Thursday, November 17, 2016

Mostly While Painting: "Mickey Cohen" by Tere Tereba.

Mostly While Painting: Mickey Cohen: the life and times of L.A.'s notorious mobster by Tere Tereba, 2012, download.

I've spent a couple months - or more - working on painting my garage. My garage is an old two story carriage house which means there are layers of crusted paint that have to be removed. I have scraped, scoured, grinded and sanded for quite a while and only started painting over the weekend. My labor has been accompanied by several audiobooks and this is the latest.

This is a nice companion to Gangster Squad:Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles by Paul Lieberman which also came out in 2012. Tereba gives a rundown from Cohen's birth to death. There is not much to say during his time in the 1970s after Cohen learned to stay out of the limelight and no longer led the L.A. mob.

Cohen was pretty rotten from the start. He grew up in a big family with no father. He got kicked out of school, busted for several juvie crimes, and then ran a ring of newsies. He'd run several newspaper boy corners and beat up anyone who opposed him.

After growing up a bit Cohen started boxing and then traveling with boxing and mob circles in the 1930s. He worked in NYC, Cleveland (at the time a booming town with plenty of mobsters), and Chicago. Cohen quit boxing and started full time in crime. He worked as a pimp, loanshark, killer, all around tough guy, and most anything else that was needed.
Cohen's return to Los Angeles had him working under Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel for several years until Siege's murder. Cohen took over from Siegel and then took over the front pages. Cohen loved the publicity and never shied from it. He picked fights and went after anyone. The were at least 1o assassination attempts - including 30 sticks of dynamite under his house. That dynamite bomb was placed in the crawl space under Cohen's and directly beneath the concrete and steel safe Cohen had installed. The bomb's blast was directed outwards and saved the lives of Cohen and his wife.

Anyway. Cohen has been written about and used as a movie character plenty of times. There are tons of stories about his crimes, his obsessive compulsive behavior, his colleagues. What really sets Cohen apart from so many mobsters through the '30s to '60s is that he survived into old age. His two prison terms were for tax evasion and he beat back prosecutors and won trials for violent crime. 

Cohen seemed driven by several things. He grew up poor and physically fighting for any money and advancement. He could not read, write or even count until his thirties. Being 5'5" he probably had a Napoleonic complex going on was well. Cohen craved the limelight and often had B-starlet arm candy for the paparazzi. 

1. I remember from Gangster Squad how Mickey would get "loans" from people. EIther thorugh blackmail or strong arm he would receive thousands of dollars that he would never pay back.
2. Cohen was likely involved in Siegel's murder since he ended up being Siegel's successor.
3. Cohen portrayed his wife as a pure-as-driven-snow, moral person. He used her to try and show how he was actually a great guy and with a strong woman to guide him. He skipped over her several prostitution arrests and other crimes.

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