Drinkers dinner party (part 2)

Al Capone

As many of my friends will know, I am terrible when it comes to finishing a task. I start something (for example a new book or a series of articles) and then I get distracted by something (most likely a pretty lady) and I forget about what I was doing. I reckon I have started about 60 of the 100 novels you are supposed to have read before you die, so I will have much reading to do on my death bed!

What I am dancing around is the fact that I wrote Drinkers Dinner Party part 1 in December, and I am only getting on to part 2 now. Rubbish Hoban! Anyway, to recap, I was creating the ultimate dinner party list, with an alcohol theme. At first, it was just going to be a list of people who really enjoyed a drink, but thinking about it further, my dinner party should really have people who made their name making alcohol, selling alcohol and mixing a good drink. So far, my dinner party has Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart and Winston Churchill (some of the drinkers). Let’s get on with the rest of the party!

So my fantastic restaurant is filling up. Bogie and Bacall are sitting down, Churchill is lighting a cigar, but where are the drinks? Well, who better to buy our hooch from than notorious booze baron Al Capone?

Alphonse Gabriel Capone (Scarface, Al or Snorky to his friends) was one of the most prominent figures during prohibition. A bright child, he was one of 9 children born to an Italian family, who immigrated to America before Al was born. Al was born in Brooklyn, on January 17, 1899. He was a clever student, but had no respect for authority, so soon fell out of the school system (he hit a teacher in the face) and into the world of organised crime.

He gained his scars after insulting a woman whose brother happened to be mobster Frank Gallucio. Capone apologised to him for insulting his sister, and later hired him as a bodyguard.

The reason Capone would be involved with our dinner party, is that he was one of most successful illegal hooch distributors of his time. His mob organised millions of dollars’ worth of illegal alcohol sales during US prohibition (1920-1933). By this time he had moved to Chicago, and enlisted his brothers Ralph and Frank, to help him in this business. He got work in the Chicago mob scene through his New York mob connections, and quickly moved to the top of the organisation. The organisation was quickly renamed the Capone-Torrio mob. After his business partner, Torrio, was nearly killed by an opposing mob, he handed the business to Capone and fled to Italy to recover. Suddenly, at the ripe old age of 26, Capone had full control of a mob outfit that was generating an estimated 50-60 million dollars a year. But he had vicious competition. His Cadillac (which was later bought and used as Franklin D Roosevelt’s limousine) was attacked so many times, that he invested fortunes making the car bullet proof. His base was the Lexington hotel, which was surrounded by security at all times.

Capone’s favourite tipple was Templeton Rye from Ohio, where much of his illegal whiskey was produced (by many illicit distillers there). He would also buy much of his whiskey/whisky from Canada and from the rum runners operating between the Caribbean Islands and the States (this would most likely be rum, Irish whiskey or scotch).

Although he was a very public figure, the police found it very difficult to pin crimes on him, probably due to the sheer amount of bribery he indulged in. He almost became a Robin Hood figure for being vicious with his enemies, but generous to the people of his neighbourhood (he built soup kitchens, paid for medical care etc). He was finally incarcerated for tax evasion, in Alcatraz.

I suppose I could have chosen a less dangerous alcohol supplier, but he is by far one of the most historically important.

So we have our supplier, next I will look into a few more guests (a singer, a writer and maybe a couple more smugglers). Finally, I have to choose a bartender.

Chris Hoban


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