How ‘Dancing With The Stars’ Will Revisit Geraldo Rivera’s Al Capone Vault Incident

Geraldo Rivera will make his debut as a ballroom dancer Monday night, doing a number with his partner Edyta Śliwińska on the premiere of Dancing With the Stars. Viewers will know Geraldo for many things: his tenure with Fox News, his appearance on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, and for those around in the 1980s, Al Capone’s vault. Rivera was the face of a much-hyped and high-rated special that promised any number of surprises as a bunker possibly owned by the notorious gangster was opened. The excavation, however, was a bust, as the vault was empty.

Erin Andrews told Jimmy Kimmel Live last week that DWTS is not shying away from the 30-year-old incident from Rivera’s past: the show will address it head-on. Apparently, Rivera is not worried about making fun of himself by remembering an embarrassing moment from his past.

“I’m not supposed to share this…there will be a vault [in] the season premiere for Geraldo. A very sexy Edyta comes out of it.”

Kimmel responded that there could be another stunt in the newsman’s Dancing With the Stars future.

“It would be fun if they shove Geraldo into the vault and locked him in there for the rest of the season. And then, reveal at the end of the season how Geraldo is doing, whether he’s survived or not.”

It was April 21, 1986, that 30 million viewers tuned in to watch the special, called The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vaults. The following day, The Toledo Blade reported that nothing was in the vault except dirt and debris.

Erin Andrews of 'Dancing With the Stars'
Erin Andrews told Jimmy Kimmel the 'Dancing With the Stars' premiere would make reference to Geraldo Rivera's infamous Al Capone vault incident. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for ESPY)

The vault was discovered in the basement of the Lexington Hotel in Chicago where Capone once lived. Secret stairways had been found in the building, leading to rumors that the vault was a stash owned and used by the gangster in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

The vault was a 125-long slab. During the special, workers cut and blasted through concrete and limestone to reveal each section’s contents. Officials were on hand as well: representatives from the Internal Revenue Service said Capone owed the U.S. government $800,000 and the Cook County medical examiner stood by in case bodies were excavated. Ultimately, all that was discovered was a few bottles from the Prohibition Era.

Al Capone
Al Capone, seen here in October 1931, was one of America's most notorious criminals. Geraldo Rivera hosted a high-rated special in 1986 that purported to open one of Capone's lost vaults. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

In 2014, The Guardian compared Discovery’s Eaten Alive special to Rivera’s vault. In Eaten Alive, a conservationist was to wear a protective suit and be devoured by an anaconda. At the end of the program, the stunt was called off. The Guardian revived a quote from Rivera about the Al Capone special.

“[It was] high-concept stunt that failed to deliver on its titillating promise.”

Dancing With the Stars won’t be the first time Rivera has owned up to the Al Capone vault incident. In fact, the newsman has the entire special uploaded on his personal website. In the notes on that site, it states he exited the special with a song to honor a promise to the crew.

Dancing With the Stars Season 22 gets underway at 8 p.m. Monday on ABC. In addition to Rivera, celebrity dancers include Jodie Sweetin from Fuller House, Kim Fields from The Facts of Life, Von Miller, and Mischa Barton. Longtime judge Len Goodman, who sat out last season, is set to come back.

[Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]