Roy Radin (13 November 1949 – 10 June 1983) was a show business promoter who packaged vaudeville shows in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was probably best known for his attempts to help finance the film The Cotton Club, and as the subsequent victim of a murder-for-hire at age 33. The trial in which four people were sentenced related to Radin's killing became known as "The Cotton Club Murder." The story of Radin's murder became the subject of a book, Bad Company: Drugs, Hollywood and the Cotton Club Murder.
Radin was the son of Broadway promoter Al Radin, who owned a speakeasy and promoted Broadway shows in the 1920s and 1930s. Roy Radin was a high-school dropout who joined the Clyde Beatty Circus at the age of 16 doing publicity work. A year later, Radin signed George Jessel and J. Fred Muggs as part of his first traveling show. Radin continued to put together vaudeville shows and became a millionaire before the age of 20. Shows were packaged with Roy Radin's name getting first billing (e.g., The Roy Radin Vaudeville Revue, The Roy Radin Variety Show, Roy Radin's Vaudeville '77). The shows featured comedy acts including George Gobel, Frank Gorshin, Jack Carter, Jackie Vernon, Milton Berle, Jessel, and The Roy Radin Orchestra. Berle and Jessel were among the regular masters of ceremonies. Throughout the 1970s, Radin's company Roy Radin Enterprises, had multiple shows running at the same time. The tours were creatively financed, always showing as sold out but sometimes sparsely attended. Tickets were often sold as benefits for handicapped children, police officers, fire fighters or local causes. Advertisements by local communities were purchased in the souvenir magazine distributed at the venue. The financing was investigated by New York state Attorney General Louis Lefkowitz in 1975 after he found that only 27% of the funds were going to one of the attributed charities.
Radin expanded his shows to concentrate not only on comedy revues but also musical acts largely consisting of fading 1950s and 1960s performers. The performances were often in poorly equipped high school auditoriums and gymnasiums requiring lengthy bus rides. Musical performers included The Drifters, Eddie Fisher, The Serendipity Singers, The Shirelles, and Danny and the Juniors. Comedians had a love-hate relationship with the tours, with Radin routinely the butt of the jokes. Reflecting on one tour, George Gobel told Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, "Roy Radin knows as much about show business as a pig knows about church on Sunday."
Hoping to diversify his company, Radin worked to establish contacts in the television and movie industry. In April 1980, actress Melonie Haller claimed that she had been beaten and raped during a party hosted by Radin. He was charged with menacing Haller, criminal possession of LSD and cocaine with illegal possession of a handgun. Radin pleaded guilty to the weapon possession and the other charges were dropped. He was fined $1,000 and given three years probation on the weapons charge.
Cotton Club movie
According to associates, Radin became "obsessed" with the film and Broadway business and began to neglect the vaudeville and music revues. One of Radin's film contacts became film producer Robert Evans, who was introduced to Radin by one-time drug dealer Karen Greenberger (aka Lanie Jacobs). Radin was trying to break into the film industry with a movie about the legendary New York nightclub, the Cotton Club. Radin's financial situation was reportedly quite challenged due both to neglecting his live tours and reported drug-related situations. The deal being arranged on the film The Cotton Club would have Evans and Radin establishing a production company in which Radin and Evans would each own 45% of the film with the remaining 10% split between two other parties. Radin offered Greenberger (aka Jacobs) a $50,000 finders fee for her efforts which she found unsatisfactory.
As The Cotton Club film financing was being arranged, the 33-year-old Radin was murdered in Gorman, California in 1983. Contract killer William Mentzer was among four people sentenced for shooting Radin multiple times in the head and using dynamite to make identification by authorities more challenging. At the trial, Karen Greenberger was convicted of second-degree murder and kidnapping. Her involvement was said to be over a fear of being cut out of a producer's role and potential profiting in the Cotton Club movie. As a result, the murder court case of Radin was dubbed the Cotton Club Murder Trial.
- Wick, Steve. Bad Company: Drugs, Hollywood and the Cotton Club Murder. New York: Harcourt Publishing, 1990.
- Prial, Frank. "Roy Radin: Life and Death of a Show Business Demimonde." New York Times, 20 July 1983, p. E1.
- Kornheiser, Tony. "On the Road Again -- and Again With the Once and Future Stars." Washington Post, 17 December 1980, p. E1.
- An Interview with Jack Carter - Part Three 11 June 2011.
- Haden-Guest, Anthony. "Melonie Haller's Lost Weekend, New York Magazine, 12 May 1980, p. 46.
- Rorhlich, Ted and Treadwell, David. "The 'Cotton Club' Killing: Five years after the bullet-riddled body of a flamboyant New York producer was discovered in a remote canyon of Los Angeles County, sheriff's homicide detectives arrested a woman and four men in the case linked to a squabble over financing the movie, 'Cotton Club.'" Los Angeles Times', 9 October 1988.
- "Radin Accused Again." The Free Lance-Star, 9 September 1981, p. 28.
- "Jury Finds Four Guilty in 'Cotton Club' Murder Case." Sun-Sentinel, 23 July 1991.
- Kasindorf, Jeanie. "The Cotton Club Murder." New York Magazine, 24 July 1989, p. 27.
- Daly, Michael. "The Making of Hollywood: A True Tale of Hollywood." New York Magazine, 7 May 1984, p. 47.
- Toomey, Jeanne (2006). Assignment Homicide. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone Press, p. 141.
- "'Cotton Club' Defendant Says Evans Not Involved: Trial." Los Angeles Times, 27 April 1991.