It was “Tutor” Scherer who launched the first known floating casino off the Southern California coast. He also had a large bookmaking operation and was affiliated with gambling clubs in Palm Springs as well as Hollywood’s Clover Club and the Airport Gardens in Glendale. Like fellow Spring Street Gang gamblers Guy McAfee and “Farmer” Page, he ended up in Las Vegas, where late in life he blossomed into a poet. Continue reading
“This is just another attempt to blame everything on me that ever went on in the Los Angeles underworld” Guy McAfee would grouse in 1940 after his name was linked once again to yet another vice racket. One of his enemies would call him the “Capone of Los Angeles,” an overstatement perhaps, but one not without foundation.
In June 1925, 23-year old LAPD officer “Eddie” Edwards went to see a man about a dog. It changed his life forever. The man was Frank Cornero, brother and chief lieutenant of “Bootlegger King” Tony Cornero and Edwards was there to arrest him. Continue reading
In the struggle to keep eastern gangsters out of Los Angeles 1918-1951, amid many headline-making lapses, one oft-repeated success story stood out: the time Al Capone came to town and promptly took a powder back to Chicago with some encouragement from the LAPD. While it had the makings of a myth and the details became blurred over time, this story happened to be true. Continue reading
Christmas Day, 1925, an LAPD beat cop responded to a report of a fight at a bungalow court in the fashionable Westlake district. He found two men having a heated argument, but no sign of fisticuffs. Still, one of the men pulled a revolver on him. The officer arrested him and took him downtown to the city jail behind Old Central at 1st & Hill, where he was booked on an assault with a deadly weapon charge. Then, suddenly, the charge was reduced disturbing the peace. Albert Marco, one of the city’s top bootleggers, was back on the streets within hours, released on $100 bail. Marco didn’t know it yet but it was a short-lived victory. The incident placed him in the sights of a vice crusading city councilman, which eventually led to his downfall. Continue reading
In his 1975 memoir, Mickey Cohen describes Jimmy Fox as “a very notorious gangster in Los Angeles…a bad little guy- an Irishman. He shot three guys in a bootleg war in the Ritz Hotel downtown- in those days it was a real nice classy hotel and had just been built” (1). Cohen got the details mixed up, but Fox was involved in a shooting affray at a downtown hotel, the fallout of a bootleg war.
On July 15, 1918, plainclothes officer Charles S. Vose of the LAPD’s new “war squad” went to 324 W. Pico Street on a tip that a man who’d been living there for the past several weeks was a draft dodger. The landlady told him her tenant, who called himself Walter Scott, or Marvin, had just stepped out to the corner store. Vose went looking for him there, but the wily “Scott/Marvin” ducked out the back and ran up Grand Avenue. Vose apprehended him near 16th & Grand and brought him in without incident. He was lucky. The man was Frank McErlane and he was wanted in connection with the murder of a policeman back in Chicago. Later called “the most brutal gunman who ever pulled a trigger,” McErlane is credited with inventing the “one-way ride” and introducing the Thompson machine gun to Chicago’s underworld.