CRADLE OF CRIME- SYNOPSIS


The memoir began as a compass to my father’s secret and disreputable criminal history. It pointed to a young girl whose survival was wedged between shameless love and immobilizing fear of her father.DAD IN WING TIPS

As Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel’s best friend and business partner from 1937 until his death in 1947, Dad acclaimed Ben Siegel. “He was the best friend I ever had.”

Dad sat inches from Ben the night he was murdered. Why did he survive? He ducked!  After convincing Meyer Lansky and Frank Costello he would not accept  immunity from deportation, and five counts of   claiming false citizenship, the Mob honored and protected him.

Faced with an identity meltdown ten years after Dad died I implored his friends, associates, historians, the Freedom of Information & Privacy Act, the Immigration and Naturalization Services,  and the Archives of the Department of Justice, to build the branches of my family tree. Along this irreversible journey I suffered disgrace, rage, and Dad’s ghostly disapproval as I delved into the FBI files and discovered the family secrets. Most startling was not his gambling addiction, criminal activities, or imprisonment.  I learned my father’s attempt at reformation was thwarted by the FBI.  A  vendetta  by Hoover for not cooperating as an informant. I  expose what I’ve learned because I’ve made the family history mine.

Incorporated within stories of discovery are government surveillance records, newspaper articles, court testimony, and criminal activities that defamed his reputation and our family. As the discoveries occur the reader is taken inside the transformation of my identity.  Once liberated from Dad’s paranormal disapproval of my investigation, the book was written.

This is a startling, yet inspirational look inside the struggle of a gangster’s daughter to understand her father’s allegiance to the Mob.


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OUR NEIGHBORHOOD, OUR LIFE


 

 

As a child I understood in a subliminal fashion that my father was unlike other neighborhood fathers who left each day to go to the office.   My father worked from his home-office in Bel Air, California, and hotels: The Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the Bel Air Hotel, The old Beverly Glen Terrace, and restaurants:  La Dolca Vita, Matteos, Copa de Ora, Scandia, La Scala, Purinos, Chasens, and building lobby’s,  parking lots, telephone booths, and race tracks.   Sometimes he talked about a really  big deal he was working on, and other times he said he was returning favors.  The exchange of favors between my father and his associate friends was written about way before I came along, by Damon Runyon and Mark Hellinger.

Deals and favors is what I understood as my father’s business. This kind of business made him available to me during the day, while other father’s had left their homes to go to an office. From the outside looking in; we were a stylish Westside family, with colorful friends, members of Sinai Temple, and frequently seen in the company of established Doctor’s, Oilmen, and Attorney’s.  My mother went door to door as a Red Cross Volunteer, and my father’s charity went to the United Jewish Federation Fund.

Our next door neighbors were movie actors:  John Forsythe, Burt Lancaster, James Gardner and Peter Morton, the legendary Hard Rock Café founder.   Peter was a few years older than I, and I loved his  mess of tousled curly brown hair, and his gentle birch brown eyes, slanted into the curve of sadness. I waited for him on some mornings to walk me to the bus stop.  I remember he looked after his little sister, and maybe I needed looking after too.  The memory of his kindness is sealed.   Most of the families in the circle had children, and it was only natural that we played together. At some point, all the kids quit meeting up at my house, and even my friends at Bellagio Elementary quit coming  to our house.

In the foyer of our home, there was a wall mirror and wall mounted table. That is where my father kept his grey fedora and trench coat. I remember the times he dashed out of the house with the coat and hat.

“Daddy why are you wearing your coat and hat today; it’s not raining?”

“I have to be ready for anything little sweetheart.  Daddy never knows what the weather will be like out there.”    The answer was a riddle, like almost everything my father taught me. A  simplistic statement on the surface, and a double down meaning hidden inside.  That is how he communicated with me, and it had a purpose like everything else.

When I was five years old, my father took me out driving in his powder blue the Cadillac, and he made regular stops,  to meet a guy about something, had the car serviced and washed, visit a friend, have the poodle bathed, and a stop at Schwab’s to see if there was any action.   He loved to sing in the car, with all the windows rolled down, and his arm wrapped around the back of the leather seat. He was as relaxed driving his car as he was lounging at home on the sofa. He drove with one hand, while he sang,

“Que sera sera.” When I asked him what it meant, he said,

“Whatever will be will be, the future is not ours to see, Oue sera sera–that’s the song of life sweetheart.”  He didn’t pay attention to stop signs, signals or fellow drivers; he perceived them as second in line.   Once a policeman stopped us as we were driving out of Thurston Circle, and my father opened the car door, got out, and, moaned,  “Oh my God, Oh God I’m having a heart attack!”  I watched him, and yelled out “Daddy Daddy–what’s wrong,” but he kept howling.  The policeman didn’t take notice at all.   “I’m having a heart attack, let me go officer, I can’t breathe you SOB. You’re going to kill me!”  By this time I was crying, and making a lot of noise in the front seat.  The policeman then approached my father, and handed him a ticket, while my father continued to whale, “HEART ATTACK.”  After the policeman drove away, my father got in the car, steely eyed, and swearing. “Stop crying. “Stop that right now!  Can’t you see I’m all right? Daddy just pretended to have an attack.  That stinking cop is always hanging around here. He should be ashamed of himself.  Policemen have better things to do, then give tickets. ”

“ You’re not sick?” I mumbled.

“ No, of course not.  Don’t tell your mother about this sweetheart, she doesn’t understand these things.  Remember now what I told you, when I say something you listen, and don’t question it.  I have reasons for the way I do things. ”

Adults try to deceive children with whispers, false identities, and lies, but a child has a superior emotional vision.  From that day on, I was always watching my father closely to see if he was acting, or playing it straight.

The outings gave me a chance to meet dozens of men and women who exaggerated their feelings for me with overt gestures that sometimes I recognized as an act. Picking out genuine friends developed into a sense I couldn’t necessarily ignore.  It got in the way of my comfort around many of my father’s friends later on in life.  Nothing seemed to please him more than to present me to his friends, and wait for their praise, “You’re lucky to have such a beautiful little girl, and so well behaved.”  I remember this line because it is the same line I heard throughout adolescence.  My behavior was conditional on my father’s mood.  If I misbehaved, spoiled my dress, or broke something, it would ruin everything. My father would blame my mother, she would retreat from the living room, and I would be left alone.  This was the second of the lessons, I learned very young, not to make any mistakes.   One error can ruin your whole life, he told me on all the occasions that I erred.

Today, it’s not too surprising that I am ready to sit in the front seat with a man of choice, while he drives around and shows off his driving and leadership skills.  It’s not that I just don’t get excited about driving myself,  it is one of those childhood activities that evolved into a life long course of pleasure. I escaped working in offices in 1993 after ten years of tolerating the cubicle life, and I work out of my home office much like my father, only I am not involved in illegal activities, even though it seems everything is becoming illegal.

When now, I have finished this personal essay I began two years ago, I went looking for images.   A photo of the house I grew up in at 11508 Thurston Circle popped up.   Our home burned in the Bel Air fire in 1961, and so I peeked through the interior of the house that was built on the lot after Dad sold it.  All post modern, nothing like ours, except this photograph I chose, the swimming pool he built, another childhood activity that evolved into a life pleasure.  The house is listed for sale, $2,075,000.  Dad bought our home for $50,000.

 

DAYDREAMING


When I watch my wild birds, I daydream of their freedom, and how free I was when I was eighteen.

East Palace Avenue Santa Fe

East Palace Avenue Santa Fe (Photo credit: paigeh)

When I listen to Wes Montgomery  I dream of Brazil,  and riding on a float at Mardi Gras, just once, with a feather hat, and dressed like Rita Hayworth.

When I sit at my desk and look at my mother’s photograph, I dream of those few luncheons in the formal  Garden Room on the top floor of Bullocks Westwood, watching the fashion show with her, proud of my model mother, and imitating how she ate the tuna salad.

When I lay in bed at night, I dream of him, and his strong  shoulder cupping my head, watching an old Cagney movie.

When I shovel snow I dream of Southern California, of old Del Mar and sitting on the bench under the crooked tree, in a triangular postcard of the crashing surf, prancing dogs, and the meter maid marking the curb.  When I walk along Palace Avenue in Santa Fe, New Mexico  I dream of walking  5th Avenue at about 6 pm, when everyone pours on to the Avenues, a fountain of limbs and accessories crisscrossing patterns of human tolerance.

Day dreaming unlike night dreaming that takes us on the back of fairy tales and science fiction  battling some inner masked trauma,  illuminates where we want to be, what we need to do,  and intercepts the embroidery of our life.  The medicine of daydreaming surpasses self-help books, health food, vitamins, yoga, religion, or mind altering experiences. It is the essence of our rising emancipation from complacency.

dramatic dream

dramatic dream (Photo credit: unNickrMe)

LIVING WITH TWO MEN PART TWO OF MICE AND MAYHEM


 
The scent and scenery of August on Palace Avenue is a perfume of Plaza pushcarts selling burritos and beef skewers, afternoon thunderstorms splashing the soot and dust from weekend fiestas,low riders spinning and smoking up Palace Avenue, and the  blasting booty bump bass in tempo with the wheels as they rise and fall to the concrete, the motorcyclists on four wheels, with jet black hair flapping the wind, like long tongues, and the bicycle riders, glazed eyes, and head-phones, detached, and daringthe driver to predict their next turn, sometimes women, in street shoes, and hats, gliding by, smiling independently, and then the two grumpy men. Five days a week they walk to and from work past my house.  One wears a chef’s coat and never raises his eyes from the sidewalk, and The Walrus, whose mustache and face, are griddlded into an expressionless tolerance for all things that happen
I left the porch, went inside, where I felt the absence of John and Rudy.
John was in Los Angeles at a screenwriting meeting; a triumph for a guy whose waited more than ten years to get an assignment. I imagined him in a trendy restaurant, seated at a table, one foot tapping the floor,and his right hand clutching the corner of the tablecloth his own peculiar fetish to feed the nerves during suspenseful situations. He‘d be dressed in the outfit I picked out, but the shirt would be loosely tucked because that’s his style.  Rudy was on his way back to Santa Fe, and eagerly waiting to take out his new Bird, a gal he met at our Baron Wolman book signing. 
 
Absence of their conversations, frivolity, dancing, feasting together, two men who share nothing in common except me, sort of like Jules & Jim, only Rudy and I have been like brother and sister, since 2003. He was the only man I ever trusted before John, and thattook many years, but once he went into the vault of truth and loyalty, I trusted him as I did my mother.
 
Then after so many days, my bounce and blush started shedding. It was as if someone tied me to an anchor and I dragged my litheness from room to room trying to fight it, with chores, writing, and then all the structure started crumbling, and I left the lights on all night, and didn’t empty the trash, or go out on the front porch to wave at the La Posada crew I didn’t leave the middle bedroom, the one with the big screen, and I snuggled the silence with old movies,and half read books, and Gummy Bears.  I was a heap, unlike the temporarily tide pools we fall in and out of constantly, this was a tidal wave.

The window facing west is an aquarium of pine and cotton trees, and between them, there is JD’s Tree Tee Pee, left over from Fiesta week, but he’s too busy working on his winter addition, to bother with it.  I can see the 2nd floor of La Posada, Julia’s room, the daughter that killed herself in the bedroom, and is widely known as the Ghost of La Posada I’ve listened in on these stories, and staff members see her. New Mexico storytelling is checkered with ghost stories. I saw the light as it transcends the hours of the day, and found the most beautiful time was four in the afternoon. The sunlight turned the light peach walls to pomegranate, and I felt like I was inside the fruit. If we stop, we see everything so clearly.

I was waiting for Saturday, when Rudy would drive up in the white van, filled with tools and purchases he’d made over the last three years.  He was officially coming home to stay. He’d completed the New Mexico Contractors License Exam and was going to start renovating adobe homes and gardens and spend his days in the place he loved as much as San Francisco.

It might have been a Carole Lombard movie, that got me untangled from the
Gummy bears and Kleenex, and I went out to dinner Friday night with the gal who introduced the Bird to Rudy.  Sipping wine with faces I like, and food that nourishes brought back a flash of light to me, and I was animatedlike an old person right before they die. You ever see that? 
    
Rudy’s room was tided: new soap, washed towels, the closet rearranged so he was able to unpack all his belongings. I was sure there would be a new rattlesnake head. 
     “I have a present for you.” he said on arrival.
 He brought out an Emporio Armani garment bag, his only brand of clothing, and out came a pair of black silk balloon pants. 
” Thought they’d be good for the Cuban Carnival party.
I fancied them, hugged him, and then he scampered in a hundred directions, as he does, and I returned to myself. Rudy was home. To be continued.
 

Up and Down a Vacation Rental Episode.


After three years, eight months and four days, Rudy (AKA “Risky Torpedo”)my should have been brother, and former lover returned to Santa Fe. He pulled into the driveway in his VW Van with the cracked windshield, and his prehistoric dashboard collection of rattle-snake tails, and plastic toy reptiles, red rocks, and feathers.
“You’re not going to believe what happened.”
“Don’t tell me, the car broke down.”
“No, I fell asleep on the road.”
“Then what?”
“I checked into the Knights Motel for a few hours. I’m fine. He looked emaciated, lean as a cougar, and hungry as a wolf. My maternal instincts raged to nurse him.”
“Wow, the porch really needs paint. I’ll start tomorrow. “
“Don’t you want to take a few days off and hike, or dig for petroglyphs?”
“Hell no! I got a lot of work before our first guests arrive. When do the first guests arrive?”
“June 20.”
“Piece of cake.”
“Wait till you see the list.”
John, the man who has come closest to me since Daddy, barbequed that night, while Risky set his cowboy boots into the New Mexican soil, watched the clouds open like white envelopes, and acclimated himself to the home we used to share-as a perceived couple. I wondered what our neighbors at La Posada would be thinking, as the three of us, the we of me, congregate on the front porch around my mayhem, Rudy’s Hank Williams music, and John’s pacing during a phone conversation with his agent. The discourse and chaos of life is what draws us together, not the complacency.

Reconfiguring a gallery that we never really furnished as a home,into a first-class vacation rental for six to eight people, took up one entire spiral notepad. I saved the notepad, not because I will ever do this again because my passion for struggle, deconstruction, and chaos has passed. I noticed that about two weeks into the reconstruction.
At times I think I mine mayhem because our family home burnt when I was eight years old, and the impression it left was that everything can change between the time you get on the bus to go to school and when you come home.
Ann, my therapist back in the ‘90s suggested that the fire that burned our family home was why I became a transient mover, incessantly rearranged furniture, and loved hotels. I kept a list for years of all my addresses; by the time I was forty, I had moved forty-two times.
What you do if you convert your home into a vacation rental is remove any signs of personal stain, sentiment or residency. The catch-all is that that we are not moving. We are going to hide everything that identifies us.
By the third day of Risky’s arrival the worn paint on the porch went from sulking yellow to stormy grey. Buckets of paint and brushes were scattered like leaves, new light bulbs, tins of gold leaf paint, and tubes of caulking.
“Risky can’t you put your tools in one place?”
“No I cannot. I never have. Why would you even ask? You know this is how I work.
“I ask because you know I have to ask.”
Indoors, John was between rewriting a script, and agreeing to my yelps for help: “Would you help me move all the books to the dining table?” He didn’t just move them, he stacked them by subject. Then I boxed them, and painfully stacked them in the other closet, next to the boxes of albums, personal photos, journals, and Lanie’s dice collection that has grown to casino impressive numbers. A box of photographs marked 2003 was tempting me to peek inside. I lifted the lid, and landed on a photo of Rudy and I in Taos, perched on a boulder in the ski valley. Flashing images, not of where we were, but of who we were, who all of us were back then.
Then came the cartons of FBI and INS files; the beasts that entrap me. These boxes, filled with the answers to my family history, have been attached to me for seventeen years.
“Gee Loulou, why not pack a few dozen more: they’re not heavy enough. Do you know how many times I’ve moved these?”
Risky lugged the boxes down two flights of stairs to the basement, which he had to rearrange because my Vacation Rental advisor told us it wasn’t presentable. All this activity stirred a family of mice who turned up on the garden pathway, and zipped by me as I laid the platter of food on the outdoor dining table.
“The mice are not dead.” I told Risky over and over. Because he loves all creatures, he avoided the traps until the mice turned up in the flower beds while he was planting.
It’s the first time in several years since it’s taken six months to fill one Raika lined journal. And without my journal, I swell up, and then explode. The explosion comes in swift unmanageable bursts that once, during one of the manuscript box moves, the one marked “Rejection Letters,” allowed me to take a great deep breath, and drop the box squarely over the 2nd story landing.
“What happened?” John and Risky took giant steps towards the box, and then looking up at me, to see if more was coming, I replied, “Rejection letters.”
In one of the free tote bags that come with a purchase at Nordstroms, I dropped the books I would need, the ones that nourish my appetite for understanding: Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Joan Didion Lawrence Durrell, and the ones I have not read yet. I was able to pack fifteen books in the bag, which I imagined would go in the front seat of the car if we were driving or in the suitcase if I was flying. Where John and I would escape during the eight days our guests would live here, was still undetermined.
After the books came the wardrobe, shoes, cosmetics, toiletries, porcelain pets, fans, masks,
CD’s, DVD’s, and then my desk.
Within hours, my private writing room, and literary sanctuary for the last five years, was ransacked, broken down, like a theater set, and stored in stackable trays that I wheeled into the closet. “This feels very weird. It’s as if I’m stripping from the inside out.”
“What about the filing cabinet? Where does that go?”
Rudy was on the floor, attaching wheels to the cabinet, and I was in the closet, where the space was shrinking around me.
“LouLou, what about Cancun?” John yelled from another room.
“What about it?” I shouted from the closet floor, where I was organizing jewelry.
“I have a time share I can exchange. I’ve never been there.”
“It’s too late. Cancun is South Beach.”
And ten minutes later, it was more of Mexico, and British Columbia, and I was separating half-written essays, with memos to the Mob Experience, and the heat came in waves from the hallway, but I couldn’t get out of the closet.
Later that afternoon, my browsing eye churned Craig’s listings, while John’s continuing efforts to find us an escape lingered in the hallway.
“How about Laguna Niguel?”
My finger landed on a posting, “Writer’s Cabin on 40 acres in San Cristobel, Taos where Aldous Huxley wrote Island.”
“John, I found a place! Let’s go tomorrow to check it out. This will be such an adventure! It’s next to a riding stable, and creeks, and trees… and DH Lawrence lived up the hill.”
As always, John replied: “Sure, why not?”
To be continued….