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Scarface to Snorky: Why Al Capone got these bizarre nicknames, and what do they mean?

The co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit during the 1920s Prohibition era, Capone was known by myriad nicknames and there are bizarre stories around all of them
UPDATED MAY 12, 2020
Al Capone (Getty Images)
Al Capone (Getty Images)

One of the most notorious gangsters in the United States, Al Capone is better known as Scarface. Or perhaps, you would also have heard people respectfully referring to him as The Big Fellow, the Big Shot, or the Big Guy. 

The co-founder and boss of the Chicago Outfit during the 1920s Prohibition era, Capone was known by myriad nicknames and there are bizarre stories around all of them. It is said that Capone never liked the word Scarface.

It stems from an incident that took place at a Brooklyn night club, where he insulted a woman. Reportedly, he leaned over her and said, “Honey, you have a nice ass and I mean that as a compliment.” Her brother Frank Gallucio, who was right there heard it and slashed him right in his face three times. The wounds healed but that scar stayed on one side all his life. Reports say that he used to hide the ugly, scarred side from photographers and even call those “war wounds.” 

Al Capone (1899 - 1947) (Getty Images)

Born in 1899, he was named Alphonse Gabriel Capone by his parents. However, his close ones rarely called him Alphonse and mostly stuck to “Al.” What's more, there are stories about one of his alias names became popular. While doing business for the Outfit, publications used to refer to him as Al Brown before he rose to power. At his 1931 trial, he admitted that it “wasn’t his name.”

Not just that, he bought a lavish property in another name. Robert J Schoenberg writes in his biography 'Mr Capone' that he bought his huge mansion at 93 Palm Beach Avenue in Florida in the name of Albert Costa. 

In the same biography, Schoenberg wrote that newspapers misspelled his surname quite often. Even though his popularity rose to unimaginable heights, “'the Tribune of Col Robert Rutherford McCormick did not need anybody to tell it how anything should be spelled'—and kept deliberately misspelling it as late as 1928 when Al had already become world-famous.”

Al Capone with his friends and family (Getty Images)

Capone was also known as Snorky, which is slang for a "sharp dresser." His close friends often called him so, teasing him for his penchant of having a classy wardrobe. Even at his trial, he would show up in bright-colored suits, which ranged from pale lavender to soft canary yellows. That wasn't all, he extended his love for fine dressing to his gang as well and they were all mostly seen in gray fedora suits and formal black shoes.

After a seven-year reign, he went to prison after being sentenced for 11 years. On January 25,  1947, Capone died of a stroke.

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.