Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times
The "Trick-or-Treat Murder" house, 13236 Community St., Oct. 27, 2007.
Oct. 31, 1957
They had planned the murder for months as the vague wish turned into a solid, horrible truth. They played out each variation in the script again and again until every detail was polished and perfect. They thought of everything. One was the brains behind the killing and the other was the willing, gullible stooge. Neither could have done it alone, but the odd chemistry formed a murderous bond between the two women.
The first step took more than a month as Joan laid the groundwork for the killing, continually telling Goldyne that the victim deserved to die. "She painted him as a vile, evil man who wanted to destroy all people around him," Goldyne said. "Although I had never seen him, I built up an intense hatred for him."
Next, they had to choose a method. They decided they couldn't use poison or a knife. They needed a gun.
With a male friend, Goldyne went to a Pasadena gun shop to select a .38 Smith & Wesson "for home protection." Three days later, Joan took her to the store and gave her the money to buy the revolver and two bullets.
Now they sat outside the house on Community Street in the car Joan had borrowed from a friend, carefully rehearsing the final details as they waited for the victim to turn out the lights. Goldyne was wearing the costume Joan had selected for her: Bluejeans, a khaki jacket, red gloves and makeup. She had the gun in a paper bag as if she was trick-or-treating.
About 11:30 p.m., the bedroom lights went out. With Joan's help, Goldyne put on the Halloween mask, then she walked to the door and rang the bell.
The man who had been turned into a symbol of evil answered the door. It
took both hands, but Goldyne raised the gun, which was still in the
bag, and pulled the trigger, shooting him in the chest. He died soon after.
She ran to the car and Joan drove back to return it to her friend, Margaret. They left the jacket in the car, but burned the rest of the costume. Joan's parting words were: "Forget you ever knew me."
Goldyne kept the revolver, so she checked it in a pay locker at a downtown department store.
The perfect plan unraveled in less than two weeks as detectives arrested Joan Rabel, 40, 7463 Willoughby Ave., in the "Trick-or-Treat Murder" of hairdresser Peter Fabiano, 35, who operated two salons in the San Fernando Valley.
Questioning of Fabiano's wife, Betty, 36, revealed that they had recently reconciled after separating over her relationship with Joan, a former salon employee who worked as a freelance photographer.
Joan was released after being questioned, then arrested when detectives traced the murder weapon to hospital clerk Goldyne Pizer, 42, 1323 N. Vista St.,* and found the revolver in the pay locker. Further investigation showed that Joan had brought Goldyne to one of the salons several times so that she would recognize Peter Fabiano.
The Times, alas, is oddly silent about the friendship of Betty Fabiano and Joan Rabel, showing an unfortunate lack of curiosity about their relationship.
Recall that only 10 years earlier in coverage of the Black Dahlia investigation, lesbians were depicted as murderous degenerates, although the Los Angeles papers would never dare use the L-word in print, preferring tortured, oblique references that the women were "abnormal." For that matter, the relationship between Joan and Goldyne is superficially dismissed as a "Svengali-like influence."
Was this a love triangle? It's simply unclear. All the women involved in this story were divorcees and Betty Fabiano had two children from a previous marriage. Perhaps one of the other local papers will have more information. Stay tuned.
Joan and Goldyne were convicted in 1958 of second-degree murder and sentenced to five years to life in prison. Goldyne was released from prison and by 1971 was an officer in the Miracle Mile chapter of the Professional Women's Club. According to California death records, she died in Los Angeles County in 1998 at the age of 83.
I can find no further trace of Joan Rabel.
[Note: You may read elsewhere on the Internet that the women spent the rest of their lives in prison. Caveat emptor].
A woman named Betty Fabiano died in Riverside County in 1999 at the age of 81.
In addition to his wife, Peter Robert Fabiano, 35, was survived by his father, Paul; two sisters; three brothers; and two stepchildren by his wife's previous marriage: Judy and Richard.
*The Times erred in saying that this address is in North Hollywood.
Oct. 30, 1957
In the last few hours of his life, the young boy was unable to tell anyone who he was.
A newspaper circulation worker found him lying naked in a driveway at 1459 N. Main St.,
where someone had thrown him from a car. He was African American, 3 or
4 years old, about 3 feet, 6 inches tall, weighed 40 pounds and was
emaciated and covered with scars, The Times said. He was taken to General Hospital, where he died.
The Times never followed up on this story, so we don't know any more about it. According to the 1956 online city directory, he was found next to the Angel Market, 1457 N. Main St.
Rest in peace, John Doe, ????-Oct. 29, 1957.
This one really should be easy. I'll bet someone gets it in an hour or two.
This is a "what" question. What is this?
Michael Myers' House
Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times
And in case you folks with Photo Shop are wondering, it has nothing to do with the plaque by the door:
This is an extremely well-known local landmark. People make pilgrimages to this house and have even posted video of it on YouTube. [Note: I deleted an image borrowed from a "Halloween" fan website. I would link to it, but the site has a bad mistake about the Black Dahlia case.]
- Summer house of Manson Family victims Leno and Rosemary La Bianca? No.
- Historic house along the Pasadena Freeway? No.
- Knott's Berry Farm? Interesting guess. But no.
- Is it the set for Sheriff Andy Taylor's house from the "Andy Griffith
Show?" Very interesting guess! But no.
- The house on the hill behind the motel in Psycho? No. This isn't on a movie lot.
- James Ellroy's boyhood home. No.
- "Nightmare on Elm Street" house? Good guess. But no.
- Mother Cabrini House? No.
- Is it the house on Franklin Ave. where Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne lived in the 1960s? No.
- The house is the one used in the original "Halloween." It's the murder house. Bingo! I had two right answers. The first at 3:37 p.m., the second at 4:16 p.m. As a matter of fact, I ran into some people this afternoon who were out taking pictures of where the scenes were filmed.
Oct. 29, 1957
So when Elvis Presley performed his first live concert in Los Angeles at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, The Times carried two reviews, perhaps sensing a pivotal moment in American pop music.
Then again, maybe not. One review was by Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, by then (Lord help me) 67 years old and accustomed to dealing with pliant movie stars hungry for good press.* The other review was by (Lord help me) George Walter Pearch, a.k.a. Wally George, 25, whose column, titled "Strictly off the Record" and then "Court of Records," appeared in The Times from 1957 to 1961 and heavily favored 1940s big band music.
The Times clips from the 1950s are a feast of Elvis trivia (What famous movie star was booted off the university track team because he refused to trim his Elvis-like sideburns? What famous Presley movie was briefly titled "Treat Me Nice"?).
The 1957 stories are especially illuminating as to how unaware people were that Presley's career was merely beginning. He was compared to faded singers like Frankie Laine and frequently came out second best to singers promoted as his rivals: Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson.
But all those citations (including ads, news stories and TV listings, Presley's name appeared in the paper 163 times in 1956 and 286 times in 1957, according to Proquest) are far beyond the limits of this blog. So I'll stick to the concert.
Unfortunately, The Times apparently didn't send a photographer, so we have no pictures of what went on.
Before the performance, Presley conducted a news conference before a fairly hostile group of reporters in a back room of the Pan-Pacific. He was wearing a black shirt, gold evening jacket and a rhinestone belt, according to George.
Hopper and George noted that Presley was polite. Hopper called him "young, likable, wanting to please."
"He was a pleasant, mild-mannered person who might have been any other 22-year-old young man," George wrote. "He was quiet, polite, somewhat shy and made sure to sprinkle in plenty of 'sirs' when he answered newsmen."
Here's the Q&A, reconstructed from George's articles:
A: "I don't sing. I yell."
Q: Do you intend to change your presentation due to national criticism?
A: "I can't. It's all I can do."
Q: When will you write more songs?
A: "That's all a hoax. I can't even read music."
Q: "What's your emotional power over women?" (Asked by a female reporter).
A: "Gosh..." replied Elvis, whispering something inaudible into a mike provided for the occasion.
"Read this!" snapped another reporter, shoving a magazine article into
Elvis' hands. It was an article written supposedly by Frank Sinatra
attacking the institution of rock 'n' roll music.
A: "I admire the man, he has a right to his own opinions," carefully replied the blackshirted Elvis.
Q: "That's all you have to say?"
A: "You can't knock success."
Q: Are you considering marriage?
A: No, he's enjoying playing the field too much.
Q: How long do you intend to wear your 2-inch sideburns?
A: Until Uncle Sam makes him shave them off, perhaps soon. He's 1-A.
Q: How much money are you making?
A: Over $1 million a year, he's not sure of the exact figures.
Q: What do you think of rock 'n' roll?
A: "It's the greatest ever, mainly because it's all I can do!"
For the statisticians among the Daily Mirror readers, Presley performed for 50 minutes and sang 18 "of his biggest hits," including "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Jailhouse Rock." The audience was estimated at 9,000.
Unfortunately, not a note could be heard because of the shrieking audience, according to Hopper as well as George, who also blamed a "frightfully poor audio system."
"The screams came in a sort of rhythm like a great storm at sea so you couldn't hear a word he was singing," Hopper wrote.
"It wasn't an audience of just kids; whole families were there, nice people. Dozens of policemen surrounded the stage but turned their backs on Elvis to watch the audience and see that no one moved. They were told if they got up or walked down the aisle toward Elvis the show would be over."
"He smiled and the crowd screamed," George wrote. "He nodded his head and they made as if to overrun the stage. The musical group behind him struck a chord and Elvis opened his mouth as if to sing--nothing was heard."
"Elvis rolled over and over on the floor, still clutching the mike," Hopper said. "but his performance isn't sickness. He knew what he was doing.... You felt he was mentally saying to himself: 'Do you know an easier way of making a million a year?' "
She added: "In former days police would have been looking at the performance [instead of watching the crowd]. I've seen performers dragged off to jail for less."
And after it was all said and done, it sounds as if Hopper and George may have warmed to Presley:
Hopper wrote: "Elvis' audience got the emotional workout of their lives and screamed their undying love for the greatest phenomenon I've seen in this century."
After coming to Presley's defense against enraged critics, George said: "Well, we don't particularly like his style either. But after observing him closely at a press conference we feel that, as a person, he's not too bad a kid."
I would like to salute the first Elvis impersonator apparently recorded in The Times: A student dressed up like Elvis caused a riot at Corona High School on March 6, 1957, during the school's weekly assembly. Students began shrieking "We want Elvis!" The Times said, forcing Dean of Boys Wayne Taylor to recruit every male teacher to quiet the crowd.
The student's name? Tony Colosimo. Wherever you are, Tony, here's to you!
*California death records list her date of birth as June 2, 1890.
You're wondering about those trivia questions. Surely there are Elvis fans out there who know the answers.
Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times
1116 S. 10th Ave., Arcadia, Calif., Oct. 28, 2007. Arcadia Police Officer Harry Sessor was wounded when he responded to an incident at 1116 1/2 S. 10th involving Ernest Edward Yeager. Yeager was shot by Monrovia Police Officer Lewis E. Bornt.
Oct. 28, 1957
This husband and wife are fighting one night and the husband gets a .22. He starts shooting up the house and the wife, she runs out and calls the Arcadia PD. A unit gets there and they call for backup. A unit from the Monrovia PD and six units from the sheriff's Temple City Station show up. And more units from Arcadia.
The door is open, so the Monrovia officer points his service revolver through the door and tells the husband to drop the gun and give himself up. The guy is sitting on the couch. He starts shooting and hits one of the Arcadia officers in the lower right leg.
The guy comes out of the house still firing the .22, so the Monrovia officer shoots him in the chest.
The Arcadia cop goes to the hospital, he's treated, he's released. The husband is in good condition at the hospital--same hospital as the wounded cop.
Went nuts, I guess.
The Christmas ads start earlier every year! I remember when the merchants at least used to wait until after Halloween! When I was a kid, you didn't see Christmas ads until after Thanksgiving!! Christmas has gotten so commercial!!
Nobody ever said "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" when I was your age!
And going to the movies on Christmas Day? That was unheard of!