January 10, 2013

A Day in the Life of the L.A.'s Notorious Mobster Mickey Cohen in 1949

Mickey Cohen was born on September 4, 1913, in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Los Angeles. After a troubled childhood, Cohen's first connections with top Jewish and Italian mobsters came during his teenage years, through his involvement in the boxing game. During the Great Depression he boxed professionally, and acted as muscle for both Mafiosi and Jewish gang bosses in Cleveland, New York and Chicago.

In his early 20s, he began working for legendary mobster Bugsy Siegel. By the early 1940s, Cohen was allied with Siegel's partners Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello; approved by Lucky Luciano; and sponsored by his old Cleveland supporters, the Milano family, along with other prominent nationally ranked mobsters.

In addition to traditional mob businesses, Cohen took advantage of the movie industry by controlling unions and through blackmail. In 1947, Siegel was assassinated and Cohen, subsequently, became the West Coast crime boss. Cohen's exploits made him nationally notorious, and his own appetites and ambitions exemplified the Noir City that he both bled and serviced. His connections were so wide and deep that although he was brought to trial for all types of offenses, including murder, he was convicted just twice, for income tax evasion. He died of natural causes in L.A. in 1976.

Here, a series of photographs taken by LIFE photographer Ed Clark from 1949 featuring Mickey and LaVonne Cohen in their natural environment, as they hoped the world might see them: quiet, sober, eminently respectable members of the community, without a care in the world, enjoying life beneath the kind and lidless California sun.

Gangster Mickey Cohen sits amid the front pages of newspapers that helped make him the city's' most infamous citizen, Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen, 1949.

Mickey Cohen at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen relaxing at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Angry and hungry, Mickey eats sandwich as he leaves home with cop who arrested him for cursing other officers. Mickey called arrest persecution.

Mickey Cohen with his wife, LaVonne, at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen's wife, LaVonne, at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen smells flowers at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen plays with dogs at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen's wife, LaVonne, at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen's wife, LaVonne, 1949.

Mickey Cohen's wife, LaVonne, at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen at home with a book given to him by the Hebrew Committee of National Liberation, Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen's enforcer, "Johnny Stomp" Stompanato (famously stabbed and killed by Lana Turner's 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane, in 1958), business manager Mike Howard and Cohen pose in Cohen's office in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen at home in Los Angeles with his business manager, Mike Howard, 1949.

Mickey Cohen at home in Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen, 1949.

Mickey Cohen signs an autograph for a young fan, Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen hauled in by the cops, Los Angeles, 1949.

Mickey Cohen, 1949.

(Photos: Ed Clark—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)




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