||This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2012)|
Stompanato with Lana Turner
October 10, 1925|
Woodstock, Illinois, U.S.
|Died||April 4, 1958
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Place of burial||Oakland Cemetery|
|Service/branch||United States Marine Corps|
|Years of service||1944–1946|
|Unit||Service Battalion, 1st Marine Division|
|Battles/wars||World War II
*Battle of Peleliu
*Battle of Okinawa
|Other work||Mob Bodyguard|
John "Johnny" Stompanato (October 10, 1925 - April 4, 1958), also known as "Handsome Harry", "Johnny Stomp", "John Steele", and "Oscar", was a former United States Marine who became a bodyguard and enforcer for gangster Mickey Cohen. In 1958, after a tumultuous relationship with actress Lana Turner, he was stabbed and killed by Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane.
John Stompanato, Jr. was born into an Italian-American family in Woodstock, Illinois. His father, John Sr., owned a barber shop. His mother, Carmela, was a seamstress. Both parents were born in Italy, but were married in Brooklyn. The family moved to Woodstock in 1916. Johnny was the youngest of four children and grew up with two older sisters, Grace and Teresa; and older brother, Carmine. Six days after John's birth, his mother died of peritonitis. Johnny's father soon remarried a woman named Verena Freitag.
In 1940, after Stompanato's freshman year at Woodstock High School, his father sent him to Kemper Military School for boys in Boonville, Missouri, from which he graduated at the age of 17. In 1943, Stompanato joined the U.S. Marines serving with the 1st Service Battalion, 1st Marine Division. He served in the South Pacific theater, in Peleliu and Okinawa, and then served in China with the Marines. Stompanato left the Corps in March 1946; being discharged in China.
It was in China, while stationed in Tianjin that Stompanato met his first wife, Sarah Utish; a Turkish girl living in China, and converted to Islam in order to marry her. The two married on May 1946 and moved to Woodstock, where they had their first son, John III.
Stompanato's son, John Stompanato III, by his sole legal marriage, was born in Woodstock. Stompanato worked as a bread salesman for a few months before leaving for Hollywood, California.
Stompanato owned and managed "The Myrtlewood Gift Shop" in Westwood, Los Angeles. He sold inexpensive pieces of crude pottery and wood carvings as fine art. The few shoppers who entered the store were either served by a part-time clerk or ignored altogether.
When he began dating Lana Turner, he wore a heavy gold-link bracelet on his wrist with "Lanita" inscribed inside. Turner's daughter Cheryl Crane described Stompanato in her autobiography, Detour: A Hollywood Story (1988):
|“||... B-picture good looks... thick set ... powerfully built and soft spoken ... and talked in short sentences to cover a poor grasp of grammar and spoke in a deep baritone voice. With friends, he seldom smiled or laughed out loud, but seemed always coiled, holding himself in ... had watchful hooded eyes that took in more than he wanted anyone to notice .... His wardrobe on a daily basis consisted of roomy, draped slacks, a silver buckled skinny leather belt and lizard shoes.||”|
On one occasion, the jealous Stompanato stormed onto a movie set in the UK and pointed a gun at actor Sean Connery, her costar in Another Time, Another Place, only to have Connery take the gun from him and force him from the movie set. Stompanato was deported for this offense, as unlicensed handguns are illegal in the United Kingdom.
On April 4, 1958, Stompanato was stabbed to death at Turner's Beverly Hills, California home. Turner's then teenage daughter Cheryl Crane claimed Stompanato had been attacking her mother and that she had stabbed Stompanato defending her mother. The courts agreed, ruling the death to be justifiable homicide. After the ruling, Stompanato's family sued Turner for $7 million. The case was eventually settled out of court for unknown terms.
Stompanato is interred at Oakland Cemetery, in Woodstock, McHenry County, Illinois. His grave is at . He is buried between his mother, Carmela (1890–1925), to the north, and his father John (1890–1952) and his step mother Verena (1901–1967) to the south. His brother, Carmine (1912–1961) is buried across a small road, to the west of Johnny.
Brad Lewis, Hollywood's Celebrity Gangster: The Incredible Life and Times of Mickey Cohen (New York: Enigma Books, 2007) ISBN 978-1-929631-65-0
In popular culture
- Stompanato makes an appearance in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire as an associate of gangster Mickey Cohen and is voiced by Andy Davoli.
- In James Ellroy's novels, The Big Nowhere, Stompanato is a minor character, and in L.A. Confidential, Stompanato plays a key role in the conspiracy at the center of the story. At the novel's conclusion, Ellroy weaves many of the real-life details of Stompanato's death into the otherwise largely fictional plot. In the film adaptation of L.A. Confidential, Stompanato is portrayed by Paolo Seganti.
- In 1979 Rene Ricard wrote one of his best-known known poems, The Death of Johnny Stompanato, published in Italian translation in 1981 and republished in Rene Ricard, Love Poems, CUZ Editions, 1999.
- The backstory of director Woody Allen's 1987 film September, in which Lane (Mia Farrow) shot the abusive boyfriend of her actress mother, seems to have been suggested by Stompanato's death.
- In November 2009 a BBC Radio 4 original play, A Night with Johnny Stompanato, was first broadcast.
- In the 2013 film Gangster Squad, Stompanato is played by James Carpinello.
- Parallels can be found between him, and the protagonist, Vito Scaletta in Mafia 2.
- Babcock, Richard. "American Gigolo - Chicago magazine - April 2008 - Chicago". Chicagomag.com. Retrieved 2013-02-07.
- p.203 Turner, Lana Lana-The Lady, the Legend, the Truth Dutton, 1982
- "In Lana Turner's Bedroom' by Gaby Wood"
- All about Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato, by Mark Gribben
- Who Is James Bond?
- http://www.granta.com/Magazine/86/In-Lana-Turners-Bedroom/ From Granta Magazine
- Detour: A Hollywood Story by Cheryl Crane with Cliff Jahr (Arbor House/William Morrow, 1988)