My grandfather was a bootlegger in the 1920s, working for Cotton Club owner Owney Madden down in Harlem. His nickname was “Two-Gun Andy”.
When I was a kid, my grandfather downplayed his bootlegging days, but every so often he slipped and talked abut it.
At the party after my first Holy Communion, my grandfather told us how Al Capone beat a guy to death with a baseball bat.
When he first told us the story, my grandfather said he was in New York when he heard about Capone beating the guy in Chicago. He and his fellow bootleggers all agreed that Capone was a useless gavonne who would cause nothing but trouble for he alternative beverage industry.
Two years later, at my brother’s first Communion, my grandfather told the story again. This time he said he was in Chicago when he heard the Capone story from other bootleggers.
No one dared to say a bad word about Capone in Chicago, so my grandfather says he kept his mouth shut.
I recognized the discrepancy in my grandfather’s telling of the story the second time, but no one dared to correct my grandfather, so I kept my mouth shut.
Four years later, at the party after my sister’s first Communion, my grandfather told the Capone story again. This time, he said he was in the hotel lobby when Capone beat the guy to death upstairs in the hotel penthouse. He described the tension in the place, as the news filtered downstairs bit by bit. “Nobody was looking each other in the eyes,” he said. “That’s how I knew they were scared.”
Three years later, at my graduation, Two-Gun Andy told the Capone story again. This time he said he was in the hallway outside the penthouse, listening through the door as Capone beat the guy to death inside. Again, none of the people involved dared to say anything.
A few years later, the movie “The Untouchables” came out. It had a scene of Capone beating a guy to death with a baseball bat.
My brother and I, in the audience, saw Robert Deniro as Capone make a speech at a fancy banquet in a hotel penthouse ballroom. Then we saw him pick up a baseball bat. “It’s grandpa’s story!!!” we whispered.
As Capone brought the baseball bat down on the guy’s head, my brother and I burst into inappropriate laughter while the rest of the audience cringed at the murderous beating.
When the film ended, we called my grandfather and excitedly told him there was a movie in which his Capone story was featured.
My grandfather said “Maddon’! I thought Capone was comin’ after me!! Did I ever tell you the guy he killed was SITTING RIGHT! NEXT! TO! ME!!! “