Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on November 18, 1984 · 189
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · 189

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Location:
Chicago, Illinois
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 18, 1984
Page:
189
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IMlM The 40-year reign of Chicago Mafia kingpin Tony Accardo nears an end. Article by William Brashler ' t is hard when you look at the droopy flesh of the face, the flat yam of a nose, the long ear-lobes to imagine the terror of the old days. The eyes lie sunken behind glasses, eyes that only occasionally flash the fire and ice of Capone, Nitti, Guzik, and Giancana. The career of Tony Accardo "Big Tuna" one of the most powerful Mafia bosses who ever lived, is on the wane. He has traded his baseball bat, his machine gun, and his rod and reel for a tuna-topped cane. His 78-year-old heart beats irregularly; the medication it needs sometimes makes him so dizzy he falls. Once his heavy, gray head was gouged badly enough to require eight stitches. With Al Capone there was the scar, the heavy brows and fleshy lips, the murderous, elegant scowl. With Sam Giancana there was the beak nose, the slashing eyes, the snarling meanness of a graduated street punk. With Accardo there is only a swarthiness, a square jaw, the simian, resigned visage of a pudgy Abe Vigoda, and a tattoo of a dove between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. In Accardo's scheme of things, however, looks count for nothing. When Al Capone learned in 1929 of a conspiracy against him by gangmembers Albert Anselmi, John Scalise, and Joe "Hop Toad" Giunta, Scarface invited them to a lavish dinner, then lashed them to their chairs, and with a baseball bat personally broke quite a few bones. When Tony Accardo learned in 1978 of William Brashler is a SUNDAY Magazine contributing editor. f n - . , .. . s - , j ' ' A . j -I L.Li- '--i. il Tuna-top cane in hand, Accardo testifies before a Senate subcommittee in June. the burglary of his home in River Forest by a band of professional thieves, he ordered their executions. 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. Accardo got the nickname "Big Tuna" from the press, specifically from the late Sun-Times crime reporter Ray Brennan, who stuck him with the label upon seeing a photograph of Accardo standing next to a freshly caught, 400-pound tuna. Jackie Cerone, Accardo's longtime associate and chauffeur, was dubbed "The Pilot Fish." While the "Big Tuna" moniker was great fun for reporters and the public, it has never been used by mob associates. They refer to Accardo as "Joe Batters," presumably because of his early skills with a baseball bat and other blunt instruments, or simply as "Joe B." With a mind as swift as his sword, Accardo's tenure as a Mafia kingpin has run six times as long as Capone's. His power and influence have been felt all over the country. He is an artful skater-boasting of never having spent a night in jail. Technically, he is correct, but he came close on February 24, 1945, when he spent 24 hours in the Chicago Detective Bureau standing in a series of line-ups in connection with a murder. He has never been the target of mob fury or retribution, yet he personally has ordered or sanctioned countless executions. Even that of Giancana, his former peer. If Al Capone were alive today, if his virulent case of syphilis had somehow relented and spared his mind not to mention his nose, he'd only be seven years older than Accardo, his one-time bodyguard. It's a toss-up as to who would be the boss. Said one of Capone's associates, as quoted by former Chicago American columnist George Murray, "Tony Accardo has more brains before breakfast than Al Capone ever had all day." Yet when he appeared last June before a Senate subcommittee in Washington, he was a shell. Old friends and former acquaintances, finaglers and lawmen continued on page 18

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