Monday, September 25, 2006

Mob Ties for Bonzo?

In his Tribune review of the book Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America's Hidden Power Brokers, Hillel Levin recounts an often forgotten chapter in Ronald Reagan's rise to power:
Producers also got squeezed by the stars in front of the cameras, especially those managed by Jules Stein and Lew Wasserman of MCA, Hollywood's first powerhouse talent agency. Back in Chicago when Stein started the firm as Music Corporation of America, he was booking area bands and using a "union racketeer" to throw stink bombs in nightclubs that wouldn't take his acts. He was supposedly a silent partner with Outfit bosses in the hot spots where his bands played, and according to Russo, he would continue to blur the line between ownership and union influence throughout his career.

Later, when Wasserman client Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild, he helped push through a waiver permitting MCA to be the only agency that could also produce programs for the burgeoning TV industry. This competitive edge helped Stein and Wasserman gain control of Universal Pictures and create Hollywood's first multimedia behemoth. In return for the SAG waiver, Russo asserts, Wasserman secretly cut Reagan into production deals (counter to SAG rules) and helped transform him into the ubiquitous TV presence that launched his political career.
And then it was on to illegal weapons sales to Islamic Republic of Iran.

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