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10 Celebrities Almost Killed By The Mob
Real life can be more weird, funny, or terrifying than any movie. Think mob movies feature some crazy personalities? It turns out Jimi Hendrix, Jackie Chan, Sean Connery, and many other famous people have all had terrifying run-ins with vicious gangland killers.
10The Mob Shook Down Steven Seagal
In 2001, the FBI was carrying out surveillance on the Gambino crime family when they heard something very strange. The gangsters were laughing about one of their extortion victims, calling him a wimp who didn’t live up to his tough guy persona. That person was Steven Seagal.
The FBI contacted Seagal to testify, but he didn’t want to get involved. Finally, they threatened him with jail if he didn’t, forcing him to tell them and a courtroom what had happened.
The previous year, Seagal had announced that he planned to stop making violent films after seeing a spiritual advisor. The only problem was that he’d been working (knowingly or unknowingly) for the mob for the last 10 years through his partner Julius Nasso. The mob wanted Seagal to keep making action movies, and they wanted to be paid $150,000 for each one he made.
They invited him to a meeting full of murderous mobsters where he was strong-armed and threatened to continue making action movies. When the meeting was over, he was told “If you would have said the wrong thing, they would have killed you.”
9Fats Waller Played Al Capone’s Birthday At Gunpoint
Fats Waller may not be so well known today, but in his day, the famous musician packed clubs and dance halls and even starred in a few early Hollywood movies.
During the Prohibition era, Fats was playing at Chicago’s Sherman Hall when somebody nosed a pistol into the small of his back and forced him into an idling limousine. He was driven to another location, put in front of a piano, and told to play. Waller had no idea what was going on but figured he was more likely to survive this weird situation if he obeyed.
Watching him from across the room was Al Capone. It was Capone’s 27th birthday, and Waller was his birthday present.
Capone treated him well, keeping Waller well plied with whiskey and stuffing bills in his pockets every time he played a request. Although terrified at first, Waller loosened up and began to enjoy himself.
The birthday party lasted for a staggering three days (and Waller was drunk for most of that time). When he finally went home, he had thousands of dollars in tips stuffed in his jacket pockets.
8The Hells Angels Planned To Murder The Rolling Stones
WARNING: The above video is actual footage of a fatal stabbing.
In 1969, the Rolling Stones played a concert in Altamont Speedway in Northern California, where they hired the Hells Angels as security for $500 and a case of beer. During the concert, 18-year-old Meredith Hunter approached the stage with a gun, and a scuffle broke out between him and the Angels guarding the stage. They severely beat him and stabbed him to death. The above video shows Mick Jagger watching the incident unfold, seeing the moment when a member of the Angels approaches with a knife.
Jagger and the rest of the Stones condemned the Angels’ behavior and refused to ever hire them again. The Angels were so angry with this that they formed a plan to murder the whole band.
They got a boat and piled in, armed to the teeth, planning to attack Jagger’s mansion from the sea. Luckily for Mick Jagger, a freak storm hit them, and the boat capsized. If that hadn’t happened, Mick Jagger would not be alive today.
The Angels never attempted to Kill Jagger again, perhaps dispirited by their failure.
7Edward James Olmos Really Annoyed The Mexican Mafia
In 1992, Edward James Olmos (who played Admiral Adama in Battlestar Galactica) directed and starred in American Me, based on the life of real Mexican Mafia boss Cheyenne Cadena. Olmos personally rewrote the script to portray the lead character less heroically. The film didn’t do too well either financially or critically, but the Mexican Mafia saw it—and they didn’t like it.
They took particular offense to a prison scene in which Olmos’s character was raped. (Cadena wasn’t raped, they claimed.) Other scenes suggested that Cadena was impotent and was killed by his own gang (also not true). The mafia sent Edward J. Olmos a message by murdering several consultants he’d used during filming.
Years later, it was revealed that the Mexican Mafia had put a contract out on Olmos’s life. He was never killed, most likely because he paid them off with an unspecified amount of money.
6The Mafia Held Jimi Hendrix Hostage For Two Days
In 1969, Jimi Hendrix disappeared while staying in the Seattle area. Until fairly recently, biographers struggled to identify just what went down during those two days. But we finally have an idea of what happened, thanks to cocaine smuggler John Roberts who once worked for the Medellin cartel, stories told by Jimi’s close friends, and research carried out by Rolling Stone magazine.
It all started when Jimi Hendrix walked into a mob-affiliated Seattle nightclub looking to score some drugs. Two low-level wise guys recognized him and realized they could probably make some cash off of the famous musician. So they offered Jimi free drugs to convince him to come with them, and they kept him at an unknown location for two full days.
They kept Jimi so high that he probably didn’t even know what was going on until after the event was over. After a few phone calls from Roberts to his mafia contacts, Hendrix was released without any money being paid.
Jimi Hendrix had some ideas of his own about what had occurred. He thought his manager Michael Jeffrey planned the kidnapping, either to threaten him into doing what he wanted or to simply exert his control.
5Jackie Chan Armed Himself With Explosives To Fight The Triads
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the Hong Kong cinema scene was dogged by the Chinese Triads, who were infiltrating every aspect of movie making. The film industry laundered Triad money and also suffered from a protection racket—for example, a Triad would force his way onto a film set and threaten to break equipment unless money was handed out. The Triads were so powerful that they were even known to attack journalists who criticized actors they controlled.
One of the few who stood up to the gangs was Jackie Chan. As a result, the dangerous gangsters dogged the man for a huge portion of his career. According to Jackie Chan himself, frustration with Triad extortion was the main reason he first left China for America. But when he got off the plane, bullets were fired at him.
When he returned to China, he started carrying guns and grenades with him. It’s not hard to see why, when he says things like: “I was at dinner once when more than 20 people with watermelon machetes surrounded me. I had three guns with me and told them that they had gone too far.”
We don’t know what happened next, but we like to imagine from that sentence that several Triads checked into a Hong Kong hospital that day.
4The Mafia Almost Blinded Sammy Davis Jr.
In the 1950s, Sammy Davis Jr. became friendly with Vertigo star Kim Novak, but there were two problems with this relationship. The first was that they were an interracial couple in the 1950s. The second was that Novak was contracted to Harry Cohn, a powerful and ruthless manager with mob ties. Davis and Novak were rumored to be set to marry, and Cohn worried that the controversy of their marriage would hurt Novak’s marketability.
Famously vicious gangster Mickey Cohen warned Davis’s father that Cohn had ordered him to seriously hurt Sammy. This would involve a horrific beating, breaking both his legs, and then gouging out his one good eye with a stick. Sammy was told that his only option was to break off all ties with Novak and marry a random black woman to kill off any rumors. So he went through his address book, chose a black actress, and married her.
Soon after, he received a phone call telling him the contract had been called off.
3Al Sharpton Was a Secret Mafia Informer
In the ’80s, Al Sharpton tried to lead a boycott of the Jacksons’ “Pride Patrol” tour, allegedly to extort money from the band. Soon after this, he received a phone call from a mysterious man called Sal who threatened to murder him if he followed through with the boycott. This threat was enough to send Sharpton running to the FBI for help, and from there, he helped them arrest Sal and several other criminals.
Sharpton helped take down multiple members of the Genovese crime family, who were at the time one of America’s biggest and most dangerous Mafia circles. He befriended several high-ranking members and recorded their conversations with a bugged briefcase.
Some documents give a different reason for Sharpton’s decision to help the FBI. He was allegedly forced into becoming an informer—with the codename CI-7 (confidential informant number seven)—to avoid prosecution after he was recorded in a secret drug deal. When later asked about the legitimacy of these claims, Sharpton said, “I’m not saying yes; I’m not saying no.”
2A Shark-Hunting Gang Almost Executed Gordon Ramsay
In 2011, Gordon Ramsay was filming a documentary on shark fishing. Even though the practice is illegal in most countries, he found that it thrives in some regions, protected by dangerous criminal gangs. In the video above, Ramsay sneaks into a building in Taiwan, where shark fins are being dried on a rooftop. After having gasoline thrown over him, Ramsay is intimidated by men in an unmarked black car.
However, it was in Costa Rica that the most terrifying incident occurred. There, compounds are surrounded by huge concrete walls topped with razor wire. Nevertheless, while filming the documentary, Ramsay barged his way inside.
He saw thousands upon thousands of shark fins. When he left, much like in Taiwan, he was surrounded by gangsters who tipped a barrel of petrol over him before trying to block him and his crew from escaping with their cars. The crew did escape, but they later annoyed some more heavily armed shark fishermen. The shark hunters stood Ramsay and the crew against a wall at gunpoint. Then police arrived and warned them to flee the country or be shot dead.
1The Krays Tried To Control The Kinks And The Beatles
The Kray twins maimed and murdered their way into becoming Britain’s worst-ever gangsters in the ’50s and ’60s. Then they decided to take a leaf out of the American mafia book and grab control of a rock band. They choose the biggest and best around at the time: The Beatles.
Ronnie Kray visited Brian Epstein and outlined his plan. Epstein told Ron that managing a band like The Beatles consumed a lot of time and required expert knowledge. Ronnie, feeling like Epstein was treating him like he was stupid, grabbed a random man who just happened to be in the room and rammed a 15-centimeter (6 in) nail through his cheek to show how serious he was.
Later, the Krays realized that managing a band like The Beatles would be too much work for them, so they settled for extorting huge amounts of money from Epstein. Then they tried to take over a lower-profile band—The Kinks.
Once more, they contacted the band’s manager and expressed their interest in taking over. This time, they also told the manager that Ronnie wanted a date with Kinks drummer Mick Avory. Ronnie was gay. Mick Avory wasn’t.
Aaron is a freelance writer and film student. Feel free to tweet him here.