Mickey Cohen
Born Meyer Harris Cohen September 4, 1913(1913-09-04)Brooklyn, New York City
Died July 29, 1976(1976-07-29) (aged 62)Los Angeles, California
Cause of death Natural Causes
Nationality United States
Known for Mob Activity
Height 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Spouse Lavonne Weaver (1940 - 1951)

Related

add to related

Mickey Cohen

Edit Block

Meyer Harris "Mickey" Cohen (September 4, 1913, in Brooklyn, New York City, United States – July 29, 1976 in Los Angeles, California, U.S.) was a gangster based in Los Angeles and part of the Jewish Mafia, and also had strong ties to the American Mafia from the 1930s through 1960s.

Early life

Edit Block

Mickey Cohen was born on September 4, 1913, of a Jewish family. His mother Fanny had immigrated to the U.S. from Kiev, Ukraine. At age six, Cohen was selling newspapers on the street; his brothers Sam or Isiack would drop him off at his regular corner. Soon Cohen and his brothers became involved in crime (Cohen's brother Paul, an Orthodox Jew, was an exception). In 1923, at age nine, Cohen was delivering alcohol to customers from a gin mill operated by his older brother in the drug store. Cohen was arrested that same year for this activity, but avoided prosecution due to his brother's connections.

As a teenager, Cohen began boxing in illegal prizefights in Los Angeles. He eventually moved to the East Coast to train as a professional boxer, doing fights in the Midwest along the way. His first professional boxing match was on April 8, 1930 against Patsy Farr in Cleveland, Ohio. This was one of the preliminary fights on the card for the Paul Pirrone/Jimmy Goodrich feature event. On April 11, 1933 he fought against Chalky Wright in Los Angeles, California. Wright won the match and Meyer was incorrectly identified as "Mickey Cohen from Denver, Colorado" in the Los Angeles Times sports page report. His last fight was on on May 14, 1933 against Baby Arizmendi in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. On June 12, 1931 Cohen fought and lost a match against World Featherweight Champion Tommy Paul, having been knocked out cold after 2:20 into the first round. It was during this round he earned the moniker "Gangster Mickey Cohen". Cohen lived first in Cleveland, where he met Lou Rothkopf, an associate of Moe Dalitz. Cohen moved later to New York, where he became associates with Tommy Dioguardi, the brother of labor racketeer Johnny Dio, and with Owney Madden. Finally, Cohen went to Chicago, where he ran a gambling operation for the Chicago Outfit, Al Capone's powerful criminal organization.

Prohibition and the Chicago Outfit

Edit Block

During Prohibition, Cohen moved to Chicago and became involved in organized crime working as an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit, where he briefly met Al Capone. During this period Cohen was arrested for his role in the deaths of several gangsters in a card game that went wrong.

After a brief time in prison, Cohen was released and began running card games and other illegal gambling operations. He later became an associate of Mattie Capone, Al's younger brother. While working for Jake Guzik, Cohen was forced to flee Chicago after an argument with a rival gambler.

In Cleveland, Cohen again worked for Lou (Louis) Rothkopf, an associate of Meyer Lansky and Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel. However, there was little work available for Cohen in Cleveland, so Rothkopf arranged for him to work with Siegel in California.

From syndicate bodyguard to Sunset kingpin

Edit Block

Mickey Cohen was sent to Los Angeles by Meyer Lansky and Lou Rothkopf to watch Bugsy Siegel. During their association, Mickey helped set up the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas and ran its sports book operation. He also was instrumental in setting up the race wire, which was essential to Vegas betting, a Nevada attraction perhaps only second to the Hoover Dam. In 1947, the crime families ordered the murder of Siegel due to his mismanagement of the Flamingo Hotel, most likely because Siegel or his girlfriend Virginia Hill was skimming money. According to one account which does not appear in newspapers, Cohen reacted violently to Siegel's murder. Entering the Hotel Roosevelt, where he believed the killers were staying, Cohen fired rounds from his two .45 caliber semi-automatic handguns into the lobby ceiling and demanded that the assassins meet him outside in ten minutes. However, no one appeared and Cohen was forced to flee when the cops arrived.

Cohen's violent methods came to the attention of state and federal authorities investigating the Dragna operations. During this time, Cohen faced many attempts on his life, including the bombing of his home on posh Moreno Avenue in Brentwood. Cohen soon converted his house into a fortress, installing floodlights, alarm systems, and a well-equipped arsenal kept, as he often joked, next to his 200 tailor-made suits. Cohen also briefly hired bodyguard Johnny Stompanato before his killing by actress Lana Turner's daughter. Cohen bought a cheap coffin for Stompanato's funeral and then sold Lana Turner's love letters to Stompanato to the press.

Stompanato ran a sexual extortion ring as well as a jewelry store. He was one of the most popular playboys in Hollywood. Singer Frank Sinatra once visited Cohen at his home and begged him to tell Stompanato to stop dating Sinatra's friend and ex-wife, actress Ava Gardner.

Later years

Edit Block

In 1950, Mickey Cohen was investigated along with numerous other underworld figures by a US Senate committee known as the Kefauver Commission. As a result of this investigation, Cohen was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to prison for four years. In the early 1950s Mickey Cohen struck a deal with the LAPD to allow him to traffic in Mexican heroin.

When he was released, he started again, and became an international celebrity. He sold more newspapers than anyone else in the country, according to author Brad Lewis. His appearance on television with Mike Wallace in the late 1950s rocked the media establishment. He ran floral shops, paint stores, nightclubs, casinos, gas stations, a men's haberdashery, and even an ice cream parlor on San Vicente Blvd. in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, according to author Richard Lamparski.

In 1957 Time Magazine wrote a brief about Mickey Cohen meeting with Billy Graham. Cohen said, "I am very high on the Christian way of life. Billy came up, and before we had food he said—What do you call it. that thing they say before food? Grace? Yeah, grace. Then we talked a lot about Christianity and stuff." Allegedly when Mickey did not change his lifestyle, he was confronted by some Christian acquaintances. His response: "Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians; why not a Christian gangster?"

In 1961, Cohen was again convicted of tax evasion and sent to Alcatraz. His heavily armored Cadillac from this period was confiscated by Los Angeles Police Department and is now on display at the Southward Car Museum in New Zealand. During his time on "the Rock," another inmate attempted to kill Cohen with a lead pipe. In 1972, Cohen was released from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, where he had spoken out against prison abuse. He had been misdiagnosed with an ulcer, which turned out to be stomach cancer. After undergoing surgery, he continued touring the U.S., including television appearances, once with Ramsey Clark.

Cohen's girlfriend Liz Renay herself spent three years behind bars for refusing to squeal on him. One of his many other girlfriends, Candy Barr, served prison time for marijuana possession. Two of his other favorites were Tempest Storm and Beverly Hills, the former having her breasts insured with Lloyd's of London.

Mickey Cohen died in his sleep in 1976 and is interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Cohen's extended family number many cousins who today reside in New Jersey, New York, Florida, Washington and Vermont.

Popular culture

Edit Block

  • In the film Bugsy, Mickey Cohen is portrayed by actor Harvey Keitel. Keitel received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
  • In the film L.A. Confidential, Mickey Cohen is portrayed by actor Paul Guilfoyle.
  • Patrick Fischler plays Mickey Cohen in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire


Some of the content on this page has been provided by the following page on Wikipedia.org: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mickey_Cohen


Up Next: Meyer Lansky
autoplay: OFF