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Backstory with Larry Potash

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Explore the BACKSTORY behind some of the most intriguing tales in history, culture, religion and science from Chicago and beyond.

Explore the BACKSTORY behind some of the most intriguing tales in history, culture, religion and science from Chicago and beyond.
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Explore the BACKSTORY behind some of the most intriguing tales in history, culture, religion and science from Chicago and beyond.




Thief stole millions, hid out in Chicago as toy store owner

For decades, Phil Cresta was the best thief on the East Coast. He stole millions and nobody knew who did it. After fleeing the law and the mob, he was found living under a fake name as a Chicago toy store owner. Not even his wife knew of his past— until he confessed to it all.


Inside an Ivy League secret society

Secret societies are a common concern of conspiracy theories and Hollywood blockbusters, and at Ivy League schools, secret societies are the elite among the elite. While the legends surrounding them often obscure the truth, a member of the Delphic Club at Harvard opens up about his unlikely recruitment, and how the myths surrounding such groups compare with the reality. Larry Potash has the Backstory.


How Chicago's first basketball champs lost their title

The Chicago American Gears were the city's first basketball champions — until their trophy was taken away, and a team with the makings of a dynasty was forced to disband.


How Eliot Ness took on Al Capone in Chicago, and a serial killer in Cleveland

Legendary G-Man Eliot Ness is remembered for taking down Al Capone in Chicago, but as pop culture grew the legend around him, it begs the question: what really happened? In a historical society in Cleveland, meticulous scrapbooks Ness kept track his career as he took on the mob, jaywalkers, and a serial killer called the Torso Murderer. Larry Potash digs into the Backstory on what parts of Ness' legend are invented by Hollywood, and what really happened.


The truth of Al Capone and Eliot Ness, the investigator who helped bring him down

You've probably heard of how legendary mobster Al Capone's criminal empire was disrupted by investigator Eliot Ness and his group of "Untouchables." But what really happened in Chicago, and what was invented by Hollywood? Max Allan Collins, author of the 2002 Chicago mob story "Road to Perdition," and A. Brad Schwartz, a Princeton historian, talked to relatives, re-examined evidence, and sifted through newly-released federal files to separate fact from fiction. Just when you thought there...


Growing up with the mob next door

Brothers Michael and Jeffrey Gentile say their childhood was a cross between The Wonder Years and The Sopranos. While he never got into a life of crime, their dad's friends included some of Chicago's most infamous mobsters.


The Myth of Mickey

Mickey Mouse may be the biggest paradox in pop culture: people love him, but know nothing about him. You may have heard Mickey was first drawn by Walt Disney 90 years ago as he rode a train, desperate to save his company and inspired by pet mice he had years ago. Well, that’s a myth. This is the true Backstory of Mickey Mouse, and how a simple, whistling cartoon grew into a global icon.


The “Code Smasher” Elizebeth Smith Friedman

Recruited by an eccentric millionaire to search for hidden messages in Shakespeare’s works, Elizebeth Smith Friedman became a pioneering code breaker who took on the Nazis and the mob. Her story has been buried by secrecy and sexism for nearly a century - until now. Watch this full story on the Backstory TV show.


Death of the "Furnace Girl" Elfrieda Knaak

On the morning of Oct. 30, 1928, Elfrieda Knaak was discovered in the furnace room of Lake Bluff's Village Hall, naked and with her hands and feet burned to the bone. Her death was ruled a suicide, but how could a woman stick her own legs, arms and head in a furnace?