A typical reaction from anyone who reads Geoffrey Homes’ hard-to-find 1946 novel Build My Gallows High (basis for the film noir Out of the Past) is: how on earth did he come up with a name like Mumsie McGonigle? The short answer is: he didn’t. There was a real Mumsie McGonigle, and she was much in the news in early 1940s Los Angeles. Her story involves depravity and corruption to equal any hardboiled fiction plot.
Frank Shaw of Los Angeles is often cited as the first mayor of a major U.S. city to be recalled, as Shaw was in 1938, but Seattle’s Mayor Hiram C. Gill beat him to it. He was booted out in 1911 after less than a year in office, when the public learned that he and his Chief of Police Charles “Wappy” Wapperstein were collecting a large percentage of the receipts from the Northern Club, a saloon-gambling hall-brothel run by a syndicate that included Charles Crawford.
The LAPD’s survey, Gangland Killings 1900-1951, list just three gang-related murders for 1928, although newspapers at the time of August Palumbo’s shooting death of July 18 refer to him as the seventh such victim in a “bootlegger’s war” that had been going on for six weeks prior. The 1951 survey also notes that there was “no prosecution to date” in the Palumbo case. In fact, there were plenty of prosecutions, just no convictions. Continue reading
It wasn’t the first time a public figure who opposed Los Angeles’ underworld suddenly found himself involved in a compromising position, intended to either discredit or bring them to heel. But the plot to silence vice-crusading city councilman Carl I. Jacobson didn’t run quite to plan.
It was a woman scorned who first called Tony Cornero the King of the Bootleggers. The press ran with it. His rum-running operation was remarkably successful, if marred at times by drama, bootlegger wars and run-ins with police. 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