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  • John 11:43 am on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: big mac,   

    Slain Brea Man’s Ties to Mustang Club Are Probed 

    More on the Horace McKenna saga. This is a juicy and long article that explains a lot about Horace’s past… his career as a highway cop, beating up an off-duty cop at a bar in San Pedro and more. If you could say anything about Horace it would be that he was not boring to hang out with, for certain. In L.A., it seems that if you live by the sword you die by the sword (well, except for Eddie Nash).

    The initial dismissal of McKenna–remembered by associates who asked not to be named as a “tall, lanky guy in those days; sort of a goofball, a clown”–occurred at about the same time that he was arrested by Los Angeles police in connection with some sort of theft. The nature of the theft, the disposition of the case and whether it was connected to McKenna’s dismissal were not known Friday.

    The L.A. Times needed help with the wording of their crime headlines back in 1989. What a mouthful!

    Slain Brea Man’s Ties to Mustang Club Are Probed

    March 11, 1989 | MARK LANDSBAUM and TRACY WOOD | L.A. Times Staff Writers

    The flamboyant former Highway Patrol officer killed in ambush at the gate of his Brea hilltop home tried to buy the notorious Mustang Club topless bar in Santa Ana before its operator was also killed in a gangland-style shooting 2 years ago, a confidential informant told authorities.

    Buena Park police said Friday that they will investigate the alleged connection between Horace Joseph McKenna, 46, who was killed early Thursday, and Jimmy Lee Casino, operator of the Mustang Club, who was murdered on New Year’s Day, 1987.

    “It’s certainly a possibility that will have to be explored,” Buena Park Police Lt. Dick Hafdahl said. “There’s a possibility of all of the things that have occurred in and around the Mustang bar were all interrelated to McKenna.”

    The confidential informant told Los Angeles district attorney’s investigators last year that McKenna, linked by authorities to prostitution, counterfeiting, narcotics, gambling and topless bars, had approached Casino about buying the bar, according to court documents made public this week. But the informant “could offer no additional information,” according to the documents.

    Casino, an ex-convict who, like McKenna, had served a sentence at Terminal Island prison, was murdered when two intruders broke into his luxury condominium in Buena Park. After tying up his 22-year-old girlfriend, police said, the assailants shot Casino, 48, in the back of the head at close range with a small-caliber weapon.

    On Christmas Day, 1987, the Mustang Club was nearly destroyed in an arson fire. Another fire a few months later finished it off. One man has been convicted and another awaits trial for the Mustang arsons.

    While authorities have not linked McKenna to the Mustang arsons, he had threatened a different Los Angeles topless bar owner in 1978 and mentioned prior arson incidents at that club.

    “McKenna made reference to the problem (arsons) that happened a few years ago at the Wild Goose (bar) in making the . . . threats,” the informant told investigators.

    McKenna threatened that “If anything happened, it would be worse (than the arsons),” the informant said.

    Under Investigation

    At the time of his murder, McKenna was under investigation by several law enforcement agencies for conspiracy to launder money, hide assets, tax evasion, provide false returns and fraudulent loan applications in connection with his alleged hidden ownership of several Los Angeles-area nude and topless bars.

    Casino was believed by authorities to have a hidden ownership in the Mustang Club. Casino’s murder remains unsolved.

    However, two men are facing trial in Orange County for the attempted murder of William Carroll, an investor in the Mustang Club. Authorities contend that Carroll was shot three times in the head May 1, 1987, when he resisted a mob takeover of the topless bar.

    The confidential informant told Los Angeles investigators last year that McKenna and attorney Joshua Kaplan had approached Casino about buying the Mustang Club. But on Friday, Kaplan denied it.

    “It never happened,” Kaplan said. “It’s an absolute, utter falsehood. I have never represented Mr. McKenna personally in any matter ever, civil, criminal . . . personal, whatsoever.”

    “I know who McKenna (was) and I probably had two conversations with him in my life,” Kaplan added.

    Represented Club

    Kaplan said he once represented the Mustang Club when it won a court case in 1983. The case was brought by the city of Santa Ana to challenge the bar’s right to feature topless dancing.

    “I represented the Mustang Theater and I know Jimmy (Casino) had some participation in that somehow,” Kaplan said. “He was either a manager or a consultant. I know there were some allegations he” owned the bar. “I know the government has said he did.”

    Kaplan has been active in several disputes throughout Southern California involving topless bars.

    Last November, he represented prospective club owner John Morrison in an unsuccessful attempt to win Fullerton City Council approval for the establishment of a restaurant-cabaret that was to have featured topless dancers.

    Kaplan also represents the Casbah A Go-Go in La Habra, which has been battling the city over restrictions on club dancers.

    Kaplan’s name is referred to repeatedly in the McKenna investigative files unsealed this week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

    “My name seems to come up whenever people in the adult entertainment industry are contacted” by police, Kaplan said. “I’ve represented the (adult entertainment) industry for 20 years. It would be very surprising if my name didn’t come up.”

    Meanwhile, Brea police conceded Friday that they were “back to square one” in determining who killed McKenna.

    Capt. James Oman, the Brea Police Department’s chief of detectives, said his men knew nothing about McKenna’s purported ties to criminal activities and reputed ownership of a string of topless and nude bars until he read about them in the morning newspapers.

    “You’re way ahead of us at this point,” Oman told a reporter.

    McKenna’s alleged ties were detailed in warrants and affidavits released Wednesday by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which–along with Los Angeles and Long Beach police, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies and the FBI–has been monitoring McKenna’s activities for months.

    But Oman said that until McKenna’s murder Thursday morning, Brea police “were only minorly aware of him being in town. . . . There was no clue that he was going to be murdered.”

    Oman said he had sent two of his detectives to Los Angeles County on Friday to be briefed on the district attorney’s ongoing investigation into McKenna’s past. But he said that while investigators in Los Angeles “are the ones with all the information” in the case–and he was appreciative of their help–Brea would retain control of the investigation.

    “The homicide occurred in Brea,” he said. “They’ve (Los Angeles) got enough homicides to keep them busy.”

    “It’s going to be a tough one,” said Capt. Edmund Alecks, head of investigations for the district attorney’s organized crime section. “It looks like an execution, and these things are never easy to solve.”

    Shell Casings Found

    Oman said Friday that the only physical evidence found so far in McKenna’s death are “more than 20” 9-millimeter shell casings at the gate of McKenna’s 35-acre Carbon Canyon equestrian ranch.

    McKenna, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound body builder, apparently died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds suffered in the gangland-style ambush at his “Tara Ranch” home. The shots were fired through the rear side window of his limousine at about 12:30 a.m. as McKenna’s chauffeur, Robert Berg, 42, was returning to the car after unlocking the gated entrance to the estate.

    Berg reportedly told investigators that McKenna was asleep in the back seat at the time of the attack.

    Berg and McKenna’s 20-year-old son, Michael, said to be at the house at the time of the attack–were both questioned by police and then released pending further investigation, according to Oman.

    Court documents identify Berg as one of the alleged conspirators in the tax-fraud investigation being prepared by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. The documents allege that at least eight people conspired with McKenna and Michael Woods–himself a former highway patrolman–to skim money and hide profits from several topless and nude bars in the Los Angeles area.

    Warrants say that McKenna and Woods are believed to be the hidden owners of these bars and that police had been monitoring their alleged activities in gambling, prostitution and narcotics for some time.

    The district attorney’s office said the tax-fraud case was “extremely sensitive” because both McKenna and Woods “have maintained associations with terminated, retired and currently employed law enforcement officers.” The office said this warning was included to advise law enforcement officials that they might inadvertently reveal something to someone who knew McKenna.

    A woman at Woods’ Thousand Oaks home said Friday that he was “not available for comment,” and Oman said Friday afternoon that no attempt had yet been made to find or contact him in connection with the murder.

    “We’ll get to him when we get to him,” Oman said. Records show that Woods–along with McKenna and Daniel Fenton Sully, a man identified in the affidavits as a functionary in one of the topless bars–all served together in the California Highway Patrol in the late ’60s and early ’70s. All three were assigned as motorcycle patrolmen in the West Los Angeles area.

    Woods, 47, took a disability retirement in October, 1974, after spending his entire tour in the West Los Angeles office. Sully, 55, served in several posts before he took a disability retirement in July, 1975.

    Reached by phone at his home Thursday night, Sully denied any knowledge of illegal activity and said he “hardly knows” McKenna. He characterized the tax-fraud investigation as “a lot of misinformation,” then refused to comment further.

    Entered CHP Academy

    McKenna entered the Highway Patrol academy in June, 1967, and served in the West Los Angeles office until June, 1972. He was dismissed by superiors, but one year later, on an appeal to the state Personnel Board, had his departure reclassified as a “resignation.” CHP spokesmen said that state law prohibited them from discussing details of McKenna’s “rather extensive” personnel file.

    The initial dismissal of McKenna–remembered by associates who asked not to be named as a “tall, lanky guy in those days; sort of a goofball, a clown”–occurred at about the same time that he was arrested by Los Angeles police in connection with some sort of theft. The nature of the theft, the disposition of the case and whether it was connected to McKenna’s dismissal were not known Friday.

    In April, 1976, McKenna was arrested on suspicion of running a large prostitution ring in the Inglewood and Lennox areas. Later that same year, he was sentenced in federal court to concurrent terms of 5 and 6 years for conspiracy and passing counterfeit money.

    McKenna served 4 years at a prison camp in Arizona on the counterfeiting charges, earning a parole in 1980. Two years later, he was arrested in a San Pedro bar–owned by a former associate–on suspicion of assaulting an off-duty police officer. The charge was reduced, but McKenna was convicted of violating his parole and was sent back to the federal prison at Terminal Island for another 2 years. Released on parole in 1984, his probation ended in 1985.

    ‘First Target’

    Capt. Alecks of the district attorney’s office said the tax-fraud investigation began 2 years later, in 1987, when McKenna was selected as the “first target” in a new program to build cases against “full-time criminals.”

    Beverly Hills attorney Kaplan, who represents several figures named in the tax-fraud inquiry, said the search warrants were unsealed because of demands from himself and other lawyers “representing a number of individuals who had property seized. . . . It’s natural to be curious why the government is seizing your papers.”

    Kaplan said the conspiracy claim was fiction.

    “The prosecutor’s theory that this industry is controlled by one godfather figure, if you will–McKenna–is contrary to my experience. . . . This has never been a violence-ridden business,” he said. “The whole thing is really surprising.

    “My experience with this industry is that it’s the most disorganized industry there is, lacking any cohesion at all,” Kaplan said.

    The lawyer said his own attempts to organize nightclub owners for legal battles were failures because “the animosities exhibited between each business prohibited them to get together and do anything. If I got six owners in a room at one time, I’d get eight opinions.”

    McKenna’s mother, interviewed Friday afternoon on the porch of her modest home in the Crenshaw district, described her son as a “wonderful person. . . .

    “He was . . . a great man to his mother, his father and his family,” she said. “It’s a beautiful man they killed.”

    Times staff writers contributing to this article were Scott Harris, Eric Malnic, Penelope McMillan, Boris Yaro, Hector Tobar and Tracey Kaplan in Los Angeles, and Dianne Klein and Jim Carlton in Orange County.

    • John 12:34 pm on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      “Those considered the best may not see God in their actions,” the priest said. “Those who are considered the worst may see God in their actions.” — Priest at McKenna’s funeral.

    • Bonnie Brae 3:21 pm on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      You know that off duty cop had it coming.

    • John 3:51 pm on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      The Mickey Mouse Mafia. What a great name, due to their hair brained shenanigans and close proximity to Disney

    • criticextraordinaire 6:20 pm on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Man, if only Horace, Ronnie, and Eddie had decided to work together. They coulda had an empire.

    • localarts 6:51 pm on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      On paper that sounds like a great idea but the reality of the matter is there was only one Godfather, and that was Eddie Nash. As the highlander said…there can be only one! Besides, Eddie already had an empire.

      • criticextraordinaire 6:01 am on March 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        True, but the bad blood (to say the least) between Eddie and Ronnie pretty much crushed both of their empires. If these guys had worked together like the Five Families they could have owned the West Coast. Too bad that Johnny Wadd could not keep away from the powder, he would have otherwise been a great go-between amongst the kingpins, using his admiration if not respect. Of course… he met them all due to his dope addiction so I guess it is a non-fulfilling concept.

  • John 7:01 am on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: big mac,   

    Article About The Horace McKenna Story 

    This is a complicated case, but if you saw the TV show last night on Discovery ID, it was pretty awesome in describing the events.

    The daughter of Mike Woods has a blog where she discusses her life and what it was like having a father convicted of murder and being sent to prison. These are 10 things she has learned about the big house since her father’s conviction:

    1. The term used when a prisoner hides contraband up inside his person – Keystering – and thank you Dad for that detailed description.

    2. Inmates can ferment fruit and packets of bbq sauce into wine, taste at own risk.

    3. Inmates can make a sharp knife out of toilet paper, kind of like paper mache style.

    4. Prison guards steal any mail they may want, e.g. magazine subscriptions, packages of food, electronics.

    4. Contrary to prison life in movies, inmates don’t have computers or access to the Internet, unless you’re Martha Stewart.

    5. Inmates don’t ask other inmates what they are in for unless they offer you their sentencing papers.

    6. The prison pecking order starting from lowest to highest is:  sex offenders, including child murderers, pedophiles and rapists, law enforcement, informants, drug dealers, murderers (but not of children).

    7. If your Dad’s appellate attorney is the same as Phil Spector’s, be careful what you may write about Phil Spector.

    8. MCI is a racket and has the toe-hold on the collect calls. Rumor has it sometimes they purposely drop calls so you have to pay for the first minute again.

    9. Stamps are considered a form of currency.

    10. If you are in a prison fight, even if you’re the one being beaten and not beating, they’ll put you in the hole.



    • Bonnie Brae 8:13 am on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      I got invited to 3 Christmas parties at the mansion for work and missed all of them cause I was in (kill me now) – Iowa, with my hon and his family. I honestly don’t regret it at all. I just always wanted to go to a party there.

    • Bonnie Brae 8:14 am on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Good article John. Interesting tid bits about the prison system.

    • localarts 8:22 am on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      .John, was there any mention of Launius? My dish package doesn’t included Discovery ID only Discovery. Was there any talk where McKenna served time back in the 70’s? I’m sure the show talked about McKenna’s narcotics escapades; I bet that where the Launius connection originates.

      Horace McKenna was a scary guy; Ronnie must have been a little crazy to associate with him!

      • John 8:32 am on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        No, to the Launius and jail time discussion, but I rec’d a 10 minute phone call in the middle and will re-watch it tonight. I was looking at Terri’s FB page and she has some photos of Big Mac. That dude was huge!! A guy emailed the blog last week saying he was in the service with Mac and that they were training together for ‘Nam but never got sent there. He was buds with him and was there when Mac won the “Mr. El Toro” contest in the 70s. Ugh. My little brother used to be into bodybuilding and I hate that whole scene.

      • John 8:40 am on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        This episode will eventually get posted to YouTube and I will find it and save it. I’m always looking for Mort Downey, Wonderland stuff, etc. I will add this to my list.

      • John 10:12 am on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        If a cop says they knew each other, then they probably did. I’m sure Fat Howard knew Weiss and McKenna too….. (I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Mike Wood’s jail cell when he opens my letter and I’m asking about Launius “What kind of nut is this guy?” LOL)

        Ronald Launius was another thief, and a drug dealer, who police learned had associated with Weiss. Though he was investigated, there was never any evidence to connect him to the slaying.

        On July 1, 1981, Launius, 37, was one of four people beaten to death in a Laurel Canyon drug den. A former Hollywood nightclub owner and his bodyguard were charged last year with killing the victims in revenge for a robbery.

        Orozco says Launius earlier had been associated with Horace McKenna, a former California Highway Patrol officer who operated a string of bars featuring nude dancers. McKenna was believed by police to have ties to prostitution, counterfeiting, narcotics and gambling in the Los Angeles area.

      • John 3:25 pm on February 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Remember the Vic Weiss sports promoter guy… I wonder if Big Mac was the big guy, or if Ron was one of the three guys?

        A witness told police that he had seen the Rolls pull to the curb on a street in Encino and a white Cadillac with three men in it stop behind. The witness said Weiss got out of his car and two men–one described as a 6-foot, 6-inch blond–got out of the Cadillac.

        The witness said the blond man angrily pointed a finger in Weiss’ face as he spoke to him. After a few moments, Weiss got back in his car, the blond man got in the back seat behind him and the third man got in the front. Then the Rolls and the Cadillac drove away.

        As detectives delved into Weiss’ background, they became confident that the witness had seen Weiss’ killers. They learned that Weiss maintained a life style that belied his true financial worth. They learned that many of his associates were involved in organized crime.

      • John 9:50 am on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        The City Confidential episode about Big Mac is now 10 years old… (2003). I am still looking for it….

        Here’s what the New York Times said 10 years ago about the promising new crime show:

        That mood is enhanced by the show’s secret weapon: the voiceover narration provided by Paul Winfield. Sounding alternately laconic, arch, even patrician, Mr. Winfield seems to be getting a kick out of the tongue-in-cheek (I presume) text provided for him by the show’s writers. In an episode about carnival freaks in Gibsonton, Fla., focusing on the slaying of Grady Stiles Jr., better known because of his malformed hands and feet as Lobster Boy, Mr. Winfield gets to say, ”It’s never over till the bearded fat lady sings,” and, ”Two of the hands clapping were claws.” The show on the killing of a Los Angeles strip club entrepreneur named Horace ”Big Mac” McKenna, which has its premiere this Wednesday, is chockablock with lines Mickey Spillane would have tossed, among them, ”The news blew through like a sailor with a pocketful of greenbacks.’

        • John Sheridan 7:06 pm on June 3, 2018 Permalink

          John, We’re you successful in finding The City Confidential episode about Big Mac from 2003? IF so would you post a link to it please? Thanks.

        • John 6:25 pm on January 29, 2019 Permalink

          Hi John, yes I watched it on youtube. It’s out there w 100 other episodes but I cannot find it now

      • John 9:58 am on March 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Big Mac could have met Ronnie in prison…the 1976 conviction would put him close to Ron serving out his final year or so in SoCal.

        Horace McKenna, who served in the California Highway Patrol from 1968 to 1972, was convicted in 1976 of counterfeiting and convicted in 1982 of parole violation after he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an off-duty police officer.

        McKenna and Woods were obviously skimming the profits at the clubs. McKenna was said to only claim a salary of $44,000 a year at the time of his death. You can’t afford a 30 acre estate with that kind of salary.

    • dreamweaverjenn 10:24 am on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      DEFINITELY would NOT want to meet McKenna in a dark alley! He was scary!

      • foxychoplins 9:26 am on March 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply

        Mac Mckenna may have looked scary, and to many men he was scary. Young lady, If you had met up with him in a dark alley, that Big Teddy Bear would have nothing for you but a smile to light your way.

        • dreamweaverjenn 10:40 am on March 6, 2014 Permalink

          You’re probably right. I’m sure he was charming with the ladies…..

    • localarts 6:35 pm on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Hulk Hogan vs. Horace McKenna in a loser leave town match, my money would be on McKenna!

    • criticextraordinaire 7:13 pm on February 21, 2014 Permalink | Reply

      Nicole Brown Simpson looks pretty hot in that picture with Dawn.

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