Al Capone and Mae Josephine Coughlin: A happy marriage tested by rumors of a 15-year-old mistress and syphilis
One of the most striking things about him is his relationship. Capone is perhaps one of the few gangsters who had a happy marriage despite his gang life
Call him Scarface or Snorky, Al Capone is one of the most-remembered gangsters and his reign as a crime boss during the Prohibition era has been fictionalized for several TV shows and films. His antics will forever be part of Chicago history and perhaps, even American history.
Born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents, he joined the Five Points Gang in his adolescent years and got deeply embroiled in organized crime, especially in brothels, as an ill-informed bouncer. Even though he was the “bad guy,” his popularity rose as “the modern-day Robin Hood.” He made huge donations and charities to the needy and spectators cheered for him at ball games.
One of the most striking things about him was his personal life. Capone is perhaps one of the few gangsters who had a happy marriage despite his gang life. The co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit got hitched to Mae Josephine Coughlin when he was 19. Though she belonged to a staunchly Catholic family bringing home an Italian street punk was frowned upon but their relationship was truly a love story. Since he was under 21, his parents had to give their consent in writing. It was a cold winter day, on December 30, 1918, when the two got married — a month after their son Albert Francis “Sonny” Capone was born with hearing impairment in his left ear. It is believed that Al had a long and committed relationship with Mae but how true is that?
National Book Award-winning biographer Deidre Bair penned down Capone's humane side in her book, ‘Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend’.
In the book, she writes, “Al was a typical Italian boy who loved his family and needed to be in their midst and did not like being away from home.” She adds, “Al had the only steady job, but besides his Baltimore expenses, he had Mae and a sickly baby to support.” The book also mentions the constant friction between Mae and her mother-in-law, Teresa.
According to hearsay, even after the birth of his son, Capone was a notorious womanizer. The philandering gave Capone syphilis and his wife and son got it from him. He never sought treatment as opening up about the STD would mean having to accept his illicit affairs. In the book, Bair reflects upon the story about how he kept a 15-year-old female mistress in an apartment and how Mae dyed her hair same as her. While other writers have deemed it as true, she feels it could just have been a legend with no solid proof.
It is also believed Mae once told her son “not to do what your father did. He broke my heart.” Nevertheless, his marriage survived and Mae was a devoted wife. He was put behind the bars at the age of 33 and after an 11-year prison sentence, he went through mental trauma. From Al Capone’s rise from a low-ranking thug to a fearsome mob leader, Mae was by his side. When he left prison, he had the mind of a twelve-year-old and in the book, Bair writes about how his wife Mae and his brothers took care of him and saw him having imaginary conversations with long-dead colleagues. He was Mae’s full-time job as she tried to keep him out of the eyes of hounding reporters who were trying to catch a glimpse of him.
On January 25, 1947, Capone died of a stroke and Mae Capone died on April 16, 1986, in a nursing home in Hollywood, Florida.
To know more, watch 'Capone' to see Tom Hardy star as the infamous mob boss. 'Capone' is going straight to a streaming service but will get a theatrical release later this year once coronavirus restrictions are more relaxed. The movie dropped for streaming on May 12.