It’s Thriller Thursday.
When I picture the City of Chicago in the 1920s, I think of rum running in the face of prohibition, and gangland slayings under the direction of people like Al Capone. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined finding a family link to the criminal activities of the time. But there is one…
My grandma Sophie had a sister named Jeanette, a dentist with a wild streak. According to grandma, Jeanette was married at least 4 times. This story concerns husband number 2, Arturo Fabbri. Jeanette and Fabbri married in Brooklyn in 1908, but by 1912, when grandma moved in with them, they lived in Chicago. By 1917, Arthur (as he was known by then) and Jeanette had split up.
Fabbri, a violinist, had graduated from the Conservatory of Ravenna, Italy. He came to the United States playing in the orchestra led by the composer Leoncavallo for the first American production of the opera Pagliacci. Fabbri became well enough respected that by 1916, he was hobnobbing with the likes of conductors Walter Damrosch and Leopold Stokowski, fellow violinist Fritz Kreisler, and the ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky.
Colosimo's nightclub, May 11, 1920 (Image: Joe Walters)
Fabbri then snagged a job at a nightclub called Colosimo’s. The owner was Big Jim Colosimo, who earned the majority of his income from a brothel monopoly in the Windy City, but he had fingers in lots of pies.
In 1917, Arthur was dating a chanteuse named Dale Winter, when he made the mistake of introducing her to his boss. Colosimo became smitten, hired her a vocal coach, featured her in the café’s floor show, and showered her with jewels. Colosimo divorced his wife and married Dale. Fabbri was out of the picture.
That is, until he was in the picture. On May 11, 1920, Colosimo was shot to death. The Chicago Tribune article indicates that Arthur was interviewed by the Chicago police as a person of interest. The cops detained him at Camp Grant, where he was serving out the remains of his military service, having already served overseas during World War I.
Luckily, there was a long list of suspects. There was talk that other, younger gangsters wanted to take over Colosimo’s flesh peddling and gambling interests.
Fabbri was released for lack of evidence. And who was the number one suspect? None other than Alphonse Capone himself. In the end, however, no one was arrested for the crime. Colosimo’s criminal empire was taken over by Johnny Torrio (with Capone in the wings), and eventually the nightclub itself was torn down.
Fabbri remained a musician, remarried, and eventually moved to Puerto Rico, where he taught music at a conservatory in Yauco.