Early Days of Los Angeles

Jack Dragna Biography: The Early Days of Los Angeles

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…

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Prelude to the Kefauver Hearings: The Early Days of Los Angeles

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

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…


He Didn’t “Toot” His Own Horn: The Early Days of Los Angeles

The initial wave of gambling boats that hit the West during the roaring twenties, kicked off in the summer of 1927. Although Tony Cornero—the good looking racketeer with a reputation for being a straight shooter among thieves—is often crowned King of these floating casinos, he was actually nowhere to be found when the trade first got rolling. A short while after his 1926 bootlegging arrest, Cornero managed to escape custody. A wanted man, he fled…


On This “St Patrick’s” Day, 1934: The Early Days of Los Angeles

March of 1934 ushered in the first post-prohibition celebration of St Paddy’s. It had been fourteen years since America’s Irish immigrants celebrated properly. When the drought finally lifted, many a bootlegging entrepreneur made a quick leap into the gambling rackets. And those who’d already been juggling both enterprises thickened what they had in motion. Facilitating the shift, the timeline seemed to offer an almost seamless transition. Early in 1931, in an effort to counter the…


Shady Disney Characters Lurking in Los Angeles? The Early Days of Los Angeles

Author’s Note – These installments on early LA seek to highlight the lesser known events and relationships pertaining to crime activity in the Southland. They are also intended to clear the conjecture that continues to cloud the true events that transpired. As John Buntin so aptly penned in LA Noir, “Other cities have histories. Los Angeles has legends.” To add to this, in regard to the City of Angels, the early days were exciting enough…