Sinatra’s Wrong Door Raid


The baseball legend Joe DiMaggio never stopped loving Marilyn Monroe even after she divorced him. The problem between them was simple. DiMaggio wanted a wife who would stay home, have babies and cook. Monroe wanted a career as a superstar. DiMaggio heard the same rumors that everyone else heard in Hollywood at that time; Monroe was having an affair with her voice couch.

Supposedly, during the production of the “Seven Year Itch” DiMaggio, and 5,000 others, watched the scene made on Lexington Avenue in New York of Marilyn stepping on a subway grate which made her skirt fly up. The crowd kept whistling and making various catcalls during the filming causes Monroe to shoot the scene over and over again, which drove the abnormally jealous Di Maggio over the top. Back in their hotel room a livid DiMaggio allegedly smacked Monroe. In early October, Monroe’s attorney called a press conference on the lawn of the couples rented home at 508 Palm Drive and told the world Marilyn was suing for divorce.

It had been nine days since Marilyn Monroe’s divorce from Joe DiMaggio had become final on Oct. 27, 1954. The rumors all around Hollywood was that no matter what DiMaggio told himself about Monroe leaving him for another man that she left him because he was abusive, distant and cold.

Another factor for Monroe was that DiMaggio was a jealous man, a problem when you’re married to the sexiest woman on earth.

Divorced or not, DiMaggio was certain Monroe was seeing someone else, although it was no longer his business, so he hired the famed private eye Barney Ruditsky, to track the starlight 24-7.

British born Barney Ruditsky was a long time celebrity detective of the 1920s and 1930s on the New York City police force. In about 1922, Ruditsky was made a detective and placed on the so-called gangster- squad, headed by Detective Johnny Broderick. Rudensky was fearless and tough and brave and was granted the NYPD Combat Cross, the second-highest honor for bravery in the line of duty.

Although the gangster squad was disbanded in 1933, in 1939, Ruditsky was tangled up in a bribery scandal. A former Communist, Maurice L. Malkin, accused Ruditsky and others on the squad of corruption in testimony before the HUAC. Malkin testified that the furriers union, which was controlled by Communists, borrowed $1.75 million from racketeer Arnold Rothstein to finance a 1926 strike, and that $110,000 of that went to members of the Industrial Squad, including Ruditsky.

Ruditsky retired from the force in 1941. After the war, he moved to Los Angeles and opened his private detective firm, (The Associated Security Council) a liquor store and became co-owner of a Sunset Strip nightclub called Sherry's where, in July 1949, LA mobster and dope pushed Mickey Cohen was ambushed in a shotgun attacked. Ruditsky also worked as a technical advisor on a series of crime films for 20th Century Fox and in the mid-1940s, a television series called The Lawless Years was loosely based on his career as a police officer.

In 1948, Ruditsky had allowed the LAPAD to use his office on the Strip as their base of their wiretapping operation on the home of a Hollywood madam named Brenda Allen. (Allen’s lover and business partner was a police lieutenant) The hooker had gone public with a story about the paying off the top brass of the LAPD, so to ruin her testimony, the cops bugged her house. As a result of evidence uncovered in the wiretaps, LAPD Chief Clemence B. Horrall and several of his top lieutenants, were fired from the force. After that, the LAPD had little use for Ruditsky and claimed that his PI firm was little more than a collection agency on bad gambling debts owed to various Las Vegas casinos and more than just a few gangsters including Bugsy Siegel, who was close to Ruditsky. When Siegel was murdered in 1947, Ruditsky was at the crime scene before the local police. Ruditsky was on the scene in Hollywood when actor Robert Mitchum arrested for possession of marijuana. (Ruditsky had offered to take along his friend Shirley Temple but she declined)

The LAPD also claimed that Ruditsky was nothing more than a frontman in his part ownership of Sherry’s, which they said was a mob gathering place. Regardless, he testified before the Kefauver hearings into organized crime as an expert in the field, especially concerning Southern California and Las Vegas. It was Ruditsky’s testimony about Bugsy Siegel’s girlfriend Virginia Hill, that created the image of her being completely insane. Barney Ruditsky died in October of 1962

At about 6:30 PM on November 5, Monroe drove her enormous white Cadillac to the home her friend Sheila Stewart, who lived eight blocks away in an apartment building to 8120 Waring Ave.

Joe DiMaggio was drinking with Frank Sinatra at the newly opened Villa Capri, an Italian restaurant at 6735 Yucca in Hollywood.

The Villa was a favorite haunt of James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Jimmy Durante for whom the restaurant private dining room was named.

Sinatra loved the place; it was located a short walk from the recording studios at Capitol Records and Sinatra used the place as his private party room and club so much so, that when he recorded The Isle of Capri” he slipped in a mention of the Villa Capri in the lyrics.

While the two were drinking DiMaggio got a call from the infamous private eye, Barney Ruditsky who told him that one of his men, 21-year-old Phil Irwin, had spotted Marilyn’s white Cadillac on Waring. DiMaggio knew that Shelia Stewart lived in a duplex on Waring and he suspected that Stewart had been allowing Marilyn to use the place for her clandestine meetings with Hal Schaefer, a vocal coach who worked with both Monroe and Stewart.

DiMaggio told Ruditsky to meet him on Waring, they would kick the door in and catch Monroe with Schaefer on film. Again, DiMaggio and Monroe were divorced when he decided to put this stupidity into action.

About an hour later DiMaggio and Sinatra stood on the corner of Waring and Kilkea. As to who, exactly was with them is still uncertain. Ruditsky and Irwin were definitely there, with, strangely enough, their wives. Others that may have been with them was the Villa Capri’s maĆ®tre d’, Billy Karen and/or Pasquale “Patsy” D’Amore, the Villa Capri’s owner. Sinatra’s sidekicks John Seminola and Sinatra’s manager Henry Sanicola may have also been on hand.

Simply put, they kicked in the wrong door. Actually, they used an ax to break the door down. The person who lived in the apartment they smashed their way into was Miss Florence Kotz, a 39-year-old secretary, who was sound asleep. “I was terrified,” she said “The place was full of men. They were making a lot of noise and lights flashed on. I saw one of them holding something up toward me, and I thought it was a weapon.” Seeing Kotz, someone in the crowd yelled “We go the wrong place” and they all ran back to their cars. “They broke a lot of glasses in the kitchen getting out of there,” Kotz said.

The LAPD investigated the incident as an attempted burglary simply because at the time they didn’t use the term “Home invasion.” Florence Kotz said she was unable to identify the suspects because the room was dark, except when she’d been blinded by the spotlights on the cameras. Since there were no leads the cops dropped the investigation. That was in November of 1954. In September of 1955 Confidential Magazine printed every detail of the wrong door raid.

Understandably, DiMaggio had refused to pay the Ruditsky agency its $800 fee. Sinatra eventually paid them however getting stiffed probably sparked Ruditsky into selling his version of events to Confidential magazine although some people in the know said that it was the private eye Phil Erwin who worked for Ruditsky who sold the story. Irwin ruined everyone’s tall tales about the raid by telling the truth under oath about what happened, which directly contradicted Sinatra’s sworn testimony. “Almost all of Mr. Sinatra’s statements were false,” Irwin said pointing out that the only persons who stayed in the car that night, according to Irwin, were his wife and Ruditsky’s wife.

Irwin always denied he was the snitch “There were only four people alive who knew all about the details of the raid that appeared in Confidential,” Irwin testified, according to the Los Angeles Times in February of 1957. “That was me, Ruditsky, Sinatra and DiMaggio. I didn’t tell and Sinatra and DiMaggio wouldn’t. That leaves Ruditsky.”

The public humiliation, to say nothing of the criminal aspects of the wrong door raid, dogged Sinatra and DiMaggio for months. They were butts of endlessly jokes and held up to public contempt as bullies and Confidential drained the story for everything it was worth.

A state senate committee — the Special State Senate Interim Committee on Collections Agencies, Private Investigators and Adjusters, chaired by Republican Sen. Fred Kraft of San Diego, (The Kraft Committee) held hearings in February on the same day that a Los Angeles County grand jury was convened to look into the matter as well. Adding to the issue California Attorney General Pat Brown, later, like his Jerry, would become Governor Brown opened his own investigation in 1957 and the wrong door raid was pulled into that as well. As part of the overall investigation, in March of 1957, two LAPD cops, acting on orders from LAPD Chief William Parker, got themselves into Sinatra’s Palm Springs house uninvited and served him with a subpoena that he had managed to duck for weeks. The subpoena order him to appear before the Los Angeles County grand jury investigating the Wrong Door Raid.

Sinatra testified under oath that he was part of the raid but neither he nor DiMaggio had entered Kotz’ apartment after the door had been bashed open. Ruditsky and DiMaggio of course, agreed with Sinatra’s version but refused to agree with it under oath and made sure they were unavailable for the hearing. Ruditsky claimed he was recovering from a heart attack and DiMaggio left for New York. Marilyn Monroe, on a film set in London and now married to Arthur Miller, turned down an offer to speak before the Kraft Committee.

Mrs. Virginia E. Blagsen, the landlord of the Waring Avenue complex, who lived upstairs told the grand jury she was reasonably certain she recognized Frank Sinatra during the raid and Sheila Stewart testified that she saw the men running away. “I didn’t know any of them because I was looking down on them, but I would have recognized that little pipsqueak Sinatra.”

Florence Kotz sued Joe DiMaggio, Frank Sinatra and the others for $200,000 and settled out of court for $7,500.