Birthday: October 10, 1925
Died At Age: 32
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: John Stompanato
Born in: Woodstock, Illinois, United States
Notorious As: Bodyguard of Mickey Cohen
Spouse/Ex-: Sarah Utish (m. 1946; div. 1947) Helen Gilbert
father: Johnny Stompanato Sr.
mother: Carmela Stompanato
children: John Stompanato III
Died on: April 4, 1958
Johnny Stompanato may be known as an underworld figure and enforcer of Los Angeles crime boss Mickey Cohen but there was more to Stompanato than his crime records. Not many know that he was once a war hero. Yes, as astonishing as it may seem to be, Stompanato served in the United States Marine. Over his lifetime, Stompanato gained various nicknames—Handsome Harry, Johnny Stomp, John Steele and Oscar. He used his aliases at different points in his life to work out his way in acts of crime and misdeeds. A philanderer, Stompanato was known to be physically intimidating and verbally abusive. He often dated financially well-off women double his age, whom he would use for his personal gain. Stompanato’s personal life and relationship status was also a controversial one. He dated quite a few women in his lifetime before meeting his last partner Lara Turner. Turner herself was five husbands old and mother of a daughter, Cheryl Crane, when she met him. Stompanato’s insecurities troubled their relationship so much so that he became abusive to Turner. It was due to his violent behaviour that Crane,who couldn’t bear the torture her mother went through anymore,stabbed him to death at their home.
Childhood & Early Life
Johnny Stompanato was born on October 10, 1925 into an Italian-American family in Woodstock, Illinois. His father, John Sr.,owned a barber shop and his mother,Carmela, was a seamstress.He was the youngest of the four children born to the couple, with two elder sisters,Grace and Teresa,and an older brother, Carmine.
Tragedy struck infant Johnny’s life early on. His mother died of peritonitis just six days after his birth. His father later married VerenaFreitag.
Johnny Stompanato attended Woodstock High School until his freshman years after which he was sent to Kemper Military School for Boys in Boonville Missouri. In 1942, he graduated from the same.
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In 1943, Johnny Stompanato joined the U.S. Marines serving with the 1st Service Battalion, 1st Marine Division.In the initial years of his service, heserved at South Pacific theatre, Peleliu, Okinawa and later China. He left the service in 1946 after being discharged in China.
Upon returning from China, he took up work as a bread salesman. In 1947, he moved to Hollywood, California. Later, he settled down at Los Angeles, where he opened a gift shop in Westwood ‘The Myrtlewood Gift Shop’. He sold inexpensive pieces of crude pottery and wood carvings.
At various times in his life, he owned and operated different stores—a pet store, a jewellery store and so on. He also used to sell used cars and furniture.He also aspired to be a Hollywood producer.
He travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark in October 1956, where he tried to secure a sales franchise from a Danish manufacturer of dairy equipment.
In Los Angeles, Johnny Stompanato had connections with the underworld. It was for this reason that he soon gained appointment as the bodyguard for gangster Mickey Cohen. He also became an enforcer for Cohen’s crime family.
While Johnny Stompanato was a bodyguard for Cohen, he had established a name for himself. He was also famous in the Hollywood circle. As such, when Frank Sinatra asked Cohen to instruct Stompanato to stay away from Ava Gardner, Cohen instead told Sinatra to go back to his wife and children.
In 1952, Johnny Stompanato left Cohen. He then served as a manager for Helene Stanley, a former 20th Century Fox contract player. The two were romantically involved and even married briefly for two years before separating ways.
Throughout the 1950s, Johnny Stompanato was arrested seven times by the LAPD on various accounts. Right from criminal charges, to vagrancy to suspicion of robbery, his name topped the list of crime contenders for all the criminal activities during that time. However, not for once was he convicted of any crime.
He gained a reputation of one of the most popular playboys in Hollywood. He was frequently spotted inthe arms of beautiful old women on whom he was financial dependent. Sometimes, he was seen in the company of homosexuals as welland was hence often regarded as a bisexual.
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He allegedly ran a sexual extortion ring which was operated out of Chicago by the Fischetti-Capone mob, the Chicago Outfit. He secretly clicked and recorded compromising photos and videos of Hollywood celebrities he had seduced and used the evidence to blackmail them. It was due to this that LAPD characterized him as a notorious pimp, blackmailer, extortionist and procurer of girl's for Cohen's out of town contacts.
In 1956, he became the subject of a bureau White Slave Act case. He was also known as a key steerer to illegal abortion parlours, which were allegedly running under the aegis of Cohen.
Personal Life & Legacy
Johnny Stompanato met his first wife, Sarah Utish, a Turkish woman, while serving for the US Marine at Tianjin, China. Smitten by her, he converted to Islam in order to marry her. Theygot married in 1946 and thereafter moved to Woodstock. They were blessed with a son, John Stompanato III. The marriage was short-lived and they divorced in 1947
In 1948, he married Helen Gilbert, an actress. However, his marriage with Gilbert failed too as they divorced in 1950.
In October 1952, Johnny Stompanato started dating Helene Stanley, a former 20th Century Fox contract player. Romance brewed between the two when Stompanato worked as a manager for Stanley. The two eventually married in 1953. However, , they divorced in 1955.
In 1957, Johnny Stompanato met actress Luna Turner. Turner then was in a bad phase of her life both personally and professionally. She not only broke up with her fifth husband Lex Barker but also lost a prestigious MGM contract after a series of duds at the box office. Stompanato served as ‘the knight in shining armour’ for Turner who would help turn her fate around. Consequently, the two got into a relationship.
Stompanato and Turner’s relationship was a stormy affair that was marked by his insane insecurities and anger. The two often got into nasty fights and arguments. At one instanceStompanato got so envious of Turner’s relationship with her co-star, Sean Connery, that he created a scene at the sets of ‘Another Time, Another Place’. He flew to the United Kingdom and stormed on the set, threatening Connery with a gun. Due to his behaviour, he was deported from UK.
Lana Turner’s daughter Cheryl Crane wasn’t fond of her mother’s new romantic interest. She saw Stompanato as a man who seldom opened himself. She thought that he held himself back and was more interested in grasping what everyone else were doing or saying rather than openly stating his own opinion or choice.
Stompanato and Turner’s strained relationshipturned worse to the point of Turner being a victim of his physical assaults. In order to put an end to her mother’s miseries once and for all, Cheryl Crane stabbed Stompanato to death at their home in Beverly Hills, California, on 4 April 1958.
In an enquiry by the coroner, Crane claimed that Stompanato had violently attacked her mother. It was to safeguard her mother from his violent atrocities that she stabbed him. Her claims led the coroner to pass a decision of justifiable homicide for the case.
Johnny Stompanato was interred at Oakland Cemetery, in Woodstock, McHenry County, Illinois. His entire family has been buried there, including his mother, stepmother, father and brother.