Johnny-Stompanato

John “Johnny” Stompanato (October 10, 1925 – April 4, 1958), also known as “Handsome Harry”, “Johnny Stomp”, “John Steele”, and “Oscar”, was a former United States Marine who became a bodyguard and enforcer for gangster Mickey Cohen.

In 1958 he entered Hollywood Babylon when, after a tumultuous relationship with actress Lana Turner, he was stabbed and killed by Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane.

In the 2013 film “Gangster Squad”, Stompanato is played by James Carpinello.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

That’s how Hollywood saw it.

Here’s what history has to tell us:

His Early Years

John Stompanato, Jr. was born into an Italian-American family in Woodstock, Illinois.

His father, John Sr., owned a barber shop. His mother, Carmela, was a seamstress. Both parents were born in Italy, but were married in Brooklyn. The family moved to Woodstock in 1916.

Johnny was the youngest of four children, and grew up with two older sisters, Grace and Teresa, and elder brother, Carmine.

Six days after John’s birth, his mother died of peritonitis.

Johnny’s father soon remarried, to a woman named Verena Freitag.

Wartime Service

In 1940 – after Stompanato’s freshman year at Woodstock High School – his father sent him to Kemper Military School for boys in Boonville, Missouri, from which he graduated at the age of 17.

In 1943, Stompanato joined the U.S. Marines, serving with the 1st Service Battalion, 1st Marine Division.

He saw action in the South Pacific theater, in Peleliu and Okinawa, and then served in China with the Marines.

Stompanato left the Corps in March 1946, having been discharged in China.

First Marriage

It was in China, while stationed in Tianjin, that Stompanato met his first wife, Sarah Utish; a Turkish girl living in China. Stompanato converted to Islam, in order to marry her.

The two married in May 1946, and moved to Woodstock, where they had their first son, John III.

The newlywed Stompanato worked as a bread salesman for a few months, before leaving for Hollywood, California.

Los Angeles

Stompanato owned and managed “The Myrtlewood Gift Shop” in Westwood, Los Angeles. He sold inexpensive pieces of crude pottery and wood carvings as fine art.

The few shoppers who entered the store were either served by a part-time clerk, or ignored altogether.

Stompanato meanwhile, was more gainfully employed.

One source of revenue came from the mobster Meyer Harris “Mickey” Cohen, for whom Stompanato acted as bodyguard, and chief enforcer.

Another was using his good looks and charm to ingratiate himself with a string of high-profile women.

It is alleged that Stompanato ran a sexual extortion ring as well as a jewelry store. He was one of the most popular playboys in Hollywood.

Singer Frank Sinatra once visited Cohen at his home, and begged him to tell Stompanato to stop dating Sinatra’s friend and ex-wife, actress Ava Gardner.

Lana Turner

When he began dating the actress Lana Turner, Stompanato wore a heavy gold-link bracelet on his wrist with “Lanita” inscribed inside.

Turner’s daughter Cheryl Crane described Stompanato in her autobiography, “Detour: A Hollywood Story” (1988):

“ … B-picture good looks… thick set … powerfully built and soft spoken … and talked in short sentences to cover a poor grasp of grammar and spoke in a deep baritone voice. With friends, he seldom smiled or laughed out loud, but seemed always coiled, holding himself in … had watchful hooded eyes that took in more than he wanted anyone to notice …. His wardrobe on a daily basis consisted of roomy, draped slacks, a silver buckled skinny leather belt and lizard shoes. ”

On one occasion, the jealous Stompanato stormed onto a movie set in the UK and pointed a gun at actor Sean Connery, Turner’s costar in “Another Time, Another Place” – only to have Connery take the gun from him, and force him from the movie set.

Stompanato was deported for this offense, as unlicensed handguns are illegal in the United Kingdom.

A Scurrilous Death

On April 4, 1958, Stompanato was stabbed to death at Lana Turner’s Beverly Hills, California home.

Turner’s then teenage daughter Cheryl Crane claimed Stompanato had been attacking her mother, and that she had stabbed Stompanato while defending her. The courts agreed, ruling the death to be justifiable homicide.

After the ruling, Stompanato’s family sued Turner for $7 million. The case was eventually settled out of court for unknown terms.

There were rumors after Stompanato’s death that at least one L.A. mobster held Sean Connery responsible; the actor allegedly went into hiding, for a short time afterward.

Stompanato is interred at Oakland Cemetery, in Woodstock, McHenry County, Illinois. He is buried between his mother, Carmela (1890–1925), to the north, and his father John (1890–1952) and step mother Verena (1901–1967) to the south. His brother, Carmine (1912–1961) is buried across a small road, to the west of Johnny.

And here’s where we leave this scene.

I hope you’ll be here, for our next story.

Till then.

Peace.

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