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U.S. Grant Hotel. Ernest Gillenberg, in his Jacumba cafe, telephoned Bompensiero, who suggested that Gillenberg place $5000 in cash into an envelope. He suggested that they meet in the lobby of the U.S. Grant.

Beginning in the late 1940s, with various partners — Dr. Paul C. Hartman, Joseph Ernesto Matranga, Mirabile — Bompensiero owned varying numbers of shares in Southland, a company doing business as Maestro Music that leased jukeboxes in bars and cafes. He managed to buy a few lots. He was paying down the house on Estelle Street. Bompensiero’s furniture and cars no longer were being repossessed, as they had been more than once during the 1930s and early 1940s. Certainly, he did not feel desperate for cash as he had in the past. He no longer had to go out and do stickups, as he did in 1933 at the Fox Theater or the American Cut-Rate Drug Store or in the Trias Street home of Irvine M. Schulman, where Bompensiero and two buddies robbed Schulman’s guests of $847 and more than $2000 in jewelry. Bompensiero, in 1933, recently had returned home from a year in federal prison on a bootlegging charge. He was desperate. His daughter Mary Ann was two years old and Thelma, with her high blood pressure, was having to stand all day on her feet as a clerk in a dress shop, and his mother and sisters had been cleaning and packing fish in the canneries.

William Bennett (left). “The San Diego County grand jury yesterday indicted Al W. Bennett, 56, former city councilman, who is now a liquor license broker."

From the San Diego Union

On this first morning of 1950, while Bompensiero dried off from his shower, while he wrapped the thick towel about his hard, rounded stomach and stood before the mirror and brushed the shaving cream into his cheeks, and relit his cigar and steadied the big stogie on the sink’s edge, he may have continued to count his blessings. His mother, 70, had her health. Three of his four sisters and his brother Sam still were living; they had their health. His only child, Mary Ann, 19, eloped in the spring of 1948. Bompensiero wanted to kill the kid with whom Mary Ann drove off to Yuma, wanted the sob’s face open-mouthed and wheezing his last breath in a watery ditch. Like Galuzo. But Jack Roberts — “Dutch” they called him — turned out to be a great kid. He wasn’t Sicilian, true, but he wasn’t lazy and he did not lack courage. Mary Ann didn’t want Dutch at the Gold Rail at night; she wanted him home, with her. Bompensiero set Dutch up as collector for Maestro Music. He taught him the tricks. But he kept Dutch out of things. He didn’t want Dutch mixed up. He kept his little brother Sammy out of things. He didn’t want Sammy mixed up.

Bart Sheela, 1996. Bart Sheela led one after another tavern owner through testimony that showed a systematic attempt by Bennett and Berry to solicit bribes.

Cheeks shaved, skin aglow, the aroma of his lavender aftershave sharp in the steamy bathroom, Bompensiero would then have stepped into his silk boxer shorts and slipped into his paisley-printed maroon silk robe and shoved his square feet into his leather slippers. He was modest. Even before his wife of now some 21 years, he did not appear in the nude. Not even in the bed.

Bompensiero on this first morning of the new year, as he strode into his bedroom and began to slide his arms into a clean white shirt, might have pondered the miracle of his marriage. Thelma, more beautiful every year. No one but Thelma would have stayed with him. No one would have been as loyal. He told her little and she guessed everything. She understood everything. Between them, all was pure. For him, since Thelma, there had been no one. Other men in the bar business took women into back rooms. They made them perform ugly acts in order to get a job. They laughed afterwards and offered the women to the bartenders. To do such a thing, to even think of someone doing such a thing, turned his stomach. His only disappointment was that Thelma was unable to bear other children. Having Mary Ann, she almost died. She had the small stroke while Mary Ann was being born. Then when she became pregnant again, the doctor who delivered Mary Ann said, “Frank, I know you’re Catholic. But you’ve got a wife and a daughter, she can’t carry this pregnancy. Your wife will probably die and if the baby is even born, the child will have no mother and your daughter will have no mother.” So he and Thelma said to him to do the abortion. For many many days after the abortion he felt such sadness he could hardly hold up his head.

Bompensiero might have thought how good it was that Thelma had the dress shop. When Thelma’s mother, Felipa Sanfilippo, died last year she left money to Thelma and all Thelma’s sisters and brothers. Thelma used her money to go into business. Now Thelma had Santa Ann’s Moderate Shop on 30th in North Park (3912 30th Street). The dark thought about Thelma’s health might then have made Bompensiero frown. She suffered still from high blood pressure and the pills the doctor gave made her feel worse. She often would not take them. She said, “They make me sick.” The blood pressure worried him. Her brother Frank died at 44. Heart and blood pressure. Some evenings she was too weary to cook and her hands swelled and the diamonds on her fingers bit into her flesh. He would give his life for her. He would.

He might have said to himself that some days, now, Los Angeles seemed far away. This business of Jack’s, trying to kill the dumb-ass little Jew. Jews he did not dislike just because they were Jews. He did not trust them, any more than he trusted Americans or Neapolitans or Romans or Milanese. He trusted his own; he trusted Sicilians. The business between Cohen and Jack, this business was getting to be a waste of time. This trying to control LA’s bookmakers by killing the Jew, this was a waste of time. This was drawing attention. Bompensiero would have agreed with Cohen had he read what Cohen eventually wrote about the Dragna group’s attempts on his life: “I think it all came about with a lot of people prodding Jack and steaming him up about him losing face in the whole community, in our way of life. Different guys wanted to make themselves look good to him in every way they could. And actually they was nothing but a bunch that kiss other people’s asses, and the result was a lot of guys getting knocked off.” Five of Mickey’s guys were knocked off before Dragna called a halt to the war.

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