Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gangster Mickey Cohen SHOT at Sherry's

Key Club, former site of Gazzarri's and Sherry's Cafe
The Sunset Wars had begun when a man in a Panama hat fired a shotgun into Mickey's clothing store on the Sunset Strip, killing one of his cadre of henchmen dubbed the "Seven Dwarfs." Some suspected that Mickey had set up his own man because he ducked into the bathroom before the shooting -- not everyone understood that the gang boss suffered from an uncontrollable urge to wash his hands.
It became clear that Mickey himself was a target in July 1949, when he was shot in the shoulder outside Sherry's cafe at 9039 N. Sunset Blvd. The blasts killed another in his crew and sent two women to the hospital: a bit actress described in The Times as "Miss Dee David, a blond," and Florabel, who took a pellet in her hindquarter. Florabel (the epitome of the hard-boiled newspaper dame) said she'd been hanging around Mickey to get a story, "waiting for someone to try to kill him."
She got the cops boiling again by passing on to readers a theory "a lot of people have" -- that the ambush wasn't the work of Mickey's rival, Jack Dragna, but that the LAPD was somehow behind it.
-- L.A. Times

Both Sherry's Cafe and Gazzarri's are long gone. The Key Club now stands on this sacred Sunset Boulevard ground. Certainly the Key Club's new walls already have glamorous stories to tell. But when I think of Gazzarri's, I think of John Cassavetes film THE KILLING OF A CHINESE BOOKIE. Cosmo Vitelli (Ben Gazzara) owns CRAZY HORSE WEST, a failing burlesque house on the Sunset Strip. Gazzarri's served as the location. (There is no relation between actor Ben Gazzara and "The Godfather of Rock and Roll" Bill Gazzarri.) I particularly remember, most vividly, the exterior night shot filmed on the boulevard when Flo the enforcer (Timothy Carey) pulls Ben Gazzara across the street, walking into authentic traffic, stopping cars as miraculously as Moses doing the Red Sea bit. Carey was a maniac. So, when I drive by that section of Sunset, I think of the movie, not Mickey.

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