Bruce Frankel

Author of the new book "What Should I Do with the Rest of My Life? True Stories of Finding Success, Passion, and New Meaning in the Second Half of Life."

Book Making: Deirdre Capone’s ‘Uncle Al’ And Family Feuds

July 20, 2010

Gangster Al Capone’s relatives, real and sham, have recently been trying to take his notorious name to the bank. Family feuds have, as a result, been brewing.

A memoir, ‘Uncle Al Capone,’ written by Deirdre Marie Capone, the great niece of the Chicago mobster once known as Public Enemy #1, is at the center of the controversy, according to a bylined story by David Kesmodel in today’s Wall Street Journal.

But money is not her goal, says the 70-year-old Florida grandmother.

After decades of research and at the insistence of her children, she hopes to renovate the family name by telling what it was really like growing up Capone.  “Just because you have Capone blood does not mean that you are monster. It really makes me angry,” she said.


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Al Capone, she says, was really just a “big kid” who enjoyed rolling on the carpet with her, soothed her when she fell from an apple tree, and taught her to swim in the pool of his house in Miami. It was there that Al Capone lived from the time of his release from prison in 1939—after serving eight years of his sentence for a conviction on charges of tax evasion—until his death from syphilis on Jan. 25, 1947, the date of Deirdre’s seventh birthday. Though government prosecutors believed Al Capone was responsible for as many as 500 murders, they never succeeded in forging a case against him on those charges.

But the Capone name became synonymous with rampant brutality thanks to the ceaseless mythologizing of the press, says Dierdre Marie Capone. As a result, her father, Ralph, a graduate of Notre Dame and Loyola University Law School, committed suicide in 1950, at age 33. Otherwise, she says, he might have redeemed the family name the way that John F. Kennedy did the Kennedy name. “He was a brilliant man,” she said. “I want to give my father’s short life back to him.”

For years, she used her father’s middle name, Gabriel, to hide her true identity.  She learned early that her real last name was a blight. Not long after Al Capone’s death, parents at the Catholic school she attended in Chicago discovered that she was a Capone from press reports of her first communion. From then on, they forbid their children to ever play with her.

In our interview, she declined to disclose her married name, where she lives, or the names of any current or former jobs or employers. She claimed to have worked as a “business executive” and said she had sat at tables with senators and governors.  “There are still a lot of people out there who would like to be the one to shoot the last Capone,” she said to explain her reticence. “I try to keep my adult life out of it.”

Still, she was interviewed on NBC’s Today Show two years ago:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

While the Wall Street Journal story said she plans to publish her book this fall, she currently has no book contract. Even if her book gets published, she won’t make buyers out of some Capones.

“I wouldn’t read it if somebody bought it for me,” Theresa Capone, Al Capone’s granddaughter, told Kesmodel. She said she was furious about revelations in the recently published book, “Get Capone,” by Jonathan Eig, a former Wall Street Journal reporter. The book cites a claim by Deirdre Marie Capone that Theresa’s father,  Albert “Sonny” Capone, was not the son of Al Capone’s wife, Mae, but of a young woman who died in childbirth. “It is totally and completely false.”

Meanwhile, Chris Knight Capone, the 38-year-old author of a self-published and ghost written book, Son of Scarface, has also angered the Capone clan by filing a lawsuit in Chicago to have the gangster’s remains exhumed to prove that his father, Bill Knight, was Al Capone’s son. After years of research, in 2008, Chris Knight changed his last name to Capone.

And then there’s Dominic Capone III. His relation to Al Capone is also questioned. Nonetheless, he’s been capitalizing on it with his “Capone Family Secret” tomato sauce, which he sells at 188 grocery stores in the Chicago area, and via PayPal. It pulled in about $300,000 last year, he recently told Lou Carloza of AOL’s Wallet Pop. “We’ve been doing really good—in fact, a lot better than we thought we’d do.”

Dominic, an actor who starred as Al Capone in the TV documentary “The Real Untouchables,”  claims the sauce’s recipe was handed down to him by his grandfather Ralph. However, Deirdre Marie discounts his claim of being related to the gangster. Asked what the real relation was, he said,  “I can’t really say. It’s a little scandalous, what’s going on in the Capone family.”

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