Such a cool concept!
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria (December 1, 1949 – December 2, 1993) was a notorious and wealthy Colombian drug lord and an exclusive cocaine trafficker. In 1983, he had a short-lived career in Colombian politics. Known as “The King of Cocaine”, he is regarded as the wealthiest criminal in history, with an estimated net-worth of US$30 billion by the early 1990s.
Pablo Escobar was born in Rionegro, Colombia, the third of nine children to Abel de Jesús Dari Escobar, a farmer, and Hermilda Gaviria, an elementary school teacher. As a teenager on the streets of Medellín, he began his criminal career by allegedly stealing gravestones and sanding them down for resale to smugglers. His brother, Roberto Escobar, denies this, claiming that the gravestones came from cemetery owners whose clients had stopped paying for site care and that they had a relative who had a monuments business. He studied for a short time at the University of Antioquia.
Escobar was involved in many criminal activities with Oscar Bernal Aguirre—running petty street scams, selling contraband cigarettes and fake lottery tickets, and stealing cars. In the early 1970s, he was a thief and bodyguard, and he made a quick $100,000 on the side kidnapping and ransoming a Medellín executive before entering the drug trade. His next step on the ladder was to become a millionaire by working for contraband smuggler Alvaro Prieto. Escobar’s childhood ambition was to become a millionaire by the time he was 22.
In The Accountant’s Story, Pablo’s brother and accountant, Roberto Escobar, discusses the means by which Pablo rose from middle class simplicity and obscurity to become one of the world’s wealthiest men. At the height of its power, the Medellín drug cartel was smuggling fifteen tons of cocaine per day, worth more than half a billion dollars, into the United States. According to Roberto, he and his brother’s operation spent $2500 a month purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash, storing most of it in their warehouses; 10% had to be written off a year due to “spoilage” by rats that crept in at night and nibbled on the hundred dollar bills.
In 1975, Escobar started developing his cocaine operation. He even flew a plane himself several times, mainly between Colombia and Panama, to smuggle a load into the United States. When he later bought fifteen new and bigger airplanes (including a Learjet) and six helicopters, he decommissioned the plane and hung it above the gate to his ranch at Hacienda Napoles. His reputation grew after a well known Medellín dealer named Fabio Restrepo was murdered in 1975 ostensibly by Escobar, from whom he had purchased fourteen kilograms. Afterwards, all of Restrepo’s men were informed that they were working for Pablo Escobar. In May 1976, Escobar and several of his men were arrested and found in possession of 39 pounds (18 kg) of white paste after returning to Medellín with a heavy load from Ecuador. Initially, Pablo tried unsuccessfully to bribe the Medellín judges who were forming the case against him. Instead, after many months of legal wrangling, Pablo had the two arresting officers bribed and the case was dropped. It was here that he began his pattern of dealing with the authorities by either bribing them or killing them. Roberto Escobar maintains Pablo fell into the business simply because contraband became too dangerous to traffic. There were no drug cartels then and only a few drug barons, so there was plenty of business for everyone. In Peru, they bought the cocaine paste, which they refined in a laboratory in a two-story house in Medellín. On his first trip, Pablo bought a paltry £30 worth of paste in what was to become the first step towards the building of his empire. At first, he smuggled the cocaine in old plane tires and a pilot could earn as much as £500,000 a flight depending on how much he could smuggle.
Soon, the demand for cocaine was skyrocketing in the United States and Pablo organized more smuggling shipments, routes, and distribution networks in South Florida, California and other parts of the USA. He and Carlos Lehder worked together to develop a new island trans-shipment point in the Bahamas, called Norman’s Cay. Carlos and Robert Vesco purchased most of the land on the Island which included a 3,300 foot airstrip, a harbor, hotel, houses, boats, aircraft and even built a refrigerated warehouse to store the cocaine. From 1978–1982, this was used as a central smuggling route for the Medellín Cartel. (According to his brother’s account, Pablo did not purchase Norman’s Cay. It was, instead, a sole venture of Carlos Lehder.) Escobar was able to purchase the 7.7 square miles (20 km2) of land, which included Hacienda Napoles, for several million dollars. He created a zoo, a lake and other diversions for his family and organization. At one point it was estimated that seventy to eighty tons of cocaine were being shipped from Colombia to the U.S. every month. At the peak of his power in the mid-1980s, he was shipping as much as eleven tons per flight in jetliners to the United States (the biggest load shipped by Pablo was 23,000 kg mixed with fish paste and shipped via boat, as confirmed by his brother in the book Escobar). In addition to using the planes, Pablo’s brother, Roberto Escobar, said he also used two small remote-controlled submarines as a way to transport the massive loads (these subs were, in fact, manned and this is again documented in Roberto’s book).
In 1982 Escobar was elected as an alternate member of the Chamber of Representatives of Colombia as part of the Colombian Liberal Party. He was the official representative of the Colombian government in the swearing in of Felipe González in Spain.
Soon Escobar became known internationally as his drug network gained notoriety; the Medellín Cartel controlled a large portion of the drugs that entered into the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Spain with cocaine produced with coca from Peru and Bolivia through other drug dealers such as Roberto Suárez Gómez, since Colombian coca was initially of substandard quality and demand for more and better cocaine increased. Escobar’s cocaine reached many other countries in America and Europe through Spain; it was even rumoured that his network reached as far as Asia.
Corruption and intimidation characterized Escobar’s dealings with the Colombian system. He had an effective, inescapable policy in dealing with law enforcement and the government, referred to as “plata o plomo,” (literally silver or lead, colloquially [accept] money or [face] bullets). This resulted in the deaths of hundreds of individuals, including civilians, policemen and state officials. At the same time, Escobar bribed countless government officials, judges and other politicians. Escobar was allegedly responsible for the 1989 murder of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, one of three assassinated candidates who were all competing in the same election, as well as the bombing of Avianca Flight 203 and the DAS Building bombing in Bogotá in 1989. The Medellin Cartel was also involved in a deadly drug war with its primary rival, the Cartel de Cali, for most of its existence. It is sometimes alleged that Escobar backed the 1985 storming of the Colombian Supreme Courtby left-wing guerrillas from the 19th of April Movement, also known as M-19, which resulted in the murder of half the judges on the court. Some of these claims were included in a late 2006 report by a Truth Commission of three judges of the current Supreme Court. One of those who discusses the attack is Jhon Jairo Velásquez, aka “Popeye,” a former Escobar hitman. At the time of the siege, the Supreme Court was studying the constitutionality of Colombia’s extradition treaty with the U.S.Roberto Escobar stated in his book, that indeed the M-19 were paid to break into the building of the supreme court, and burn all papers and files on Los Extraditables—the group of cocaine smugglers who were under threat of being extradited to the US by their Colombian government. But the plan backfired and hostages were taken for negotiation of their release, so Los Extraditables were not directly responsible for the actions of the M-19.
Height of power
During the height of its operations, the cartel brought in more than $60 million per day. Pablo Escobar said that the essence of the cocaine business was “Simple—you bribe someone here, you bribe someone there, and you pay a friendly banker to help you bring the money back.” In 1989, Forbes magazine estimated Escobar to be one of 227 billionaires in the world with a personal net worth of close to US$3 billion while his Medellín cartel controlled 80% of the global cocaine market. It is commonly believed that Escobar was the principal financier behind Medellín’s Atlético Nacional who won South America’s most prestigious football tournament, the Copa Libertadores in 1989.
While seen as an enemy of the United States and Colombian governments, Escobar was a hero to many in Medellín (especially the poor people); he was a natural at public relations and he worked to create goodwill among the poor people of Colombia. A lifelong sports fan, he was credited with building football fields and multi-sports courts, as well as sponsoring children’s football teams.
Escobar was responsible for the construction of many hospitals, schools and churches in western Colombia, which gained him popularity inside the local Roman Catholic Church. He worked hard to cultivate his Robin Hood image, and frequently distributed money to the poor through housing projects and other civic activities, which gained him notable popularity among the poor. The population of Medellín often helped Escobar serving as lookouts, hiding information from the authorities, or doing whatever else they could to protect him.
Many of the wealthier residents of Medellín also viewed him as a threat. At the height of his power, drug traffickers from Medellín and other areas were handing over between 20% and 35% of their Colombian cocaine-related profits to Escobar, because he was the one who shipped the cocaine successfully to the US.
The Colombian cartels’ continuing struggles to maintain supremacy resulted in Colombia quickly becoming the world’s murder capital with 25,100 violent deaths in 1991 and 27,100 in 1992. This increased murder rate was fueled by Escobar’s giving money to his hitmen as a reward for killing police officers, over 600 of whom died in this way.
In March 1976 at the age of 26, Escobar married Maria Victoria who was 15 years old. Together they had two children: Juan Pablo and Manuela. Escobar created and lived in a luxurious estate called Hacienda Nápoles (Spanish for Naples Estate) and had planned to construct a Greek-style citadel near it. Construction of the citadel was begun but never finished. The ranch, the zoo and the citadel were expropriated by the government and given to low-income families in the 1990s under a law called extinción de dominio (domain extinction). The property has been converted into a theme park surrounded by 4 luxury hotels overlooking The zoo and tropical park installation.
La Catedral prison
After the assassination of Luis Carlos Galán, a presidential candidate, the administration of César Gaviria moved against Escobar and the drug cartels. Eventually, the government negotiated with Escobar, convincing him to surrender and cease all criminal activity in exchange for a reduced sentence and preferential treatment during his captivity.
After declaring an end to a series of previous violent acts meant to pressure authorities and public opinion, Escobar turned himself in. He was confined in what became his own luxurious private prison, La Catedral. Before Escobar gave himself up, the extradition of Colombian citizens had been prohibited by the newly approved Colombian Constitution of 1991. That was controversial, as it was suspected that Escobar or other drug lords had influenced members of the Constituent Assembly.
Accounts of Escobar’s continued criminal activities began to surface in the media. When the government found out that Escobar was continuing his criminal activities within La Catedral, it attempted to move Escobar to another jail on July 22, 1992. Escobar’s influence allowed him to discover the plan in advance and make a well-timed, unhurried escape. He was still worried that he could be extradited to the United States.
Search Bloc and Los Pepes
In 1992, the United States Joint Special Operations Command (consisting of members of the US Navy SEALs and Delta Force) and Centra Spike joined the manhunt for Escobar. They trained and advised a special Colombian police task force, known as the Search Bloc, which had been created to locate Escobar. Later, as the conflict between Escobar and the United States and Colombian governments dragged on and the numbers of his enemies grew, a vigilante group known as Los Pepes(Los Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar, “People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar”) was financed by his rivals and former associates, including the Cali Cartel and right-wing paramilitaries led by Carlos Castaño, who would later found the Peasant Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá. Los Pepes carried out a bloody campaign fueled by vengeance in which more than 300 of Escobar’s associates and relatives were slain and large amounts of his cartel’s property were destroyed.
Members of the Search Bloc, and also of Colombian and the United States intelligence agencies, in their efforts to find and punish Escobar, either colluded with Los Pepes or moonlighted as both Search Bloc and Los Pepes simultaneously. This coordination was allegedly conducted mainly through the sharing of intelligence in order to allow Los Pepes to bring down Escobar and his few remaining allies, but there are reports that some individual Search Bloc members directly participated in missions of the Los Pepes death squads. One of the leaders of Los Pepes was Diego Murillo Bejarano (also known as “Don Berna”), a former Medellín Cartel associate who became a drug kingpin and eventually emerged as a leader of one of the most powerful factions within the AUC.
Death and afterward
The war against Escobar ended on December 2, 1993, amid another attempt to elude the Search Bloc. Using radio triangulation technology, a Colombian electronic surveillance team, led by Brigadier Hugo Martinez, found him hiding in a middle-class barrio in Medellín. With authorities closing in, a firefight with Escobar and his bodyguard, Alvaro de Jesús Agudelo (a.k.a. “El Limón”), ensued. The two fugitives attempted to escape by running across the roofs of adjoining houses to reach a back street, but both were shot and killed by Colombian National Police. Escobar suffered gunshots to the leg, torso, and the fatal one in his ear. It has never been proven who actually fired the final shot into his head, or determined whether this shot was made during the gunfight or as part of a possible execution, and there is wide speculation about the subject. Some of the family members believe that Escobar could have committed suicide. His two brothers, Roberto Escobar and Fernando Sánchez Arellano, believe that he shot himself through the ears: “He committed suicide, he did not get killed. During all the years they went after him, he would say to me every day that if he was really cornered without a way out, he would shoot himself through the ears.”
After Escobar’s death and the fragmentation of the Medellín Cartel, the cocaine market soon became dominated by the rival Cali Cartel, until the mid-1990s when its leaders, too, were either killed or captured by the Colombian government.
The Robin Hood image that he had cultivated continued to have lasting influence in Medellín. Many there, especially many of the city’s poor that had been aided by him while he was alive, mourned his death. About 25,000 were present for his burial.
Virginia Vallejo’s version
On July 4, 2006, Virginia Vallejo, a television anchorwoman who was romantically involved with Escobar from 1983 to 1987, offered her testimony in the trial against former Senator Alberto Santofimio, accused of conspiracy in the 1989 assassination of Presidential Candidate Luis Carlos Galán, to the Colombian Attorney General Mario Iguaran. Iguaran acknowledged that, although Vallejo contacted his office on the 4th, the judge had decided to close the trial on the 9th, several weeks before the prospective closing date and, in (Iguaran’s) opinion, “too soon”.
On July 16, 2006, Vallejo was taken to the United States in a special flight of the Drug Enforcement Administration. According to the American Embassy in Bogotá, this was done for “safety and security reasons” because Vallejo’s cooperation was needed in high-profile criminal cases. On July 24, 2006, a video in which Vallejo accused former Senator Alberto Santofimio of instigating Escobar to eliminate presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán in her presence was aired on Colombian television. In 2007, Vallejo published her book Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar (Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar), where she describes her relationship with the drug lord during the early years of the cocaine boom, and his charity projects for the poor when he was a deputy congressman. She gives her account of Escobar’s relationship with Caribbean governments and dictators and his role in the birth of the M.A.S. (Death to Kidnappers) and Los Extraditables (The Extraditables). Vallejo also gives her account of numerous incidents throughout Escobar’s political and criminal career, such as the assassination of Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla in 1984, her lover’s feud with the Cali Cartel and the era of narcoterrorism that began after the couple’s farewell in September 1987.
Among Escobar’s biographers, only Vallejo has given a detailed explanation of his role in the 1985 Palace of Justice siege and the atrocities that took place before, during and after the tragedy. (“Amando a Pablo, odiando a Escobar”, “Aquel Palacio en llamas”, pages 227–264). The journalist stated that Escobar financed the operation, committed by the rebel M-19 group, but blamed the army for the killings of the Supreme Court Justices and the detained after the coup. In 2008, she was asked to testify in the reopened Palace case, and in 2009 most of the events that she had described in her book and testimonial were confirmed by the Commission of Truth. In 2010 and 2011, a high-ranking former colonel  and a former general  were sentenced to thirty and thirty-five years in prison for forced disappearance of the detained after the siege.
In August 2009, Vallejo testified in the case of Luis Carlos Galán’s assassination, which had also been reopened. She also accused several politicians, including Colombian presidents Alfonso López Michelsen, Ernesto Samper and Álvaro Uribe of links to the drug cartels. Uribe denied Vallejo’s allegations. On June 3, 2010, Vallejo was granted political asylum in the United States of America.
Escobar’s widow, Maria Victoria Henao (now Maria Isabel Santos Caballero), son, Juan Pablo (now Juan Sebastián Marroquín Santos), and daughter, Manuela, fled Colombia in 1995 after failing to find a country that would grant asylum. Argentinian filmmaker Nicolas Entel’s documentary Sins of My Father chronicles Marroquín’s efforts to seek forgiveness from the sons of Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Colombia’s justice minister in the early 1980s, who was assassinated in 1984, as well as the sons of Luis Carlos Galán, the presidential candidate, who was assassinated in 1989. The film was shown at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and premiered in the US on HBO on October 2010.
Escobar has been the subject of several books. The following are examples:
- Mark Bowden’s book Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw (2001) relates how Escobar was killed and his cartel dismantled by US special forces and intelligence, the Colombian military, and Los Pepes, controlled by the Cali cartel.
- Gabriel García Márquez’ book, News of a Kidnapping (1998), details the series of abductions that Escobar masterminded to pressure the then Colombian government into guaranteeing him non-extradition if he turned himself in.
- Photographer James Mollison’s book The Memory of Pablo Escobar (2009) tells Pablo’s story using over 350 photographs and documents.
Films and television
Films and documentary television
Escobar has been the subject of numerous feature films, documentaries, and television shows. Two major feature films on the Colombian drug lord, Escobar and Killing Pablo, were announced in 2007, around the same time.
- Blow (2001), is a George Jung biopic featuring Escobar (portrayed by Cliff Curtis) as a supporting character.
- In the film Clear and Present Danger (1994), the fictional character Ernesto Escobedo (portrayed by Miguel Sandoval) was based on Escobar.
- The 2008 film, Pablo, Angel o Demonio (English title: Pablo of Medellin) by Jorge Granier explores the mixed legacy of a man hailed in the Barrio as a saint while despised elsewhere as a demon. It is the highest grossing documentary of all time in Colombia.
- Escobar (2009) has been delayed due to producer Oliver Stone’s involvement with the George W. Bush biopic W. (2008). The release date of Escobar remains unconfirmed.[when?]. Regarding the film, Stone said: “This is a great project about a fascinating man who took on the system. I think I have to thank Scarface, and maybe even Ari Gold.”
- In the ESPN broadcast 30 for 30 (2010), a series of sports-themed documentaries timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the Entertainment and Sports Network, The Two Escobars, by directors Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, looks back at Colombia’s World Cup run in 1994 and the relationship of sports and the country’s criminal gangs—notably the Medellín narcotics cartel run by Escobar. The other Escobar in the film title refers to former Colombian National Team defender Andrés Escobar (no relation to Pablo), who was shot and killed one month after an own goal that cost Colombia in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
- Killing Pablo (2011), in development for several years and directed by Joe Carnahan, is based on Mark Bowden’s eponymous 2001 book, which in turn is based on his 31-part Philadelphia Inquirer series of articles on the subject. The cast was reported to include Christian Bale as Major Steve Jacoby and Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez as Escobar. In December 2008, Bob Yari, producer of Killing Pablo, filed for bankruptcy.
- Caracol TV produced a television series, Pablo Escobar: El Patrón del Mal (Pablo Escobar, The Boss Of Evil), which began airing on 28 May 2012 and stars Andrés Parra as Pablo Escobar, Mauricio Mejía as a young Pablo Escobar, and Juan Pablo Franco as Gen. Miguel Maza Marquez.
- RTI Producciones produced a television series for RCN TV, Tres Caínes, which began on March 4, 2013 and stars Juan Pablo Franco as Pablo Escobar, but his character was crictized looking like an stereotype.
- Academy Awarding winner Benicio del Toro plays Escobar in the film Escobar: Paradise Lost (2014).
- In the HBO television series Entourage, actor Vincent Chase (played by Adrian Grenier) plays Escobar in a fictional film entitled Medellin.
- In the NCIS episode “Deliverance” (2009), it is implied that NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs killed a Colombian drug lord in 1992–1993 and was wounded in Colombia. It is not mentioned if the drug lord was Escobar, but it is strongly implied that it was either the killing of Escobar, or a similar situation.
- The RCN TV Spanish-language telenovela series Tres Caínes (2013) tells the story of the brothers Castaño Gil, with Juan Pablo Franco portraying Pablo Escobar.
- In a season three episode of Breaking Bad, Walter, Jr. explains to his father how he is reading a book about Escobar given to him by his uncle Hank, who is recovering from a shooting at the hospital.
- In the videogame, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002), the airport is named “Escobar International Airport” after Pablo Escobar.
- In the on-rails shooter game, Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (2009), the main antagonist, Javier Hidalgo, seems to be based on Pablo Escobar. Both: were drug lords, had a daughter called Manuela, possessed a personal militia, had a “mini” zoo of exotic animals (Escobar had a collection of African animals, and Javier had a “collection” of B.O.Ws (Bio Organic Weapons)), had the population under their control, and shared the same fate.
- In the video game Scarface: The World Is Yours (2006), a random conversation with Tony Montana and a banker makes reference to Escobar, stating that Manuel Noriega stole Pablo’s money and didn’t pay the CIA their cut.
- The second album of the Mexican-American grindcore metal band Brujeria, Raza Odiada, included a song called “El Patron”, inspired by Escobar.
- Gucci Mane’s song “Pablo”, on the album Diary of a Trap God, mentions Pablo Escobar .
- Rapper Nas often refers to himself as “Nas Escobar” where he raps about selling drugs and about enjoying a similar lifestyle to Pablo Escobar’s. This can be heard often on his mafioso rap sophomore album It Was Written (1996)
- Brazilian-American band Soulfly included a song about Escobar in their album Enslaved (2012), titled “Plata o Plomo”.
- In 2010, ZORBA began Pablo Escobar tours in Medellín to cater to the hundreds of tourists who visit his grave each year.
Tags: al capone, chicago, gangster, mafia, mobster, new york, prohibition
Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone (January 17, 1899 – January 25, 1947) was an American gangster who attained fame during the Prohibition era. His seven-year reign as crime boss ended when he was 33 years old.
Born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York City to Italian immigrants, Capone was a Five Points Gang member who became a bouncer in organized crime premises such as brothels. In his early twenties, he moved to Chicago and became bodyguard and trusted factotum for Johnny Torrio, head of a criminal syndicate that illegally supplied alcohol and which was politically protected through the Unione Siciliane. A conflict with the North Side gang was instrumental in Capone’s rise and fall, as Torrio had been precipitated into retirement after North Side gunmen almost killed him, thereby bringing about Capone’s succession. He expanded the bootlegging business through increasingly violent means, but his mutually profitable relationships with mayor William Hale Thompson and the city’s police meant Capone seemed safe from law enforcement. Apparently reveling in the attention, such as the cheers when he appeared at ball games, Capone made donations to various charities and was viewed by many to be a “modern-day Robin Hood”. However, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of North Siders damaged Chicago’s image, leading influential citizens to demand action from central government.
The federal authorities became intent on jailing Capone and prosecuted him for tax evasion in 1931. The case was highly politicized and both prosecutors and judge later received preferment. During prior and ultimately abortive negotiations to pay the government any back tax he owed, Capone had made admissions of his income; the judge deemed these statements could be used as evidence at the trial, and also refused to let Capone plead guilty for a lighter sentence. The effect of such decisions by the judge was added to by the incompetence of Capone’s defense attorneys. Capone was convicted and sentenced to a then-record-breaking 11 years in federal prison. Replacing his old defense team with lawyers who were experts in tax law, his appeal grounds were strengthened by a Supreme court ruling, but Capone again found that his status as a symbol of criminality meant that judges decided in his disfavor. Already showing signs of syphilitic dementia by early in his sentence, he became increasingly debilitated before being released after 8 years. On January 25, 1947, he died from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke. Capone’s conviction had negligible effect on the prevalence of organized crime in Chicago.
Alphonse (or Alfonse; which one is unknown) Gabriel Capone was born in the borough of Brooklyn in New York on January 17, 1899. His parents, Gabriele Capone (December 12, 1864 – November 14, 1920) and Teresina Raiola (December 28, 1867 – November 29, 1952), were immigrants from Italy. His father was a barber from Castellammare di Stabia, a town about 16 mi (26 km) south of Naples, and his mother was a seamstress and the daughter of Angelo Raiola from Angri, a town in the Province of Salerno.
Gabriele and Teresa had nine children: Alphonse “Scarface Al” Capone, James Capone (who later changed his name to Richard Hart and became, ironically, a Prohibition agent in Homer, Nebraska), Raffaele Capone (also known as Ralph “Bottles” Capone, who took charge of his brother’s beverage industry), Salvatore “Frank” Capone, John Capone, Albert Capone, Matthew Capone, Rose Capone, and Mafalda Capone (who married John J. Maritote). His two brothers, Ralph Capone and Frank Capone worked with him in his empire. Frank did so until his death on April 1, 1924 and Ralph ran the bottling companies (both legal and illegal) early on, and was also the front man for the Chicago Outfit for some time until he was imprisoned for tax evasion in 1932. The Capone family immigrated to the United States, first immigrating from Italy to Fiume, Austria-Hungary (now Rijeka, Croatia) in 1893, traveling on a ship to the U.S. and finally settled at 95 Navy Street, in the Navy Yard section of downtown Brooklyn. Gabriele Capone worked at a nearby barber shop at 29 Park Avenue. When Al was 11, the Capone family moved to 38 Garfield Place in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Capone showed promise as a student, but had trouble with the rules at his strict parochial Catholic school. He dropped out of school at the age of 14, after being expelled for hitting a female teacher in the face. He worked at odd jobs around Brooklyn, including a candy store and a bowling alley. During this time, Capone was influenced by gangster Johnny Torrio, whom he came to regard as a mentor.
After his initial stint with small-time gangs that included the Junior Forty Thieves and the Bowery Boys, Capone joined the Brooklyn Rippers and then the powerful Five Points Gang based in Lower Manhattan. During this time, he was employed and mentored by fellow racketeer Frankie Yale, a bartender in a Coney Island dance hall and saloon called the Harvard Inn. After he inadvertently insulted a woman while working the door at a Brooklyn night club, Capone was slashed by her brother, Frank Gallucio. The wounds led to the nickname that Capone loathed: “Scarface”. Yale insisted that Capone apologize to Gallucio, and later Capone hired him as a bodyguard. When photographed, Capone hid the scarred left side of his face saying the injuries were war wounds. Capone was called “Snorky”, a term for a sharp dresser, by his closest friends.
Marriage and family
On December 30, 1918, at age 19, Capone married Mae Josephine Coughlin, who was Irish Catholic and who, earlier that month, had given birth to their first son, Albert Francis (“Sonny”) Capone. As Capone was under the age of 21, his parents had to consent to the marriage in writing.
At about twenty years of age, Capone left New York for Chicago at the invitation of Johnny Torrio, who was imported by bootlegger James “Big Jim” Colosimo as an enforcer. Capone began in Chicago as bouncer in a brothel, contracting syphilis, which timely use of Salvarsan probably could have cured; he apparently never sought treatment. In 1923, he purchased a small house at 7244 South Prairie Avenue in the Park Manor neighborhood on the city’s south side for US$5,500. In the early years of the decade, Capone’s name began appearing in newspaper sports pages, where he was described as a boxing promoter. Chicago’s location on Lake Michigan gave access to a vast inland territory, and it was well-served by railroads. Torrio took over the crime empire of “Big Jim” Colosimo after his murder, which Capone was suspected of.
With Capone as his right-hand man, Torrio headed an essentially Italian organized crime group that was the biggest in the city. Wary of being drawn into gang wars, he tried to proceed by negotiating agreements between rival crime groups over territory. The smaller, mixed ethnicity, North Side Gang of Dean O’Banion came under pressure from the Genna brothers, who were allied to Torrio. O’Banion found that for all Torrio’s pretensions to be a settler of disputes, he was unhelpful with the encroachment of the Gennas into the North Side. In a fateful step, Torrio had, or acquiesced to the Gennas having, the relatively business-minded O’Banion killed at his flower shop in October 1924. This placed Hymie Weiss at the head of the gang, backed by Vincent Drucci and Bugs Moran. Under Weiss, who had been a close friend of O’Banion, the North Siders treated revenge on his killers as a priority.
In January 1925 Capone was ambushed, leaving him shaken but unhurt. Twelve days later, Torrio was returning from a shopping trip when he was shot several times. After recovering Torrio effectively resigned and handed over to Capone, who at 26 years old became the new boss of an organization that took in illegal breweries and a transportation network that reached to Canada, with political and law-enforcement protection, in turn he was able to use more violence to increase revenue; refusal to purchase often resulted in the premises being blown up, as many as a hundred people were killed in liquor bombings during the twenties. Rivals saw Capone as responsible for the proliferation of brothels in the city.
Capone indulged in custom suits, cigars, gourmet food and drink (his preferred liquor was Templeton Rye from Iowa) and female companionship. He was particularly known for his flamboyant and costly jewelry. His favorite responses were “I am just a businessman, giving the people what they want”, and “All I do is satisfy a public demand”. Capone had become a national celebrity and talking point.
After using bribery and widespread intimidation to take over during elections for the town council, Capone based himself in Cicero, this made it difficult for the North Siders to target him. Capone’s driver was found tortured and murdered, there was then an attempt on Weiss’s life in the Chicago Loop. On September 20, 1926, the North Side gang used a ploy outside the Capone headquarters the Hawthorne Inn, aimed at drawing him to the windows. Gunmen in several cars then opened fire with Thompson submachine guns and shotguns at the windows of first floor restaurant, where Capone was often found. He was unhurt, but called for a truce; the negotiations fell through. Three weeks later Weiss was killed outside the former O’Banion flower shop North Side headquarters. In January 1927, the Hawthorne’s restaurant owner, a friend of Capone, was kidnapped and killed by Moran and Drucci.
Capone became increasingly security-minded and desirous of getting away from Chicago. As a precaution, he and his entourage would often show up suddenly at one of Chicago’s train depots and buy up an entire Pullman sleeper car on night trains to places such as Cleveland, Omaha, Kansas City, Little Rock or Hot Springs, where they would spend a week in luxury hotel suites under assumed names. In 1928, Capone bought a 14-room retreat on Palm Island, Florida, close to Miami Beach.He never registered any property under his name. He did not even have a bank account but always used Western Union for cash delivery, not more than $1,000.
The protagonists of Chicago’s politics, and even newspaper circulation ‘wars’, had long been associated with questionable methods, but the need for bootleggers to have protection in city hall introduced a far more serious level of violence and graft. Capone is generally seen as having had an appreciable effect in bringing about the victories of Republican William Hale Thompson, especially in the 1927 mayoral campaign when Thompson campaigned for a wide open town, at one time hinting that he’d reopen illegal saloons. Such a proclamation helped Thompson’s campaign gain the support of Capone and Thompson’s campaign allegedly accepted a contribution of $250,000 from the gangster. In the 1927 mayoral race, Thompson beat William Emmett Dever by a relatively slim margin. Thompson’s powerful Cook County machine had drawn on the often-parochial Italian community, but this was in tension with his highly successful courting of African Americans.
Capone continued to back Thompson and on the polling day of April 10, 1928 in the so-called Pineapple Primary, voting booths in the wards where Thompson’s opponents were thought to have support were targeted by Capone’s bomber, James Belcastro, causing the deaths of at least 15 people. Belcastro also was accused of the murder of lawyer Octavius Granady, an African American who dared to challenge Thompson’s candidate for the African American vote, and was chased through the streets on polling day by cars of gunmen before being shot dead. Belcastro’s co-charged included four policemen; all charges were dropped after key witnesses recanted their statements. An indication of the attitude of local law enforcement to Capone’s organization came in 1931 when Belcastro was wounded in a shooting; police suggested to skeptical journalists that Belcastro was an independent operator. The 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day massacre led to public disquiet about Thompson’s alliance with Capone; a factor in Anton J. Cermak winning the mayoral election on April 6, 1931.
Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre
Capone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in an attempt to kill the head of the much-attenuated ‘North Side’ gang, Bugs Moran. Moran was the last survivor of the main north side gunmen; his succession had come because his similarly aggressive predecessors Vincent Drucci and Hymie Weiss had been killed in the violence that followed the murder of original leader, Dean O’Banion.
To monitor their targets’ habits and movements, Capone’s men rented an apartment across from the trucking warehouse that served as a Moran headquarters. It is reported that on the morning of Thursday February 14, 1929, Capone’s lookouts signaled gunmen disguised as police to start a “raid”. The faux police lined the seven victims along a wall without a struggle then signaled for accomplices with machine guns. The seven victims were machine-gunned and shot-gunned. Photos of the massacre victims shocked the public and damaged Capone’s reputation. Within days Capone received a summon to testify before a Chicago grand jury on violations of federal Prohibition law, but he claimed to be too unwell to attend at that time.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:
IRS investigation of Al Capone
In March 27, 1929, as he left a Chicago courtroom after testifying to a grand jury investigating violations of federal prohibition laws, Capone was arrested by FBI agents on charges of having committed contempt of court by feigning illness to avoid an earlier appearance. In May 1929, Capone was sentenced to a prison term in Philadelphia, having been convicted within 16 hours of an arrest for carrying a gun during a trip there. A week after he was released, in March 1930, Capone was listed as the number one ‘Public Enemy’ on the unofficial Chicago Crime Commission’s widely publicized list.
In April 1930, Capone was arrested on vagrancy charges when visiting Miami Beach, the governor having ordered sheriffs to run him out of the state. For having claimed Miami police had refused him food and water and threatened to arrest his family, Capone was charged with perjury, but acquitted after a three day trial in July. In September, a Chicago judge issued a warrant for Capone on charges of vagrancy, and then used the publicity to run against Thompson in the Republican primary. In February 1931, Capone was tried on the contempt of court charge. In court, Judge James Herbert Wilkerson intervened to reinforce questioning of Capone’s doctor by the prosecutor (with whom Wilkerson later went into private practice). Wilkerson sentenced Capone to six months, but while on appeal of the contempt conviction he remained free.
Legally, Capone’s profits from criminal activity did not have to be entered on a tax return until 1927, when the Supreme court ruled that illegally earned income had to be declared, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. remarking that the previously existing loophole was stretching the Fifth amendment too far. The IRS special investigation unit chose Frank J. Wilson to investigate Capone, the focus was on his spending. The key to Capone’s conviction on tax charges was proving his income, and the most valuable evidence in that regard originated in his offer to pay tax. Ralph, his brother and a gangster in his own right, was tried for tax evasion in 1930. After being convicted in a two week trial over which Wilkerson presided, Ralph spent the next three years in prison. Capone ordered his lawyer to regularize his tax position. Crucially, during the ultimately abortive negotiations that followed, his lawyer stated the income Capone was willing to pay tax on for various years, for instance admitting income of $100,000 for 1928 and 1929. Hence without any investigation the government had been given a letter from a lawyer acting for Capone conceding his large taxable income for certain years. In 1931, Capone was indicted for income tax evasion, as well as and various violations of the Volstead Act(Prohibition) at the Chicago Federal Building in the courtroom of Judge James Herbert Wilkerson. U. S. Attorney George E. Q. Johnson agreed to a deal that that he hoped might result in the judge giving Capone a couple of years, but Judge Wilkerson (who had been aware of the deal all along) refused to allow Capone to plead guilty for a reduced sentence. On the second day of the trial, Judge Wilkerson overruled objections that a lawyer could not confess for his client. Saying anyone making a statement to the government did so at his own risk, Wilkerson deemed the 1930 letter to federal authorities from a lawyer acting for Capone could be admitted into evidence.
Much was later made of other evidence such as witnesses and ledgers, but these strongly implied rather than stated Capone’s control. The ledgers were inadmissible on statute of limitations grounds, but Capone’s lawyers incompetently failed to make the necessary timely objection; they also ran a basically irrelevant defense of gambling losses. Judge Wilkerson allowed Capone’s spending to be presented at very great length. Although there was no doubt that Capone spent vast sums, legally speaking the case against him centered on the size of his income. Capone was convicted and in November 1931, was sentenced to eleven years in federal prison, fined $50,000 plus $7,692 for court costs, and in addition was held liable for $215,000 plus interest due on his back taxes. The contempt of court sentence was served concurrently.New lawyers hired to represent Capone were Washington-based tax experts. They filed a writ of habeas corpus based on a Supreme court ruling that tax evasion was not fraud, which apparently meant Capone had been convicted on charges relating to years that were actually outside the time limit for prosecution. However, a judge creatively interpreted the law so that the time Capone had spent in Miami was subtracted from the age of the offences, thereby denying the appeal of both Capone’s conviction and sentence.
In May 1932, aged 33, Capone was sent to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary. Upon his arrival at Atlanta, the 250 lb Capone was officially diagnosed with syphilis and gonorrhea. He was also suffering from withdrawal symptoms from cocaine addiction, use of which had perforated his septum. Capone was competent at his prison job of stitching soles on shoes for eight hours a day, but his letters were barely coherent. He was seen as a weak personality and so out of his depth dealing with bullying fellow inmates that his cellmate, seasoned convict Red Rudinsky, feared Capone would have a breakdown. Rudinsky, formerly a small time criminal associated with the Capone gang, found himself becoming a protector for Capone. The conspicuous protection of Rudinsky and other friendly prisoners, as well as accusations from less friendly inmates, fueled suspicion that Capone was receiving special treatment in Atlanta. While no solid evidence ever emerged, it formed part of the rationale for moving Capone to the recently opened Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary
At Alcatraz, Capone’s decline became increasingly evident as neurosyphilis progressively eroded his mental faculties. He spent the last year of his sentence in the prison hospital, confused and disoriented. Capone completed his term in Alcatraz on January 6, 1939, and was transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution at Terminal Islandin California, to serve out his sentence for contempt of court. He was paroled on November 16, 1939.
Later years and death
After Capone was released from prison, he was referred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for the treatment of paresis (caused by late-stage syphilis). Hopkins refused to admit him solely based on his reputation, but Union Memorial Hospital took him in. Grateful for the compassionate care he received, Capone donated two Japanese weeping cherry trees to Union Memorial Hospital in 1939. After a few weeks inpatient and a few weeks outpatient, a very sickly Capone left Baltimore on March 20, 1940 for Palm Island, Florida.
In 1946, his physician and a Baltimore psychiatrist performed examinations and concluded Capone had the mental capability of a 12-year-old child. Capone spent the last years of his life at his mansion in Palm Island, Florida. On January 21, 1947, Capone had a stroke. He regained consciousness and started to improve but contracted pneumonia. He suffered a fatal cardiac arrest the next day. On January 25, 1947, Al Capone died in his home, surrounded by his family; he wаs buried аt Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.
Although the main effect of Capone’s conviction was that he ceased to be boss immediately on his imprisonment, those involved in the jailing of Capone portrayed it as having dealt a fatal blow to the city’s organized crime syndicate. Far from being smashed, the Chicago Outfit continued, without being troubled by the Chicago police. Once Prohibition was repealed, organized crime in the city — already wary of attention after seeing Capone’s notoriety bring him down — had a concomitantly lower profile, to the extent that there is a lack of consensus among writers about who was actually in control and who was a figurehead ‘front boss’. Prostitution, labor union racketeering and gambling became moneymakers for organized crime in the city without incurring serious investigation. In the late 50’s, FBI agents discovered an organization led by Capone’s former lieutenants reigning supreme over the Chicago underworld.
In popular culture
One of the most notorious American gangsters of the 20th century, Capone has been the subject of numerous articles, books, and films. Capone’s personality and character have been used in fiction as a model for crime lords and criminal mastermindsever since his death. The stereotypical image of a mobster wearing a blue pinstriped suit and tilted fedora is based on photos of Capone. His accent, mannerisms, facial construction, physical stature, and parodies of his name have been used for numerous gangsters in comics, movies, music, and literature.
- Capone is featured in a segment of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather as an ally of a New York mob boss in which he sends, at the mob boss’ request, two “button men” to kill Don Vito Corleone; arriving in New York, the two men are intercepted by and brutally killed by Luca Brasi, after which Don Corleone sends a message to Capone warning him to not interfere again and Capone apparently capitulates.
- Capone is featured in the Kinky Friedman novel, The Love Song of J. Edgar Hoover (1997).
- Capone is an antagonist in Hergé’s fictional Tintin in America and is referenced in Tintin in the Congo. He is the only real-life character depicted in his real-life role in the The Adventures of Tintin series.
- A reincarnated Capone is a major character in science fiction author Peter F. Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy.
- Capone’s niece, Deirdre Marie Capone, wrote a book titled Uncle Al Capone: The Untold Story from Inside His Family.
- Al Capone is a central character in the fantasy novel Cosa Nosferatu, which imagines Capone and Eliot Ness entangled with Randolph Carter and other elements of H.P. Lovecraft mythos.
- Al Capone is the central character of Armitage Trail’s novel Scarface (1929), which was the basis for the 1932 film of the same name.
- Jack Bilbo claimed to have been a bodyguard for Capone in his book, Carrying a Gun for Al Capone (1932).
Film and television
Capone has been portrayed on screen by:
- Rod Steiger in Al Capone (1959).
- Neville Brand in the TV series The Untouchables and again in the movie The George Raft Story (1961).
- José Calvo in Due mafiosi contro Al Capone (1966).
- Jason Robards in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967).
- Ben Gazzara in Capone (1975).
- Robert De Niro in The Untouchables (1987).
- Ray Sharkey in The Revenge of Al Capone (1989)
- Eric Roberts in The Lost Capone (1990)
- Bernie Gigliotti in The Babe (1992), in a brief scene in a Chicago nightclub during which Capone and his mentor, Johnny Torrio, played by Guy Barile, meet the film’s main character, Babe Ruth, portrayed by John Goodman.
- William Forsythe in The Untouchables (1993–1994)
- William Devane as Al Capone in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (13 November 1994)
- F. Murray Abraham in Dillinger and Capone (1995).
- Anthony LaPaglia in Road to Perdition (2002), in a deleted scene.
- Julian Littman in Al’s Lads (2002)
- Jon Bernthal in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009).
- Stephen Graham in Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014)
Actors playing characters based on Capone include:
- Wallace Beery as Louis ‘Louie’ Scorpio in The Secret Six (1931).
- Ricardo Cortez as Goldie Gorio in Bad Company (1931).
- Paul Lukas as Big Fellow Maskal in City Streets (1931).
- Edward Arnold as Duke Morgan in Okay, America! (1932).
- Jean Hersholt as Samuel ‘Sam’ Belmonte in The Beast of the City (1932).
- Paul Muni as Antonio ‘Tony’ Camonte in Scarface (1932).
- C. Henry Gordon as Nick Diamond in Gabriel Over the White House (1933).
- John Litel as ‘Gat’ Brady in Alcatraz Island (1937).
- Barry Sullivan as Shubunka in The Gangster (1947).
- Ralph Volkie as Big Fellow in The Undercover Man (1949).
- Edmond O’Brien as Fran McCarg in Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955).
- B.S. Pully as Big Jule, an intimidating, gun-toting mobster from “East Cicero, Illinois” in Guys and Dolls (film) (1955), reprising the role that Pully had originated in the earlier Broadway musical. 
- Lee J. Cobb as Rico Angelo in Party Girl (1958).
- George Raft as Spats Colombo and Nehemiah Persoff as Little Bonaparte in Some Like It Hot (1959).
- Frank Ronzio as Litmus in Escape from Alcatraz (1979) introduces himself to newcomer Charlie Butts as “Al Capone”. The movie is set in 1962, 15 years after Capone’s death.
- In Rocky II (1979), during the press conference scene announcing the upcoming title fight re-match between champion Apollo Creed and underdog Rocky Balboa, Rocky’s friend Paulie Pennino mutters that Rocky will “punch his lungs out,” and Apollo, seeing a dressed-up Paulie sitting there with a Capone-style fedora hat pulled low over his face and holding a big cigar, wisecracks “who’s that? Al Capone?”
- Cameron Mitchell as Boss Rojeck in My Favorite Year (1982)
- Al Pacino as Alphonse “Big Boy” Caprice in Dick Tracy (1990).
- Prince Buster, Jamaican ska and rocksteady musician, had his first hit in the UK with the single “Al Capone” in 1967.
- The Specials, a UK ska revival group, reworked Prince Buster’s track into their first single, “Gangsters”, which featured the line “Don’t call me Scarface!”
- Al Capone is referenced heavily in Prodigy’s track “Al Capone Zone”, produced by The Alchemist and featuring Keak Da Sneak.
- “Al Capone” is a song by Michael Jackson. It was recorded during the Bad era (circa 1987) but wasn’t included on the album. The song was released however in September 2012 in celebration of the Bad 25th anniversary.
- The British rock group Paper Lace sings about how “a man named Al Capone, tried to make that town (i.e., Chicago) his own, and he called his gang to war, with the forces of the law” in their 1974 hit The Night Chicago Died.
- Fans of Serbian football club Partizan are using Al Capone’s character as a mascot for one of their subgroups called “Alcatraz”, named after a prison in which Al Capone served his sentence. Also, in honour of Capone, a graffiti representation of him exists in the center of Belgrade.
- Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight Nikita Krylov is nicknamed “Al Capone”. Coincidentally, he had his first UFC win in Chicago.
Historically, Menswear designers have always taken a back seat. Often showing their collections alongside the women’s or tagged onto the end of global women’s fashion weeks. Finally, Menswear can have their own platform to showcase their innovation, creativity and talent here in Toronto. TOM*FW is created to stimulate the fashion industry and the economy. – TOM*
If your looking to get your feet wet in the fashion industry, I highly suggest registering as a volunteer for the upcoming Toronto Men’s Fashion Week. This will be TOM’s second time around showcasing Canadian designer’s SS15 lines returns in February 2015.
TOM is the 8th Men’s Fashion Week in the world celebrating the best in menswear design followed by London, Milan, Florence, Singapore, Vancouver and Los Angeles. TOM* serves to showcase established and pioneering menswear designers and brands.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of TOM* the previous time around as a sponsor and had the opportunity to meet many influential people within the fashion and media industries. Knowledge and business cards were exchanged and innovation and networks were created. I highly suggest volunteering to anyone looking to make it their first experience as meals are also provided! Click here to go to the sign-up page.
Tags: alec monopoly, art, askmen, graffiti, interview
With Art Basel (the international art show that’s on every millionaire’s or billionaire’s party circuit) approaching, I asked myself, “Who are the most relevant and interesting artists today?” Names such as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Jasper Johns quickly came to mind. While they all certainly produce impressive, iconic and germane contemporary art, I felt that that they didn’t quite muster the personal intrigue of artists of eras past — like, say, Warhol.
Warhol created buzz not only through his “pop” spin on iconic figures and objects, but his life personified his work. Perhaps it was the bevy of models by his side or his regular patronage of haunts like Studio 54, but his name lives on as something that represents the nostalgic best of his era. Today one artist in particular seems to be well on his way to developing a Warhol-like status and that is the graffiti artist Alec Monopoly. His street and canvas art foster a conversation centric to wealth and excess and the artist himself seems to have become the proverbial Monopoly Man who wears a top hat and is often chauffeured to some of the world’s most exclusive parties in a white Rolls (and has even designed custom Rolexes available through bhindi.com).
While this New York native may have somewhat of a bad boy rap, you need only sit down with Alec Monopoly to quickly realize how well spoken, passionate and humble he is about not only his work, but life. Yes, his caricature is over the top, but it’s really about performance art… even when he’s busy autographing Miley Cyrus’ inner thigh backstage at LIV Nightclub in Miami.
I spent some time with Monopoly before, during and after Basel to get a better appreciation of who he is, where he came from and how his life informs his art. Here are our conversations:
David Morris (DM): How did you end up in LA?
Alec Monopoly (AM): I was in New York and then I had some issues where I was getting into a lot of trouble with my graffiti, so I came out here just to take a break from it all and then I just ended up staying.
DM: When you say trouble…
AM: I was doing a lot of illegal graffiti at the time in New York City. I had an art show there. It was my first show and I was there doing a lot of graffiti promoting the show and the police showed up to my gallery. They actually tried to arrest me and I fled the state and I went to New Jersey. I took the train there and then I left from there.
DM: You literally left your show and fled to LA?
DM: Warrants out for your arrest?
AM: They were. They finally caught up to me. The cops always catch you.
DM: All that’s in the past now?
AM: Yeah, all that’s in the past. I’m chilling now.
DM: What were you graffitiing in New York?
AM: I’m not going to say exact details because the case really isn’t closed and they never really got me, but I was doing a couple of landmarks, areas that you really weren’t supposed to graffiti.
DM: You came up very quickly in the LA scene since your arrival in 2006.
AM: I was always known in the graffiti scene in New York, but not really in LA. I gained notoriety really quickly just because LA is so much easier to do graffiti. It’s so spread out. There’s not as many cops around. The cops really pass by you and they don’t even really care. They have bigger stuff to deal with. They have drunk drivers. They have the gangs. There’s shootings. In New York, the cops are bored because in Manhattan there’s not really much crime really anymore, so they’re really out for you. Here, they’re a little more lenient.
DM: And now people actually seek out your work.
AM: Yes, I was even able to get a lot of legal walls where I could do more intricate things. A lot of the walls you see now in LA I have are legal, done with permission.
DM: Is everything legal that you’re doing now?
AM: No, not everything, but most of the stuff. I always try to find time to do some graffiti here and there, but most of the time, I have so many walls that are given to me now, so anytime I want to go out and do something illegal, I can just do it legally.
DM: When did that change?
AM: I got my first permission mural in 2010 and then it snowballed because I used it as an example to show other building owners.
DM: What was your reaction when someone asks you to graffiti their wall?
AM: It was surprising. I spent maybe a week all day every day working on the wall, my first legal wall because I was just so excited and it was nice to be able to chill and relax and work on the piece instead of doing it quickly and running from the cops or whatever. Then it just really grew from there. Other people saw it and appreciated the skill.
DM: Then you started really making the transition to gallery art?
AM: My first show was in New York as I had mentioned. I had just been doing graffiti around New York and this real estate investor guy had walked through meat packing in New York and saw some of my graffiti. He was impressed and asked if I sold canvases. I really had not made any canvases of my graffiti work yet, but told him I could make one for him. He then commissioned me to make ten paintings and put on my first art show. Between the sold out show and the cops chasing after me it created a lot of media and I’ve been doing really well since then.
DM: Rewinding a little bit, everyone knows you as Alec Monopoly. Obviously that’s the alias of who you are in the media, but you grew up in New York? Who were you before you put on graffiti mask?
AM: I grew up in New York. My mom is a painter, so I’ve been doing drawings and paintings as early as I can remember. Then there was this gap where I was doing graffiti in high school and making as much [traditional] art. Then after high school, I focused mainly on [traditional] art and I wasn’t doing any graffiti. I did an art show for Donald Trump at his house in Palm Beach, Florida. It was a bunch of pop art and stuff like that, so I wasn’t doing any graffiti at that time, so I’d say from about 2000 to 2006, I wasn’t doing any graffiti.
DM: How did you get hooked up with Mr. Trump?
AM: My friend was actually doing a fashion show with a bunch of models at his house and asked if I wanted to come and exhibit there. It was an amazing opportunity for me. I ended up selling most of my canvas work there. Back then I was doing these Van sneakers to match the canvas and doing paintings on the shoes. They were pretty cool.
DM: When did you start to put on the mask and create your persona?
AM: I first created Alec Monopoly when I started doing graffiti of Monopoly figures. There are so many different routes you can go as a graffiti artist, but I wanted to keep my identity anonymous so I could continue to do more illegal graffiti. It was just for legal purposes that I was hiding my identity in the beginning. I never really even named myself Alec Monopoly. I was just going Alec and would always do the Monopoly guy. On the internet I just became known as Alec Monopoly. I’ve kept it not for legal purposes anymore, but it’s just more for my convenience so I could live a normal life.
DM: And you wear a top hat.
AM: I started wearing the top hat in 2012. It’s when I felt a little more comfortable with the character and felt almost absorbed by him, so now I really am the Monopoly guy.
DM: You’ll roll up in Hollywood in a white Rolls Royce to a venue, top hat, scarf and all, and everyone knows exactly who you are.
AM: Exactly. It’s fun because for me, I’ve become performance art. The life I live is my art work.
DM: Do you do this to further your brand?
AM: I’m going to carry on with it for a little bit longer, but I have some new concepts coming out and am going to do the death of Monopoly.
DM: The death of Monopoly?
AM: Yeah. We’re not releasing that series yet, but it will come soon.
DM: He’ll still hold a piece in your heart obviously?AM: Of course. He’ll hold a piece in history, but these are some new characters I’m working with. You see Mick Jagger right here? These are an icon series of the masters of each art form. I did Jay-Z as the master of hip-hop. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones as the master of rock-n-roll. I did Picasso, the master of cubism. I did Salvador Dali, the master of surrealism, and I’m working on all these different masters, but I’m also incorporating a story behind it. So the canvas of Mick Jagger’s portrait actually contains pages from his biography of Mick Jagger. So there are three dimensions to it. The first dimension you’re going to just look at it, you can see the photo of him. Second dimension is you could read into it even more about him and his life story [from his biography on the canvas] and the third is the shading that’s all black light reactive, so when you put a black light on it, it turns three-dimensional.DM: The portrait work actually shows more dimensions of you as well, as many see your work and predominantly think of more cartoonesque pop-art.
AM: That’s what I used for graffiti in the streets. There you only have half a second to gain someone’s attention for someone walking by to actually pay attention to it. They really need something that they can gravitate towards and they can relate to right away or they’re just going to keep going and the work blends in with the rest of the graffiti. For me the Monopoly guy resonates with everyone from every country because everyone knows exactly what he is and stands for. Right now I’m gravitating towards new characters like Richie Rich and Scrooge McDuck among others.
DM: And now your masters series.
AM: Exactly. When I was first painting the Monopoly guy I received a criticism. People said, “You’re just painting cartoon characters, anyone can do that,” but I’m actually a very skilled artist. That’s why I released a Jack Nicholson portrait right after that that was very detailed in the face to show my skills.
DM: And that was all done with graffiti.
DM: How do you get the fine detail of graffiti?
AM: Graffiti is a lot easier than the canvas actually, because it’s such a large format, so when you’re going to such a thin detail, it’s not that thin in the realm of things because it’s such a big wall. This would take a small paint brush of detail, but on a huge wall, if that’s the size of a building, the thinnest detail is still that big, it’s a quick spray. Spray paint is easiest for me. I love spray paint.
DM: Where did you train?
AM: I learned to paint at home from my mom. She was a very good teacher, but with spray paint, I taught myself. Spray paint is impossible. They say it takes a decade to really learn spray paint and be good with it. I’ve been at it about ten years now and am now really just getting good and confident with it.
DM: What’s the idea with the social commentary? With Monopoly, it seems to perhaps be Bernie Madoff? When you came to rise, there was quite a bit of financial controversy, so there’s obviously some satire that’s seen by people looking at your work, but is there a message you’re trying to convey with him, with the character, or is it just something you like?
AM: It’s something I like, but at the same time, there is a message, but I like to leave the message open, so people can draw their own conclusions on it, keep people guessing I guess.
DM: Is there something that you’re trying to convey with the new portrait series?
AM: The new portrait series, they’re just characters that I’ve been inspired by and that I really enjoy and I think Mick Jagger is one of the best musicians and artists of our century, so I’m just honoring him I guess out of the love I have for him.
DM: Changing gears a bit, you are very well known in the nightlife scene. Is going out just part of the business for you?
AM: I try to act like it’s a business thing, but I just love going out too. In LA, I really like 1 Oak. It’s just easy and chill, other than us getting shot at the other night when we were there.
DM: You mean when people came in a shot at Chris Brown?
AM: I was there. I’d just done a painting with Chris Brown on Sunset and he said, tonight is my album release party. You’ve got to come by. I was like, sure, why not? He was like come sit at my table. I’ll be performing. I come in and we’re hanging at the table. I forget what time it was and we hear bang, bang, bang. We’re like what? Everyone hits the ground and me and Chris Brown are like, those are fireworks. They weren’t and Chris and I ended up in all those TMZ videos where everyone hit the ground. We all raced out of there, but I’ve been back since.
DM: What’s your schedule like? You’re basically based in LA, but you’re traveling a lot, right?
AM: Yes. I just did a whole Asia tour. I work with the W Hotels internationally, mainly in Asia, and I do paintings in their lobbies. I just painted the W Maldives. I did one of the huge speedboats. When you’re landing, it’s by sea plane, you land onto this beautiful island with blue crystal water and the hotels are out on the water and you can see the ocean underneath you. Where you land you can see the speedboat. The boat’s name is Marilyn so I just did Marilyn Monroe on the roof, her eyes looking up, so when you’re landing, you can see her eyes are looking at you, and then when you come in to the entrance of the hotel there’s a huge mural. I also went to Thailand and met with the Museum of Contemporary Art there, which is this quarter billion dollar brand new museum. I’m going to do my first museum show there next November, which is a really big deal for me. Then I went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi after it, where I was doing stuff for sheikhs and private collectors.
DM: Let’s talk a little bit about that. What was that like?
AM: It was very interesting because I had never been before and a lot of my following is over there. I was just really excited to meet everybody and hang out with all my fans. It was really cool. I was hanging out with one of the sheikhs and he had a pet chimpanzee that I was playing with.
AM: Yeah, it was adorable. His name was Luca, this little chimpanzee, so I was hanging with him. We went to the gym with him and he climbs on the monkey bars!
DM: What is it like to be in one of those palaces?
AM: It’s insane. It’s funny because the palaces are in the middle of nowhere. It will be this sandy desert and then you pull up to this mega-palace. It’s weird how spread out everything is over there.
DM: You’re out there partying with sheikhs. Any crazy stories?
AM: It was interesting because everywhere I went I’d meet somebody and they’re like oh, come paint my hot rod or just for fun, think of stuff for me to do. Come paint my hot rod car for $50,000. I painted my friend’s gym for $75,000. It was crazy. There’s no concept of money. They really don’t care about what anything costs.
DM: And now you’re doing a privately commissioned show/mega party for Basel.
AM: Marc Bell is putting it on for me. He’s a billionaire collector and he’s going to buy a bunch of the paintings that are going to be in the show. It’s a private event so it’s nice because there’s no sponsorships or anything, so we don’t have to deal with any sponsors. I literally have free reign to do whatever I want within the show.
We’re going to do it all around the pool deck in the back area and I wrapped the whole front of the hotel with my graffiti and then actually have five super cars that I did art work on parked out front. Then I’m back to LA for about a week and then I’m off to St. Bart’s. I’m doing an art show in St. Bart’s over New Years. Every billionaire in the world is out there.
DM: David Morris: What is the best market for art in the world?
AM: I think the best market is London because London is such an international city. Everyone from around the world in Europe goes to London. I’m sure there’s a lot of tax breaks and weird situations where people can buy stuff in London. My show last year in London was my most successful show.
DM: When was that?
AM: That was last I think it was February.
DM: What do you with a show? Do you usually get out there a day before?
AM: I go a week or two before, but that time, when it’s in Europe, it’s a whole different thing because here the shipping is easy. Shipping in Miami is expensive, but it’s easy. Shipping to London is so expensive, it’s not worth it, so I’d rather go out there and create the work there. Last year, when I was in London, we were staying all the way in West London in a Holiday Inn, this little shitty hotel, working out of this warehouse. It was crazy. For two weeks, I just detached from all society, turned my phone off, was just in the zone working in the studio, and then after that, after the two weeks were over, I came over, stayed in the Ritz Carlton living it up. I like to work really hard and then earn the good life. I actually enjoy it. If you’re eating caviar all the time, it doesn’t taste good anymore.
For more information on Alec Monopoly and his work, check out alecmonopoly.com
Tags: basketball, drake, drake night, ovo, raptors, toronto
After mingling with Kobe Bryant, performing with A$AP Mob in Los Angeles, opening his OVO store in downtown Toronto, and brawling with Diddy in Miami, Drake is being honoured in his hometown for a second time around. He definitely is our U.G.K. (Underground King) whether some people won’t like to admit it or not. I personally feel that all the attention Drake brings to the Raptors and their fans, makes them more motivated and this season shows what that can do.
The shirt below is the new design that will be handed out to all ticket holders at the ACC tonight:
Opposed to the black and gold theme of last season, this year’s Drake Night shirt is a little more retro – embracing the 20th Anniversary with the original Raptors logo and lettering. I like the look but white gets dirty.
The Air Canada Centre will be a white-out sell-out crowd Tonight, seeing as Drake has again picked the Brooklyn Nets as the opposing team. I would love to be sitting court side at this game, especially if Jay-Z made an appearance. I’m sure scalper’s are making a killing tonight.
Last year, before their victory on Drake Night, Drake announced the starting lineups, did commentary with Matt and Jack, and got a special Drake suit jacket with his nickname inside.
Tags: art, banksy, toronto
A reader tipped off a popular Toronto-based blog, Blog TO, to this anonymous street art spotted in the Financial District last night. Located at Commerce Court, it is attached to Derrick Stephan Hudson’s bronze sculpture Temba, Mother of Elephants, which was installed in the courtyard in 2002. The piece is simple but effective in my opinion, two ball and chains with gold dollar signs are attached to the young elephants, which serves as both a reminder of the area’s fundamental purpose and as a subtle critique of this particular style of public art.
What I like most about this particular style of art is that it usually consists of sculptures installed at public spaces. This isn’t the kind of art you can hang on your wall, it is meant to be displayed outdoors against authority to open the public eye to current issues in our society. It is usually done by someone who, like in this case, wishes to remain Anonymous. This adds a certain mystic that draws my attention. Unfortunately, the shackles were quickly removed as of 9:30 a.m.
Tags: Fashion, puma, Rihanna
This is an interesting match-up, Rihanna has been named the Creative Director of Puma, overseeing the women’s vertical. “Rihanna will work with Puma to design and customize classic Puma style, as well as create new styles to add to the Puma product portfolio,” the company said Tuesday. It is said to be a multi-year partnership, which I imagine equals big money for Rihanna. She is also said to act as the brand’s Global Ambassador alongside Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and football star Mario Balotelli, in addition to starring in the brand’s add campaign for 2015.
Puma is one of my favourite brands so I’m glad to see it get the attention. Another celebrity who supports Puma is Toronto’s own, Deadmau5. Besides Beyonce, I would say Rihanna has the highest influence on fashion in the music industry for chicks.
Tags: alcohol, disaronno, Fashion, versace
Disaronno has collaborated with one of the world’s most reputable fashion houses. The DISARONNO wears VERSACE limited edition bottle is a collaboration between two iconic Italian brands.
Combining the classic shape of the Disaronno bottle with the signature decadence of Versace fashions, the design takes its inspiration from he blue, gold, and white motifs of the Versace home collection.
The project supports “Fashion 4 Development”, a charity sponsored by the United Nations that creates opportunities for women working in the fashion industry in developing countries.
This one of a kind collectors’ edition bottle is now available in stores around the world, so make sure to pick one up now for yourself or as a gift to that fashion forward family member this holiday season!
Tags: bomber, Fashion, h&m, kanye, kanye west, MEN’S FASHION, swizz beats, versace
I have always been a big fan of Kanye West’s fashion sense, except for the skirt thing but I get it. One of his most notable pieces to date is the H&M x Versace collaboration bomber that he debuted at his performance for the VS Fashion show a few years ago.
The Versace for H&M collection was always going to be a hit, its unmistakable pedigree whipping up a frenzy before the colourful clothes even hit shelves. This jacket in particular has skyrocketed in appreciation since its debut. Originally $129.99 in-store, it was selling for $800 on eBay the very next day. Now, if you search on eBay you would be lucky to find one for sale.
About a month ago my good friend Passion Daisy, another Toronto fashion blogger was fortunate enough to find me one these staple pieces at a thrift shop on Queen St. W. in Toronto. I scooped it for $80! Once I got home I checked it’s current value on eBay and there was only 1 available for $1300 which has already been sold.
The moral of this story is you never know what you can find in thrift shops!