The Chicago Syndicate: Eliot Ness
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Showing posts with label Eliot Ness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eliot Ness. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

American Demon: Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America's Jack the Ripper

Boston had its Strangler. California had the Zodiac Killer. And in the depths of the Great Depression, Cleveland had the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run.

On September 5th, 1934, a young beachcomber made a gruesome discovery on the shores of Cleveland’s Lake Erie: the lower half of a female torso, neatly severed at the waist. The victim, dubbed “The Lady of the Lake,” was only the first of a butcher’s dozen. Over the next four years, twelve more bodies would be scattered across the city. The bodies were dismembered with surgical precision and drained of blood. Some were beheaded while still alive.

Terror gripped the city. Amid the growing uproar, Cleveland’s besieged mayor turned to his newly-appointed director of public safety: Eliot Ness. Ness had come to Cleveland fresh from his headline-grabbing exploits in Chicago, where he and his band of “Untouchables” led the frontline assault on Al Capone’s bootlegging empire. Now he would confront a case that would redefine his storied career.

Award-winning author Daniel Stashower shines a fresh light on one of the most notorious puzzles in the annals of crime, and uncovers the gripping story of Ness’s hunt for a sadistic killer who was as brilliant as he was cool and composed, a mastermind who was able to hide in plain sight. American Demon: Eliot Ness and the Hunt for America's Jack the Ripper, reconstructs this ultimate battle of wits between a hero and a madman.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Enjoy an Eliot Ness Amber Lager from @GLBC_Cleveland on #NationalBeerDay

Eliot Ness Amber Lager by the Great Lakes Brewing CompanyEliot Ness Amber Lager is described as an amber lager with rich, fragrant malt flavors balanced by crisp, noble hops.

Per Great Lakes Brewing Co, Eliot Ness Amber Lager was named after one of Cleveland's most respected safety directors who frequented the Brewpub's bar during his tenure from 1935-1941 and, according to popular legend, was responsible for the bullet holes in the bar still evident today. Margaret Conway, the mother of owners Patrick and Daniel Conway, worked with Ness as his stenographer.

Of course, prior to that, he was most widely known for being an American Prohibition agent, famous for his efforts to enforce Prohibition in Chicago, as the leader of a legendary team nicknamed The Untouchables.

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Very Persuasive Story that James Comey Has to Tell

In his absorbing new book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Donald Trump presidency a “forest fire” that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.

“This president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values,” Comey writes. “His leadership is transactional, ego driven and about personal loyalty.”

Decades before he led the F.B.I.’s investigation into whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election, Comey was a career prosecutor who helped dismantle the Gambino crime family; and he doesn’t hesitate in these pages to draw a direct analogy between the Mafia bosses he helped pack off to prison years ago and the current occupant of the Oval Office.

A February 2017 meeting in the White House with Trump and then chief of staff Reince Priebus left Comey recalling his days as a federal prosecutor facing off against the Mob: “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us-versus-them worldview. The lying about all things, large and small, in service to some code of loyalty that put the organization above morality and above the truth.” An earlier visit to Trump Tower in January made Comey think about the New York Mafia social clubs he knew as a Manhattan prosecutor in the 1980s and 1990s — “The Ravenite. The Palma Boys. Café Giardino.”

The central themes that Comey returns to throughout this impassioned book are the toxic consequences of lying; and the corrosive effects of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. Dishonesty, he writes, was central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic,” and so, too, were bullying, peer pressure and groupthink — repellent traits shared by Trump and company, he suggests, and now infecting our culture.

“We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country,” Comey writes, “with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded.”

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” is the first big memoir by a key player in the alarming melodrama that is the Trump administration. Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Trump on May 9, 2017, has worked in three administrations, and his book underscores just how outside presidential norms Trump’s behavior has been — how ignorant he is about his basic duties as president, and how willfully he has flouted the checks and balances that safeguard our democracy, including the essential independence of the judiciary and law enforcement. Comey’s book fleshes out the testimony he gave before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017 with considerable emotional detail, and it showcases its author’s gift for narrative — a skill he clearly honed during his days as United States attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The volume offers little in the way of hard news revelations about investigations by the F.B.I. or the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III (not unexpectedly, given that such investigations are ongoing and involve classified material), and it lacks the rigorous legal analysis that made Jack Goldsmith’s 2007 book “The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration” so incisive about larger dynamics within the Bush administration.

What “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership" does give readers are some near-cinematic accounts of what Comey was thinking when, as he’s previously said, Trump demanded loyalty from him during a one-on-one dinner at the White House; when Trump pressured him to let go of the investigation into his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn; and when the president asked what Comey could do to “lift the cloud” of the Russia investigation.

There are some methodical explanations in these pages of the reasoning behind the momentous decisions Comey made regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign — explanations that attest to his nonpartisan and well-intentioned efforts to protect the independence of the F.B.I., but that will leave at least some readers still questioning the judgment calls he made, including the different approaches he took in handling the bureau’s investigation into Clinton (which was made public) and its investigation into the Trump campaign (which was handled with traditional F.B.I. secrecy).

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership” also provides sharp sketches of key players in three presidential administrations. Comey draws a scathing portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney’s legal adviser David S. Addington, who spearheaded the arguments of many hard-liners in the George W. Bush White House; Comey describes their point of view: “The war on terrorism justified stretching, if not breaking, the written law.” He depicts Bush national security adviser and later Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as uninterested in having a detailed policy discussion of interrogation policy and the question of torture. He takes Barack Obama’s attorney general Loretta Lynch to task for asking him to refer to the Clinton email case as a “matter,” not an “investigation.” (Comey tartly notes that “the F.B.I. didn’t do ‘matters.’”) And he compares Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to Alberto R. Gonzales, who served in the same position under Bush, writing that both were “overwhelmed and overmatched by the job,” but “Sessions lacked the kindness Gonzales radiated.”

Comey is what Saul Bellow called a “first-class noticer.” He notices, for instance, “the soft white pouches under” Trump’s “expressionless blue eyes”; coyly observes that the president’s hands are smaller than his own “but did not seem unusually so”; and points out that he never saw Trump laugh — a sign, Comey suspects, of his “deep insecurity, his inability to be vulnerable or to risk himself by appreciating the humor of others, which, on reflection, is really very sad in a leader, and a little scary in a president.”

During his Senate testimony last June, Comey was boy-scout polite (“Lordy, I hope there are tapes”) and somewhat elliptical in explaining why he decided to write detailed memos after each of his encounters with Trump (something he did not do with Presidents Obama or Bush), talking gingerly about “the nature of the person I was interacting with.” Here, however, Comey is blunt about what he thinks of the president, comparing Trump’s demand for loyalty over dinner to “Sammy the Bull’s Cosa Nostra induction ceremony — with Trump, in the role of the family boss, asking me if I have what it takes to be a ‘made man.’”

Throughout his tenure in the Bush and Obama administrations (he served as deputy attorney general under Bush, and was selected to lead the F.B.I. by Obama in 2013), Comey was known for his fierce, go-it-alone independence, and Trump’s behavior catalyzed his worst fears — that the president symbolically wanted the leaders of the law enforcement and national security agencies to come “forward and kiss the great man’s ring.” Comey was feeling unnerved from the moment he met Trump. In his recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” Michael Wolff wrote that Trump “invariably thought people found him irresistible,” and felt sure, early on, that “he could woo and flatter the F.B.I. director into positive feeling for him, if not outright submission” (in what the reader takes as yet another instance of the president’s inability to process reality or step beyond his own narcissistic delusions).

After he failed to get that submission and the Russia cloud continued to hover, Trump fired Comey; the following day he told Russian officials during a meeting in the Oval Office that firing the F.B.I. director — whom he called “a real nut job” — relieved “great pressure” on him. A week later, the Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

During Comey’s testimony, one senator observed that the often contradictory accounts that the president and former F.B.I. director gave of their one-on-one interactions came down to “Who should we believe?” As a prosecutor, Comey replied, he used to tell juries trying to evaluate a witness that “you can’t cherry-pick” — “You can’t say, ‘I like these things he said, but on this, he’s a dirty, rotten liar.’ You got to take it all together.”

Put the two men’s records, their reputations, even their respective books, side by side, and it’s hard to imagine two more polar opposites than Trump and Comey: They are as antipodean as the untethered, sybaritic Al Capone and the square, diligent G-man Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables”; or the vengeful outlaw Frank Miller and Gary Cooper’s stoic, duty-driven marshal Will Kane in Fred Zinnemann’s 1952 classic “High Noon.”

One is an avatar of chaos with autocratic instincts and a resentment of the so-called “deep state” who has waged an assault on the institutions that uphold the Constitution.

The other is a straight-arrow bureaucrat, an apostle of order and the rule of law, whose reputation as a defender of the Constitution was indelibly shaped by his decision, one night in 2004, to rush to the hospital room of his boss, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, to prevent Bush White House officials from persuading the ailing Ashcroft to reauthorize an N.S.A. surveillance program that members of the Justice Department believed violated the law.

One uses language incoherently on Twitter and in person, emitting a relentless stream of lies, insults, boasts, dog-whistles, divisive appeals to anger and fear, and attacks on institutions, individuals, companies, religions, countries, continents.

The other chooses his words carefully to make sure there is “no fuzz” to what he is saying, someone so self-conscious about his reputation as a person of integrity that when he gave his colleague James R. Clapper, then director of national intelligence, a tie decorated with little martini glasses, he made sure to tell him it was a regift from his brother-in-law.

One is an impulsive, utterly transactional narcissist who, so far in office, The Washington Post calculated, has made an average of six false or misleading claims a day; a winner-take-all bully with a nihilistic view of the world. “Be paranoid,” he advises in one of his own books. In another: “When somebody screws you, screw them back in spades.”

The other wrote his college thesis on religion and politics, embracing Reinhold Niebuhr’s argument that “the Christian must enter the political realm in some way” in order to pursue justice, which keeps “the strong from consuming the weak.”

Until his cover was blown, Comey shared nature photographs on Twitter using the name “Reinhold Niebuhr,” and both his 1982 thesis and this memoir highlight how much Niebuhr’s work resonated with him. They also attest to how a harrowing experience he had as a high school senior — when he and his brother were held captive, in their parents’ New Jersey home, by an armed gunman — must have left him with a lasting awareness of justice and mortality.

Long passages in Comey’s thesis are also devoted to explicating the various sorts of pride that Niebuhr argued could afflict human beings — most notably, moral pride and spiritual pride, which can lead to the sin of self-righteousness. And in “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” Comey provides an inventory of his own flaws, writing that he can be “stubborn, prideful, overconfident and driven by ego.”

Those characteristics can sometimes be seen in Comey’s account of his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, wherein he seems to have felt a moral imperative to address, in a July 2016 press conference, what he described as her “extremely careless” handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information,” even though he went on to conclude that the bureau recommend no charges be filed against her. His announcement marked a departure from precedent in that it was done without coordination with Department of Justice leadership and offered more detail about the bureau’s evaluation of the case than usual.

As for his controversial disclosure on Oct. 28, 2016, 11 days before the election, that the F.B.I. was reviewing more Clinton emails that might be pertinent to its earlier investigation, Comey notes here that he had assumed from media polling that Clinton was going to win. He has repeatedly asked himself, he writes, whether he was influenced by that assumption: “It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls. But I don’t know.”

He adds that he hopes “very much that what we did — what I did — wasn’t a deciding factor in the election.” In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017, Comey stated that the very idea that his decisions might have had an impact on the outcome of the presidential race left him feeling “mildly nauseous” — or, as one of his grammatically minded daughters corrected him, “nauseated.”

Trump was reportedly infuriated by Comey’s “nauseous” remark; less than a week later he fired the F.B.I. director — an act regarded by some legal scholars as possible evidence of obstruction of justice, and that quickly led to the appointment of the special counsel Robert Mueller and an even bigger cloud over the White House.

It’s ironic that Comey, who wanted to shield the F.B.I. from politics, should have ended up putting the bureau in the midst of the 2016 election firestorm; just as it’s ironic (and oddly fitting) that a civil servant who has prided himself on being apolitical and independent should find himself reviled by both Trump and Clinton, and thrust into the center of another tipping point in history.

They are ironies that would have been appreciated by Comey’s hero Niebuhr, who wrote as much about the limits, contingencies and unforeseen consequences of human decision-making as he did about the dangers of moral complacency and about the necessity of entering the political arena to try to make a difference.

Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Making of the Mob: Chicago

The Making of the Mob: Chicago, is an eight-episode docu-drama chronicling the rise and fall of iconic gangster Al Capone, as well as the story of his successors, collectively known as “The Chicago Outfit.” Spanning the better part of a century, the series begins with Capone’s early days in New York and continues through his move to Chicago - to work with his childhood mentor in the underworld. When Prohibition hits, battles break out as the city’s gangs rush to set up bootlegging operations and Capone decides to go up against his rivals. As he consolidates power, he achieves legendary status for his ruthless tactics and over-the-top lifestyle that attracts the wrath of President Herbert Hoover.

Episode 1
Capone’s First Kill
Capone gets a taste of the underworld in Brooklyn with Johnny Torrio. Reuniting in Chicago, they start bootlegging and anger local Irish gangsters.

Episode 2
A Death in the Family
A new mayor forces Torrio and Capone outside Chicago to nearby Cicero. There, Capone's brother Frank fixes an election, placing himself in jeopardy.

Episode 3
Blood Filled Streets
A betrayal destroys peace in Chicago, and Torrio and Capone seek revenge against the Irish gangs. The "Beer Wars" make Capone Chicago's top gangster.

Episode 4
St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Capone uses the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to assert his power over his enemies. President Hoover takes notice, and Eliot Ness takes on Capone.

Episode 5
Judgment Day
Al Capone outwits Eliot Ness, but Capone's criminal empire remains in jeopardy when the IRS plants an undercover agent in his gang.

Episode 6
New Blood
With Capone in jail, Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo take over. A Hollywood scandal presents Sam Giancana with a chance to prove himself.

Episode 7
Sin City
Tony Accardo sets his sights on Las Vegas, but when Sam Giancana incurs the wrath of young attorney Robert F. Kennedy, The Outfit is threatened.

Episode 8
Last Man Standing
Tony Accardo and Sam Giancana have a falling out, and the fate of the Outfit rests on the outcome. Tony Accardo cleans up loose ends before retiring.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Untouchables Tours to Celebrate Milestone of their Live Action @GangsterTour

Beverly-based Untouchable Tours is preparing to celebrate a significant milestone as one of the top-rated downtown bus tours. With its distinct black bus and cast of theater-trained guides, the company credits its nearly 30-year success to a unique entertainment philosophy.

“The production level of our tour is second-to-none,” said co-owner Craig Alton of his gangster theater-on-wheels. “Our guides are talented actors who have studied Chicago crime chronicles and Prohibition society and conventions. They have truly perfected their personas and offer plenty of laughs while providing a knowledgeable voice on the rise of the Chicago mob.”

This formula has proven a hit since Alton, along with his sister and brother-in-law, Cindy and Don Fielding, first launched the concept.

“The three of us worked individually for not-for-profits,” said Cindy Fielding. “But with a shared interest in theater and design, we quickly slipped into a life of crime.”

The one hour, 45 minute live action tour continues to sell out regularly and reflects an unwavering interest in Chicago mob history. From Dion O’Banion’s flower shop to Holy Name Cathedral, the 18-mile journey takes passengers on a comprehensive and compelling trip back in time to Al Capone’s Chicago. With guides including “Johnny Three Knives” and “Matches Malone,” the tour company enjoys multi-generational appeal and repeat customers.

In addition to their regular public tours, the company also offers private tours to groups.

“The tone of the tour is light and fun. We book many private tours including school-aged children as well as seniors,” said Don Fielding. “We felt it was important to reiterate how the ultimate result of crime is prison or worse. This is the reason we embraced the word ‘Untouchable.’ Eliot Ness and his colleagues did incredible work in ridding Chicago of organized crime. We wanted to tip our hats to them.”

To commemorate its 30th year anniversary, Untouchable Tours is offering a special discount code to Beverly residents who book any tour online before Thursday, June 15. Simply enter the code: beverly and receive $2 off a seat.

Bookings can be made online at or by calling (773) 881-1195.

Thanks to The Beverly Review.

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Untouchables in Blu-Ray

They don't make movies like The Untouchables, any more. Brian De Palma's gripping tale of a Chicago police team trying to take on Al Capone is one of the best crime movies ever made. With stellar writing, superb directing, and an all-star cast, The Untouchables feels both modern and timeless.

Kevin Costner stars as Elliott Ness, a Treasury Department agent tasked with cutting down on alcohol bootlegging (this was during Prohibition, mind you). And Robert De Niro is Al Capone, the man behind the illegal alcohol trade, as well as many other things besides. Ness tries and fails to rally local law enforcement to his cause. It's only when he teams with veteran cop Malone (Sean Connery, in an Oscar-winning role) and forms a small squad of his own, dubbed "the Untouchables" because they are the only people in the city who cannot be bribed by the mob.

The Untouchables is fantastic on many different levels. It all starts with the script, written by famous playwright David Mamet. Mamet is known for his fast-paced, overlapping dialogue and his sharp, memorable lines. Here he eases up on the rat-a-tat rhythm of the dialogue, instead allowing each character to showcase a set of very memorable lines.

Brian De Palma adds another level. De Palma's career jumps from confident and assured (Sisters, Carrie, Mission: Impossible) to downright embarrassing (Snake Eyes, Mission To Mars), but here he knocks the ball right out of the park. He lets the material speak for itself, and then adds a cinematic touch to make the whole piece move. And, of course, he's responsible for the famous Battleship Potemkin homage during the climax that still provides edge of your seat tension to this day.

The cast bring it all to life. Kevin Costner is eager and sincere in this role, playing Ness with his heart on his sleeve. It's a reminder of how good of an actor he used to be. Sean Connery is an incredible presence, world-weary but not without hope. It's one of his most nuanced and brilliant performances. Andy Garcia and Patricia Clarkson are memorable, but don't get enough screen time to really show how talented they are. And then, of course, there's De Niro, playing Capone to the hilt, making himself felt throughout, even when he's not on the screen.

And the final piece of the puzzle is the haunting score by Ennio Morriconne. Morricone, most famous for penning the scores for A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, is one of the world's most versatile composers and provides a tense, lingering soundtrack that perfectly complements the image on the screen.

The Blu-ray Disc:

The Image: Paramount Pictures presents The Untouchables in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in an AVC/MPEG-4 encoded 1080p transfer. I was quite literally shocked to see how good this movie looked in high definition. The film came out in 1988, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone told me it had come out in 2007. The colors are rich, bright, and solid. Shadow delineation is excellent. Detail level is off the charts. This is not only the best The Untouchables has ever looked, but it also better-looking than a good majority of HD discs of movies from any time period. The image quality alone demands that this Blu-ray be purchased and enjoyed over and over.

The Audio: Nothing's perfect, and in the case of The Untouchables, it's the Dolby Digital-EX 5.1 and DTS 6.1 mixes. Morricone's score sounds great in the high end, but the bass is lacking. Gunshots are often muted and lacking power, and for a surround mix, there's not much directionality. This is the one aspect of the disc that could use a serious overhaul.

The Supplements: Paramount has ported over all of the special features found on the latest special edition DVD. All but the theatrical trailer are in high definition.

The Script, The Cast: Brian De Palma discusses the origin of the film, mentioning that he took the job to get in good with a studio so he could finance his preferred projects. There was a lot of talk of moving away from the television series and making the movie its own beast. There are also some vintage interviews with the cast.

Production Stories: A look at the film's sets, vehicles, costumes, and designs.

Reinventing The Genre: A discussion of how Brian De Palma's cinematic techniques shaped the film.

The Classic: A wrap-up look at the post-production process and release. Morriconne's score, the film's release, success, and legacy are all highlighted here.

The Men: A short vintage featurette.

Theatrical Trailer: In HD, but not very good-looking.

The Conclusion: The Untouchables is an undeniable classic, and this Blu-ray disc does it justice with reference picture. The sound and extras aren't as good, but still far from bad. This is a must-see movie on a must-own disc. Highly Recommended.

Thanks to Daniel Hirshleifer

Friday, August 07, 2015

Return of The Untouchables

Chicago, 1930, time of the prohibition. And it is the great time for the organized crime, the so called Mafia. One of the big bosses is Al Capone. He is the best know but at least, he was only one in a dirty game of sex, crime and corruption. People are willing to pay any price to drink alcohol, and sometimes it is their life they have to pay with. Special agent Eliot Ness and his team are trying to defeat the alcohol Mafia, but in this job, you don't have any friends.

That is the plot summary for the classic TV hit, "Untouchables: The Complete Series". The show, which starred Robert Stack, out on DVD.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero

Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero presents the true story of Eliot Ness, the legendary lawman who led the Untouchables, took on Al Capone, and saved a city’s soul

Eliot Ness is famous for leading the Untouchables against the notorious mobster Al Capone. But it turns out that the legendary Prohibition Bureau squad’s daring raids were only the beginning. Ness’s true legacy reaches far beyond Big
Al and Chicago.

Eliot Ness follows the lawman through his days in Chicago and into his forgotten second act. As the public safety director of Cleveland, he achieved his greatest success: purging the city of corruption so deep that the mob and the police were often one and the same. And it was here, too, that he faced one of his greatest challenges: a brutal, serial killer known as the Torso Murderer, who terrorized the city for years.

Eliot Ness presents the first complete picture of the real Eliot Ness. Both fearless and shockingly shy, he inspired courage and loyalty in men twice his age, forged law-enforcement innovations that are still with us today, and earned acclaim and scandal from both his professional and personal lives. Through it all, he believed unwaveringly in the integrity of law and the basic goodness of his fellow Americans.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Review of “Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero”

Douglas Perry’s “Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero” is a riveting biography of the man who cleaned up Chicago bootlegging, took on the mob in Cleveland and battled venereal disease among soldiers during World War II.

Eliot Ness “Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Herowas the real thing. Working as a federal Prohibition agent, he led a bold campaign against bootleggers in Chicago and helped send Al Capone to prison. His “Untouchables” really did crash into illegal breweries with a battering ram mounted on a truck.

Ness had a “soft, indistinct face,” writes Douglas Perry in his new biography of the lawman, and “a sadness in his eyes, even when he was smiling.” He stood about 6 feet tall, with a lithe, athletic build and conveyed a sensitivity that many women found irresistible.

Ness understood public relations and took care to nourish his legend. When he captured contraband liquor, he invited newspapers to send over cameramen with no cameras. He sent them back with their camera cases filled with booze. Predictably, he got good press — too good for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, a zealous media hog who declined Ness’ overture to join the bureau.

The end of Prohibition put the Untouchables out of business. Ness went to Cleveland, arguably even more corrupt than Chicago, where as director of public safety he cleaned up the police force and took on the mob.

As in Chicago, he was involved in car chases and shootouts with bad guys. But Ness was interested in more than just dramatic heroics. In Cleveland, he instituted an innovative traffic-safety program that reduced the death rate, and he worked with youth gangs to steer them away from criminal activity.

In World War II, Ness went to work for the government on reducing the incidence of venereal disease among soldiers by suppressing prostitution. He sent hundreds of prostitutes to training camps to learn vocational skills. He himself had no aversion to sex and alcohol. He was an all-night party animal who liked the ladies and drank more and more as the years passed.

The author may have spent too much time in creative-writing class. He describes Capone’s chief brewmaster as “stocky, cow-faced, with a wide pessimistic mouth like a dried-up old nun.” Nonetheless, Perry has spun a riveting tale.

Thanks to Hank H. Cox.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Senators Kirk, Brown And Durbin Introduce Bipartisan Resolution To Honor Famed Prohibition Agent, Eliot Ness

U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a bipartisan resolution to honor Ohio resident and Illinois native Eliot Ness, the legendary law enforcement agent who fought to bring Chicago mob boss Al Capone to justice. The senators’ resolution would name the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) headquarters in Washington D.C., the Eliot Ness ATF Building.

“America’s fight against dangerous drug gangs is far from over, but in honoring Eliot Ness’ public service and his tireless crime fighting we reaffirm our commitment to safe streets and ensure that justice is brought to the Illinois families who have suffered,” Kirk said.

“Eliot Ness is perhaps best known as the man who helped to bring Al Capone to justice,” Brown said. “But Eliot Ness was more than just a Chicago prohibition agent. He fought for law and justice in Ohio, and fought for peace and freedom in World War II. He was a public servant and an American hero who deserves to be remembered.”

“Chicago gangster Al Capone believed that every man had his price,” Durbin said. “But for Eliot Ness and his legendary law enforcement team ‘The Untouchables,’ no amount of money could buy their loyalty or sway their dedication to Chicago’s safety. That steadfast commitment to public service is why it is so fitting that we remember Eliot Ness with this honor.”

In 1926, Ness was appointed as an agent in the federal Prohibition Bureau, the predecessor to today’s BATFE. He worked to combat bootlegging in the Midwest during prohibition and was the Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago division that brought down gangster Al Capone with indictments on over 5,000 prohibition violations. This story is recounted in a book he authored with Oscar Fraley called The Untouchables, as well as a television series and movie by the same name.

When prohibition ended in 1933, Ness transferred from Chicago to Cincinnati and then Cleveland to serve as the Special Agent in Charge of the northern district of Ohio’s Alcohol and Tobacco Unit. In 1936, he left federal investigations to become the Cleveland Public Safety Director.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Al Capone Era Murder Mystery To Be Examined by Chicago's Cold Case Unit

The City Council’s resident historian cracked open the history books for another re-write Tuesday, this time involving some of Chicago’s most notorious characters: mob boss Al Capone; Prohibition Agent Eliot Ness and Edward J. O’Hare, father of the city’s most famous war hero.

Thirteen years after absolving Mrs. O’Leary’s cow of responsibility for the Great Chicago Fire, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) wants to set the record straight about the role O’Hare played in Capone’s conviction — and possibly shed new light on O’Hare’s gangland-style 1939 murder.

At Burke’s behest, the deputy chief of detectives in charge of the Chicago Police Department’s Cold Case Squad agreed to take a fresh look at the 70-year-old murder case, with help from a soon-to-be-released book about Capone that just might provide a few clues.

Asked how much time he expects police to spend on the case, Burke replied, “Very little.” The alderman said he’s more concerned about setting the record straight about the role played by Edward J. O’Hare, Capone’s business partner-turned-federal informant.

“O’Hare was the linchpin in the criminal investigation that led to the conviction of Capone. But for his cooperation, Capone may never have been brought to justice,” Burke told the Police Committee. “If nothing else, O’Hare’s reputation ought to be rehabilitated and the truth ought to be known. ... It was not ‘The Untouchables.’ It was not the role played by Kevin Costner ... that led to the conviction of Al Capone, the most notorious criminal of American history. ... It’s a fiction of Hollywood.”

The story of Edward “Butch” O’Hare, is well-known. He was the World War II fighter pilot who shot down five Japanese bombers, saved the U.S.S. Lexington and was ultimately rewarded by having his name attached to the airport once known as Orchard Field.

Lesser known is the fact that the war hero’s father, Edward J. O’Hare, was a gambler and owner of the Hawthorne Kennel Club racetrack in Cicero who partnered with Capone only to turn on the Chicago mob boss.

The elder O’Hare helped crack Capone’s bookkeeping codes, leading to the mobster’s conviction on tax evasion charges.

On Nov. 8, 1939, the 46-year-old O’Hare was driving his new Lincoln Zephyr near Ogden and Rockwell when he was gunned down by three men wielding shotguns.

The car carrying the gunmen was reportedly traced to a Cicero nightclub owned by Ralph Capone, Al’s older brother.

Newspaper stories at the time described O’Hare as a “prize moneymaker for the mob” and speculated that he was assassinated, either in retaliation for ratting on Capone or to serve notice that Capone was planning a comeback.

During’s Tuesday’s Police Committee hearing, Jonathan Eig, author of the soon-to-be-published book, “Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America's Most Wanted Gangster,” offered a different explanation.

Eig noted that, at the time of O’Hare’s murder, Capone was suffering from syphilis that had ravaged his mind and body — so much so that he was “incapable of and uninterested in resuming his career.” And even though O’Hare helped deliver the goods on his former partner, there was “no evidence to suggest that Capone knew it,” the author said.

Instead, Eig pointed fingers at a Capone family struggling to pay medical bills, court fines and a $300,000 debt to the IRS.

“Prohibition was over. The old outfit was earning at a fraction of its peak. But, Eddie O’Hare was still making money at his racetracks, including Sportsman’s Park,” Eig said.

Noting that Al Capone was a “silent partner” in the racetrack, Eig said, “To round up cash, the Capone brothers would likely have turned to O’Hare and demanded Al’s fair share of the profits. O’Hare was a big, strong, tough and stubborn man. If he refused to pay — or if he refused to pay as much as the Capones wanted — he would have understood the consequences. That’s why he was carrying a pistol at the time of the shooting.”

Burke believes the murder investigation was derailed from the outset by Daniel “Tubbo” Aloysius Gilbert, the chief investigator for the Cook County state’s attorney. Gilbert was subsequently described by investigators as Chicago’s “richest cop.”

“If the mob ever had a police chief, it was Gilbert,” Burke said.

Thanks to Fran Spielman

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Eliot Ness and Al Capone Move to Turkey

If this column were written regularly in Turkish and I were a columnist of greater importance, I would have sworn that the man opposite me had been reading my mind. The man opposite me is, of course, the Turkish Prime Minister.

I warned our bosses more than a year ago that our group might face “corporate consequences” if we did not “behave.” We did not. And we suffered terrible corporate consequences. Last month, I expressed my concern that our boss, Aydın Doğan, might face prison if we did not behave. I compared Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vs Aydın Doğan to Vladimir Putin vs Mikhail Khodorkovsky. And a few days ago Prime Minister Erdoğan likened Doğan to Al Capone. That’s a bad sign.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 5, Erdoğan played the Turkish reincarnation of Eliot Ness, the Bureau of Prohibition agent and the man who finished off Capone as he compared the $3.2 billion tax case against Doğan with the U.S. pursuit of the famous gangster on tax-evasion charges in the 1930s. Erdoğan said: “In the U.S. there are also people who have had problems with evading taxes. Al Capone comes to mind. He was very rich, but then he spent the rest of his life in jail. Nobody raised a voice when those events happened.”

Now, what should we make of that? That champion tax payer Doğan is in fact Turkey’s public enemy number one? That he is a gangster engaged in mob wars and massacres but never leaves behind evidence so that he could be brought to justice for his crimes? That the only way to nail him was to send him a crippling tax fine? That, Doğan, like Capone, could also spend the rest of his life in jail despite his wealth?

The truth is, by using the Capone analogy, Erdoğan has unwisely confessed that his problem with Doğan was about a matter “other than taxation,” but that taxation was the only way to hit Doğan. What could that “matter” be? Drug smuggling? Racketeering? Mass killings of business rivals? Torture? Bombs and subversion? It’s just too obvious, and even my cat could tell you the truth if he could speak (in fact, he tried to scratch an answer on the rug, but I should not mention his argument here lest he be carted off to pet prison).

What else does WSJ’s Erdoğan quote tell us? Why did the prime minister say that “Capone spent the rest of his life in jail and nobody raised a voice when those events happened?” Could it be because Erdoğan is annoyed by the international reaction against the tax case, including senior EU officials warning that this case will come under the press freedom heading in this year’s annual progress report?

Apparently, Erdoğan expects everyone, especially the West, to remain silent about Doğan just as everyone was silent about Capone in the 1930s. That is hardly surprising, since the first one to criticize the international chorus of complaints about the Doğan affair was, ironically, Erdoğan’s minister for the EU, Egemen Bağış. According to Messrs. Erdoğan and Bağış, it was wrong of Doğan to voice complaints “to foreigners” about the most unprecedented tax fine in Turkish fiscal history.

In Erdoğan’s ideal world, his Western friends must treat Doğan like others treated Capone in the 1930s. Naturally, in his fairy tale, Erdoğan is the good-hearted patriot Ness fighting against public enemy number one. What heroic roles Bağış and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek would assume is difficult to guess, given the bizarre analogy. But I heard my cat meow-laughing loudly when Şimşek said that the tax fine was “purely technical.”

I have no idea what kind of car or cars Doğan drives, but they may be seized soon too. How do I know? From mob history. Scarface Al’s bullet-proof Cadillac was seized by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1932 and was later used as President Franklin D. Roosevelt's limousine. And what happens when the likes of Capone are totally eliminated from the scene? After Capone was jailed for income tax evasion in 1932, the Chicago mob flourished, establishing itself as one of the most innovative criminal associations in the country. That should be a message for Erdoğan. In a world with increasingly easier access to information, Erdoğan may even regret having fixated on one man, since the thousands of different voices that constitute the Doğan Media Group today may flourish and become a powerful, combined voice for “the opposition” tomorrow.

Thanks to Burak Bekdil

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Vintage Untouchables

The Untouchables - Season One, Volume Twoicon
The Untouchables
Thirty years before they hit the big screen via Brian DePalma's brilliant movie adaptation, Eliot Ness's legendary exploits came to life in the classic 1950s and '60s television series THE UNTOUCHABLES. Created by veteran crime-drama producer Quinn Martin, the series followed Ness (Robert Stack) and his team of crack crimefighters--including agents Martin Flaherty (Jerry Paris), Jack Rossman (Steve London), Enrico Rossi (Nicholas Georgiade), and William Youngellow (Abel Fernandez)--as they took on the Mafia underworld of gangsters Al Capone (Neville Brand) and Frank Nitti (Bruce Gordon) in Prohibition-era Chicago. Smart and iconic, the series distinguished itself with superb voiceover narration from broadcaster Walter Winchell and a gritty style that nonetheless eschewed graphic depictions of gore and violence. This collection presents the second half of the vintage series' debut season.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Untouchables

"The Untouchables" is one of the few television shows I really missed on DVD. I loved watching it when I was younger and would eat up every single episode of Eliot Ness fighting the Chicago Mob. Accordingly my excitement was high when Paramount Home Entertainment finally announced a DVD version of the series and dropped this little package in my lap.

"The Untouchables" tells the relentless fight of Eliot Ness and his special squad of policemen against the Chicago mob during the Prohibition era in the 1930s. In the one corner was Ness and in the other corner was mobster legend Al Capone and their countless battles have been well documented by history. Ness and his squad of incorruptible agents managed to infiltrate Capone's corporations and damage its illegal operations of alcohol distribution on countless occasions making him the number one enemy of the mob. But despite all efforts, Capone was never able to buy off any of the "Untouchables" or to kill Eliot Ness. But the focus of Ness' work was not only Capone - in fact his antics are covered in the pilot episodes - but also many other infamous mobsters, all of which make appearances in this television series, adding to the breadth of the show.

"The Untouchables" was running from 1959 until 1963 and made for some great entertainment that was pretty gritty given its subject matter. Borrowing heavily from the film noir genre that was popular in the days the series has an ominous and dark look to it and doesn't go easy on the violence or bullet-count. The acting is also in line with some of the best noir classics where men were portrayed as super-tough guys without too many words and always ready to pull an automatic gun out of their overcoats. Robert Stack plays Eliot Ness and he plays the character to the hilt and he is supported by a great cast, including guest stars such as Peter Falk, Telly Savalas, Lee Van Cleef, Lee Marvin and many others over the years.

As a cool extra the release actually contains the seamless theatrical version of the show's two pilot episodes. While initially broadcast separately these episodes were later spliced together without their TV introductions and shown in theaters. That is the version you will find here. The original TV introductions are also included, both now running in front of the pilot.

Here now we have the first 14 episodes of the show on DVD as Paramount release "The Untouchables: Season 1 Volume 1." I am not quite sure why Paramount decided to split the season in half – my guess would be to keep the retail price per DVD set down and more attractive as opposed to trying and sell a DVD set at twice the price. Be that as it may the quality of the presentation on this DVD set is "untouchable" – excuse the pun. I was truly amazed at the quality of this show that is almost 60 years old. Paramount cleaned up the transfer and you will be hard pressed to find any blemishes, scratches or other defects in the presentation. What's more, there's not even a hint of grain. I found myself staring at the screen unable to believe that what I was watching was really created in 1959! The black and white presentation is rich and runs the entire gamut of contrast with bright highlights and solid, deep blacks. Grays are balanced and fall off nicely creating a balanced picture that never looks harsh or dated. Without compression artifacts or edge-enhancement, this is truly a classic TV presentation to behold.

The audio presentation has also been cleaned up and is free of hiss or defects. However, given the age, the frequency response is limited giving the presentation a harsh-sounding edge. On top of that the dialogue elements are in varying states of quality and thus the audio presentation can change quite a bit from scene to scene. Still, to me it adds to the vintage feel of the show and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Paramount Home Entertainment blew me away with the quality of this release. It is simply amazing what modern technology and a little TLC can do to something like a 60-year old television show. I know that for the next couple of nights I will be glued to the screen watching episode for episode of this great TV series and then eagerly expecting the second volume and other season box sets. Let's just hope Paramount's won't be taking too long to bring them on.

Thanks to DVD Review

Friday, March 09, 2007

Mobster Gardners

Friends of mine: John "Dressed Up Johnny" Gardner, William "Peck" Gardner, Bill Gardner, William J. "Sonny" Sheetz

A reader has contacted me looking for some additional information on notorious men with the surname of Gardner. If you can supply me with any further information, please send me your scoops.

John Gardner, a notorious character and gangster of the worst kind, known as "Dressed - Up Johnny". I am trying to find information about him. He was involved in syndicated bank robbery and had robbed a post office before, but was known to have committed several other crimes. I think he had been in Judge George W. English's courtroom, which was Eastern District of Illinois.

William "Peck" Gardner (1869 - 1954), a possible East Chicago mob boss, came from Baltimore, claimed to have boxed at Madison Square Garden, claimed to have been a Merchant Marine, his family history says that he had killed a man in a gunfight after being wounded three times. Gardner moved to Texas where he worked as a railroad engineer, then he would haul illegal liquor from East Texas to East Chicago during the Prohibition. He and William J. "Sonny" Sheetz headed the notorious gambling joint known as the "Big House" which had raked in as much as $9 million. Gardner and Sheetz were the operators of the East Chicago syndicate until it closed in 1950. Gardner eluded Pinkerton detectives and he later died in Texas.

Also, one of Eliot Ness' famous "Untouchables" was Bill Gardner, who was a half Indian, described as an enormous, handsome man with an olive complexion. He was the oldest of the agents, being in his late forties. He had been a famed pro football star, had served in WWI, and had been an attorney before becoming a FBI agent.


Affliction Sale

Flash Mafia Book Sales!