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'GAMBLING: AMERICA'S NATIONAL PASTIME? / CHARGES, REACTIONS : Joe DeCarlo Says Story's Inferences 'Are Ridiculous'

March 06, 1986|RICHARD HOFFER | Times Staff Writer

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda's friendship with Joe DeCarlo landed Lasorda in the middle of Sports Illustrated's special report on gambling, and DeCarlo regrets it.

"This whole thing with Tommy, it's terrible," DeCarlo said Wednesday. "The nicest guy in the world. And what does this make him look like?"

In the article, DeCarlo, a frequent clubhouse visitor at Dodger Stadium, is called a "reputed associate of the late L.A. bookmaker and organized crime figure Mickey Cohen."

Further, the article states, in a 1982 hearing before the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, a casino security file was introduced "that identified DiCarlo, who has worked as an entertainment agent and nightclub manager, as having allegedly provided organized crime with prostitutes and associated with reputed bookmakers."

Said DeCarlo: "The inferences are ridiculous, the allegations ridiculous. They can't even spell my name right." Throughout the article the name is spelled Di Carlo.

DeCarlo, who at one time managed Sonny and Cher and who also has managed Pips International, a restaurant on Rodeo Drive, said that virtually everything in the article was incorrect and that the one thing it had right, a 1948 conviction and prison term for mail theft, was really wrong.

"It was a misdemeanor, not a felony," he said. "Just something you get involved in as a teen-ager, a long story. That's my whole career, 30 days on a work farm, because I preferred that over a suspended sentence and three years' probation."

"As for my alleged association with Mickey Cohen, that goes back to when I was managing Candy Barr, a stripper.

"She had gotten in trouble with the authorities in Texas, got 15 years for possession of a half of gram of cocaine, something ridiculous. Mickey Cohen, on the other side of the restaurant where we're eating, wants to hear the story. That started the relationship.

"As they became romantically inclined, I got to know the guy. She wanted me along the first seven or eight dates. But they had me down as his bodyguard. I'm going to guard his body?"

An account of Mickey Cohen's murder-conspiracy trial included the name of Joe DeCarlo, one of several men indicted for conspiracy and the murder of Jack (the Enforcer) Whalen in 1959.

The case went to trial in 1962, but the jury could not reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial. Charges against Cohen and DeCarlo were dismissed several days later.

As for the delivery of prostitutes, DeCarlo said: "That's the most outrageous thing I've ever heard in my life."

These same allegations also came up in 1982, when Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, then attempting to qualify Playboy for permanent casino licensing in Atlantic City, was questioned about his relationship with DeCarlo.

Hefner and DeCarlo had founded Pips International together in 1972, though they had later split as partners. Hefner said in the hearing it would not be "appropriate" to have DeCarlo as a friend, even though he didn't know of anything illegal DeCarlo might have done.

DeCarlo, who says he is 50, said he assumed that he would have passed any baseball security tests, as he had passed White House security checks when he visited Presidents Kennedy and Carter. "I mean, I had a club, had a liquor license--how bad can I be?" he said.

"But the one thing I really don't understand is why me or Tommy are in that article in the first place. I'm not a gambler, I don't bet. What are we doing in there?"

In fact, the only link between gambling and DeCarlo is that reputed association with Cohen. "If my name were Bennett, you know I wouldn't be in there," said DeCarlo, referring to his Italian name.

DeCarlo, who said he is trying "to put together another restaurant or club" these days, said he is mostly upset with any smears the article leaves on Lasorda.

"Tommy, he goes to church, helps kids, is just a wonderful man," DeCarlo said. "I love being around him. I mean, he never makes a scene, unless he's eating a plate of linguine, when he goes crazy."

DeCarlo sighed: "I'm sure now that I won't be allowed to visit him in the clubhouse."

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