Foxy Jimmy Fox & the Bootleg Wars

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. 

Jimmy Fox bootleger

Tough little James Stanislaus “Jimmy” Fox was born in California on May 7, 1893. His father, Joe Fox, was from Massachusetts and doesn’t appear to have been around much. After his Irish-born mother died in 1906, Jimmy and his sisters were raised by relatives in San Francisco. By 1925 he had moved to Los Angeles and was working for rum-runner Tony Cornero, another Bay Area transplant.

Around June 16, 1925, Tony’s outfit had a load hijacked by a crew from the “Bootleg Trust” headed by Milton “Farmer” Page, the asserted gambler king of L.A (2). Fox took a bullet to the leg. On June 29, 1925 he was brought to Angelus Hospital for treatment of the wound, checking in under the alias “James Brown.” Police knew better. Fox admitted he knew who shot him but laughed when detectives pressed him for a name, saying. “I can take care of my own affairs; go peddle your papers!

angelus hospital, Los Angeles

Angelus Hospital at Washington & Trinity, designed by John C Austin. It opened in 1906.

On July 13, three men spirited Fox away from his hospital bed and drove off with him in an automobile. While police theorized that Fox’s enemies had gotten to him, the attending physician believed Fox’s friends had simply taken him to another hospital.

Fox himself told the story in 1926 “Tony came and got me. Your laws thought I had been kidnapped. Tony was only helping me. He got a doctor clean from Chicago and I got well.”

The rum war between the Page and Cornero factions continued throughout the summer, culminating in a shootout on a foggy beach road on August 4 that left four of Page’s crew injured: “Les” Bruneman, Page’s bodyguard Jack/Jake Barrett, E.H. Schultz (alias Jack Martin, alias Moran) and C.H. Munson (alias Harry Munson/Schwartz).

Tony’s men had not been shooting to kill; the boss had only wanted to send the Trust a message. Cases of stolen liquor were restored to their rightful owners and Tony even paid the hospital bills of the wounded men. But bad blood still existed between the hijackers and Jimmy Fox.

1254 W. Sixth St, St Regis Hotel, Los Angeles

The St. Regis Hotel at 1254 W. Sixth St, Los Angeles opened on October 12, 1925. It was renamed the Teris Hotel in 1934.

It was August 4, 1926, one year to the day since the shootout on the beach. Jimmy Fox was in the drugstore of the St. Regis at 1254 W. Sixth St., a “high class hotel” that had recently opened. Fox left about 11:40 pm. As he stepped out on the street, an expensive-make sedan pulled up and three men hopped out. Fox recognized one of them as Munson/Schwartz, the man who had shot him in the leg back in June 1925. The other man was later identified as Theodore Eggers, alias Thomas H. Miller, a San Francisco bootlegger who’d faced charges the year before for allegedly killing a U.S. Marshal. They tried to rush Fox into the car. Fox drew his gun, a .25 automatic, and cut lose seven times.

I emptied the gun and Munson went down. I blew the back way, tossed away my gun in a vacant lot near Sixth and Shatto Pl. and went home to 621 N. Larchmont.” Fox later testified.

As Munson dropped, his tall pal grabbed him and dragged him to a corner of the St. Regis Hotel lobby.
Teris Hotel lobby

1930s view of the lobby where Jimmy Fox shot it out with Munson/Schwartz and Eggers in 1926. Entrance to the drug store is at right. LAPL photo.

Harry “Cuter” Moran, another of Tony’s crew, was eating ice cream in the hotel restaurant when the shots rang out. He was making a run for it when the gunman saw him and fired, possibly mistaking him for Fox, as Moran resembled Fox physically and was dressed similarly. Moran fell in the street across the trolley tracks, a bullet in his head. He died at the receiving hospital hours later.

Meanwhile, the gunman dragged Munson’s body into the car and it sped away. The vehicle was found later in front of 1525 Westmorland Pl. with Munson’s body crumpled on the floor inside (3).

Fox turned himself in to county sheriffs deputies the following day and was taken into custody in the old County Jail. The LAPD later complained, bitterly, that they weren’t even notified. Chief Jailer Dewar, in fact, allowed Farmer Page to visit Jimmy before the police spoke to him.

Fox’s bail was set at $100,000 but he made no effort to raise it- saying he was afraid his enemies would get him if he left jail. Asked to identify Moran, the tough little Irishman is reported to have wept on seeing the body of his friend.

On August 12, 1926, a Coroner’s jury cleared Fox in the shooting of Schwartz. Nevertheless, Deputy D.A. Davis elected to indict him on murder charges (4). The trial, which began Oct 22, 1926, ended in acquittal.

jimmy fox-earl kynette

3-31-1927

Not long afterward, in March 1927, Fox’s home was raided by police, who found a small quantity of beer and whiskey in Fox’s ice-box and arrested him for violation of the Wright Act, the state version of the national prohibition law. Fox was also accused of possession of a gun, a large-caliber revolver, which Fox hid from the raiding party by sitting on it. The arresting officer was Sergt. Earl Kynette (5).

villa-riviera

The Villa Riviera, Long Beach

The next time someone tried to fill Jimmy Fox full of lead was in front of his swank Villa Riviera apartment in Long Beach on July 21, 1933. The papers identified him as owner of the notorious gambling ship anchored off Long Beach, the Johanna Smith II. He was carrying the night’s receipts from the ship about 3:20 am when someone fired 8 bullets at him. One got him in the foot. Witnesses saw two cars speeding from the scene (6). In October, Fox was arrested by Long Beach police as he stepped off the Johanna’s dock, on a trumped-up charge of “conspiracy to commit vagrancy” in a county-wide drive on gangsters after an outbreak of gang violence.

Johanna Smith II gambling ship 1932

Ad for the Johanna Smith II, 11-18-1932

Fox managed to keep out of the headlines after that. He is reputed to have worked security at the Clover Club on Sunset Blvd., in which Page was a partner, and may well have been the “Joe E. Fox” arrested there when the gambling club was raided by sheriff’s deputies in February 1937. Cohen’s memoir describes an altercation he supposedly had with Fox in the 1940s, though the story is full of more holes than Cohen claims he plugged into Jimmy (7). Despite repeated attempts to turn him into a human pincushion, the sly Fox outlived most of his old enemies. He died in Los Angeles on October 18, 1967.

***

(1) In My Own Words, the Underworld Autobiography of Michael Mickey Cohen, as Told to John Peter Nugent. Prentice Hall (1975).

(2) Tony himself identified Page as head of the bootleg trust.

(3) A fingerprint found on the brake lever was matched Ernest H. Schultz.

(4) Murder complaints were also issued against Theodore Eggers and Ernest Schultz for their involvement in the Moran shooting, but both men were missing. Shultz was finally arrestedsix years after the fact, on Feb 15, 1932.

(5) Kynette would later be convicted in the January 1938 car-bombing of his former colleague, Harry Raymond.

(6) The shooting went unsolved until July 1937 when William Fisher, serving a term at San Quentin for a robbery in Los Angeles, admitted having fired at Fox in retaliation, he claimed, for Fox having shot at him the night before in a clubroom.

(7) Cohen claims to have shot Fox in front of several witnesses after Fox made a crack about Cohen’s brother Harry, then departed for the fights at Olympic Auditorium, where LAPD homicide picked him up.

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