Feature Articles

August 2001

Anselmi & Scalise

By John William Tuohy

     Albert Anselmi and John Scalise left Italy together, sometime around 1920, fleeing murder charges. They ended up in Chicago and went to work for the Gennas as merciless enforcers. When one victim fell to his knees and clasped his hands together, begging for mercy, they shot his hands off, before killing him.

     It was Anselmi and Scalise who introduced the idea to Chicago gangland that rubbing bullets in garlic would assure a kill, since the garlic would enter the blood system and finish the victim off if the gunshot didn't. Actually, rubbing the bullets in garlic only sterilized them.

     However, they did introduce the more successful "handshake kill" -- grasping a victim's hands in a welcome and then shooting his head off. It worked on gang leader Dion O'Bannion and underworld financier Matt Kolb, although it was probably only Anselmi who took part in the Kolb killing, with Paul Ricca.

     Later, when Hymie Weiss offered to make peace with Capone if he would turn over O'Bannion's killers so he could murder them, Capone said, "Is he nuts? I wouldn't do that to a yellow dog."

     Actually Capone would have turned them over, but since Weiss was on the run anyway, and Anselmi and Scalise worked cheap, Capone walked away from the offer.

     The day came when the Gennas ordered the pair to kill Al Capone, which they knew was suicide. So instead of killing Scarface, they went to him with the plot and offered him their services to kill the Gennas instead.

     Capone took them up on the offer. Anselmi and Scalise lured one Genna into a trap where he was killed, and personally killed another brother.

     For Capone's reward, Scalise and Anselmi turned on him. The pair went along with a plot by a pair of hoods named Joe Giunta and Joey Aiello, to kill Fat Lips Capone.

     Frankie Rio, Capone's bodyguard, got wind of the plot and told Big Al about it but he refused to believe that Scalise and Anselmi would sell him out. To prove it, he and Rio rigged a fake argument that ended with Rio slapping Capone across the face and ran out of the room, while Scalise and Anselmi watched.

     Sure enough, the next day, Scalise & Anselmi approached Rio and let him in on the plot to kill Capone. Rio took the information, with proof back to Capone.

     A week later, on May 7, 1929, Capone threw a dinner in Scalise and Anselmi's honor, a casino called The Plantation, outside of Chicago. The whole crew was there, about one hundred of Al's top people, but the only ones who were in on the plan were Frankie Rio, Capone of course, and Machine Gun Jack McGurn.

     When the enormous formal dinner was ended, Capone stood and made a short speech and then accused Scalise and Anselmi of plotting to kill him. Before Scalise or Anselmi could defend themselves, Capone pulled a Louisville slugger baseball bat, out from under the table, and swung it down hard, first on Anselmi, who was still smiling when the first swing hit him in the skull, and then on Scalise, whose only words were, "Jesus, Mother of God Al, No! Please no!"

     They were found along a roadside days later, bound in bailing wire, their eyes gone, not a bone in their bodies unbroken. They had been shot, by Jack McGurn, three times each, in the back of the head.

Mr. Tuohy can be reached at

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