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Mickey Cohen’s Sunset Strip

Aric Allen’s Hollywood walking tour tells the story of the Sunset Strip‘s transformation from sprawling poinsettia fields and avocado groves to the world famous entertainment hotspot it is today.

It was gambling that built the Sunset Strip, Aric says, and in this short video, he zooms in on a central character, the Los Angeles gangster Mickey Cohen, who ruled the Sunset Strip in the post-war era.

Aric also highlights the role that water may have played in the lifespans of both the man and the Strip itself.

It’s the water – it’s always been about the water,” he begins, in his gravelly voice. “I say Los Angeles was born in 1913, same year that Mickey Cohen was born. That’s the year when water was dragged kicking and screaming from up north, stolen from Owens Valley, and delivered to Los Angeles. It’s true. Before that, the town of Our Lady Queen of Angels was still just an overgrown pueblo in the sand.

In 1916, the Department of Water and Power laid down water mains on one of LA’s dirt roads – the Sunset Strip. That same year, Cohen’s widowed mother brought him and his two older brothers to the city. “He grew up alongside this hydroponic city in the desert. The oasis luxury of water unleashed new possibilities for both of them.

A problem child from a young age, Cohen was already selling newspapers in 2nd grade instead of going to school, a few years before his first arrest at nine for attempting to rob a movie theatre with a baseball bat. It was the newsprint that constantly stained his hands and a flippant comment by a customer that triggered the hand-washing OCD that ended up saving his life. That, and the water.

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