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Chasing Marilyn Monroe

June 2, 2007 |  7:18 am
1957_0602

 

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Photographs by Larry Harnisch Los Angeles Times
The "Wrong Door Raid" apartments at Waring Avenue and Kilkea Drive, May 27, 2007

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June 2, 1957
Los Angeles

Let's suppose you are an American baseball legend being divorced by your beautiful Hollywood actress wife. Let's further suppose that you see her car parked outside a small apartment house near Melrose and Crescent Heights late one night in 1954.

Naturally, you decide to break down the door and catch her in the act with another man, even though you have a less than 50-50 chance of breaking into the right apartment.

Of course, you call some private detectives. And being an American baseball legend, an Italian American baseball legend, your chums include a well-known Italian American singer.

Out comes the ax and down goes the door at 8122 Waring Ave.

Uh-oh.

Instead of catching Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and various companions (including Frank Sinatra) terrified Florence Kotz Ross.

Who was asleep.

By herself.

"Mrs. Ross was fast asleep about 11 p.m. when five or six men suddenly battered down the back door to her apartment, tearing it from its hinges and leaving glass strewn on the floor," The Times said. "Immediately ... a bright flash of light was shone in her eyes and she was confronted with a number of men, some of whom seemed to be carrying an instrument which at first sight she believed to be an ax."

Wrong_door_8120 The men fled and Ross reported the incident to police as a burglary. Then Confidential magazine published a story about the raid in its February 1957 issue, touching off the Legislature's investigation of scandal magazines and private detectives.  Ross learned the identities of the raiders when one of the private detectives, Philip Irwin, told the story to the investigative committee and the grand jury.

Sinatra received similar treatment when he was served with a subpoena in Palm Springs at 4 a.m. on Feb. 16, 1957, and he filed a complaint with the LAPD about the incident. Although his testimony was contradicted by others, Sinatra was adamant that he remained in a Cadillac parked outside the complex during the raid.

Private detective Barney Ruditsky, Irwin's boss, testified before the grand jury that Sinatra and DiMaggio remained outside while he and Irwin broke down the door. During the investigation, Irwin testified that he had been beaten up by six men after he told an official of the State's Bureau of Private Investigators and Adjusters his version of the raid. He also testified that he hadn't sold the details to Confidential magazine.

In September 1958, the "wrong door" lawsuit against DiMaggio, Sinatra, Irwin, Ruditsky, Patsy D'Amore and John Seminola was settled for $7,500 ($53,739.63 USD 2006).

And where was Monroe during all of this? Next door, visiting girlfriend Sheila Stewart Renour at 8120 Waring.

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