Susan Berman, a onetime confidante of Robert Durst, the real estate heir suspected of killing her and others, started her life in Minnesota. She was the only child of a mobster who married a Twin Cities showgirl and settled for a time in St. Paul before striking out for felonious fame in Las Vegas.
Berman was fatally shot in 2000 in her Los Angeles area home. Charged in her death this week was the central figure in the HBO documentary “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.”
Susan Berman’s father, Davie, grew up in Sioux City, Iowa. As a teen during Prohibition, he started shipping liquor illegally to Minneapolis and the Dakotas. Mobsters later granted Minneapolis to Berman as his turf.
It was there that he was “totally taken” by Grace Ewald, a traveling dancer who performed with her sister, said Cathy Scott, a longtime news reporter who wrote two books about Susan Berman, “Murder of a Mafia Daughter: The Life and Tragic Death of Susan Berman” and “Murder in Beverly Hills.”
“He was a handsome man,” Scott said of Davie Berman, who joined with a brother in bookmaking and other underworld doings in the Twin Cities.
“Susan looked just like her dad,” Scott added. “He mom was very petite.”
The Bermans last lived in a brown stucco home on Hubbard Avenue, not far from Hamline University, Scott said.
Susan was born on May 18, 1945, and sometime in 1946, mother and child got on a train and moved to Las Vegas. Davie Berman already had relocated there to take up with the mob, including the likes of Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, as a pioneer in what would be come America’s gambling capital, according to Susan Berman’s 1981 autobiography, “Easy Street.”
Davie Berman died in 1957 during colon surgery at age 54. Grace Berman, 39, died soon after from a drug overdose.
Along with her autobiography, Susan Berman wrote other books and reported for the San Francisco Examiner and other publications. When she married in 1986, Durst, her friend of 20 or more years, walked her down the aisle.
Susan Berman was found shot to death Dec. 24, 2000, in her Benedict Canyon, Calif., home, most likely having been killed a day earlier.
“I’m so happy for her family that justice is going to be seen for Susan,” Scott said, as the legal noose appeared to be tightening around Durst’s neck.