By Clark Fogg, Beverly Hills Police Department CSI inspector and co-author with Barbara Schroeder of Beverly Hills Confidential: A Century of Stars, Scandals and Murders
Schroeder and Fogg will revisit celebrity crimes in Beverly Hills as they discuss and sign copies of their book Friday and Saturday, October 4-5. Book signing will be from 12 to 4 p.m. on Friday, October 4, with an Authors Talk set for 1-2 p.m. Saturday, October 5, followed by the book signing.
Cost is complimentary for Museum Members. Members click here
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Mickey Cohen was mad. The Beverly Hills Police Department and the California Highway Patrol had just denied Cohen the special permit he needed to operate his brand-new car in California: a sweet new one-of-a-kind, custom-built, bullet-proof 1950 Cadillac Fleetwood Special Sedan. The law said it was an armored vehicle; Mickey said it was a necessity; after all, a gangster can never be too careful.
Cohen, a Sunset Strip Mob kingpin, had been the target of several gunfire bursts during the LA-area gang turmoil of the late 1940s and 50s, so he built himself a one-of-a-kind moving fortress. Said the slick Bugsy Siegel sidekick, “I don’t care about myself, but what am I gonna do, for instance, when my mother comes to visit? I got to drive her around. I get worried about this. You never can tell what some of these crazy guys might try to do. And my wife! I gotta have some protection for the family, don’t I?” (He was concerned not only about his wife, but also his many mistresses with names like “Candy Bar” and “Beverly Hills”.)
Cohen caused quite the sensation with his sleek black Caddy when he was asked to appear before Senator Kefauver’s Crime Committee (officially known as the U.S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce). He drove up in the $16,000 armor-plated driving machine, practically beaming when asked to describe his ride (which took five months to build). The extras, he proudly pointed out, cost him a cool 10 grand which allowed him to trick out the car with:
- 1 ¾-inch plate glass windows
- Bullet-proof tires costing $400 each
- 8-inch-thick door plating weighing in at 100 pounds each
- Special armor plates built into both front and rear seats
- An air conditioning system costing a whopping (at the time) $800
Car enthusiasts loved the additional details: Much of the cost of retrofitting the car went into the windshield set into a base of heavy die cast bronze and made of two thick pieces that opened outward so Cohen could catch a breeze or, as many jested, fire his gun out. Another feature unique to his Cadillac: additional wide trim chrome entirely encircling all the windows of the car. Even the Secret Service agents were impressed, not even the President’s car had all these fine features.
Mickey never did get that permit, and it turns out he never needed all that protection after all. He died in his sleep at 62 after having just sold his custom Cadillac for a $5,000 loss to the Texas Stock Race Car Association which put it on tour. The car is now on display at the Southward Car Museum in New Zealand, a sleek legacy to another Mob bad boy who loved to play in Beverly Hills.