The question, Are gangsters/crime bosses made or born? Should readily come to mind when one thinks of the life of Mickey Cohen. Though he was born into poverty, he took to crime naturally as a fish takes to water, leaving a trail of vain glory, tears and blood in his wake.
Biography of Mickey Cohen
Meyer Harris Cohen came into the world as an innocent baby on September 4, 1913, in Brooklyn. New York. Shortly after his birth, his father died leaving the responsibility of raising 6 children to his mother – who ran a small grocery store in order to feed her family.
Cohen never really liked school and while his peers were in school learning, he was learning how to brew illicit drinks and hustle on the streets right from a very tender age.
“Mickey” lived a very eventful life, most of it on the wrong side of the law, and we have some shocking facts about his life and times that you may find very interesting:
Facts About Mickey Cohen
1. He began by selling newspapers
Cohen started off as a young kid selling newspapers and learnt how to make illicit liquor from his brother. As time went on, he began extorting money from other kids selling newspapers for choice spot. He also took up amateur boxing for a few years, losing most of his fights.
He became a bouncer at night clubs and that kicked off his initiation into the crime world with robbery following, before becoming an enforcer for mobsters in Cleveland.
2. He was mentored by Bugsy Siegel
Cohen was involved in the crime world from a very early age, but it was his association with Bugsy Siegel that gave him the foothold in the criminal world. When Bugsy was assassinated – though some speculated that Cohen was involved in planning it, he stepped up to take his mentor’s place, becoming one of the mafia bosses in Los Angeles.
3. Cohen had ties with Al “Scarface” Capone
It is on records that the famous mob boss Al Capone was one of Cohen’s mentors. It’s also well known that while Cohen was in Chicago, he developed and established very strong ties with Capone’s underworld operations.
4. He maintained a friendship with Hollywood stars and politicians
As Cohen acquired more wealth and status in the society, he began to “roll” more with political influencers and Hollywood stars like Sammy Davis Jr, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis and several others.
5. There were multiple assassination attempts on his life
After the death of his mentor/boss, Bugsy Siegel, and Mickey’s ascension to the “throne” vacated by Bugsy, rival mafia bosses – chief amongst them Jack Dragna, set up very elaborate plans to assassinate him. Mickey Cohen was ambushed in restaurants and on the streets, his home was bombed and even law enforcement agents on the payroll of rival bosses were set on him, but like a cat with 9 lives, he survived them all.
6. Mickey Cohen was captured twice
Though Cohen tried to buy off as many politicians or cops that he could, the long arm of the law eventually caught up with him twice.
His first conviction came in 1951 for Tax evasion and he bagged 4 years in a federal penitentiary. Upon his release in 1955, he stepped up his activities which the law did not overlook.
In 1961, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for Tax evasion again and was attacked while in jail so viciously it left him paralyzed.
7. There was an attempt to convert him to Christianity
After Mickey got out of jail in 1955 he was professing and projecting the image that he was now a reformed citizen. Somehow, this got the attention of the most revered religious figure at the time – Billy Graham, who tried earnestly to convert him to Christianity. Unfortunately, he wasn’t successful, as Mickey and the crime life were inseparable.
8. He was involved in almost every crime
Mickey and his lieutenants did just about anything to get money, one of which was Blackmail and Extortion of Hollywood stars. He was fingered in one of such which involved a known associate of his – John Stompanato, and actress – Lana Turner; which involved a sex blackmail of the actress. When Stompanato was found dead in the actress’s home and investigations revealed he was killed in self-defence by the actress’s daughter, Cohen protested otherwise and released love letters sent by Turner to Stompanato.
9. Mickey Cohen died in his sleep
Cohen survived a total of 11 assassination attempts in his lifetime – mostly in his prime years. The mob boss, who didn’t drink or smoke, died peacefully in his sleep on July 29, 1976, as a result of complications from Stomach Ulcer at the age of 62.
10. The story of Mickey Cohen is told in some movies.
You can’t live the life Cohen lived and not be mentioned in some movies, can you? The 2013 movie Gangster Squad was about a group of LAPD officer’s battle with Cohen and his gang in order to keep Los Angeles safe; actor Sean Penn starred as Cohen in the movie.
His story was also told in movies like Bugsy (1991) – though the story of his mentor but Harvey Keitel starred as Cohen in it and L.A. Confidential (1997) where Paul Guilfoyle played his character.
11. Mickey was previously married to Lavonne Weaver- A sex worker
In 1939, Cohen met a sex worker by name Lavonne Weaver, who also used the name of Simoni King. By 1940, they walked down the aisle and became man and wife. According to records, Weaver was a prostitute since the age of 14. Their marriage lasted until 1951 when it came to an end in divorce.
12. He stands at 5 feet 5
Considering how he was able to stand larger than life in the world of crime, one would expect that Mickey Cohen would be a large man. He isn’t. He stands at a height of only 5 fee 5 inches tall.