Mobsters Threaten Hollywood Filmmaker

1950 In late 1948, Hollywood movie producer, Frank N. Seltzer — known for the movies, Jungle Patrol and Let’s Live Again, which debuted that same year — began research for his next project, 711 Ocean Drive, starring Edmond O’Brien and Joanne Dru. He intended for it to expose the “bookie racket,” or “wire service as a new industry for the hoodlums who lost out through repeal” of Prohibition,” he said (Nevada State Journal, June 15, 1950). He planned to film in a handful of California and Nevada cities. However, Lieutenant William “Bill” Burns, with the Los Angeles Police Department, warned Seltzer he was “walking into a bear trap” in Las Vegas. In 1949, after the script was ready, someone from the public relations firm that represented the City of Las Vegas told Seltzer they could make available famous hotel-casinos on the Strip for filming. A separate hotel owner directly offered his property for the Sin City sequences. Further, a city councilman and Chamber of Commerce member assured the producer they’d cooperate fully with production. Obstruction, Harassment Begin Two months later, however, when production manager, Orville Fouse, went to Las Vegas, the hotel-casino owner who had offered his property for filming […]


1886 In fall 1886, Officer John L. Fonck confronted one of his superiors face to face. He charged Chief of Police J.W. Davis with “standing in with the gamblers,” in other words, allowing them to operate their illegal casinos unfettered (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 8, 1886). California had banned gaming 26 years earlier. In response, Davis suspended him for insubordination. When Fonck subsequently asked the Police Commissioners to reinstate him, they fired him instead. The unemployed officer then took his allegations against Davis to the Los Angeles Times, which published them. Chief Publicly Outed Consequently, the Los Angeles City Council members held a special meeting to investigate. During this proceeding in which attorneys were disallowed, Fonck presented a case, gave a statement and questioned witnesses. He depicted a scenario in which Davis: • Accepted protection money from local, Chinese gamblers • Tipped off those individuals about upcoming raids • Obstructed, in other ways, officers’ efforts to close gambling dens Soon after Davis took office, in December 1885, Captain of Police C.A. Ketlar told Fonck that he (Ketlar) and Chief Davis “let them play and pay,” referring to the Chinese gamblers, and that everyone could benefit from the arrangement. The next day, […]

Quick Fact – Serious Boredom

1800s To amuse themselves, some miners — California ones, as reported in this case — staged lice fights and waged large sums on the outcome. They placed two Pediculus humanus face to face on a level surface and nudged them forward until their heads touched. Then the battle was on. “Through their large magnifying lenses, the men would watch the combat with intense interest. The insects would often fight with great ferocity, lunging at each other with their tusks, biting off legs, rearing up on end, and displaying throughout the most desperate valor. The struggle would only end with the death of one or both of the gladiators,” reported the Reno Evening Gazette (Feb. 5, 1880).