Tour uncovers history of Chicago’s organized crime
In 1975, former mob boss Sam Giancana was found dead in his Oak Park home, shot seven times. The suspect? Dominic “Butch” Blasi, Giancana’s trusted driver and bodyguard.
“[Blasi was] absolutely the guy who Giancana would turn his back on and not worry,” said John Binder, retired professor of finance in the College of Business Administration and a self-professed organized crime buff.
The risk of being taken out by a friend didn’t matter when mobsters were house hunting, Binder says. They liked living close to their fellow Mafiosos in the quiet neighborhoods of Oak Park and River Forest.
He tells the stories of 10 organized crime figures in his “There Goes the Neighborhood” tour of million-dollar homes formerly owned by mobsters like Giancana, Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo and “Tough Tony” Capezio.
The tour covers the history of Chicago-area organized crime from the Prohibition era until the 1990s. The next tour dates are Sept. 20 and Oct. 18.
Mobsters during and after the Prohibition era were like their nicknames, Binder says: colorful, dangerous and tough as nails.
“Three fingered Jack” White, union racketeer and Chicago mob boss, died in 1934 after a visit from two friends in his Oak Park apartment. The friendly check-in turned sour, and just like that — bada bing, bada boom — he was finished.
Accardo, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre killer and head of the Chicago Outfit, earned his nickname because of his notorious use of baseball bats to eliminate enemies.
“It’s a nasty little world,” said Binder, author of The Chicago Outfit.
But when it came to home-buying, mobsters looked for the same things everyone else wants: a quality neighborhood with a good school for the kids, Binder said.
“They liked a short commute to work, somewhere where they could relax, a nice neighborhood, something nice and quiet.”
Binder, who started the tour to share his passion for Chicago mob history, is working on a new book about Prohibition and organized crime in Chicago.
“My suggested title is Beer Wars,” he said.
The “There Goes the Neighborhood” tour bus departs from and returns to the Oak Park Visitor Center, 1010 Lake St. The two-hour tours depart at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 or $27 for seniors and active military.
To sign up, call the Oak Park Visitor Center at 708-848-1500 or visit the tour’s Facebook group page (log in required).