Sally Bachman went on a U.S. speaking tour from 1936 to 1941. As John Paul Chase's girlfriend, she had a story to tell. She transformed her tramatic experiences in the carnival atmosphere of the "Crime Does Not Pay" show. Her life story became a light concoction, like the cotton candy her audiences carried into her talks. It was Sally Bachman all the way. She never asked for pity, and was tough to the end of her life.
Sally Bachman was a member of the gang who harbored Baby Face Nelson. John Paul Chase chose her for his woman companion in the last, desperate days before Nelson was killed and he, himself, began a life term for murder of a G-Man.
John Paul Chase was Baby Face Nelson's closest friend. They were bootlegging buddies in 1930s San Francisco.
Nelson and "Fatso" Negri hung out there, on the second floor, which featured a balcony which served as a crow's nest for watching the door. The basement boasted of a catacomb featuring a 7 mile tunnel to the Barbery Coast.
Sally Bachman was a local woman who lived and worked in San Francisco. She made her living selling tickets to commuters crossing the San Francisco Bay. Tired of her job, she wanted a more exciting life than her weekly paycheck provided. One fateful night, a car pulled up to her ticket booth on Fisherman's Wharf. Witnesses described some "rough looking men" who invited her to take a ride with them. Sally never returned to work.
She travelled with Chase as far east as New York City, where they kept a hideout in the St. Andrew's Hotel. She travelled through the hills of Reno, Nevada when the gang was hiding as the hunt intensified and "G-Heat" was at its zenith.
Chase was convicted of the shooting death of Special Agents Samuel Cowley, who died along with Ed Harris at the "Battle of Barrington," which also claimed the life of Baby Face Nelson in November, 1934. John Paul Chase was convicted of the murder of Cowley and served a life term on Alcatraz. While he adjusted to life on "The Rock," he heard the seagulls sing. Sally Bachman sang a tune of her own -- and put the rest of the gang behind bars.
Helen Gillis, Baby Face Nelson's wife, had testified too. She made Chase pay for deserting her husband on his deathbed. Her testimony, delivered in the back offices of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, placed John Paul Chase at the Battle of Barrington and assured his conviction and life sentence.
It was relatively easy for Helen Gillis to tie Chase to the murder of Special Agent Sam Cowley.
Mrs. Gillis was bereaved, anxious for an end to her ordeal, and offered the privacy of a back room. Sally Backman, on the other hand, had to face her former friends on a witness stand. When A. D.A. Hammack asked her to tell the "Story of Baby Face," she said "Yes" with the knowledge that she'd avoid a long stretch in Federal prison. She had to finger each and every one of them, with reporters making sure it stuck like poison.
The ordeal of testifying against racketeers is, historically, woman's work. In the City of New York, the prosecutors in the Luciano trial would depend solely on the testimony of women by 1936 to convict Lucky Luciano. For the dangerous mission of fingering "Charlie Lucky," they were paid sums amounting to no more than $100. It could be said these 28 women had each other for mutual strength and support in New York. Sally was in San Francisco and completely alone in her stand against the mob.
Sally Bachman took the witness stand on March 29, 1935. She testified against Nelson's friends: Anthony "Soap" Marino, Louis "Doc Bones" Tambini, Vince Markovich, Frank Cochran and Anna Cochran, and Jack Perkins with his wife, Grace Perkins. She told a tale of life on the run. Nowhere in these words will you find glamour, action, or even fun! This story makes a KOA Campsight sound like a night at the Stardust Ballroom:
"We travelled across the country. We always parked along some riverbank and camped and bought our food in some town and cooked it in camp. We went in some restaurants and ate and brought food out to "Baby Face Nelson." He never went into a restaurant."
Ensuring the convictions of these mobsters, she returned to private life, with a life-long fear of gangland reprisal her only nightmare.