Categotry Archives: Criminals


Liz Renay

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Categories: Actors, Artists, Criminals, Hollywood, Writers/Editors

lrenay.jpgLiz Renay was a multifaceted woman who experienced life with wild abandonment — and rarely worried about the consequences of her actions.

Born Pearl Elizabeth Dobbins, Renay was raised in Arizona by strict evangelical Christian parents, and a grandmother whom she described as a “hellion.” At 13, Renay ran away from home and hitchhiked to Las Vegas. The voluptuous girl won a Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest and supported herself by working as an underage cocktail waitress, showgirl and size 44DD bra model.

By 18, Renay was supporting her two children, a boy and a girl, as an exotic dancer and movie extra. When Life magazine featured her in a five-page photo spread, she decided to seek her fortune in New York City. There Renay became a high-fashion model, and even appeared on the cover of Esquire magazine. But she fell in with Tony “Cappy” Coppola, the right-hand man of mob boss Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia, and life in the fast lane soon proved a bit too brisk for Renay. When her relationship with Coppola turned violent, she moved to California to become a film star.

Renay appeared in more than two-dozen pictures, mostly B-movies like “Date With Death,” “The Thrill Killers,” “Mark of the Astro-Zombies,” “Desperate Living” and “Dimension in Fear,” and won $1,000 for correctly answering geography questions on Groucho Marx’s TV show, “You Bet Your Life.” In the Hollywood press, she was famed for her beauty and for dating actors and celebrities. The blonde, and sometimes red-headed, bombshell eventually married seven times, divorced five times and widowed twice. She recounted her many flings in the 1992 memoir, “My First 2,000 Men.”

Perhaps her best-known paramour was Hollywood mobster Mickey Cohen. Renay’s relationship with Cohen was closely examined by grand juries on both coasts, and she received a three-year suspended sentence in the late 1950s for perjuring herself at his federal tax evasion trial. When she violated her probation for allegedly disturbing the peace during a photo shoot, Renay was sent to federal prison. During her 27-month incarceration, she ran a prison newspaper and taught art to the other inmates. Renay also painted 150 canvasses in the joint, including one of a centaur surrounded by beautiful women in a garden. The painting sold in 1964 for $10,000.

Renay’s flamboyant nature didn’t fade as she aged. She earned top billing in the 1970s for a string of X-rated pictures, despite the fact that she didn’t participate in the actual sex acts or appear in the nude. Renay penned cookbooks and beauty tips as well as the bestselling autobiography, “My Face for the World to See,” and toured the country in a double striptease act with her daughter, Brenda. In 1982, Brenda committed suicide on her 39th birthday.

In the height of the streaking craze, Renay was the first grandmother to run nude down Hollywood Blvd. The promotional act for a local theatre drew a crowd of thousands, and got her arrested for indecent exposure. Renay was later acquitted when the jury determined that she “was nude, but not lewd.” Several jurors even asked for her autograph after the proceedings ended. During the final years of her life, Renay kept a loaded German Walther under her bed. However, she only shot the gun on the 4th of July to make sure it still worked.

“She was unsinkable, indefatigable, incorrigible, irresistible. Liz was larger than life and had the bust line to prove it,” Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith wrote. “Even as she approached her 80th birthday last spring with her bum hip and other age-related maladies, she still led with her best assets. In the right light, she could still turn heads and charm the chips from casino players’ pockets. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.”

Renay died on Jan. 22 from cardiopulmonary arrest and gastric bleeding. She was 80.


Ken Lay


Categories: Business, Criminals, Military

klay.jpgKenneth L. Lay, the disgraced former chairman and chief executive of Enron who defrauded his stockholders and employees of billions of dollars, died on July 5 of a heart attack while vacationing in Aspen. He was 64.
Lay was born and raised in Missouri, one of three children of a Baptist minister and a housewife. To help support the family, he mowed lawns and delivered newspapers on three different routes.
Determined to live a life worthy of Horatio Alger, whose namesake award he once won, Lay attended the University of Missouri on scholarship, and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics. After graduation, he worked for Humble Oil and Refining, the predecessor to Exxon Mobil Corp., and took night courses at the University of Houston to obtain a doctorate in economics.
Lay enlisted in the Navy as an economist and served his time at the Pentagon, working on cost-and-performance analyses of major weapons systems. Upon returning to the private sector in 1974, Lay became an executive at Florida Gas, then Transco Energy. His efforts in helping Houston Natural Gas fend off an aggressive investment play by Oscar Wyatt in the early 1980s earned Lay a promotion — to CEO of the pipeline operator. In 1985, he merged HNG with InterNorth to create Enron Corp.
Lay spent the next two decades building Enron into the seventh largest company in America. As CEO of the Houston-based natural gas company and energy trader, Lay joined the highest business circles and befriended the political elite, including Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
Enron soon developed a reputation for inspiring loyalty in its employees by paying good wages and offering numerous perks, such as on-site fitness centers and after-hours transportation. Enron also matched employee pension contributions with company stock, and encouraged staff to further invest in its future. Lay’s piece of the pie was significant — he made more than $217 million in four years from stock options, and another $19 million in salary and bonuses.
Under the guidance of Lay, and Jeffrey K. Skilling, who succeeded Lay as chief executive in 2001, Enron aggressively invested in new ventures — from municipal water systems to overseas power plants. Many of these investments bled the company of cash, and then failed to pay off. At the same time, the company engaged in unethical and unlawful practices. During California’s energy crisis in 2000, Enron traders manipulated electricity flows to boost profits. The traders even taped conversations boasting about their misdeeds. Knowing the bottom was about to fall out, Lay began selling off his own Enron shares while encouraging staff to hold onto theirs.
Wall Street knew little of these matters because they didn’t appear on Enron


Vincent Gigante


Categories: Criminals

vgigante.jpgVincent “The Chin” Gigante, a Mafioso who managed to elude prosecution for decades by pretending to be crazy, died on Dec. 19 from complications of heart disease. He was 77.
Gigante was born in New York City to Italian immigrant parents. His mother used to call him “Cincenzo,” a diminutive of Vincenzo, which his friends shortened to “Chin.” He was only 15 when he dropped out of vocational school and became a small-time boxer. At 20, Gigante married Olympia Grippa. While the couple would produce five children, he also fathered three more with his mistress, Olympia Esposito.
Tony Eboli, a capo for the Genovese crime family, introduced the teenaged Gigante into a life of crime. By the time Vincent was 25, he had been arrested seven times on an array of charges; most were dismissed or resulted in fines. His only jail sentence during that period was a 60-day stint for gambling.
In 1957, Don Vito Genovese allegedly ordered Gigante to kill crime boss Frank Costello, but he botched the job. Although Costello survived the assassination attempt, he refused to name his attacker in court and soon retired. This decision allowed Vito Genovese to become kingpin of the crime family that still bears his name. In 1959, Gigante was tagged by police for dealing heroin and sent to prison for seven years. While he was paroled after five, incarceration was something Vincent vowed to avoid in the future.
Over the next three decades, Gigante continued to work his way up the ladder of succession within the Genovese crime family. He spent the 1970s as a capo (captain), and the 1980s as the consigliore to Philip Lombardo, who was then head of the Genovese empire. Once Lombardo stepped down for health reasons, Gigante allegedly took over as the new godfather. Organized crime experts described Gigante as a traditional boss, one who settled family issues with threats and then violence (when such action was required). At the height of his reign, his criminal enterprise stretched from New England to Miami.
Knowing the government wanted to shut down his illegal activities, Gigante came up with a clever ruse. If he just pretended to be insane, the courts would never hold him accountable for his actions. So for more than three decades, Gigante wandered the streets of Greenwich Village in his bathrobe and slippers, muttering to himself. He maintained his artifice by booking himself into mental institutions more than two dozen times.
The newspapers dubbed him “The Pajama King” and the Mob’s “Oddfather.” His attorneys said he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and was incapable of running a sophisticated organized crime operation of bookmaking and loan-sharking rings. These claims were backed up by dozens of witnesses, including his brother, the Rev. Louis Gigante, a Roman Catholic priest.
His plan wasn’t so crazy, after all. In fact, it kept Gigante out of prison until 1997, when he was finally convicted of 41 different racketeering and conspiracy charges and sentenced to 12 years behind bars. Then in 2003, Salvatore Gravano, the former underboss of the Gambino crime family, made a deal with the feds and testified in federal court that Gigante had feigned his mental illness. At that point, Vincent finally admitted to running a con on the legal system and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He received another three-year sentence. (Coincidentally, Gravano’s nickname within Mafia circles changed from “Sammy the Bull” to “Sammy the Rat.”)
Gigante died at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Mo. He was due to be released in 2010.


Maggie Bailey


Categories: Criminals

Maggie Bailey, the “Queen of the Mountain Bootleggers,” died on Dec. 3 of complications from pneumonia. She was 101.

The Kentucky distiller and local legend began selling moonshine when she was just 17 years old. Wearing a uniform that said “National Distillery” on the breast pocket, Bailey continued working well into her 90s.

Bailey was so well regarded in Harlan County, Ky., that juries often refused to find her guilty of illegally selling alcoholic beverages. Law enforcement officers also admired the canny bootlegger; U.S. District Judge Karl Forester even described her as an expert on search and seizure laws.

“She was very adroit. She had a million different places to hide it. She had a labyrinth of buildings all around her dwelling,” said Eugene Goss, an attorney who represented Bailey.

Bailey did serve two years at a federal reformatory for women in West Virginia from 1941 to 1943 for selling moonshine. The federal indictment against her said she had 150 half-gallons of illegal alcohol on hand when she was charged.

Bailey was a self-educated woman and a voracious newspaper reader. Despite her less-than-legal occupation, friends said she lived simply and often gave coal and food to poor families in the area.

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Eddie Bunker


Categories: Actors, Criminals, Hollywood, Writers/Editors

Edward Bunker Jr., a career criminal and author, died on July 19 from complications of surgery. He was 71.
The Hollywood, Calif., native was the son of stagehand Edward Bunker Sr., and dancer/chorus girl Sarah Bunker. A born troublemaker, Eddie was only three years old when he destroyed a neighbor’s incinerator with a claw hammer. The following year, he set fire to his family’s garage.
Bunker spent the rest of his childhood attending reform schools and running away from foster homes. By the time he reached his teens, Bunker had become an accomplished thief, drug dealer and thug. He would eventually serve up to 18 years behind bars for various crimes, such as extortion, assault, forgery and armed robbery.
Using his experiences as the backdrop for fiction, Bunker began writing hard-boiled crime novels in prison. He sold his blood to pay for postage and submitted his manuscripts to dozens of magazines and publishers. When his first novel, “No Beast So Fierce,” was released in 1973, Bunker decided to reenter mainstream society as a professional writer. He was paroled two years later.
Over the next three decades, Bunker wrote screenplays (“Straight Time,” “Animal Factory”) and books (“Little Boy Blue,” “Dog Eat Dog” and “Education of a Felon”), and befriended authors William Styron and James Ellroy. He received an Oscar nomination for the screenplay “Runaway Train,” which was based on a story by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, and won a Macallan Dagger Prize for his autobiography, “Mr. Blue: Memoirs of a Renegade.”
Bunker also acted in more than 20 movies, including “The Running Man,” “Tango and Cash” and “The Longest Yard.” In Quentin Tarantino’s violent debut, “Reservoir Dogs,” he played the character Mr. Blue.

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