Friday, March 21, 2008

Chit-Chat Over Coffee Swirls (12)

I love to watch all the reruns of the three Godfather movies. Great actors and a great plot give insight into the era that formed part of the history of New York City and Chicago. This brings to mind, the father of organized crime, Al Capone who terrorized Chicago during the prohibition days of the 1920s. Alfonso Capone (1899-1947) known as "Scarface Al" was raised in Brooklyn, New York. It is said that he received this razor slash on his left cheek as a result of an altercation with a tough hood named Frank Galluccio, during a dispute over some girl. Among his closest friends, was Lucky Luciano who became a major crime boss. During his teen years, Capone was hired by Johnny Torrio as a bouncer in a saloon-brothel he ran in Brooklyn... When Johnny Torrio moved to Chicago, to help his uncle, Big Jim Colosimo, soon after the 1919 Volstead Act, he asked Capone to come and help him to take advantage of Prohibition and corner the Chicago bootleg market, which promised profits in the millions.

The Torrio-Capone's men terrorized and murdered the competition which included the assassination of Dion O'Banion, the head of the largely Irish North Side Gang. This assasination resulted in an all-out war with the rest of the North Siders. Torrio was badly shot in an ambush hovering near death for days. Torrio decided to retire from the business and went back to Brooklyn with an estimated $30 million in his pocket, leaving behind the fertile soil of Chicago to Capone.

The Capone mob had at least 1000 members, with a weekly payroll of over $300,000, of which most of them were experienced gunmen. Capone was always boasting that he owned Chicago, as well as having the police in his pocket. Less than half of the police were on his payroll in one way or another. Capone also had a great holds over the politicians among which were state's attorneys, mayors, legislators, governors and even congressmen. Whenever an election came about, the gangsters from his organization would intimidate and terrorize the voters in order to get the vote to go the way they wanted it to go.

In the month of September in 1926 the O'Banions sent a convoy of cars loaded with machine-gunners to pour in about a 1000 rounds into Capone's Cicero hotel headquarters, which he luckily escaped. Vengeance was on the run. Capone began to eliminate one by one all his North Side enemies, as well as anyone who dared to resist him. In an effort to kill Bugs Moran, who was the last major force among the old O'Banions, he ordered the St. Valentine's Day massacre. Capone was sentenced to the federal prison at Atlanta for income tax evasion and not for murder. He later was transferred to Alcatraz in 1934, and released in 1939. His health began to decline until his death on January 25, 1947.

Photo Credit: The Encyclopedia of American Crime Abbando to Zwillman by Carl Sifakis Publisher: Facts On File, Inc. 1982


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