Tag: Gangsters

Ad for the Clover Club

The Clover Club was a posh private club on the Strip, at 8477 Sunset [map], situated at the northwest corner of Sunset and Queens Road and operated by vice cop-turned-racketeer Guy McAfee and others in the 1930s and ’40s. It was closed when McAfee was driven out of town to Las Vegas in the great corruption purge of 1938 but reopened under new owners and later as the Bacon Club and again, during the war, as the Clover Club. After the war, it briefly served as the Army and Navy Officers Club. It was destroyed in a fire in January 1952.

Update: Corrected location.

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Jack Dragna: Los Angeles Crime Boss

Ignazio “Jack” Dragna (alias “Jack Rizotta”) in a 1916 police mugshot.

Dragna was a longtime friend of Gaetano “Tommy” Reina when they both lived in the East Harlem Section of New York. Both were implicated in the Barnet Baff murder case in November of 1914. After the murder, Dragna fled to California where he established his own crime family.

Find a Grave:

Birth: Apr. 18, 1891
Death: Feb. 23, 1956
Los Angeles
Los Angeles County
California, USA

Organized Crime Figure. Made member of the Chicago Cosa Nostra. The most successful, but least known of any Los Angeles crime boss. He was not a publicity seeker like Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen, which allowed him to die of natural causes and not to pass away in jail. He lived in Los Angeles most of his career, and made his living off of gambling and prostitution. He, along with mobser Johnny Roselli ran a telgraph system called the “Race Wire”. It allowed bookie joints to get fast racing information. Later, the New York Mob sent Bugsy Siegel out to get a piece of the action. When Siegel was murdered, Dragna attempted to take over his rackets. This put Jack Dragna into a long feud with Mickey Cohen. Many attempts were made on Cohen’s life, but they were never successful. When he died, the L.A. mob was taken over by Frank DeSimone. Dragna was the only L.A. crime boss to ever hold a seat on the national Cosa Nostra Commission. (bio by: Joe Walker)

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Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez, by John Boessenecker

University of Oklahoma Press, Sep 24, 2010 – 471 pages

Google Books:

Tiburcio Vasquez is, next to Joaquin Murrieta, America’s most infamous Hispanic bandit. After he was hanged as a murderer in 1875, the Chicago Tribune called him “the most noted desperado of modern times.” Yet questions about him still linger. Why did he become a bandido? Why did so many Hispanics protect him and his band? Was he a common thief and heartless killer who got what he deserved, or was he a Mexican American Robin Hood who suffered at the hands of a racist government? In this engrossing biography, John Boessenecker provides definitive answers.

Bandido pulls back the curtain on a life story shrouded in myth — a myth created by Vasquez himself and abetted by writers who saw a tale ripe for embellishment. Boessenecker traces his subject’s life from his childhood in the seaside adobe village of Monterey, to his years as a young outlaw engaged in horse rustling and robbery. Two terms in San Quentin failed to tame Vasquez, and he instigated four bloody prison breaks that left twenty convicts dead. After his final release from prison, he led bandit raids throughout Central and Southern California. His dalliances with women were legion, and the last one led to his capture in the Hollywood Hills and death on the gallows at age thirty-nine.

From dusty court records, forgotten memoirs, and moldering newspaper archives, Boessenecker draws a story of violence, banditry, and retribution on the early California frontier that is as accurate as it is colorful. Enhanced by numerous photographs — many published here for the first time — Bandido also addresses important issues of racism and social justice that remain relevant to this day.

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Hollywood Confidential: How the Studios Beat the Mob at Their Own Game, By Ted Schwarz

There is no aspect of early 20th century Los Angeles history that was more important than the influence of mobster and racketeers on the city’s commercial and civic institutions. Ted Schwarz’ Hollywood Confidential is a great source on the history of the entwined and entangled relationships among the mob, both homegrown and the East Coast transplants, the city and the Hollywood studios.

The subtitle says it all: “How the studios beat the mob at their own game.” Schwarz shows that the early 20th century mobsters and movie moguls came up from the same pool recent immigrants, mostly by way of New York City. In the 1930s, when the mob syndicate set its sights on Hollywood, the mobsters they sent to Los Angeles soon realized that, in the moguls who ran the town, they had finally met their match.

Here is the publisher’s description of the book:

Hollywood Confidential is the first truly in-depth look at the sexy, humorous, violent, and tragic history of the mob in Hollywood from the 1920s, when Joe Kennedy decided to buy a motion picture company, to the 1980s when the last vestiges of mob influence were revealed through investigations of former Screen Actors Guild President Ronald Reagan and his union backers. The revelations continue into the 1980s when the major studios were no longer important, the independents were on the rise, and it was no longer possible to buy, bribe, or blackmail in a meaningful way. There were deals and bad guys, but the mob as it existed was finished in Hollywood.

For more info: Taylor Trade Publishing

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Tere Tereba Interviewed about her book, ‘Mickey Cohen: The Life and Crime of L.A.’s Notorious Mobster’

Brent X. Mendoza at TheSunsetStrip.com:

THESUNSETSTRIP.COM:The new book, what initially sparked your interest in Mickey Cohen? Was it your time on The Strip and growing up in Hollywood?

TEREBA: That’s part of it; I wanted to know about the L.A. underworld. We know about the organized crime from everywhere else, but was there not an underworld in L.A.? So my book essentially takes you all the way back to prohibition when Mickey Cohen was a very small child, and it takes you through 1976, and much of it plays out on The Sunset Strip.

I didn’t know that that was going to happen… After uncovering history from ten years of research and going over documents and rare photos, I found I was able to finally deliver a realistic look at L.A.’s underworld, which hadn’t ever been done before. So it really started with me being curious and then I realized that this is an extraordinary story and it’s never really been properly, or even partially, told.

I was fascinated, and shocked by it all… There were literally multiple shootouts on The Sunset Strip; there were shootouts in Brentwood, on Sunset in Bel Air that didn’t make the papers, downtown L.A. Gang war was raging from 1946 to 1950 on the streets of L.A. all surrounding Mickey Cohen…and what I uncovered was a much more involved story of what was going on with Bugsy Siegel being a major Hollywood socialite and how he goes to war right before he was assassinated in 1947. He starts a war with J. Edgar Hoover… All sorts of things going on right around where I live and where I went about my daily business. All of this history around me that had never been put together in one document and exposed.

Continue reading

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Johnny Stompanato, Sunset Strip Resident

Johnny Stompanato

The gangster Johnny Stompanato lived here in the late 1940s. His boss, Mickey Cohen, owned a storefront building at the foot of Horn, at 8800 Sunset. Stompanato ostensibly worked at Courtley’s, a jewelry store next door to Michael’s Haberdashery, the men’s clothing store Cohen operated on the side. In reality, of course, Cohen ran illegal gambling and other rackets for his bosses back east.

Stompanato was different from the other guys who worked for Cohen. He was not Jewish, for one thing. For another, he was a Marine, who had seen action in World War II.

The reason Johnny Stompanato is remembered today is because of the way he died. He was killed by a stab wound in the bedroom of his girlfriend, Lana Turner. Lana’s teenaged daughter, Cheryl Crane, confessed to the crime saying she did it trying to protect her mother from Stompanato’s physical abuse. The killing was ruled to justifiable homicide.

For a while Stompanato lived on Horn Avenue, directly above the building that housed Cohen’s businesses. His apartment building happened to be directly across the street from Café Gala, the celebrity gay-straight lounge, which was also the site of the first Spago’s restaurant many years later.

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Mickey Cohen Throws Christmas-Themed Grand Opening Party for His Haberdashery on the Strip

In December 1947, Mickey Cohen celebrated the relocation of his haberdashery from un-posh Santa Monica Blvd. up the hill to new digs at 8802 Sunset on the Strip, with a Christmas-themed grand-opening party. Among the guests were Jack Dragna, Cohen’s principal rival for control of the Los Angeles rackets, and Lt. Rudy Wellpott, head of the LAPD’s elite administrative vice unit, who ran another set of rackets from inside the department.

Both men will play big roles in his life over the next year and a half.

In August 1948, a shotgun-toting hitman hired by team Dragna will enter Cohen’s plush offices in the ground level below the haberdashery and blow the head off of one of Mickey’s bodyguards and wound another. Cohen, who was in the men’s room washing his hands when the shooting started, hid from the gunman in a stall by crouching on the toilet.

In May 1949, Cohen will release recordings of phone calls that implicate Wellpott and other LAPD brass, all the way up to Chief C.B. Horrall, in gambling, prostitution and abortion rackets in the city, including Brenda Allen’s A-list bordello services on the Sunset Strip. Wellpott be forced to resign from the LAPD, but will be acquitted by a jury on bribery charges.

The store, which was called Michael’s, occupied a storefront in a building Cohen purchased that occupied the southwest corner of Holloway Drive and Palm Avenue on the Strip.

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