In 1986, Geraldo had just been fired from ABC after publicly criticizing them for not running his story about the JFK/Marilyn Monroe affair. But Geraldo noticed something about this firing: it generated more publicity for him, and his mustache, than the story itself ever would have.
Geraldo liked this publicity and developed a new career motto: "f**k being a journalist, from now on, the story is me, baby."
Mustache mustache mustache.
The Publicity Stunt:
Shortly after the firing, an opportunity presented itself. A vault was found in the basement of the Lexington Hotel in Chicago, which was scheduled for demolition. Al Capone had run his business out of this hotel from 1928-1931, so it was assumed that the vault belonged to Capone.
If the vault were to contain money, bodies or other things that gangsters love to leave lying around, then this could make for a pretty decent news story. Or, you know, a lavish two-hour live TV special covering the entrance to the vault.
When it aired, viewers were treated to an hour and 50 minutes of backstory, expert opinions, technical details and this:
That is Geraldo firing a Tommy Gun into a wall. This is a vital part of the archeological process. Trust Geraldo on this.
We can laugh all we want, but the broadcast drew 30 million viewers. To put it in perspective, the series finale of the Sopranos brought in 11 million viewers, and the ER finale brought in 16 million. The tantalizing prospect of a really, really gruesome discovery on live TV was too much to resist. Nobody had seen the contents ahead of time, no censors were between us and whatever horrors lay behind those walls. It could be a wall of the mummified dicks of Capone's enemies for all we knew.
f**k the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and their 23 million viewers. We want to see a mustache shoot a gun.
Oh, and by the way, once the special reached its climax and Geraldo finally opened the vault... it was empty. The broadcast ended and all the viewers were left to contemplate that they were two hours closer to death.