Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois on July 26, 1987 · 163
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Chicago Tribune from Chicago, Illinois · 163

Chicago, Illinois
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 26, 1987
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WHWWhiWU. HI A look at Chicago's past By June Sawyers ,V t .! i ll The vice lord who fell in love with a choir singer A n underworld vice lord from Chicago and a sweet-voiced choir singer from Grand Rapids, Mich., may seem to have tittle in common, but for a few brief weeks in A the spring of 1920 Jim Colosimo ,dm ' 1 and Dale Winter became a couple whose romance ca-ight the city's fancy. An Italian immigrant with no formal schooling, Colosimo acquired culture while making money from gambling and prostitution. In the late 1890s he was a street cleaner with hardly more than a broom, shovel and cart to his name. But he began to acquire both wealth and power when, in distributing grapes to Sicilian families on the Near West Side and then selling the wine they made, he made contacts with various underworld figures. Then he organized the city's street sweepers into an influential political organization. Soon he was reputedly pulling in $50,000 a month from various legal and illegal operations. Along with a weakness for diamonds and fancy suits, Colosimo also had an insatiable urge to better himself. Each night his wife, Victoria Moresco, read the classics to him while recordings of Italian opera selections played in the background. Together they opened their first nightclub, a bawdy parlor house called the Victoria, at Armour and 21st Streets, where a "professor" named "Izzy the Rat" pounded on a tinny piano. In 1910 Colosimo opened his famous cafe at 2126 S. Wabash Ave., a splendid nightclub mat featured good musk, excellent food and fine wine. Soon it became the rendezvous for those who sought midnight excitement in a slightly illicit but ob-so-sophisti-cated atmosphere. It was the place to go after the rest of the city went to bed. Despite the club's wicked reputation, the underworld's presence there was uiwbtrusrve. Certain characters were allowed entry only if property dressed and, once inside, were strictly bound to behave in a civil manner. Hence, thieves and gamblers, millionaires and merchants, bankers and schoolteachers and even the chief of police patronized the cafe. The establishment became so popular mat Colosimo had to build an annex next door. One section would stay open only until 1 un, in observance of the city's tavern-closing law, but patrons then moved into the "north room' to continue their carousing. Into this glitzy setting walked pert Dale Winter. Colosimo had met her earlier in Grand Rapids through an orchestra leader. Seeing her now at the dub for an audition arranged by Tribune writer Jack Lait, Big Jim quickly fell in love' with her. Winter, who still lived with her mother in a South Side hotel and for some months sang in the choir of the South Park Methodist Church, was soon given star billing along with singing lessons from Giacomo Spadoni of the Chicago Opera and a course in etiquette. In turn, she exerted a subtle influence over the smitten Colosimo, persuading him to wear quieter clothes and urging him to speak more softly. Colosimo secured an uncontested divorce from his wife in March, 1920. The next month he and Winter Chicago underwork! figure Jim Colosimo and anger Dale Winter during their honeymoon after they eloped in 1920. eloped to West Baden Springs, Ind., and enjoyed a two-week honeymoon. Upon their return, he bought a handsome home on the South Side for his new bride. But their romance was short-lived. At 4:30 p.m. on May 1 1, 1920, Colosimo arrived at the almost deserted cafe and walked to the rear office, where his secretary, Frank Camilla, sat "Hello, Frank. What's doing?" the kingpin said cheerfully. "Nothing," came the reply. After a few moments, he went alone to the front When he reached the lobby, a dark figure emerged from the shadows. Two shots rang out One splintered a glass pane, the other struck Colosimo in the head. He fell face down on the porcelain floor, dead at age 49. Many theories exist about Colosimo's death. Some think his ex-wife, unhappy with the financial arrangements of the divorce, arranged the murder. Some say Al Capone did it; others, New York gunman Frankie Yale. Three years after the slaying, a Chicago salesman, James Mulcrone, told St Louis police that he shot Colosimo in a drunken rage because he had been ejected from the cafe. The confession was later dismissed because, according to Sgt Felix Kosinski, Mulcrone was suffering from "hallucinations produced by drugs.'' The most popular theory is that Big Jim's nephew, Johnny Torrio, thinking his liaison with Winter had made his uncle "go soft" and that a "reformed" Colosimo would be unable to hold the city's crime syndicate together, ordered the assassination. A widow after being a bride for only three weeks, Winter returned to the stage, married an actor in 1924 and settled in Los Angeles. Colosimo's famous cafe eventually went out of business in 194S, and the site later became a parking lot TivestaEI COLLECnON.IV Policy's Porks II Porks Revenge Bachelor Party Man With One Red Shoe Revenge of The Nerds Hair Young Frankenstein (03 Alice's Restaurant Pfts1 Teachers BrirHciTli nt on VMeocucttc. the Best w ' i wNew iM - I i Furniture grade wood product Yean of closet experience Custom built in our factory Neatly, quickly installed Custom garage systems Special storage systems System features: steel chrome rods steel hardware custom sised drawers cabinet doora Fully Insured CLOSCi Call for free, no obligation, in-home consultation VUit our convenient showroom O1510 Midway Court E2, Elk Grove. IL 60007 (3121364-1070 1 1 JULY 26, 1987 7

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