At the Speak Easy, Moorhead’s best Italian restaurant and lounge, sits an authentic Auburn 4-door sedan convertible centerpiece with real bullet holes in its chassis. The story suggests that it belonged to a ganglord of Chicago’s northside, named George “Bugs” Moran, during the 1930s, when Al Capone reigned supreme as the Windy City’s southside “underworld boss.” But the interesting bit is the tale of how Speak Easy owners found their treasure. An important factor was time. Just west of Moorhead’s Safari Theater, south of Interstate 94, walls were going up at their new restaurant, and the car had to go inside before the building was closed in. Moran’s car was supposedly stashed away in a farmer’s shed somewhere near Brooton, Minnesota.
The story is that Moran used to retreat to Madison, Wisconsin, with a girlfriend when the heat was on in Chicago. In 1934, they were told he ditched both the car and the girl. The partners spent days searching for the right farm, convincing the owner to part with the car, and bringing it back to Moorhead as the restaurant’s conversation piece. Guaranteed to go 100 miles per hour, the Auburn was one of the makes most favored by gangsters. Just inside the front entrance to the Speak Easy restaurant the authentic car stands, although the fabric top and the tires had to be replaced, and there’s been some repainting. Dozens of gangster era portraits hang on the walls. Posters adjacent Big Nick’s Emporium of Pleasure are from 1930s movies starring Rudolph Valentino, Tim McCoy, Charlie Chaplin, Mae West and Clara Bow. Another wall features blown-up photos of Little Egypt and other early strippers.