Book Trailer For Madam President

Monday, December 11, 2017

How was Capone Really Brought Down?

It wasn't Elliott Ness. When I am signing books of Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair I ask this simple question of people. Who brought Capone down? Elliott Ness and the Untouchables is the fast answer. Most people have either seen the movie or even the old television show or heard it through the lore of Capone that makes people profess being related to the big man, having seen the gangster, having been past his home, his grave, worked on his car, his stills, gone to his home in Wisconsin, eaten in his restaurant hideout along the Fox River. But the truth of what really happened to Capone has not seen the light of day.

Elliott Ness in 1957 was a drunk who met a Sports writer Oscar Fraley. Fraley like a lot of writers myself included was on the lookout for a new story. So he asked Ness if he had any good stories from the Prohibition years about Al Capone. Ness produced a dogeared manuscript of about twenty pages and gave it to Fraley. It wasn't much and Oscar went to work by the time he was done the tale of the Untouchables was complete. Then Ness died and Fraley published his books and sold about a million copies. Then he sold it to television and Robert Stack was set for life and then it was sold to the movies and Kevin Kostner became famous.

But the real story is much more fascinating. Six Chicago millionaires banded together to get rid of Al Capone. They had a Worlds Fair coming and it was going to be a disaster unless they got rid of the gang violence plaguing the city. They hired their own investigators and their own police force. They began a witness protection program, set up a speakeasy, and sent their own gangsters into Capones organization. Then they started to study his operation and began to attack his profitability. In the end they famously got him on tax evasion.

So that is the real story. Fraleys story was good but the real story of the Secret Six is even better.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Naked Charlie Rose Show

Like most people who watched Charlie Rose I was always a little baffled. The set was austere with Charlie and his guest sitting in darkness. The no frills we are serious demeanor of Charlie was always broken up by his sycophantic laughter that was always a joke only he was in on. And then it was just this sort of low energy thing that ended with Charlie looking at the camera like he had nothing more than getting to the heart of the matter at his core. Now we know what was really at his core, a naked man.

I mean Harvey masturbating. Spacey grabbing young boys. Franken groping, tonguing, taking photos of himself grabbing a woman while she slept is all bad but these guys  were out there and it wasn't really that surprising. But Rose came from the other side of serious journalism where you would think his big excitement was reading the NY Times Editorial page and gabbing with other journalists at some swanky upper East Side restaurant. Not so.

Charlie liked to get out of his shower and walk up on twenty somethings without a stitch of clothes. He did the open robe thing all hot and slimy from the shower. He liked to grab young assistants in his car while driving through Manhattan. He liked to get people to sleep over and then go swimming nude and walk up on them while they worked on their laptops. Gone was the super serious droopy eyed Charlie drilling down to some existential point in his blacked out studio. In his place was the naked guy who would can the assistants who talked about being grabbed or exposed to his wet old body.

So what can we say about any of this? Charlies show is gone. No more fits of weird laughter in the slowed down time of another era. His lifestyle was pretty fabulous. Jetting off in private jets to interview people all over the world with lots of young assistants in tow. To much is given much is expected. Too bad he cant' interview himself. That would have been a good topic.

Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

Monday, November 20, 2017

All Those Capone Stories

When you write a book on Capone then you hear lots of stories. What happens is you are at a signing or giving a speech and someone comes up to you. They lower their voice and get close and then say, you know I'm related to Al Capone. This is usually through some distant relation that married someone who was married to someone who was the great aunt of Capone. Then come the truly weird stories. One involved a welder.

The women who told me this story said her father had been kidnapped by Al Capone. Men had driven up and pulled out some guns and put her father in a car. They blindfolded him and drove him to an undisclosed location. When they took the blindfold off he was facing Al Capone. I need someone to fix my stills Capone told him. The welder did the job for Capone but the men in the car came back and he was kidnapped again. After the second time he moved his family far away. He just feared for his life the woman told me.

The other stories involve other gangsters who worked with Capone or houses he owned or his vacation home in Wisconsin. Some people ask me if i have been to his grave and many tell stories about how as kids they had a chance sighting of the gangster. They described his heavy black Cadillac passing by the way someone might speak of a rock star. And then there are the stories of places he ate, bars he frequented, people he murdered. The way the book is selling convinces me more than ever that Al Capone is the ultimate superstar that time cannot dim. He has been dead for seventy years. Rock stars should have such longevity.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Sunday, November 19, 2017

;Hope I die Before I get Old

So says The Who Pete Townsend who has not died.  Pete Moon did die before he was old. John Enwhistle died and he was old. Tom Petty might be considered old. Prince probably not. AC DC guitarist and founding brother was oldish. Keith Richards is old but still around. Mick Jagger the same. David Bowie died and was old. And these are just the big ones. How many mid level one hit wonder rockers have died but there was no coverage. Davy Jones of The Monkees was old and died. It sounds like David Cassidy is just hanging on.

And yet each time one of the rockers go you feel your own mortality. It is the music a lot of us listened to and it is definitely dying. Dementia. Heart attacks. So un-rock and roll. Better the drug overdoses with the Philip Seymour Hoffman type of deaths. These we accept. These are a byproduct of youthful excess although Hoffman was in his forties. Janis and Jimmy were the prototype of rocker deaths. But these deaths from old age are in fact more terrifying. There is no statement here and there is no armor. These were people who have more in common with the retirement homes and the shuffling old men and women with their walkers. The very vanguard of youth of "hope I die before I get old" are in fact now getting old or are old and they are dying.

Pete Townsend wrote that line of course when he was very young. It was out of My Generation and it said that there could be nothing worse than being over thirty and it was far better to flame out from drugs than to succumb to the fossilized thinking and physical destruciton of aging. And of course no one would get old. No one did in the youth culture spawned in the sixties. Only the unhip, the squares, the bourgeoisie became old and died. Youth and drugs was a protection against all that. But of course like the limited art form that rock and roll is we see how silly and fatuous that all is.

Great art encompasses living and dying. Rock came out of youth and really only embraces being young which is just a part of life. Is Springsteen, the Stones, or U2 relevant today? Not really. They are relevant with their songs of youth and this why the oldies are our favorites. But even Paul McCartney's song When I'm Sixty Four has a tone of this will never really happen to me. People get old and die from the diseases of age even if they played in front of stadiums of adoring people who truly believed they would not get old either.

There is a famous line in an F. Scott Fitzgerald story At Your Age. A man who wanted to marry a younger girl realizes it will never work because he was just too old. The final line is brilliant. "He had only committed the unpardonable sin of aging after all; refusing to die."  The truth is nobody wants to die before they get old or when they are old. Even rockers who write songs in their twenties that are sung to people in their sixties or seventies.

Just ask Pete Townsend, 72.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Never Listen to a CD of your own Book

The CD of my books usually come a couple of weeks after they are published. It is kind of cool to see a miniaturized cover of the book on the case and you put it on the mantle and there it sits. The other day on my way to a speech I grabbed it for a ride up to the North Shore. The woman who read the book was fairly famous and very good. Her voice was melodic and soothing and the first six chapters flew by. But I noticed I was growing tired. My book Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson has a lot going on and my brain was getting fatigued.  By the time I reached the venue I was intellectually exhausted.

So I arrive at the speech and set up the PowerPoint.  My speeches basically consist of me retelling the book but I had that women's symphonic voice still in my head and I wondered vaguely if I might mix her up with my recitation of the high points of the book. I was introduced and I went up and grabbed the microphone confidently and made a few wry comments about the book and I clicked up the first slide. It was a Bull Moose. 

Now when this happens you have a few seconds to find your footing. This slide should have been at the end and here it was at the beginning. So I clicked again. There was an old car. I still have that woman droning on somewhere in the early chapters of my book. I click again and see the sheep Edith Wilson bought for the Red Cross during World War I.  The PowerPoint had lost its mind and the lady was still reciting my book. 

I made my way back to the podium and put the microphone into the holder. Then I explained something about the PowerPoint not working and with the sheep still on the screen I started over and gave the presentation without the PowerPoint. By the time I reached the end people had forgotten about it and the speech was a success. But I didn't . I found out later that by importing the Powerpoint into the computer of the venue it had scrambled the slides. But I knew the real culprit.

When I reached my car I ripped the CD out of the player and put it back in the case. Never to be opened again.

Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson

Friday, November 10, 2017

How the Thompson and Valentines Day made Chicago get rid of Capone

It was Valentines Day in 1929 that sealed Capones fate. The German Shepherd tied to a bumper was the only witness and he wasn't talking. The smell of gunpowder still lingered in the air when the cops arrived. The Thompson Machine gun fired .45 ACP cartridges and fired them one after another. General Thompson wanted a gun to kill the Germans in World War I and so he invented The Annihilator. That's what he called it but everyone else called it The Thompson. Soldiers called it a trench sweeper. 

Whatever the name the angry gun fired one bullet after another from the gas of the last one. The war ended and the annihilator was very rarely used and it was expensive for civilians at 400 per gun. The British thought it was too loud. But a new group of men really liked it. The cost wasn't a factor and it fit nicely in a violin case. Just like a man going to a recital of death. So the Thompson did its dirty work in that garage on Clark Street on St Valentines Day and killed off seven of Bugs Moran's men. 

The brick wall behind the men would be sold to a restaurant in Indiana so people could sit and stare at the chipped brick. The Annihilator fired like a garden hose and that's how the two men dressed as cops fired it. One low and one high so they could be sure each man was shot at least a dozen times. And that is what made Chicago realize Capone was out of hand and had to go. The Annihilators rendezvous with Americas holiday of love. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Selling Books in Barnes and Noble in the year 2017

Its amazing how many authors still sit behind their table. That is what happens when you arrive at your signing. There is a chair and a table and your books. There is also a sign announcing your book and a picture of yourself. So the author then takes a seat behind the table and waits for the hordes to arrive. They don't. Even NY Times Bestsellers don't pull in the people. Yes if you are Erik Larson you will get a crowd but even that can be a crapshoot. Selling books in the year 2017 is just different from before. If you don't have a television show then you better not sit in that chair.

I just had another signing and sold 27 hardcovers at 32.00 a piece. The reason I bring this up is that no one was there to see me or to find my book. The difference is I never sit down. The whole passive experience of selling books is responsible for many good bookstores going away. People come into a bookstore to look for a book, to look for a great story. I tell them a great story and out of three people one of them will buy. It is not hard to tell the story of our First Woman President, or how Teddy Roosevelt went to the Badlands after his wife and mother died on the same day or how Chicago held a fair in the worst year of the Great Depression and had to get rid of Al Capone ad the same time.

The author who sits behind his table will be asked if he knows where the bathroom is or if he knows where that new Harry Potter book is or if he knows where the magazines are. But he or she will not sell any books. You cant blame bookstores for not wanting to have book signings. Most authors just don't sell. Which is sad when writers are really story tellers and really all people want to hear is a really good story. And they are really happy to get a book signed by the author.

Al Capone and the 1933 Worlds Fair

Books by William Hazelgrove