Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster: The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen

Overview

Mickey Cohen, who died in 1976, was a colorful, feared West Coast gangster-gambler who knew the biggest names in Hollywood including the Rat Pack, was a confidant of Bugsy Siegel, a friend of Las Vegas' late Liz Renay and on first names with the biggest guys in the Mafia, plus Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon and Billy Graham. Well-indexed and illustrated, Brad Lewis' book about Cohen draws from thousands of resources -- a virtual treasure trove of Mafia-related books, articles and interviews. Written by a tough and ...
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Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster, The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen

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Overview

Mickey Cohen, who died in 1976, was a colorful, feared West Coast gangster-gambler who knew the biggest names in Hollywood including the Rat Pack, was a confidant of Bugsy Siegel, a friend of Las Vegas' late Liz Renay and on first names with the biggest guys in the Mafia, plus Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon and Billy Graham. Well-indexed and illustrated, Brad Lewis' book about Cohen draws from thousands of resources -- a virtual treasure trove of Mafia-related books, articles and interviews. Written by a tough and knowledgeable insider, Lewis tells the whole Mickey Cohen story with this biography. All the whispered anecdotes, the news items and the underside of the crime rackets where Mickey operated are in this book, open to scrutiny. From Bugsy Siegel to Lucky Luciano and Albert Anastasia to Meyer Lansky and Carlos Marcello, Mickey knew them well and worked closely with them for many years. This is Mickey Cohen! Inside and Out!

Note from the author:

At this juncture it is apparent that both Karen Sandlin Silverman and I are equally disappointed and upset that she had to read the galleys of my new biography, Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster; The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen.

As a native New Yorker, I am well aware of the bias that surrounds Hollywood, and practically everything associated with it. Without suggesting that I have any great talent for mind reading, Ms. Silverman apparently is not a real fan of the subject. She is very likely more anti-Hollywood than I am "enamored" by it.

To suggest that I am "enamored" with Hollywood, and here it is Ms. Silverman that relies on her crystal ball, is ridiculously off the mark. All of my work, including a biography of Milton Berle, has been outright critical of Hollywood. Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster is likewise a detailed history of the perverse intermingling of Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Washington, as it pertains to the life of Mickey Cohen.

Her brief but scathing review indicates that she is hardly open to the material. It is easy to suggest that Ms. Silverman didn't even read the book, since her remarks center on information in the publicity sheets, the second paragraph of the prologue, before jumping to the footnotes and a sentence out of context from the last chapter.

As for the review itself, it is riddled with errors. To call a well-researched and documented book a "vehicle for name-dropping", sheds more light on Ms. Silverman's rush to judgment when it comes to anything Tinsel Town.

Even my credits are incorrect, as she alludes to my acting background with a misspelled book as either a movie, play, or television show.

It is unfair and unkind to call my research on mob activities "shady". Ms. Silverman's attempt at humor does a disservice to her readers. Mob research is a tricky task. The result this time is the only story of someone missing from the historical terrain.

Her wild personal assumptions aside, the use of the label "gossip" to describe anecdotes is strange. To make her point about my use of "bon mots", she dismisses the footnotes as "muddled" while noting their extensiveness. I will confess that from the manuscript stage forward, the publisher did encourage more social additions, but they are mainly relegated to the chapter notes, and no author need apologize for facts that fall under Ms. Silverman's category of "sensational".

Even her final remarks, designed to tell the reader that she has a talent for revealing an author's "raison d'etre" is sorely inaccurate. In order to make her convoluted and sweeping conclusion, she quotes a snippet of a sentence out of context. In that section, I was critical of Mickey Cohen's melioristic autobiography that revealed little about his personal relationships, leaving out many of his famous associates. Yes, it contained "none of the salacious celebrity stories that people crave." But for Ms. Silverman to equate that statement as somehow indicative of my historical biography and the reason for writing it, "he clearly sums up his book's...", is undignified and truly wrong.

Certainly, Ms. Silverman is welcome to debate what people crave, but so little of my book has anything to do with what she suggests. My book has been thoroughly researched and fact-checked, offers a fascinating history of mob life, and is open to scrutiny. It represents the only modern work on Mickey Cohen, and corrects much of the prior inaccuracies in the literature. For Ms. Silverman to dismiss a historical biography because of her own bias defeats the nature of a fair and balanced review.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
"A colorful biography of the Mick, a nattily attired, 5-5.A. gangster who declared he never killed anyone who "didn't deserve killing" and who feared nothing but germs (hence, his habit of taking 2-hour showers). Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster is a fascinating portrait of how a Boyle Heights newsboy grew up to cross paths with movie stars, religious leaders, jetsetters and newspaper folks - when he wasn't dodging assassination attempts on Sunset Boulevard. Lewis' book shines a light on an often overlooked chapter of the history of crime, L.A.'s mid-20th century underworld (called the 'Vicecapades" by one columnist). Mickey struck me as a guy I would have loved to dine with - as long as it wasn't on Sunset Boulevard."
—Steve Harvey
Library Journal

A purported biography of gangster-celebrity Mickey Cohen (1913–76), this book is more a vehicle for name-dropping. Former actor Lewis (Displacia), an oral surgeon and writer, is obviously enamored of Hollywood and at first glance seems the perfect biographer for the celebrity-obsessed mobster and associate of Bugsy Siegel. Alas, no clear portrait emerges of who Mickey Cohen was or what he did. The descriptions of Cohen's mob-related activities are as shady as the activities themselves; about all we learn is that he was a bookie and may have been involved in various businesses run as fronts for laundering gambling money. He had expensive tastes, was a dandy dresser and a bit of a germaphobe, and loved to hobnob with Hollywood's elite. Lewis cannot resist relaying any gossip he can, the more sensational the better. He even drops bons mots in the extensive yet muddled footnotes. In fact, he clearly sums up his book's raison d'être in the final chapter when describing Cohen's own autobiography as having "none of the salacious celebrity stories that people crave." Not recommended.
—Karen Sandlin Silverman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439243657
  • Publisher: BookSurge, LLC
  • Publication date: 6/27/2009
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Brad Lewis is a writer, whose focus has ranged from the bizarre world of celebrity doctors to detailed histories of Jewish-American development, spotlighting show business. He wrote the bestselling biography of Milton Berle, My Father, Uncle Miltie, with the fabled comedian's son, a candid look at the irreplaceable television icon. Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster, The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen is the only biography of the charismatic and dangerous mobster whose life was a paradigm for the intermingling of Washington, Las Vegas, the entertainment industry and the mob. Great White Doctor is a scalpel thriller centered on the sordid lives and weird sexual habits of "celebrity doctors", exposing high profile specialists who perform unnecessary surgery on their female patients. He has advanced degrees from CUNY, NYU, Columbia University and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. He has appeared on numerous radio and television programs. Lewis is a native New Yorker.
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster: The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen by Brad Lewis. Copyright © 2007. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
PROLOGUE
Mickey Cohen was a little man with a larger-than-life presence. His wardrobe and custom-built automobiles rivaled those of presidents, heads of state, and royalty. When Mickey strolled into a room, his pervasive cologne, dazzling diamond pinky ring, solid gold watch, brand new sparkling shoes, and immaculately tailored suits compensated for his pugilist's countenance.
Mickey Cohen would have objected to this book's publication. He always tried to control what was written about him, and brazenly fought all his critics. The underworld czar dogmatically denied his role in prostitution, illegal drugs, and sexual extortion rings. His blackmail targets included Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, and department store heir Alfred Bloomingdale. The most social of any mobster in history, Mickey bridged the gap between Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Washington. Unlike many of his criminal predecessors, Mickey had unique and likeable attributes that attracted movie stars, religious leaders, politicians, jetsetters, and international business moguls. Mickey had the ear of many powerful people, including Richard Nixon, Reverend Billy Graham, and Washington Post columnist Drew Pearson. Enemies like Robert Kennedy were relentless in trying to topple Mickey.
Mickey Cohen committed murder while still a young man. His explanation centered on his mixed moral perspective, "I have killed no man in the first place that didn't deserve killing by the standards of our way of life...in all of these...what you would callkillings...I had no alternative. It was either my life or their life. You couldn't call these cold-blooded killings."
To live the maturing American dream fostered by the media and Hollywood, robbing became second nature, and extortion a means to an end. Jewish mobsters like Mickey developed their own moral codes, justifying their perverse approach to life, while embracing mother and siblings as taught in the Talmud. Mickey's puzzling moral compass couldn't be pinpointed as easily as that of other criminals; he openly bragged about his ability to judge those that deserved murder, while lecturing young men about respect for family and friends. His multilayered and conflicted personality allowed him to be generous with the poor and come to the rescue of the downtrodden, never forgetting his humble origins, despite his flamboyant personal choices for housing, dining, and clothing. Mickey's role in the history of this country can't be dismissed as either good or evil. Some tried to murder him for one or the other, in both reality and the court of public opinion, while others celebrated him with unabashed gratitude in a way that was and still is uniquely American.
We should not forget Mickey Cohen's America. Generations of amnesia-suffering witnesses have refused to admit that Jewish organized crime ever existed. The shameful portrait of Jewish gangsters is not something fearful parents and grandparents eagerly discussed with their offspring. Still, the Jewish gangster was as much a part of the Jewish-American prototype as a lawyer or doctor.
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Preface

Mickey Cohen would have objected to this book's publication. He always tried to control what was written about him, and brazenly fought all his critics. The underworld czar dogmatically denied his role in prostitution, illegal drugs, and sexual extortion rings. His blackmail targets included Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, and department store heir Alfred Bloomingdale. The most social of any mobster in history, Mickey bridged the gap between Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Washington. Unlike many of his criminal predecessors, Mickey had unique and likeable attributes that attracted movie stars, religious leaders, politicians, jetsetters, and international business moguls. Mickey had the ear of many powerful people, including Richard Nixon, Reverend Billy Graham, and Washington Post columnist Drew Pearson. Enemies like Robert Kennedy were relentless in trying to topple Mickey.
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