The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: 1957

Santa Claus Is No Ordinary Man!

  Dec. 23, 1960, Comics  

Dec. 23, 1960: Take that, Sluggo, you gender-stereotyping clod!

On the jump, a “legless World War II veteran” is charged with having 250 reels of stag films…. Jack Smith goes Christmas shopping and finds his fellow human beings a bit lacking in the holiday spirit … bridge expert Alfred Sheinwold says the four of clubs is a card of warning … and Pope John XXIII reads his Christmas message.

The Times said: “The pontiff dedicated much of his message ... to the subject of truth.  He especially appealed to all engaged in mass communication -- press, radio, television, movies -- to dedicate themselves to it.”


7 Men, Woman, Arrested in Lewd Film Racket, Oct. 24, 1957

King of Obscene Films Kills Self in Chicago, Sept. 14, 1947

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Our lawless city


Los Angeles Police Department
Crime Statistics

1,056 1,271
Aggravated Assault
Larceny (Except Auto Theft)
Auto Theft
Worthless Checks

This is only a sample of the extensive annual crime statistics compiled by the Los Angeles Police Department. The summary notes that 1957 "was the highest year on record for reported crimes and attempts."

The highest crime areas were: Central Division, 10,426 crimes per 100,000 population; and Newton Street Division, 10,169 crimes per 100,000 population. The safest areas were the West Valley Division, 2,774 per 100,000 population; and West Los Angeles Division, 2,907 crimes per 100,000 population.


1957 Homicides by LAPD Division
77th Street Division
University Division
Central Division
Newton Division
Harbor Division
Hollywood Division
Wilshire Division
Valley Division
Highland Park Division
Hollenbeck Division
West Valley Division
West Los Angeles Division
Venice Division

Source: Los Angeles Police Department, annual report for 1957

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Company town


1957_1213_elg_poulsonlat Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

Actress Taina Elg and Mayor Norris Poulson at Main and 7th streets in a photo published Dec. 13, 1957.




PLACED DEC. 12, 1957

Taina_elg_1955_0507_edward_gamer03 There was a mob "of holiday shoppers and idlers" at 7th Street and Main in 1957 as MGM actress Taina Elg and Mayor Norris Poulson arrived to unveil a commemorative plaque, which was fastened to the wall of a large furniture store. According to The Times, a Chinese laundry once stood on the site and some exterior shots for "Monte Cristo" were taken on the roof.

And then, a bit like Banquo's ghost in Macbeth, an "unidentified man with a scraggly mustache, wearing cowboy clothes and carrying spurs under his arm, came forward to insist that the location was wrong--that the shots in question were actually filmed at 8th and Olive."

"I was there. Talked to Bosworth himself," he said, referring to Hobart Bosworth, a popular stage actor who appeared in the early films of the Selig Polyscope Co.

Someone told the man that he was wrong and said that Thomas Persons, the cameraman on the picture, confirmed the location.

"The crowd listened with amusement to the argument for a while but then forgot it when Miss Elg appeared," The Times said. "That's a sight you don't see at 7th and Main every day." (Above right, Elg in a Times photograph by Edward Gamer; below, a scene from "Les Girls").

So I set out to discover which site is correct. Unfortunately, The Times failed to realize the historical significance of the occasion and never wrote a word in 1907 about filming these scenes on Main or on Olive.

Unlike the unidentified Times reporter from 1957, who didn't have access to ProQuest, we can easily find that the first reference to filming at 7th and Main was in 1926 when Persons, by then an executive with Biograph studios in New York, visited Los Angeles and returned to his old haunts.

Persons told Marquis Busby of The Times that he arrived in 1906 to shoot water scenes for "Monte Cristo" (the company filmed the interiors in Chicago).

According to the Nov. 7, 1926, story, Persons used the roof of a tinsmith's shop at 7th and Main, which "was considered an ideal location for a studio," Busby wrote. "It was quite a bit removed from the center of the business district of that day and, being upon a roof, nothing could interfere with sunlight upon which the producer was dependent."

The article also says that Persons shot several other movies on the roof of the shop, including "Carmen," with Lillian Hayward and "The Magician" with Francis Boggs.*

Taina_elg_1958_0105 That seems to confirm the Main Street site. But how did a tinsmith's shop become a Chinese laundry? And what about the unidentified man's claim that the film was shot at 8th and Olive?

In fact, he was right about the location (more or less) but wrong about the date.

Two years later, Persons moved to "a new studio at 7th and Olive, across from the site of the present Athletic Club building," Busby wrote. Instead of relying on direct, unfiltered sunlight, Persons had begun using overhead diffusers of unbleached muslin, apparently eliminating the need for rooftop filming.

"For this corner lot and the use of one or two decrepit buildings there was an outlandish rental to be paid of $25 ($541.14 USD 2006) a month," The Times said.

Aha! When we get to 1929, we find the first mention of a Chinese laundry in a story about actor Hobart Bosworth donating his early movie material to the Southwest Museum.  Citing a date of May 8, 1909, the story says Bosworth made a film titled "The Sultan's Power" at a Chinese laundry "near 8th and Olive streets."

A Feb. 4, 1929, story identifies the business as Sing Loo's laundry, "the present site of the Knickerbocker Building."

A ProQuest search for further information about Sing Loo, alas, is entirely unhelpful. Another search shows that the Knickerbocker Building was at 643 S. Olive  St. "just north of 7th Street." Hm. Sounds like shoddy research to me.

Fortunately, a May 5, 1929, story provides two first-person accounts.

Tom Santschi, one of the Selig actors, said: "We arrived in Los Angeles sometime between March 16 and 21 [1909] and began shooting almost immediately.... We found a studio in the backyard of a Chinese laundry on Olive Street, between 7th and 8th streets."

Bosworth wrote: "On May 8, 1909, I went over to a vacant lot behind a Chinese laundry on Olive Street between 7th and 8th streets. Here I found the quiet, exquisitely dressed gentleman who was James L. McGee. He introduced me to a still quieter little gentleman with the bright, smiling eyes I was destined to know and love so well. Francis Boggs, who made me comfortable and put me at my ease."

At last, determination pays off. There was a Chinese laundry (shown here in a clipping from 1895)! The reward for a diligent researcher.

There is a famous story about the filming of a scene from "Monte Cristo," and like all Hollywood stories, it gets better with every telling. Here is the 1926 version:

The entire "Monte Cristo" company, consisting in toto of Tom Persons, the director, Francis Boggs, the leading man, a rented wig and prop beard, set forth for La Jolla.

Perhaps all might have been well but when Boggs got wet he suffered from sciatica shocks. So it was necessary to hire a double for the scenes wherein Monte Cristo emerges from the sea. Without much difficulty they persuaded a carefree La Jolla native to do the "emerging" for the munificent sum of $1.50 ($32.46 USD 2006) a day.

Everything was set for the shooting of the scene when the director looked up to see the pseudo Monte Cristo riding helplessly in the general direction of Honolulu on the crest of the waves.

"Save him!" yelled Persons.

"Save him, h--l!" returned the more practical Boggs. "Save the wig and whiskers."

But kind fate returned wig, whiskers, Monte and all, and the picture was completed without further mishap. The whole action transpired in 1,000 feet.

Next: Searching for a plaque at 7th and Main.

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* His name is frequently spelled Frances.

Girl kidnapped



Dec. 3, 1957-April 26, 1958
Sycamore, Ill

1957_1206_ridulph Maria E. Ridulph* was a 7-year-old girl from Sycamore, Ill., who was kidnapped Dec. 3, 1957, and whose decomposed body was found April 26, 1958, near Woodbine, a tiny, unincorporated settlement in rural Jo Daviess County, about 98 miles northwest of her home. 

Many details of the case are murky because the only witness was 8-year-old Cathie Sigman, who was playing with Maria in the frontyard of a neighbor's home at the time of the abduction and gave different versions of the incident as the investigation unfolded. Like Maria, Cathie lived on Archie Place, five houses west of the Ridulph home on the south side of the street.

Maria was the youngest of four children born to Michael and Frances Ridulph, who lived in a white frame house with blue shutters at 616 Archie Place ** in Sycamore, a rural town of 7,000 people 68 miles west of Chicago. The Ridulphs had two older daughters, Patricia 16, and Kay, 15, and a son, Charles, 11. Although many people lived or worked on farms, Michael had a job at one of the few factories in town.

The missing girl was a second-grader with dark brown hair and brown eyes, the Chicago Tribune said. She was 44 inches tall, weighed 53 pounds, got good grades and received awards for perfect attendance in Sunday school at Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John.

According to her mother, Maria was high-strung. "My daughter was a nervous girl and if she got in any trouble would become hysterical," Frances said. "Someone would probably have to kill her to keep her quiet. I am the only one who could calm her down." She was a "screamer," her mother said, and afraid of being alone in the dark.

On the evening Maria disappeared, she and Cathie were playing in the frontyard of the Cliffe family home at Archie Place and Center Cross, which is part of Illinois 23 and heads north to U.S. 20, an east-west route through Woodbine and Galena to Dubuque, Iowa, that ends in Newport, Ore. The large block where the girls lived was bounded by Fair Street on the west, and to the south was De Kalb Avenue, which also forms part of Illinois 23.  There was a large open space on the block and portions of it had been plowed.

According to Mrs. Thomas Cliffe and a neighbor, Stanley Wells, Maria and Cathie were screaming as they chased each other around the trunk of a huge elm tree a little before 7 p.m., Dec. 3, 1957. It was cold and without street lamps, there were only the headlights of passing cars for illumination as the girls played in the dark.

1957_1206_house_2 Maria was wearing a boy's type tan jacket, black corduroy pants, a black and white checked shirt, hand-knit mittens, brown socks and white saddle shoes with zippers on the side that had leather tassels.

Whatever happened next is a bit confusing, but remember that it's a tale told by an 8-year-old girl who had lost her friend.

Cathie said that a young man about 24 who called himself Johnny introduced himself to the girls. He was about 6 feet tall with curly blond hair, she said. Although it was cold, he wasn't wearing a jacket, just a sweater. He was "tall, skinny and kinda white-faced," Cathie said.

In an early version of the story, the man said: "I'm Johnny, I'm married and I'm 24 years old." He asked the girls if they wanted piggyback rides. Cathie went home to get permission and when she returned, Maria and "Johnny" were gone. In a slightly later version, Cathie said she went home to get her mittens and when she returned the two were gone.

The next version is still different:

Johnny approached and said: "Hello, little girls, would you like to take a piggyback ride with me? My name is Johnny. Do you have any dolls?" In this account, he said: "I'm not married."

Cathie had a doll, but Maria didn't, so she went home to get one. While Maria was gone, the man held Cathie's arm and said: "I like you."

Maria took her best doll to get a piggyback ride, but Frances told her to take an older one instead. "You don't want to take that one with the new dress," Frances said. Cathie went home to get her mittens and when she returned Maria and the man were gone.

Unable to find Maria, Cathie went to the Ridulph house and said: "Maria is lost."



The search for Maria began by calling her name and checking with neighbors, but quickly expanded to include more Sycamore residents and the police.

There was some confusion about the discovery of Maria's doll, which was found near a neighbor's garage. Several people insisted that it hadn't been there during the initial search, but was found after police moved on. Investigators theorized that someone found the doll and moved it without realizing its importance. The doll was sent to the FBI crime lab for processing, but the results were never reported.

The FBI joined the case and in the ensuing days of frigid December weather, Sycamore and the surrounding area was thoroughly searched by hundreds of volunteers as well as military planes and helicopters. Police set up roadblocks and questioned motorists and searched vehicles.

1958_0428_crime_scene On the theory that Maria might have been the victim of an accident, police searched crawlspaces and eventually drained a large quarry that had been turned into a recreational lake.

As the only witness in the case, Cathie was asked to view dozens of suspects and was placed under 24-hour police guard.

Maria's badly decomposed remains were found by Frank Sitar, a retired farmer from Hopkins, Minn., and his wife, who were searching for mushrooms on Roy Cahill's farm, about 20 miles east of Galena. Maria's body was about 500 feet off U.S. 20, lying face-down under a partially fallen tree and had apparently been there all winter.  She was wearing her shirt, undershirt and socks. Her coat, pants and shoes were never found.

The discovery was reported to Emma "Two Gun" Grebner, the sheriff of rural Jo Daviess County, in northwest Illinois near the Wisconsin and Iowa borders. The local authorities were completely unequipped to handle an investigation of this magnitude. Grebner's force consisted of two deputies, one of them her husband, and Coroner James Furlong said he had never handled a murder case.

No photographs of the crime scene were taken, Furlong said, because "he did not want to see pictures of the body 'slobbered all over the front pages,' " according to the Tribune. Grebner said she didn't intend to even investigate the case because as far as she was concerned the crime wasn't committed in Jo Daviess County.



State pathologist Dr. A.R.K. Matthews of Rockford said the body was so badly decomposed that he could not determine a cause of death. With the abdication of the county authorities, the Illinois State Police took over the investigation.  "It's going to be a difficult case," said  Lt. Ray Kramer (or Cramer or Carmer). "It's just going to be tough police work."

Once the body was found, the Ridulph family removed Maria's playthings from her corner of the living room. "We took them away this morning," her sister Kay said. "There were many little things--her perfect tests from school and the toys she played with."

1958_0501_sigman Hundreds of Sycamore residents attended the visitation the night before the funeral.  A spray of pink and white carnations and pink sweetheart roses, and a large color photo of Maria  were  placed on her small, white coffin. There were also a bouquet of red and white tea roses from  her second-grade classmates and a spray of white chrysanthemums from the neighbors.

About 300 people crammed into Evangelical Church of St. John for the funeral. "All hope and pray that the criminal will be apprehended," the Rev. Louis I. Going said.

More suspects were questioned but no leads ever materialized. The Tribune published a few anniversary stories about the crime, the last of them in 1961.

The case remains unsolved. Maria E. Ridulph, born March 12, 1950, died Dc. 3, 1957, is buried at Elmwood Cemetery. Her grave is close to that of Police Chief William Hindenburg, who led the investigation and died less than a year later of injuries he suffered in a car accident.

The newspapers never published any further information on Cathie Sigman of Sycamore, Ill. She would be 58 years old now.

I'd like to extend a special thanks to Larry Underwood of the Chicago Tribune library for help in researching this post.

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* Often misspelled Ridolph. The multiple spellings in these stories present unusually difficult challenges to the diligent researcher. 

** The Chicago Tribune reported that the Ridulphs lived at 616 Archie Place, but noted that it was the third house west of Center Cross, which may actually be 622 Archie Place. It's a bit hard to tell without making a trip to Sycamore.

Hidden wealth


Nov. 23, 1957
Los Angeles

1957_1123_schlosser Julius L. Schlosser was a successful, wealthy auto executive who owned Chevrolet dealerships at 1015 S. Western Ave. and 4403 W. Adams. He built a fine Glendale home in 1925 designed by Paul R. Williams before moving to an even larger home at 449 S. Plymouth Blvd.*

But this story has nothing to do with him. It's about what became of all his money and all his belongings after he died in 1948, leaving a widow, Laura, and an adopted teenage daughter, Patricia.

By 1957, Schlosser's 17-room Hancock Park mansion was lonely and forlorn, as the hand-carved grandfather clock ticked off the passing hours for the musty furnishings.

There were antique urns, statues and figurines everywhere, and the floors were covered with big Persian rugs. Someone must have once played the Louis XVI Steinway grand or one of the other two pianos--or maybe they fooled around on the harpsichord.

The 117-piece Steuben glassware set and the 96-piece Flora Danica Royal Copenhagen were mute testimony to the grand meals once served on the 13-piece custom dining ensemble.  Maybe someone passed the time on the Brunswick Balke pool table in the game room, where the walls were covered with polo mallets, spears, swords, daggers and a gun collection: Flintlocks, an 1873 Winchester and an 1864 Springfield.

Now there was just the two women that old place. Laura, 70, ailing and maybe disoriented, and Patricia, 25.

Under Laura's bed, there was a suitcase that supposedly contained $500,000 in cash. In the cedar chest, there was a cardboard box covered with tinfoil that held all the diamonds.

When the complicated case ended up in court, Patricia testified that Laura hit her in the eye and clawed her face. Laura yelled "Lies! Lies!"

We don't which is true, but either way, Patricia moved out July 12, 1957, after hiding about $15,000 under some boards in the bathtub of the unused bathroom off the game room. She took two fur coats and a gun.

While she was gone, she began withdrawing money on the bank accounts held jointly with her mother, claiming joint tenancy. There were bills to pay, she said, and extensive real estate holdings, including a Hollywood apartment house, to be attended to.

1961_0112_auction_2When she came back in August after what she called a short vacation, Patricia found that Laura's doctor, Vivagene A. Loop, had arranged for Arthwell C. Hayton to be appointed as Laura's guardian. Instead of anything like $500,000, there was nothing in the suitcase under the bed except a couple of hairbrushes. The box containing the jewelry was gone, as was the money hidden in the bathtub.

Patricia began court proceedings to remove Hayton as Laura's guardian. According to the testimony, Patricia, private detective Roderick Wilson and Dr. Richard Barton broke into the home and took Laura to a hospital, saying that she was unable to care for herself. Three hours later, Hayton had Laura moved to a Glendale facility.

The case became more complex. There were charges that Patricia was merely added to Laura's bank accounts for convenience, denying her claims on half the money. Testimony also revealed that most of the Schlossers' financial interests were handled by Edward Wong, who used to run a Chinese restaurant.

Other business matters were allocated to Flora M. Carter, the landlady of the Hollywood apartment house, who had been paroled after serving a sentence at the California Institution for Women in Corona for grand theft.

The court eventually convened a session at the Schlosser mansion. Laura sat on a lounge in the downstairs library while reporters prowled the home. In the end, the judge rejected Patricia's plea to remove Hayton as her mother's guardian.

And then the case evaporated. Laura died in 1961, survived by Patricia L. Schell and two grandchildren. Her obituary noted: "Guardians were appointed but suits for recovery of the funds never came to trial."

The contents of the mansion were auctioned off by order of the Superior Court, Jan. 12, 1964.

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*A Chevrolet dealer who lived on Plymouth? Only in L.A.

Wife shoots husband



Nov. 21, 1957
Los Angeles

1954_1127_kober You remember that 35-year-old woman out in the Valley who hooked up with her daughter's 16-year-old boyfriend three years ago? Well, she shot him. Accident.

Jimmy and Dee Dee got married in 1957 and were living in Van Nuys. It was about 1 a.m. and he was teaching her how to strip and clean a .25-caliber semiautomatic.

"It was an accident," she said. "There must have been a bullet in the chamber. Jimmy had just shown me how to break the gun down and put it together again. He walked in front of it while I was dry-firing it."

Her younger daughter, who had just finished taking a shower, called police. Did I mention that this was 1 in the morning? Did I mention that the daughter (not daughter who was the ex-girlfriend, but the younger daughter) was 15 and had two kids?

OK, I won't make fun of these people. They have enough problems.

James Frederick Kober was 16 when he landed in the newspapers in November 1954 for the botched robbery of a North Hollywood liquor store, 10543 Victory Blvd. James fled from the store when owner Alfonse Schwartz took away his gun, but was arrested after police traced the weapon to the home of Dorothy (Dee Dee) C. Snow, 7328 Cartwright Ave., Sun Valley.

1957_1121_deedee_2The youth told officers that he had originally been going with Dee Dee's oldest daughter, Nancy, 14, but that he and the mother had fallen in love and he had moved in with them six weeks ago. Dee Dee, who divorced her first husband, William H. Railing, in 1945, and was separated from her second husband, Robert L. Snow, insisted that the relationship was platonic even though officers found love letters and pinup photos she had given to Jimmy.

It's unclear what became of the robbery case, but Dee Dee was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In the meantime, an 18-year-old neighbor, Larry Carter, 7438 Cartwright St., was accused of molesting Dee Dee's younger daughter, Sharon, 12, who was placed in protective custody.

  Prosecutors dropped the charges against her involving Jimmy then accused Dee Dee of contributing to the delinquency of Sharon. In 1955, given the choice of imprisonment or two years in Minnesota with her mother, Dee Dee chose 120 days in jail.

The next two years were apparently quiet in the Kober household. Dee Dee and James married in June 1957. By now they were living at 13417 Vanowen with her daughter Sharon Ann Auxier, 15, and Sharon's two children.

Then Dee Dee shot him. James was reported in fair condition at General Hospital after surgery to remove the bullet from his abdomen.

Held in jail on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, Dee Dee showed no concern about her legal problems, but asked about Jimmy. "How is he? Is he going to live?"

Unfortunately, as was often the case, The Times never followed up on this story. We can only hope that these people untangled their lives.

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ps. You may be wondering how Jimmy went from being 16 in a story published Nov. 24, 1954, to being 20 in a story published Nov. 21, 1957, instead of 19. Apparently this question didn't arise at the time.

Trick or Treat murder



Nov. 13-14, 1957
Los Angeles

1957_1113_rabel_4 Just as I suspected.

Although The Times was too squeamish to even allude to homosexuality in the Trick or Treat murder of Peter Fabiano, the Mirror was a bit more brave.

A bit.

It's fairly evident that the Mirror expected people to read between the lines and figure out this story:

"Strange and unpredictable passions were probably responsible for the trick or treat murder of a Sun Valley beauty shop owner on Halloween, police said today.

"This cryptic comment was all that came from Valley Detective Sgts. Pat Kealy and Charles Stewart after they booked a 40-year-old woman freelance photographer on suspicion of murder."

The Mirror helpfully provides a few more facts about Rabel: She was a Lithuanian immigrant, had a police record for burglary and violating liquor laws, and she had been divorced for a year.

Let the record show that the word "lesbian" appeared only once in a Times news story in 1957 and that was in a direct quote from a prosecution brief against L. Ewing Scott, referring to his fabricated excuses for his wife's disappearance.

ProQuest shows that the word "lesbian" also appeared twice in classified ads, but I suspect these are "false positives" that sometimes confuse the software's search engine.

Stay tuned and I'll go over the ads to see if I can find out what's up.

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But why should I have all the fun? Click below to see two pages of Times classified ads that ProQuest says contain the word "lesbian."

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Elvis trivia contest

Update: The 1947p's/LAPL's own Mary McCoy delves into ProQuest and turns up some ready answers, noting: "Gotta leave some for the rest of the kids to answer - no one likes a ProQuest-it-all!"

Update II: I'm going to start filling in some of the answers--but very slowly just to give people one more chance to show off their expertise in Presleyana.

Update III: OK, here are the rest of the answers. Hope you had fun with that--I sure did.

And in case you're wondering, as I was, The Times apparently never shot Elvis in the 1950s. All we have are handout pictures. I would love to know the reason behind that.

I had so much fun doing yesterday's post on Elvis Presley that I had to share some of these wonderful factoids:

1957_0512_tab_hunter1. In 1957, columnist Hedda Hopper listed Elvis Presley among the worst-dressed male personalities of the previous year. Who else was on the list?

  • Marlon Brando? (David Andrews) Bingo! He was one of them.
  • James Dean? No. He died in 1955.
  • Tab Hunter, at right. I should dig up some of the 1957 profiles of Hunter to show what he was trying to contend with. He told Hopper: "I'm a product of Hollywood publicity." Fairly astute for a young man of 24.
  • Dennis Hopper (Gee, ya think?)
  • Spencer Tracy.
  • Paul Newman (What?)
  • Maxie Rosenbloom
  • Pa Kettle (Oh don't pick on poor Pa Kettle. That's as bad as saying Tugboat Annie is a slob. Oh wait, she says Tubgoat Annie is a slob).
  • Bing Crosby, whom she singles out as a particularly notorious offender. He wears a shirt that looks like an Italian sunset with his best suit!

She also listed the worst-dress female personalities, including:

  • Jayne Mansfield? (David Andrews) Bingo!
  • Marilyn Monroe? (David Andrews) Absolutely.
  • Natalie Wood
  • Joan Collins
  • Shelly Winters
  • Judy Garland
  • Leslie Caron
  • Judy Holliday
  • Marjorie Main

Hedda Hopper's fashion tips for gals: "Some of them prefer slacks and turtle-neck sweaters, which are all right in their place, but not walking down Wilshire Boulevard, Fifth Avenue or Bond Street." That's it, ladies, no slacks and sweaters on Wilshire!

1957_1106_presley1_22. On what campus was Presley performing when someone threw eggs at him from the balcony?

  • University of Alabama? No. But an interesting guess. 
  • Villanova University? (Mary McCoy). Bingo! Juniors William Quinn, William B. Oates, James Stark and John Edit denied egging Presley.

3. What was the name of the neighborhood where Presley bought Graceland in 1957?

  • Graceland was near Whitehaven, a suburb south of downtown. (Mary McCoy). Exactly right. According to The Times, Graceland was in Whitehaven.

4. What polite, modest, young TV personality emerged in 1957 who was described as a wholesome alternative to Presley?

  • Pat Boone? No. Boone was offered as a wholesome alternative, but this man was described as representing a wholesome, literate, intellectual alternative to Presley.
  • Charles Van Doren? (David Andrews) Incredible but true. "It's a long time--if ever--since the public has been so impressed by an intelligent, courteous, modest young man such as Van Doren." Charles Mercer, Associated Press.

5. 1962_0519_dern What future movie star was kicked off the university track team for refusing to trim his Elvis-like sideburns?

  • Michael Landon? No, but that's a great guess!
  • Bruce Dern? (Mary McCoy) Bingo! Bruce Dern, star of Penn's two-mile relay team, quit rather than shave his sideburns.  (At right, tragedy at the Dern home, 1962).

6. Bootleg Presley recordings were selling for 50 rubles ($12.50 USD 1957) in the Soviet Union in 1957. These bootlegs were not vinyl but on another medium. What was it?

  • Acetate? No.
  • Wire recording? No.
  • Reel-to-reel magnetic tape? No. The Soviets used a nontraditional recording medium.
  • Shellac? No. The Soviets were using an improvised medium never intended for recording.
  • Used X-ray film? (Mary McCoy). Absolutely. This was known as "music on bones."

7. What folk music expert said: Elvis Presley is "a crime against society. Rock 'n' roll is going to die. In fact the process has already started."

  • Pete Seeger? Interesting guess. No, but I wonder what Seeger thought of Presley.
  • Alan Lomax? Excellent guess. But no.

  • Burl Ives? Excellent guess! But no.
  • Woody Guthrie? Excellent guess. But no.
  • Dorothea Dix Lawrence? (Mary McCoy). Absolutely right. Lawrence cataloged 378 verses of "Frankie and Johnnie" (a.k.a. "Frankie and Albert").

1957_0513_moth 8. Two young women making a promotional tour of the country ran into Presley as he was parking his Cadillac at the Beverly Wilshire. What were they promoting and what scary prop did they have with them?

  • National Mothproofing Month? (Mary McCoy) Bingo! Mary Hall and Cherry Gordon (at right, behold the fearsome terror of proto-Mothra) were carrying a 35-pound giant prop moth nicknamed "Max the Monster." Elvis said: "What's that?" They replied: "Pat Boone."

9. What famous Presley movie was briefly given the working title "Treat Me Nice?"

  • "Jailhouse Rock?" (Delilah Schelen) Exactly right.

10. What rumor about Presley was hotly denied in a 1957 magazine article? (Note: There may be many rumors, I'm thinking of a specific rumor listed in The Times).

  • That he was married? No.
  • That he had left the building: "One rumor even had it that he was dead," The Times said May 2, 1957. "You may think he's out of this world or down the tube but you'll have to agree he's far from dead!

11. What actress wasn't allowed to visit Presley while he was filming in 1957?

  • Natalie Wood? No, another actress was specifically banned from visiting him, according to The Times.
  • Debra Paget? No. Interesting guess, but no.
  • Mae West? Interesting guess. But no.         
  • Tura Satana? Well that's different. No, but interesting guess.
  • Vampira? Oh very interesting guess. But no.
  • Jayne Mansfield? No. Unless you are a total Elvis freak you have never heard of this woman.
  • Yvonne Lime. "Another studio spokesman said Miss Lime was refused admittance this week to the set where Presley is working." (Don't tell me you've never heard of her! She appeared in "High School Hellcats" and "Dragstrip Riot," and was Policewoman Gloria Harbor in "Dragnet 1967").

12. What was the name of the manager at radio station KEX who fired disc jockey Al Priddy after he played Presley's recording of "White Christmas?" What was the reason?

  • Nobody even tried this one. How sad. KEX manager Mel Bailey said Al Priddy was fired because he played Presley's recording of "White Christmas." The record was banned at the Portland, Ore., station because "it is not in the good taste we ascribe to Christmas music. Presley gives it a rhythm and blues interpretation. It doesn't seem to me to be in keeping with the intent of the song," Bailey said. 

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Another dose of skepticism




1957_1014_beckham Theodore Roosevelt "Lazy Boy" Beckham has been dead for 50 years and is still causing trouble.

I was already bothered by the conflicting accounts of his death, but now that I've gone into the microfilm at the Los Angeles Public Library, I know more and understand even less.

Here are the three different versions of Beckham's death. At least one of them cannot possibly be true.

Recall that Beckham killed Officer Robert R. Christensen during a struggle in which he got Christensen's .38 Colt Detective Special and shot him to death. 

According to the Mirror and The Times, police found Beckham's car at 99th and Grape streets and began searching the neighborhood.

Version 1, from The Times, Oct. 15, 1957, Beckham was shot because he refused to halt:

The slayer sought refuge in a house at 2049 E. 99th Place. As police were surrounding the area he emerged between two houses and tried to run. 

Officers J.O. Worden and K.E. Gourley opened fire on him. The man fell dead with a bullet in the heart."
  Worden and Gourley said Beckham still clutched the slain Christensen's snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver. 

"We hollered at him to stop," Worden said, "but he kept running." The officers fired four shots.

Version 2, The Mirror, Oct. 15, 1957. The officers yelled at Beckham to halt. He turned around, fired at them and was shot:

The killer had been hiding out in an apartment at 2409 E. 99th Place and tried to make a break for it as the officers closed in. 

Officers J.O. Worden and  K.E. Gourley saw him talking to a girl in front of 2400 E. 99th Place and slammed their car over the curb and up on the lawn. 

They piled out with drawn guns and Beckham started to run. When the officers yelled for him to halt, the killer dropped his coat, whirled and leveled a snub-nosed .38 at the policemen. It was the gun he had taken from Christensen. 

Beckham got off one shot but it went wild. The two officers returned the fire and dropped Beckham in the street with a bullet in his heart.

The Herald-Express story of Oct. 15, 1957, merely says that Worden and Gourley each fired twice, with one bullet hitting Beckham in the heart as he tried to flee. However, the paper added the following information:

Beckham, meanwhile, was in the home of Mrs. Shirley Miller, 19, at 2049 E. 99th Place, unconcernedly playing cards with Mrs. Miller and two teenage girls. 

Suddenly, Mrs. Miller said, a neighbor burst into the house and announced: 

"The place is loaded with heat. Police are swarming around here." 

Beckham left the table, still giving no indication he was the man police were after. 

"I'm going to leave," he said.

  One of the girls, Annette Hardy, 14, of 2062 E. 97th St., said she would accompany him.




The Examiner, The Times' morning competitor, has this variation in which the officers questioned Beckham. He ran, turned, pointed a gun at the officers but did not fire:

Officers J.O. Worden and K.E. Gourley of the 77th Street Patrol Division, driving along 99th Street in their car, spotted Beckham walking between houses with a girl. 

The officers drove over the curbing, across a lawn and up to within a few feet of Beckham, where they got out of their car and began to question him. 

Beckham dropped a jacket which he had been carrying over one arm, revealing the revolver he had taken from the officer he killed. 

As the jacket fell, Beckham ran toward the street, turning and aiming the revolver at Worden and Gourley, who opened fire.
As Beckham turned, one of the officers' bullets crashed into his heart and he slumped to the pavement.


By now, you may be wondering what the city's African American weeklies, the California Eagle and the Los Angeles Sentinel, had to say. I certainly was.

The Sentinel immediately provides one critical detail: The shooting occurred in a housing project.

As the officers began to close in, they observed Beckham and a girl walking between two houses in a housing project. 

Ordered to halt, the suspect began to run and dropped a leather jacket that revealed a gun under his belt, which police said was used to slay Christensen. The girl, a 14-year-old juvenile, was taken into custody on a narcotics charge, police said. Officers K.E. Gourley and J.O. Worden said they opened fire on the suspect and Beckham fell dead with several bullet wounds in his body.

And finally we have the California Eagle:

Theodore Roosevelt "Lazy Boy" Beckham, a 25-year-old Texan with a lengthy police record of arrests for indecent exposure, went to the home of his latest girlfriend Monday noon and calmly bragged: "I just shot a policeman." 

Then he handed her and two of her teenage girlfriends a reefer and they all went upstairs and had a few puffs of marijuana. "Teddy," as she called Beckham, wanted Shirley May Miller, 19, of 2049 E. 99th street, to play cards with him. 


He died at 3 p.m. from bullet wounds in the chest and back. In his hands as he fell to the ground was Christensen's snub-nosed .38 revolver.  


While "Lazy Boy" and the young girls were talking about playing a game of cards, a neighbor came in and told them the project was surrounded by police who were looking for the murderer of Christensen. 

Beckham told the girls they had to help him and walk with him up to the bus stop and act as if nothing had happened. 

One of the girls, Annette Delores Harris, 2062 E. 99th St., went out the back door with Beckham. 

According to Sgt. C.W. Beckner of the  homicide detail, plainclothesmen were watching Beckham's car, about half a block away. A patrol car, passing the scene, spotted Beckham and the girl as they came out from between the buildings and immediately recognized him as the hunted killer. 

"Stop!" they ordered. 

Beckham began to run. He had a brown leather jacket over his right arm. 

The officers again ordered him to "Halt!" 

As Beckham continued to flee, the jacket fell to the ground. In his hand, he had Christensen's gun. Officers J.O. Worden and K.E. Gourley opened fire. Each fired two shots that found their mark. 

Beckham fell to the ground still grasping the tell-tale gun.

1957_1015_beckham_pix_2 Version 3, The Times, Oct. 22, 1957:

When Beckham fled from a house at 2049 E. 99th St., he apparently attempted to pull the snub- nosed revolver from his waistband. The hammer caught in his shirt and he was shot. 

The pursuing police were 40 to 50 feet away and no other wounds were found. 

The autopsy revealed that the bullet went through his heart from a range close enough to leave powder burns on the wound.

The Mirror, Oct. 22, 1957:

When police closed in on him at 2049 E. 99th St. five hours later, Beckham pulled the dead officer's gun from his waistband in an attempt to shoot it out with police. 

But the hammer caught in his shirt. The gun went off and the bullet struck him in the heart at a range close enough to leave powder burns on the wound, the autopsy report showed.
It was the only wound in his body.

Apparently only the Herald (Oct. 22, 1957) voiced skepticism about the change in stories:

It was first thought that the killer, Theodore Roosevelt Beckham, 25, had been shot by brother officers of the slain policeman, Robert R. Christensen, as he tried to flee from a house at 2049 E. 99th St. 

The autopsy indicated otherwise. 

There was only one wound through the heart. The bullet was fired at a range close enough to leave powder burns. The officers who fired four shots at him were 40 to 50 feet away. 

Police now theorize that Beckham shot himself accidentally when he tried to whip the gun.

Unfortunately, neither of the first two versions explains how Theodore Roosevelt "Lazy Boy" Beckham could have possibly managed to shoot himself once in the heart at close range, as found in the autopsy. Nor is there anything about the gun firing because the hammer snagged on his shirt.

And nowhere does any account address the fact that he was wearing overalls, which do not have a waistband, when he killed Christensen, as initially reported in the Mirror, which also published his description and the license plate of his car.



I was quite disappointed to find that none of the other papers published photos of the crime scene. All I have is this photo as enhanced by Clay Haskell. As it stands now, it's impossible for me to be certain from the acute angle whether he's wearing overalls.

I have to give the highest marks to the Eagle for getting details of what Beckham did before he was killed. In addition, only the Eagle quoted a police official by name, Homicide Sgt. C.W. Beckner. Only the Eagle noted that Christensen was found with a copy of Beckham's mug shot in his pocket and that Beckham's fingerprints were found on Christensen's car.

I wonder what became of Annette Hardy (according to the Herald) or Annette Delores Harris (according to the Eagle) and what she might have to say.

What do you suppose the chances are of me getting a transcript of the inquest from the Los Angeles County coroner's office?

Stay tuned.

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Note: The original Herald-Express account says that according to Juanita James, 953 W. 7th St., who witnessed the fight, Beckham was clearly stronger than Christensen. She also said that several men saw the fight but did not intervene despite his cries for help. (The Herald says Christensen's handcuffs were on the ground while The Times says they were on the car seat, such are the rewards of research).

As crazy as two waltzing mice



Oct. 9, 1957
Ventura, Calif.

1957_1009_alameda_pix Renzee Louis Alameda, 36, was the quietest man on the block. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound ex-Marine, a USC graduate, was unmarried and had lived alone at 2412 Ridgeley Drive for the last 10 years. He spent his days as a substitute music teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District and his nights at home playing the piano by the hour.

He was a member of the Screen Actors Guild, The Times said, and had appeared at the Pasadena Playhouse and in films as Richard Azano.

On the evening of Oct. 8, 1957, Alameda noticed that his landlady had placed trash cans at the curb. Realizing that this was a signal that the Communists were coming, he fled to Santa Barbara, The Times said.

At 7:40 p.m., California Highway Patrolman Robert E. Reed, 36, pulled over a car on the southbound 101 near Point Mugu because the driver refused to dim his lights.

As Reed began writing a ticket, Alameda made a U-turn and sped north on the highway at 90 mph with Reed in pursuit before crashing into barricades on a section of freeway that was under construction. Alameda jumped from the car and began running, but was caught when he twisted his ankle, The Times said.

Reed, Highway Patrolman Dale Fletcher and another officer transported Alameda to Ventura General Hospital for treatment of his injured ankle. A fight broke out when hospital staff tried to put Alameda in the psychiatric ward because he grabbed a bottle of disinfectant from a surgical tray and drank it.

As Reed, Fletcher and two orderlies struggled to restrain him, Alameda grabbed Reed's revolver and shot him in the chest, killing him almost instantly.

Alameda's only explanation: "I couldn't stand the idea of being locked up."

The Times noted that "Alameda admitted homosexual activities in Los Angeles, of being a peeping Tom and other abnormal activities," as if this explained his behavior. The next day, Alameda broke a light fixture in the Ventura City Jail and tried to slash his throat with a piece of glass.

On Oct. 23, 1957, a court ruled that Alameda was insane and committed him to Atascadero State Hospital. He died in San Luis Obispo County on July 28, 1960, at the age of 39. His behavior was never explained.

Reed was survived by a wife, Marilyn, and daughters Janet, 9, and Christy, 4. The Times said he was the first officer killed on duty in Ventura County. Robert Eugene Reed, who would have been 37 on Oct. 16, 1957, was buried at Ivy Lawn Cemetery.

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Matt Weinstock

Sept. 13, 1957

Matt_weinstockd Every Friday after work, Roy Huerta, 38, drives to Tijuana and spends the weekend with his beloved family--his wife, Manuela, 32, and their three girls and two boys.

It is an unsatisfactory arrangement but it can't be helped.

Roy and Manuela met here in 1947 and were married. Their enforced separation dates to a black day in 1949 when they took a trip to Tijuana.

At the border on the way back, they were asked the usual questions. Roy had no trouble. He was born in Johnstown, Pa., served three years in the Army, including 18 months in New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan, and came to Los Angeles after his discharge.

Manuela, who was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and speaks little English, panicked. She said she had never been in the United States, then said she had. She was detained and accused of having entered this country illegally.

A hearing was set and Manuela was notified, but she never mentioned it and didn't appear, compounding her guilt. She was convicted of perjury and forbidden under the McCarran Act to reenter this country.

And so for the last eight years Roy has made a weekly pilgrimage to Tijuana. He takes along groceries, clothes and gifts for the children.

1957_0913_letters_3 During the week he lives in an apartment here with a brother. He works as a cook at the Bull and Bear Restaurant, 655 S. Spring St. In the three years he has been there, says the owner, Ridley Billick, who admires him greatly, Roy has missed only one day.

For a time, his eldest daughter, Gloria Jean, who will be 9 next month, attended school in L.A. but she became lonesome and rejoined the family in Tijuana.

Conscientious, disciplined Roy Huerta does not complain. But he has never stopped hoping that somewhere, somehow, the immigration laws may be modified or his case receive attention so that he may be reunited on a full-time basis with his family.

YOU MAY BE vaguely conscious that MGM is bringing out a picture titled "Raintree County" but I am dynamically aware of same. I happen to be sitting in the shade (fluorescent lighting shade, that is) of an 8-foot tree in a heavy 5-gallon tinfoil-covered can incongruously placed alongside my third-floor desk by persons unknown.

The job of hauling it there easily constitutes the most muscular press agentry of the year.

What kind of tree is it? A rain tree, of course.

TODAY MARKS the 10th anniversary of the Great Books Foundation, and representatives of the 52 study groups in the area will gather at 8:30 p.m. at Beverly Hills High to observe it.

The path to literary culture has not always been easy.

Not long ago a Pasadena group which had been meeting in a hall on Green Street arrived to discover the building locked. It had changed ownership and they had not been notified.

After a curbstone conference they went to the only available place nearby, a bar, and, Bibles in hand, went on with their assigned discussion, the Book of Job.

TODAY IS ALSO Downtown Felt Hat Day and a little lore goes with that too.

It is traced to Daniel Desmond, who opened the city's first men's hat shop at New Commercial and Los Angeles Streets prior to 1870. It was the forerunner of Desmonds, Inc.

Prior to that, hats, mostly toppers and bowlers, were sold in general stores.

Old Dan was quite a fellow. He organized the city's first band, was a member of the volunteer fire department and when business was slack strolled over to the city jail and chatted with the inmates.


South-Central Vice



Sept. 8-12, 1957
Los Angeles

1957_0830_skidrow_2 Let's suppose you are the mayor of the nation's third-largest city. Let's further suppose that your wife has received several letters complaining about rampant crime in a heavily minority neighborhood. You might turn the complaints over to the Police Department.

Then again, you might not.

Because if you're Mayor Norris Poulson, you won't bother with the LAPD. You'll hire a couple of private investigators to look into the situation on South Central Avenue, which, according to Albertha J. Callahan, is "full of bookies by day and at night it's full of women on the street."

Nor did Police Commission President Michael Kohn contact anyone at the LAPD about the allegations. Instead, Kohn disguised himself in work clothes and drove down to Central Avenue in an old car.

"The situation was appalling," Kohn told the Mirror. "At Vernon Avenue and Avalon Boulevard I found groups of four or five girls on each corner waving at cars."

"Groups of four or five women cruised in cars and waved at men. Others stood on corners and when traffic stops for a red light, they 'come out to your car and knock on the windows,' " Kohn said, according to The Times.

By now, you're probably wondering why Poulson didn't contact Chief William H. Parker and say something like, "Oh, by the way, Bill, old chum, how exactly are things down in the 'hood?"

1957_0207_skidrow The answer: Poulson figured the police either couldn't do the job or were on the take. He had complained to the department before, he said, "but we were always told there was nothing to it. They would tell us the persons making the complaints were troublemakers or that their reports were exaggerated. The police were paying no attention to these complaints."

He told the Mirror: "We have been making inquiries through usual channels about vice conditions and getting the usual replies that everything was hunky-dory. I took it upon myself to look into the situation."

Poulson said his inquiry showed that: "Flagrant vice conditions exist in this area. Prostitution, gambling, bookmaking and illicit traffic in narcotics are allowed to flourish without apparent restraint. A condition of this sort indicates either that vice is operating with protection or reflects inadequate law enforcement in the area."

If you know anything at all about Parker (or even if you don't), you can imagine his reaction to being ambushed at a hearing, especially because Poulson didn't make his charges in person, but had Kohn read a letter while he was out of town.

Parker heatedly denied charges that the department was corrupt. Instead, he blamed a lack of officers, the higher cost of patrolling Newton Division (now known as "Shootin' Newton"), an increase in criminals who had been chased out of skid row by urban renewal, lax courts that freed suspects on low bail and recent judicial decisions that hampered the police by granting rights to suspects.

"You can't put people in jail without evidence any more,"  Parker said. "We're going to have evidence to justify arrests and I'm not going to violate anyone's civil rights and I don't want it done by anyone in the department."



"We know who a lot of these people are, but we can't arrest them just for walking down the street," said acting Newton Division commander Lt. Walter Baker. "Not until they commit some overt act can we nab them. What's more, we think we've been doing a pretty good job as it is."

The criminals were clever, Parker said: "We have a wolf pack situation where a number of prostitutes work together. If one doesn't recognize one of our vice officers, one of the others will."

And there were more of them: Arrests for prostitution in Newton Division were up 24% from 1956 and gambling arrests increased 34.7%. Why? The demolition of skid row, police said. In the previous two years, nearly 500 buildings were destroyed, The Times said.

Police also complained that the jails had revolving doors when it came to vice arrests. Police Commission member Emmett McGaughey cited the case of a prostitute who had been arrested six times in a year, but only fined $200 ($1,433.06 USD 2006).

In response, Parker assigned Deputy Chief Richard Simon to examine the problem, along with Police Inspector James Lawrence (an obsolete rank that was between captain and deputy chief).

The LAPD sent more motorcycle officers and police cars to the area and assigned photographers to document the situation, the papers said.


And what about the residents? The Times didn't look into the local reaction to the vice crackdown, but the Mirror did, interviewing several African American leaders.

Dr. J.A. Somerville, a dentist and former Police Commission member, complained: "An investigation of any neighborhood, regardless of its racial complexion, will disclose prostitution in some form. The trade carries no racial label. To point out the Vernon and Central Avenue districts as a vice area because colored people live there, without naming other sections where similar conditions exist, seems biased to me and designed to discredit Negroes."

The Rev. B.O. Byrd of New Hope Baptist Church, Central Avenue and 52nd Street, said: "There is vice in almost every section of our city. In some areas, however, they are financially able to cover it up better."

What did the California Eagle and the Los Angeles Sentinel say about the LAPD's vice crackdown? Looks like a trip to the microfilm is in order.

Stay tuned....

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