Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Johnny Yen's Chicago Stories: The Purple Motel

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving near the intersection of Lincoln and Devon, near the border of Chicago and the suburb of Lincolnwood and I realized for the first time that two Chicago-area landmarks are within a couple of blocks of each other: the Bunny Hutch and the Purple Motel.

The Bunny Hutch is a misnomer, actually. The Bunny Hutch is a fast food restaurant attached to Novelty Golf, a beloved miniature golf place, but everybody calls the miniature golf place "The Bunny Hutch."

The Purple Motel is known these days for, well, being purple. But in 1983, it became part of Chicago gangland lore when Allen Dorfman got whacked in the parking lot, back when it was known as the Hyatt Lincolnwood Hotel.

If you've ever seen the movie "Casino," you know Allen Dorfman's story-- his was the character played by comedian Alan King. He was a Teamster's guy who came up with the idea of using Teamster's money to invest in the then-Mob-infested Las Vegas casinos in the 1970's.

As things began to unravel in Vegas after Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal's childhood friend, mob killer Anthony "The Ant" Spilotro began drawing unwanted attention to mob activities in Vegas thanks to his "Hole In The Wall" gang's less-than-subtle breaking and entering and home invasions, things were breaking bad for Dorfman. The FBI had launched a campaign to get him-- "Operation Pendorf" ("Penetrate Dorfman"). They finally managed to catch Dorfman and Teamster president Roy Williams trying to bribe Nevada Senator Howard Cannon to support a bill blocking trucking deregulation.

Dorfman was convicted and was scheduled to be sentenced on February 10, 1983. But someone else had other ideas. On January 21, 1983, as Dorfman walked with his long-time associate Irwin Weiner to his car in the parking lot pictured at the top of this post, two masked men walked up to them and announced a robbery. As Weiner stood by, the two gunmen shot Dorfman seven times in the head with .22 calibre pistols-- the preferred gun of mob hits.

Time Magazine quoted the Chicago Crime Commission as saying it was the Chicago area's 1081st gangland style hit since the Commission started keeping records in 1919. For years it was assumed that one of the gunmen was Anthony Spilotro, but it is now believed to have been Frank ''The German'' Schweihs, who, ironically, is believed to have been involved in the murders of Spilotro and Spilotro's brother Michael in 1986. Schweihs died of cancer in prison last year, having been caught, along with Joey "The Clown" Lombardo in "Operation Family Secrets."

The mob was obviously afraid that if Dorfman received a long sentence, he might cut a deal and rat out other Teamsters and mobsters to cut his sentence. The hit guaranteed that Dorfman would not make a deal, whether he had planned to or not.

And what of Mr. Dorfman's "associate," businessman/mobster, bail bondsman, friend of Jack Ruby and Niles, Illinois resident Irwin Weiner, who was standing near Dorfman when he was whacked? Weiner, who had beaten a charge in 1975, along with Dorfman, of defrauding the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund after the key witness was murdered (by Joey Lombardo)... didn't see a thing. He ended up dying of old age.


Tenacious S said...

I think the Purple Hotel is closed. Last couple of times I have driven past it darn near has tumbleweeds.

Anonymous said...

The hotel is definitely closed. I totally enjoy these Chicago gang stories. I believe that a Dorfman relative, probably the son, lived down the street for me during the 90s.

lulu said...

Oh darn, I thought this was going to be a whole post about the purple palace.

One of my good friends has a friend who was working there as a desk clerk or something, and my friend and her friends all used to hang out in the bar there (they were underage at the time). She has many stories about the things that went on, including right in the lobby, however this is a family blog, right? So I'll leave you to imagine the etymology of the expression "lob job".

Erik Donald France said...

Crime pays in unintended ways. Scary stuff, but nice details.

And .22 calbre -- anything works at close range, eh?

Bubs said...

Ah, I love this.

I met Irwin Weiner a number of times, and have some stories for the next time we meet. Irwin usually carried a gun after that trip to the purple Hyatt.

That hotel was the place my family stayed when we moved to Chicago, courtesy of Sears. We were there about 4 or 5 days until the moving van made it here with our stuff.

The purple hotel is closed now, has been for a few months. One of the last big events held at the hotel was a convention for fans of Japanese rope bondage.

SkylersDad said...

I would be interested to know why the mob preferred a 22 caliber bullet, seems like you might have to shoot somebody multiple times to get the job done.

Or maybe that was the point!

Natalie said...

I hope they don't close Novelty Golf. Tony and I enjoy put putting there

Churlita said...

Interesting story. One of my aunt's brothers (get that?) was in the Irish mob in Chicago and they found his body in the trunk of a car at O'hare.

My grandpa was at a Speakeasy during Prohibition when Al Capone entered. All the patrons were instructed to keep their heads down and not to look at him until he finally left.

Those are my only Chicago mob stories.

dmarks said...

The closest I have to a Chicago mob story is the girl I dated who once had Jimmy Hoffa eating with her family when she was little.

purplelar said...

.22 caliber's don't make much noise. But if you know where to put the barrel, just behind the lower ear, you only need one bullet.

Distributorcap said...

i guess it isnt just governors that contribute to illinois' crime rate

Unknown said...

Just an update as of October 31, 2014...

The "purple hotel" was razed in the Spring/Summer of 2014. All there is left now is a huge, empty lot. They were selling off the bricks, but they went fast!

Michael Crisci
Administrative Assistant
Niles Historical and Cultural Center