Thanks for letting me visit again! I love stopping by your blog because I know I’ll get a large dose of Southern hospitality!
I saw my first episode of The Untouchables when I was a teenager, when some station started showing re-runs of it. I’d never seen it before and I was totally enthralled. I’d already developed an interest in gangsters and Prohibition, so this totally fed into it. Watching Robert Stack as Elliot Ness going up against Chicago’s baddest hoods was satisfying on many levels. To this day, I retain a love for that era, and the Noble Experiment known as Prohibition.
If you watch the show, you get the impression that Ness and his men brought Al Capone to his knees by busting into speakeasies, breaking up illegal stills, and having wholesale shootouts. But such was not the case. Actually, Capone was brought down for something far less bloody and even mundane. He was sent to prison due to income tax evasion, because Ness couldn’t make anything else stick. Afterwards, smart gangsters employed savvy bookkeepers who knew who to keep an extra set of books—one for the boss and one for the IRS—and knew how to cook them.
Al Capone is one of my very favorite gangsters from that era. A very complicated man who was actually well-liked and respected by many people, he led a rags to riches story, one that proved that in America you could do anything if you worked at it. Even if it was illegal. The Volstead Act (which brought Prohibition into being) was ambitious but foolish, and like many foolish laws was largely promulgated by the religious right. It was doomed to failure because let’s be honest, people like to drink, and they don’t like being told they can’t. So they were willing to do what it took to have a good time. Plus it wasn’t the drinking of it that was illegal, it was the transportation and sale and manufacture.
Capone has figured in a few movies over the years. Jason Robards Jr. played him in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (a star-studded cast that also brought us George Segal, among others). The actual massacre took place in a garage in Chicago and was meant to be a hit against rival gangster Bugs Moran (Ralph Meeker), who escaped by a simple twist of Fate. Capone himself could not be brought to account for the crime for at the time it was going down, he was inside a police station in Florida. Talk about an unshakeable alibi! Of course he had it planned that way, and purposely went to the police station at just the right time. What could the authorities do? Not a whole lot. He wasn’t there, and they couldn’t prove he masterminded it.
The massacre was used to a more comedic effect in another film starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon—Some Like it Hot. They play two musicians who accidentally walk into the garage at the wrong time and see what they shouldn’t have. In order to escape the wrath of the mob, they join an all-female band—in drag, of course—and end up in Florida. The lead singer of the band, Sugar, is played by the beautiful Marilyn Monroe, who falls for Tony Curtis’ fake male persona (with definite overtones of Cary Grant!), while Jack Lemmon finds himself pursued by the wealthy Osgood Fielding III (played by Joe E. Brown). The best line of the film comes at the end when Osgood proposes to Hildegarde (Jack Lemmon) and he pulls off his wig and confesses that he’s a man. Osgood’s response? “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
Side note: George Raft played Spats Columbo in Some Like it Hot, the gangster who is trying to catch our heroes, so called because of the shoes that he wore. As a result of that film, I became fascinated by spats and wanted a pair. Alas, no shoe stores sold them anymore, and most clerks didn’t know what I was talking about lol.
As I said, Capone was sentenced to prison for tax evasion and was eventually sent to Alcatraz. But his sentence was cut short and he was released early. They sent him home to Florida. Why? Because he was dying of syphilis. All because of a fear of needles. It was treatable by then, but he didn’t do it, and was probably well out of his mind by the time he died in 1947.
I started to write a story set during Prohibition as a teenager, influenced by The Untouchables, and by books I read, but I never finished it and it got lost over the years. That story was m/f, and I hope it would have been good, but we’ll never know. A few years ago, thanks to my daughters, I began to write m/m fiction, and when I decided to write a Christmas story, suddenly my ideas began to center around Prohibition and Chicago. And A Special Christmas was born.
I hope to visit the era again someday. So many stories. So little time.
Thanks for having me here, Ms. Church! As always, it’s been a real pleasure!
Blurb: Florian Donati has an almost childlike innocence in the body of a god. Unaware of his charms, he enjoys his life, working in his family’s drycleaning business in Prohibition-era Chicago. He loves his job, loves singing Italian opera, and loves the people in his life, including his friend Loria and the notorious gangster Alphonse Capone. Still, he dreams of having adventures and finding love.
Nick Giannakopoulos is a young Greek immigrant who’s come to America to live with his uncle’s family, working with his cousin in the family pharmacy. There are many things he’d love to do, including going to a party in a speakeasy that he and his cousin Milo have been invited to. But it’s on Christmas Eve, so family obligations preclude their going. Until Fate intervenes and Nick and Florian end up at the same speakeasy in Romeoville and find themselves sitting at the same table.
Is instant attraction a basis for a long term relationship? Or is this just a passing Christmas fancy?
A moment later, a vision appeared before Nick's eyes. He had never seen anyone so lovely in his life before, male or female. He watched dumbly as the dark-haired beauty with the hypnotic blue eyes smiled at him, taking the chair next to Nick. Nick felt weak just watching him do it.
"You are sure we are no trouble?" the man -- Florian, Nick remembered -- asked in the most melodious voice, possessed of a slight accent. Nick couldn't quite place it. He wasn't even sure how he could hear it so clearly with the crowd noise in the background the way it was. It was as if he were attuned to it somehow. He found that he didn't even really care how as he returned the man's smile.
"Sure, is no trouble," he replied. He held out his hand to the angel... that is, man. "My name is Nick. Nick Giannakopoulos."
Florian took the soft hand within his own. "I am Florian Donati."
"I'm Frank." Frank introduced himself, although no one had asked. And no one responded. "Hey, Flor, I see the fella I'm supposed to meet. I gotta go finish some business. See you around!" Using his finger and thumb as an imaginary gun, he aimed it at Florian and pretended to shoot, then leapt up from his seat like his pants were ablaze, disappearing quickly.
"Your friend, he is in a hurry?" Nick asked, as Frank melted into the crowd around them. He leaned closer to Florian to make himself heard.
Florian nodded. "We've been very busy today," he said proudly. "Frank let me help him work. We made many deliveries."
Nick refrained from asking what sort of deliveries. It wasn't his business, and he didn't wish to be rude, or overly curious. His eyes flitting over the handsome man, he couldn't help but admire the suit that Florian wore. He reached out one hand, running his fingers over the soft silk. "That feels very nice."
Florian glowed at his praise. "It does, doesn't it? It is... how do you say?" He struggled to find the right word, one he'd heard used by some of the men that came into the dry cleaner. "Tight... that's it. It's very tight, don't you think?" He took Nick's hand, pressed it against the double-breasted lapels.
Nick stopped breathing for a moment, before taking his hand back, reaching for his drink. "It is, very tight," Nick agreed in a husky voice just before he took a good swallow of the sweet liquid.
"What is that you drink? It looks very good," Florian commented.
"I'm not sure of the name. Joe get it for me," Nick admitted. He held the glass toward Florian, offering it. "Here, take a drink, see if you like it." He found himself making a conscious effort to prevent his arm from trembling too much.
Florian took the glass with a nod, his fingers brushing against Nick's in the process. Nick's heart stopped for just an instant at the contact. He was amazed at how much of a reaction such a slight touch had wrought in him. He was suddenly grateful for the table that kept it hidden from view.
Julie Lynn Hayes was reading at the age of two and writing by the age of nine and always wanted to be a writer when she grew up. Two marriages, five children, and more than forty years later, that is still her dream. She blames her younger daughters for introducing her to yaoi and the world of M/M love, a world which has captured her imagination and her heart and fueled her writing in ways she'd never dreamed of before. She especially loves stories of two men finding true love and happiness in one another's arms and is a great believer in the happily ever after. She lives in St. Louis with her daughter Sarah and two cats, loves books and movies, and hopes to be a world traveler some day. She enjoys crafts, such as crocheting and cross stitch, knitting and needlepoint and loves to cook. While working a temporary day job, she continues to write her books and stories and reviews, which she posts in various places on the internet. Her family thinks she is a bit off, but she doesn't mind. Marching to the beat of one's own drummer is a good thing, after all. Her published works can be found at Dreamspinner Press, MuseitUp Publishing, Torquere Press, and eXtasy Books. She has also begun to self-publish and is an editor at MuseitUp.
You can find her on her blog at http://julielynnhayes.blogspot.com, and you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My blog: http://julielynnhayes.blogspot.com
My facebook: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=527332074
Museit Up Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_222
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/ShelleyRunyon