Bugs MoranThe principle thorn in Al Capone's side throughout the late 20's and early 30's, Bugs Moran was a complete idiot. Moran was not Irish, as his name would imply. He was born to Polish farm workers in Minnesota in 1893. When he arrived in Chicago in his teens, he changed his name to win sympathy and camaraderie from Irish gangs in the area.
Somewhere around the end of World War I, Bugs earned his nickname at a tailor's shop. For some reason, Bugs felt that the tailor was price gouging him because of his fake Irish ethnicity. In exchange for the finished suit, Bugs left the man on the floor of his shop with two broken arms and two broken legs. From that point on, he was known on the streets at Bugs, a pseudonym for crazy mother fucker.
As Bugs moved up in the underworld, he began running booze and hosting crap games around the lake in Chicago. The city was stratified at the time, divided up between a dozen rival bootleggers and pimps. Bugs' businesses were small time compared to the growing rackets of Johnny Torrio and Al Capone, but he always managed to remain afloat, despite tough battles between factions.
Eventually, Bugs brought his rackets under the umbrella of Dion O'Bannion's gang. O'Bannion ran his operations from a florist shop on the north side of Chicago. Whenever a rival leader was killed, O'Bannion typically supplied all the flowers for the funeral. By 1923, these funerals had become city-wide events that were festooned with millions of flowers, most in giant horseshoe arrangements. The flower business was almost as lucrative as the liquor business by the time Bugs was running guns for Dion.
O'Bannion was killed in 1924 by Johnny Torrio's men, and subsequently, Moran became second in command of the North Side gang, behind Earl Weiss. By that time, the bootlegging operations of the North Side gang were the only real challenger to Capone's liquor operations, run out of Cicero. Being the power hungry gun nut that he was, this pissed off Capone to no end.
On January 25, 1925, Weiss and Moran tried to rub out Johnny Torrio. They jumped him while he was exiting his limo, firing multiple bursts from shotguns. Torrio hit the deck and Moran walked up to put a final bullet through the aged mafioso's skull. One thing you learn when you're a 1920's gangster is to take proper care of your gat. Clean it. Name it. Polish it. Keep it warm at night. Moran didn't do any of that girly shit. So his gun misfired. Moran was dumbstruck. He threw the gun at Torrio and ran to the waiting car cursing at Earl Weiss. neither had brought any extra ammo.
The encounter left Torrio terrified, and Bugs drunken on a speakeasy floor. Torrio retired, and handed the whole operation over to Capone. An out right war began between the North Side gang and Capone's men. Capone had brains and brawn. Moran and Weiss had brawn. Drunken Irish brawn. It was enough to hold off Capone for a while.
To War We're Gonna GoThe war came to a climax on September 20, 1926 when Moran and Weiss loaded up 10 cars with cronies and headed for Cicero. Once there, they found Capone at a street-side cafe having coffee with some of his thugs. All 10 cars drove by the cafe in a long and slow procession of machine gun fire. Thousands of rounds chewed up the cafe and it's patrons. Yet despite the hail of bullets, no one was killed, and Capone escaped unscathed.
Eventually, Weiss was killed and Moran became the leader of the North Side gang. He spent the rest of his gangland days as a prominent media figure, constantly chiding Capone in the press. "Capone is a lowlife," said Moran, "And he's got a disease he can't get rid of, and everybody knows it."
Bugs also had a notorious relationship with local Judge John H. Lyle. One story tells of three bailiffs mistaking Moran for an escaping criminal as he was visiting the court house in Chicago. When the bailiffs slapped the cuffs on, Moran wheeled around and beat all three to unconsciousness, using the cuffs as a weapon. Judge Lyle walked in to see this scene only to hear Moran say "I'm sorry judge, but these clowns were trying to throw me back in the can."
Happy Valentines DayWhen Capone and Jack McGurn staged the St. Valentine's day massacre, it was mostly to get Moran. Unfortunately, Moran showed up just as the killers were walking into the North Side gang's warehouse, so Moran skated to avoid the police entanglement. Later, when he discovered that the policemen walking into the warehouse had killed seven of his men, Moran checked into a hospital to hide.
Eventually, in 1936, Moran and his men caught up to Jack McGurn and gunned him down in a bowling alley. That was the last real gangland action of the North Siders. All of their liquor factories became useless after prohibition was lifted, and most of the gambling joints Moran operated were swallowed whole by the fledgeling crime syndicate, headed up by Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano. Moran was too stupid to play ball with the Syndicate, and they simply brushed him aside by having the police break up anything with Moran's name on it.
In the mid forties, Moran was picked up for stealing $10,000 from a bank messenger in Ohio. He was convicted and spent the rest of his life in jail. Along the way to this point in his life, Moran had thrown away countless millions in bootlegging money, property around Chicago, dozens of cars, and a couple of wives. By 1957, however, he was just a wrinkled old idiot in jail. bugs never really had what you'd call charisma, but then, neither did Dutch Schultz. While Schultz actually ended up getting whacked to keep him in line, Moran ended up dying of heart failure. He was buried on the grounds. He was worth less than $100. Idiot.
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