The Chicago Syndicate: Bugs Moran
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Showing posts with label Bugs Moran. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bugs Moran. Show all posts

Friday, January 19, 2024

Is Al Capone Still the Most Famous Mobster Ever?

With the 125th anniversary of Al Capone's birth upon us on January 17, the legacy of the notorious American gangster remains a subject that intrigues both Hollywood producers and novelists to this day.

Capone, who gained notoriety in the "Roaring Twenties" as the co-founder and boss of the Italian-American organized crime syndicate known as the Chicago Outfit, has been described by some as Prohibition's Robin Hood, as he donated some of the money from his illegal activities to charities. He also stood apart from other gangsters by being very present in the public eye, chatting with reporters and throwing big parties all while participating in illegal activities. But like many criminal figures from the past, the dastardly yet charismatic gangster divides opinion. Idolized by some, Capone was still responsible for "an empire of crime" in Chicago that was based on "gambling, prostitution, bootlegging, bribery, narcotics trafficking, robbery, and murder," according to the FBI's website.

Who was Al Capone?

Born in 1899 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Neapolitan immigrants, Alphonse Gabriel Capone came into contact with organized crime at an early age. As a teenager, he became a member of the "Five Points Gang" — a criminal street gang of primarily Irish-American origins, based in the Five Points of Lower Manhattan — where he would extort protection money (fees that criminals take from people in exchange for agreeing not to hurt them or damage their property).

Capone, however, quickly learned that violence alone would not ensure the lasting success of a criminal enterprise.

In 1917, the gangster Frank Gallucio pulled a knife across Capone's face in a bar after he made a crude comment to Gallucio's sister. The nickname "Scarface" was born, and Capone later made the attacker his bodyguard.

Shortly afterward, Capone shot his first man, got into trouble with an Irish gang and beat a mobster half to death with his own hands. Knowing he could not be caught again, he left New York for Chicago.

In his Chicago heyday from 1925 to 1929, Capone was reputed to be the most notorious mobster in the United States.

Capone, however, didn't see himself as a criminal but as an entrepreneur — one who was also known for acts of generosity with the wealth he had garnered as the boss of organized crime in Chicago in the 1920s. The Capone-led consortium boasted revenue streams that ranged from the illegal sale of alcohol to prostitution.

St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre is described by the FBI as the "culminating violence of the Chicago gang era, as seven members or associates of the 'Bugs' Moran mob were machine-gunned against a garage wall by rivals posing as police."

Even though Al Capone was at his Florida home at the time, he was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the massacre.

He was never convicted of the murders but ultimately went to prison merely for the crime of tax evasion, ending his stint as a crime boss at the age of 33.

He served most of his time at the notorious Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary off the coast of San Francisco, before being released in 1939, by which time his mental capabilities had significantly deteriorated.

Al Capone died in 1947 of cardiac arrest after a stroke at the age of 48.

A figure of fascination

The infamous gangster left his mark not only on the streets of 1920s Chicago but also on 20th-century Hollywood through multiple mafia movies inspired by his life and crimes. The image of a mobster adorned with a pinstriped suit and tilted fedora can be traced back to images of Capone. His accent and mannerisms have also inspired numerous gangster portrayals in comics, films, popular music and literature.

For example, already in 1931, for the film "Little Caesar," actor Edward G. Robinson spent time at an Al Capone trial to get a sense of his body language as inspiration for his role as a hoodlum who ascended the ranks of organized crime.

Capone appears in a segment of Mario Puzo's crime novel "The Godfather" (1969), which was turned into a celebrated film by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972. He was the inspiration for Armitage Trail's "Scarface" (1929), a novel that was also adapted into two movies over the years.

The Brian De Palma-directed masterpiece "The Untouchables" is another notable drama inspired by Capone's story. With Robert de Niro in the role of the gangster, the film is based on how Treasury agent Eliot Ness, played by Kevin Costner, brought down the notorious Chicago mobster.

More recently, the 2020 movie "Capone," starring Tom Hardy in the lead role, also chronicled the life of the man who ruled an empire of crime.

The fascination surrounding Al Capone continues 125 years after his birth.

His story embodies not only the American Dream — the immigrant son going from rags to riches — but also the ambivalence of American culture during Prohibition, an era characterized by both puritanical restraint and excessive consumption. And those contrasting historical features are still part of the country's culture to this day.

Thanks to Deutsche Welle.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Chicago’s Crime Shrines

Chicago has a rich mob history, and Craig Alton capitalizes on the fascination of tourists and Chicagoans alike with his Untouchables Tour, a bus trip to some of the city's infamous gangster sites. Alton, better known by his nickname "Southside," suggests a few stops for those interested in checking out the history of Chicago's underworld.

Across from Holy Name Cathedral
Dion O'Banion, leader of the North Side gang, owned a flower shop here and was killed on the store steps in 1924 by some of Al Capone's men after he allegedly double-crossed Capone's mentor, Johnny Torrio. The shop is no longer there.

Green Mill in Uptown
A favorite hangout of Al Capone and his gang. Capone would sit at a table with a view of both doors. The club, which was connected by a tunnel system to a building across the street, still has a trap door behind the bar.

Site of Valentine's Day Massacre

The murders occurred on Feb. 14, 1929, at a garage at 2122 N. Clark St., where Capone's men, dressed as police officers, tried to set up George "Bugs" Moran, then the head of the North Side gang. Seven of Moran's men were gunned down, but Moran wasn't in the garage at the time. The building is no longer there.

The Biograph Theater
John Dillinger, named the FBI's "Public Enemy No. 1," was set up in 1934 by a woman who told the feds he'd be at the movies with her. When Dillinger walked out of the theater, located at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., he was shot in the alley.

Al Capone's grave
Al Capone was buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, 1400 S. Wolf Rd. in Hillside.

More sites listed on the Chicago Mob Infamous Location Map.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Nick Bosa and Joey Bosa are the Great-Grandsons of the Most Powerful American Mob Boss of the 20th century

In the first round of the 1987 draft, the Dolphins used the 16th pick to select John Bosa, a defensive end from Boston College. Miami again drafted 16th the following year, choosing Eric Kumerow, a linebacker from Ohio State whose father and uncle had been NFL offensive linemen. In ’93, Bosa married Kumerow’s sister, Cheryl, and they had two sons, Nick and Joey. Joey, of course, is a Pro Bowl edge rusher for the Chargers. Meanwhile, Jake Kumerow, son of Eric, is a receiver who went undrafted in 2015 but caught on with the Packers, starting two games last season.

So it is that when Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa was taken last week in the 2019 draft, second overall by the 49ers, he become the seventh player in the family, over three generations, to join the NFL. Yet none of them could ever hope to be considered the most feared and fearsome member of the clan. Not by a long shot.

Tony Accardo didn’t get the mob handle Joey Batters for his proficiency at baking muffins. And the same ruthlessness that earned Accardo his nickname and a place on Al Capone’s organization chart was on full display a half-century later. In early 1978, Accardo was in California to escape the Midwest’s biting cold when robbers broke into his suburban Chicago home. The 71-year-old Accardo seethed, less for rage over property lost than over the breach of respect.

At the time, he passed his days playing with his grandkids, including his daughter Marie’s thick-shouldered son, Eric, then 12. Still, Accardo wasn’t beyond demonstrating who was boss. Using his connections to identify the thieves, he betrayed no mercy. Within the year, 10 men were dead. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Each was found with his throat cut; one was castrated and disemboweled, his face removed with a blow torch, a punishment imposed, presumably, because he was Italian and should have known better.” As another account in The Guardian put it, Accardo “avenged insult with interest.”

This was business as usual. Accardo was born in Chicago in 1906, the year after his parents emigrated from Sicily. Though he was later believed to have a photographic memory, Tony dropped out of school at 14, in 1920, not coincidentally the first year that the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol was made illegal by the Eighteenth Amendment. Short on formal education but long on street smarts, he went to work for local crime syndicates and neighborhood bootleggers, executing muggings and serving as a lookout, before graduating to armed robbery.

In the mid-’20s he caught the eye of the real Scarface. In John Kobler’s definitive biography Capone: The Life and World of Al Capone, the author writes that Accardo became a bodyguard “and was sometimes seen in the lobby of the Hotel Lexington with a tommy gun across his knee.” He was having lunch with his boss in 1926 when members of Chicago’s North Side Gang opened fire. According to mob lore, Accardo splayed his body over Capone to thwart the hit.

Accardo would not only take bullets for Capone, but also deliver deadly blows. By some accounts he helped plan the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, when Capone’s soldiers, dressed as police, killed seven members of Bugs Moran’s rival bootlegging gang. Days later Accardo figured prominently at a dinner that had been arranged both to celebrate Capone’s consolidation of power and to deal with two troublesome capos. In a scene later bastardized in the 1987 film The Untouchables, Accardo took the men out back before the main course was served and bashed their skulls in with a baseball bat. “Boy, this kid is a real Joey Batters,” Capone allegedly enthused about his protégé. The nickname stuck.

Despite these acts of violence, Accardo was, really, more brain than muscle. His specialties: understanding legal loopholes, expanding the mob’s reach and prospecting for new revenue streams. He was particularly involved in the gambling racket around Chicago, at one point overseeing an estimated 7,500 mob-controlled businesses that offered games of chance.

While Capone was a model of public flamboyance, Accardo cut the opposite figure, never granting interviews and living by the credo “keep your head down.” On the rare occasion when he appeared in public, he typically wore a hat pulled low and sunglasses shrouding his face.

After Capone’s conviction for tax evasion in 1931, Accardo became a leader in the Chicago operation, gaining power when Frank (the Enforcer) Nitti committed suicide in ’43 and Paul (the Waiter) Ricca was convicted on extortion charges nine months later. By the late 1940s, Accardo was in full control of the Chicago mafia. (Not that he ever admitted it. For decades he was invariably described as an alleged or reputed mob boss.)

“Accardo may not have had Capone’s mystique, but he was extraordinarily powerful,” says Rich Lindberg, a Chicago author and historian. “Remember, you’re talking about a time when the Chicago Outfit”—as Illinois’s multiethnic crime syndicate was known—“was so powerful that the newspapers had reporters whose only beat was covering the mob.”

In 1934, Accardo married Clarice Pordzany, a chorus girl. They adopted two sons, Joseph and Anthony; had two biological daughters, Marie and Linda; and moved into a sprawling home in River Forest, Ill., replete with an indoor pool and bowling alley. Tony would hold lavish Fourth of July parties that drew the most prominent mob figures throughout the country. In a scene cribbed for The Godfather, the FBI would come and survey the cars, matching license plates with names. Reportedly, Frank Sinatra showed up at the house to sing for Accardo on one of his birthdays.

Under Accardo the Chicago Outfit moved from bootlegging and assorted acts of violence to more sophisticated ventures. (As Ricca once put it, “Accardo had more brains for breakfast than Al Capone had in a lifetime.”) By penetrating labor unions, expanding gambling ties and establishing a beachhead in a newly minted city of sin, Las Vegas (with an equity stake in the Stardust Hotel), the Chicago Outfit came to resemble a conventional business. And Joey Batters was the unquestioned CEO. When mob historians refer to him as perhaps the most powerful American underworld figure of the 20th century, it is not hyperbole. New York City may have had a bigger organized crime scene, but that was split among five families. In Chicago, for all intents, there was just one boss.

Despite 30-plus arrests, Accardo never spent a night in jail. Not that there weren’t close calls. In 1946, Irish gangster James Ragen tried to inform on Accardo to the FBI—until Ragen died suspiciously of mercury poisoning. In ’51, Accardo was called to testify before Congress about organized crime. Wearing sunglasses, he invoked the Fifth Amendment 172 times. And in ’59 he was indicted for tax violations after he listed his occupation as “beer salesman” and tried to write off his Mercedes-Benz as a business expense. A jury overturned his conviction after a protracted appeal.

Accardo spent most of the 1960s and ’70s in what the Tribune called “semiretirement and serving as a counselor to underworld figures.” Marie, meanwhile, married Palmer Pyle, a guard with the Colts, Vikings and Raiders. (His brother Mike played nine seasons at center for the Bears and won a championship alongside Mike Ditka.) Palmer and Marie divorced, and she wed Ernest Kumerow, a former Chicago union boss, who adopted Eric and his sister, Cheryl, raising them both as his own. At Oak Park–River Forest High, Eric was a three-sport star, a 6' 6" 228-pound mauler whose grandfather often watched him play, inconspicuously, from the bleachers.

During pre-draft interviews after Eric’s junior year in Columbus, NFL teams asked about Accardo, concerned that he might influence games. (According to the Tribune, William Roemer, a former senior agent on the FBI’s Organized Crime Squad in Chicago, told teams Accardo would never put his grandson in that position.) After Eric ended up a Dolphin, a Miami Herald reporter told him that Joey Batters had been named No. 2 on Fortune magazine’s ranking of American gangsters, to which Kumerow replied, “To me, he’s just my grandfather, and I love him. He’s a great man, a caring man. I remember him coming to ball games and being with us. I never had an opinion when I would see articles in the paper. I don’t believe them. Half of what you read in the paper isn’t true.”

Eric was a pallbearer in 1992 when Accardo died at age 86, an event that occasioned a front-page obituary in the Chicago Sun-Times. In the ultimate testament to Accardo’s savvy, he died of natural causes. “If you’re a mobster and you don’t die with your shoes on, you must have been doing something right,” says Lindberg. “Just consider his span. He was in power for six decades. Capone was in power for six years.”

Joey Bosa was born three years after Accardo died; Nick, two years after that. Both tend to smile when their great-grandfather’s name comes up, but neither is inclined to talk about him. (Both Eric and Cheryl Kumerow declined to comment for this story.)

Today, the Chicago Outfit is essentially defunct, organized crime in the city having been replaced by street gangs. Inasmuch as the Outfit exists at all, there are believed to be fewer than 30 members remaining. Tony Accardo is a figure frozen in lore, a star in a game that, at least locally, is no longer played. Still, you suspect he’d be pleased that, in a more public and permissible line of work, his family has risen to the top.

Thanks to Jon Wertheim.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone

Thanks to Art Bilek for sharing with us a deep account for the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. It will make a nice addition to any Mobologist's library: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre: The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone.

During Prohibition, Chicago’s Beer Wars turned the city into a battleground, secured its reputation as gangster capital of the world, and laid the foundation for nationally organized crime. Bootlegger bloodshed was greater there than anywhere else.

The machine-gun murders of seven men on the morning of February 14, 1929, by killers dressed as cops became the gangland "crime of the century." Since then it has been featured in countless histories, biographies, movies, and television specials. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, however, is the first book-length treatment of the subject. Unlike other accounts, it challenges the commonly held assumption that Al Capone decreed the slayings to gain supremacy in the Chicago underworld. The authors assert the deed was a case of bad timing and poor judgment by a secret crew from St. Louis known to Capone’s mostly Italian mob as the "American boys."

The target of the murder squad was indeed Bugs Moran, but the "American boys," who were dressed as policemen and arrived in two bogus police cars, arrived early at the garage where the massacre took place. When no one in the garage would admit he was Bugs Moran, the bogus cops stupidly killed them all. Much of the evidence to this effect emerged shortly after the massacre but was deftly ignored by law enforcement officials. It began to resurface again in 1935 with a manuscript written by the widow of one of the gunmen and a lookout’s long-suppressed confession. Indeed, law enforcement tried very hard not to solve the crime, for under any rock the cops turned over there might be a politician, and under the St. Valentine’s Day rock they would have found several. In the end, the machine gun bullets heard ’round the world marked the beginning of the end for Al Capone.

Friday, January 11, 2019


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, March 13, 2017

Top 10 Most Wanted True-Crime Movies

We've called in some of the usual suspects and a few ringers to put together a lineup of the top 10 true-crime movies (although the names may have been changed to protect the innocent).

10. "St. Valentines Day Massacre" (1967)

Perhaps no criminal has ever been featured in more pop culture than Al Capone. From 1932's "Scarface" to Brian DePalma's 1987 adaptation of "The Untouchables," the prohibition-era Chicago gangster has become a pop icon. While those two movies are mostly apocryphal, "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" is based on an actual February 14, 1929, strike by Capone against rival gangster Bugs Moran's crew. The tall, thin Jason Robards may not look like Capone the way Robert De Niro does in "The Untouchables," and George Segal (playing a mob enforcer) couldn't be menacing in any context, but B-movie auteur Roger Corman's stylish direction makes this one of the more memorable mob movies (look for a cameo by the young Jack Nicholson).

9. "Monster" (2003)

Arguments will rage forever as to whether the Florida prostitute-turned-serial killer Aileen Wuornos was a victimized vigilante or a pure psychopath, but few can deny the power of Charlize Theron's Oscar-winning portrayal in this 2003 film. Yes, Theron gained 30 pounds and wore hideous false teeth to obscure her natural beauty, but to reduce her transformation to mere physicality is unfair. Theron manages to make Wuornos simultaneously sympathetic and terrifying. You find yourself hoping she'll get her life together even though the film's tragic end is a foregone conclusion.

8. "Reversal of Fortune" (1990)

Our tabloid culture's perverse fascination with crime takes on an air of Schadenfreude when it occurs in high society. "Reversal of Fortune" tells the true story of socialite Claus Von Bülow's attempt to overturn a conviction for attempted murder of his wife Sunny by insulin overdose. Glenn Close plays Sunny, both in flashbacks and in a voiceover narration from her vegetative comatose state. Jeremy Irons is at his icy best as the vindicated (but perhaps guilty?) Claus in a role that won him a Best Actor Oscar.

7. "The French Connection" (1971)

Gene Hackman plays "Popeye" Doyle, a New York City police detective obsessed with capturing a French heroin smuggler in this thriller, based on an actual Turkey-France-United States drug-trafficking scheme that exploded in the 1960s. William Friedkin directed this nail-biter, one of those great, gritty '70s flicks that's painted in a dozen shades of gray. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Actor, Screenplay and Editing and contains what many still consider the greatest car-chase scene in film history (as well as an achingly ambiguous ending that would never fly today).

6. "Heavenly Creatures" (1994)

Years before he brought to life orcs and giant apes, director Peter Jackson tackled another kind of monster in the real-life story of two 1950s New Zealand girls who murder the mother who forbids them to see each other when their close friendship becomes too obsessive. In her first film role, Kate Winslet plays the daughter who takes a brick to her mother's head — 45 times. Jackson, following up his gore-fest horror film "Braindead," crafts a movie that's part Merchant Ivory, part Martin Scorsese.

5. "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975)

Sidney Lumet directs Al Pacino in arguably his best role as Sonny Wortzik, a man who attempts to rob a bank to pay for his lover's sex-change operation, only to have everything go wrong on a sweltering New York summer day. As a police standoff drags on for 14 hours, the throng of onlookers begins to root for Sonny as a champion of the oppressed. While it sounds like this is one of those "based on a true story" flicks that plays fast and loose with the details for dramatic impact, it actually hews very closely to the actual events of the robbery.

4. "Rope" (1948) and "Compulsion" (1959)

The Leopold & Loeb murder case was one of the most notorious crimes of the early 20th century. In 1924, two wealthy law students kidnapped and killed a 14-year-old neighbor merely to prove their professed Nietzschean superiority. Their subsequent trial (during which it was revealed they were lovers) caused a media frenzy, and the story inspired dozens of works of fiction. While Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope" is merely inspired by the events (turning the killers into two Manhattan students who strangle a friend right before a dinner party), it's a riveting portrait of narcissism. Hitch (no stranger to sublimated urges) paints almost every character (not just the killers) with black swaths of self-absorption, forcing the audience to consider the ease with which we all say we'd like to kill someone for the mildest infraction. "Compulsion" (which changes the names of the actual parties while mostly sticking to the details) is concerned more with the trial, with Orson Welles playing the stand-in for defense attorney Clarence Darrow. The movie has an oddly anachronistic style, never quite evoking the time period, but it is buoyed by some fine performances. More permissive times would allow 1992's "Swoon," which was more about the relationship between the two killers.

3. "All the President's Men" (1976All the President's Men)

It had been not quite two years since Richard Nixon resigned as president of the United States in the wake of the Watergate scandal when the film version of the book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward hit theaters, so the wounds on the nation were still fresh. Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford play the fledgling Washington Post reporters who uncover the connection between the White House and the break-in at the Democratic National Committee. As intricate as the story itself, the film still manages to be the most exciting "talking head" thriller you've ever seen.

2. "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" (1986)

At least in films, it used to be easy to spot the bad guys: They wore black, sported furrowed brow and sinister moustache, perhaps scarred by some past altercation. But "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" presented a new kind of terror — an otherwise normal guy who just liked to murder. Based on the confessions of Henry Lee Lucas, this brutally visceral film (directed by John McNaughton) has earned cult status over the years. Michael Rooker plays Henry alongside Tom Towles as his white-trash killin' partner Otis. The movie is made only slightly less disturbing by the revelation that the majority of the hundreds of murders to which Lucas confessed never occurred.

1. "In Cold Blood" (1967)

Truman Capote's groundbreaking 1965 book about the brutal slaying of a rural Kansas family was adapted into this chilling film two years later by Richard Brooks. The film opens by showing the parallel lives of the simple, God-fearing Clutters and Perry Smith and Dick Hickcock (Robert Blake and Scott Wilson), two hard-luck drifters who hear that there's a small fortune hidden on the Clutters' farm. The movie then cuts to the day after the murders — following the search for the killers, their capture, trial and execution — with the sad, maddening details of the pointless massacre told via flashback near the end of the film. The semi-documentary style of the movie combined with the stark black-and-white cinematography and understated performances by the cast add a harrowing air of authenticity to the film (and of course, recent events in the life of Blake have given "In Cold Blood" an ironic undercurrent that only adds to its true-crime résumé).

Of course, the term "true-crime movie" is usually an oxymoron. Dramatic license or studio legal departments almost always force alterations of the facts. Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) may be one of film's most celebrated crime dramas, but it's hardly an accurate depiction of the notorious Depression-era, bank-robbing duo.

So please don't track us down and shoot us if some of the films on this list fall slightly short of documentary. Although that would make a great movie ...

Thanks to Karl Heitmueller.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Historic Photos of Chicago Crime: The Capone Era

Historic Photos of Chicago Crime: The Capone Era (Historic Photos), opens with a compelling look at Chicago's cityscape to include a broad range of cultural phenomena, from suffrage to jazz, essential to the contextualization of crime in the 1920s and 1930s.

The history then proceeds as its title suggests, to a riveting overview of crime in Chicago, chock-full of images documenting notorious gangsters and gruesome gangland wars.

Al Capone, John Torrio, Earl "Hymie" Weiss, George "Bugs" Moran, and a host of others are all here. Replete with insightful captions and penetrating chapter introductions by historian John Russick, these photos offer a unique view into Chicago and its nefarious past.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

St. Valentine's Day Massacre 81st Anniversary Italian Pizza Banquet and Slide-Lecture: Gangster Ghosts and Secrets

By Richard T. Crowe

Sunday Feb. 14 -- St. Valentine's Day --
7 to 7:30 PM check-in and optional cocktail time
followed by dinner and lecture.


645 W. North Avenue, Chicago
(in the heart of "Bugs" Moran territory!)
(312) 654-2576

Featuring Italian specialties --
PIZZAS -- A selection of Thin and NY styles --
cheese/sausage/pepperoni/veggie/etc. Unlimited soft drinks -- Homemade Italian
Bread and Foccacia Chips -- Mixed Green Salad w/Assorted Dressings -- Penne
Pasta w/ Marinara Sauce -- Cinnamon Ticos (dessert)

Hear the facts not fictions --

Gangster and Capone legends and much more.

Strange tales about the hangouts of Al Capone and the cursed bricks of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre wall; bizarre secrets of Capone's, Frank Nitti's, and Deanie O'Banion's gravesites; the haunted Dillinger escape jail in Crown Point, IN; and more local lore.

Richard Crowe was scheduled to appear on the celebrated Al Capone "treasure vault" TV special but was dropped from the show when he uncovered the real facts about the so-called "secret vault." Discover the inside story of Capone's headquarters at the Lexington Hotel! Years before the Geraldo/Capone show, Crowe searched with a metal detector for lost treasure at the home and grounds of mobster Mossy Enright (gunned down in 1920) -- a Chicago gangster legenday treasure tale with much more credence than the dubious Lexington Hotel fable.


All major credit cards accepted. Or mail payment by check or money order to:

Richard T. Crowe
POB 557544
Chicago, IL 60655

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How Much of the Infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre Brick Wall Will End Up in the Las Vegas Mob Museum?

Chicago's most infamous wall stood up to the St. Valentine's massacre. But now, Las Vegas officials say they will be relocating the massacre wall for a new mob museum.

Las Vegas, never known for its understated approach, is spending $50 million to build a mob museum. So it seemed credible when sin city officials announced that they bought the actual bullet-riddled brick wall from Chicago's St. Valentines Day massacre. But as the I-Team found out, Las Vegas doesn't have all of the St. Valentines Day massacre bricks because what happens in Vegas isn't always as billed.

Wide-brimmed mobsters ready to whack a rival bootlegger. Or not. Actually, it was the mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, and former Nevada governor Richard Bryan dressed in their outfit best for the big unveiling of the mob museum.

"What makes Las Vegas distinctive? What makes us distinctive from any other place? What gives us our mystique? It's the mob," said Oscar Goodman, Las Vegas mayor. And nothing in all of mobdom has more mystique than the St. Valentine's Day massacre.

SMC Cartage on Clark Street in Lincoln Park. February 14, 1929, 80 years ago this year. On that snowy morning, several hoodlums believed to be sent by Al Capone, enter the warehouse dressed as Chicago policemen. They line up seven henchmen from the rival Bugs Moran North Side gang, faces to the brick wall.

"Carnage. Some of the guys took about fifteen machine gun bullets which at that range could cut you in half," said John Binder, mob historian.

The building was used until 1967, when it was one of many gangland landmarks ordered demolished by Mayor Richard J. Daley.

"During the time it was being torn down that's when people came and liberated parts of the wall for their own collections," said Richard Crowe, mob collector.

Richard Crowe and a business partner have more than 100 bricks from the St. Valentines Day execution wall. Another Chicago collector obtained 200 bricks in 1967. And Canadian promoter George Patey secured the largest number, 414 bricks. According to an agreement with the demolition company, Patey's bricks had supposedly been in the line of fire. It is those bricks that Las Vegas officials say they bought for their mob museum.

"I can't think of an event they were involved in that was more bloody and more gory which represented how they did business," said Goodman. But not so fast. Before promoter Patey died five years ago, he sold more than 150 of the bricks, most of them through a now-defunct Web site. So the Chicago massacre wall that Las Vegas unveiled last week is, at best, only a partial relic.

"Mayor Goodman does not have all of the bricks that Patey bought," said Binder.

"How many are going to wind up in Vegas is a mystery," said Crowe.

When Vegas officials announced that the massacre wall would soon be on display, they showed a large picture to reporters. A city spokeswoman now tells the I-Team that it really wasn't a photo of the Chicago bricks, just a look-a-like illustration.

For two days Las Vegas officials would not tell us how much of the wall they actually have or what they paid.

A city spokeswoman sent the I-Team a statement on Wednesday night that they are "fully aware some bricks have been sold off" over the years. But she contends that they purchased the "vast majority" of the massacre wall.

Thanks to Chuck Goudie

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Fatal Wall from St. Valentine's Day Massacre Acquired by Las Vegas Mob Museum

Las Vegas' Mob Museum exhibits will include the St. Valentine's Day Massacre wall where seven people were gunned down by rival Chicago gangsters on Feb. 14, 1929.

Mayor Oscar Goodman announced the acquisition this morning at an event marking the beginning of renovations to the historic federal courthouse building in downtown, which will house the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement.

On that day 80 years ago, four men dressed as police officers entered a warehouse where members of a gang headed by George "Bugs" Moran were gathered. Moran's gang was fighting with a gang led by Al Capone. The fake police officers lined up the rival gang members and killed them. A coroner's report documented 70 machine gun bullets and two shotgun blasts.

The warehouse stood until 1967, when it was demolished. A Canadian businessman bought the wall and used it as an attraction at a restaurant. After he died in 2004, his heirs settled on the Mob Museum as a home for the wall.

The museum is expected to open in early 2011.

"It's going to be a fun place, and it's going to bring a lot of people downtown," Goodman said.

Thanks to Alan Choate

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Video Clip Reveals the Real Story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre

The American Mob began at the turn of the 20th Century as immigrants from Europe began pouring into cities along the East Coast, particularly New York City. Poor and isolated, these immigrant Jews, Irish and Italians banded together to develop their own version of the American Dream. A unique form of business called organized crime.

Through newspapers and film, the leaders of organized crime became household names, often lionized in the mold of true American heroes, the rugged frontier individualists of the past. These names included Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky.

This series, Hollywood vs. The Mob - Fact vs. Fiction, will reveal the truth behind the myth of the American Mob and its godfathers.

The following video clip will reveal The Real Story of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (2/14/1929) was Al Capone's attempt to dispose of organized crime rival 'Bugs' Moran. Five of Bugsy men were killed, but the one man Capone wanted dead wasn't there.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Al Capone the Golfer, Is that a Golf Driver or a Tommy Gun?

MOB boss Al Capone used Scottish caddies to improve his golf - and hid guns with his clubs.

The infamous gangster - known as Scarface - hired bagmen and professional players from the home of golf when he ruled the streets of Chicago in the 1920s and 30s.

Capone ran his criminal empire at a time when Scots were flooding America and pioneering the game there. And the mobster - whose racketeering during the Prohibition era involved illegal booze, gambling and prostitution - made sure some of them joined up to 20 henchmen on the course for the weekly rounds at "his" Chicago clubs.

A new book reveals that Capone and members of his outfit hid tommy guns and revolvers in the Scots' golf bags.

Billy KayThe Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora, author of The Scottish World: A Journey Into the Scottish Diaspora, studied the role Scots played in US golfing history.

The historian said: "Scottish professionals profoundly influenced the development of American golf.

"During the boom period, nearly all the professionals and caddies at burgeoning clubs all over the States were Scots.

"Every city had gangsters but the country clubs were built and financed by the social elite and gangsters were not allowed near. "But Chicago was a unique set-up. Al Capone and his gang ran the golf clubs in Chicago.

"There, mobsters like Capone drew protection money from the country clubs and they had access to the golf courses.

"Capone would have thought of himself as part of the elite and used the Scots pros and caddies. He would have needed protection around him and they concealed their machine guns in their golf bags."

Bruce Oswald's dad Roland emigrated to Chicago as a golf pro in 1927. The Scot told how his father took mob money after finding it lying on a golf course.

Bruce explained: "One of the courses he worked at had some notorious members. "And their golf bags came equipped with more than clubs. Caddies were expected to carry around certain weapons.

"We are talking machine guns and other side arms. These were high rollers, people with a lot of cash.

"One morning, my father was out playing and he and the caddie looked down and found a huge wad of dollar bills in large denominations. The guy in the tractor had gone over it.

"He said, 'There wasn't anyone in front of us at the time, I didn't know whose it was and I knew if I told anybody that would be more trouble - so we split the bills'."

Capone was behind one of the most notorious gangland killings of the 20th century - the 1929 St Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago. Seven members of crime rival "Bugs" Moran's gang were slaughtered. And the guns and police uniforms used by Capone's thugs to dupe their rivals are said to have been buried at Burnham Woods Golf Course in Chicago.

Capone is said to have played there up to twice a week. His usual partner was Jack "Machine Gun" McGurn, the main architect of the St Valentine's Day massacre. He would also be joined by the hitman Sam "Golf Bag" Hunt, who liked to track victims with a shotgun in a golf bag.

Once, Capone is said to have taken a shot in the leg from a revolver hidden in a bag and was in hospital for a week.

Thanks to George Mair

Thursday, December 11, 2008

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute

Last night at an intimate gathering to celebrate author Rose Keefe's visit to Chicago ( Rose is the author of the definitive biographies of Chicago beer war chieftains Dean O'Banion and George 'Bugs' Moran and recently The Starker: Big Jack Zelig and brilliant conversationalist), a fellow blogger, Pat Hickey, had the pleasure of discussing the current political scandal concerning Illinois Governor Blagojevich with Richard Lindberg a veteran Chicago crime/political journalist/historian/author and host of the History Channel's 'Underground Chicago.'

Mr. Lindberg is coming out with a biography on the life of Michael Cassius 'Big Mike' McDonald the author of Chicago and Illinois political corruption. Recently Richard Lindberg authored the chilling study of the 1955 murders of two Chicago boys-The Schuessler-Peterson Murders by the monster Kenneth Hansen.

You can read the rest of Pat's account of his evening along with a capsule on Big Mike McDonald at:

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute: Michael C. McDonald and Illinois Corruption

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Relive the Roarin' Twenties in Al Capone Style in Chicago Today

Massacres, trap doors and Chicago jazz. It’s the way Al Capone and his Chicago Outfit experienced Chicago in the 1920s. The rich, bloody mark that Chicago’s mob bosses left on the streets is still — sometimes begrudgingly — remembered by many. Recently, we took a trip to Chicago to discover where the old speakeasies used to be and where the St. Valentines Day Massacre occurred, grabbing a pizza along the way.

Room 21

Don’t be fooled by the ornate designs, this restaurant has a dirty history. At the peak of Capone’s business, this was his largest speakeasy and brewery in all of Chicago.

At first glance, Room 21 is simply an upscale American restaurant with a large bar and a wide-open patio. In one corner, however, lies one of Capone’s best-kept secrets. “There was the original foundation here,” Manager John Nowowiejski said, motioning to the corner at the end of the bar. “But when we were doing some work putting the plumbing in for the cappuccino maker, we found something. So Jerry Kleiner, the owner said ‘tear it all down’ and we found this passageway.”

The passageway, now lit with an incandescent red glow, narrowly follows the edge of the building. You can see the original brick on either side, claustrophobically coercing you up the stairs. And under the newly added stairs, the top corner of a door peeks out. Leading to the street, the door was probably one of Capone’s exits.

Another door existed at the top of the stairs. “At the end of the passageway, we found a door with the number 21 hanging on it,” Nowowiejski said. “And that’s how we got the name of the restaurant.”

“We actually don’t know much of what happened here,” Nowowiejski said, opening the door at the end of the hall. The inside has been radically changed to a room with classical artwork and a table overlooking the kitchen. “The unknown about it adds to the mystique.”

Not only did Room 21 house Capone’s largest brewery, it was one of his largest busts. Eliot Ness of the Untouchables, the Chicago police group designed to deal with the mafia, led his team into the speakeasy with a 10-ton truck and seized two hundred thousand gallons of alcohol.

Getting there: Take the red line to Cermak/Chinatown and turn left until you get to South Wabash. 2110 S. Wabash St.

Green Mill Cocktail Lounge

To see one of Al Capone’s favorite clubs, head over to the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge. His booth is the first one you see walking past the old jazz posters and decorative walls. And don’t expect a menu; everything served here comes in a glass, not on a plate.

“Al Capone was also a regular here,” owner Dave Jemilo said. “He would sit in a booth by the wall so he could see both doors. That’s what you do. There was a way people could come from behind and get him, but he had guards to check his back.”

And if Capone ever needed a quick escape route, he had his own way out. “There was a trap door for him behind the bar where he could escape if need be,” Jemilo said. “There was a series of tunnels and passageways that would lead outside. I’m the only one with the key, and I wouldn’t let you down there anyway.”

Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn, one of the men responsible for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, was a part owner of the club at one point. And when the headlining singer left for a rival club, McGurn took action himself.

“His favorite singer at the club was Joe E. Lewis, but Lewis was offered a better deal at Rendezvous Club,” Jemilo said. “McGurn told Lewis that he signed a deal for life at Green Mill, but Lewis quit anyways. So a week later, McGurn went to Lewis’s hotel and cut off his tongue and slit his vocal cords so he could never sing again. He almost died, but he eventually came back as a comedian and became a famous comic.”

Frank Sinatra later immortalized Joe E. Lewis in The Joker Is Wild, a movie detailing the whole fiasco.

Getting there: Located off the Lawrence stop on the Red Line in Uptown, the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is the perfect place for a drink before or after a show at the Aragon. 4802 N. Broadway Ave.

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co.

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 was the turning point for the infamous Chicago Outfit. While Capone was enjoying a vacation in Florida, part of his south-side gang, two dressed up as police officers, allegedly lined up four of Bugs Moran’s north-side gang inside a garage. With Moran’s gang against the wall, Capone’s henchmen opened fire. Jack “Machine Gun” McGurn, part owner of the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge, was the purported leader of the shooting.

Across the street on the second floor of what was a boarding house, two other members of Capone’s gang kept watch. And today, on the first floor, is Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., a unique and original restaurant located in the middle of Lincoln Park.

You can still see where the massacre took place, but there is no garage left. “Mayor Daley tore down the garage and now it’s an empty lot,” Manager Cathy Gallanis said. “No plaque or anything about it. He didn’t want a reminder of what happened.”

As for the pizza here, it isn’t what you would normally expect, Gallanis said. It’s called pizza pot pie. “We take a ceramic bowl layered with our homemade dough and then add a layer of cheese. Then we ladle in our homemade sauce, with or without sausage, and throw in whole, fresh mushrooms. We put some white or wheat dough on top and cook it. Then at the table, we flip it over and that’s it.”

Recently featured on Rachael Ray, Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. will continue to serve its unusual cooking. “In a world of franchises, we try to be unique and original,” Gallanis said. “We’ve had the same menu since we opened in 1978.”

Getting there: Get off at the Armitage stop on the brown line and head east on Armitage Street then north on Clark Street to pay homage to one of the most violent events of the 1920s, and one of the most forgotten places too. 2121 N. Clark St.

Tommy Gun’s Garage

To literally relive the Prohibition era (the drinking side of it, not the dry), head south to Tommy Gun’s Garage. Owners Kris Adams and Sandy Mangen emulate the original speakeasies to a tee, not leaving out any details.

“We’re running an illegal speakeasy here,” Adams said. “There are no signs out front, and we have a doorman to check everyone who comes in. He wears gloves so he won’t leave any fingerprints and he will only let you in if you say the password.”

The servers are not just servers, but gangsters with holsters or flappers with dresses. After dinner, the entertainment begins. “The show is basically a musical comedy review, “ Adams said. “We have the sing and dance numbers in the beginning and after that we have vaudeville skits with an Abbott and Costello type act. The show has a lot of audience involvement. At one point, the cops show up and bust everybody there.”

Getting there: Get off the El at Cermak/Chinatown on the Red line and turn left. Reservations are required, so call (312) 225-0273, and don’t forget the password. 2114 S. Wabash Rd.

For its tame Midwestern reputation, Chicago has a rich and violent history riddled with secrets and hidden tunnels. Next time you go downtown, add interest to your usual destinations by making a night of a mafia hangout. Your historical knowledge will impress your friends, your date, or your parents alike — and chilling where Capone chilled? Badass.

Thanks to Alex Freeman

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Rumors Tie Mobsters to Stained Glass Church Windows North of Chicago

This stained glass window at St. Peter Catholic Church in Antioch has rumored mob ties.Amid the monks and saints depicted in a stained glass window at St. Peter Catholic Church in Antioch appears a car wheel, headlight and a wrench that have baffled parishioners.

For years they have speculated that the three-panel windows were somehow tied to Chicago mobsters who spent summers in northeastern Lake County around the time the church was dedicated in 1930. The gangsters were proud of their cars, had money and may have wanted to atone for some of their sins by donating to a church.

Mary Leonard, director of religious education for the parish, looked through church archives and even contacted the company that created the windows, but she hasn't found anything that proves a mob connection. "But it makes a really good story," she said.

What we do know about the windows is that they were made by Rambusch Studios of New York, according to Leonard. The company sketched out the glass iconography with the Rev. Francis Morgan Flaherty. The windows were then crafted by a stained-glass studio in Munich, Germany.

Church records don't indicate who paid for the windows. But painted at the bottom of the three-panels above the choir loft, it reads: "In memory of Harry Martin, Patrick Quilty and Margaret Quilty." It's unclear who they were or if they had a say in the window design.

Antioch and its lakes used to attract Chicago residents and tourists. During the summer, church attendance swelled at the first one-room Catholic church built in 1897 on Victoria Street in Antioch. A tent was needed to accommodate the faithful during summer Masses, Leonard said. Out-of-towners likely contributed to the $250,000 needed in 1930 to build the stone St. Peter Catholic Church on Lake Street.

Could Chicago Prohibition-era gangsters have attended Mass and cut a big check? There's no evidence of it, but reportedly Al Capone hung out in Fox Lake, and gangster Bugs Moran played golf in Antioch.

Adding another layer of mystery to the windows is that the central figure is clearly St. Patrick, not St. Peter, the parish's patron saint. The figure is holding a staff with a shamrock and is standing on a snake. (Pious legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from Ireland, though post-glacial Ireland never had snakes.)

The St. Patrick iconography could be a tribute to the church's past. The one-room Catholic church in Antioch was a mission church of St. Patrick in Wadsworth until 1909.

We'll probably never know for sure if mobsters paid for the windows, or if the car references were the result of artistic license by the pastor or a German window builder.

"I see some parishioners pointing it out to their grandchildren, and they tell other children," Leonard said. "If nothing else, it interests them in the church."

-- not that we want them to be looking at the back of windows while Mass is going on."

Thanks to Ryan Pagelow

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

On this frigid morning, in an unheated brick garage at 2122 N. Clark St., seven men were lined up against a whitewashed wall and pumped with 90 bullets from submachine guns, shotguns and a revolver. It was the most infamous of all gangland slayings in America, and it savagely achieved its purpose--the elimination of the last challenge to Al Capone for the mantle of crime boss in Chicago. By 1929, Capone's only real threat was George "Bugs" Moran, who headed his own gang and what was left of Dion O'Banion's band of bootleggers. Moran had long despised Capone, mockingly referring to him as "The Beast."

The St. Valentine's Day MassacreAt about 10:30 a.m., four men burst into the SMC Cartage Co. garage that Moran used for his illegal business. Two of the men were dressed as police officers. The quartet presumably announced a raid and ordered the seven men inside the garage to line up against a wall. Then they opened fire. Witnesses, alerted by the rat-a-tat staccato of submachine guns, watched as the gunmen sped off in a black Cadillac touring car that looked like the kind police used, complete with siren, gong and rifle rack. The victims, killed outright or left dying in the garage, included Frank "Hock" Gusenberg, Moran's enforcer, and his brother, Peter "Goosy" Gusenberg. Four of the other victims were Moran gangsters, but the seventh dead man was Dr. Reinhardt Schwimmer, an optician who cavorted with criminals for thrills. Missing that morning was Capone's prize, Moran, who slept in.

Capone missed the excitement too. Vacationing at his retreat at Palm Island, Fla., he had an alibi for his whereabouts and disclaimed knowledge of the coldblooded killings. Few believed him. No one ever went to jail for pulling a trigger in the Clark Street garage, which was demolished in 1967.

Although Moran survived the massacre, he was finished as a big criminal. For decades to come, only one mob, that of Capone and his successors, would run organized crime in Chicago. But the Valentine's Day Massacre shocked a city that had been numbed by "Roaring '20s" gang warfare over control of illegal beer and whiskey distribution.

"These murders went out of the comprehension of a civilized city," the Tribune editorialized. "The butchering of seven men by open daylight raises this question for Chicago: Is it helpless?"

In the following years, Capone and his henchmen were to become the targets of ambitious prosecutors.

Thanks to John O'Brien

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.

Monday, January 23, 2006

St. Valentine's Day Massacre Reenactment

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Bugs Moran

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre is the crime that forever defined Chicago in the imagination of the world. On the morning of February 14th, Al Capone sent a Valentine to "Bugs" Moran and the north side mob ... a massacre leaving seven of Moran's men dead. Since Tommy Gun's Garage is Chicago's only south side speakeasy, and therefore part of the Capone gang, Tommy Gun's will reenact the massacre for audiences on February 9th - 14th.

This is not a romantic evening. After the dinner and show, guests are invited to watch what happened that morning at the garage of the SMC Cartage Company, 2122 North Clark Street. Vito, the MC, narrates the story, giving audiences a history of why this happened and who the seven unfortunate victims were.

Actors portray each of the seven victims, who believed that they were at the garage to pick up a shipment of hijacked Old Log Cabin Whiskey. After all the men "arrive" two of Capone's men pretend to be police officers and line up all the men to be handcuffed. In walk two more men and they all open fire on the actors. To achieve realism, each "victim" is equipped with blood bags that burst when the gun is fired.

This is Tommy Gun's 19th year reenacting the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Call 773-RAT-A-TAT for prices and reservations. Tommy Gun's Garage is Chicago's longest running audience interactive dinner theater show. A night at Tommy Gun's is a night in Prohibition-era Chicago, complete with singing, dancing, and musical comedy starring Vito and his gangsters and flappers. The evening of the massacres include the same dinner packages and show.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Anthony "Joe Batters" Accardo Index

Anthony Accardo (1906-1992): mob boss, The Genuine Godfather Joe Batters

He had the longest career of any U.S. mobster. Tony Accardo, aka "Joe Batters" or "Big Tuna," served as the boss or chairman of the board of the Chicago Outfit from 1944 until his death in 1992.

Accardo was born in Chicago, the son of Sicilian immigrants. His father was a shoemaker. He grew up at Grand and Ashland avenues and started as a common street burglar, involved mostly in petty larceny. This caught the eye of "Machine Gun" Jack McGurn. Accardo joined the Circus Gang, working his way up the ladder of minor league organized crime. Gradually he progressed from muggings and pocket picking to armed robbery and aggravated assault. He became a member of Capone's Gang after he successfully planned and executed the Hanlon Hellcat shootout in which he led the killing of 3 rivals. As a teenage hood with the Al Capone mob in the 1920s, he participated in lots of Prohibition-era violence. By age 16 he was a high-ranking bodyguard, gunman and "enforcer." In 1929 he participated in the infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre of Capone rival Bugs Moran's gang on Clark Street.

Accardo received his nickname from his reputation for swinging a ball bat to mete out violence to rivals and others who'd displeased his bosses by failing to make their weekly loan-shark payments. After he killed two of those men, Capone is to said to have commented "This kid is a real Joe Batters".

By the '30s, with the end of bootlegging, the Mob turned its attention to even nastier stuff, like narcotics. During that era the Chicago Syndicate drove all the non-Italian gangs out of business until the Mafia was in complete control of the city's illegal activities. Accardo became Paul "The Waiter" Ricca's second in command. When Ricca went to prison from the Hollywood Extortion Case, Accardo stepped into the position of acting boss of the Outfit in 1944. He often visited Ricca in the federal penitentiary masquerading as his lawyer to obtain direction.

Eventually, around 1947, Accardo became the boss himself. Under Accardo's leadership, the Chicago Outfit expanded its dominion, taking Las Vegas away from the New York mob. This was first done through the Stardust Casino (which yours truly just visited as documented at the Vegas Syndicate and it is was I use the Stardust Odds for my NFL picks at the Sport Syndicate) and later expanded to several other casinos. Joe Batters also aggressively enforced a city-wide street tax, which ordered that the Outfit get a percentage of any money made illegally.

Around 1957, Accardo passed the leadership over to Sam Giancana. As consiglieri, Accardo removed Giancana in 1966 and named Sam "Teets" Battaglia top guy. This was the start of a "boss" merry-go-around that eventually led to Joe Batters assuming the role of boss again in 1971 and had him ordering the hit of Giancana in 1975 as he was cooking dinner in his basement after returning from Mexico.

Despite everything that went on in his empire, Accardo never spent a single night in jail. In the 1950-'51 Kefauver hearings, Accardo took the Fifth Amendment 172 times. In 1960 he was sentenced to six years in prison for income tax evasion but the conviction was later overturned by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals because of "prejudicial" newspaper publicity during his trial.

Accardo ran the Chicago Outfit for 40 years as boss and/or consiglieri until he died in his sleep due to heart problems at 86 in 1992.

In the past, I used to list all of the articles below in which Tony Accardo appeared. However, by clicking on the label with his name, you can find the same results.


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