Mike Mazurki

Mazurki's voice booms across the room. He is having lunch with Gorilla Jones and George Raft. The once flamboyant Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World and the sweet old shrimp who tried to buy Cuba with Mickey Cohen. Mickey, Gorilla, and George went to grammar school together in Akron. The gangster, the boxing champ, the movie star. One of those natural pitches for which agents pride themselves. I'll take $10,000 a word for a short first option.

"People don't understand racketeers," Gorilla explains. "But it's simple. You make a deal and use their money and so you got to go along. No big secret about it." Gorilla's dealings with hoods were purely personal.

Some hoods in New Jersey once threatened to cut off his you-know-what and throw it in the East River if he failed to take a dive in a certain fight. Gorilla mentioned this threat to Mickey. Mickey told Olie Madden. The King Pin put out word that whoever messed with Gorilla Jones would never mess in New York City again. That was the end of Gorilla's active enemies. But if a hood started spouting off about putting someone in a hole or cutting off a head, Gorilla would ask them not to tell him. By staying clear of their occupational violence he kept his occupational violence unblemished (with the exception of a few early matches when deals were made to keep him from knocking out established white fighters. Black fighters back then had to do certain things to get to the top).

Straddling the high lattice fence in front of Gorilla's Echo Park house is a statue of a gorilla, the namesake bestowed on him for his first boxing match at the age of 11. A local matchmaker, the sheriff, was unable to fill a bill and came up with the last-minute idea of promoting a match with "that little Gorilla boy who's always looking for a fight." The Gorilla grew up to become to the boxing ring what Josephine Baker was to Paris nightlife.