Happy St Valentine's Massacre Day!


09 Wednesday 09th February 2011

Maybe you just don’t feel like it this year, or you can’t afford it. Or maybe you're already the type to cast a skeptical eye at the red and pink, heart-and-cuddly-bear-shaped, chocolatey, rose-petal-and-polyester-lingerie strewn consumer-fest that is Valentine's Day. Whatever the reason, put down your heartfelt card and stop agonizing over the sincere message you're expected to put inside. The 14th February is famous for all sorts of things, not just making romantic love feel super depressing!

With the recession gobbling your dreams for the future, and Big Society making you feel small, alone, and unloved, the last thing you need is a pricey plate of spaghetti in a crowded candle-lit restaurant. That is, if you could get a seat – they’re probably all booked up with bankers spending their will-it-ever-be-announced-how enormous bonuses, swilling Petrus and wiping their mouths with £20 notes. No room for you there, chum. You could go to the library and pick up a book, maybe some romantic poetry for the day and all, and – oh yeah. Your library is closing. Well, have you read Philip Pullman’s speech about the libraries? You should, you’ll feel outraged! 

You know, it's so depressing, it's almost like... like a... like a GREAT Depression. But how about one last hurrah before we all confront the facts? Why not hark back to the good old days before the crash, and spend February 14th in 1920s style? We say: pull up your socks – not too far, in case your toes poke through the holes in 'em – and throw yourself headlong into the dismal spirit of the moment. We’ll start by celebrating Saint Valentine's Day Massacre Day.

As we all know from the premiere of Boardwalk Empire, prohibition meant that people were drunk all the time, and gangsters with booze made big bonuses – uh, bucks. That's what happened to Al Capone and rival gangleader Bugs Moran, anyway, who cashed in on bootlegging to gain extreme wealth, celebrity, and political control over the city. Then, as now, the surest way to gain power turned out to be by making masses of money through dubious means. As Capone and Moran's gangs scrambled to seize power from each other, Chicago quickly spiralled into a cycle of murders, revenge for murders, and revenge for revenge for murders. Fed up with the violence and his own paranoia, Capone sent his gang to gun down Bugs Moran at his warehouse on 14 February 1929. The gunmen misidentified one of the men as Bugs, and shot seven men without getting their target. In order to avoid alarming bystanders, some of Capone's men dressed up like police officers and pretended to make arrests. The incident was a massive sensation in the press, with Capone’s shameless audacity triggering a public outcry so huge that the FBI finally shook out if its stupor and locked him up. For what? Tax evasion.

They haven’t raised taxes on own-brand supermarket alcohol yet, so mix yourself a sidecar in a teacup, and curl up with the original FBI report, available for free on the internet. You can also watch Some Like it Hot, where Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon dress in drag and flee Chicago after witnessing the massacre.

A cheap non-Valentines day out? Why not go on a good long walk through London and try to imagine that it all looks like it did back just before the last great recession in 1927.

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