Diamond Jack had a fascination and love for the Western lifestyle and made his way out to Denver, Colorado to become “a peaceful rancher with persons of culture around me,”. Hank Bosco who was a young boy at the time, would take gum and rides in the passenger seat of Jack’s slick red Lincoln convertible with cow steer horns. That ended, when Hank’s mother found out who Diamond Jack really was.

Diamond Jack went by many names, in Colorado he was Diamond Jack, in Chicago he was best known as Louis “Two Guns” Alterie, “Two Gun” Louis and as a boxer in Denver he was Kid Hayes. By the time Diamond Jack had arrived in Colorado in 1929, he was bringing with him a police record that included kidnapping, murder, burglary, and more, although he was never convicted. He was also the president of the Theatrical Janitors’ Union, a union he would use to extort money from theaters. If they didn’t pay, their theaters were stink-bombed.

Born Leland A. Varain in California to French ranchers, he moved to Chicago when he was young and joined up with Dean O’Banion’s North Side Gang becoming a member & hitman for the gang, he was suspected of up to twenty murders. He was also said to have come up with the term “one way ride” & the “rented ambush,” in which hitmen would rent an apartment near their victim and wait for them to come into firing range.

He once acted being insane before a murder trial to give his associates time to kill and intimidate witnesses. His act was so convincing, so much so that many considered him actually insane.

O’Banion had set up John Torrio in what some describe as a prank, O’Banion told Torrio he would sell him his Siebens brewery, while they were at the brewery the police raided and arrested everyone, including Torrio. O’Banion was marked for death

After the raid, Dean O’Banion vacationed in Colorado with Alterie. They made their way to the Woodbine Lodge in Jarre Canyon, outside of Sedalia in Douglas County. The county was wide open to gambling and slot machines. The Woodbine Lodge was the most notorious illegal speakeasy, casino, and brothel in the county.

Dean O’Banion 3rd from left & Diamond Jack centre with arms folded

Diamond Jack hosted a party for 40 – 60 people, in which Diamond Jack gave a speech. They went hunting with locals. And even threw a large rodeo at the Roundup Ranch, hiring Denver cinematographers Victor Schuler and P.L. Hoefler to film the event, that was witnessed by a large crowd who attended the rodeo.

On that hunting trip Diamond Jack demonstrated to O’Banion, the new Thompson submachine gun. Local ranchers had been using the automatic firearm to protect their ranches from coyotes. O’Banion was impressed enough that he stopped in Denver to purchase three of these weapons at a “downtown Denver hardware store. At least one of these “Tommy Guns” went back to Chicago with O’Banion.

When Dean O’Banion was murdered an enraged Diamond Jack swore revenge, his quest for vengeance even put the some of the North Side Gang on notice, worried that his behavior would attract attention from rival gangsters and more importantly, the law, “Bugs” Moran & Hymie Weiss convinced him to move out of Chicago until things cool down. Diamond Jack headed back to Colorado and set about becoming a “normal” citizen, that wouldnt last however. 

Louis Alterie / Diamond Jack / Leland Varain was far from “normal” he was a “strange mixture of bravado, daring, cruelty, and exaggerated ego“. He usually carried a roll of $20,000-$30,000 on his person. As Diamond Jack, one source said he wore $15,000-$20,000 worth of diamonds. He had a diamond-studded gold belt buckle, diamond encrusted watch & chain and multiple diamond rings. He wore $50 shirts, a $100 Stetson hat, inlaid boots and silver spurs. In Denver, he was announced to the audience when attending prize fights.

On August 6, 7 & 8, 1925, Diamond Jack hosted the first of two Rocky Mountain Roundup rodeos, the first two rodeos ever held at the Stockyard Stadium. The Rocky Mountain Roundup was a true wild west show which included 200 horses and cattle, dozens of world champion events, along with comedy and exhibition stunts, cash purses totaling thousands, and trophies including a Denver Post trophy.

As large a life a character he was trouble always followed Diamond Jack, in an incident at the ranch, in a drunken argument, his brother Bert Varain shot Diamond Jack with a shotgun, but Diamond Jack refused to name his brother.

The last straw came years later when Diamond Jack, trying to take revenge in a drunken rampage after being beaten up at the Hotel Denver, beat the clerk and shot two innocent bystanders. He was found guilty of assault with intent to commit mayhem. The judge gave him the choice between five years in prison, or he could leave Colorado. He chose to leave.

Diamond Jack moved back to Chicago, where he was gunned down in 1935.


Owen Forsyth

Web Designer, Teacher, Artist, Writer, 3D & Visual Effects, DJ

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