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Showing posts with label Frank Nitti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frank Nitti. Show all posts

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.

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Century of Chicago Mob Bosses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 15, 2018

How "Handsome Johnny" Roselli Infiltrated Hollywood for the Mob, Pulled Off a Major Scam, and Got Whacked

On July 28, 1976, “Handsome Johnny” Rosselli, a mobster who rose up through the ranks with Al Capone, had brunch with his sister in Miami before borrowing her car and driving to the marina. There, he boarded a private boat with two men, one of them an old friend. But when they got out to sea, the third man—someone Rosselli didn't know from Chicago—strangled the 71-year-old gangster to death. He wasn’t even on the vessel an hour and he was dead, rubbed out by a Mafia hitman who sawed off his legs, stuffed his body into a 55-gallon oil drum, and threw the barrel overboard into Dumfoundling Bay.

The barrel didn’t sink, and fishermen found it ten days later lodged on a sand bar in a canal, as the New York Times reported the following February.

It was an ignoble end for Rosselli, a self-styled playboy who acted as the Mafia’s ambassador both in Los Angeles in the 1930s and Las Vegas in the 1950s. A charming racketeer who held company with infamous mafiosos, Hollywood moneymen, stars and starlets, Rosselli even had some encounters with members of Congress before it all unraveled for him in Miami.

In the new book, HANDSOME JOHNNY—The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin, Lee Server explores the life and times of the man who helped bridge the gap between the movies and the mob. VICE talked to Server to find out how Rosselli made it into the organized crime mold—and how he brought mafia muscle to bear in Hollywood, at least for a while.

VICE: Was there one moment that you suspect kind of set Johnny Rosselli on a course to organized crime?
Lee Server: Rosselli had been drifting across America as a young man. He’d settled in Los Angeles in the 1920s, become a bootlegger, then a gambler and racketeer. A fortuitous encounter brought him to the attention of Al Capone, whose eye for criminal talent was second to no one. He recognized something in Johnny at a time when Capone was in need of a liaison between Chicago and the West Coast. He became a kind of honorary consul for the Chicago Outfit in LA

I think we all had a vague sense that the mob might have been involved in Hollywood productions, but this wasn't just a question of peripheral dabbling—it went to the top.
Part of Rosselli’s "assignment" in Los Angeles was to cultivate relationships with the film industry hierarchy. He knew everybody, dated movie stars, played golf with studio heads. His closest industry friend was the boss of Columbia Pictures, Harry Cohn. They socialized together, and Johnny was often at the studio advising the mogul on his gangster pictures. When Cohn needed a large loan in a hurry it was Johnny who put him together with East Coast mobster [Abner Zwillman]. This had its own complications, as the mobster maintained his secret piece of Cohn’s studio for many years, until he died suddenly, tortured to death or by his own hand, depending whose story you believe.

Rosselli's meddling eventually spun out of control, right?
He collaborated with Frank Nitti—Capone’s successor in the Chicago mob—on a plot to take down the entire Hollywood movie business. They did this through gaining control of a labor union, and then demanding huge under-the-table payoffs from each studio, threatening to close down all movie production if they didn’t pay. The mobsters made millions. It came undone in the end, and many of the perpetrators ended up in prison.

He did actually co-produce films like He Walked By Night and Canon City later in the 1940s—so his wasn't just a criminal gig. Did you take that as a deliberate choice, to find traditional work?
When Rosselli got out of prison on parole, he had to find legit employment. Most ex-cons usually met this parole requirement by taking day-labor jobs, working as dishwashers or similar. Rosselli being Rosselli, he got a job as an associate producer at a movie studio. He formed a production company with Bryan Foy and produced two noir crime pictures in a row. My research revealed how important Rosselli’s contribution was to developing these two great films.

I was struck by just how many public friendships he had with such big names—it was pretty brazen stuff, even after his stints in prison.
Johnny met Marilyn Monroe through the producer (and felon) Joseph Schenck. They were close for a while, lovers according to some. I could not confirm it, but the rumor was that he helped get Monroe her first prominent part in Ladies of the Chorus at Columbia.

As the virtual godfather of Las Vegas in the 50s and 60s, Rosselli knew most of the big showbiz stars who played the showrooms. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were personal friends. They partied together. Frank and Dean sponsored Johnny’s membership in the Friar’s Club.

This guy clearly had a flair for the dramatic. Was there one episode you think captured that?
The Kefauver Hearings in the early 1950s was the first in-depth government investigation of nationwide organized crime. Few people in America knew just how far-reaching was the spread of what was known then as the Mob and the Syndicate, corrupting every area of the country. The Kefauver group from Washington hauled in every top gangster, including Johnny Rosselli. Unlike most of the mobsters, who tried to play it tough and not say anything (and some went to jail for it), Rosselli answered every question, but with a strategic skill that ultimately gave nothing away.

But what got him killed if not his (repeated) Senate testimony?
I’ll echo the words the homicide detective who found his body said to me: he had pissed off a lot of people.

Thanks to Seth Ferranti.

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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Touhy vs. Capone: The Chicago Outfit’s Biggest Frame Job

Touhy vs. Capone: The Chicago Outfit's Biggest Frame Job.

When beat cop Don Herion and his partner responded to shots fired on December 16, 1959, they didn’t know that they had heard the final, fatal salvo in one of the most contorted conflicts in the history of organized crime. A canny bootlegger, Roger Touhy had survived a gang war with Al Capone, false imprisonment for a faked kidnapping, a prison break and recapture. His story dragged in all the notorious men of his day: Frank Nitti, John “Jake the Barber” Factor, Mayor Cermak, Melvin Purvis, J. Edgar Hoover, Baby Face Nelson, Dan “Tubbo” Gilbert, FDR and JFK. As Touhy’s life was ending on his sister’s front porch, Herion’s quest to unravel the tangle of events that led to his assassination had just begun.

A native of the Windy City, Don Herion joined the Chicago Police Department in 1955. On a cold winter night in 1959, he was called to the scene of Roger Touhy’s murder. Herion retired after forty-eight years on the job, including two years of undercover work for the Chicago Crime Commission. He is the author of Pay, Quit, or Die: Chicago Mob Ultimatum, and The Chicago Way.

Touhy vs. Capone: The Chicago Outfit's Biggest Frame Job.

Monday, May 01, 2017

30 Illegal Years to the Strip: The Untold Stories Of The Gangsters Who Built The Early Las Vegas Strip

30 Illegal Years To The Strip: The Untold Stories Of The Gangsters Who Built The Early Las Vegas Strip.

These are the untold inside stories of Prohibition’s most powerful leaders, and how they later ran elegant, illegal casinos across America, before moving on to build the glamorous Las Vegas Strip gambling resorts.

The seven leaders of the three dominating Prohibition gangs imported the world’s finest liquors on a massive scale. Although they conducted their business in an illegal and dangerous world, these seven espoused traditional business values and rejected the key tools of organized crime - monopoly, violence, and vendetta. This made them the most unlikely gangsters to rise to underworld leadership. But they earned every criminal’s respect, and fate made them the most powerful gangland leaders in American history.

Unbelievably, the most murderous and most psychopathic gang leaders not only admired them but supported them in gangland conflicts. In the mid 1900s, these seven leaders stood up to, and restrained, America’s worst villains. The seven prevented many gangland wars and killings.

The three dominating liquor-importers were the first gangs to work closely together in mutual interest. Joining them was the violent Chicago Capone gang, as they partnered in both illegal and legal businesses during and after Prohibition. They were also close allies in the complexities, treachery, and violence of underworld politics.

Some of these seven leaders became powerful overworld political kingmakers. Allied with them in New York City politics was Arnold Rothstein, the ultimate gambler. His murder is one of several major gangland killings finally solved here.

Great entertainment was a key part of these seven gang leaders’ illegal-casino and Strip-resort showrooms. Their biggest-drawing star was comedian Joe E. Lewis. He set the standards for excellence during the half-century popularity of nightclub and casino showroom entertainment.

The action-packed careers and relationships of the gang leaders, who together would go on to build the Las Vegas Strip, are presented for the first time in this thoroughly documented, in-depth, authentic history of how organized crime developed. It contains 546 source notes, and many addendums that expose the serious fallacies and outright fictions of previous books about early organized crime.

Friday, April 01, 2016

In Capone's Shadow: Former Teacher Writes Book on Frank Nitti

Book Review of "After Capone: The Life and World of Chicago Mob Boss Frank The Enforcer"" Nitti""" by Mars Eghigian reviewed by Wally Spiers

Even the title of Mars Eghigian Jr.'s new book reflects the fact that Frank Nitti has always been in the shadow of the flamboyant Al Capone.

"After Capone. The Life and World of Chicago Mob Boss Frank (the Enforcer) Nitti," (437 pages, 75 pages of notes, Cumberland House Publishing Inc.) tells the story of the quieter Nitti who ran the Chicago Mob for more than a decade after Capone built the organization from bootlegging liquor.

The book offers insight to gangland events of the time in Chicago and other connected cities -- not just what happened but also why it happened. It tells of the transformation of the mob from Prohibition busters to gambling and protection racketeering.

Nitti actually was named Francesco Raffele Nitto when he was born in Italy. He Anglicized it to Frank Nitto but even then his last name was constantly misspelled.

Eghigian, of Belleville, is a former horticulture teacher at Southwestern Illinois College and now is a financial planner.

Why, then, a book on a Chicago crime boss? Eghigian said his grandfather came to the metro-east about the time of World War I and established a dry cleaning business on 13th Street in East St. Louis. "When I was a kid I would hear stories at dinner," he said. "My family knew of the local mobsters and protection rackets, like the Master Cleaners and Dyers Association.

"They told stories like the exploding suits."

Exploding suits?

Apparently, to make their points about the need for protection, mobsters would have agents drop off suits or coats in which flammable material had been sewn in the lining. When the heat of the presses hit the material, it would explode, scaring the wits out of everyone.

Eghigian said he found that there really was not much published information on Nitti. "Nobody wrote abut him, at least not accurately," he said.

Eghigian asked a friend who also was an author, former FBI agent Bill Roemer, about the gangster. "He said, 'Nitti was just one of those guys who fell through the cracks. Why don't you write a book?'" Eghigian said. Then Roemer provided Eghigian with a lot of leads.

Eghigian said he has really worked on the book since 1991. Instead of vacations at the beach, he would be in libraries and microfilm files, digging out information.

He found that Nitti ran Chicago after the imprisonment of Capone, even during Nitti's own 18-month prison sentence. In fact, Nitti was in charge for much longer than Capone, until Nitti committed suicide in 1943.

"My goal was to put out a professional project, to do the work. I thought I had time. Nobody had touched Nitti for more than 40 years. Luckily I was right," Eghigian said.

Eghigian is working on other projects now in relation to crime and gangs. He said it is nice to see the results of all his work. "It was a fun project," he said. "It's really fun to see it finished."

Thanks to Wally Spiers

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Kiddo, Joe Batters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to John William Touhy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Mob Gets the Tax Man, @TheMobMuseum Receives Donation of Artifacts from the Estate of Famed IRS Investigative Chief Elmer Lincoln Irey

The Mob Museum, The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, recently added to its Archives a collection of artifacts related to U.S. Treasury Department official Elmer Lincoln Irey (1888–1948), famed chief of the U.S. Treasury Department’s law enforcement agencies. Active from 1919 until his retirement in 1946, Irey eventually oversaw the operations of the U.S. Secret Service, the IRS Intelligence Unit, U.S. Customs and the Bureau of Narcotics, the Alcohol Tax Unit and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Irey led investigations credited with the prosecution of many notorious mobsters, including Al Capone, Waxey Gordon, Leon Gleckman, Johnny Torrio, Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, Moe Annenberg, Tom Pendergast, Frank Nitti, Paul Ricca and Louis Campagna. He is also recognized for the capture of suspected Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann. The Irey artifacts, which include newspaper clippings, correspondence between Irey and Charles Lindbergh as well as Franklin D. Roosevelt, photographs and other records, were donated to the Museum by the Gridley family.

The Mob Museum Archives are available to scholars, researchers and working press on an appointment basis. Building an archival collection enables the Museum to serve as a resource for those working in the fields of organized crime and law enforcement.

“We’re extremely grateful to Carole Irey Gridley and the entire Irey family for donating this collection to the Museum,” said Jonathan Ullman, executive director and CEO, The Mob Museum. “Adding important materials such as these to the Museum’s Archives is one of our long-term priorities. Irey’s investigative work for the U.S. Treasury Department was instrumental in apprehending many of the early 20th century’s most infamous Mob figures.”

A new exhibition, including the Irey objects and artifacts, is in development at the Museum with its public opening expected to be announced next year.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Harry Caray Link to the Chicago Mob?

The former Chicago Varnish company building is 115 years old -- a Dutch renaissance revival masterpiece – and is famous for more than just being the home to Harry Caray’s, one of Chicago's most famous eateries.

There's a connection to Chicago's Gangland Era, and in particular to AL Capone's top henchman Frank Nitti, the enforcer, who held an apartment there from 1939 to 1943.

There's a separate bedroom with a cedar-lined closet, and a still-functioning bathroom replete with vintage pink and black tile. And there's more: Harry Caray's president and managing partner Grant Deporter took FOX Chicago to the basement, where 15 years ago an electrician discovered a passageway behind a wall he was working on.

The tunnel -- once a distribution path for coal – is now used for storage.

Back in the basement, in what is now Harry Caray's wine room, there’s a bit of history we have no chance of destroying: an old safe believed to belong to Nitti.

Thanks to Corey McPherrin

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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

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.
SPECIAL DOOR PRIZES.

ONLY $30 PER PERSON -- ALL INCLUSIVE (tax, tip)
FREE PARKING!!

AT MARCELLO'S RESTAURANT
("HOME OF THE FAMOUS 'FATHER & SON PIZZA")
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.

SEATING IS LIMITED. CALL TODAY TO ORDER: 708-499-0300.

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

Richard T. Crowe
POB 557544
Chicago, IL 60655

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Untold Stories of Alderman Don Parrillo

Former First Ward Alderman Don Parrillo, 78, is the most admittedly corrupt Chicago politician you likely never heard of. But that's likely to change.

Parrillo, who represented the city's notorious 1st Ward from 1964 to 1968, is about to self-publish a controversial book concerning organized crime and political corruption in the city Al Capone made famous.

His father, William "Billy" Parrillo, was the attorney of choice for the Chicago mob's elite, he says - Al Capone, Frank Nitti and Sam Giancana, among them.

Consequently, the alderman has a lot stories. "I started talking into my tape recorder," Parrillo explains. "I've got 16 chapters."

"I name names unless the person is still alive or a member of their family is still alive," he says, adding with a laugh, "I want to stay that way."

Parrillo also admits that getting into Chicago politics wasn't exactly his idea.

He was asked to run for alderman as a personal favor by Chicago Outfit boss Sam Giancana, who used to drive him and his brother to school as kids, Parrillo says. "This was before Giancana was anybody...I used to call him Mr. Sam."

Other Parrillo tales range from the simply curious - it was American film sex symbol of the 1930s, Jean Harlow, who infected Al Capone with the syphilis that eventually killed him - to the simply conspiratorial - the Kennedy brothers' (JFK & RFK) alleged involvement in the death of another American film sex icon, Marilyn Monroe.

For an unauthorized account of both Parrillo and his book, see reporter Anthony DeBartolo's 4,000-word Hyde Park Media web exclusive: "The Untold Stories of Alderman Don Parrillo."

Anthony DeBartolo is a Chicago-based reporter who has frequently contributed to the Chicago Tribune. His feature work has also appeared in daily newspapers across the U.S. and in Canada, including the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Sun-Times, Orlando Sun-Sentinel, Sacramento Bee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Toronto Star.

DeBartolo is also the author of the special interest health book, "Lupus Underground: A Patient's Case for a Long-Ignored, Drug-Free, Non-Patentable, Counter-Intuitive Therapy That Actually Works"

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Historic Photo Links Al Capone to Chicago's Mayor

A Chicago professor thinks he has finally gotten the goods on Chicago Mayor William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson and Al "Scarface" Capone.

His key piece of evidence comes courtesy of a photo snapped long ago in La Salle County by an Ottawa photographer.

On Dec. 9, 1930, a panoramic shot was taken of about 300 people standing in front of and on top of St. Joseph's Health Resort, along the Fox River in Wedron. The occasion was William Hale Thompson Day, because Thompson was at the resort recuperating from appendix surgery.

Thompson was considered by some the best mayor money could buy, holding Chicago's highest office from 1915 to 1923 and again from 1927 to 1931 — smack in the middle of the Capone era. Many historians also believe Thompson was smack in the middle of Capone's pocket. However, the hard proof connecting the two was not there.

Until perhaps nowThe Chicago Outfit, according to John Binder, a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago and a researcher into Windy City crime. In 2003, Binder penned a book, "The Chicago Outfit." He has also been interviewed about the Chicago underworld on such cable television channels as A&E, the History Channel and the Discovery Channel.

He recently bought a print of the Wedron photo from a man who worked for the gas company in Chicago. The man said he entered a vacant building on the North Side to disconnect gas lines and found the photo on top a garbage can.

"I asked him about the origins of the photo several times and he never waivered from his story," Binder said as to how the man claimed he came upon the photo.

Binder examined the approximately three-foot long photo. Thompson was easily identifiable, but determining if Capone was present among the sea of mugs was similar to playing the game "Where's Waldo?" One heavy-set Italian-looking gentleman smoking a cigar in the front row, has always been a favorite choice for Capone among La Salle County locals who examined the picture. But despite sharing a general similarity, the man is not Capone, husband of Mae, said Binder.

Binder went online to search for information about the picture, coming upon an excerpt about Thompson and Wedron in the book, "Capone's Cornfields: The Mob in the Illinois Valley." During the next few days, Binder kept studying the photo until it came time for him to yell, "Eureka!"

Binder said he is "99 percent plus positive" Capone is standing about dead center on the roof, diagonally from Thompson, who is below on the resort's steps. The man Binder tapped for Capone is smiling, clad in an unbuttoned overcoat and wearing a vest and pearl gray fedora, the same type fedora Capone wore in a 1929 mug shot taken by Philadelphia police.

Several men on either side of the possible Capone also sport pearl gray fedoras — a trademark among the Capone gang, Binder pointed out. One of the chaps near Capone is also built like a refrigerator. Another trademark. Binder is certain one of the men is Mike Spranze, an underworld gunsel who was close to Capone. Another one looks similar to a man visible in a newsreel of Capone leaving the federal courthouse in Chicago in 1931.

Capone was 31 years old at the time of the St. Joseph's photo, standing 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall and tipping the scales at more than 220 pounds.

Binder showed the photo to two other Capone experts — Scarface scholar Jeff Thurston and Mars Eghigian, biographer of Capone chum Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti — and they agreed with him. Capone and Thompson in the same picture.

"It makes it undeniable there was a connection. This explicitly links them. This wasn't downtown Chicago, where they could have accidentally come together," Binder said. "This photo is historically significant."

Binder is also convinced this links well with La Salle County lore that says Capone visited the county, in particular the Wedron resort.

Binder also pointed out as a clue Thompson and Capone were in cahoots, was the fact the Chicago Tribune more than once ran stories accusing Thompson of accepting money from Capone, stories which Thompson did not deny and for which he did not try to sue. After Thompson went to his reward in 1944, almost $1.5 million cash was found in his safety deposit boxes. Thompson never earned more than $22,500 annually during his 12 years as mayor.

The man who possibly rewarded Thompson on Earth — Capone — followed Thompson into the hereafter three years later, dying in Florida from complications of syphilis. The man who shot the Wedron photo, Ottawa commercial photographer Richard Kuyl, died in his apartment at 805 1/2 Court St., Ottawa, in December 1958 at age 73.

Thanks to DAN CHURNEYCapone's Cornfields: The Mob in the Illinois Valley, who wrote this article. Dan is the author of "Capone's Cornfields: The Mob in the Illinois Valley."He was called by John Binder, and they discussed the merits of the historic photo, with Dan sharing information about the resort, Thompson's visit and local lore about Capone. Dan sees the resemblance, but would like to see more evidence. If you have any thoughts, email Dan at danc@mywebtimes.com.

Chicago professor and mob researcher John Binder is convinced infamous gangster Al Capone is present in this photograph of Chicago Mayor William
Chicago professor and mob researcher John Binder is convinced infamous gangster Al Capone is present in this photograph of Chicago Mayor William "Big Bill" Thompson and others, which was snapped Dec. 9, 1930, at St. Joseph's Health Resort in Wedron. The man Binder believes is Capone, is standing on the roof, marked No. 2. The man third from Capone's left, marked No. 3, Binder identifies as Mike Spranze, a Capone henchman. This is a cropped version of the original photo, which shows more people.

The overall view of the Wedron photo. Chicago Mayor william Thompson is shown on or near steps at the left and is marked No. 1.
The overall view of the Wedron photo. Chicago Mayor william Thompson is shown on or near steps at the left and is marked No. 1.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mob Mug Shot Collection Exceeds 10,000 Photos

When mobster Lucky Luciano was being photographed by New York City police in 1936, he probably had no idea his mug shot would one day be sought after like a Babe Ruth baseball card. But to collectors like John Binder of River Forest, that's a valuable piece of... art?

These unglamorous shots and lineup photos are being accepted as art with more than just collectors seeking them. Binder said when the photos were taken, there was some consideration of composition and lighting, and the pictures were developed on photographic paper before police departments started using Polaroids and later digital cameras. Thus, he said, the art world has become more accepting of these photos as art, and there have been exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York.

"The art world has expanded dramatically in the last few years," Binder said. "The early ones used much better photography."

Binder, author of The Chicago Outfit, has amassed more than 10,000 mug shots and lineup photos of a range of crooks, from everyday petty criminals to mob bosses. Some get displayed in galleries, some get sold or traded, some never leave his collection, which includes some of the most infamous organized crime figures in history: Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegal, Sam Giancana, Joey "The Clown" Lombardo, John "No Nose" DiFronzo, Tony "Big Tuna" Accardo, and Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti.

His interest in mug shots and lineup photos began in the 1990s, when he started researching who the other people were in a photograph of Al Capone. It led to more research into the world of organized crime in Chicago and New York, which led to him purchasing crime photos.

"It's just a general interest in history," he said. "The photographs are interesting in their own right."

He started his collection with the purchase of 10,000 photos from a collectibles dealer, who bought them from a retired police officer's family. Binder has added to the collection with one or two photos at a time from various sources. He has one of the biggest collections of its kind in the United States.

He admits it's an esoteric collection. It's not like someone can just walk into a shop and say, "I'm looking for a mug shot of a ruthless criminal."

Binder said collectors of crime photos rely on word of mouth and, if they're lucky, someone will let them dig through their old photos. Sometimes police departments will have stored old mug shots and lineup photos, and put them up for sale on Ebay.

Binder sold an original 1927 Bugsy Siegal mug shot for well over $1,000, and has sold several photos of lesser-known criminals to cops and attorneys who want to use them to decorate their bars or offices.

"There is a price for most of what I have," he said. "But, some of the good stuff I keep for my own private collection."

But, he doesn't have everybody.

Wanted: An original Al Capone mug shot.

Thanks to J.T. Morand

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Print Edition of Informer is Now Available

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

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

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

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Will the Chicago Outfit Assign Hitmen to Compose 'Trunk Music' Against the Writers Guild?

Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart has come up with a novel idea to end the six-week-old writers’ strike – bring in the Chicago mafia to whack a few leaders of the striking Writers Guild.

In a column that ran in Daily Variety on Dec.10 under the headline “A way to settle so it’s all in the ‘family’” – with the word ‘family’ in quotes to make sure we all know he’s talking about the Mafia – Bart writes: “OK. I’ll admit it: I was once on reasonably friendly terms with Sidney Korshak” – the Chicago mafia’s man in Hollywood for more than 50 years.

KorshakSupermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers, who was the go-to guy for the late-Universal Studios mogul Lew Wasserman when contract talks stalled, was a master of “the trade-off,” according to Bart, although in fact, Korshak was even more the master of a quite different art – the art of the implied death threat.

“Korshak died 11 years ago,” Bart writes, “but had he been alive today, he would have been dismayed by the state of disarray in Hollywood. The writers and show-runners don’t seem to appreciate what management has done for them, he would have declared. And the companies similarly seem to have lost their talent at hard bargaining.

“Korshak surely would have enhanced the proposed compensation for digital downloads (one of the sticking points in the contract talks), and had his offer not been embraced, a few individuals might have been downloaded as well. Peace would prevail.”

Here, by ‘downloaded,’ Bart apparently means whacked; and by “a few individuals,” he assumedly means union leaders, since they are the ones to whom contract offers are generally made.

“Does he know what century we’re in?” asked an astonished member of the WGA’s hierarchy. “Next he’ll be calling on Pinkerton agents to fire into our picket lines.”

Of course, Bart, who is a longtime member of the Writers Guild, may be just joking around – showing off the tough-guy image he has of himself, which is something he’s known to do on occasion. But a reasonable reader might ask: Is this anything for the editor of a newspaper to joke about during an increasingly tense strike?

Joking or not, whacking troublesome Hollywood union leaders is something that Korshak’s friends in the Chicago syndicate were known to do once in a while. One famous case was the murder of Willie Bioff, the #2 guy in the one of Hollywood most powerful unions, who in 1943 publicly identified Sid Korshak as the mob’s man in Hollywood.

Korshak’s ties to the Chicago mob go all the way back to the 1930s and the days of Al Capone. In 1943, his name came up during the sensational trial of some of Chicago’s top mobsters on charges that they’d extorted more than $1 million dollars from Hollywood’s movie studios. Unlike today, however, back then Daily Variety had an editor named Arthur Unger who wasn’t so cozy with the mafia, and who bravely crusaded against the mob, writing editorials in which he called on Hollywood to run the gangsters out of town.

The scandal began in the late 1930s when the Chicago mob seized control of one of Hollywood’s most powerful unions - the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents most of the behind-the-scenes workers in show business.

Frank Nitti, who was running the outfit while Capone was serving time for income tax evasion, controlled the union’s bosses, including Willie Bioff, who was finally indicted on charges of extorting money from the studios in exchange for labor peace.

During the trial, Korshak’s name came up when Bioff testified that he had been introduced to Korshak by one of the mob defendants, who had said: “Willie, meet Sidney Korshak. He is our man. . . . Any messages he might deliver to you is a message from us.”

Nitti had killed himself shortly after being indicted, and a lot of top mob guys went to jail, including Johnnie Roselli and Paul “The Waiter” Ricca. And in 1955, a decade after he was released from prison, Bioff was blown to pieces by a car bomb, which in those days was a signature mob hit.

Korshak, who was once described as “the toughest lawyer in America,” was never charged with any crime, and moved easily between gangsters and movie moguls. Though not licensed to practice law in California, where he lived for many years, Korshak served as an adviser to many of the top Hollywood studios. And at the same time, authorities said, he was also an adviser to such mob figures as Tony “Big Tuna” Accardo, Sam Giancana, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Gus Alex.

In 1978, the California attorney general’s Organized Crime Control Commission issued a report that called Korshak “the key link between organized crime and big business,” noting that he was a “senior adviser” to organized crime groups in California, Chicago, Las Vegas and New York. In a rare interview, Korshak denied the allegations. “I’ve never been cited, let alone indicted, for anything,” Korshak told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1978.

In Hollywood, Korshak helped broker numerous deals for some of the top studios. In 1973, he mediated in the negotiations that led to the sale of MGM’s theaters and properties in its overseas markets to Cinema International Corp., a joint venture between MCA and Paramount. MCA chairman Lew Wasserman and Charles Bluhdorn, whose Gulf & Western owned Paramount, personally negotiated the deal with MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian - with Korshak as mediator.

Bart knew Korshak back in those days, too – back when Bart was second-in-command at Paramount Studios in the 1970s – back when Korshak was the mentor of Bart’s mentor – Robert Evans, who was head of production at Paramount.

“Sidney (Korshak) was in my office every day for 10 years,” Evans said in an interview for my L.A. Weekly cover story about Bart in 1994. “There’s not a day that went by when I was in Los Angeles that Sidney wasn’t there…Sidney and Peter and I spent a lot of time together. They never broke bread. But, you know, Peter was my right-hand guy and Sid was my consigliere, so naturally they met.”

In his book, “The Kid Stays in the Picture: A Notorious Life,” Evans wrote that Korshak “was not only my consigliere, but my godfather and closest friend . . . my lifelong protector.”

Bart, whose coverage of the strike has been criticized for toadying up to management, was a newspaperman in the 1960s before he joined Evans and Korshak in running Paramount Studios. In 1990, Bart actually boasted in an article for Gentlemen’s Quarterly that he carried a gun while covering riots in Los Angeles for The New York Times in the mid-1960s. “I carried a gun in my last days at The Times,” he said, claiming that he had twice been shot at while covering a race riot. “My philosophy was: If a man’s going to shoot at me, he’s going to get it right fucking back. I was a good shot. But it was not Times policy.” (Nor is it the policy of any newspaper in the country.)

And he says he wasn’t joking about having shot people during the Watts Riots. When asked about this in 1994, he told LA Weekly that the gun he used was taken from him “by an L.A. cop who was chasing somebody that ran past. He said, ‘Hey, Pete, do you have a gun? And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘Hand it to me.’ That’s the last I saw of that goddamn gun.”

So maybe he’s kidding about killing union leaders, and maybe he’s exaggerating about shooting black people during the Watts riot. But either way, maybe the Writers Guild should ask: Why is this guy still a member of this union? Isn’t there some bylaw against members advocating the murder of Writers Guild leaders – especially during a strike?

Thanks to David Robb

Magazines.com, Inc.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Vintage Untouchables

The Untouchables - Season One, Volume Twoicon
The Untouchables
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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.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti

Frank NittiFrancesco Raffaele Nitto, better known as Frank "The Enforcer" Nitti (January 27, 1888 — March 19, 1943) was an Italian-American gangster, one of the top henchmen of Al Capone and later a mob boss in his own right.

Nitti was born in Sicily in the 1880s; his gravestone lists his birth year as 1888, but his US immigration documents say 1883. He emigrated to New York City after the end of the First World War, and later moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he set up business as a barber, with a profitable line as a jewel fence on the side. He built an extensive network of associates in the Chicago underworld, and came to the attention of Chicago Mafia boss Johnny Torrio. Later, for Torrio's successor Al Capone, Nitti ran Capone's Prohibition busting liquor smuggling and distribution operation, importing whiskey from Canada and selling it through a network of speakeasies around the city. Nitti was one of Capone's top lieutenants, trusted for his leadership skills and business acumen; despite his nickname "The Enforcer", Nitti used Mafia "soldiers" and other underlings rather than undertake much of the violence himself.

In 1930 Nitti, like Capone, was charged with income tax evasion. Capone was sentenced to eleven years, Nitti to 18 months. Upon his release, he was hailed by the media as the new boss of the Chicago Mafia; in practice he lacked the control over the capos that Capone had enjoyed, and the Capone empire began to fragment, with Nitti acting as a frontman. On December 19, 1932 two Chicago police officers shot Nitti in his office, nearly killing him. Some historians believe they were acting under orders from Mayor Anton Cermak (who, they believe, wanted to redistribute Nitti's empire to gangsters favorable to him). One of the police officers shot himself (non-fatally) to make the shooting look like self-defense.

Unfortunately for the Chicago police (and whoever was behind the shooting), Nitti survived and was acquitted of attempted murder in a February of 1933 trial. The two Chicago police officers responsible for the Nitti shooting were then summarily dismissed from the police force. Cermak decided to take an extended vacation and hang out with President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Florida. On the night of Feb. 15, 1933, a former Italian army marksman, Giuseppe Zangara, was waiting in a crowd at Bayfront Park in Miami. Zangara had three things going for him as an Outfit assassin. He had an inoperable disease, he had a family and he had a gun. From about 30 feet, he popped Cermak in the chest. Roosevelt was not injured because he wasn't the target. Zangara was later executed.

In 1943, many in Chicago organization were indicted for extorting a number of the largest Hollywood movie studios. Many of the higher-ups in the mob, most notably Nitti's second in command Paul Ricca, believed Nitti should take the fall for the rest of them. Fearing another long prison term and possibly suffering from terminal cancer, Nitti shot himself dead in Chicago's Illinois Central railyard on March 19, 1943.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cermak tale teaches more than history

Friends of ours: Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Giuseppe Zanagara, Paul "The Waiter" Ricca

It felt strange giving a history lesson to a potential mayoral candidate about the Chicago Outfit and Chicago politics. And I probably should have kept my mouth shut. But when did that ever happen?

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the Chicago Democrat, and I were talking politics over the phone Wednesday. He explained the importance of coalitions and how other Chicago mayors have put such coalitions together. "If I don't organize Latinos, who will?" he said. "How do I challenge others to be fair and just and more equitable, if I don't organize that voice? If that leads people to seeing me purely in a very myopic way, well, you and I both know that's not representative of my life's work." What is a politician's life's work? This is an eternal question.

I'm more interested in the immediate, like: Will Gutierrez position himself as a viable alternative to Mayor Richard Daley as the feds hammer City Hall? Or, is it more likely that a three-way mayoral campaign between Gutierrez, U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) and Daley would split the vote and keep Daley in office? Consider it the Incumbent Protection Committee. We'll see. These can't be answered in a day, and Gutierrez was talking about coalitions.

"My life's work has been about immigrants. If you came to my office, you'd see Polish people, right? Irish people, Greek people, others, my office is rich in the immigrant history of Chicago. You go to my rallies, you see Asians, from China and the Philippines. That's been my history, but that's kind of the history of Cermak, wouldn't you agree? He kind of put together a coalition of those that were not part of the Thompson machine." Anton Cermak? "Yes," Gutierrez said.

Some of you have probably driven on the street named after Cermak but not known what happened to the former mayor. Gutierrez is correct. Cermak was a masterful coalition builder.

This is how I understand what happened: Back in the 1920s, the puppet mayor was William "Big Bill" Thompson, a blowhard who once threatened to punch English King George "in the snoot." But one snoot he'd never punch belonged to Al Capone. Thompson couldn't even think about touching Capone's snoot. That would have been more painful than punching himself in the nose hard, every day for a lifetime.

After doing the Outfit's bidding for years, Thompson was used goods. The boys found another politician--Anton "Pushcart Tony" Cermak, who was elected mayor in 1931 on the reform ticket. Foolishly, he decided to double-cross the Capone gang by siding with Capone rivals and sent police to exterminate Capone successor Frank Nitti.

Unfortunately for some, Nitti survived. So Cermak decided to take an extended vacation and hang out with President-elect Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Florida. On the night of Feb. 15, 1933, a former Italian army marksman, Giuseppe Zangara, was waiting in a crowd at Bayfront Park in Miami. Zangara had three things going for him as an Outfit assassin. He had an inoperable disease, he had a family and he had a gun. From about 30 feet, he popped Cermak in the chest. Roosevelt was not injured because he wasn't the target. Zangara was later executed.

By this time, Capone was in federal prison, slowly going insane as the result of a little something he picked up in his earthier travels between Chicago hotel rooms. His illness is well known to people who've watched the many movies made about Capone.

As I've written before, Hollywood never made a movie about Paul "The Waiter" Ricca. He was too shy. And he wisely let others pretend they were the boss and grab all the publicity. But he knew how to send a message. There was a main Chicago thoroughfare leading from the Capone headquarters at the Lexington Hotel on 22nd Street to the Outfit's hangouts in Cicero. This road was renamed Cermak Road. Every hood traveled it. They laughed. And every politician understood. But that's such ancient history.

On Wednesday, Chicago was still the reform capital of Cook County. And Gutierrez was talking on the phone about coalitions. "Cermak put together a coalition of those who were not part of the Thompson regime, right?" Gutierrez asked. Right. "And he put together a great coalition, of disparate people," Gutierrez said. And what happened to Cermak? There was a silence. "Oh, I know," Gutierrez said. "He got assassinated." I explained how Cermak was honored with his own street.

"Oh, I never thought of that," Gutierrez said. "I didn't know about that. I guess my point is, I look at the history of the city of Chicago, I look at the turn of the century, you know the Bohemians came together. It was a revolution in Chicago politics. Ask all the Irish politicians that have been elected ever since."

Gutierrez would make an entertaining candidate and might become mayor someday. He's smart enough. And besides, he likes history.

Thanks to John Kass

Crime Family Index