36 years ago on this day: Al Capone’s safe is blown up, nothing of interest is found

CHICAGO (CBS) – On this day, 36 years ago, Geraldo Rivera was heading to the real safe of Chicago gangster Al Capone.

The safe was located in the old Lexington Hotel at 2135 S. Michigan Ave. in the south loop. Tens of millions of people tuned in on April 21, 1986 to see what, if anything, the mobster left in his safe.

CBS 2’s John Drummond was there for the big bang and reported on it on CBS 2’s 10 a.m. news that night. He called it the biggest dig since archaeologists unearthed King Tut’s tomb.

But to use Drummond’s own words, there was no body, no Capone loot, no Capone loot, and no cases of gin and scotch under the hotel, which once served as Capone’s headquarters. .

Workers using dynamite blew up the brick and concrete wall that would have served as Capone’s secret safe. They found a lot of dirt and rubble, and two souvenir hunters found bottles of booze from the prohibition zone. Published reports indicate that Rivera’s team also found an old sign in the vault.

And that was about it.

Cook County medical examiner Dr. Robert Stein came just in case bodies were discovered in the rubble.

“I had a lot of reservations before coming here. I think it’s an interesting experience. I expected to find nothing, what we didn’t find – nothing,” Stein said.

The head of the production company that produced the Rivera special took it in stride.

“Disappointment, of course, John,” TV producer John Joslyn told Drummond, “but it’s been a great ride. I wouldn’t have passed it up for anything in the world.”

Returning to anchors Walter Jacobson and Don Craig, Drummond noted that when plans were announced for Rivera’s special on Capone’s vault, it evoked memories of a special in which sunken liner Andrea Doria’s safe was opened at the bomb – organized by George Plimpton.

The Washington Post noted at the time that viewers of that 1984 special had anticipated the vault might be full of all manner of treasure, but whatever ended up inside the vault was a few packs of $20 bills and some Italian liras.

“We said at the time that there was a smell of a limburger in the air on this one,” Drummond said.

The Lexington Hotel had achieved landmark status in 1985. Nevertheless, it was demolished in the fall of 1995, after repeated attempts at renovation failed.


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