Al Capone, the notorious Chicago gangster, was a man of enormous power and great wealth. He housed his headquarters in the Lexington Hotel for three years, living in a suite there until his arrest for tax evasion in 1931. Five decades later, a construction crew was renovating the building and discovered a series of hidden tunnels that led to various speakeasies and houses of ill-repute, as well as a mysterious steel repository in the back. Rumors had long existed of a secret underground vault that Capone had used to hide his money, and it looked like this might be it.
Geraldo Rivera, intrepid TV reporter, learned of this fact and realized that he had potential winner on his hand. Note the word ‘potential’. He asked the hotel owners to hold off opening the vault, and then convinced broadcast executives to let him do a two-hour special on the subject. They agreed, and the amount of hype put forth to market the show was amazing. Commercials ran day and night which stated that Geraldo was going to do something that had never been done before, he was going to open the former crime boss’s vault live on television.
What would be found inside? Dead bodies, perhaps? Millions of dollars of stolen mob money? Dare we suggest… the Ark of the Covenant?
The TV special started out fairly mundane. Geraldo Rivera greeted the viewers, showed them the outside of the vault, and pontificated about its possible contents. A medical examiner was present, to identify any corpses should they be found, as was an IRS agent (to tax said corpses appropriately). Geraldo proceeded to hover about while a special team of engineers figured out a way to unseal the room, and when they finally succeeded, he made a dramatic gesture, invited the camera crews inside, and promptly discovered… nothing.
Well, there were a few bottles of moonshine bathtub gin, and a lone tumbleweed rolled past, but that was it. Geraldo had an inordinate amount of egg on his face, something which would only get wiped off a few years later when a deranged redneck hit him with a chair and fractured his nose. The sheer embarrassment of the non-event would not be the end of his career, however, far from it. He would get his own television show for his trouble, and provide constant explosive programming on the perils of midget infidelity for many years to come.