Articles by Dr. J. Michael Niotta PhD

The Man From Chicago: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 16: The Man from Chicago Mystery. Uncertainty. Confusion. Any of these words could describe the criminal climate of early L.A. Many questions remain in regard to the alliances and feuds among Italian gangsters of the Prohibition era. Who sat at the helm? Who vied for control? Who rallied together and who served as the opposition? Quite a few stabs at these riddles have been made, and yet “murky” still defines the kind of clarity…


Jack Dragna Biography: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 15: Jack Dragna Biography Jack Ignatius Dragna Born: Ignacio Dragna, Corleone, Sicily, April 18, 1891 Died: Hollywood, CA, February 23, 1956 Jack Dragna was an early influential Los Angeles figure who rose to prominence through bootlegging, political, and gambling endeavors. During the early part of prohibition, he helped quell the bloody vendetta between LA’s warring Sicilian clans and solidified this power under one banner. Heading up the “Organization” out West for a quarter century—from…


Singing Abe & the Drug Debacle: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 14: Singing Abe & the Drug Debacle Author’s note: My apologies on the delay in getting this newest installment ready. Following about a month of work helping out on the CARR Fire up near Redding, California, I was plenty busy preparing for my Las Vegas Mob Museum debut. I’m happy to say the September 22nd lecture on Jack Dragna and organized crime in Los Angeles was well received. Quite the honor, I was also…


The Italian Welfare League: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Author: J Michael Niotta Installment 13: The Italian Welfare League A lot of work has gone into shaping the Jack Dragna biography. The installment that follows consists of a few excerpts from a chapter on my great grandfather’s political and social club, the Italian Welfare League. Like Jack, the club is often misrepresented. Enjoy a little insight into the political plays LA’s Sicilians made during the middle and late twenties in order to combat their…


The East in the West: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 12: The East in the West Author’s Note: Before my last installment I took a poll to find out which Willie you wanted to see—Bioff or Moretti. Willie Moretti won the bout and appeared in NCS 11. Now you’ll get a taste of Bioff as well, so hopefully everyone’s happy. Keep on the look out for video clips from my recent panel on early Los Angeles mob activity at the Mob World Summit at…


The “Mercy” Hit on Willie Moretti: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 11: The “Mercy” Hit on Willie Moretti Author’s Note: I had such a great time at the MobWorld Summit out in Las Vegas. Wonderful to finally meet some of my readers and the fine folks I’ve been working with at the NCS. I have to admit it was pretty fun running around with Meyer Lansky II and socializing with other panelists. Thanks again to Larry Henry for putting it all together, to Geoff Schumacher…


A Truer LA Confidential: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 10: A Truer LA Confidential James Ellroy’s four book noir series, the L.A. Quartet, offers an exceedingly dark look at post World War II Los Angeles. Ellroy’s own losses and demons no doubt fueled this seedy world of fiction that he, to this day, continues to craft. As a boy of ten, Ellroy faced the murder of his mother, Geneva. After being picked up by a stranger late one night at the Desert Inn…


The Killing of Good Time Charlie: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 9: The Killing of Good Time Charlie Author’s Note: I’m looking forward to my panel on early Los Angeles mob activity at the soon coming MobWorld Summit happening this Father’s Day Weekend at the Plaza Hotel in the Las Vegas Fremont District. I hope to see you there. For the occasion of my two upcoming Vegas appearances (I will be lecturing at the Las Vegas Mob Museum as well; this September 22nd), I have…


Mayor, Mayor on the Wall: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 8: Mayor, Mayor on the Wall The level of corruption sanctioned in Los Angeles by way of the mayor’s office throughout the long stretch of prohibition, could easily fuel season after season of award winning television. From real estate scams and rigged elections, bootlegging and gambling houses, to bookmaking, prostitution, and alliances with criminals and shadowy organizations—every Los Angeles mayor who sat behind the desk during “the drought” dabbled in at least some form…


The Senator and the Shield: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 7: The Senator and the Shield RICO, the infamous Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970, is credited as one of the most effective tools in the fight against the national crime syndicate. It’s aim for the prosecution of top mob members over mere soldiers, is no doubt largely responsible for its level of success. Earlier introduced and lesser known, was another controversial legislative weapon; one which arrived on the law books not…


Prelude to the Kefauver Hearings: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Installment 6: Prelude to the Kefauver Hearings In April of 1950, the Senate Gambling Investigating Committee gathered in Washington DC. On the table, was a new bill that they expected would put “a ban on interstate transmission of race horse information.” Chairmen McFarland and his men were on a crusade to rid the nation of the racing wire service which “the country’s thousands of bookies” relied on. Though top officials from such major cities as…


The Curious Allegiances of Handsome Johnny: The Early Days of Los Angeles With Dr J. Michael Niotta

Similar to the way movie stars are fawned over and followed, a certain mystique also clings to the criminal element. And in rare instances, the celebrity and the gangster are even balled into one. Dillinger, Capone, and Bugsy are but a few examples of well-dress killers who reached media heights and fame during their lifetimes. And nearing a century later, the luster of the gangster genre hasn’t faded. Decades after the demise of each crime…