Archive for May 4th, 2011

Dinner and a show?

Yeah … I get it.

I understand the outcry for proof that Bin Laden is dead, even that he died in that compound in Pakistan the other day and not years ago while gardening in Tora Bora. After all, taking anyone’s word for it seems naive in today’s world when we’re all just too smart and clever and can damned well figure it out for ourselves if only we’re given real info we can trust … whatever that might be.

And what could be more satisfying than setting our own eyes on his mutilated corpse, gazing into coagulated contusions and measuring dimensions of mortal wounds? Recognizing those features we’ve come to know so well over the years in a dead form putting to rest our anger and our angst might be anticipated, and we might even, for a minute or two, get the idea going that an end to something horrible is wrapped up in that white sheet he hit the water in.

As the Powers That Be debate whether or not to release photos of the dead Osama, I’m thinking history … another time, another dead Public Enemy Number One.

It was 1934 when John Dillinger was shot down outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago after a long manhunt and much organizing.

Late in the afternoon of Saturday, July 21, 1934, the madam of a brothel in Gary, Indiana, contacted one of the police officers with information. This woman called herself Anna Sage; however, her real name was Ana Cumpanas, and she had entered the United States from her native Rumania in 1914. Because of the nature of her profession, she was considered an undesirable alien by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and deportation proceedings had been started. Anna was willing to sell the FBI some information about Dillinger for a cash reward, plus the FBI’s help in preventing her deportation.

At a meeting with Anna, Cowley and Purvis were cautious. They promised her the reward if her information led to Dillinger’s capture, but said all they could do was call her cooperation to the attention of the Department of Labor, which at that time handled deportation matters. Satisfied, Anna told the agents that a girlfriend of hers, Polly Hamilton, had visited her establishment with Dillinger. Anna had recognized Dillinger from a newspaper photograph.

Anna told the agents that she, Polly Hamilton, and Dillinger probably would be going to the movies the following evening at either the Biograph or the Marbro Theaters. She said that she would notify them when the theater was chosen. She also said that she would wear an orange dress so that they could identify her.

On Sunday, July 22, Cowley ordered all agents of the Chicago office to stand by for urgent duty. Anna Sage called that evening to confirm the plans, but she still did not know which theater they would attend. Therefore, agents and policemen were sent to both theaters. At 8:30 p.m., Anna Sage, John Dillinger, and Polly Hamilton strolled into the Biograph Theater to see Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama. Purvis phoned Cowley, who shifted the other men from the Marbro to the Biograph.

Cowley also phoned Hoover for instructions. Hoover cautioned them to wait outside rather than risk a shooting match inside the crowded theater. Each man was instructed not to unnecessarily endanger himself and was told that if Dillinger offered any resistance, it would be each man for himself.

At 10:30 p.m., Dillinger, with his two female companions on either side, walked out of the theater and turned to his left. As they walked past the doorway in which Purvis was standing, Purvis lit a cigar as a signal for the other men to close in. Dillinger quickly realized what was happening and acted by instinct. He grabbed a pistol from his right trouser pocket as he ran toward the alley. Five shots were fired from the guns of three FBI agents. Three of the shots hit Dillinger, and he fell face down on the pavement. At 10:50 p.m. on July 22, 1934, John Dillinger was pronounced dead in a little room in the Alexian Brothers Hospital.

The agents who fired at Dillinger were Charles B. Winstead, Clarence O. Hurt, and Herman E. Hollis. Each man was commended by J. Edgar Hoover for fearlessness and courageous action. None of them ever said who actually killed Dillinger.

That, of course, was huge news at the time … the plastic surgery he’d had to change his face and fingerprints added to the fervor, of course. The FBI maintains the event “marked the beginning of the end of the Gangster Era”. It most certainly was the beginning of the FBI. (You may have noticed it did not mark the end of organized crime, however, although hats lost some popularity.)

The media did it’s thing …

As Dillinger lay dying, passersby dipped hankies in his blood for keepsakes. His body was put on public display and people flocked to get a look. (Original photos of his corpse sell online for a mere $975.00.)

Rumors began, and continue to this day, that his penis had been removed and preserved sometime between death and internment, and although the Smithsonian denies having it, it’s possible it could pop up somewhere sometime.

He wasn’t buried at sea, but in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, and the stone marking his grave has been replaced many times due to people chipping pieces off for souvenirs.

We’re an odd species, we humans.

Okay, so maybe I don’t get it …

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