Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

PHOTOS: The real-life 'Gangster Squad' and mobster Mickey Cohen

Conwell Keeler

A 1948 photo of a Gangster Squad outing taken by squad member Conwell Keeler.

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Four men sit behind a long counter and against a white brick wall with an Inglewood Park Cemetery calendar on it. From left to right they are: Mike Howard, Mickey Cohen, Sol Davis and James E. Rist.

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Officials of Amvets, aroused by Herald-Express front-page story blasting official inactivity in current underworld probe, are shown at a meeting as they planned a crusade to rid the city of "Mickey Cohen mobsters." Left to right: Frank Dee Scrivens, Richard W. Smithers, Phil H. Jackson, George W. Rochester, Caryl Warmer, Fred Dockweiler, Councilman Kenneth Hahn and Ray Medbury. (Circa 1940)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen, who said he believed killers meant to get him, escaped death by being in the washroom when gunmen splattered his office. He said he held door shut and climbed on sink in case gunmen decided to spray bullets through door. Photo dated: August 19, 1948.

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Four men, 3 in hospital white, carry a gurney with a wounded Mickey Cohen through the doorway at Hollywood Receiving. Cohen had been ambushed and shot in the shoulder in front of Sherry's Restaurant. (File date: July 20, 1949)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Dee David, one of the victims in an ambush that also injured Mickey Cohen, primps in hospital while recovering slowly from gunshot wounds, July 22, 1949.

Los ANgeles Public Library archives

A copy of a clipping from the Los Angeles Evening Herald and Express which was received in a letter addressed to the newspaper. The picture shows Mickey Cohen's face over a bullseye. The anonymous sender had pasted onto the original picture a white arrow pointed at Cohen and, under the question mark, added the words "finish the job on July 29, 49". (File date: July 23, 1949)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

A nurse (Dorothy Morehead) brings another arrangement of flowers to Mickey Cohen's room at Queen of Angels Hospital. Dozens of plant and cut flowers had been arriving daily. (File date: July 23, 1949)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

A view of Mickey Cohen's cadillac. He stands beside the open driver's door to show the window made of 1 1/4 in. bullet proof glass. (File dated: Sep. 28, 1950)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen, a notorious hand-washer, cleaned up as he prepared to testify. Photo appeared on November 16, 1950.

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen, wearing a white bathrobe and slippers, stands in a nearly empty room watching a moving man remove a picture/picture frame. (File date: May 4, 1951)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen stoops to pet and instruct a black and white dog wearing a harness. (File date: May 14, 1951)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

A Deputy U.S. Marshall introduces gambler Mickey Cohen to the jail. Mickey is still in suit, tie and hat, but has just been convicted of tax evasion. The sentence was possibly 20 years and a $40,000 fine. (File date: June 20, 1951)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen, in handcuffs, accompanied by U.S. Marshall Earl Bougher. This is dated after his trial for tax evasion. (File date: July 10, 1952)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen views the body of his associate Johnny Stompanato at the funeral home. (File date: Apr. 9, 1958)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Bookmaker Jack F. Whalen, 39, lies dead amid busy detectives and coroner's officials probing for clues in gangland slaying at Rondelli's restaurant in Sherman Oaks. Whalen was standing in front of the booth at the right when he was shot. Mickey Cohen was dining at the table at the left and witnessed the shooting. (Dated Dec. 3, 1959)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

The contents of Mickey Cohen's pockets lie on the counter before him at the Central Police Station, as the former mobster is booked on suspicion of murder in the death of Jack (The Enforcer) Whalen in a valley restaurant. Photograph dated December 4, 1959.

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen besides the casket containing his dead bulldog Mickey, Jr., Jun. 28, 1960.

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen and his fiance Claretta "Sandy" Hagen look at a wall full of framed photographs in their den. One picture of a boxer (dog) looks to be the only one that is painted. They moved to a rental house in Van Nuys to reduce living expenses. (File date: Jan. 4, 1962)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen stands in his robe in one room of his bombed house at 513 Moreno Dr. in Brentwood. The whole side of the house has been blown away. The house was supposed to be "gang proof". (File date: Jan. 6, 1972)

Los Angeles Public Library archives

Mickey Cohen's restaurant, the Cafe Trocadero.


The new film “Gangster Squad” takes a fictionalized look at the LAPD vice division of the 1940s. The details are given a fair helping of dramatic license, but the broad outline of a vice division set against mobster Mickey Cohen has a basis in reality.

East Coast criminals were known to hang out in Sunset Strip clubs at the time, according to the LAPD itself. Mickey Cohen, who made his home out west, made his money from gambling and prostitution. He also ran nightclubs, flower shops, gas stations and a hat store, according to Life magazine.

“Mickey Cohen’s power was based in payoffs and bribes and ruthlessness,” former L.A. detective Mike Rothmiller told Arizona TV station KTVK. “He was involved in many killings himself.”

Chief of Police Clarence Horrall created a 10-man intelligence detail that became known as the “Gangster Squad,” and they were tasked with spying on corrupt cops and combating organized crime.

“Their job was to keep organized crime out of Los Angeles, especially from the East,” Buz Williams told KTVK. Williams’ grandfather and father were both original members of the Gangster Squad.

Chief William A. Worton took over in 1949, which led to the group being expanded and renamed the “Intelligence Section.” When famed chief William Parker took office, he expanded the group even further, including adding a female field team.

“Our primary business was learning secrets about anybody that wielded power,” Rothmiller said.

Cohen ultimately wound up in Alcatraz in 1962. He was sent there for the same crime that caught famed Chicago boss Al Capone: tax evasion.

You can find out more about the Gangster Squad in the seven-part L.A. Times series the film was inspired by.

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