This top ten list contains themes that are not meant for children and I caution you. It does deal with the Mafia, organized crime and the underworld, therefore some criminal descriptions are included. When choosing the Top 10 Underworld Gangster names the criteria used included: how infamous the criminal was, how clever the nickname was and how the gangster arrived by the nickname. Ready to find out the top 10 gangster nicknames? Keep your hands up and start reading.
10. Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd
It is a known fact that Charles Arthur Floyd hated his nickname, but sources disagree on how he received it. Two stories are given, one stating “Pretty Boy” was given to him by the prostitutes from the whorehouses he frequented and the second states that he earned his nickname from a description of him in his first major robbery as “a pretty boy.” He hated the name so much that he killed other gangsters for calling him by the nickname. In fact, after being gunned down, with his dying breath he made one final declaration, “I’m Charles Arthur Floyd.”
9. Charlie “Lucky” Luciano
Charlie Luciano was given the nickname “Lucky” when he came back from “taking a ride” to be whacked. He did receive a knife would from his encounter which caused a permanent droopy eye (see in picture). Many stories circulate about the ride but most agree he was tortured by the family of a officer whose daughter he had seduced. He used this story to increase his legend with the underworld often stating he was the only member of the mafia to return alive after being taken for a ride. In his old age, after being deported to Italy, Lucky became a charitable man, helping many Italians before he set up a medical supply store as a front for his illegal businesses.
8. Sam “Golf Bag” Hunt
The nickname “Golf Bag” certainly doesn’t instill fear, dread or even wonder, until you know the reason this mobster was given the name Golf Bag. Working for Capone as a mob enforcer (hitman), Sam Hunt would carry his weapons in his golf bag to hide them. If you saw Sam coming towards you with his golf bag slung on his shoulder and you weren’t teeing off on the green, you should probably be running the other direction.
7. Israel “Icepick Willie” Alderman
This grisly nickname needs little imagination. As you would suspect, Icepick Willies’ method of murder involved an icepick. As the owner of a speakeasy in Minneapolis the gangster would murder his victims by pushing the icepick through their eardrum and into the brain. He used this quick “technique” because eyewitnesses would only see the victim suddenly slump over as a would-be drunk who had passed out. Icepick Willie could then drag the corpse from the speakeasy, as if helping the drunkard, and then dispose of the body.
6. Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll
Not someone you would ever want to meet, Mad Dog Coll was given the nickname for his disregard for human life including children. On July 28, 1931, Coll unsuccessfully attempted to kidnap Joey Rao, a Dutch Schultz underling. The resulting shootout left a five year old child, Michael Vengali, dead and several children wounded. After this atrocity, New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker dubbed Coll “Mad Dog” and the whole city started looking for him. A $50,000 bounty was put on Mad Dog and he was gunned down while making a call in a phone booth in 1932.
5. Thomas “Butterfingers” Moran
Legendary pickpocket, Thomas “Butterfingers” Moran, was an adept pickpocket who could “slide in and out of a pocket like pure butter.” Thomas picked his first pocket in 1906 in San Francisco and his last pocket at age 78, in 1970. It is said he picked over 50,000 pockets during his lifetime. Like Pretty Boy, Butterfingers didn’t care for his nickname and said so when he was quoted, “”I’ve never forgiven that smart-alecky reporter who named me ‘Butterfingers’.”
4. Lester “Baby Face” Nelson
Public Enemy #1 throughout the 1930s, Lester Joseph Gillis better known as “Baby Face” Nelson, due to his young appearance, didn’t care for his nickname and at one point declared himself “Big” George Nelson. The problem? He was only 5 feet 4 inches tall. “Where outlaws such as Pretty Boy Floyd…would kill to protect themselves when cornered, Nelson went out of his way to murder – he loved it,” said Jay Robert Nash in Bloodletters and Badmen. “His angelic, pear-smooth face never betrayed his instant ability to kill.” Photo courtesy of Rick Mattix.
3. George “Machine Gun” Kelly
George “Machine Gun” Kelly, the notorious racketeer who gave FBI agents the nickname G-men, was given his gangster nickname by his wife Kathryn who forced him to practice with the machine gun. (She gave it to him as a birthday present.) She became his public relations force and built up his “street cred” with other criminals. In fact, he was not accused or convicted of murder and never used his machine gun with the intent to kill. During his time at Alcatraz he got the nickname ‘Pop Gun Kelly’ for the fact that he was a model prisoner and was nowhere near the tough, brutal gangster his wife made him out to be.
2. Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel
An American gangster who was a driving force behind the development of Las Vegas, Ben “Bugsy” Siegel was not fond of his nickname and was never called that to his face. It was said to cause him to become enraged, murderously so. During his trial for the murder of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg (he was acquitted), the newspapers revealed Siegel’s sordid past and started referring to him as “Bugsy”. He hated the nickname, “Bugsy” (said to be based on the slang term “bugs”, meaning “crazy”, describing his erratic behavior), and wouldn’t allow anyone to call him that to his face.
1. “Scarface” Al Capone
Scarface Al was employed as a bouncer by racketeer Frankie Yale. Capone received the scars that gave him the nickname “Scarface” when he insulted a woman while working the door at a Brooklyn night club. This provoked a fight with her brother Frank Gallucio. Capone’s face was slashed three times on the left side by Gallucio. When photographed, Capone hid the scarred left side of his face and would lie about his injuries as war wounds, but he never served in the armed forces. According to the 2002 magazine from Life , Capone was called “Snorky” by his closest friends. “Scarface” was certainly the better choice for an underworld gangster. Who could take Al “Snorky” Capone seriously.
Got someone to add to this list of top ten mafia nicknames, please comment below.
by Byron Harris