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Best of Howard Schwartz

Gaming Guru

 

Mickey Cohen bio; Golf Betting Guide

19 July 2007

Two new and diverse titles have arrived at Gambler's Book Shop -- one with a mob flair, the other about the "monetary front lines of golf" (betting for money) -- and each should be a hit with its particular fan base.

Brad Lewis has penned a beauty titled Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster: The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen (396 pages, paperbound, $22), while Michael Bohn focuses on Money Golf: 600 Years of Bettin' On Birdies (277 pages, hardbound, $25.95).

Mickey Cohen, who died in 1976, was a colorful, feared West Coast gangster-gambler who knew the biggest names in Hollywood including the Rat Pack, was a bodyguard for Bugsy Siegel, a friend of Las Vegas' late Liz Renay and on first names with the biggest guys in the Mafia. Well-indexed and illustrated, Lewis book about Cohen draws from thousands of resources -- a virtual treasure trove of Mafia-related books, articles and interviews.

The book is divided into five parts: Cohen's early days from 1913 to 1938, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles; from 1938 to 1947 Headliners: Mickey and Bugsy; 1947 to 1955 Mickey, The Celebrity; 1955 to 1967, Mickey Redux; and 1967 to 1976, The Survivor.

Each section has something for everyone interested in the Mob with theories on who shot Bugsy in 1947; a look at the early days of Las Vegas and why Cohen liked certain hotels; and his connection with Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Cohen was a survivor. Not a big man (he was five-five), he managed to survive gang wars; feuds; the federal government's attempts to put him away; and he had some of the biggest name lawyers representing him.

His real name was Meyer Harris (Michael) Cohen and there's some doubt to when he was born (1911, 1913 or 1914) "purportedly" in Brownsville's section of Brooklyn, but he grew up in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles. He'd get educated later on the streets of New York, Chicago and Detroit.

Cohen's life crossed the lives of many. The book's index includes the Mob's Albert Anastasia; stripper Candy Barr; Hollywood big shot Harry Cohn; Frank Costello; gangster Jack Dragna; Jimmy Fratianno; Momo Giancana; J. Edgar Hoover; racket investigator Estes Kefauver; Mob brain Meyer Lansky; actor George Raft; the dapper Johnny Rosselli; ; President John Kennedy and his brother Robert.

This is both a fascinating history of time gone by and a biography of a survivor and Lewis has written it with flash and substance.

One can only guess at how many millions of dollars have changed hands on the golf courses of this country and others. Michael Bohn's Money Golf is the first to look at the phenomenon from a historical perspective (from 1300 to the 21st Century).

"Gambling at golf is all about using psychology and human nature to your advantage," one world class golfer says.

"For (a) hustle to work, both sides of the wager must think they have the upper hand. The hustler is sure of it, but his opponent is convinced the odds or the proposition favors himself, largely because of some misrepresentation by the hustler," Bohn explains.

It's these little "tidbits of philosophy," mixed in with actual situations and "set-ups" that keeps this book rolling, with big names, big bucks and fascinating fleecing at times.

There are slices of life about Titanic Thompson, who died in a Texas nursing home in 1974. "Legend has it he was hustling his fellow patients out of their Social Security checks until the end," Bohn says. Thompson's son says his father got up every morning "looking for action."

"The money was just the way of keeping score. He lived for that action until the day he died," Thompson added.

Golfers who bet or those fascinated with the concept will love this book. There's betting advice; definitions of terms; you'll learn about the variety of betting propositions which exist; about Calcuttas; hustlers and hustling; betting by caddies; poker players like Doyle Brunson and Dewey Tomko; millionaire Billy Walters' high stakes action; and most of all, don't be surprised if you find some of the biggest names in the history of the sport who have been "action players" and sometimes ended up as happy sheep.

Any item reviewed here is available from Gambler's Book Shop (Gambler's Book Club). The store's web site is www.gamblersbook.com . You may order there using MasterCard, VISA or Discover (no CODs please) or by phoning the store any day except Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time at 1-800-522-1777. Orders usually shipped the next working day. The store, now in its 40th year, is located a mile from downtown Las Vegas, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard at South 11th Street. You may view the store's complete array of books, videos and software via the Web site or request a hard copy of the catalog be mailed free and first class. The store's address is 630 S. 11th St., Las Vegas, NV 89101.

Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:

www.gamblersbook.com