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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: April 22, 2007 - April 28, 2007

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The bad dream


April 23, 1957
Los Angeles

"It's like a bad dream," he said. "You keep thinking you'll awaken and find it's a bad dream."

Edward Simon Wein, given five death sentences under California's "Little Lindbergh Law" for a series of kidnappings and rapes, said: "I was convicted before I ever came to trial. The papers said all kinds of bad things about me. They called me all kinds of bad names, including 'beast.' There was so much prejudice I was convicted."

The 32-year-old painting contractor was identified by seven women, but he said they were all wrong. "They were mistaken--honestly, the first time," he said. "But then they couldn't change their minds."

"A half-hour after I was arrested, a Hollywood detective said they were going to make a [Caryl] Chessman out of me. The prosecutor in my case is the one who prosecuted Chessman. I had the same charges pressed against me as Chessman and the verdict was the same."

Of California's death penalty, Wein said: "I don't think it's human. It's something more or less out of the Middle Ages."

According to police, Wein, who lived at 418 S. Hamel Road, answered classified ads placed by women. He told them he would have to check with his wife about whatever was being sold, then pretended to have lost the stem from his watch. He gained control over his victims when they stooped down to look for the missing watch stem and threatened to kill them if they made any noise.

The attacks occurred over 18 months in Alhambra, Hollywood, South-Central, Burbank and elsewhere in the San Fernando Valley. He was arrested by a private officer at a Long Beach cocktail party after one of the victims said she recognized Wein when he stepped on her foot. She said: "I'd never forget what he looked like."

Wein was prosecuted by Deputy Dist. Atty. J. Miller Leavy, a formidable lawyer who handled the Chessman,  Barbara Graham and L. Ewing Scott cases. When Wein said he'd never in his life answered a classified ad, Leavy produced Shirley Tierstein, who identified a check Wein wrote to her for an electric stove. Tierstein said Wein came into her home at 753 S. Mariposa in Burbank, but fled  when her son  Kenneth, who was  sick and home from school, called out to her.

The prosecution also introduced partial fingerprints matching Wein's taken from a glass that he allegedly used to drink water at one victim's home.

Wein was sentenced to death. His Dec. 5, 1958, execution was upheld by the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal. However, the state high court granted a delay pending a second appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The mother of one of his victims, who was 14 at the time she was raped, wrote to The Times in 1959: "What is wrong with the course of justice? ... To think of the possibility of such a man getting back on the streets again, free to come into homes again to rape, rob or kill!!"

The U.S. Supreme Court denied his second appeal,  which claimed inadequate counsel. But in June 1959, Gov. Pat Brown agreed to grant Wein a clemency hearing. Brown reduced Wein's sentence to life in prison "without the possibility of parole" because the kidnapping was technical--he only moved the victims within their homes.

"I feel that only where there is kidnapping in the true sense of the word, with bodily harm, should the death penalty be involved," Brown said.

In 1966, Brown further reduced Wein's sentence, making him eligible for parole and on Sept. 16, 1974, after 17 years on death row, Edward Simon Wein was a free man.


Then on Aug. 8, 1975, the strangled body of Dorothy George, 52, was found in the bathtub of her home at 5935 Abernathy Drive in Westchester after she placed an ad for a recliner on a supermarket bulletin board. On Sept. 5, a woman living in Palms who had posted items for sale on a supermarket bulletin board was raped by a man who claimed he had lost the stem of his watch. He began filling her bathtub with water but fled when a neighbor slammed a door.

Over lunch a few days later, Venice Division detectives were discussing the cases with retired investigator Robert S. Wright, who recalled the series of "watch stem" rapes from 1956. After learning that Wein had been paroled, they arrested him and charged him with murder.

Several of his earlier victims testified during his 1976 murder trial. A 63-year-old woman said that on Dec. 15, 1955, Wein came to her Crenshaw district home to look at a fur stole and dining room set that she was selling. He choked her "so long and so hard it ruptured the blood vessels in my eyes," she said.

A 54-year-old woman testified that on March 12, 1956, Wein locked her 5-year-old son in a closet at her Encino home before raping her after she advertised a mattress and box springs for sale.

The testimony of a woman who was a 19-year-old concert pianist when she was raped May 11, 1956, was read into the record because "her physical and mental condition is still so fragile that she cannot testify in person," The Times said.

In June 1976, Edward Simon Wein, the "watch stem rapist," was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to prison.

As he said in 1957: "It's like a bad dream. You keep thinking you'll awaken and find it's a bad dream."

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Senoras y senores: ze mail

April 22, 1957
Los Angeles

Latin Holiday
by Pepe Arciga

Lew Irwin, news director, KPOL, generously switches on his mike, bows and says:

"Listeners telephoned to call my attention to your article concerning my unfortunate identification of the race of two of the Club Mecca firebombing suspects as 'Mexican American.' I can only blame thoughtlessness and carelessness on my part.... I offer my profoundest apologies to the Mexican American audience of KPOL."

Off the record, senor Irwin, we who handle news sometimes slip inadvertently, no? Mexican Americans, I'm sure, will accept your noble apology most graciously. Now back to KPOL's excellent Cloud Nine. Signed Pepe.

Justin McCarthy, 816 W. Olympic, L.A. Newspaper Guild, takes off his printer's devil apron and makes up a front page that reads like this:

"Being an old copy desk man and a Catholic I noticed one of your recent columns which mentions the Virgin of Guadalupe as being a 'Catholic' deity.... I'll bet it spoiled the archbishop's dinner."

Well, Don Justino, it's hard to say if dinner was spoiled at all. His eminence the archbishop has already forgotten,  mebbe, Pepe's slip. Signed, Pepe.

Jack Natteford, dahlia specialist, 12935 Saticoy, North Hollywood, waters his rosebushes, turns around and bouquets Pepe asi.

"Que tal? I consider you an ambassador between two different cultures striving for same freedoms... (Mexico's) idea of religious sanctuary, carried into the political field, has drawn many of our leading Reds to Mexican residence around Cuernavaca.... They wound up unable to win power in the local parent-teacher association. Ha!"

Fascinating as the place is, my fran Jack, Cuernavaca is also home for the gosh-darndest assortment of human birds you ever saw around its lovely plazas. Including Red birds. Signed, Pepe.

Note: I can't find Arciga's original article referring to the Club Mecca firebombing so I'm not sure what he's talking about. Two of the suspects were named  Manuel Joseph Hernandez, 18, and Manuel Joseph Chavez, 25. Further research is clearly required.


Paul V. Coates
Confidential File

Paul_coatesApril 22, 1957 

SUBJECT'S NAME: Stella Catherine Meyer.

SUBJECT'S DESCRIPTION: Age, 36. Height, 5ft., 1 in. Weight, 140 lbs. Black hair. hazel eyes. Stocky build.

The county sheriff's office reports that Mrs. Meyer left her home at 12118 Highdale St., Norwalk, on an errand on May 6, 1956, shortly after noon. She has not been seen since.

  I visited Roy Meyer this week. He is the subject's husband. They had been married for 13 years.

He told me about a little incident which happened not too long before his wife disappeared.

"We--she and I--left the kids with some relatives to spend a few quiet days vacationing by ourselves. As we drove out of Los Angeles, she kept asking me if I thought the kids would be all right without her.

1957_0422_ad"I said sure, but before 24 hours had passed she talked me into turning around and going back for the kids. That's how strongly she loved them."

Mr. Meyer admits that a bit of friction had built up between himself and his wife before she disappeared. But she couldn't, he says, stand the pain of not seeing her children.

"She needed them," he says. "Just like they need her."

All five of them.

There are John, 19, Frankie, 17, and Suzanne, 15--all Stella Meyer's children by her first marriage.

And there are Bobby, 13, and Jacqueline, the "baby" at 10.

It has been 50 weeks since she's seen them.

"It was a Sunday," Mr. Meyer recalls, "and I was painting the bedroom."

"Stella called her brother and asked him if he had a paint roller. he did, so she said she'd go over and pick it up and come back and help me.

"She said, 'You should be through with the high parts by then, and I can do the low parts without getting in your way.'

"She took Jackie with her--just like always.

"But after a couple hours she hadn't returned, so I called her brother. He lives about a mile and a half away.


"And you know what he said?"

"He said she only stayed a few minutes. And she left Jackie to play with her cousins, saying she'd pick her up later--when she brought the paint roller back."

That was the last time anyone saw Stella Meyer.

But someone heard from her the next day.

It was a friend who lived across the street.

Stella, the friend said, sounded like she'd been crying. "I'm afraid," she spoke over the phone. But she didn't say afraid of what.

Never in 13 years of married life had Stella Meyer left home before. Her husband is a mild-mannered man and it's unlikely that she was afraid of him.

The next day police found Mrs. Meyer's car. It was parked on Rosecrans Boulevard near the Santa Ana Freeway. The key was in the ignition and the paint roller was on the back seat.

Sheriff's deputies talked to neighbors.

They learned that Mrs. Meyer had been quite nervous for a few months.

"She never seemed to be listening when you talked to her," one neighbor said.

Another woman, one of her closest friends, said: "If she was nervous and tired, she might have run off--but she'd never stay away for as long as she has if she was all right."

In the year she's been away, Mr. Meyer has done his best to devote the proper time to his family.

"I guess that I personally have made the adjustment," he says, "but with the kids, it's something else.

"It's rough on any youngster to know he doesn't have a mother.

"But I'd say it's rougher when a kid thinks he's got a mother but doesn't know where.

"Of even if she's dead or alive."

A flurry of interest


UNEXPECTED THRILL--Romping in the snow was a surprising Easter treat for youngsters in the 4500 block of Yellowstone Street yesterday when a white blanket fell--not in the foothills--but just 1 1/2 miles from General Hospital. Enjoying a rare toboggan ride is Karen Louise Block, 6, with others waiting their turn.

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"Not Too Good"


April 22, 1957
Las Vegas

Ntg Nils   T. Granlund, 1950s TV personality and master of ceremonies at Hollywood's Florentine Gardens through most of the 1940s, was killed in a car accident on   the Las Vegas Strip, ending a flamboyant career described in the 1957 book   "Blondes, Brunettes and Bullets."

The man nicknamed "Granny" and "N.T.G." was taking a cab from the Riviera Hotel and died after the taxi was   hit by a driver who refused a blood-alcohol test, The Times said. Granlund was 57.

His casket was covered with flowers and a ribbon that said "To Granny From the Girls," a tribute to a man responsible for the careers of Jean Wallace, Lili St. Cyr and especially Yvonne De Carlo, who claimed his body and arranged the funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park in the Hollywood Hills  

Here’s an interview I did years ago with the late studio publicist Bob Rains   about N.T.G.

In 1946, International Pictures, that I had started with, released a movie called “Tomorrow Is Forever,” which starred Orson Welles, George Brent, Claudette   Colbert, Natalie Wood, and a young kid called Richard   Long.  

NTG in those days had a radio show on the Mutual Network, KHJ, and somebody called the studio and said they’d love to do an interview with him because he had a great story about the way he was   discovered.


He lived in the Valley and was  a student at Hollywood High School, and he was hitchhiking from the Valley to   Hollywood High.

And one day he was picked up by a man by the name of Jack   Merton, who was a casting director for International Pictures. And they got to   talking. He says, “What are you doing?” and he says “I want to be an actor.” He   says “Great, call me some day, we may have something for you.”

Richard never called. About   three or four months later, it was pouring rain, Merton picks up the same kid,   it’s Richard Long. He says, “Call me!” He called him and that’s how Dick Long   got started with International Pictures when I was there. This was in 1946.  

Anyway, the picture’s coming out and NTG heard about it. He called the studio, and wanted to interview Dick on his radio show on KHJ. I think it was the whole  network then.  

We said fine. I was then   involved in that. And he said well I’d like to meet him beforehand. In those days, 1946, it was live. I said fine, so we set up a meeting at NTG’s house on   Fountain Avenue [Note: It was really Franklin--lrh]. It was east of Vine Street, a great big place. And we were   supposed to be there at a certain   time. 

We got there a few minutes early and rang the door bell, and a very  voluptuous, beautiful young   lady opened the door. We introduced ourselves and she said “NTG isn’t here   right now; come in and   wait.” 

So   we went in. And I don’t remember—we didn’t drink; we had some soft drinks or   something—and we waited for about half an hour.


During this time, one after   another after another of the most beautiful young ladies walked through the   room we were waiting in. All introduced themselves, all said they were his   secretary.  

Finally NTG comes and we do a   nice interview, preliminary and all that. Somehow he says, “Do you want to see   the house?”  

I said yes, so we have a tour   of the house. And we walk in one room, there is this immense bed. I don’t   recall the size, maybe 10 by 20, it was the biggest bed I’ve ever seen, twice   the size of a king size.  

And I said to him, “How come   you got this big bed?”  

He said, “Well we all live   here.”  

I said,   “who?”  

He said, “My secretaries; we   all live here.”  

I says, “Well do you all sleep   together?”

And   he says yes!  

And we went on a few days   later on KHJ, which used to be on Melrose, and Dick did the   interview.  

It was an amazing… man with a   great appetite. But imagine … four, five, six of them of the most beautiful   broads you’ve ever seen … sleeping in the one bed. And every time they came   through the room, … I'm so and so, glad you’re here. Period. It was quite the   experience.
Note: Muzzy   Marcellino,  former bandleader at the Florentine Gardens, used to joke   that N.T.G.  stood for "Not Too Good."  
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