners—French, Irish, Italians, Jews and Mongolians?” Bell wrote in his 1910 book Fighting the Traffic in Young Girls.

Chicago prosecutor Edwin Sims fought prostitution in Chicago and was the inspiration for the Mann Act of 1910, also known as the White Slave Traffic Act. “I am determined to break up this traffic in foreign women. It is my sworn duty, and it should be done to protect the people of the country from contamination,” he told the Tribune in 1908.

“Some of the things the federal officials were saying I had to read twice,” says Abbott. “Like ‘War on Terror,’ they had their political talking points and they used them very effectively to manipulate the public and push their own agenda forward.”

Mayor Carter Harrison II, who usually turned a blind eye to illegal goings-on in the Levee, was eventually forced to reckon with the reformers’ growing political power. In 1911, after a friend from outside Chicago showed him “The Everleigh Club, Illustrated,” a leather-bound brochure with national distribution, he ordered the brothel’s closure.

Gradually the other brothels, dives, saloons, dance halls, gambling parlors, and opium dens of the district were also shuttered. On July 24, 1933, workers tore down the building that once housed the Everleigh Club, “heedless of the fact that they were wiping out one of the most lurid chapters in Chicago history,” according to a Tribune report from the time.

Although rooted in ignorance, the white slavery panic did give women, who were still a decade from suffrage, a rallying cause. “Through the end of it they started having hearings about women’s wages, [asking] how can a girl work in a factory for six dollars a week and not be expected to supplement her income doing nefarious things?” says Abbott. “The white slavery scare was a chance for [women] to insert themselves in political discourse.”

Meanwhile books like Roe’s, which included scenes of terrified harlots escaping brothels in flimsy negligees, made sexuality an acceptable topic of conversation. “Those narratives were like porn for puritans, but it was the first time people could discuss that, in a way, and not be considered untoward,” Abbott says.

As for the Everleigh sisters, after just over a decade doing business in Chicago, they’d amassed a million dollars in savings—$20.5 million today, Abbott estimates—and even more in jewelry, art, and Oriental rugs. They changed their name to Lester and moved to New York, where they bought a brownstone on the Upper West Side and founded a poetry discussion group with local ladies who knew nothing of their past. Minna died first, on September 16, 1948, at the age of 82. Ada lived until 95, dying January 6, 1960, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Thanks to Dan Kelly

Monday, January 15, 2007

Guns and Roses

Friends of ours: Dean O'Banion, Al Capone, Johnny Torrio, "Bloody" Angelo Genna, "Big Jim" Colosimo, Earl "Hymie" Weiss, Vincent "the Schemer" Drucci, George "Bugs" Moran

Before Al Capone became its underworld kingpin, Chicago's reigning gangster was the colorful and lethal Dean O'Banion, the stoutly built Irish florist the press nicknamed "Chicago's Arch Killer" and the "Boss of the 42nd and 43rd Wards." Based on information compiled from police and court documents, contemporary news accounts, and interviews with O'Banion's friends and associates, Guns and Roses traces O'Banion's rise from Illinois farm boy to the most powerful gang boss in early 1920s Chicago. It examines his role in the Irish-Sicilian clashes that rocked the North Side circa 1890-1910, his years as a slugger for William Randolph Hearst during the city's newspaper wars, and his turbulent relationship with "Scarface Al" Capone as the two gang bosses battled for supremacy.

Guns and Roses also shines a spotlight on many of Chicago's elite, among them Mayor William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson and playwright Charles MacArthur (The Front Page), as well as such underworld luminaries as dapper Johnny Torrio, "Bloody" Angelo Genna, "Big Jim" Colosimo, Earl "Hymie" Weiss, Vincent "the Schemer" Drucci, and George "Bugs" Moran, the latter of whom barely escaped the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Of particular interest are O'Banion's notorious "handshake murder" ordered by the Capone, Torrio, and Genna factions and the bloody war for gangland supremacy that was sparked by his death and gave the city its reputation for violence. An enigmatic character, O'Banion was a powerful gang boss who could crack skulls as brutally as his henchmen, but he also supported entire North Side slums with his charity. While he had few gangster allies, the charismatic criminal inspired fanatical loyalty among his own men, who mourned his murder and sought violent revenge against those who ordered it. The product of fifteen years of research, Guns and Roses is as much a stroll through the history of Chicago as it is a chronicle of one of its premier underworld icons.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

From Al Capone, to a Mayor Richard Daley special:

The other big city with questionable alliances between the underworld, and the men who officially run things, is of course Chicago.

When I think of the Chicago mob, I think of Al Capone, as would anyone. As far as big hitters are concerned, he was definitely right up there at the top of the mafia tree, along with his old New York pal, Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano.

Post-Capone, there is the legacy of The Big Tuna himself, Tony Accardo, aka Joe Batters - allegedly handed the moniker by Capone after he bludgeoned a man to death with a baseball bat upon his boss's order.

From streetwise young hoodlum to boss of arguably one of the most powerful La Cosa Nostra families in the United States, the Chicago 'Outfit', Accardo, up until his death in the early nineties, controlled organized crime in 'The Windy City' for the best part of four decades. He was a man adversely disposed towards publicity. Certainly no John Gotti, he. Accardo preferred the shadows, and is considered one of the most astute, and organized of all mafia chieftans. A legend in mobdom, the Carlo Gambino of the midwest.

Accardo, with his top lieutenants, saw to it that Las Vegas, a gambling mecca launched by New York mobster, Ben 'Bugsy' Siegel, in the fifties, would over the next several decades, become almost exclusively controlled by Chicago, with other mafia families like Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Kansas City, operating under Chicago's solid umbrella.

Though capable of ordering the most vicious of murders - I recall a bunch of thieves whom had made the mistake of robbing the Accardo home in plush Forest Hills, Illinois, and who were later found horrifically murdered all across the city, stabbed, and beaten, shot and strangled (all mercillesly tortured, naturally) - Accardo, having worked his way up in the organization as a proficient hitman himself, often allowed those close to him to assume the ultimate mantle of boss, at least superficially, but it was always Accardo as the man behind the scenes, running the show, the real power.

When the brash, and high-profile Sam Giancana rose to the top spot in the late 50‘s, and his much-publicized exploits with Marilyn Monroe and JFK (many believe that Sam put Kennedy in the Whitehouse, by securing votes in Chicago) elevated his status, particularly with the federal government, exponentially, came and went with several bullets in his head, he was replaced with a succession of other bosses, from Joe Ferriola - believed to be the man whom sanctioned the hit on Tony Spilotro, one-time Vegas enforcer for the mob - to Joey 'The Clown' Lombardo, whom despite a recent arrest on murder and racketeering charges (what else) is suspected today of occupying the top spot.

Only in the city of Chicago has organized crime enjoyed such strong relationships with law enforcement and upper echelon politicians, for so many years. It is a city that has long been associated with unprecedented corruption, stemming back to before even Al Capone, when Big Jim Colossimo ran the scene, with more crooked politicians in his back pocket than he knew what to do with.

SoBoss Richard J Daley of Chicago, moving away from these more overtly unsavoury characters, and onto City Hall, we come to the mayor of that fair city, Richard Daley, whom was questioned last week by none other than the U.S attorney's office. The two hour grilling session revolved around various scandals, alleged to have taken place in Daley's offices. Daley is likely to have been the first Chicago mayor to face this kind of questioning. Going back over the last half a century, to when Daley’s father was mayor, none have come under such scrutiny by the FBI. Now, they have.

Daley was questioned on Friday by the U.S. Attorney's office in a two-hour session about the alleged scandals that surround him. Talking sparingly with the predicted throng of reporters outside his offices, Daley commented that he would be avoiding specifics pertaining to the matter, though he did concede to answering his questioners in a frank, and honest fashion. Would we expect anything less, one is bound to ask?

Describing questions posed to him as: "very serious," Mayor Daley reinforced that his current predicament would not impact upon his responsibilities in running his city. And contrary to recent speculation that he might not run for re-election, Daley remained more than optimistic about continuing in his role as mayor, all this despite the fact that two city officials have been charged last month with allegedly rigging the city's hiring system to flout a court order that bars City Hall from considering politics when filling most city jobs. The ensuing federal investigation encompasses bribery also.

Well, at least ostensibly, the mayor of Chicago's empire is a respectable, and of course, law-abiding one.

Excerpted with thanks to Steven Morris at New Criminologist


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