Code 7 in Sherman Oaks: A little bit of history

Cde7-shermanaks.jpgLA Observed photo.

These LAPD motor units were parked outside Maria's Italian Kitchen on Ventura Boulevard a couple of weekends back. Popular place with the motor cops.

At least I think they were in Maria's. They could have been next door, at Stir Restaurant and Lounge, and that would have been a much more historically notable place for LAPD officers to take their dinner break. On December 2, 1959, the address now occupied by Stir was an Italian restaurant, Rondelli's. It also was a hangout for local organized crime. That night, a prominent mobster named Jack "The Enforcer" Whalen, aka Jack O'Hara, was shot between the eyes at a booth occupied by Mickey Cohen, at the time LA's most famous and media-friendly criminal. Chief of Police William Parker took personal charge of the Whalen murder investigation, which turned up evidence including a gun belonging to Cohen bodyguard Johnny Stompanato in a trash bin behind the restaurant.

Cohen was booked for the murder, released when an associate copped to the deed, and later indicted on new evidence. Cohen's trial ended in a hung jury. Rondelli's soon closed and the space has held a number of forgettable eateries since then.

Yes that Johnny Stompanato: If the name sounds familiar, it's because Johnnie Stompanato was the boyfriend who was stabbed to death in the boudoir of actress Lana Turner, allegedly by her daughter Cheryl Crane. That had gone down more than a year before the Rondelli's hit.

And because this is LA and nothing is ever truly unexpected: Former TV anchor Baxter Ward, who went on to a long elective career on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, was married to Whalen's daughter Karen.

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