1957 Al Capone editorial, in Redland, Calif., newspaper
CAPITAL WHIMSY Brings Baek Memory Of Good Old Al Capent By Frederick C. Othman WASHINGTON—Up before the Senate rackets investigators was" Tony (Ducks) Coralla, who allegedly allegedly shook down New York workers workers for dues to phony unions and ordered their heads bashed if they didn't pay. The portly Ducks, in his black suit and his heavy eyeglasses, wouldn't talk for fear of incriminating incriminating himself as he mumbled time and again the fifth amend-' ment phrase written down for him by his lawyer. This was monotonous, monotonous, and I got to thinking about another gangster of, another era, name of Scarf aoe Al Capone. As a young reporter in Chicago 30 years ago, I knew Scarface Al, and I'd say now that in comparison comparison to Ducks, Johnny Dio and other modern hoodlums turned up by the senators, Capone was a great and good man. He made beer, wholesaled it, and retailed it at 75 cents a bottle. bottle. If any other gangster attempted attempted to muscle in on. this profitable enterprise, Scarface simply had him shot. His helpers frequently did this chore with a tommy gun they transported in a violin case. The Capone operations operations were as simple as that. The beauty about Capone, now that I look back from my vantage point in the Senate caucus room, was that he never bothered law- abiding citizens, except by mis-' take. Sometimes they got sprayed sprayed accidentally by bullets, but Scarface always was regretful of that. Or at least so he said when he held press conferences in a hotel on South Michigan boulevard. boulevard. The 1957 model gangsters, by contrast, prey on the innocent. They've been forcing businessmen businessmen in New York to pay tribute; they've also been extracting weekly weekly dues from thousands of em ployes who got nothing in return. Like Ducks, Dio and associates in the union racket, Scarface Al managed for years to stay out of jail until finally the federal government government nabbed him on an income income tax rap. Now Dio has been indicted on federal tax charges, whil« T-men are rifling through the returns of his pals. They may go the same way as Capone, and that brings up the latter's trial in federal court. It was the first really big story" I ever covered, and it was a fascinating fascinating thing to watch Capone'i facade collapse one morning when prosecutor George.E. Q. Johnson got him to identify a haberdasher's haberdasher's bill for some union suits. "At $20 each," said Johnson. "That seems a litlte high for union union suits, Mr. Capone. What wera they made of?" Capone said in a small voice: Silk. "What color were they, Mr, Capone?" insisted Johnson. "Green," replied Capone. "Dark green, Mr. Capone?" asked the prosecutor. "Or pale?" Capone appealed to the judge. Did he really have to answer that? The judge said he did. "Pale," breathed the terror of Chicago. The spectators, who never before even had smiled at Capone's operations, laughed. Capone Capone flushed until his scar stood out like a pale streak, and I doubt if anyone ever again was afraid of Scarface Al. I don't know the color of tha underwear worn by the procession procession of prosperous racketeers appearing appearing to take the fifth amendment amendment before the senators, but I'm inclined to make an educated guess. Their outerwear is downright downright magnificent, in a Madison avenue kind of way. It runs to handsomely tailored suits in dark fabrics, monogrammed monogrammed shirts, sincere cravats, and gold cufflinks, with and without rubies. Most of these underworld bigwigs wear black-rimmed eyeglasses, eyeglasses, and those who don't come by their swarlhiness naturally, naturally, seem to have achieved it under sunlamps. • Now if we only had another Johnson to strip them down to their shorts, those New Yorken who have testified to being terrorized terrorized might feel a -little lesf edgy. It has been a long tima since they have dared to laugh.