Tag Archive: Los Angeles


Lew-Archer-PI

Lew Archer – a private detective working in Southern California – is a fictional character created by Ross Macdonald.

Archer’s name is a homage to Dashiell Hammett. Miles Archer was the name of Sam Spade’s murdered partner in “The Maltese Falcon”.

Though similar in some respects to Raymond Chandler’s tough guy investigator, Phillip Marlowe, Macdonald used Archer more as a lens to explore the relationships of the other characters in his novels.

Whereas Marlowe prowled the city of Los Angeles during the 1940s, Lew Archer primarily worked the suburbs in the 1950s, moving outward as the urban populace migrated.

In the books, Lew Archer is rarely described, though in “The Doomsters”, a sheriff mocks his 6’2″ and blue eyes.

Little is revealed about his past life.

We do learn that he once “took the strap away from my old man”, that he was a troubled kid and petty thief redeemed by an old cop, that he sometimes drank too much, that his ex-wife’s name is Sue, and that he thinks of her often.

Archer’s background is most thoroughly explored in “The Moving Target”.

In this story, we are told that he got his training with the Long Beach California Police Department, but left (Archer himself says he was “fired”) after witnessing too much corruption, and during World War II, he served in military intelligence with the United States Army.

The book was the basis for the film “Harper” (1966; directed by Jack Smight) with Lauren Bacall and Janet Leigh, which starred Paul Newman as Lew Harper.

Here’s a YouTube clip of Newman, in a scene from the movie:

That’s right; Harper. The name Archer was changed, at Newman’s request. Rumor has it, because Newman felt characters with “H” names were “lucky”.

Not so, the characters in Macdonald’s books.

A sense of tragedy pervades the novels, as the sins of omission and the committed crimes of sometimes-wealthy parents are frequently visited upon their children – young adults whom Archer tries desperately to save from disaster.

Key incidents are typically separated by fifteen years, as evidence from old crimes surfaces to haunt new characters.

As suspense in a novel builds toward its climax, Archer often gets little or no sleep, racing the clock and prowling the landscape for days continuously, trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together in order to prevent new violence.

This typically 36- or 48-hour wakefulness mimes the structure of a classic Greek tragedy, where everything takes place in one day.

For Archer, it might be more than a single day, but since the character doesn’t get to sleep, it essentially honors the tradition, and contributes to the overall sense of impending doom.

Little wonder that Archer is sometimes depressed, and often world-weary.

Paul Newman reprised the Lew Harper / Archer character in “The Drowning Pool” (1975; directed by Stuart Rosenberg) which was derived from the novel of the same title, and also starred Joanne Woodward and Anthony Franciosa.
Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

Tom Nolan in his “Ross Macdonald, A Biography”, wrote of the author: “He brought the tragic drama of Freud and the psychology of Sophocles to detective stories, and his prose flashed with poetic imagery.”

And on that note, I’ll leave you.

Peace.

Angel-AI

“Angel” is a television series created by Joss Whedon (director of “Marvel’s The Avengers”; co-creator of ABC Television’s “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”) and David Greenwalt.

The show ran for 5 seasons on the WB network, and starred David Boreanaz as private investigator Angel, “the vampire with a soul”.

The Premise

The series chronicles the adventures of Liam, an 18th-century landowner’s son, turned into a vampire by the lady Darla (played by Julie Benz).

Adopting the vampire name Angelus, Liam massacred his entire village, then took off with Darla on a murderous rampage that lasted 140 years, and spanned the civilized world.

Now, assuming that each of them had to consume the blood of at least one human every day, for 365 days a year (Leap Years, too), for 140 years… Well; do the math.

Most prolific serial killers in history.

Until Darla made the fatal error of procuring a young Gypsy girl, for Angelus to consume.

The girl’s family took revenge in a cruelly subtle way. They put a curse on Angelus, restoring his human soul – and with it, his memory of every person he’d killed.

Driven to the edge of insanity by guilt and remorse, Angelus sought redemption.

Changing his name to Angel, he became a warrior for Good. Hunting down vampires, demons, and assorted Hell-beasts that prey on humans.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the California town of Sunnydale.

There, Angel falls in love with a teenager, Buffy Ann Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar). As Fate would have it, Buffy is the latest in an ages-long line of Slayers: one girl, per generation, endowed with superhuman abilities by The Powers That Be, to slay vampires, demons, and assorted Hell-beasts that…

Hmm.

Crusading vampire.

Vampire-slaying teen.

Cue angst, in the pre-“Twilight” era.

I’ll let Cordelia Chase (with a little help from Wesley Wyndham-Price) explain.
Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

Too much emotional baggage.

So, Angel left Sunnydale, for the City of Angels. There, he set up Angel Investigations (AI), a detective agency specializing in paranormal cases.

The AI Team

Here’s the bulk of them, in an extended credits sequence from YouTube, set to the show’s iconic theme tune:

You’re only as good as your supporting characters, and Angel had some great ones.

Doyle: Played by Glenn Quinn.

Doyle was the hard-drinking hybrid son of a human father, and demon mother.

Hard-drinking, because The Powers That Be bestowed on him the gift of visions. Or rather, garbled views of supernatural dangers currently happening, or yet to come – accompanied by Olympic-class migraine headaches.

Prior to his heroic death, saving the world, Doyle passed his gift on, to…

Cordelia “Cordy” Chase: Played by Charisma Carpenter.

Gorgeous, self-proclaimed “meanest bitch in the history of Sunnydale High”, Cordelia was more than just mean girl eye candy.

Funny, and incisively truthful in her bitchiness, Cordy signed on initially as a 2-words-per-hour secretary to Angel, after failing to make it in L.A. as an actress.

Handy with ancient weapons (she was one of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s “Scooby Gang”, in Sunnydale), Cordelia remained the heart and soul of Angel Investigations. And the AI team’s crucial link to The Powers That Be – via those excruciating visions.

Wesley Wyndham-Price: Played by Alexis Denisof.

Former member of the Watchers’ Council – a group of stuffy British academics tasked with mentoring and providing logistical support to the current Vampire Slayer.

Wesley was booted off the Council when Faith (played by Eliza Dushku) – the Slayer called into action after Buffy Summers was killed – went homicidally rogue.

Reinventing himself as a rogue demon-hunter (“What’s a rogue demon?” as Cordelia puts it), Wesley fell on hard times in L.A., until offered a lifeline by Angel.

As the group’s resident authority on demonology and the paranormal, Wesley became a vital part of Angel Investigations.

Charles Gunn: Played by J. August Richards.

Orphaned by vampires as a child, the young Gunn became the leader of a group of street kids, dedicated to keeping their section of the city a vamp-free zone.

A skilled and inventive fighter, Gunn hooked up with Angel Investigations after his younger sister was turned into a vampire.

Always conflicted about working for a blood-drinker, Gunn later became the team’s expert on legal matters, after Angel was given control of Wolfram & Hart (more on them, later).

Lorne / The Host: Played by Andy Hallett.

Lorne (an abbreviation of his real name; don’t ask) first appeared as The Host of Caritas, a karaoke club with an open-door policy for supernaturals.

A lanky, green-skinned demon of the horned Lucifer variety, Lorne had the ability to read a person’s soul and know their fate, after hearing them sing.

Lorne joined the team after Caritas was destroyed, during one of AI’s cases.

Winnifred “Fred” Burkle: Played by Amy Acker.

A cute as hell (in the nicest possible way) Texan gal, with super-genius IQ.

Fred’s Astro-Physics research got her zapped into a demon dimension, for several years. When Cordelia Chase was ported to the same place, Angel and the gang followed, eventually rescuing both.

Fred stayed on, to lend her considerable intellect to the team – and to charm the socks off of everyone, with her persona.

Fans were devastated, when Fred was killed off – her soul obliterated, to make way for the demon goddess…

Illyria: Played by Amy Acker.

Whose essence had been trapped in an alternate Universe by her enemies, since the dawn of civilization.

Smuggled to Earth in an ancient artifact, her soul was freed, to inhabit a new host body.

Illyria looks a lot like Fred, only with blue hair and eyes, metallic gray skin, and a Clive-Barker’s-Hellraiser-Cenobite-esque black rubber body suit.

She has a formidable range of super-powers (which once included the ability to slow down Time), and occasionally uses them to help the team.

Spike (a.k.a. William the Bloody): Played by James Marsters.

William the Bloody was part of Angelus’ vampire “family”. He was sired by Drusilla (actress Juliet Landau), a loopy psychic who had been turned years earlier by Angelus.

Spike (as in, railroad spike; his favored instrument of torture) was a fearsome and skilled combatant, responsible for the deaths of two Vampire Slayers.

He took the hero’s route after falling in love with Buffy Summers (girl had vampire issues, clearly), and undergoing an ordeal to restore his soul.

After sacrificing himself to save the world, Spike was resurrected by Wolfram & Hart (them, again…), to be a thorn in Angel’s side.
He thwarted this plan, by actually proving an asset to the team.

Connor: Played by Vincent Kartheiser.

The unlikely son of two vampires.

Connor was conceived when Darla was resurrected from Hell as a mortal, by Wolfram & Hart, to seduce Angel.

Even after becoming a vampire again (by her own cunning), Darla’s pregnancy went to term, and Connor was born as his mother “died”.

Kidnapped soon after by the vampire-hunter Daniel Holtz (actor Keith Szarabajka), Connor was taken to an alternate dimension. There, the super-powered youth was raised as a warrior, his mind systematically poisoned against Angel / Angelus.

Returning to Earth as a teenager, Connor joined the ranks of AI. Always borderline: in both his sanity, and his feelings toward his biological father.

Connor’s memory was altered, and he was relocated to a normal family, as part of the deal Angel made to take over Wolfram & Hart. Speaking of which…

The Devil’s Advocates

Any legendary investigator needs a nemesis.

For Angel Investigations, the law firm Wolfram & Hart, was it.

In every dimension where Evil exists, the society of the Wolf, Ram, and Hart (Wolfram & Hart; get it?) is there, aiding and abetting.

In one Universe, they might be a religious order. A warrior sect, in another.

On Earth? They’ve set up as lawyers. The Senior Partners of the practice are High Lords of Hell.

And throughout the 5 years of “Angel’s” run, Wolfram & Hart was dedicated to making the heroic vampire’s life a misery – and advancing the course of the latest Apocalypse.

How Come I Never Knew About This?

The thing with “Angel”?

It was one of those shows that not too many people knew about. But those that did, were instantly hooked.

The stories deal with complex issues of temptation, conscience, and redemption. With wisdom, and enough wit to make you laugh out loud. Often.

If you get the chance, check it out, on DVD.

Time for me to go.

I’ll see you, for our next tale. I hope.

Till then.

Peace.

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.

Gangsters: Mickey Cohen

Mickey-Cohen

Meyer Harris “Mickey” Cohen (September 4, 1913 – July 29, 1976) was a gangster based in Los Angeles and part of the Jewish Mafia, who also had strong ties to the American Mafia from the 1930s through 1960s.

He is best known perhaps for his intense rivalry with fellow Los Angeles mobster Jack Dragna.

In the movie “Gangster Squad”, released January 2013, Cohen is played by Sean Penn.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

That’s fiction, Hollywood-style.

These are some of the historical facts:

Cohen’s Early Life

Mickey Cohen was born on September 4, 1913, into an Orthodox Jewish family living in the Jewish Brownsville section of Brooklyn. His mother Fanny (who was widowed in September 1914), had emigrated from Kiev, Ukraine.

At the age of six, Mickey was selling newspapers on the street; his brothers Louie or Harry would drop him off at his regular corner, Soho and Brooklyn Streets.

Fanny moved her family to Los Angeles. In 1922, petty crime landed Mickey in reform school there.

Mickey the Boxer

As a teenager, Cohen began boxing in illegal prizefights in Los Angeles.

In 1929, the fifteen-year-old moved from Los Angeles to Cleveland, to train as a professional boxer. His first professional boxing match was on April 8, 1930 against Patsy Farr in Cleveland, Ohio.

On April 11, 1933 Cohen fought against Chalky Wright in Los Angeles, California. Wright won the match and Mickey was incorrectly identified as “Mickey Cohen from Denver, Colorado” in the Los Angeles Times sports page report.

His next major fight was on May 14, 1933 against Baby Arizmendi in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.

On June 12, 1931 Cohen fought and lost a match against World Featherweight Champion Tommy Paul, having been knocked out cold after 2:20 into the first round. It was during this round he earned the moniker “Gangster Mickey Cohen”.

Gangster Mickey Cohen

In Cleveland, Cohen met Lou Rothkopf, an associate of Moe Dalitz.

Cohen later moved to New York, where he became associated with Tommy Dioguardi, the brother of labor racketeer Johnny Dio, and with Owney Madden.

Finally, Cohen went to Chicago, where he ran a gambling operation for the Chicago Outfit, Al Capone’s powerful criminal organization.

Prohibition and the Chicago Outfit

During Prohibition, Cohen moved to Chicago and became involved in organized crime working as an enforcer for the Chicago Outfit, where he briefly met Al Capone. During this period Cohen was arrested for his role in the deaths of several gangsters in a card game that went wrong.

After a brief time in prison, Cohen was released and began running card games and other illegal gambling operations.

He later became an associate of Mattie Capone, Al’s younger brother.

While working for Jake Guzik, Cohen was forced to flee Chicago after an argument with a rival gambler.

Back in Cleveland, Cohen again worked for Lou Rothkopf, an associate of Meyer Lansky and Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel. However, there was little work available for Cohen in Cleveland, so Rothkopf arranged for him to work with Siegel in California.

Life with The Bug Man

In 1939, Mickey Cohen was sent to Los Angeles by Meyer Lansky and Lou Rothkopf to work under Bugsy Siegel.

During their association, Mickey helped set up the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas, and ran its sports book operation.

He was also instrumental in setting up the race wire, which was essential to Vegas betting – a Nevada attraction perhaps only second to the Hoover Dam.

In 1947, the crime families ordered the murder of Siegel due to his mismanagement of the Flamingo Hotel (some postulate that Siegel or his girlfriend Virginia Hill were skimming money).

According to one account which does not appear in newspapers, Cohen reacted violently to Siegel’s murder.

Entering the Hotel Roosevelt (where he believed the killers were staying), Cohen fired rounds from his two .45 caliber semi-automatic handguns into the lobby ceiling, and demanded that the assassins meet him outside in ten minutes. However, no one appeared and Cohen was forced to flee when the police arrived.

The Dragna Rivalry

Cohen’s violent methods came to the attention of state and federal authorities investigating the operations of Los Angeles mobster Jack Dragna.

Dragna resented the high profile which Cohen had enjoyed under Ben Siegel’s wing.

During this time, Cohen faced many attempts on his life, including the bombing of his home on posh Moreno Avenue in Brentwood.

Cohen converted his house into a fortress, installing floodlights, alarm systems, and a well-equipped arsenal kept, as he often joked, next to his 200 tailor-made suits.

Cohen also briefly hired bodyguard Johnny Stompanato before he (Stompanato) was killed by actress Lana Turner’s daughter.

Cohen bought a cheap coffin for Stompanato’s funeral – and then sold Lana Turner’s love letters to Stompanato to the press.

Mickey’s Later Years

In 1950, Mickey Cohen was investigated (along with numerous other underworld figures) by a US Senate committee known as the Kefauver Commission.

As a result of this investigation, Cohen was convicted of tax evasion in June 1951, and sentenced to prison for four years.

When he was released in October of 1955, he started again, and became an international celebrity.
He sold more newspapers than anyone else in the country, according to author Brad Lewis.

His appearance on television with Mike Wallace in May of 1957 rocked the media establishment.

Cohen ran floral shops, paint stores, nightclubs, casinos, gas stations, a men’s haberdashery – and even drove an ice cream van on San Vicente Boulevard in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles, according to author Richard Lamparski.

In 1957 Time magazine wrote a brief article about Mickey Cohen’s meeting with evangelist Billy Graham.

Allegedly, when Mickey did not change his lifestyle, he was confronted by some Christian acquaintances. His response: “Christian football players, Christian cowboys, Christian politicians; why not a Christian gangster?”

In 1961, Cohen was again convicted of tax evasion, and sent to Alcatraz.
During his time on “the Rock,” another inmate attempted to kill Cohen with a lead pipe.

His heavily armored Cadillac from this period was confiscated by the Los Angeles Police Department, and is now on display at the Southward Car Museum in New Zealand.

In 1972, Cohen was released from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, where he had spoken out against prison abuse. He had been misdiagnosed with an ulcer, which turned out to be stomach cancer. After undergoing surgery, he continued touring the U.S., and making television appearances.

Mickey Cohen died in his sleep in 1976, and is interred in the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Time to put this one to bed, too.

I hope you’ll join me, for our next story.

Till then.

Peace.