THE STORY OF UNCLE BARTS
It would be a falsehood to say that there existed even one person who truly knew the story of Uncle Barts. Murmurs have been exchanged between cigar-smoking aristocrats in dark corners of smokey Chicago bars; gossip has been shared between mobsters’ wives at the local salons, but you see that’s all it was - gossip, hearsay. Below is everything we know, or think we know, about the enigmatic Uncle Barts.
The year was 1929, crime in Chicago was rife and the battle between crime lord, Al Capone’s Southside and Bugs Moran’s Northside gang was at an all-time high.
Uncle Barts grew up on the streets of Chicago. A natural smooth talker, he was known for his Cheshire-cat smile and his ability to sling or swing just about anything. A petty thief turned street-fighter, Barts had begun to make a name for himself in the boxing world and managed to land himself a shot at the Chicago championships. It was here that he met Bugs Moran for the first time; the leader of Chicago’s prolific Northside gang. Moran wanted to fix the fight. Dangling a load of Benjamins in Barts’ face, he snarled “You gotta let him knock you out in the fourth round, you hear me? As long as you do as I say, this right here, will all be yours”. He inhaled deeply as he brought the wad of cash up to his nose. Moran divulged that he’d placed a bet so good that the success of the fix would cough up as much as a 100 big ones in winnings – 10 of which he’d promised to Barts.
However, Barts was a stubborn man, to say the least, and his pride meant more to him than money ever could. So, when the fourth round came, he threw a sharp right hook so hard, he knocked out his opponent in the first eight seconds. Moran was furious.
THE JIG IS UP
That night, Uncle Barts went to celebrate his win at the local Stalk Club.
A dame on his knee, a Cuban between his lips and a bourbon in his hand – life was good. Suddenly, the back doors burst open and Moran’s goons stormed the club, relentlessly firing shots at Barts. Barts barely survived. As he awoke in the hospital, the nurse handed him a note, “This was left for you at the reception”. Barts carefully unpeeled the wax-sealed letter, his hands still weak and shaky; its insignia read ‘AC’. The note was from none other than the perennial Southside leader, Al Capone himself! He’d written that he had heard all about what went down at the boxing and was impressed by Barts’ “tenacity” and “fearlessness” – “…all the qualities I need in a right-hand man”. It was official – Barts was now part of Capone’s Southside gang.
THE STORM HITTING THE WINDY CITY
It’s safe to say Uncle Barts embraced his new role as Capone’s right-hand man. Barts’ quick wits and out-of-the-box thinking, gave the Southside gang a real leg-up in their Chicago take over
Dressing up as coppers, they held up a dummy deal they’d set up with Moran’s gang. Step by step, Barts was bumping off Moran’s top shooters, raiding their bootleggin’ operations, stealing their hooch (and their dames) and reaping the rewards of stolen ill-gotten gains. With his right-hand man reigning strong, all seemed golden for Capone, until one day he was in the wrong place at the wrong time… Returning to one of his luxurious Southside homes after a walk with his pet panther, Capone walked right into a pit of sleuths and ‘pigs’(as he called them). They’d been led to his secret stash of loot via an anonymous tip – what were the chances? Capone was in custody. Capone’s days were over. But Barts’ were only just beginning…
IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE HEAT…
Ruling Chicago with an iron grip, it didn’t take long before the feds caught wind of the new ‘big boss’ in town
He soon became known as the biggest crime lord Chicago had ever seen. Nothing lasts forever though and the heat soon became too much for Uncle Barts. He knew it was only a matter of time before he was either strapped in a pair of copper’s bracelets or worse, a Chicago overcoat. With the city’s biggest FBI task force ever on his case, operations were being shut down left right and centre. Before he knew it Barts’ latest bootlegging booze business had him trapped in a high-speed chase with the fuzz in close pursuit. Heading straight for the docks, Barts’ Cadillac screeched into the port, barely skirting the water’s edge. There, he snuck his way onboard a freighter ship headed straight for London. Catching his breath and wiping the sweat from his brow, Barts slowly removed his hat in reverence and grinned with his all-to-famous Cheshire-cat smile as the boat pulled away, “It’s been a hoot Chicago.”
YOU CAN TAKE THE MAN OUT OF CHICAGO, BUT YOU CAN’T TAKE CHICAGO OUT OF THE MAN
Barts tipped the taxi driver generously as he stepped out in front of a large ‘FOR SALE’ sign outside of South Kensington’s Chelsea Cloisters
The landlord showed him to an unmarked black door at the back of the building on the ground floor. “It’s a wonderfully discrete apartment, and it even has a lovely little garden”, said the landlord proudly. “I’ll take it”, Barts exclaimed, grinning. “What are your plans for the place sir… if you don’t mind me asking?”. Barts grinned a knowing smile, “Oh, I gotta few plans for this joint… a few plans indeed”.