Barney Ruditsky

Barnett "Barney" P. Ruditsky (December 25, 1898 – October 18, 1962) was a British-born American police officer and private detective who later became an alleged organized crime associate in Los Angeles.

Biography

Ruditsky was born in 1898 in London, England. He arrived in New York City with his family at age 10 and later served in the United States Army during the Pancho Villa Expedition and World War I. Returning to New York, he joined the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in 1921. During his 20-year career on the force Ruditsky and his partner Det. Johnny Broderick were among the NYPD's prominent "celebrity detectives" of the 1920s and 1930s. Ruditsky was associated with many criminal cases during this period, most notably, ending with the break up of Murder Incorporated in 1940. Years later, he was called to testify before the Kefauver hearings due to his knowledge of the criminal underworld in Southern California and Las Vegas.

Following his retirement from the NYPD in 1941, Ruditsky moved to Los Angeles, California where he became a private investigator and nightclub owner. His later career as a private eye in Hollywood aroused controversy due to his association with gangland figures such as Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel as well as his investigation of film star Marilyn Monroe, the latter resulting in the infamous "Wrong Door Raid" in 1954. Ruditsky also served as a technical advisor on a series of crime films for 20th Century Fox in the mid-1940s and eventually became involved in creating The Lawless Years (1959–61), a television series loosely based on his time as a NYPD police detective during Prohibition.

Ruditsky and Det. Johnny Broderick had earned a sort of celebrity status as "tough-fisted cops", described by the New York Times as "slight of build, but utterly fearless, who, together or separately, battled and beat many an oversized gangster". The exploits of the Ruditsky-Broderick duo were frequently featured in crime magazines and newspapers as they took on such underworld figures as Jack "Legs" Diamond and Dutch Schultz. Ruditsky himself personally arrested Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Abe Reles at various points in his career and investigated Louis Buchalter's infamous "Murder, Inc." during the 1930s. Years later, Ruditsky told Senator Estes Kefauver at the hearings on organized crime that he had been "threatened a thousand times... but I got around them pretty good; nobody got back at me."

Private Eye in Hollywood

On October 19, 1941, after twenty years with the NYPD, Ruditsky retired from the force. Shortly after the US entered the Second World War less than two months later, he reenlisted in the United States Army. He was sent to the North African theatre and served as a guard for prisoners of war until being wounded by shrapnel in 1943. While in the military, Ruditsky completed his memoirs, largely about his career in the NYPD, entitled Angel's Corner.

At the end of the war, Ruditsky moved out to Los Angeles, where he opened a private detective firm and a small liquor store and became co-owner of a Sunset Strip nightclub called Sherry's. He was also employed by 20th Century Fox as a technical advisor (and occasional actor) on a series of crime films during the mid-1940s; these included "film noirs" such as Otto Brower's Margin for Error (1943) and Behind Green Lights (1946), and Edwin L. Marin's Nocturne (1946); Ruditsky also spearheaded a Hollywood-based organization to "take the kids off the streets" in an effort to discourage juvenile delinquency. His business ventures brought him into contact with figures in the entertainment industry, law enforcement, and organized crime.

Association with gangland figures

Despite his reputation in the NYPD, Ruditsky had a poor relationship with the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD claimed that his detective agency, the Associated Security Council, collected on bad gambling debts owed to various Las Vegas casinos such as The El Rancho and the Nevada Biltmore; among his clients was one-time nemesis Bugsy Siegel, who now owned the Flamingo and allegedly discussed the underworld financing of the casino with Ruditsky. When Siegel was murdered in 1947, Ruditsky offered his theories to Los Angeles detectives regarding the gangland slaying; a state report by the "Special Crime Study Commission on Organized Crime" stated that Ruditsky was at the crime scene even before police arrived. The details of this meeting were subsequently leaked to syndicated columnist Westbrook Pegler, who exposed Ruditsky's relationship with Siegel, and his image as "a squeaky clean New York cop" was called into question. Ruditsky's nightclub, according to the LAPD, was also a popular hangout for local underworld figures. On at least one occasion he contacted New York mobster Frank Costello, known as "Prime Minister of the Underworld", to assist him in getting a certain type of liquor for his club. Ruditsky routinely checked the street and parking lot for the safety of patrons. In July 1949, Mickey Cohen, a regular at Sherry's, was attacked outside the club and shot in the shoulder in an attempted mob hit. In the aftermath of the attack Ruditsky assisted crime reporter Florabel Muir in searching the area, where they discovered "spent shells and half-eaten sardine sandwiches" on a nearby flight of cement stairs. The attempted hit was allegedly carried out by future LA mob boss Dominic Brooklier. The next year, Ruditsky was called to testify before the televised Kefauver hearings to discuss his knowledge of organized crime. He specifically shared details about Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel, and described the erratic behavior of Virginia Hill, calling her "psychopathic"; however, he distanced himself from suggestions that he had "improper ties" with the local underworld.

Marilyn Monroe and the Wrong Door Raid

Though it enjoyed the status of being "Hollywood's most popular detective agency", Ruditsky's firm continued to be linked to questionable activities. In 1954, baseball player Joe DiMaggio, then in the midst of divorce proceedings with film star Marilyn Monroe, hired Ruditsky to discover whether she was having an extramarital affair.

On the evening of November 5, 1954, one of Ruditsky's associates, 21-year-old Phil Irwin, observed Monroe's Cadillac parked at Kilkea Drive and Waring Avenue. Monroe was visiting a friend, actress Sheila Stewart; however, DiMaggio suspected at the time that Monroe was having an affair with her vocal coach Hal Schaefer and that Stewart, one of Schaefer's students, was letting the two use her apartment. Irwin reported to Ruditsky, who phoned DiMaggio, who was dining with Frank Sinatra at an Italian restaurant in Hollywood, the Villa Capri, a mob owned lounge. DiMaggio and Sinatra, along with Sinatra's manager Henry Sanicola and Villa Capri owner Pasquale "Patsy" D'Amore, arrived at the address less than an hour later, where they met with Ruditsky and Irwin. Together, the group entered the two-story apartment building, broke down the door of one of the three rooms, and rushed into the bedroom with a cameraman expecting to catch the couple in bed. Instead, the lights from the flash camera revealed the frightened occupant, 37-year-old secretary Florence Kotz Ross. Realizing their mistake, they quickly fled from the building. The police were called; however, because Kotz Ross was unable to identify the intruders, the case, then thought to be an attempted burglary, remained unsolved and was finally closed by the LAPD almost a year later.

The entire incident came out in the September 1955 issue of Confidential, which called it the "Wrong Door Raid"; it became a legendary story in Hollywood gossip and caused embarrassment for all parties involved. After the story broke, Kotz Ross sued DiMaggio and Sinatra for $200,000; they settled out of court. Two years later, the incident was revisited by a state legislative committee as part of its investigation of the "Hollywood gutter press". Shortly thereafter, California Attorney General Pat Brown brought a criminal libel suit against Confidential. Ruditsky, who was then suffering from heart problems and whose second wife, Reggie, had recently died, was excused from testifying before the investigative committee. The negative publicity created by the "Wrong Door Raid", and the discovery that his detective firm did not have a state license, seriously harmed his reputation. Ruditsky subsequently retired as a P.I., later commenting: "Private detective work is a dirty, filthy, rotten business".

Though his detective career had ended in scandal, Ruditsky managed to redeem himself though his literary efforts by the late 1950s.

Ruditsky died in Los Angeles from a heart attack on October 19, 1962, only nine days after being admitted to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital for surgery to remove a tumor from his colon.

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