Mickey Cohen Biography

PHOTO: Mickey Cohen

Mickey Cohen was Ben “Bugsy” Seigel’s darker half. While Bugsy dined with Hollywood’s royalty and bedded the stars, Mickey emptied their safes and broke their bones.

Mickey was a born hustler. His mother moved the family out of their Brooklyn slum to Los Angeles before Mickey was six years old. The Cohen’s ran a pharmacy and this being the time of Prohibition, Mickey’s brother ran one of the small gin-mills in the district. Mickey’s job was to deliver the moonshine.

Boxing became a practical passion for preteen Mickey, who often needed to defend his deliveries with his fists. At 15 he was a champion and, lying to his mother, he headed east to become a prize fighter.

In New York, Mickey met some of the city’s’ toughest crime bosses and, when he was beaten senseless in the ring and decided to change his career, there were plenty of outfits willing to hire his tough fists.

Mickey moved to Chicago, met Al Capone and worked for the Mafia’s gambling rackets. One day, walking down the street in his favourite camel hair coat, a mob hitman tried to assassinate Mickey. He survived unscathed, as did his coat, though the threat was enough for the ex-boxer to move back to LA to work with Bugsy.

Together, Mickey and Bugsy were an effective extension of the East Coast Syndicate on the West Coast. They changed organised crime in the West from a backwater operation into a multimillion dollar industry, that controlled narcotics, gambling, unions, and politics. After Bugsy was killed, Mickey was the mob's West muscle.

In 1961, Mickey was charged with tax evasion and sentenced to 15 years in Alcatraz. Two years into his sentence an inmate clobbered Mickey with a lead pipe, partially parallelizing the mobster. On his release in 1972, Mickey returned to live a quiet life with his old friends and follow the fights in LA.

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