On September 20, 1939 two women crossed paths at the busy corner of Hollywood and Vine. Though they hadn’t seen each other in 26 years, sisters Fanny Rapport and Ida Schachter recognized each other at once. They had lost contact after Rapport left New York and came to California in the ‘teens. In 1938 Schachter too, ended up in Hollywood with her husband. She lived just down the street, at 1804 Vista Del Mar Avenue.
The chance reunion made it into the Los Angeles Times, a minor human interest item for a slow news day. Hollywood- a place where people came to start new lives, assume new identities perhaps- was full of such tales. To at least one reader, however, this story was positively riveting.
Gambling ships began operating off the Southern California coast regularly in the late 1920s. Local, county, state, and federal authorities tried various means to get them shut down, even dredging up 18th century piracy laws, without any real lasting effect. Earl Warren, as California A.G., successfully raided and closed the last four ships in 1939 and World War II put a damper on any new such ventures starting up. But there was still no state or federal statute outlawing them. Everyone may have thought the era of gambling ships had passed. Everyone except Tony Cornero.
Los Angeles papers had been reporting the antics of Edward “Spike” O’Donnell for years. Noted for his many brushes with death at the hands of his rivals, the nattily-dressed O’Donnell was always good for a pithy quote or too.
The year that Bugsy Siegel arrived in Los Angeles to be the New York mob’s man on the West Coast varies from source to source. Siegel himself claimed in a legal document that he had been a resident since 1935. It’s known a that he visited at least twice before that, starting in 1932.
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