Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
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Mickey to Hit Banquet Trail
Mickey Cohen, reputed former czar of a million-dollar bookie empire, is preparing to hit the banquet trail to spread the word that "crime don't pay."
Already a verbal-contract agreement has been reached between the ex-mobster and the head of a nationally known lecture agency, whose clients include U.S. senators, admirals and university presidents.
The agency, with offices here and in the East, reportedly is set to finalize negotiations within a few days.
The plan -- learned exclusively by the Mirror-News -- was confirmed to me today by Cohen and, in part, by the involved agency.
A spokeswoman for the lecture booking outfit admitted that preliminary conferences had been held, and that at present the agency was "feeling out the reaction."
"Whatever we do," she assured me excitedly, "we don't want to change Mr. Cohen's style of murdering the King's English.
"In person," she added, "he's quite a different man than I expected. He's -- I suppose I shouldn't say it -- but he's adorable."
Cohen, while not so lavish in praise of his own appearance and personality, pointed out in his conversation with me that he was fully qualified to speak on a variety of subjects.
" 'Crime Don't Pay' will be the theme," he explained, "but I can handle anything. Like 'Crime in Politics,' 'Juvenile Delinquency' and 'The Mafia.'
"The so-called Mafia," he corrected himself.
"What I'll do is tell them the experiences I went through," he said. "I'll show them that all is not gold that glitters. A fast buck ain't all that it's set up to be. Things like that."
Mickey explained that his decision to stump the fried chicken and mashed potato circuit was prompted by a conversation he had with Mirror-News columnist Drew Pearson on a recent trip east.
"Pearson told me I should give lectures," he said. "But I done it before. Once I spoke in Oxnard to 300 people. And another time, I spoke to a juvenile delinquency home in Banning."
"When you drive an expensive car and wear expensive clothes," I asked Mickey, "isn't it going to be hard to prove your point that crime doesn't pay?"
"I don't dress expensive," he replied. "I'm just neat."
I asked him what arguments he'd use to show that crime doesn't pay.
"I'll use me as an example," he said. "I'll them it's no good when you're notorious and you've got people pointing at you all the time.
"And," he added, "when you're harassed and bothered all the time by the police, it just don't pay."
He explained to me that the tentative format for his tour would be a lecture, followed by a question-and-answer session.
"Suppose somebody in the audience asks you how you can look so prosperous with no visible means of support, Mickey? How would you answer that?"
He was thoughtful, but only for the briefest moment. "I'll tell them," he said, "that I got a big borrowing capacity.
"Besides," he went on, "I'll be getting paid, remember? I used to do those lectures as favors. I didn't know there was dough in it."
Mickey admitted that he had some qualms about facing women's clubs around the country, but what he liked best was "straight from the shoulder" talks to juvenile delinquents.
Wants to Help a Little
"Like that time in Banning, he said, "I told those kids that if I could get one of them to go straight, I'd feel I done something."
I asked Mickey if he planned to make a specialty of lecturing to juveniles.
He shrugged. "I don't know whether the agency will book me in them places. I don't think those institutions have that kind of dough."
The lecture agency, which books speakers for the United States, Canada and Hawaii, has numbered among its clients Sen. Paul Douglas, Dr. Robert M. Hutchins, Drew Pearson, Sen. J. William Fulbright and Vice Admiral Munson.
The agency's spokeswoman assured me that such company wouldn't be too fast for Mickey.
"Our clients are all top men," she said, "but after all, Mr. Cohen, in a sense, was a captain of industry in his field.
"I think he'll be a tremendous hit with the women," she added. "He's really quite captivating."
Then, with a sigh, she concluded: "But maybe I'm prejudiced. I've always been intrigued by cops and robbers."
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