|New York|  Mickey Cohen

Birth: September 4, 1913 - Brooklyn

Death: July 29, 1976 - Los Angeles

Early life

Cohen lived in Brooklyn until his family moved to Los Angeles in 1920, where his family ran a drug store. Cohen delivered alcohol from the pharmacy's gin mill operated by his older brother until his arrest in 1923 at the age of nine. However with his brother's local connections Cohen was never charged with the crime. As a teenager Cohen began to box in illegal prizefights before heading for the east coast to train as a professional boxer, fighting in the Midwest, before arriving in New York where he lost a match against World Featherweight Champion Tommy Paul. While in New York, Cohen became associates with Tommy Dioguardi, brother of New York labor racketeer Johnny Dio, and later Owney Madden.

Prohibition and the Chicago Outfit
Cohen became involved in organized crime working as an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit, where he briefly met Al Capone, before being arrested in a gunfight during a card game where several mobsters were killed. Released shortly afterwards Cohen began running card games and other illegal gambling operations later becoming an associate of Mattie Capone, younger brother of Al Capone. 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 Rothkopf, an associate of Meyer Lansky and Benjamin Siegel, however as there was little work for him Rothkopf arranged for him to work with Siegel in California.

From syndicate bodyguard to Los Angeles kingpin
Returning to the West Coast, Cohen became the bodyguard of Bugsy Siegel taking control of Siegel's gambling operations upon Siegel's murder in 1947. According to one account, which does not appear in newspapers of the period however, Cohen purportedly reacted violently to Siegel's murder, later entering the Roosevelt Hotel where he believed the killers were staying, and firing two .45 semiautomatic pistols into the ceiling of the lobby, demanding the assassins to meet him outside in ten minutes (Nash; pg. 741). However, as no one appeared, Cohen was forced to flee after police arrived on the scene.

After the Los Angeles crime syndicate was taken over by Frank Carbo of the Dragna crime family, Cohen continued to run its gambling operations. However his violent methods came to the attention of state and federal authorities investigating the Dragna crime families operations. During this time, constant attempts were made on his life, including his home being bombed. Cohen soon converted his home into a fortress, installing floodlights, alarm systems, and a well-equipped arsenal that he kept, as he often joked, next to his 200 tailor-made suits. He also hired bodyguard Johnny Stompanato briefly before Stompanato was killed by Lana Turner's teenage daughter, Cheryl Crane. While he paid for Stompanato's funeral, he ordered a cheap coffin and sold Lana Turner's love letters to the press.

Later years

Cohen was later investigated by the Kefauver Commission in 1950 and, as a result, was sentenced to prison for four years for tax evasion. He was again convicted for tax evasion in 1961, serving part of his sentence at Alcatraz during which an inmate had attempted to kill Cohen with a lead pipe. He was released from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in 1972, where he spoke out against prison abuse, and died in his sleep in 1976. He is interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

In popular culture

  • Cohen appears as a minor character in some of James Ellroy's novels, such as The Big Nowhere.

  • The 1991 Bugsy, the highly-fictionalized story of Bugsy Siegel, Harvey Keitel played Cohen.

  • In the 1997 film adaptation of Ellroy's L.A. Confidential, Cohen was played by Paul Guilfoyle.

  • In the 2005 novel The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly, the lead character's father was Mickey Cohen's lawyer.

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