"Big Jim" Colosimo was a gangster - he was the largest whore-monger and bordello controller in Chicago, Illinois in 1920. It took him many years to reach that position, but he was a made man by 1920, and a contented one. From all we think we know now his contentment was a major mistake. Possibly if he had been more willing to roll with the times, and the great thirst that prohibition brought to the U.S. (as his aide and nephew Johnnie Torrio strongly urged), Colosimo would have remained alive for many more years, and we would not be aware of one of the most notorious careers in American crime. But "Big Jim" was content
and it destroyed him.
Colosimo was what they used to term "a mustache "Pete"", which was an old-time gangster who when he made a large pile was willing to sit on his laurels and not push for further possible pickings. If they had any hungry lieutenants among their men, like Johnny Torrio in "Big Jim" 's organization, this could become fatal.
Torrio did not want to take out "Big Jim" himself - they were blood relatives, and it was just not done. But he himself had a nephew on the other side of the family (not connected to Big Jim) from the slums of New York and Brooklyn. It was Johnny's nephew Alphonse Capone. Al had a checkered career by 1920, including getting his face carved (hence "Scarface") by the brother of a girl Al insulted after getting no where with her. But he was fully capable of committing violent acts if necessary. As there was little headway for him in the New York gangs, Capone willingly took up the invite to his Uncle's hometown of Chicago.
Within two or three months, gunshots rang out of a restaurant lobby, and "Big Jim" was lying dead on the floor. Nobody saw who did it - but some people thought they saw Mr. Torrio's nephew near the restaurant. But soon these people either changed their story or disappeared. And soon the murder of Chicago's leading successful pimp was marked "unsolved": the first of many in the next decade in Chicago - many frequently linked to one Alphonse or Al Capone.
To be fair to "Big Al" I have to explain that he may not have been the hit-man (though many insisted he was). Another New York gangster, Frankie Yale (later President of the Unione Sicilione) was in Chicago at the time, and many others insisted he was the trigger man - not Capone. It is a hard point to decide on, as there were few witnesses to the crime. Either gentleman was capable of the murder.
From 1920 - 1924 Johnny Torrio was head of the growing gang that he inherited from his Uncle "Big Jim". Only Johnny got involved in bootlegging and union racketeering. Then, in 1924, during a war with some Irish and Italian mobsters, Torrio got badly wounded. He recuperated, and then (probably very wisely) told his nephew Al to take over while he (Torrio) would retire. And he did. And Al Capone soon was ruling the city of Chicago, and becoming the most notorious urban gangster boss in American history. But Torrio (unlike poor Uncle "Big Jim") lived into the 1950s, and enjoyed his ill-gotten wealth and his position as an "elder statesman" of American gangsterdom.
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