On April 4, 1958, Johnny Stompanato was stabbed to death at Lana Turner's Beverly Hills, California home. The assailant was Turner's then teenage daughter, Cheryl Crane. The girl claimed that Stompanato was attacking her mother and she had to defend her. The courts agreed, ruling Stompanato's death to be justifiable homicide. After the ruling, Stompanato's family sued Turner for $7 million. Gangster Mickey Cohen supposedly paid the family's legal costs. The case was finally settled out of court.
There have been endless rumors since 1958 that Turner was the actual killer. Her daughter supposedly took the blame because she was a minor and would face minimal judicial punishment under the circumstances. However there is no evidence to prove such claims.
Johnny Stompanato, Jr. also known as "Handsome Harry," "Johnny Stomp," "John Steele," and "Oscar" (October 9, 1925 – April 4, 1958) was a former United States Marine who became a bodyguard/enforcer for gangster Mickey Cohen. He was also the boyfriend of actress Lana Turner.
John "Jackie" R. Stompanato was born into an Italian-American family in predominantly Irish-American Woodstock, Illinois. Stompanato was the youngest of four children. His father John Sr. was a successful barber who owned a barber shop located on the historic Woodstock Square. It is now a bar restaurant called D.C Cobbs and features pictures of Johnny. The Stompanato family lived in a big clapboard house on Blakely Street with a garden with a florid statuary. John's mother died after his birth, and his father married 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 seventeen.
In 1943, Stompanato joined the U.S. Marines; he saw action in the South Pacific theater, in Peleliu and Okinawa, and then landed in China with the Marines, in 1945.
Stompanato later claimed that he stayed in China after the war, operating night clubs and going bankrupt in the process. He may have also worked as a minor bureaucrat at a U.S. government office in Tianjin, China. While working for the government, he met and married a Turkish woman six years his senior, and converted to Islam. Soon the couple returned to Woodstock, Illinois, where Stompanato's son, John Stompanato III, was born. Stompanato worked as a bread salesman for a few months before leaving for Hollywood, California.
Boyfriend to a star
In Los Angeles, Stompanato owned and managed "The Myrtlewood Gift Shop" in Westwood, California. 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 started dating Lana Turner, he wore a heavy gold-link bracelet on his wrist with "Lanita" inscribed inside. Turner's daughter with second husband J. Stephen Crane, 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.”
However, the reality was that Stompanato was very jealous and possessive of Turner and severely abused her on many occasions. Turner attempted to end their relationship several times, but he always persuaded her not to do so.
On one occasion, 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 were (and are) illegal in the UK. Rumours flew after Stompanato's death that the mob held Connery responsible; the actor allegedly laid low until things blew over.
Lana's Beverly Hills HomeDeath
On April 4, 1958, Johnny Stompanato was stabbed to death at Turner's Beverly Hills, California home. The assailant was Turner's then teenage daughter, Cheryl Crane. The girl claimed that Stompanato was attacking her mother and she had to defend her. The courts agreed, ruling Stompanato's death to be justifiable homicide. After the ruling, Stompanato's family sued Turner for $7 million; gangster Mickey Cohen supposedly paid the family's legal costs. The case was finally settled out of court.
Mickey Cohen and Johnny StompanatoThere have been endless rumors since 1958 that Turner was the actual killer. Her daughter supposedly took the blame because she was a minor and would face minimal judicial punishment under the circumstances. However there is no evidence to prove such claims.
Johnny Stompanato is interred at Oakland Cemetery in Woodstock, McHenry County, Illinois. 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 the small road, to the west from 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
In the film adaptation of L.A. Confidential, Stompanato was portrayed by Italian actor Paolo Seganti. In the novel L.A. Confidential, Johnny Stompanato is one of the alleged gunmen in the Nite Owl Massacre, but is murdered before he could be prosecuted.
A previously announced film featuring Keanu Reeves as Stompanato has been cancelled.
The Tom Russell song "Tijuana Bible" was allegedly set around Stompanato's death.
In 1979 Rene Ricard wrote one of his most well known poems, "The Death of Johnny Stompanato," published in Italian translation in 1981, and republished in Rene Ricard, Love Poems, CUZ Editions, 1999.
In November 2009 a BBC Radio 4 original play "A Night with Johnny Stompanato" was first broadcast.
Detour: A Hollywood Story by Cheryl Crane with Cliff Jahr (Arbor House/William Morrow, 1988)
1.^ Granta: 'In Lana Turner's Bedroom' by Gaby Wood
2.^ All about Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato, by Mark Gribben
4.^ Who Is James Bond?
5.^ http://www.granta.com/Magazine/86/In-Lana-Turners-Bedroom/ From Granta Magazine
6.^ All about Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato, by Mark Gribben
Lana Turner died in her Century City condo on July 29, 1995.