Sometime around one in the afternoon, “Handsome Johnny” Rosselli enjoyed brunch with his sister before borrowing her car and driving to the Miami marina.
The got on board a boat, with two friends. The boat was owned by one of them, an old friend.
When they got out to sea, someone strangled and tortured the 71-year-old gangster, before using a chainsaw on his legs and stuffing Rosselli into a 55-gallon drum and tossed the barrel overboard.
The barrel, now floating in Dumfounding Bay refused to sink. Fisherman, search for swordfish, found it over a week later stranded on a canal sand bar.
It wasn’t a great ending for Rosselli, a self-styled man-about-town. Rosselli enjoyed life as the Mafia’s ambassador in Los Angeles in the 30s and Las Vegas in the 50s. Charming and handsome, Rosselli kept friends such as famous Mafiosos, Hollywood stars and starlets and even hung out with members of Congress.
Rosselli had also been named by the CIA as being involved in numerous plots to kill Cuba’s then-President, Fidel Castro.
Then it all unraveled.
Rosselli was a drifter in America when he was young. 1920s Los Angeles provided his first home where he made a living working as a bootlegger and gambler. A chance meeting with Al Capone elevated Rosselli to the position of consul for the Chicago Outfit in Los Angeles.
Everyone knew the mob had its fingers in Hollywood productions. It was an open secret.
But the mob didn’t stop with just dabbling. Its involvement went to the top of the studios. Rosselli’s assignment, just one of several, was to establish friendships within the film industry.
Rosselli knew everyone. He dated movie stars and played golf with studio heads. His best friend was Harry Cohn, the boss of Columbia Pictures. Harry and Rosselli socialist together and Rosselli advised Cohn on gangster films. When Cohn once needed a big loan — fast — he turned to Rosselli who put him in contact with Abner Zwillman, an East Coast mobster.
Movie producer Joseph Schenck introduced Rosselli to Marilyn Monroe, and the two became friends. Some said lovers. A rumor still active says that Rosselli helped Monroe land her first prominent part in Ladies of the Chorus.
By the 1950s and 1960s, Rosselli had become a godfather of sorts for Las Vegas. He knew many of the stars who played the desert showrooms. Sinatra and Dean Martin were close friends with Rosselli and Martin sponsored Rosselli into the Friar’s Club.
When the Kefauver Hearings were held in Las Vegas, America first learned how far-reaching was the mob.
Rosselli was invited to testify on Federal RICO charges, and he did.
Taking his turn at the burnished oak witness table where every member of the Syndicate appeared, Rosselli talked — and talked.
Unlike the rest of the mobsters who played it tough and refused to say anything, Rosselli answered every question, but that isn’t what got Rosselli killed.
So what got “Handsome Johnny” Rosselli killed? The homicide detective who found his body said: “He had pissed off a lot of the wrong people.”