When Liz Renay accompanied her boyfriend, Mickey Cohen, then the former “King of the Sunset Strip,” to the fights, it was her habit to wear a full length fur coat and nothing else. At a certain point during the evening, she would stand up, turn to face the audience, open the coat and give the guys a show.
Outrageous? Sure. But par for the course for the bigger-than-life Ms. Renay, who died in Las Vegas on Jan. 22, 2007. She was 80.
Renay met Mickey Cohen when she moved to town in 1957, five or so years after his days as the king of the Sunset Strip had ended. He’d served time on tax evasion charges and remained a constant target of investigation.
A small-town girl who’d moved to New York and become a nightclub entertainer, Liz was no stranger to the underworld but still found herself unprepared for life as a mob moll:
In 1959, she was indicted on five counts of perjury. And in 1961 she served 27 months at Terminal Island federal prison in Los Angeles.
“I have paid a dear price for the mistake I made, and I hope the public will be forgiving,” she told reporters who met her at the prison gate when she was released. “I wanted to protect Mickey. I felt I owed him that. I couldn’t deliberately hurt someone who had been nice to me.”
At the time, Cohen was serving a 15-year sentence for income tax evasion.
“It sure knocked the hell out of my career when I went to Terminal Island,” Renay told the Phoenix New Times in 1998. “I would have been a big star had I not gone to prison.”
In 1972, she worked as a stripper at the Body Shop on the Sunset Strip:
She didn’t need to work. She was married to her sixth husband, millionaire entrepreneur Tom Freeman, who did not want her to take the strip joint job. But who was he to argue? “She’s an exhibitionist,” he told The Times. At the time, Renay had recently published her best-selling autobiography, “My Face for the World to See.”
In 1974, she had another brush with the law when she was unsuccessfully charged with indecent exposure after she’d run naked down Hollywood Boulevard to promote a burlesque show at the Ivar in Holywood.
In 1977, Liz created an entirely new fan base and won eternal fame for her portrayal of Muffy St. Jacque in John Waters’ “Desperate Living.”.
Born Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins in Chandler, Ariz., she was married seven times, and had a son and daughter. She and her daughter Brenda did a mother-daughter strip act in the 1970s.