Rum Running and the Rise of Scarface
Without his fedora and tommy gun, you may not immediately recognize Craig “Southside” Alton. The Windy City personality, best known for his work with Untouchable Gangster Tours, was accompanied by Yvonne Alton, retired Chef Concierge, and his collaborator and wife for a trip to Brew City. This history loving pair began their Pfister stay with a personalized tour with Bernard, the concierge. In town for a getaway weekend, the couple delighted in the details revealed about the Victorian jewel by their friendly guide.
The couple’s path to becoming nationally regarded experts in Prohibition-era Chicago is an unexpected one. When the radio station for which he produced his popular children’s radio show closed, Alton found himself at a professional crossroads. Ready for his next adventure, the seasoned performer was quickly immersed in the world of molls and bootleggers when he helped create a Prohibition-era speakeasy. Soon, the team realized that the draw of Al Capone and Chicago Outfit was bigger than could be contained in a single building. Before you could make a batch of bathtub gin, Untouchable Gangsters Tours was born. In the early days of the tour, the city sought to distance itself from its notorious past and made it difficult for the groundbreaking tour, but the resistance of the city worked to make the tour more popular. The bus tour, based on well-research history, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2017.
Yvonne, now an essential part of the organization, began her exploration of mob history by chance. Years after the tour began, the multi-lingual hospitality expert from The Netherlands met her husband while taking his tour, billed as a “theater on wheels.” The duo’s connection was powerful and they have been inseparable since their initial action-packed meeting. Using her keen eye and fastidious attention to detail, Yvonne has become an integral part of the organization, even donning costumes to take part in tour performances.
Known among his friends as the “King of the History Channel,” Alton has given countless interviews for television programs exploring Chicago’s infamous Prohibition Era history. The interviews led to larger projects, including the opportunity to act as a consultant on the John Dillinger biopic Public Enemies, which starred Johnny Depp and was filmed, in part, in Milwaukee. In their most expansive project yet, the pair recently collaborated on Drinks, Crimes and Prohibition currently showing on the Smithsonian Channel.
These days, the busy pair continues to collect stories on Chicago’s most infamous residents, gathering the stories of personal interactions regular citizens had with Scarface and his gang before they are lost forever. When asked for their suggestion on how Milwaukeeans might best get a taste of the era defined by flappers and G-men, the couple recommended a trip to the Safe House to experience a bit of the mystery that was an element of the best speakeasies of the era.
Despite the absence of gangster lore, the Pfister still captivated the Altons. They promised to be back to share more tales from when made men ruled Chicago, and we can hardly wait.