Archive for Frankie Carbo

The Boxing Writers Fiasco

Posted in boxing, criminals, crooks, FBI, FBI, gangsters, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, New York City, organized crime, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2014 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

The Boxing Writers Fiasco

By Joe Bruno on February 19, 2014

The Boxing Writers Fiasco

The Boxing Writers Fiasco

I was the Vice President of the Boxing Writers Association of America from 1982 to 1986, and a member until 1992. During that period the selection process for the yearly awards was a joke. I have had no connection with the group since 1992. I do not know if this still applies, but if I had to guess, I’d say it does.

In the past, I’ve attacked everything from unscrupulous boxing promoters to incompetent and biased boxing judges (take your pick) to haughty boxing honchos. But now I’m going to give you some insight into the inner workings of the BWAA, an organization that has done nothing for boxing but to give out questionable awards, often to their own members.

The Boxing Writers Association of America (once more properly called the New York Boxing Writers Association) was formed in the middle 1920s, and some of its illustrious early presidents were Nat Fleischer of the “Bible of Boxing” Ring Magazine, and boxing writer Ed Sullivan, who later changed hats and gave black and white TV viewers a “Really big shew” every Sunday night at 8:00 pm. In the late 1970s, I was a wide-eyed neophyte boxing writer doing a full page of boxing every Monday for the News World in New York City. In fact, I was the only full- time boxing writer employed for any daily newspaper in the City of New York. So, I summoned the courage and applied for admittance into the hallowed BWAA.

Unfortunately, I was not met with open arms.

The old fogies in the Boxing Writers Association probably thought if your name is Joe Bruno and you were born and raised in the Mafia territory in Little Italy, I had to be somehow connected to “The Boys.” They had already rid boxing of Frankie Carbo and Blinkie Palermo (two paisans who ran boxing with an iron fist and steel bullets for many years, and went to prison for their troubles). So accepting another vowel-ending member was not on the top of their list of important things to do.

Yet, after careful consideration (and maybe the fear of having their knees broken), I was reluctantly issued my BWAA membership card.

My heart fluttered as I sat down and broke bread with my early sports writing heroes—Red Smith and Dick Young. But I was soon shocked and dismayed to find out that the majority of the members were not boxing writers at all, but in fact public relations people, most working for various boxing promoters throughout the country. Sure, there were crack boxing scribes like Mike Katz, then of the New York Times, and Eddie Schuyler of Associated Press. But the men who carried most of the weight and made all of the decisions were the late Murray Goodman (PR person for Don King), Irving Rudd (Bob Arum), BWAA recording secretary Tommy Kenville (Madison Square Garden), John Condon (Madison Square Garden), Trish McCormick (Madison Square Garden), and independent PR persons-for-hire Rich Rose, Irvin Rosey, Eddie Pitcher, Harold Conrad, Howie Dolgon and Patti Dreyfus. There were more boxing press agents who were also voting members, but their names and faces now escape me.

The secretary-treasurer of the BWAA for as many years as anyone could remember was the intensely disliked Marvin Kohn, whose claim to fame was that he was Sophie Tucker’s press agent sometime in the Roaring Twenties. Kohn was also an influential long-time commissioner at the New York State Athletic Commission, and he used his power there as a lead weight to beat into submission anyone who dared to challenge his clout in the Boxing Writers Association. (As treasurer, Kohn hoarded the organization’s monies accumulated throughout the years, and at every meeting Dick Young demanded an accounting of the funds and was never given one. Young died in 1987, and Kohn died a few years later, and as far as I know, the mystery of the BWAA riches died with him.)

The private interests of the powerful press agents became evident when we held our yearly luncheon to nominate people for our prestigious awards presented at our yearly bigwig BWAA Dinner held in some hallowed hotel in New York City. Nominations were taken for Fighter of the Year, Manager/Trainer of the Year, TV Media Person of the year, Boxing Writer of the Year, and other illustrious awards such as the James J. Walker Award for “long and meritorious service to the sport of boxing.” (Why such an important award was given in the name of a New York Mayor who was so disgraced he resigned from office and fled the country before he was arrested was never explained.)

The procedure for accepting nominations were like this: You raised your hand and named anyone you damn well pleased. That name was immediately accepted into nomination, and when five or six names were compiled, the nomination was closed. Secret ballots were sent out weeks later, and votes were counted, but since some of the press agents did the actual counting, the ballots were hardly secret at all.

I got my first whiff of a possible conflict of interest when Murray Goodman nominated his boss Don King for the James J. Walker Award in 1981. King’s “long and meritorious service to boxing” at that time was a whole five years, but when you were as old as Murray was, I guess you lose track of time.

The following month during the winter holiday season, King threw a holiday extravaganza at a famous New York City nightclub. Invited were certain boxers, trainers and managers, but the main recipients of King’s largesse were the fifty or so member of the Boxing Writers Association of America who would vote for the awards right after the first of the year. The dinner was more lavish than most weddings I’ve attended in New York City. There was an open bar from 6:00 pm to midnight, and the dinner consisted of Prime Ribs and Lobster tails.

But the biggest hint that King wanted bang for his buck was when after the dinner Murray Goodman went around to each member of the BWAA and handed us a gift, saying, “When you vote next month for the James J. Walker Award, don’t forget to vote with your conscience.”

I tugged open the holiday wrappings and came face to face with a huge silver platter with the King’s name and logo stuck smack in the middle. This platter had to cost close to five hundred dollars in 1981 money. I was so shocked by the offering and the innuendo, and I couldn’t figure out what to do with the damn thing anyway, I almost handed the platter back to Murray.

But more on that later.

Then, Murray and King made the rounds of all the boxing writers, and King offered each one of us his personal holiday greetings. By the time he caught up with me, I was wobbling at the bar near midnight banging down my second dozen scotch and sodas with TV sports maven Bill Mazer and New York Post boxing writer Mike Marley.

The “King and I” had our personal problems in the past, so I saw he was somewhat reluctant to shake my hand. But good old Murray, whom I actually loved dearly, basically prodded King into extending me his hand.

King towered over me and said something like “Happy Holidays and thanks for coming.”

I shook hands with the big lug. And after our hands disengaged, I looked up and timidly said, “Don, thanks for inviting me. This is one of the best parties I’ve ever been invited to. And next month when I vote for the James J. Walker Award, I WILL vote with my conscience. I’m voting for Eddie Futch!”

I next saw the same look King must have given poor Samuel Garrett before King stomped him to death on a sidewalk in Cleveland in 1966.

King grimaced, he growled, he gurgled, and then he spat out, “You guinea bastard!”

Murray jumped between us before The King and I went at it, and since I’m pretty good with my hands, and King obviously only with his feet, I had felt real good about my chances.

The next month, Eddie Futch won the James J. Walker Award in a runaway, and that was the last holiday party, not to mention the last silver platter, that to my knowledge, Don King has ever given to the members of the BWAA.

But let’s get back to the silver platter.

I immediately presented the platter to my Aunt Frances, who was given a little puppy for Christmas by her son, my cousin Johnny. Aunt Frances used the silver platter as a feeding dish for her new dog, who she fondly named “King.”

You can’t make up stuff like this.

Joe Bruno is the author of 17 books, including “Mobsters, Gangs, Crooks, and Other Creeps – Volumes 1-5” and “Whitey Bulger – The Biggest Rat.” Joe Bruno’s Amazon Author Page can here seen here. Also visit his blog, “Joe Bruno on the Mob.”

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Joe Bruno on the Mob – Virginia Hill – Part 2

Posted in Cosa Nostra, criminals, crooks, Drug dealers, Drugs, Gangs, gangsters, Italian Americans, labor unions, mafia, Mexico, mobs, Mobsters, murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

In July 1938, the Chicago Outfit sent Hill, along with her brother Chick, to Mexico to make drug connections for future dealings. No drugs were obtained, but Hill reported to her superiors that her contacts were secure and were waiting for the word, and for the money, to complete the drug transactions that would make her bosses very rich.

While waiting for the word from up top about the Mexican caper, Hill and her brother rented an apartment in the Garden of Allah on Havenhurst Street. Hill passed the time drinking and dancing at the local hotspots, including the Trocadero, the Mocambo, and the Brown Derby. During her regular jaunts, Hill met Hollywood heartthrob Errol Flynn, who was known to hit from both sides of the plate. Flynn liked what he saw in Hill, and soon they were an item – albeit for a very short time (the oft-used phrase “In Like Flynn” – was coined for Flynn’s sexual escapades).

One night, the odd couple got so soused in the Brown Derby, Hill and Flynn wound up in a drunken brawl with another couple, which Hill allegedly started by socking a young lady who looked at Hill, as far as Hill was concerned, not a in proper way.

In late 1938, after she got the word from her bosses in the Chicago Outfit, Hill traveled back to Mexico to complete her drug transactions. Hill was not only a good-looker out for a good time, but the Outfit discovered she was a good earner to boot. And mob bosses love nothing better than having someone in their employ sending substantial amounts of cash up the ladder and into their deep pockets.

Now flush with dough, Hill decided to do a little man-hunting in Brownsville, TX. In December of 1938, Hill hit a few local dives and soon she was seen by Federal agents in the company of Carlos “Miguelito” Valdez. Hill and Valdez went at it hot and heavy for a while, but when Hill found out Valdez was basically broke and looking for a woman to support him, she dropped him like a bad habit.

Hill exited Texas and made her way to Alabama. There she met (in a bar of course) Osgood Griffin, a 19-year-old football player at the University of Alabama. Griffin’s family was one of the richest in the state of Alabama and Hill saw dollar signs flittering in front of her face.

On the night they met, Hill seduced Griffin in her car. The young man was so enamored with Hill’s sexual capabilities, he proposed to her that very night. They soon married on January 13, 1939; one-way liaison where Hill could get her hands on some cold hard cash without having to do the mob’s dangerous work.

With the wedding ring still on her finger and the marriage license locked in a safe place, Hill left Griffin flat in days and traipsed back to Hollywood. There she hooked up with playboy Pasquale “Pat” Deciccio, whose ex-wife, actress Thelma Todd, had died in 1935 under suspicious circumstances.

Todd was the Depression Era “Queen of Comedy” and was known to her friends as “The Ice Cream Blond,” and “Hot Toddy.” However, Todd was a hopeless junkie and New York gangster, Lucky Luciano, a close associate of Bugsy Siegel’s, kept Todd constantly high on amphetamines in order to keep her under his control; or so he thought. By this time, Todd was divorced from Deciccio, but since Deciccio was pals with Luciano, the divorced couple spent considerable time together, at Luciano’s request, of course

Todd was the owner of “Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café” at 17575 Pacific Coast Highway, in Pacific Palisades, between Santa Monica and Malibu. Luciano’s plan was to convert the top floor of Todd’s joint into an illegal gambling palace. One night at the Brown Derby, with Deciccio present, Luciano laid out his plans to Todd.

The “Blond Bombshell” jumped to her feet and yelled, “Over my dead body!”

Luciano smiled, puffed on a cigarette, and said, “That can be arranged.”

Less than a week later, Todd was found dead in her car in the garage of her café. The official report was that she apparently fell asleep in her car and died from carbon monoxide poisoning which was spewing from the tailpipe of her Lincoln Phaeton convertible; top up, of course. There were unconfirmed rumors that she was last seen drunk in the company of Deciccio.

Deciccio and Hill had their short fling, and Deciccio was nice enough to introduce Hill to star actor George Raf,t who was known for his gangster parts and his gangster friends from his old neighborhood in New York City – Hell’s Kitchen. Through Raft, Hill reunited with Siegel and they stared going at it hot and heavy.

For pocket money, Hill rushed through a divorce from Griffin, and Siegel, a true homicidal manic and movie-star handsome, considered Hill his personal property. He called Hill his “Flamingo” (a slightly better nickname than “Tabby”), and even though they were not living together, Siegel and Hill were the talk of the town.

Unfortunately, neither one had the slightest intention of being faithful to the other.

In the fall of 1939, Hill took a leave of absence from Siegel to do a little drug work in Mexico for the Chicago Outfit. Siegel understood Hill was an important clog in the Outfit’s machinery, and besides, he had a few dolls on the side whom he wasn’t giving the attention they required. The ladies Siegel bedded while Hill was on the move included Wendy Barry, Marie McDonald, and Italian Countess Dorothy diFrasso.  Even though Siegel was busy keeping his broads happy, just to keep himself from getting rusty, he lusted to do a little killing for his pals on the East Coast.

Siegel got his wish, when in late 1939, on orders from New York City Jewish mob boss Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, Siegel was ordered to arrange the demise of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg, an old crony who was singing like a canary to the Feds. A mob rat told Lepke that Greenberg was hiding near Los Angeles, and since Siegel was in the area, Lepke figured Siegel was the perfect man to arrange the job.

Lepke ordered Siegel to put together a team of experts; two men for the actual shooting; one man to steal a car for the hit, and another to drive the “crash car” after Greenberg was toast (The crash car was always a legitimate registered car, so the driver could claim, after a crash either with a police car in pursuit of the killers, or a civic-minded civilian’s car in on the chase, that he had just lost control of his car).

Siegel summoned Frankie Carbo and Allie “Tick Tock” Tannenbaum from New York City to be the shooters. Whitey Krakow, Siegel’s bother-in-law from New York City, was ordered to steal a car for Carbo and Tannenbaum to drive to and from the scene of the murder. As for the crash car, Siegel decided to use his own Cadillac and do the driving himself. This was against the advice of Lepke, but no one could tell Siegel what to do when he made up his mind.

“We all begged Bugsy to keep out of the shooting,” Lepke’s pal Doc Stracher said years later. “He was too big a man by this time to become personally involved. But Bugsy wouldn’t listen. He said Greenberg was a menace to all of us and if the cops grabbed him he could tell the whole story of our outfit back to the 1920s.”

Surveillance on Greenberg’s residence revealed that Greenberg was little more than a recluse. He never left his residence at 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive in the outskirts of Bel Air, except for his nightly 15-minute drive, each way, to get a newspaper in town. Greenberg told his wife that his little nightly excursion “kept him from blowing his top.”

On Nov. 22, 1939, Thanksgiving Eve, just after dark, Tannenbaum picked up the car Krakow had stolen from a parking lot near Siegel’s office in downtown Los Angeles. Then Tannenbaum drove Siegel and Carbo to Siegel’s home to pick up Siegel’s Cadillac. The two cars, with Carbo in Siegel’s car, drove to a spot a several houses down from the Greenberg residence They watched, as a few hours later Greenberg emerged from his house, looked carefully both ways (missing the two parked cars down the block), got into his car and sped away. Carbo then emerged from Siegel’s car, slithered down the block, and hid in the bushes near Greenberg’s house.

            Like clockwork, just over 30 minutes later, Greenberg turned the corner of Yucca Street and headed toward 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive. Greenberg’s car passed the two parked cars, but both Tannenbaum and Siegel had slid down in their seats so they could not be seen. A spit second later, Tannenbaum flashed his headlights, just for an instant, alerting Carbo, who was waiting in the wings ready to exit stage right into a murder scene. While Greenberg tried to get out of his car, Carbo sped from the shadows and pumped five bullets into Greenberg’s head.

Carbo raced back to the stolen car and jumped in next to Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum sped away; with Siegel in his “crash” Cadillac following close behind. The two cars rushed to a preordained spot where they met with another co-conspirator waiting in a third car. The third chap turned out to be Champ Segal, a small-time criminal who was always willing to help the big boys with whatever. Segal drove Tannenbaum and Carbo to San Francisco where Tannenbaum hopped on a plane back East.

            While Siegel was busy with the Greenberg caper and his many lady friends, Hill and her brother Chick made frequent trips between Chicago, Los Angeles and Mexico; shuttling drugs and money back and forth between the three cities. While in Mexico, Hill became friendly with Chato Juarez, the son of the Mexican minister of finance, and Major Luis Amezcua, a noteworthy Mexican politician, who help greased the skids for Hill to safely make her drug ventures in and out of Mexico.

During this same period of time, even though she was still ostensibly Siegel’s girl, Hill bedded down John Roselli, whom the Chicago outfit had sent out west to work under West Coast mob boss Jack Dragna. It was through Roselli that Hill was to relay information about Siegel’s activities in California to Chicago, who in turn relayed this information to Siegel’s partners in New York City. The truth was, neither the Chicago mob, nor the New York mob trusted Siegel, and Hill was their conduit to make sure Siegel was not cutting out his partners, in both cities, of what was rightfully theirs.

On Jan. 20, 1940, Hill married Juarez. Love was the not reason, but rather this marriage allowed Juarez to enter the United States  legally, so that Juarez could consolidate his and Hill’s drug alliances.

While still married to Juarez, Hill played heavy beats with drummer Gene Krupa for a short while, and then hooked back up with Roselli. Jack Dragna, through Roselli, ordered Hill to be the Trojan horse in Bugsy Siegel’s camp. Hill whispered the right things into Siegel’s ears, and soon she and her brother Chick moved into a house with Siegel at 250 Delfern Ave.

Joe Bruno on the Mob – The Murder of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg

Posted in criminals, crooks, Drugs, FBI, Gangs, gangsters, labor unions, mafia, mobs, Mobsters, murder, New York City, New York City murder, organized crime, police, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2012 by Joe Bruno's Blogs

He was a mob insider, whom his former pal Louie “Lepke” Buchalter” decided knew too much to live. As a result, Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg became the victim of the first mob hit ever in the sunny state of California.

Harry Greenberg, who also went under the names of Harry Schacter and Harry Schober, grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with Lepke and Lepke’s longtime partner Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro, who were affectionately known as the “Gorilla Boys,” and then, as they became more prosperous — the “Gold Dust Twins.” Greenberg was tight with the two murderers, and was their partner in various garment center businesses, and swindles. Apparently a few murders were involved, and while there is no evidence that Greenberg participated in any of these these murders, he sure knew about the murders, and why they were committed. Maybe Greenberg even knew who had committed those murders. That knowledge turned out to be not such a good thing in the wicked world of Louis “Lepke” Buchalter.

Greenberg palled out with Lepke and Shapiro, and he even spent the better part of his summers with them at the Loch Sheldrake Country Club, in the Catskills in upstate New York, owned by legitimate businessman named Sam Tannenbaum. Sam Tannenbaum had a teenage son named Allie, who who worked at the hotel, either waiting tables, or setting up beach chairs by the lake. Sam had hoped that Allie would be his heir apparent at the hotel when Sam decided to retire, but Allie was destined for bigger and better things.

Or so Allie thought.

At the end of the summer in 1931, Tannenbaum was strolling down Broadway in Manhattan, when he bumped into Greenberg.

Greenberg asked Tannenbaum, “Do you want a job?”

“I could use one, if it pays,” Tannenbaum said.

Greenberg smiled. “This one is for Lepke. You know what kind of a job it will be.”

Unwittingly, Greenberg had just helped hire one of his own killers.

As time passed, Tannenbaum rose up the ladder in Lepke’s “Murder Incorporated,” which was a mob subsidiary, whose only purpose was to kill anyone that the top mob bosses in New York City, and later, mob bosses all over America, said needed to be killed.

Things started to go south for Lepke, when in 1936, Special Prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who had already put Lucky Luciano, Lepke’s partner in the National Crime Syndicate, in jail for a 30-year bit, set his sights directly on Lepke. Dewey went after Lepke’s garment center rackets, and Lepke’s shakedown “Bakers Union.” However, these swindles were small potatoes compared to what Dewey really had in mind for Lepke. Convicted drug dealers always did substantial time in prison, so Dewey convinced the Federal Narcotic Bureau to build a case against Lepke, in a massive drug-smuggling operation. Figuring he was facing big-time in the slammer, Lepke went on the lam. Lepke was hidden in several Brooklyn hideouts by his Murder Incorporated co-leader Albert Anastasia, while Lepke’s rackets were tended to by other Syndicate leaders.

While Lepke was in hiding, he started thinking about who knew enough about his rackets to put Lepke in jail for a very long time, if not right into the electric chair. Lepke got word to all his killers, and anyone in the know, to either “Get out of town, or die.” Lepke’s thinking was, if any of his men got arrested, they might squeal on him in order to work out a better deal for themselves. It turned out that Lepke was right to worry about this, and that’s why in the spring of 1939, Lepke sent word to “Big Greenie” Greenberg to lam it out of town.

Greenberg took Lepke’s “advice” to heart and he hightailed it up to Montreal, Canada. While in Montreal, Greenberg got to thinking, “Hey, I’m up here in nowhere Canada, and I can’t even earn a decent dime. These guys better start taking care of me good.”

As a result, “Big Greenie” Greenberg did something very stupid. He sent a letter to Mendy Weiss, who was Lepke’s second-in-command in Murder Inc., saying, “I hope you guys aren’t forgetting about me. You better not.” Then he asked Weiss for a reported $5,000 to help him fight the cold weather in Canada.

Greenberg waited for a response, or the money, or both. When he got neither, he got to thinking again. “Hey maybe, sending that letter was not such a great idea.”

By this time, Weiss, after conferring with Lepke, had already given the order to Tannenbaum to go up to Canada and erase Big Greenie from Lepke’s list of “people to worry about.” But when Tannenbaum arrived in Montreal, Big Greenie had already flown the coop, and was officially a “lamster,” not only from the law, but from the guys he thought were his best friends.

Greenberg figured he’d hightail it up to Detroit, where the “Purple Gang,” another subsidiary of the National Crime Syndicate, might be nice enough to stake him a few bucks, and maybe even give Greenberg a safe place to hide. The Purple Gang, run by Sammy Coen, whose nickname was Sammy Purple, was very nice to Greenberg; too nice Greenberg thought. While he waited for some stake money, Big Greenie started thinking again, and he came up with the notion that the Purple Gang was stalling him so that killers from New York City could travel up there to do the big job on Big Greenie.

“They must have checked the New York office,” Greenberg figured. “The New York boys must have told them, ‘Keep him in tow until we get a couple of boys up there.’”

Greenberg was right. Tannenbaum and two other gunsels were in route to Detroit at the precise time Greenberg decided to take Horace Greeley’s advice and “Go West young man.”

Greenberg went as far west as he could without swimming, and he stopped in Hollywood, California, the new hometown of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, a top boss in Murder Incorporated, and one of the few killers who thoroughly relished doing his job.

Siegel had been sent out to California in 1937 by the National Crime Syndicate to take control of all the illegal activities in the state, which was considered virgin territory by the East Coast mob. After organizing the syndicate’s gambling interests, Siegel decided there was big money to be made by unionizing the Hollywood extras.

You could have the biggest movie stars, the best scripts, and the finest producers and directors, but without extras, most movies could never get made. So Siegel unionized the extras and collected tidy sums from each and every one of them for the privilege of appearing, if only a few seconds, in a Hollywood production. Siegel even became a movie extra himself.

However, that was chump change compared to what Siegel really had in mind.

Tall and Hollywood-handsome, Siegel inveigled himself into the upper reaches of the Hollywood elite. He dated starlets two at a time, and even had a hot and heavy affair with an Italian Countess. The top actors and actresses of that time were Siegel’s best friends, but they learned fast being pals with a man known as Bugsy (no one ever called him “Bugsy” to his face) was an easy way to put a huge dent in your bank account.

Using the same technique he learned from Lepke in the labor unions, Siegel approached the biggest stars with his smooth line of patter. He would romance the female stars, then scare the hell out of them with his reputation, and a few pointed words. But with male stars, Siegel got straight to the point

With a notebook and pen in Siegel’s hands, the conversation would go something like this, “Hey look chum, I’m putting you down for $10,000 for the extras.”

“What kind of deal is this?” the actor would protest. “What have I got to do with the extras?”

Siegel would then shake his head, like a father disgusted at an ignorant child. “I don’t think you understand. Take your new picture, for instance. Every thing’s ready to go. But what happens if the extras go out on strike? That means the stagehands go out on strike too, because they’re all union. So there goes your picture.”

Without blinking an eye, every Hollywood star Siegel approached, without exception, paid up and paid up good. In 1940, when the Fed got a warrant for Siegel’s thirty-five room Holmby Hill’s mansion, they found in a safe upstairs a detailed accounting of the “loans” Siegel received for all the top Hollywood names. In one year alone, Bugsy Siegel had shaken-down actors and actresses to the fine tune of $400,000. And no one even complained to the cops. These frightened Hollywood suckers even palled out with Siegel while he was sticking his hands deep into their pockets.

So when the word came from back east that Greenberg was in Hollywood, of course Siegel was given the contract. Now, usually a man of Siegel’s stature would just give out the orders, and maybe help with the planning. But Siegel insisted, against the advice of Lepke, on getting in on the actual Greenberg murder himself.

Bugsy just loved a good killing.

“We all begged Bugsy to keep out of the shooting,” Lepke’s pal Doc Stracher said years later. “He was too big a man by this time to become personally involved. But Bugsy wouldn’t listen. He said Greenberg was a menace to all of us and if the cops grabbed him he could tell the whole story of our outfit back to the 1920s.”

At Newark Airport, just before he boarded a flight to Hollywood, Tannenbaum was given a small doctor’s instrument bag by the boss of New Jersey mob himself: Abner “Longie” Zwillman. Inside this bag were several “clean” guns, which were to be used in the Greenberg Hollywood caper.

In the meantime, Siegel was assembling his “hit team,” which included Whitey Krakow, Siegel’s bother-in-law from New York City, and Frankie Carbo, a Lower East Side thug and Murder Inc. operative, who had already been arrested 17 times, and charged with five murders, but none of the charges had resulted in Carbo doing any significant time in prison. Carbo was also a bigtime fight promoter and manager, and many of his top-notch fighters were suspected of not giving their best effort when their boss and his pals had bet bigtime on the other man.

Now came the issue of obtaining a getaway car.

Sholem Bernstein, an independent operator from New York City, just happened to be vacationing in Hollywood, when he decided to visit his old pal Benny Siegel. Soon, Bernstein would be sorry he ever made that visit.

Before even the small talk began, Siegel got right to the point.

“Clip a car,” Siegel barked at Bernstein. “Leave it in the parking lot down the street.”

Bernstein, a veteran at these sort of things, looked perplexed. Usually, when he clipped a car, he hid it in a private garage where the police wouldn’t be able to see it.

“A parking lot?” Bernstein said.

“That’s right,” Siegel snapped. “Just do as I say?”

So, Bernstein clipped a car and parked it in the open parking lot, just as Siegel had requested. Almost immediately, the owner of the stolen car filed a police report. Because they were on the lookout for the stolen car, the cops spotted the car right out in the open and returned it to its rightful owner.

Despite this misfortune, Siegel told Bernstein to clip another car. Bernstein said he would, and he even told Siegel how he usually operated. “Then you get license plates off another car that you case to see the owner only uses it once in a while, like a Sunday driver,” Bernstein said. “By the time the guy find out, you got the job done, and the cops are looking for him – why are his plates on a hit car. Then you…”

Siegel cut Bernstein off in mid-sentence.

The veins bulging in his neck, Siegel said, “Who the hell are you, coming in and telling me how to do a job? Out here it goes my way. And don’t you forget it.”

Even though Bernstein was in Hollywood on vacation, the mob rules were when a mob boss tells you to do something, you do it, or you’re dead. But Bernstein figured, when he was back in New York City and asked to do a job, the mob bosses, because Bernstein was a capable freelancer, let him handle things his own way. Now, since Siegel was dictating terms, Bernstein felt he was under no obligation to continue with the job. So Bernstein jumped in his car and headed back to New York City, which displeased Siegel to no end, and caused him to find someone else to pilfer a car for the Greenberg caper. Fuming, Siegel now wanted Bernstein dead.

But more on that later.

By this time, the surveillance on Greenberg’s residence at 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive revealed that Greenberg was little more than a recluse. He never left home, except for his nightly 15-minute drive, each way, to get a newspaper in nearby Bel Air. Greenberg told his wife that his little nightly excursion “kept him from blowing his top.”

On the night of November 22, 1939, Thanksgiving Eve, a gunmen blew Goldstein’s top for him.

Just after dark, Tannenbaum picked up the stolen car from the parking lot. Then he drove Siegel and Carbo to Siegel’s home to pick up Siegel’s Cadillac, which was to be used as a crash car in case the cops, or a nosy bystander, decided to chase them after the deed was done. The two cars, with Carbo in Siegel’s car, then drove to a spot a several houses down from Greenberg’s residence. They watched as a few hours later, Greenberg emerged from his house, looked carefully both ways (missing the two parked cars down the block), got into his car and sped away. Carbo then emerged from Siegel’s car, slithered down the block, and hid in the bushes near Greenberg’s house.

Like clockwork, just over 30 minutes later, Greenberg turned the corner of Yucca Street and headed toward 1804 N. Vista De Mar Drive. Greenberg’s car passed the two parked cars, but both Tannenbaum and Siegel had slid down in their seats so they could not be seen. A spit second later, Tannenbaum flashed his headlights, just for an instant, alerting Carbo, who was waiting in the wings ready to exit stage right into a murder scene. As Greenberg tried to exit his car, Carbo sped from the shadows and pumped five bullets into Greenberg’s head.

Then Carbo raced back to the stolen car and jumped in next to Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum sped away, with Siegel in his crash Cadillac following close behind. (The crash car was always a legitimate registered car, so the driver could claim after a crash, either with a police car, or a civic-minded civilian’s car, that he had just lost control of his car.). The two cars rushed to a preordained spot where they met with another co-conspirator waiting in a third car. The third chap turned out to be Champ Segal, a small-time criminal who was always willing to help the big boys with whatever. Segal immediately drove Tannenbaum to San Francisco, where, mission accomplished, Tannenbaum hopped on a plane back East.

While Greenberg was being filled with lead, his wife Ida was inside their house waiting for her husband’s return. She was called to testify at the 1940 Harry Greenberg murder trial of Siegel (Carbo was scheduled to be tried at a separate trial, and Tannenbaum had turned rat, ready to fly out to California to testify at both trials).

On the stand, Ida Greenberg said, “I was reading and suddenly I heard a few shots, and because they were so fast and because I heard a car drive away, I thought they were backfires. But finally I got out of bed and went downstairs. I recognized the car and I saw a great amount of blood outside the car. I opened the door and there was my husband. I started screaming for help.”

During Siegel’s trial, Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, who had also turned canary and was the corroborating witness the prosecution needed to convict Siegel and later Carbo in California, suddenly flew out of the sixth-story window of the Half Moon Hotel in Coney Island. At the time, Reles was under 24-hour police guard, even while he was sleeping. However, the official police report said Reles died “trying to escape by lowering himself down the side of the hotel using several bedsheets.” How this was possible with a policeman supposedly in Reles’ bedroom was never fully explained by the police. Frank Costello later said he had spread $50,000 around the New York City police department to get rid of Reles. It was also rumored, the police guarding Reles were the ones who threw Reles out of the window.

The case against Siegel also went “out the window” with Reles, and the charges against Siegel were dismissed due to lack of evidence.

Carbo was tried in California a few months later, but due to the lack of corroborating evidence of Tannenbaum’s testimony by Reles, his case ended in a hung jury. Carbo was set to be tried a second time, but according to Burton Turkus, New York City District Attorney William O’Dwyer, who had Tannenbaum under wraps, refused to allow Tannenbaum to travel back to California to testify at Carbo’s second trial. As a result, the charges against Carbo were dropped, and no one was ever convicted of the murder of Harry “Big Greenie” Greenberg.

Still, Siegel had a stone in his shoe and that stone was named Sholem Bernstein.

There was a system the National Crime Commission had in place for settling matters of dispute. Bernstein couldn’t be touched by Siegel unless Siegel had the permission of the boss of Bernstein’s New York City territory. The New York City bosses considered Bernstein one of their best men and refused to harm a hair on his head. But Siegel was adamant that Bernstein must die, so this compelled Siegel to fly to New York City in order to plead his case for the death penalty for Bernstein.

The National Crime Commission prided itself on its internal justice system. Every man who was targeted to death by someone, was allowed to have his case pleaded in a kangaroo court, usually by someone with pull within the organization. The man who took Bernstein’s part was none other then Abe Reles, who had not yet turned canary, and was still very much alive. As was shown when he took the stand against his old friends, Reles had a way with words, and he could be very convincing when he got the urge, which, considering his career, was quite often.

The sitdown took place in midtown hotel room, with a nine-member panel deciding on the fate of Bernstein, of which there was no appeal process possible. Siegel pleaded his case first, firmly stating that Bernstein was on a job, and not only had disobeyed direct orders, but had fled the scene before his job was completed. Siegel pointed out that the penalty for this was death. Period.

Now it was Reles’ turn.

Reles began by saying he was calling no witnesses. He also admitted that his client – Bernstein – had indeed fled California before he was able to steal the much-needed second murder car. And then Reles went on to explain why his client was completely innocent of all the charges.

Reles told the panel, “The same day Ben gave him the contract, Sholem got word from New York that his mama is going to cash in. Sholem is a good boy. His mama is dying; he figures he should go there. You all know how a mama is. It makes it easier for her to go if her boy is sitting there by the bed, saying nice things – like he loves her and she is getting better and like that.”

“So Sholem doesn’t even think of a contract. He don’t think of nothing. He lams out of L.A. and hustles home to be with his mother when she checks out. He drives day and night. All he wants is to hold her hand. He is a good boy.”

Reles’ put his chin up into the air and raised his voice an octave. “And that gentlemen,” he said, “that is why Sholem left town. Not on account of ducking the contract. But on account his mama is kicking off.”

When Reles had finished, there was not a dry eye in the room; not even Siegel’s. Bernstein was unanimously acquitted, and Ben Siegel flew back to California, only to have his own murder contract approved by the National Crime Syndicate, and summarily executed, on June 20, 1947.