When you think of bootleggers during Prohibition, there’s a fair chance you’ll be thinking of Al Capone.
After all, his bootlegging whiskey trail from Chicago to New York made him a very rich man. As of 1929, Al Capone’s net worth was about $100 million, which is around $1.3 billion today with inflation.
Capone, who reportedly employed over 600 gangsters, is estimated to have earned about $60 million from illegal alcohol, $25 million from gambling, $10 million from vice and another $10 million from rackets.
But on this day in 1931, despite his bravado, the guns, the booze and most definitely the bribes, he was sentenced for 11 years in federal prison, $50,000 in fines, and court costs of another $30,000.
Surprisingly, Capone was not sentenced for violations of the Volstead Act. Nor did they get him on charges relating to the St Valentine’s Day massacre or any of the other murders or violence that was attributed to him.
Ultimately no matter how hard the likes of Eliot Ness and his fellow Prohibition agents tried, it was actually the pencil pushers and a little-known trial, U.S. v. Sullivan, that brought is demise.
On May 16, 1927, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “[g]ains from illicit traffic in liquor are subject to the income tax would be taxable by the feds.” (274 U.S. 259). In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that criminals must pay income tax on their stolen property or face tax evasion charges.
When I sell liquor, it’s called bootlegging; when my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, it’s called hospitality.
In an interesting aside, the justices also noted that “It is urged that if a return were made the defendant would be entitled to deduct illegal expenses such as bribery. This by no means follows but it will be time enough to consider the question when a taxpayer has the temerity to raise it.”
So the notorious gangster, who was both charming and charitable as well as powerful and vicious; an iconic figure of the Prohibition success, ultimately got done on this day for tax evasion. And bail was denied.
Now you’ve got to admit for a bootlegger of such repute, who is believed to have said; “When I sell liquor, it’s called bootlegging; when my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, it’s called hospitality”, this would have stung.
Now Capone’s time in the slammer didn’t end bootlegging nor did it end Prohibition (if far Capone still ran his operation from jail until Prohibition ended two years later) but it did spell the end of an era.
Interestingly, Tom Hardie will be playing Al Capone in a new film called Fonzo which is reported to be released next year.
Now we don’t expect you to do a sudden transformation into Al Capone as Tom Hardy did but we do expect you to take Al Capone’s legacy of speakeasies to heart this weekend.
And the first rule of a Prohibition party is … Shhhhh! You need to keep the damned thing quiet. After all, you don’t want the narcs shutting you down.
in the spirit of prohibition, you’ll want to carve out an air of mystery and excitement for the event.
Nothing good comes easy, and just as speakeasies took to obscure underground locations to hide their business, so too must you make the event a bit of an adventure. So keep the location a closely guarded secret right until the very last minute.
Sure, your invitees will probably have a fair idea that it’s just going to be held at your house, but that tiny seed of doubt is important.
Also, make sure everyone dresses the part. For the boys, we’re talking the sharpest of sharp suits here: waistcoats, fine ties, suspenders, hats, pocket watches, everything pinstripe, the works. As for the gals, it’s all about the flapper dress and feathered headpiece. Whether you go bright and vibrant or black and dangerous, the flapper dress is a prohibition staple.
If you want to truly get into the theme and you’ve got a little time on your hands, then install a lever that when pulled, instantly transforms your entire house of ‘ill repute’ into a harmless pet shop (everyone loves a kitten).
If you’re unsure about the whole speakeasy vibe, then Employees Only (which will open in Sydney next month) is sure to be able to give you some pointers.
If you’re after a direct descendant of the Negroni, then the Al Capone Cocktail is definitely for you.
Now the other cocktail we suggest is the Capone but of course, there are two versions. The first is promoted by Templeton Rye and has a nice wack of Grand Marnier.
The other has the sharpness of a little Balsamic
Let’s keep in mind that no-one is there for the food, which is a good thing as we are dealing with 1920s fare. But you can’t have drinks without providing food (we maybe putting on an ‘illegal’ speakeasy but we’re really responsible about it)😉
So for something simple, get your advanced culinary skills around some slightly fancy looking Devil Eggs
And then you can’t go past that 1920s staple (whenever company comes calling …) a Pineapple Upside Down Cake but we’re going to do it with a twist. Yes, a Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake – beat that …
If you are unsure what you’ll talk about, then we have a few articles that can provide some fun facts for you and your guests.
Al Capone – Gentleman of Style?
27 Criminal Facts About Al Capone
Tom Hardy Is Al Capone in ‘Fonzo’ Still
Would Al Capone Have Used Cryptocurrency?
Defending Al Capone- did he plan his own arrest?