WBEZ | scams http://www.wbez.org/tags/scams Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The Yellow Kid rides again! http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/yellow-kid-rides-again-105008 <p><p>January 25, 1931&mdash;Chicago&rsquo;s most illustrious con man went through the indignity of a police lineup today. The Yellow Kid didn&rsquo;t like it.</p><p>His real name was Joseph Weil, and he was born in Chicago in 1875. At an early age he decided that honest work was beneath him. He started on his road to fame by peddling worthless patent medicines.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1-25--Yellow%20Kid%20Weil%20%28CDN%29.jpg" style="width: 275px; height: 319px; float: right;" title="Joseph Weil, aka The Yellow Kid (Chicago Daily News)" />Weil&nbsp;eventually worked his way up to the big time.&nbsp;He was involved in land swindles, stock frauds, race-fixing, and other dubious&nbsp;ventures. Along the way he acquired the nickname Yellow Kid, after a popular cartoon character.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now, in 1931, he was in Chicago police custody. Weil was charged with bilking a Michigan man out of $15,000 in a mining deal. The cops were using the opportunity to parade the Kid through their daily lineup, to see if other victims might recognize him.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;And here, ladies and gentlemen, we have no less a distinguished personage than the Yellow Kid,&rdquo; the officer in charge announced.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Kid bowed. Nobody in the audience had any charges to make.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Then the Kid went on the offensive. &ldquo;Sure, I am a con man&ndash;the best,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;But I&rsquo;ve always taken from those who can afford the education.&rdquo; He claimed that he only cheated the dishonest rich. He wasn&rsquo;t one of those &ldquo;smug hypocrites who rob the poor, then sit in church pews.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Conman.jpg" style="width: 211px; height: 320px; float: left;" title="The Kid's autobiography" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Besides, the Chicago police were treating him shamefully. Yesterday they had shipped him all the way to Rockford for a lineup there. &ldquo;They exhibited me to a farmer who lost two cases of eggs,&rdquo; the Kid complained. &ldquo;The value was $8.50. I have never been so humiliated.&rdquo;&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">His discourse over, they took the Kid back to his cell. His brother Ike arrived with a change of clothes. Ike was a former court bailiff.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Kid beat this particular rap. He continued his career, with occasional interruptions for prison time, until old age caught up with him. He died in a Chicago nursing home in 1976. Paul Newman&rsquo;s character in <em>The Sting</em> is based on Yellow Kid Weil.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Weil might have retired, but he never completely mellowed. A Chicago reporter attended the Kid&rsquo;s 99th birthday party&nbsp;at the nursing home. There was cake, and singing, and much senior good fellowship.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">When the party was over, and he thought no one&nbsp;was watching, the Kid swiped the extra box of candles.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 25 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/yellow-kid-rides-again-105008 Vampires of the road http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-18/vampires-road-95554 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-18/auto vamps_schmidt.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The news in Chicago in January 1923 was about vampires. No, not that kind.</p><p>The problem was "vampire autos."</p><p>Cars were just beginning to crowd the city then. Traffic laws were primitive, and drivers were usually careless. At the same time, pedestrians were still pretty casual about wandering into the street whenever they felt like it.</p><p>A person would be walking along, minding his own business. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an auto would appear, run him down, and speed away while the victim lay bleeding on the pavement. The auto was like a vampire--attacking without warning and sucking the blood out of innocent people.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-13/01-18--Michigan%20Ave%2C%201920s%20%28LC-CDN%29.jpg" style="width: 490px; height: 350px;" title="Michigan Avenue, 1920s (Library of Congress/Chicago Daily News)"></p><p>Vampire autos killed four people on January 17. The next day they snuffed out three more lives. Hundreds of Chicagoans were being injured. The city council and concerned citizens were looking for ways to combat the growing menace. Would our streets ever again be safe?</p><p>Then there was the "auto vamp." The phrase derived from actress Theda Bara, known as The Vamp. In her films, Bara's character operated like Dracula. She seduced male admirers through her evil charms, making them slaves to her every whim.</p><p>Chicago's auto vamp was an attractive young woman who'd hitchhike along the city's boulevards. If a prosperous-looking man picked her up, she'd accept the ride, then threaten to inform his wife that he had made "advances." More than one man paid the blackmail.</p><p>Last August, the police had arrested 21-year-old Jeane Miller as the alleged auto vamp. She had jumped bail. Now, on this evening in January, an insurance adjuster recognized Miller on Oak Street. Deciding to make a citizen's arrest, he grabbed Miller's arm and told her to get into his car.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="390" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-13/01-18--Theda Bara.jpg" title="Theda Bara " width="264"></p><p>Meanwhile, a second man happened along. This man thought Miller was being kidnapped. He wrestled the woman away from the adjuster, and together they escaped in the rescuer's car. They headed east on Oak at better than 50 mph.</p><p>The adjuster jumped into his car and drove off after them. A motorcycle cop saw the speeding cars and joined the pursuit. Pedestrians and small animals scattered.</p><p>The chase ended at Lake Shore Drive. The two men emerged from their cars and began arguing about Miller. A crowd gathered. There was much shouting.</p><p>The cop forced his way through the mob. He told everyone that matters would be sorted out back at the police station. There Miller was placed under arrest for bond forfeiture. The two men swore out complaints against each other.</p><p>The lessons to be learned here are two. (1) Look both ways when you cross the street. (2) Don't pick up hitchhikers. Especially if they look like Theda Bara.</p></p> Wed, 18 Jan 2012 13:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2012-01-18/vampires-road-95554 The human comedy http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-09-16/human-comedy-91252 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-September/2011-09-16/Chicago 1946_Schmidt.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Great Depression was a grim time. Yet even then, people needed to laugh. In September 1936, Chicagoans were chuckling over two stories. Both of them were somewhat risque--at least by 1936 standards.</p><p>The first tale begins with Hazel LaBreck, a 27-year-old singer from Wisconsin, traveling to Chicago for a concert audition. On the bus she became acquainted with an older man named Mr. Larue. Larue told the young lady he was a movie agent, and that he might be able to get her a job in Hollywood. But first she had to demonstrate she had a shapely figure.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-30/09-16--Chicago 1946.jpg" style="width: 490px; height: 349px;" title=""></p><p>LaBreck might have been from farm country, but she was no hick. Once off the bus she called police. Now joined by two detectives, the young woman went to the Morrison Hotel, where she had arranged to meet Larue in his room. The cops waited outside.</p><p>When the young lady arrived, Larue produced copies of official-looking studio contracts and a silhouette chart. Then, taking out a tape measure, he told her to get undressed.</p><p>With that, Hazel LaBreck gave a signal, and the detectives burst in. Larue quickly confessed that he was not a Hollywood agent, but a clothing salesman. He also gave the cops his right name--which wasn't Larue. As he was being led away to the police station, he explained: "Something snapped in my brain when I saw this girl on the bus, that's all."</p><p>The second story involves a movie that Stephen Holish had shot at an Indiana nudist camp. The Eastman Company had refused to develop the film, claiming it was obscene. In response, Holish filed suit against the company in Small Claims Court.</p><p>Judge Samuel Trude heard the case. With attorneys for both sides in agreement, the judge decided to view the film. The courtroom lights were dimmed, and <em>Wonders of the Human Anatomy</em> was screened.</p><p>When the lights came back on, Holish's attorney argued that the film was "just as good and clean as movies of any Sunday school picnic--except that the people haven't got any clothes on." This film was not obscene, because the "leer of the sensual" was absent.</p><p>Judge Trude disagreed. He declared the film indecent, and ruled that Eastman could destroy it.</p><p>I wonder if Holish hired Mr. Larue to direct his next film?</p></p> Fri, 16 Sep 2011 12:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/john-r-schmidt/2011-09-16/human-comedy-91252