My Al Capone Museum | home
MY AL CAPONE MUSEUM | The Capone Trash Bin | FAQ's | Links | Mario Gomes | Al Capone's Personal Silver Locket | Al Capone's Personal Dress Shirt | Al Capone's Personal Telephone | Al Capone's Personal Cuckoo Clock | Al Capone Framed Signature | Al Capone's Silver Tray | Al Capone's light fixtures | Al Capone's Personal Straw Boater? | Ralph Capone's Personal Silver Pin and Dice | Hymie Weiss Personal Prayer Book | John D. Torrio's Personal items | Louis "Two Gun" Alterie signed photo | SVD Massacre bullet fragments | Interesting items retrieved from Al Capone's Lexington office suite | Alton Hotel Relics | Al Capone Wax Figure | 7244 Prairie Avenue | 93 Palm Avenue | 93 Palm Avenue Part 2 | 93 Palm Avenue Part 3 | 93 Palm Avenue Part 4 | New 93 Palm Avenue home | New Palm Avenue home Part 2 | Artifacts from 93 Palm Avenue | The Capone era Cicero, Illinois | The Harvard Inn | The Four Deuces (2222 South Wabash) | The Hawthorne Hotel | The Metropole Hotel | The Lexington Hotel | Al Capone's Bathroom Tile From The Lexington Hotel | Geraldo's Capone Vault Grand Opening | Lexington's Destruction | X Marks the Spot magazine | Capone Magazines and Booklets | Capone Videos | Capone Books | Knick Knacks | Capone's Chicago | Chicago photos | Capone Documents | Capone Photographs | Capone Photographs 2 | Capone Photographs 3 | My History channel Shoot | Gravesites | Gravesites 2 | Al Capone Speaks On Film! | Al Capone's CPD Mugshot | FDR and Al Capone's Cadillac; Truth or Myth? | Al Capone Goes To Atlantic City | Al Capone in Hot Springs | Al Capone and Friends: | Al Capone and Miami | Al Capone Goes to Cuba | The Real Al Capone Quotes | Capone at the Ballpark | Al Capone's Death and Funeral | The St. Valentine's Day Massacre | The Massacre Pt.2 | Massacre Victim's Stats. | Massacre News blurbs | Some Theories on the Valentine Massacre | Discounted Valentine Massacre theories | Valentine Killers? | The St. Valentine's Day Massacre Wall bricks | The St. Valentine Massacre guns today | The Infamous St. Valentine's Day Massacre forensic evidence | The Adonis Social Club Incident | When, Where and How did they die? | Gangster facts and side stories | The Obituaries | Gangster talk | Gangster Fashion | Gangster Molls | William Hale Thompson | Gangland Armourers | The Chicago Typewriter | Gangster Hitspots | Mae Capone | Louise Rolfe | Alberto Anselmi and Giovanni Scalise | Frank Parker | William Niemoth | Jack Guzik | Samuel "Golf bag"Hunt | Jake Lingle | Frankie Yale | Samoots Ammatuna | Jack Zuta | Leo Vincent Brothers | Edward David Vogel | John D. Torrio | Joe E. Lewis | Rocco DeGrazia | Machine Gun Jack McGurn | Willie Heeney | James "Fur" Sammons | Jack "Three fingered" White | George "Red" Barker | Anthony "Tough Tony" Capezio | Frank Nitti | Dean Charles O'Banion | Samuel Morton | George Clarence Moran | Hymie Weiss | Vincent "The Schemer" Drucci | Fred "Killer" Burke | Fred Goetz | Joe Aiello | Edward "Spike" O'Donnell | The Genna brothers | Angelo La Mantia | Frank Rio | Ragtime Joe Howard | Hinky Dink and Bathouse John | Sol Van Praag | Theodore "The Greek" Anton | Joseph P. Bergl | Daniel "Danny" Stanton | Edward Tancl | Louis & Elliott Wisbrod | Eliot Ness | Al Capone's tax trial and downfall | Al in Jail | Thomas Prior | Robert Gallo as Al Capone | Mr. Joe Walters | Gangster articles | Newspapers of the day | Newspapers part Two | Newspapers Part Three | Newspapers Part Four | The Green Mill | Colosimo's | Alcatraz | Alcatraz Part 2 | Al Capone goes to Baltimore | Gangster sites today | Gangster Sites part 2 | Dead Gangsters | The Famous Capone Soup Kitchen | Origins of the Scars | Al Capone Myths | Collecting Al Capone? | The truth about Al Capone's signature | Al Capone and other Gangster related books | In Memoriam | Contact Me | Authentic Lexington Hotel Floor Marble | Capone/ Gangster Collectibles for Sale
Geraldo's Capone Vault Grand Opening
I know, I know, I've gotten all the emails and heard all the rants about it from my fellow historians, writers and friends. Things said like "Geraldo's Capone vault opening was a totally flop!" " He was a boob for doing that." " What a major gaffe!"
All a matter of opinion and I would have agreed to keep the peace, but you know what? I personally think it was great!!! Okay, to build something up only to find nothing would be disappointing for most, but I was more entertained by the documentary than watching some so called "demolition experts" blowing up a brick wall. I give credit to Geraldo on two points. One for having the guts to risk his career to do such a thing and two, for doing a bang up job on the documentary. I was happy to see that he went all over the place to interview some important people related to this Capone subject. He and his staff did their homework and learned the story of Capone pretty well. Where else could we have ever seen Louise Rolfe "the Blonde alibi" speak, newspaper man Robert St. John who was beaten by Ralph Capone and his fellow thugs and lived to tell his tale. Newspaper photographer the great Anthony Berardi and his first hand accounts of murder scenes. All knew Capone and all incidently are no longer with us. So kudos to Geraldo for interviewing them.
All this done way before any history channel documentary on Capone. That alone deserves some kind of credit.
Another who deserves credit for this documentary is producer Doug LLewelyn. Some of you might say "Hey! I've heard that name before!" Yes, you have! He was the court reporter for a show called "The People's Court" which was resided by Judge Wapner. Doug used to interview the plaintiffs and defendants after the cases were heard.
Geraldo Rivera shooting a thompson submachine gun in the empty Lexington hotel before the grand opening of the Capone vault.
Three different views of a .45 slug fired from a thompson submachine gun fired by Geraldo Rivera that ended up in the wall plaster of the Lexington. Note the damage to the slug. They knew how to build walls back then.
(Mario Gomes Collection)
Closeup of Geraldo rounds removed from Lexington Hotel walls.
(Mario Gomes Collection thanks to William J. Helmer)
The Capone documentary was funded by the Tribune co. and the Westgate group together in association with Sunbow organisation which was an organisation for women who planned to renovate the Lexington hotel.
Thankfully, Geraldo's documentary ( minus the actual vault opening) was later turned into a video by MPI.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)
On Monday night April 21, 1986, after 5 years of speculative theories Al Capone's vault was opened on live t.v. All that was found was a few empty whiskey bottles. The spectacle was carried natinowide across america to 181 television stations. It was broadcast live in North America and in the Netherlands. It was viewed later in Brazil, Germany, France, Britain, Argentina, Italy, Japan, Australia, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and Paraguay.
The opening of Capone's vault in basement of Lexington. Photo taken at the documentary making of Geraldo's Al Capone special.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)
Dr. Robert Stein cook county medical examiner was brought in just in case some dead bodies was found in Capone's mysterious vault. There were rumors that Capone had his rivals murdered and placed in the vault.
Harold Rubin known as "Weird Harold" and Thomas Bangs, two Capone memorabilia excavators came across the vault in 1981 while looking for Capone stuff in the derelict and abandoned hotel. They saw what looked like an encased area of 125 ft long x 6 x 8 feet high.
Harold, whose nickname Weird Harold came from a one time pornography shop he ran in Chicago, had a masonry expert come to investigate the supposed vault. The Sunbow foundation and it's executive director Patricia Porter, who took over the old Lexington after weird Harold's claims, was now claiming it as theirs had agreed with the documentary makers to be paid $50,000 and given 1% of profits generated by the vault opening gig. Harold, insensed, hired a lawyer to litigate his right to finding the vault. Other litigations ensued against Porter for the right to profits.
William J. Helmer, our grand exhalted gangster era author and historian emeritus was also on the documentary team to help with the research for the vault opening event.
Unfortunately, when feminist Patricia Porter (who through litigation now ran the show) got wind that Helmer was once a Playboy magazine editor, he was unceremoniously removed from participating on the show.
Bill Helmer's pin from the show.
Never forgiving, the IRS sent an agent with an $800,000 lien against the hotel because Capone owed $201,347.68 in back taxes. Interest accumulated since his death in 1947 amounts to $604,767.88, according to IRS figures. Al Capone had the last laugh though and left us with a couple of dusty bottles.
On a good note, hundreds of gangster fans watched it on a wide screen at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. They paid $10 a head, with the all the proceeds going to charity.
The Sunbow organisation never did renovate the Lexington. They took something on that was too big for them and with lacking funds they gave up the project. It was up for sale by a new owner at several hundred thousand, but no buyer came through to save her. The beautiful Lex was demolished to make way for condos.
As usual, the City of Chicago was glad to see her go.
Booklet commemorating the event.
(Photo courtesy of Mr. Bill Helmer)
First Posted June 2007