If you were of the Whalen clan, you got educated in the rackets. John von Hurst was a toddler when his grandfather Fred Whalen took him for a walk in Hollywood and bookies abducted the family patriarch, demanding $2,900 he'd scammed from them as "Dr. Harry Moore."
After von Hurst grew into a strapping teen, Fred used him as a straight man when he'd go to pool halls and pretend to be tipsy. The kid would nudge him, "C'mon, Grandpa, you've had enough" to lure the suckers into futile games of eight-ball.
So even if von Hurst was doomed to be a square -- an architect -- Grandpa didn't hide who he was. Fred thus allowed him to hang close when two men came calling at the Whalen clan's mansion in Los Feliz after Mickey went to prison. "Yeah. I was there," recalled von Hurst, who was 15 at the time.
When he answered the door, "they asked if Fred Whalen was at home, and I said, 'Yeah, just a second,' and he came downstairs and they went to the living room. He sat on the couch and they sat on two chairs near him.
"They started out with 'Haven't seen you for a long time. How ya doin'?' My grandfather said, 'I'm doing fine.'
"They said, 'You know, Fred, we've never really gotten right about what happened with Jack. We would like to, you know, even the score.'
"The idea was they were gonna kill him. So they said, 'Do you have a problem with this?' And my grandfather said, 'No. . . . I don't care what you do to the son of a bitch.' "
Von Hurst, who is 61 now, said his grandpa did not mention the visit again until they heard that Mickey had been bashed over the head in prison on Aug. 14, 1963. "All he said was 'I guess those guys meant what they said.' "
Sgt. Jerry Wooters, who played the long odds all his life, ended his police career with four years of jail duty. "Couldn't get out," he said.
He tried to find refuge as a suburban dad, but fudged even there. He enrolled his oldest boy in an Indian Guides program where fathers and sons slept in tepees, "and invariably Jerry would . . . sneak out," said Dr. Norm von Herzen, another father. "He'd go in the back of his station wagon on his soft mattress. That's Jerry."
During those trips, Jerry also shared his apprehension about life in "the so-called outside world" and how the gangsters mocked cops like him as suited to be security guards at best, minimum-wage hacks.
But just about the time Mickey Cohen was being conked in prison, an old war buddy asked him to try selling built-in vacuum systems. Why hadn't he realized he could sell anything? "Hocked the house, hocked the car, got into the business."
Wooters started selling garage doors, too, and kitchen "food centers" built into the counter, fancy blenders really. He began telling developers of huge Orange County subdivisions, "Look, I'll take care of your intercom, garage door opener, build your alarm system." By 1969, he was able to move his family into a house on the water in Newport Beach. Then he built an office park.
In later days, he joked that he put his LAPD pension to good use, all "$332 or something" a week. "Pays my liquor bill," he said. He grew a wispy white beard, like other multimillionaire beach bums who whiled away days sipping drinks and watching the bikinis pass.
At Christmas 1998, when he was 81, he stumbled while putting on his pants before dinner. He told his wife, "I've got a headache." He'd been shot down over the Pacific, drawn his gun on Mickey Cohen and nearly walked into the wrong restaurant with his pal Jack Whalen. But the brain hemorrhage took him out with little suffering for his sins.
Two old cops were on the boat that carried his ashes toward Santa Catalina Island. One was Bert Phelps, whose LAPD career had been stymied for being his partner. A bug man then, he was a judge now, Superior Court Judge Beauford H. Phelps. Tried murder cases, studied at Oxford. Also aboard was Robert Peinado, who worked for the LAPD from '51 to '63 and became a lawyer too. Jerry loved his singing, so he'd asked a favor, for when his time came. Jerry had a song in mind, made famous by Sinatra.
The boat was halfway to Catalina when they began struggling with the box of ashes, had to get pliers to rip it open. Then Jerry Wooters' remains were sprinkled on the waves as Peinado sang "My Way."