Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates dubbed the Los Angeles Cosa Nostra "The Mickey Mouse Mafia."
It was a funny name and it stuck, but it diminished what they really were - anything but Mickey Mouse.
In the 70’s Jimmy Frattiano, along with Louie Dragna, had been acting bosses of the family while Dominic Brooklier and his underboss, Sam Scorintino were away (locked up) for just about two years. During this time, Jimmy had been making moves from California and Las Vegas to New York to make the family more known.
Jimmy put together deals and shook down outsiders operating in the LA Area. He sent his guys out to scare guys like the Labor Attorney who handled business for the Chicago Outfit. Jimmy’s guys grabbed bookies from other families that were showing up on the west coast that it was LA Family area and they had better “do the right thing”. He sent guys not only to FOREX (as told in Iast week’s post) but also to shake down porn kingpins like Rubin Sturman, who was based in Cleveland but was also operating on a large scale in the west coast’s Porn Valley outside Los Angeles.
Porn was a huge money maker for the Mafia. While some porn was shot in New York or San Francisco, the majority was shot in the San Fernando Valley just over the hill from Hollywood. The reason? So many people came to Hollywood to become stars and most never were able to make it. So you end up with a lot of pretty women looking for work. These actresses would answer newspaper ads for figure modeling and when they showed up, they were told they could make more money doing it nude. Then came the sell. They were promised they could make good money and not to worry, no one would ever know that they did it. That may have even been true back in those days when they shot porn on 35mm or 16mm film to be shown only in adult movie theaters or on stag reels. The audience was not large but with the advent of video it then became huge. The availability of equipment and those able to operate them also contributed to the growth of porn business in Hollywood. Most of the people who worked on regular films in Hollywood would moonlight between projects. It was a gray area business, while not fully legal, it was tolerated. It was illegal to shoot porn in LA but they printed it here and shipped it out. Porn sets would have guys with walkie talkies around the street looking for Vice cops who might come bust the set. There were guys on set waiting on hand in case of a raid. Their job was to take the shot film and hide it in a trunk a couple of blocks away. If a raid happened another guy was waiting to run away with the camera and another with the lenses.
The Mafia controlled the distribution of all these porn films. As a result, many of the theaters and adult bookstores were theirs. Any outsiders who tried to sell or make movies would get hurt.
Papers and books about how things worked in the mafia were all written by people who have no idea how Cosa Nostra works. They write what they read in FBI 302's or Police reports. They write that the LA Family was weak and that other families came and operated freely. This was not entirely true then and was not true when I was around.
Every Cosa Nostra family big and small is equal, they run their area and their family. If Outfit guys came to Los Angeles, they had worked out a deal between the bosses of the families. The rank and file may not be privy to these deals, and they would only be told that it was taken care of. If the Gambino's wanted to work in LA, they would send word and they would cut in the LA family.
Jimmy Frattiano had deals going in New York with the Westchester Premier Theater. This was a large entertainment center in Tarrytown just outside New York City. It was a Gambino-Genovese family business. Frattiano first got involved through a guy named Tommy Marson who lived in Palm Springs and invested a lot of money in the business. Jimmy was introduced to him because Tommy was afraid he was going to lose his investment. Frattiano saw dollar signs for himself and the LA Family. The Mafia looted the theater to the tune of over 8,000,000 dollars in the 70's and then it went bankrupt. Frattiano used his wealth to start a Chemical company with Tony Spilatro from the Outfit that would supply soap and other things to the Las Vegas Casino's. Frattiano used his contacts in Las Vegas to promote the company.
The LA Family also had the Largest Toyota Dealership on the Westcoast. They had "Made" the owner and now he was a soldier in the family.
They had also infiltrated the Garment Center in Downtown LA by using their East coast Union contacts, mainly John Dioguardi aka Johny Dio. He was a big player in the Unions all over the East coast. First they had to instill fear in some of the Unions that ran the Garment Center, so they wrecked some factories and put the hurt on some people. He hooked them up with the right people so they could operate sweatshops and have people working in their own homes for pennies. Then they would wholesale out the Garments at a top price. They also ran Bookmaking and Loan Sharking downtown.
Did it stop there? No. They had successful trucking businesses all over Southern California and this again came from contacts in the Unions and other crime family members.
When the media says that “So and so” controls the drug trade in an area, its crap. Nobody can control drug trade, there are too many people involved from all over. A majority of cocaine in the 80's came from the Medillion Cartel, but not all of it. Today they say the Mexican Cartels control cocaine distribution. They do not grow the coca plant in Mexico and they do not process the paste. They simply transport it for the Colombian traffickers. The majority of the coca leaves come from three countries: Bolivia, Peru and Colombia.
What about gambling? Again so many people gamble and each ethnic group has their own forms. The Mafia never 100% controlled Gambling in any town. They would control the biggest share or large books in cities, but not all.
Things shift, people play different games, so like everything, the mafia changed with the times.
The LA Family was no exception. They didn't have a large family to begin with, and no talent pool. So, they became smaller and focused on their specialties. Many became very wealthy and left the life. Why would anyone want their kids in the Life? Nobody who has half a brain wants their child to get locked up or killed, and that is all the life will lead to.