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Mobsters & Movies: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Dark Past


Retired Intelligence Detective Gary Jenkins brings you the best in mob history with his unique perception of the mafia. Join Gary in his interview with author Jeffrey Sussman, who penned the revealing book “Tinseltown Gangsters: The Rise and Decline of the Mob in Hollywood.” Discover the untold stories behind the glamorous facades of the movie industry, where figures like Mickey Cohen wielded immense influence, and shocking events like the Lana Turner murder of Johnny Stompanato sent shockwaves through the silver screen.
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[00:00:00] Welcome all you wiretappers. Glad to be back here in studio of Gangland Wire. I’ve got one of our good friends who’s been on the show many times from New York City.
Jeffrey Sussman. Welcome, Jeffrey. Glad to be here, Gary. It’s really nice to see you again. Yeah, I sure wish we could have met up when I was in New York that time. That would have been fun. I was, every once in a while I’ll meet somebody I only know through the camera here. It’s always a lot of fun. Well, well, I hope you come to New York again soon.
I’ll let you know. I’ll give you a little more advanced warning next time. I didn’t tell you anything until I was there almost getting ready to go or something, but anyhow. Right. You have a new book. You have several books out there, and we’ve talked about several of them. You know, of note, I just had a guy on my Facebook page post something about, he posted a picture of your book, Boxing and the Mob, and talked about that book.
And so I, commented on their hanging on. Here’s an interview with the author and somebody else said, yeah, he said, that’s how I found the book. So, [00:01:00] so it does work. I’m glad to know that I’m going to have to make you my agent, Gary. Yeah, really? I need to get a piece of this action here, man. That’s right. You have 10, 10 percent coming to you.
And don’t hold out on me, man. I won’t. I’ll be very generous. I’ll have to send Guido from the North end there to see you
anyhow, he has a new book, Tinseltown gangsters. There it is guys. And I’ll have links to it and I’ll have links to his Arthur’s page because he is got several. You’ve got one about now I can’t remember the titles. If you can remember ’em, want you to recite ’em off to the guys. You’ve got so many, you’re pretty prolific.
Well, well, the, the, the books that I’ve written about organized crime were big Apple gangsters, the Rise in Decline of the Mob in New York since City Gangsters the Rise and Decline of the Mob in Las Vegas, boxing in the Mob. And now this new one Tinseltown Gangsters the Rise and Decline of the Mob in Hollywood.
Cool. So this is the one we want to [00:02:00] talk about. The rise and decline of the mob in Hollywood. And it’s, it’s really an interesting story because they kind of had a, a small, I think the word is nascent, but we won’t use that word, a small beginner kind of a mob out there. The Dragna family was, was kind of in control, but it was really just like Las Vegas.
It was pretty wide open for the Eastern mobs to come out and do something. And so they moved out and Bugsy Siegel was one of the first guys that we really know about that moved out, which, you know, the, the decline of Bugsy Siegel just led to a whole different group of mobsters coming out from Chicago.
And, and it just, you know, that, that was a pivotal moment, I would say. So Jeffrey, let’s talk a little bit. What’d you learn about kind of the, the decline of Bugsy Siegel? We know it was a New York mobster that came out and to put a casino in Las Vegas. So go ahead. Well He was originally sent out to control the [00:03:00] racing wildfire that all the bookies had to subscribe to.
But then he got more and more involved in, in, in Hollywood. He liked the whole Hollywood scene and he had been a boyhood friend of George Raft, the actor. who had been a protege of the gangster Oni Madden. And, and George Raft introduced him to the entire Hollywood crowd. And, and Bugsy Siegel had these tremendous parties of Hollywood movie stars and directors and producers, and he would borrow money from them and never pay them back.
And they felt that they had to lend him the money because he was such a dangerous character. If they didn’t lend him the money, they might be killed. And, and Bugsy bragged. In a conversation with Meyer Lansky that he had borrowed over 400, 000 from these people and never paid them a penny back and and and they never asked him for the money they were they were frightened of asking him to pay back the money and and and he [00:04:00] took over control of prostitution small gambling operations in and around Los Angeles.
And then he took control of the extras union. And he used that as a way to further extort money from the movie studios, that if they did, you know, if they needed a hundred extras on a set, they better, you know, meet his demands or the extras would go on strike. And that would put an end to the production of a movie, and that would cost the studios millions and millions of dollars.
So he was able to do that, and he used as his bag man to do this Mickey Cone. Who, who was sort of Siegel’s protege. And while Bugsy Siegel was a very handsome and very charming a very well dressed man who could associate socially with all these people Mickey Cone was a real thug and, and had the manners of a thug.
And so if, if Bugsy sent him around to see someone who was a little [00:05:00] recalcitrant about paying off. Mickey Cone could easily threaten them with just a few words and they would cave in immediately and, and, and, and give them exactly what they wanted. And when Bugsy was finally killed, Mickey Cone was bereft.
He, he, he, he, he, he, he felt terrible. He went into a hotel in, in Los Angeles and started shooting up at the ceiling saying, whoever shot Bugsy Siegel, I bet he better come down right now because I’m going to blow his brains out. And no one came down. So, so Mickey Cone just had to leave with, with his gun still smoking.
But, but Mickey Cone was quite a character. You know, he started out as a pre adolescent gangster when he was nine years old. And he was a very short little guy. When he was nine years old, he went with a baseball bat and two other guys and they held up a major movie theater in Los [00:06:00] Angeles by threatening the ticket taker with the bat.
And, and he and his pals walked away with whatever money they had in the movie theater, but he was only nine years old when, when he did this, he was a total menace on, on, on the street. And then he he moved back to Chicago. And was a a boxer for a while and, and, and did pretty well, but, but he he killed a guy in, in, in, in Chicago in a restaurant over nothing, just over an argument and the outfit thought he was too hot to stay there.
So they sent him back to Los Angeles, which is where he started working for Bugsy Siegel. And, and the first time he went to meet Bugsy Siegel. But Bugsy used to work out at, at the local YMCA every day, and he used to take sun lamp treatments and, and, and massages. He, he, he, he, he was a real narcissist and, mickey Cone was sent there to meet him. It was his first meeting and he couldn’t believe that this guy was really a gangster. [00:07:00] He, you know, he, he seemed more like a, a Hollywood hairdresser than a gangster. Gangster and, and finally, you know, Bugsy Siegel had to tell him that if you know, he didn’t mind his manners, he, he, he would shoot him.
And, and George Raft w was sent by Bugsy Siegel to, to reemphasize this, to Mickey Coone. And, and, and he, he brought in Mickey Cohen as, as a, like a subordinate partner. To also control Jack Dragna, and, and, and, and Dragna’s mafia family, which was known as a Mickey Mouse mafia, because it was so small and inept, and Jack Dragna hated it.
Both Mickey Cone and Bugsy Siegel, but he was very frightened of going up against Bugsy Siegel because he knew that if he did, the New York mobsters would send some assassins to kill him, and he waited until after Bugsy Siegel was killed. Before he decided to go to war with Mickey [00:08:00] Cone and he he used tried to use Jimmy the Weasel, Fratiano as his emissary to, to get Cone on a few occasions and it never worked out.
I mean, Cone seemed to be made of Teflon, no matter how many times they tried to kill him, they always seem to miss and they must’ve tried a dozen times. He He owned a restaurant and also a men’s clothing store on Sunset Boulevard, and he was, he was a germaphobe, so he was always in the bathroom washing his hands.
And Jack Dragna had sent a gang. into the restaurant to assassinate Mickey Cone. And just before they arrived, Mickey Cone went into the bathroom to wash his hands. And, and, and he and his, his gang and Jack Dragna’s gang kind of shot it out in the restaurant and on the street outside the restaurant.
And when Mickey Cone heard the shooting, he just went out the back door of the restaurant and went home. So he [00:09:00] avoided being killed. And another time Jack Dragna put a a bomb Under the bedroom of Mickey Cone’s house. However, Mickey Cone and his wife, who normally slept in separate bedrooms, that night Mickey Cone decided to sleep with his wife.
Which was on the other side of the house. So the bomb went off and blew up Mickey Cone’s bedroom. And, and Mickey Cone shortly thereafter ran out onto the street in his pajamas asking what the hell’s going on. And, and half of his house had been demolished, but he was fine. He was the original Teflon Don, wasn’t he?
He really was. And it w it was extraordinary that they constantly missed him. And I know there was a gangster who worked for him. I can’t remember his name right now. And Jack Drakna tried to recruit him into his gang and they invited him to a meeting. [00:10:00] And they, they, they said, we want you to join us and leave Mickey Cone.
He said, I’m not going to. So Jimmy Tiano and another gangster came out from a closet and, and they strangled this guy and killed him. And, and they sent a message to Mickey Cone that, that what about what had happened? And, and, and cone’s reply was, well, I’m just gonna kill some more of your people.
You know, if you keep trying to kill my people. And, and, and, and this war went on and on and on all the time. So, but, but after Bugsy Siegel was killed, you know, he’s killed it’s probably because of, they suspected him as shenanigans with the money that they were pouring into the Flamingo. I believe it wasn’t at the Flamingo.
Yes. And, and then he’s killed and then Mickey Cohen’s still there. So what happens after that? What, how’s that transition to power work? Well, Mickey Cohn took over the rackets and he also took over the extorting [00:11:00] of, of the movie studios. But in, in, in addition to that, he, he also went into some new ventures.
So he, he started filming secretly filming. movie actresses who were having extramarital affairs and, and, and, and, and then blackmailing them to, to suppress the films. And he and a man named Hank Santa Cola, who was Frank Sinatra’s manager, started a A kind of like newspaper gossipy newspaper called Hollywood nightlight nightlife, and they would extort movie stars and directors, saying that if you didn’t take out a full page ad.
which was extremely pricey, that we were going to publish these stories about you. And even though Hank Santacola was Frank Sinatra’s manager, they even managed to extort Frank Sinatra about having an affair with Ava Gardner [00:12:00] while he was married to his first wife, Nancy Sinatra. So they made a fortune.
Doing this. One of the people they extorted was Robert Mitchum about his contact with, with hookers. And, and, and, and they extorted everyone that, that they could. And, and Mickey Cone used a gangster named Johnny Stompanato, who was killed by Lana Turner. However, Lana Turner and her lawyer were able to get Lana’s daughter to take the blame for the, for the murder.
I think her name was Cheryl Crane. I think so. You know, most people think that the daughter did it today. You know, I would have said, you know, the daughter did it, but Lana did it. And they got the daughter to take the rap because she’s a juvenile. Exactly. And so, you know, the daughter said that Johnny Stompanato was running at her in the doorway and she had a knife in her hand and the knife just accidentally went into his stomach [00:13:00] and that’s how he died.
However, when the medical examiner came, they saw that The sheet on Lana Turner’s bed was covered with blood. Well, that blood get onto the sheet. If he was stabbed, you know, the doorway of the bedroom and and, and, and he was stabbed multiple times in the back. So they, they, the medical examiner said it looked like he was stabbed while he was sleeping.
Yeah. And so Mickey Cone. Had all these love letters that Lana Turner had written to Johnny Stompanato, and, and he, Mickey Kohn loved Johnny Stompanato, he, he, he treated him like a son, and, and he was indignant that this, that the, that Lana Turner got away with the murder rap, and, and so he started publishing the letters, and, and, and, and printing them, but, But no one paid any attention to them.
And he even threatened to kill Lana Turner, but [00:14:00] nothing ever came with that. Interesting. He is an interesting guy. Another thing I want to ask about Mickey Cohen, and did he say I’m a Jew first and a mobster second when he was raising money for Israel? Cause this was the 1950s. Israel became a state in 1948 and they needed guns because they had all these Arabs were, were coming down on him.
So. Tell us a little bit about Mickey Cohen and I’m a Jew first and a mobster second. Yeah, he, he, he was very, very pro Israel. He was an ardent Zionist and he would hold these fundraising events to raise money of, of, of Israel. And, and he would invite gangsters, not only from Los Angeles, but from Arizona, from Phoenix, from Texas.
all over the Southwest to, to these shindigs. And, and he would ask people to stand up and announce how much money they were going to give. And if it wasn’t enough money, he walked over [00:15:00] to the guy and he, and he, he grabbed him by the by his forearm or his upper arm. And he would say, I think you can do a lot better than that.
Can’t you? And he would get them to double the money. And Jimmy the weasel Fratiano was at one of these And he, he pledged to give 25, 000 to Israel, but he never came through with the money. And so Mickey Cone had to pay him a personal visit. And with a gun to his head, he said you owe us 25, 000.
We don’t want it. And we don’t want to check. We want cash. So it sounds like Fraudiano kind of was playing both sides during this time. He, he, of course, he was Sicilian or Italian and he was with Dragna at one point in time. But, but now all of a sudden he’s, he’s with Cohen or he’s at least, you know, not actively trying to kill him all the time.
But yeah, Fratiana was all over the place. I mean, you know, for a brief period after, I think it was after Jack Dragna’s death, he was put in [00:16:00] charge of the Dragna family. He was the interim boss of it for a while, and then the outfit demoted him and made him a soldier again and he was very angry about that.
And then I don’t know if In the 1970s, there’s a famous photograph of Frank Sinatra with members of the Gambino crime family that was taken at the Westchester Premier Theater in New York. It was a theater that was run by the mob and it was driven into bankruptcy by the mob. And there he is, Jimmy.
Freddie is there in that photograph with the New York mobsters. So, you know, he was like this character who seemed to pop up wherever the mob was and eventually he admitted to five murders, though they think he actually committed 11 and he testified against the mob and went into the witness protection program.
And they eventually kicked him out of the program and he decided to become a writer. And, and he he, he, he wrote a book with a. Another writer, I think his name was Avid Damaris, called The Last Mafioso, and [00:17:00] then one other, and then he eventually developed Alzheimer’s and, and, and, and died. But he, he was the kind of guy who he was very opportunistic, and wherever he could, Make a buck.
That’s that’s where he was. So there he was with Jack Dragna for a while. He was with Mickey Cone for a while. He was with the Gambino crime family. He was with the outfit. He went to Arizona for a while. He seemed to be all over the map. Yeah, he was involved in a murder in Cleveland to getting them some explosives, I think.
But anyhow, that guy was he was something else. So. He is a product of Tinseltown, shall we say? Yes, absolutely. Mickey Cohen was maybe one of the most famous mobsters because of movies and television out of Tinseltown. And he was involved in extorting from the movie industry, but the outfit moves out there about this time.
Right. I just wanted to mention that when I was [00:18:00] growing up in the 1950s, there used to be an interview show on one of the local TV shows. It was run by a man named Alexander King. He frequently had Mickey Cone on as a guest. Oh, right. And he would appear with a woman who was a, a, a real classical kind of Hollywood bimbo, you know, with the big blonde hair and, and, and the low cut gown.
And, and this is in the middle of the afternoon and she looks like she’s dressed for New Year’s Eve. And, and, and, and Mickey Cohen was there and his. His feet could barely touch the floor when he was sitting on the chair. He was such a little guy. And it was funny to watch these two together being interviewed.
And he said on one of these shows, he said, I never killed anybody who didn’t deserve to be killed.
Man, that guy was, he was a piece of work, wasn’t he? Understand why he became almost like a household name. When I was a kid, I remember the name Mickey Cohen. He was, he [00:19:00] said gangster, you know, to me, he said gangster. I don’t remember Bugsy Siegel. I don’t remember any of those New York mobsters, but I remember Mickey Cohen.
He was a publicity hound also. He loved being interviewed and he loved being on television. And the other thing is that he teamed up for a while with the evangelist, Billy Graham, and they were going to do evangelist shows together. And at one point I think Mickey Cone was using Billy Graham to kind of whitewash his reputation.
And he promised Billy Graham that he would convert to to being a a fundamentalist Protestant and at the last moment backed out. And, and but, but Billy Graham continued to hope that that, that Mickey Cone would embrace Jesus Christ sometime in his, in his life. Wow. I didn’t, I’ve never heard that one before.
I did notice that in your book when I was going through [00:20:00] and I’ve gotten my notes here to ask you about that. I tell you what, he’s like, he was a precursor of these modern day Michael Franchise who converted to Christianity and, and, and Bobby Luisi, and then has a TV show, an internet show, a YouTube show, and Sammy the Bull, they’re all giving interviews and all that.
This guy was the start of it all. Yeah, it was amazing how that attracted a large number of people and convinced a large number of people that he had really reformed and he was no longer a gangster. And you have to wonder how many of these others who did the same thing, how sincere they really are.
Yeah, really. Well, they haven’t got caught at anything yet. Right. We’ll see. So. The, the, the outfit moves out, they’ve moved into Las Vegas right after Bugsy Siegel was killed, and all of a sudden [00:21:00] Dave Berman and let’s see, Gus Greenbaum, you know more about this than I do, from your book about The Rise and Fall of the Mob in Vegas, they move into the Vegas scene, and, and, Chicago seems to start heading West at this point in time.
They’ve already got Johnny Rosselli out there. He’s kind of in and around the scene. So what happens then? And we have in the late forties or middle to late forties, we had the Hollywood extortions, which so many of them fell on that’s kind of was, you know, like kind of dovetailed in with Cohen’s control of the Extras Union, they moved in on, I believe, the another one of the unions.
I don’t remember which one was stagehands or somebody, but yeah, it was, it was the stagehands and, and basically they, they started doing it in, in Chicago. Willie Beoff and a man named Brown started doing it and, and they were so successful at it. that the outfit sent them to Los Angeles because the pickings were so much [00:22:00] greater out there.
And they immediately went after one union after another, and they can, they gained control of, of, of several unions that dealt with the stagehands, the the carpenters. They also had the teamsters. Who delivered all the props and everything, so they were really controlling just about all the unions and they were reaping a whirlwind of money for the mob.
It was extraordinary. And they used Roselli.
As sort of their bagman and, and an ambassador because while Willie Biafra was just as crude in his course as Mickey Cone Johnny Roselli was more in the mode of Bugsy Siegel. He was a very good looking guy. He dressed expensively. He knew a lot of the movie people and, and, and could be charming with them.
And, and he would go [00:23:00] around. as Willie B. Opp’s bag man and he would collect the money and then they would send it to to Chicago. But Willie B. Opp almost got killed because they discovered that he was skimming. some of this money from for himself. And, you know, they gave him an ultimatum that he had to pay it back or else and he did.
But Will it be off was really a very, very bad person. I mean, there was nothing redeeming about him. This man was just a horrible human being. And one of the big movie studios that was really in debt to the mob, not only the outfit, but also mobsters in New York and New Jersey, was Harry Cohn, who, who was the president of Columbia Pictures the mob had invested a lot of money.
In Columbia Pictures helped to finance a lot of movies. And so for example, the mobster who was known as the Al Capone of New Jersey, a man named Longy [00:24:00] Zwilman had given 500, 000 to Harry Cohn of Columbia Pictures. And Harry Cohn offered to sign a an IOU for it, and Zwilman said, No, I want 500, 000 worth of Columbia Pictures stock.
And, and, and, and he got that. And Zwilman was the lover of Gene Harlow. And, and he went to Harry Cohn, he said, I wanted to star in this movie, this movie, this movie, and this movie. And, and Harry Cohn had no choice but to do that. And when Frank Sinatra wanted his part in From Here to Eternity his godfather in New Jersey was a partner of Longy’s Willman and Willie Moretti.
And Willie Moretti was the cousin of Frank Costello in New York. And so Frank Costello had also invested a lot of money in Columbia Pictures. And, and Willie asked Frank Costello to call Harry Cohn and ask him to give Frank Sinatra the part in the movie. And, and, and, and Costello did that.
And that’s how Frank Sinatra got the part. It wasn’t [00:25:00] like in The Godfather where a horse’s head was cut off or anything like that. It was fairly straight. It was, it was just returning a favor for a favor basically. Oh, interesting. I’ll tell you what, that it’s like, Somehow it’s almost like this is a small town.
People are connected to each other. They’re related to each other. And then it’s throughout the whole United States. So you’ve got this this web of connections all over the whole United States that people sometimes are even cousins. I know. And what was interesting though, also is. When Albert Anastasia wanted to take over Frank Costello’s mob, he, he, he didn’t want to do it because Willy Moretti had so many soldiers in his mob, that could have killed Albert Anastasia, so they waited until Willy Moretti was assassinated, and then they moved in on On, on, on Frank Costello, because they felt that Willie Moretti, who would have protected him, had been removed, [00:26:00] and, and, and that’s when Frank Costello retired and and actually it was Vito Genovese who came in and took control of what had originally been the Lucky Luciano mob, but, but what was also interesting about this guy, Harry Cohn, who was president of Columbia Pictures, is, he was the inventor of the casting couch.
Virtually any woman who starred in a movie at Columbia Pictures had to sleep with Harry Cohn. And if they didn’t, they didn’t get the job. And one of the stars that he brought along and made it was making into a major motion picture star during the time when you had all these beautiful blonde women like Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield and others, Diana Doors, was Kim Novak.
And he put a lot of time and effort into molding her into being a big star. Well, she was going out with Sammy Davis, Jr. at the time. And this was a no for a, in the [00:27:00] 1950s for a white woman to be going out with a black man. And it would have killed the distribution of, of, Her movies in the South, if this became known.
So Harry Cohn told had Mickey Cohn go see Sammy Davis Jr. and tell him that he had to break up with Kim Novak or else, and Sammy wouldn’t do it. So Harry Cohn issued a contract on the life of Sammy Davis. And, and once again, he sent Mickey Cohn out to speak to Davis. And Davis said, you know, you have 48 hours to marry a black woman and never see Kim Novak again.
And to, to reinforce this he sent out two additional gangsters, whose names I don’t remember. They were soldiers in the Drack Jack in the Dragna gang, and they said to Sammy Davis Jr., Look. You’re a one eyed black Jew. And if you don’t give up Kim Novak tomorrow, [00:28:00] you’re going to be a blind black Jew.
And Sammy Davis was terrified and he called Sam Giancana in Chicago because he and Sinatra and Dean Martin were all friends of Giancana and, and had done work for Giancana and Giancana said, well, you know I have no control over what’s going on in Hollywood. You know, if it was Chicago or even Las Vegas, I might be able to help you, but I can’t here.
And, and, and so Sammy Davis broke up with Kim Novak and he married. A black woman who was a singer in a Las Vegas casino. He paid her 25, 000, gave her 10, 000 for a clothing allowance. They stayed married for a few months and then divorced. But what was amazing is the extent that Harry Cohn would go to get his way.
And when he was hated by everyone at Columbia Pictures who worked for him, he was a miserable boss. And, and when he died, they had a big funeral for him at the Columbia [00:29:00] studios and 2000 people showed up and a reporter said to the comedian, Red Skelton, he said why do you think so many people showed up for Harry Cohn’s funeral?
And, and Red Skelton said, When you give people what they want, they’ll come. In other words, I was so happy to see this guy dead. Yeah. And when they asked the rabbi who performed the funeral service at the Harry Cohn Cemetery. It says one word that you would use to describe Harry Cohn. What would you say?
And you said, he’s dead. That’s the best thing you can say about. Well, it’s just, it’s amazing how much the mob preyed on Hollywood and the movie business. It’s just, I mean, we’ve just scratched the surface on how much they preyed on them. Yeah. And the guy who portrayed the Frank Sinatra character. In the Godfather, I think his name was Al Martino.
[00:30:00] Yeah, Al Martino. The director wanted to give that part to, to Vic Dumont, but Al Martino was a, was in with the Bufalino family. And Bufalino went and said, no, you’re going to keep Al Martino in that part or else. And so he stayed in the movie too. Yeah, there’s, there’s a more modern example of the mob influence in in the film industry is right there.
They did a whole film about that and it’s, it’s pretty entertaining. I just did a little short thing about the, the real Luca Bracci. He was really used to be a professional wrestler and he was really an enforcer and a leg breaker for the Colombo family. And this Al Ruddy, the director saw him on set and said, Hey, we need to get that guy in the movie.
Well, you know, when Martin Scorsese made Goodfellas, he used a lot of real gangsters, in that movie as extras, including one of the two mafia cops, Lou Esposito. Yeah. I remember I saw a little [00:31:00] deal on YouTube and then I kind of looked it up where he’s, he’s one of them sitting there when they pan the camera past all the people in the Copacabana, that he’s one of the mobsters.
Right. Anyhow, so, you know, and you got, anything else, any kind of interesting about this that that people maybe didn’t know? That J Johnny Roseli, was w was also an interesting character, and he finally got his up in so to speak he and an entrepreneur started cheating members at the Friars Club in Los Angeles in a card game.
They had put a camera in the ceiling and they had a guy up there with the camera who was telling them the cards that people were holding at these very high stakes poker game and where 100, 000 in a night and, and, and. Johnny Roselli was in for 25 percent of the take, and the FBI finally closed it down, and [00:32:00] Roselli wound up going to prison for that, and one of the ways, and he was worried about being deported back to Italy.
And one of the ways that he got out of being deported back to Italy is he went to work for the CIA. He and Sam Giancana were working for the CIA when they were trying to assassinate Castro. And, and he was called twice to testify at, at Senate hearings. The first one was about the CIA’s involvement in, in trying to assassinate Castro.
And the second one was a committee dealing with the assassination of President Kennedy. And he, before he went to that he, he was assassinated. Johnny Roselli was killed by, by the Chicago mob while he was out on a, on a fishing boat in off the coast of Florida. And they couldn’t fit his body into an [00:33:00] oil drum, so they, they cut off his legs and his arms and, and, and stuffed his body with the, his limbs in, in there.
And they, they had drilled holes in, in the tank so that it would sink. So air wouldn’t form in it but gas is formed in his abdomen, and it caused the oil can to float to the surface and it was found by two fishermen, and that’s how they discovered. Johnny Roselli’s body. And, and it was around the same time that Sam Giancana was also assassinated because he was also called to testify before the same assassination committee about whether the mob was involved in the killing of John Kennedy.
Interesting. Now, Johnny Roselli, it was didn’t he even like produce a picture or he had something, he really had some hands on experience in that and married some kind of minor movie star Right. So He, he, after his, after he [00:34:00] served a term in prison before he served a term in prison, he was very good friends with Harry Cohn and, and, and, and they each wore a friendship ring that the other had given to him.
And when Johnny Roselli got out of prison, he went to see Harry Cohn about getting a job. And Harry Cohn said, I can’t give you a job because I’m not allowed to hire any ex convicts, any felons. And they had a tremendous falling out, where Roselli cursed and yelled at at Harry Cohn, who he thought was his best friend.
And he was he was friends with what was his name, Eddie Foy, who was There had been a group of of actors and vaudeville. People and I think it was Eddie Foy and the Seven Little Foys, and Eddie Foy Jr. was the son, and he was a
I’m sorry, it was Brian Foy. Brian Foy was the son, I just looked it up in the index. Eddie Foy was the father. [00:35:00] Brian Foy was the youngest son, and he became a movie producer. And he was a good friend of Johnny Roselli. And he brought Johnny Roselli in. to help him produce movies. And, and they produced three movies together, kind of film noir classics that, that won a, a, a tremendous number of awards.
And but for some reason, Johnny Roselli wasn’t satisfied doing that, even though he was becoming very successful as, as, as, as a movie producer. He he, he, he, it’s as if he had to be involved in something that was illegal in order to make himself happy. Being a producer just wasn’t going to do it for him.
Yes, I have known guys like that. I asked one of them, I said, dude, you’re smart. You’re, you, you’ve got organizational skills. You, you know, you got enthusiasm and energy. Once you put that into some kind of a regular business, I said, that’s no fun. Thanks. [00:36:00] Exactly. I mean, that’s what these guys were like. You know, if there wasn’t some way to scam someone and do something illegal, their lives were just boring.
It didn’t matter how much money they were making from some legal operation that they owned. It just wasn’t good enough for them. It’s a, it’s a crazy life. And I tell you that those Hollywood producers, they made a lot of money and they were like Bad hogs for the slaughtering or fat geese for the picking.
Yeah, yeah. And one of the other things that I wrote about, I wrote about Robert Evans. who was one of the top Hollywood producers of all times. You know, he produced the Godfather movies. He produced Marathon Man. He produced Love Story and, but he was a cocaine addict. And and he was a a protege of Sidney Korshak.
Who the FBI said was the most powerful lawyer in America, who really worked for the outfit in Chicago. [00:37:00] And when Robert Evans was getting divorced from his, his wife, who, who then married Steve McQueen Steve McQueen wanted to adopt Robert Evans son and change his surname from Evans to McQueen.
And Evans was furious about this. And he went to Sidney Korshak and Korshak went to Steve McQueen and said, you know, you do this and we’re going to kill you. And that’s why we never changed the name from McQueen to Evans, and Steve McQueen was quaking at his boots. I mean, he was terrified. And he went back to Sidney Korshak and he said, everything’s going to be all right.
Please don’t harm me. Please, please, I beg you don’t hurt me. I hate to hear that. Which is so different than his movie image. Y you know, he wasn’t quite the tough guy. It, it that, that he appeared to be in the movies. Yeah. The cool collected guy that wasn’t afraid of anybody that was Ally McGraw is, yes.
Ally Mc, [00:38:00] MC the affair with, on the I think the, I know a lot about Steve McQueen on the set of the getaway, I believe, and Robert Evans supposedly like. Figured this out and, and drove out into the desert wherever they were doing this and caught ’em together in some kind of a, but, but because Robert Evans was a cocaine addict, he, he was fired from his jobs and he couldn’t get any more funding for movies.
And he wanted to produce this movie called The Cotton Club. And he got involved with cocaine dealers and, and cocaine gangsters. And, and, and a couple of people got murdered. His co-producer, a guy named Roy Rayon w was killed. by a woman who, who wanted to be a producer and they kicked her out and, and she wound up hiring two thugs to kill Roy Radin because he wouldn’t give her back her money.
And, and she wound up going to prison for life. And Sidney Korshak was able to keep Robert Evans out of this. He, Robert Evans just walked [00:39:00] away as if, Nothing ever happened to him and he was able to finish producing the movie, though they, they took the movie away from him and he didn’t make any money from it.
But, but it was extraordinary, the power that Sidney Korshak had because of his represent, representation of the mob, and yet they kept that, Away from the general public because Gorshak also represented a number of fortune 500 companies and when he was it was insulted by the woman who owned I forgot the name of the large racetrack in Los Angeles.
He called, he called for a strike on the racetrack and, and, and, and closed it down for a week until the woman apologized to him. And. In 1968, Warren Beatty went to a was at the Democratic Convention in Chicago and couldn’t get a hotel room. And he went into a phone booth, I think it was of the Drake Hotel or the Ambassador East, one of those two hotels.
And he called Sidney Korshak and he asked him if he could help him get a [00:40:00] hotel room. And he asked Warren what hotel he was staying in. calling from and he, and he said, hold on I’ll be back to you in five minutes. And he called and he got back on the phone five minutes later and he said, you can have any one of three suites that I’ve arranged for you in the hotel.
I mean, that’s how powerful he was. And he could get people’s children into Ivy league colleges with a phone call. He could get them a full scholarship with a phone call. He could close down the Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Dodgers for a day if he wanted to. His, his power was just. Extraordinary, and he never tried a case in California, and he wasn’t even licensed to practice law in California, he was licensed to practice law in Chicago.
So, and. His, he would throw a, a Christmas Eve party every year and, and all the great luminaries of Hollywood were invited to it. And if someone wasn’t invited to it, they, they refused to admit it. They would say, well, I had to go into the hospital that day for surgery, [00:41:00] or I was out of the country that day.
And that’s why I couldn’t attend because no one wanted to admit that they hadn’t been invited to a Sidney Korshak Christmas Eve party. Wow. He was the guy that, that bridged that gap that, that greased all the wheels between the mob, whether it be back East or Chicago, primarily Chicago and the film industry, wasn’t he?
Yeah. Oh, there was one to tell you that, that when Willie Beoff was extorting the movie studios, he went to, he would, each one had to pay him 25, 000. I think it was a month or every few months. And he went to Harry Cohn at Columbia pictures And he said, I want 25, 000 from you. And, and Harry said, I’m not going to pay you.
And Harry Cohn then called Johnny Roselli, who was still his friend. And Roselli called back to the bosses in Chicago and the bosses said, Harry doesn’t have to pay anything. He’s one of us. And you tell that to Willie and tell [00:42:00] Willie to leave him alone or else. And, and, and, and, and also tell Willie that he has to go and apologize to Harry Cone.
And Willie, who’s this really nasty guy went to apologize to Harry Cone and Harry Cone just said, get the hell out of my office. I’m not interested. And Willie Cone kind of left like a dog with his tail between his legs. Which was so unusual for a man who, who was so nasty and tough as Willie Boff was.
And, and, and Willie Boff, he testified against the outfit during the trial that that also sent Paul Rika and Frank Knitty well, Frank Nitti committed suicide but St. Paul Rica and, and, and, and others to prison. He testified secretly to the FBI. And he served a much shorter term than the others did, but they learned about it afterwards and, and really be off moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he changed his name to Willie Nelson, the same as the center.
And [00:43:00] became a good friend of Barry Goldwater and went into business with Barry Goldwater’s nephew. And, but he was, he was a. A compulsive gambler and he would go to Las Vegas, even though he was hiding out in Phoenix under an assumed name. He foolishly went to Las Vegas to gamble, and there he was recognized by members of the outfit, and they reported back.
To him to the bosses. And one day Willie Beoff got into his pickup truck and turned the ignition key and blew himself in, in, in, into a thousand pieces. And but oddly enough, one of the, the pallbearer. At his funeral was was Senator Barry Goldwater. Interesting. I’ll tell you what, this, you just went across this whole span of politicians, legitimate businessmen, [00:44:00] lawyers the film industry and the upper echelons of the mobs, both East Coast and Chicago and, and Los Angeles.
It’s just, it’s wild, isn’t it? It was fascinating to me. And, you know, the thing that got me going across all this initially was Bugsy Siegel, because Bugsy Siegel started out with the New York Mob, and then he went to Los Angeles, and then he went to Las Vegas. And so when I wrote about him in Big Apple Gangsters, I learned more about him in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
And then when I wrote about him in, The Las Vegas book, I learned more about him in Los Angeles, so he was sort of a thread that ran through all these different areas. And like you said, you described him, he was the kind of guy who was, who didn’t appear as a gangster. He didn’t present as we call it today as a gangster and he was smooth and attractive and, you know, it would be hard to believe that he was a gangster until he was.
That’s right. I mean, I mean, you know, there were pictures [00:45:00] of him at parties with Cary Grant with, with, with others. And He, he also used to throw these parties where all the famous movie stars would go. And it was interesting because Jimmy Stewart turned him down and said he wouldn’t go to a Bugsy Siegel party because Bugsy Siegel was nothing but a gangster and he didn’t want anything to do with him.
And when Bugsy Siegel heard this, he confronted Jimmy Stewart and he Bugsy was with George Raft at the time. And Jimmy Stuart said, you know, anytime you want to make something out of this, I’ll step outside with you. And George Raft said to Jimmy Stewart, he said, you don’t want to step outside with, with Bugsy Siegel, because it’ll be the last time you’ll ever step outside any place.
He said, I would just forget it if I were you. And, and, and, and, and, and that was the end of it. Interesting. Well, Jimmy Stewart, he was a guy, he went into the World War II, was a bomber pilot in World War II, one of the most dangerous [00:46:00] jobs you could have over there, too. Yeah, I mean, he was a pretty brave guy.
You know, he flew these bombing missions over Germany during World War II in the 8th Air Force. Yeah, it’s it was at a high casually latent rate and those guys all knew it. Well, Jeffrey Sussman, this has been great. This is a, this is a book guys. You got to get this book at Tinseltown gangsters and big apple gangsters and the the rise and fall of the mafia in Las Vegas.
I mean, you, you get the whole country from one end to the other with these three books here. Thank you very much, Gary. All right. Well, good to have you on again. Good to see you again, Jeffrey. Haven’t seen you for a while, but we’ll, I know you’re working on anything now. What are you working on now? I am.
I’m working on a book called Backbeat Gangsters, the rise and decline of the mob and rock music. Ah, that’s a good one. I just was talking about that on the show the other day the Morris Levy and that roulette records and that thing. Yeah. I have a whole chapter about those. [00:47:00] Oh my God. That guy, he was a monster.
He was a mobster that started a record company. He truly was a mobster and he, he ripped off everybody. Yeah. And you know, he, he, he partnered with What’s his name from the Genovese crime family? Oh, yeah. Gigante. Yeah. Gigante. Carmine Gigante. Yeah, he did. That’s what I was, I was looking into was Gigante and reading up on Morris Levy.
So great. Great stuff, Jeffrey. Thanks a lot for coming on. And once again, guys, look at, click on that link and see Jeffrey’s book on books on Amazon. So thanks a lot, guys. Don’t forget. I like to ride motorcycles when you’re out there on the street. So watch out for motorcycles. If you have a problem with PTSD and you’ve been in the service, go to the VA website and get that hotline number and hand in hand with.
PTSD is drugs and alcohol addiction. And whether you’ve been in the service or not former Gambino soldier, Anthony [00:48:00] Ruggiano has a hotline number on his website and he is a drug and alcohol counselor down in Florida. So you can have a real deal. Bob guy, be your, your drug and alcohol counselor if you wanted to do that.
And don’t forget to like, and subscribe. And share this with your friends and on your social media pages and all those kinds of things. And, and just remember guys, I really appreciate y’all listening in. Thanks a lot.

3 thoughts on “Mobsters & Movies: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Dark Past”

  1. uhhh ohh the pod wasnt able ta dwnld free,,,,,,immediately went to spreaker.com webpage

    are ya now Charging for pods?

    1. No I am not charging for my podcast. It is easily available on Apple. Do you mean you accessed it though the website and when you clicked on it, you were directed to Spreaker?

  2. I see what you mean about going to Spreaker. They are my host but I didn’t realize they cuold redirect my post to their podcast page. The one prior to this played the same from my website.

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