New York City was experiencing a heatwave in early August of 1917. To escape the heat, many came to Coney Island to play in the water and sleep on the cool beach at night. For this reason, it was as crowded as Coney Island had ever been. And Harvard Inn, due to its location, fans and cold drinks, was packed every day of this heat wave.
This brings us to how Al Capone got his famous scars. On one particular day during this time, a small stocky “hood” named Frank Galluccio sauntered into the bar with his date, Maria Tanzo, on one arm and his younger sister, Lena, on another. Despite the crowds, Capone, who was 18 at the time, honed in on Lena. Watching from afar, he finally got up the nerve to talk to her, asking her to take a walk with him along the beach. She supposedly said no and Capone walked away, but that didn’t stop him from continuing to watch her.
A little later, he supposedly asked her again for that walk. Lena, none too please, informed her brother of this annoying guy. She them told him that he was embarrassing her, but asked Frank to make him stop “in a nice way.” Galluccio took action, fully aware the situation could escalate. As such, he told his female counterparts to meet him outside. Before they could reach the door, Capone reportedly stepped in and told Lena loudly, “I’ll tell you one thing, you got a nice a** honey and I mean that as a compliment.”
Hearing this, Galluccio demanded an apology from Capone for the remark. Capone wasn’t having it, telling Galluccio he was only joking around.
This is when the situation got dicey. You see, Galluccio was only five foot six and slight of build and was now attempting to defend his sister’s honor by going toe to toe with the five foot eleven, very beefy Capone. Being at something of a disadvantage physically, Galluccio decided to escalate the situation beyond fists and pulled out his knife, slashing at Capone, and managing to get in three cuts to Capone’s face and upper neck before Capone went down. With Capone on the ground in a pool of blood, Galluccio ran out of the Harvard Inn.
At this point, Capone was rushed to Coney Island Hospital where he received eighty stitches and was told he’d wear the scars forever. Galluccio, knowing what he had done and who he’d done it to, feared for his life. This came to a head when Frankie Yale demanded a meeting with both Capone and Galluccio at the Harvard Inn. Sitting them both down, Yale turned Capone’s head to show Galluccio the giant scars that would be tattooed on Capone forever, ultimately earning him the nickname “Scarface.”
Galluccio, thinking this was the end of his life, tried to plead his case. But Yale never had any intention of hurting or killing Galluccio. He was a businessman and simply wanted to profit from this unfortunate scenario. He ordered that Galluccio pay Capone $1,500 for his trouble (about $27,000 today). In return, Capone had to promise never to retaliate. To top it off, Yale would lend Galluccio the money, making Galluccio indebted to Yale and earning interest to boot. Galluccio and Capone both agreed to this and the matter was settled.
Throughout his life, Capone would usually claim his scars were acquired fighting in France during World War I. He rarely owned up to the fact that his nickname came from a bar fight when a smaller man slashed his face for making rude comments to his sister.
Excerpt by Matt Blitz