Making something from nothing and succeeding!......
......ALSO HAS BEEN called: THE SECRET VAULTS OF AL CAPONE (FYI)
THIS WAS PRODUCED when the newsman formerly known as 'Gerry Rivers' was at a dangerous crossroads in hid career. That is to say, Geraldo Rivera was looking to somehow re-jump start a career that found itself to be caught up in the throngs of a terrible tailspin.
COINCIDENTALLY AND QUITE by chance*, there was a great push on by both the Movers and the Shakers in the City of Chicago to land a World's Fair for the "City of Broad Shoulders." If the deal had been successfully transacted and even consummated, it would have been the 3rd World's Fair for the City.**
AS IT WOULD be expected, there was a great deal of speculation in regard to investors profiting by retooling many of the town's consumer and tourist oriented businesses. Among the categories of commerce that were situated at or near the top of hill was that of public accommodations; which is also known as the Hotel Industry.
KNOWING THAT CHICAGO both famous and infamous history and reputation would come to the forefront, the smart money opted to invest and speculate on this dichotomy; possibly reasoning that "no publicity is bad publicity." Hence, one particular area on the near Southside became the hub of activity in remodeling some of the now old and decaying hotel space.
IN PARTICULAR, THE business district immediately surrounding and adjacent to Michigan Avenue & Cermak Road (formerly 22nd Street) became a prime target for redevelopers' attentions. Anchoring the business streets were two old, antique and even archaic appearing hotels. Both had a history with the Chicago Crime Syndicate (better known as "the Outfit) as with that period of rule of "Scarface" Alphonse Capone.
THEY WERE BY name the Metropole and the New Michigan hotels respectively. Both were target for the face-lift treatment and the expected potential deluge of $$$$ brought in by this process of transient re-gentrification.
ONE OF THESE establishments was chosen by Mr. Geraldo Rivera as the focal point of this great remodeling surge. It was the New Michigan and Geraldo's move was a crap-shoot, one that would either jump-start his broadcast career in the right direction or aid in consigning his to the scrap heap of also rans.
THE IDEA WAS simple, basic and easy on budgetary matters. It was to tell the story of the hotel and how excavating the lower levels of the building would possibly reveal prohibition era contraband, buried loot and maybe even the remains of an "Outfit Hit" or two. it was to be a sort of modern day archaeological dig.
INTERSPERSED WITH THE narration by Rivera and the scenes of the workmen digging, hammering, plastering and sawing were clips from some old newsreels and some scenes of actor Neville Brand's portrayal of Capone culled from the original two part UNTOUCHABLES, as shown on the SESILU PLAYHOUSE Desilu/CBS TV, 1959).***
THE SCRIPTED DESCRIPTIVE narration, although being very intelligently crafted, was raised to a far greater level thanks to its being amplified with the filmed segments. The fact that this was a combination of "investigative Journalism" with Hollywood make believe never seemed to be questioned.
AFTER AN HOUR of such genre-mixing, the conclusion of the show was reached. The construction (destruction) boys had broken through a wall in the cellar of the New Michigan and found, not any alcohol distillery equipment, no treasure trove of illicit dollars nor any evidence of a gangland graveyard. Instead the sole artifact produced was .....drum roll.........a bottle. It looked like an old ketchup bottle, the kind that we used to find in the old dumps behind Lindblom Park, on South Damen Avenue.
THEN, POOR OLD Geraldo ran off from the production site. Believing the show ti have been a total flop, he proceeded to tie one on; all the while wondering what would be next.
WELL, TO PARAPHRASE Rocky Graziano, somebody up there must have been in Rivera's corner that evening. As it turned out, his special had outstanding ratings with the Nielson people. As luck would have it, it was on the air during the period of Spring doldrums on the TV Networks. His special, having been heavily promoted, faced only a bunch of reruns on the other stations.
SO, GERRY RIVERS, it has long been said that; "Timing is everything in life." It would seem to be especially true in TV Land.
FINALLY, IT SEEMS that the program ran longer than the hour that we see it's being credited. It was maybe 2 hours; but the only evidence we have of this assertion is our ever clouding memory.
NOTE: * Okay yeah we know that phrase sounds awfully redundant. Please forgive.
NOTE ** The two previously staged World's Fairs were the 1933 CENTURY OF PROGRESS FAIR and the 1893 WORLD'S COLUMBIAN EXPOSITION. The proposed fair was to have commemorated the 300th Anniversary of the Columbus voyages as the 1893 did his bicentennial.
NOTE: *** THE UNTOUCHABLES Story first presented as a two part two hour dramatization on the CBS network's DESILU PLAYHOUSE; which spun off into its own full fledged weekly series the following year over ABC.
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