Joe Bruno on the Mob — Al Capone

Most people associate Al Capone with Chicago, but in truth, Al Capone was born and bred, and got his start in the mob in the borough of Brooklyn, New York.

Alphonse Gabriel Capone was born the fourth of nine children on January 17, 1899 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. He stood in school until the 6th grade, when in a fit of rage, he beat up one of his teachers. A resulting trip to the principals office caused Capone he get beat up himself and he left school for good.

Capone hooked up with a street gang called “The James Street Gang,” which was an offshoot of the powerful Five Points Gang in lower Manhattan. “The James Street Gang” was run by the tough and ruthless Johnny Torrio, who became the teenage Capone’s mentor for years to come. Torrio, along with his partner Frankie Yale, hired Capone to be their chief bouncer at their bar/brothel in Brooklyn. It was there that Capone got his nickname “Scarface,” after his cheek was slashed by a hoodlum named Frank Galluccio, in a bar fight over a girl. Capone later told the press he had gotten his scar fighting for the “Lost Battalion” in France during World War I, but the truth was, Capone never served a day in the service.

By 1919, Torrio had moved to Chicago to run the rackets of Big Jim Colosimo and Capone was suspected of a few murders in Brooklyn. So to avoid the heat, Capone headed west to Chicago to aid Torrio in his takeover of the town. The first order of business was to take out Colosimo, who was a hindrance to Torrio and Capone getting into the illegal booze business. Brooklyn friend Frankie Yale took care of Colosimo, permanently.

Irish mobster Dion O’Banion, the head of Chicago’s “North Side Gang,” stood in their way, as the Torrio/Capone duo attempted to organize Chicago into separate, but equal fiefdoms, each with protection and exclusivity in their own territories. Enter again Frankie Yale and O’Banion was shot to death in his florist shop in November 1924. After Torrio was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt by O’Banion’s successor Hymie Weiss, Torrio went into retirement at the age of 43, willing all his rackets to the 26-year-old Al Capone.

Capone took Chicago by the throat, and he had over 1000 experienced gunman under his control. Even the Chicago police seemed to turn a blank eye to Capone’s murderous escapades. Capone once boasted, “I own Chicago and I own the police.” Add aldermen, mayors, legislators, governors newspapermen and congressmen to the list of people on Capone’s payroll. Capone limited his business endeavors to things that were popular with the people; booze, gambling and prostitution. Capone boasted to his adoring press, “I’m just an honest businessman who’s giving the public what they want.” Capone was so popular with the people, he was even cheered at baseball games.

Capone’s downfall started when he orchestrated the insidious “Valentine’s Day Massacre,” on February 14, 1929. While Capone was sunbathing in Miami, his shooters line up seven men against a garage wall in Chicago, and machine-gunned them to death, missing his intended target and owner of the garage, George “Bugs” Moran.

All of a sudden Capone was no longer the populist of the people. Even the jaded citizens of Chicago were aghast and the savagery of these murders, and while the government had no proof of Capone’s involvement in the “Valentine’s Day Massacre,” they plotted to put him in jail, anyway they could. Capone was hit with 11 counts of income tax evasion, and in 1931, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison. In 1934, Capone was transferred to Alcatraz, a maximum security prison called “The Rock.” There the effects of syphilis, he had acquired in his brothel days in Brooklyn, took control of his mind. He was diagnosed with dementia, and when he was released in November, 1939, Capone was a broken man, given to outburst of rage, over anything, from the government, to Communists, to his old foe “Bugs” Moran. Capone spent his last years flowing in and out of lucidity, and on January, 21, 1947, he died of a heart attack at his home in Miami Beach, Florida.


2 Responses to “Joe Bruno on the Mob — Al Capone”

  1. Marty Boy Says:

    Somehow my Italian-American forebearer (family also originated from Naples) was “connected” with Al Capone (before fleeing to Australia under an Irish name to avoid American authorities, way back before the Great War). The real McCoy ‘wog boys’ (over here in Australia) tell me I make great American (Napoletano) style pizzas, so that’s where I heard the world famous pizzas came from, originally, from Naples migrants in America (around the 1880s-1920s). I always identified strongly with the pre 1970 urban culture of the great American cities (the Gallo Bros of Brooklyn also originate from Naples) , than anything in olden days Australia (inc “razor gang days” in Sydney). But now, I feel what ABC sage Phillip Adams said about the “osmosis” of American culture into Australia is still happening, except this “osmosis” is from a old school pre 1970 America, not the 21st “nerdy” America of today.
    They say Australia is a “young America” & we could very be heading into another “roaring twenties” scenario, with the restrictions of tobacco, being the next “prohibition” black market item(esp with tobacco king producer,Indonesia, on our doorstep!, like Cuba & Canada were with 1920s prohibition America, make any ‘connection’ there readers, Joe?)

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