The mark of Cain | On Politics | Chicago Reader

The mark of Cain 

The mob, the Man, and hassling gay bars in pre-Stonewall Chicago

click to enlarge Stonewalling the history of the mob and gay bars in Chicago

Stonewalling the history of the mob and gay bars in Chicago

Jennifer Bonauer/Unsplash

For the last few days, I've been obsessing over an old story of corruption in Chicago that I rediscovered while looking for something else.

In this case, the TV remote control, which was under a pile of old newspapers I'd been intending to toss into the recycling bin. As I pulled the remote control from the papers, a story caught my eye.

It was from the back pages of the July 4 Sun-Times, where they reprise articles from long-ago editions of the old Chicago Daily News, to show how much has changed and how much remains the same.

This fascinating story—by Alison Martin—had to do with a raid on April 25, 1964, by Cook County sheriffs on Louie's Fun Lounge, a gay bar on Mannheim Road out by O'Hare.

Martin did a good job of linking the raid to the 52nd anniversary of Stonewall, pointing out that "Before Stonewall (and for some time after), a police raid on a gay bar could be disastrous for those arrested. Not only would the raid likely make the papers the next day . . . but those arrested saw their names printed along with their addresses and occupations."

And then she got into the details of the Daily News's account of the raid at Louie's.

It was a front-page story under a "big two-tier headline reading, '8 teachers, suburb principal seized/109 arrested in vice den.'"

There was a photo of arrestees, many covering their faces with their hands or turning away completely.

The Daily News referred to Louie's as "a hangout for deviates." 

It reported that "ninety-seven men, six male juveniles and six women were taken from the tavern to the Criminal Court Building in two sheriff's buses and three squadrols for processing."

And, "uncut marijuana valued at $500 and 500 barbiturate pills and capsules were confiscated in the raid."

Also, sheriffs arrested Lewis F. Gauger, described as the "270-pound owner-operator" and "an avowed friend of crime syndicate boss Tony Accardo."  

Finally, the paper credited the man who led the raid—Richard Cain, chief investigator for Cook County Sheriff Richard Ogilvie.

"Cain told reporters the sheriff's office spent months collecting evidence of narcotics at the lounge, which stood in an area referred to as 'Glitter Gulch.'"

That reference to Cain froze me in place. 

Yes, Cain was Sheriff Ogilvie's chief investigator. But what the Daily News neglected to mention is that he was also a mobster—known as the mob's man on the inside. 

As such, I'll bet you there's no way—absolutely no way—Cain "spent months collecting evidence of narcotics at the lounge." In fact, knowing Cain's reputation, my guess is he probably planted those narcotics.

All in all, this Daily News article was a textbook example of how mobsters use the press and how the press used the mob back in the day.

Before Ogilvie hired him, Cain was a Chicago cop, known as bagman who collected payoffs from Rush Street tavern owners and then distributed the cash to other corrupt cops on the take.

His record of notoriety included shooting Harry Figel, a convicted extortionist, in a gun battle near Clark and Lake. And allegedly stealing $32,000 from the safe of a madam while she was in police custody after her brothel was busted.

My guess is Cain raided Louie's as a not-so-gentle reminder to gay bar owners all over Cook County of what can happen to those who don't, you know, pay to play.

That reference to the "Big Tuna" is like an inside joke, as Cain was working for the mob while employed by Ogilvie. 

Eventually, federal prosecutors claimed that while Cain worked for Ogilvie, he'd arrested suspected thieves, hooked them up to lie detectors, and asked them what they knew about various high-ranking mobsters. If they snitched, they were punished—not by the sheriff but by the mob. 

As Martin points out, the raid had painful consequences for patrons who got busted. She quotes an article from the Windy City Times that notes, "subsequently there were reports of job losses and a rumored suicide."

In contrast, the raid worked well for Ogilvie, a Republican. He rode his reputation as a corruption- and "deviates"-fighting sheriff to higher office—president of the Cook County Board (in 1966), and governor of Illinois (1968).

Why Ogilvie hired Cain as his chief investigator remains a mystery that, sad to say, no one in the press at the time seemed particularly interested in tracking down. Apparently, they were too busy scaring the shit out of white people with horror stories of the Black Panthers.

For his part, Ogilvie said he didn't know about Cain's criminal connections—which would have made him perhaps the only cop in Cook County who didn't. He died in 1988.

As for Cain, eventually Ogilvie fired him because of his role in a scheme to sell back about $250,000 worth of tranquilizers and amphetamines that had been stolen from a drug company in Melrose Park. 

In 1973, Cain was waiting for a friend at Rose's Sandwich Shop at 1117 W. Grand, when two masked gunmen burst in, put a shotgun to his head, and pulled the trigger.

"Cain a mystery to dead end," read the headline in the Daily News

Not surprisingly, that story neglected to mention the paper's role in helping Cain promote his career as a "crime buster" with its breathless front-page coverage of his raid of "deviates" at Louie's Fun Lounge.

I know so much about Cain thanks to the late Paul Newey, a former investigator for the Cook County State's Attorney. Over 20 years ago, he gave me what amounted to his death-bed revelations, an eye-opening tale of Chicago corruption that included, among many other things, his theory as to why Ogilvie hired Cain. And why everyone from Mayor Richard J. Daley to the FBI to leading Republicans to, yes, the press looked the other way. 

Shame, shame, shame on them all.  v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

More by Ben Joravsky

Popular Stories