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Al Capone’s Son Was Bullied, and Other Lesser-Known Facts About Chicago’s Famous Mobster

Deirdre Bair’s Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend, out October 25, examines the man behind the savage mythology.

Capone, with his son, talking to Cubs catcher Gabby Hartnett   Photo: Chicago Tribune

1 He earned his tough-guy rep by age 8.

Teens in his Brooklyn neighborhood (he moved to Chicago in his early 20s) admired his graceful yet brutal fighting style and recruited him for their gang, the Boys of Navy Street. One time, his comrades stole a washtub, strapped it to his chest, and had him beat it like a drum to intimidate rivals during a gang brawl.

2 His wife was no pushover.

Three years into their marriage, Mae Capone was fed up with her 21-year-old husband’s philandering. She bleached her hair the same blond as that of his current mistress—a 15-year-old girl—to wordlessly embarrass him in front of his family. (He made all of his girlfriends go flaxen.)

3 His son was a bully magnet.

Kids taunted Sonny Capone with newspaper clippings about his dad’s murderous dealings. As if an infamous pop wasn’t fodder enough, the sickly boy was also small for his age and hard of hearing due to a string of childhood illnesses (including the syphilis he got as a fetus from his mom, who got it from Capone).

4 His gluttonous appetite was his downfall.

The Capones spent upward of $1,000 a week on food—more than most Depression-era families spent in a year—and in Capone’s trial for tax evasion, this proved to be the most damning evidence that he earned more than he claimed.

5 He didn’t die of diabetes or pneumonia, as rumored.

It was the syphilis that attacked the 48-year-old’s brain and reduced his mental capacity to that of a 12- to 14-year-old (not a second grader, as some have claimed). The upside of his illness? It mellowed out the ruthless mobster, transforming him by the end into a gentle family man.

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