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Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin

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A rich biography of the legendary figure at the center of the century’s darkest secrets: an untold story of golden age Hollywood, modern Las Vegas, JFK-era scandal and international intrigue from the New York Times bestselling author of Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing… A singular figure in the annals of the American underworld, Johnny Rosselli’s career flourished for an extrao A rich biography of the legendary figure at the center of the century’s darkest secrets: an untold story of golden age Hollywood, modern Las Vegas, JFK-era scandal and international intrigue from the New York Times bestselling author of Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing… A singular figure in the annals of the American underworld, Johnny Rosselli’s career flourished for an extraordinary fifty years, from the bloody years of bootlegging in the Roaring Twenties--the last protégé of Al Capone―to the modern era of organized crime as a dominant corporate power. The Mob’s “Man in Hollywood,” Johnny Rosselli introduced big-time crime to the movie industry, corrupting unions and robbing moguls in the biggest extortion plot in history. A man of great allure and glamour, Rosselli befriended many of the biggest names in the movie capital―including studio boss Harry Cohn, helping him to fund Columbia Pictures--and seduced some of its greatest female stars, including Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. In a remarkable turn of events, Johnny himself would become a Hollywood filmmaker―producing two of the best film noirs of the 1940s. Following years in federal prison, Rosselli began a new venture, overseeing the birth and heyday of Las Vegas. Working for new Chicago boss Sam Giancana, he became the gambling mecca’s behind-the-scenes boss, running the town from his suites and poolside tables at the Tropicana and Desert Inn, enjoying the Rat Pack nightlife with pals Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. In the 1960s, in the most unexpected chapter in an extraordinary life, Rosselli became the central figure in a bizarre plot involving the Kennedy White House, the CIA, and an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. Based upon years of research, written with compelling style and vivid detail, Handsome Johnny is the great telling of an amazing tale.


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A rich biography of the legendary figure at the center of the century’s darkest secrets: an untold story of golden age Hollywood, modern Las Vegas, JFK-era scandal and international intrigue from the New York Times bestselling author of Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing… A singular figure in the annals of the American underworld, Johnny Rosselli’s career flourished for an extrao A rich biography of the legendary figure at the center of the century’s darkest secrets: an untold story of golden age Hollywood, modern Las Vegas, JFK-era scandal and international intrigue from the New York Times bestselling author of Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing… A singular figure in the annals of the American underworld, Johnny Rosselli’s career flourished for an extraordinary fifty years, from the bloody years of bootlegging in the Roaring Twenties--the last protégé of Al Capone―to the modern era of organized crime as a dominant corporate power. The Mob’s “Man in Hollywood,” Johnny Rosselli introduced big-time crime to the movie industry, corrupting unions and robbing moguls in the biggest extortion plot in history. A man of great allure and glamour, Rosselli befriended many of the biggest names in the movie capital―including studio boss Harry Cohn, helping him to fund Columbia Pictures--and seduced some of its greatest female stars, including Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe. In a remarkable turn of events, Johnny himself would become a Hollywood filmmaker―producing two of the best film noirs of the 1940s. Following years in federal prison, Rosselli began a new venture, overseeing the birth and heyday of Las Vegas. Working for new Chicago boss Sam Giancana, he became the gambling mecca’s behind-the-scenes boss, running the town from his suites and poolside tables at the Tropicana and Desert Inn, enjoying the Rat Pack nightlife with pals Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. In the 1960s, in the most unexpected chapter in an extraordinary life, Rosselli became the central figure in a bizarre plot involving the Kennedy White House, the CIA, and an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro. Based upon years of research, written with compelling style and vivid detail, Handsome Johnny is the great telling of an amazing tale.

30 review for Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin

  1. 5 out of 5

    Valerity (Val)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin This is a deeply researched book about the mob figure Johnny Roselli – also spelled Rosselli – who started life as Filippo (Philip) Sacco. This man had quite an unbelievable life and quite a long one for a gangster of that time. After his father died in 1918 of the Spanish flu epidemic, the boy stopped going to school and started hanging out on the streets looking for ways to make money to Handsome Johnny: The Life and Death of Johnny Rosselli: Gentleman Gangster, Hollywood Producer, CIA Assassin This is a deeply researched book about the mob figure Johnny Roselli – also spelled Rosselli – who started life as Filippo (Philip) Sacco. This man had quite an unbelievable life and quite a long one for a gangster of that time. After his father died in 1918 of the Spanish flu epidemic, the boy stopped going to school and started hanging out on the streets looking for ways to make money to help his mother. She had 5 children to feed and no man to help. He was soon looking up to the guys with money, the gangsters in fancy clothes who would pay him to run errands. After getting into legal troubles several times he took on the name Roselli after an Italian sculptor supposedly and took off to make a new start. He also claimed to be American while he was at it hoping that he couldn’t be deported, saying that his birth certificate had been lost in a fire in Chicago. After traveling around the country for some time he got on his feet in Los Angeles and began making money. John, or Handsome Johnny, as he was known, eventually made the acquaintance of Al Capone and became his West Coast affiliate looking after his interests, and thus was involved with the Chicago Outfit. Roselli had a hand in a lot of various activities, such as bootlegging, casino boats, and bookmaking. He also had to take some time out for downtime in a TB sanatorium for many months while he laid completely still so he could heal his lungs. He eventually did recover luckily while many did not. He would send his brother here too under a similar name. The TB would later come back and he would spend more time in a sanatorium. He was also active around the Hollywood scene and became close to platinum-haired actress Jean Harlow for a while after mobster Longie Zwillman asked him to keep an eye on her for him when he had to go back east. He also became best friends for a time with Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn, often going to the studio for lunch with him and knew many others in the industry. Later he was put in charge of picking up the mob’s collections (the skim) in Las Vegas. He was involved with the CIA and the attempted assassination of Castro and testified about it before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence twice in 1975. Then there is the whole thing about him and the Kennedy assassination conspiracy, he’s been named as the primary hitman in Kennedy’s death by one source. He testified in front of the Committee on the subject, and they wanted to recall him to testify again, but by that time he was missing. ** For more on Kennedy's killing, read The Inheritance: Poisoned Fruit of JFK's Assassination by Christopher Fulton, coming out Nov 22, 2018. Federal investigators suggested that he may have been killed by Chicago mobsters for keeping an unfair share of the mob’s money in Las Vegas. That just seems like a crazy amount of things for one man to have been involved in, to me. He was born July 4, 1905, in Esperia, Italy and died August 9, 1976.  My thanks for the advance electronic copy that was provided by NetGalley, author Lee Server, and the publisher for my fair review. See my BookZone blog: https://wordpress.com/post/bookblog20...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melisende d'Outremer

    Having read Martin Short's "Crime Inc" many times, I could not for the life of me remember coming across Johnny Rosselli's name in any context. In fact, I picked up the book again to ensure that I hadn't missed it - I hadn't - he's not listed or mentioned. So who was this shadowy figure? From Server's well-researched and vivid biography, Rosselli is hardly camera shy, being involved in some of the biggest Mob activities from the 1920s to the 1960s. Server does well to tease out the little that is Having read Martin Short's "Crime Inc" many times, I could not for the life of me remember coming across Johnny Rosselli's name in any context. In fact, I picked up the book again to ensure that I hadn't missed it - I hadn't - he's not listed or mentioned. So who was this shadowy figure? From Server's well-researched and vivid biography, Rosselli is hardly camera shy, being involved in some of the biggest Mob activities from the 1920s to the 1960s. Server does well to tease out the little that is known about Rosselli's life, particularly his early life in Boston, which he himself endeavoured to keep secret - changing his name to ensure that it was. He moved in notable crime circles with the likes of Capone, Siegel, Lansky, Luciano, Giancana; produced two Hollywood films; was a mover and shaker in the early Las Vegas casino era of the 1940s & 1950s, where he hob-nobbed with the likes of Hollywood's Rat Pack, aspiring politicians and dodgy union bosses. Yet nearly everything about Rosselli was cloaked in mystery; that is, until the FBI had him in their crossfire, and his wheeling and dealing was revealed, via a snitch. This investigation by the FBI opened up old wounds and long kept secrets, and eventually involved the CIA. Even in death, another mystery; why was Rosselli killed (or rubbed out) and by who - the Mob, the FBI, the CIA? Theories still abound. Quite frankly, you can't make this stuff up - even if it does read like fiction. Rosselli lived through some of the most fascinating events and decades in history: the Roaring Twenties, Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Second World War, McCathyism, JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Server research stands him in good stead in bringing to the fore a man who had his finger in many pies - and yet, Rosselli still somehow manages to remains an enigma. If the Mob history is your genre, then add this to the shelves of your library.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Handsome Johnny Rosselli is the most fascinating gangster I never heard of. Wow! His saga makes him out to be a sort of shady Forrest Gump, who was involved in the shadows of nearly everything interesting that happened in 20th Century America. He came up on the streets of Boston, heading west to help bootleg booze in California during Prohibition, impressed Al Capone into making him an LA rep for his crime outfit, did some movie producing during Hollywood's Golden Age, dated movie stars in Holly Handsome Johnny Rosselli is the most fascinating gangster I never heard of. Wow! His saga makes him out to be a sort of shady Forrest Gump, who was involved in the shadows of nearly everything interesting that happened in 20th Century America. He came up on the streets of Boston, heading west to help bootleg booze in California during Prohibition, impressed Al Capone into making him an LA rep for his crime outfit, did some movie producing during Hollywood's Golden Age, dated movie stars in Hollywood, was involved in the ground floor of building Las Vegas, worked with Howard Hughes, possibly helped arrange an unsuccessful hit on Fidel Castro (which may or may not have triggered Cuban involvement in the JFK assassination), and even may have known a few things about Watergate. His business card referred to himself as a "strategizer." He knew everyone and was well-regarded as a suave, well-dressed businessman around LA, yet he had deep ties to organized crime. And then he was found chopped up in an oil drum that washed up near Miami. It was really amazing to see how the author made connections between Rosselli and all this fascinating history, legit and otherwise. Colorful gangsters come to life in this telling, such as Mickey Cohen, Bugsy Siegel, Lucky Luciano, and many others. The author employs a prose style that is a lot more gritty than most biographies, which is why I won't be purchasing it for my high school library, but for grownups the salty language and sordid descriptions really add appropriately to the overall atmosphere. I would recommend this to anyone who loves The Godfather, Elmore Leonard, Public Enemies, secret history documentaries, conspiracy theories, or tales of classic Hollywood, Which is pretty much everyone. It's kind of a guilty pleasure, but it's one of the most fun biographies I've read in a long while. I received an ebook galley of this title from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Since I read the galley, I don't know if the published version will contain photos, but I hope so. I looked him up, and Rosselli really was handsome. He also knew a lot of beautiful women. Photos would add greatly to the value of the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Handsome Johnny was a mafia super-star from the 1920s through the latter 1960s. Lee Server has written a well researched and written biography that allows the characters to leap off of the pages to tell this story. Johnny was Al Capone's protege' and became the man on the forefront of the mob from prohibition, to Los Angeles to helping create Las Vegas as a gambling haven. The nickname "handsome" came from Johnny's good looks and role as a ladies' man. In Hollywood he was involved with many movi Handsome Johnny was a mafia super-star from the 1920s through the latter 1960s. Lee Server has written a well researched and written biography that allows the characters to leap off of the pages to tell this story. Johnny was Al Capone's protege' and became the man on the forefront of the mob from prohibition, to Los Angeles to helping create Las Vegas as a gambling haven. The nickname "handsome" came from Johnny's good looks and role as a ladies' man. In Hollywood he was involved with many movie stars including Marilyn Monroe. He was high society, drank the finest champagne and traveled in the top circles. He corrupted unions and blackmailed Hollywood moguls. After a stint in jail, Johnny went to Vegas and helped build the gambling industry with all of its' glamor such as Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack and all of the corruption. Johnny is rumored to have been involved in the assassination of John Kennedy and wrapped up in the CIA in what was an attempt on Fidel Castro's life. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is as complete a biography as I can imagine. Really. What more could you want?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Handsome Johnny by Lee Server is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November. The dynamic, calculated, notorious life and mysterious death of John ‘Johnny’ Rosselli (aka Filippo Sacco): a man involved in organized crime during the 1950s-1970s in California and Florida. Initially starting out as a rumrunner in L.A. in the early 20s, he recovers from being struck by TB to be tapped by Capone to be his representative in L.A. with Jack Dragna (thereby running floating casinos, off-track bett Handsome Johnny by Lee Server is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November. The dynamic, calculated, notorious life and mysterious death of John ‘Johnny’ Rosselli (aka Filippo Sacco): a man involved in organized crime during the 1950s-1970s in California and Florida. Initially starting out as a rumrunner in L.A. in the early 20s, he recovers from being struck by TB to be tapped by Capone to be his representative in L.A. with Jack Dragna (thereby running floating casinos, off-track betting, bodyguard to Jean Harlow before her transition to MGM, city hall and studio coverups & shakedowns, extortion, being involved by association in the Cuban missile crisis, labor union disputes, producer for B-movies, land ownership in Las Vegas and Havana, and lots of blackmail). There are so many, many names, but there's a loose timeline (particularly during the 60s) to allow for multiple players that will have some effect on Rosselli’s life.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I never knew that there was so much mob warfare in L.A. in the late 40s/early 50s, and I grew up in L.A. during that time period! I was not that crazy about the dialogue between the characters. It just sounded so fake. If one has seen Godfather I, and especially II, then much of what this author wrote can be found in those movies. And, just who did kill Rosselli? I think that information would have made this book a five-star for me. Lastly...Judith Campbell has always been described as more beauti I never knew that there was so much mob warfare in L.A. in the late 40s/early 50s, and I grew up in L.A. during that time period! I was not that crazy about the dialogue between the characters. It just sounded so fake. If one has seen Godfather I, and especially II, then much of what this author wrote can be found in those movies. And, just who did kill Rosselli? I think that information would have made this book a five-star for me. Lastly...Judith Campbell has always been described as more beautiful that Elizabeth Taylor (several times in this book). Just what pictures are these people looking at? For heaven's sake, she is not even close!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Gangster Johnny Roselli was a big-time thug that I’d never heard of. He began his career in Los Angeles working small jobs of illegal liquor transport, drugs, and gambling for wealthy residents and Hollywood’s elite. Later he was involved with Al Capone, Las Vegas Mobs, Sam Giancana, and even the CIA. It’s a very interesting look at the dirty jobs of gangster life from the 1920’s to the 1960’s, but a little too much detail about life in LA working with and against the Hollywood labor unions.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Terry Moskowitz

    Who is Handsome Johnny? He is the man who had his hands in a little but of everything. He led a pretty exciting life. Even though he was not camera shy he still lived behind the shadows. This was very interesting learning about things that went on behind the scenes in the mob world. I really enjoyed this book and learned a lot about history that I would have never seen in the streamlined history books. ** I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review**

  9. 5 out of 5

    Vnunez-Ms_luv2read

    Having read previously abut Johnny Rosselli. I was very glad to read this book. Very interesting and well written. Mr. Rosselli is a very interesting character. Thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publisher for the ARC of this book. Although I received the book in this manner, it did not effect my opinion of this book nor my review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Fantastic bio of Johnny Roselli- mid 20th century old school mafioso. Heavy into Hollywood, Vegas, and the Castro /Kennedy stuff- this well written ( with the right amount of snark ),and well researched book is perfect if any of these subjects interest you. Highly highly recommended!

  11. 5 out of 5

    BookGypsy

    This is a remarkable biography. This was a vivid look into the life of this high society pretty boy gangster. As a boy he was poor, his father died when he was young and Johnny took the streets to earn money. He fell for the glamorous life of the mobsters. The money, the clothes, the status and he was willing to do anything to get it. He became Al Capone's protege, controlling prohibition , the gambling industry and a CIA assassin. Rumored to be the hit man in Kennedy's assassination. I really e This is a remarkable biography. This was a vivid look into the life of this high society pretty boy gangster. As a boy he was poor, his father died when he was young and Johnny took the streets to earn money. He fell for the glamorous life of the mobsters. The money, the clothes, the status and he was willing to do anything to get it. He became Al Capone's protege, controlling prohibition , the gambling industry and a CIA assassin. Rumored to be the hit man in Kennedy's assassination. I really enjoyed this look deep into Johnny's life. I love mob stories and this was so full of interesting things it was like watching a gangster movie. I was given a copy of this from the publisher for my honest review. Dawn Ruby-BookGypsy Novels N Latte Book Blog Novels & Latte Book Club Hudson Valley NY

  12. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  13. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  14. 5 out of 5

    Donna

  15. 4 out of 5

    Angelo

  16. 5 out of 5

    David Cook

  17. 5 out of 5

    Giandomenico Rende

  18. 5 out of 5

    joan cecconi

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eric Lyden

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rick Moore

  21. 4 out of 5

    John Campagnuolo

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jon Foley

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeffy Eugene

  24. 4 out of 5

    Minilik

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marissa Picone

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Richard Slovenski

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gillian

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sheldon Davidow

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paul T. McGee

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