King Mobster of Sunset Strip
Meyer "Mickey" Cohen was born either 1911, 1912, or 1913, his birth records seem to have disappeared. When he was six years old his family moved from Brooklyn, New York to Boyle Heights, California. At an early age Mickey was delivering booze for his older brother, a gin mill operator. He never had a formal education and was illiterate all of his life.
He became passionate about boxing and started competing in illegal prize fights in Los Angeles. After consistent losses, Cohen hung up his gloves in 1933.
Cohen moved to Chicago and became an enforcer in Al Capone's gang. He also began running card games and other illegal activities. While there he survived arrests, and prison. After an assassination attempt on his life he moved back to Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, Cohen partnered with Bugsy Siegel acting as the extension of the East Coast syndicate for Capone. Here they controlled narcotics, gambling and union operations. Cohen also helped Siegel run the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas.
After Siegel's murder in 1947, Cohen became the top West Coast mobster. Challenged by rival Jack Dragna, a war soon broke out between Cohen and Dragna. Cohen survived numerous attempts on his life and a bombing of his Brentwood home. In the end, Cohen won.
Soon after the infamous mobster Johnny Stompanato became his bodyguard. Cohen was known to have affairs with several Hollywood actresses including Ava Gardner.
It was important for Cohen to be liked. He did everything he could to be thought of as a gentleman throughout his life. If you were his friend, he did anything he could for you. Though he was ruthless with enemies, he took pride in never hurting an innocent person.
In the early 1950s after being investigated by the Kefauver Commission, Cohen was sentenced to four years in prison for tax evasion. After his release he became a media celebrity, appearing on the Mike Wallace Show and befriending big name actors, like Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Dr., George Raft, Sarah Vaughn, and others. In 1961 he was again convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 15 years. While in Alcatraz, he was attacked with a lead pipe by another inmate resulting in Cohen's partial paralysis.
After his final release from prison in 1972, Cohan became a "gentleman mobster". Though best known as a cold blooded gangster, documents show that he had a big heart. He pulled strings and donated money to help people in need. Even if they were friends of a friend, he was there to help.
Cohen passed away peacefully in his home on July 29, 1976 from cancer.