10 Facts About Al Capone That You Didn't Know
Think you know mobsters? These facts about Al Capone might shock you.
When it comes to legendary criminal capers and murderous mafiosos, not many names are as well-known as Al Capone. The man who made a killing by bootlegging and slinging guns is one of the most famous mobsters to ever live.
People who love reading true crime books and watching Scarface always like to talk about Capone's dealings. He's a part of pop culture, after all. As much as people like to claim that they know about 1920s gang culture though, they don't know everything.
Capone's life was one that had tons of wild twists and turns. He was a larger than life character who ended up making history. Despite the notoriety and his heavily-documented life, we're willing to bet these facts about Al Capone might be new to you.
Al Capone wasn't actually hated by the population.
Law enforcement hated him, but mainstream America was fascinated by him. Despite having a murderous reputation, running gambling rings, and also controlling prostitution rings, Capone never carried himself as a brutal thug.
Al Capone was known for acting like a legitimate businessman and philanthropist, complete with genteel manners and a soft voice when needed. His image was also boosted by the fact that he was a bootlegger—and most Americans still enjoyed drinking.
Many people who read the news saw him as a real-life antihero as a result of his behavior. This is doubly true when he started to open up soup kitchens during the Great Depression.
Even people who were his rivals held a strange respect for him, simply because of some of the gestures he'd make. For instance, he was known for sending flowers to the funerals of his rivals to show that he still held their work in high regard.
Like most gangsters, Al Capone lived a lifestyle of fast money. One of the most shocking facts about this gangster's lifestyle is how fast the money was.
At the height of his reign, he earned around $40 million per week. His spending eventually dried up that pile of cash and caused him to live on a mere $600 a week.
Considering that the police caught him because he owed taxes to the IRS, it's safe to say that the fast money eventually caught up with him. Oddly enough, Al Capone's tendency of recycling "dirty money" into legitimate laundromat businesses was how we go the term "money laundering."
Did you think that the car mods rappers regularly mention were the first real signs of a gangster car? Not quite. Capone was actually one of the first gangsters to have a modified car.
His favorite car was a 1928 Cadillac V-8 Town Sedan that was carefully equipped with over 3,000 pounds of steel reinforcements. To further ensure that the mob boss stayed safe, the car also was given bulletproof windows.
The V-8 had a smokescreen that came out of the exhaust, ran a top speed of 120 miles per hour, and also had windows that would latch open in the back, dropping down so gangsters could fire out at pursing enemies.
Capone played the banjo. Poorly.
One of the facts about Al Capone that the famous gangster may have wanted to be forgotten was his (lack of) musical skill. When he was jailed in Alcatraz, Capone bought a banjo and took lessons to help him learn how to play.
He played so poorly, he couldn't even join the prison's orchestra. His music practice was so foul that fellow inmates grew to hate him. Multiple arguments erupted over his constant attempts to join the convict orchestra, with one argument getting so fiery that he was almost lynched by the band.
Prison staffers stepped in to save him from the brutal beatdown. There is no record of whether the banjo survived.
Capone was a man who seemed to have a calling for crime; in 6th grade, he dropped out of school so he could run with boys' gangs in New York City. He was later scouted by a mobster known as Johnny Torrio, who was head of the James Street Boys.
From there, Torrio taught Capone the ropes of the business. When Capone faced trouble, Torrio transferred Capone to Chicago in hopes that he'd "lie low" while helping deal with Chicago's Black Hand gang.
When the head of the Black Hand was killed by an unknown assassin, Torrio and Capone both teamed up to take over the Black Hand's massive empire.
In 1926, Torrio decided it was time for him to retire. He ceded his empire to Capone, who became a mob boss at 26. From then on out, his fate was sealed as one of the greatest gangsters in history.
Al Capone's brother was his polar opposite.
Capone was a man who really seemed to relish his role in crime, and we mean that in the most respectful way possible. Oddly enough, one of his seven siblings, James, didn't seem to agree.
James Capone ended up changing his name, moving to Nebraska, and taking a career in law enforcement.
And by "first job," we literally mean that he was working as a bouncer for a mobster in a New York City nightclub. Capone had decided to hit on a woman who had come by. The woman's brother, irate at the incident, took a knife and slashed him across the face.
This got him the nickname "Scarface," which leads us to one of the more well-known facts about Al Capone: he hated his nickname.
When Capone was arrested for tax evasion, the federal government stepped in to get goods from him. One of the things they requisitioned was his customized bulletproof car.
Unsure of what to do with such a unique car, the feds ended up giving it to the President of the United States. The idea was that it was a safe car that would allow the President to ride in style without the concern of being assassinated.
It's known that Capone was addicted to two things: women and cocaine.
Though he married a woman by the name of Mae, he was very well-known for having flings with women from all walks of life. This included women of ill repute, which is probably why he caught syphilis that eventually eat his brain away and later lead to his madness.
Many people knew Capone liked to play, but they didn't really know that he loved the white stuff. Capone's addiction to cocaine was so bad, he actually wore holes in his septum from it.
Looks like Boardwalk Empire was right on the money. Who knew?
He once kidnapped a musician to make him a special guest at his birthday party.
Fats Waller was one of the more popular jazz musicians of the time, and Al Capone liked his music. He liked Waller so much, he decided to have him be a special guest at his birthday party—but really, who has time for invites?
To ensure Waller came, he had goons kidnap him. Waller was found three days later, heavily intoxicated with several thousand dollars in tips. Somehow, we feel like Waller didn't mind.
Remember how we said some of the facts about Al Capone were glossed over in history books? This is a perfect example. Even so, we feel like Capone probably knew how to party.