Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Here's the August 1955 article from Whisper magazine referred to in my earlier post on Ronnie Quillan (thank you, EBay). Quillan actually provided the information for this story, so we have to assume it was at least somewhat accurate. In reading this sleazy, vicious account, it's no wonder the scandal magazines got shut down.
I am not familiar with the name Patricia Hirsch, who is mentioned as a prostitute. However, a woman by that name pleaded guilty to vice charges in 1954 after being arrested in Malibu, according to The Times. And I cannot locate anything on Frank Harwyn Vanderveld II.
The saddest thing, of course, is Quillan's disintegration. A tragic Hollywood tale.
Teenagers' magazines are a comparatively new fad. But in spite of their recent arrival, they have already grabbed a strong position of influence. And respect. Yesterday, I printed some letters written to Lilly Cooper, Dig magazine's problem editor.
They were written by teenagers. But they couldn't be printed in the periodical, even though it is published specifically for that age group.
The letters were too "hot." Too many parents would complain.
Yet, Miss Cooper asks hesitantly whether the type of adult who objects to such letters might often be the type responsible for them.
"So many kids have turned to us--complete strangers--for answers to their most serious problems," Miss Cooper tells me.
"Why us? Why not their parents or someone else in their communities?"
The answer might be found in some of the letters.
Here's one from a 16-year-old schoolgirl:
"My rep has been marred by an 18-year-old boy whom I met in the next town.
"I dated him quite a while.
"One night he started something which I told him would have to stop even though I loved him. And he agreed.
"But it happened again and I couldn't stop him.
"He got some other guys to say that they had done it, too, so he wouldn't be responsible.
"Could you help me. Please!"
Try this one, from Judy:
"Just finished reading your article about teenage spankings.
"I envy the kids who just get spankings or simple punishment. Have them try getting pushed up against the wall, choking around the neck and punched in the face, stomach and chest with a fist.
"Or for simple punishment, a beating with a thick belt.
"That's what happens to me, a 16-year-old girl, by my father. Maybe I deserve it. I don't know and care less. I've had it for so long I just don't feel anything any more."
In the two weeks' collection of problem letters which Miss Cooper showed me, the majority were from pregnant girls.
One, however, was from a young boy suffering perverted sexual urges. He couldn't face his father or his priest, he admitted, "because they think too much of me."
A 15-year-old wrote that she accidentally discovered pornographic pictures and literature in her parents' bedroom.
"I felt like screaming when I read it because my father's name was actually used in the literature. I just stood and cried and shook all over."
The most pathetic letter, however, came from Jane:
"I have never turned to anyone before and still don't know who to go to for help.
"I'm only 16 1/2 and a junior in high school, but since I was 12 I've been falling downward.
"When I started going out with boys I looked for any kind of affection. You see, no one ever told me to be careful.
"I saw no harm in what I was doing. I knew nothing about life or sex. My name became bad, of course, and my girlfriends and schoolmates avoided me. I couldn't understand why!
"Now 15, I started going with servicemen, older boys, fellows out of town. I began to drink. Almost every weekend I was drunk.
"Then I began going with a 'cat' from the big city. I was accepted into a large gang AFTER I proved I could smoke dope.
"Thank God I've avoided 'H' and mainlining.
"I really live two lives--my home and school life and my outside life. I've hurt so many boys, good clean-cut guys that happen to fall in love with me. I would take money from them, make them take me here and there and then bow out.
"Yes, I guess I'm just no good.
"My mother tries hard to make things nice for me by buying me records, clothes, etc. You just can't buy love and affection, though.
"My dad is a drinker and goes a bit crazy sometimes. He's put us both in the hospital from time to time.
"I'm trying my best to be as polite as possible and write as best I can and use the best English. I could lengthen this by all the laws I've broken but I only want to give you enough of a picture of me to help me out.
"Lilly, I think I'm very sick emotionally.
"If you can't help me, please, please tell me who could."
The letters I used were just average. There were dozens more like them.
Apparently the kids who wrote them knew no adult--parents, friend, neighbor--in whom they felt they could confide with trust.
The reflection is on us--and the image isn't pretty.
[Note: These teenagers are in their 60s now. I wonder what their lives were like and whether they overcame the pain of their early years. I certainly hope so. --lrh.]
July 6, 1957
Oh this is a painful moment on the Mirror's comics page. I was always a big fan of Gus Arriola and "Gordo," which I read for many years. The strips are beautifully drawn and the Aztec motifs are wonderful. But I certainly don't recall the dialect. Ouch!
Arriola was a former MGM animator and here's what he had to say about the strip:
The early Gordos were very stereotypical, yes, and the dialogue was very broken English. A couple of editors started complaining that it was hard to read, and salesmen said it was difficult to sell. So little by little I began clearing up the dialogue and cleaning up the characters myself in order to appeal to a wider audience.
And then I saw this: Ack!!!!
"Gordo" is a model of sensitivity compared to "Lil' Pedro." I can't find any information about the artist or the strip. I can only imagine the reaction of my old pal Rudy Wagner, who became furious whenever he discussed the lawn statues of a Mexican sleeping against a cactus.
The stats for my blog allow me to see the search terms people use to reach the Daily Mirror. I never realized there were so many people interested in Mickey Cohen. There are quite a few false hits and some interesting queries.
To the person researching Jack Webb's "-30-": Despite what you may have read or heard, the movie was not filmed in the Examiner Building (this was lore for many years at The Times among former Her-Exers). Webb built an exact duplicate on a sound stage. He did this for "Dragnet" too.
To the person researching Gamblers Anonymous: I hope you found what you needed.
And to whoever is researching "little girl lost intestines in swimming pool"--I am at a loss for words.
At right, the VHS box for "-30-" Kids! Don't Play Here!
Photographs by the Los Angeles Times
Sgt. C.H. Specht examines damage to Jan's Restaurant, 8424 Beverly Blvd., caused by Gail Russell's convertible.
Below right, Russell fails a test for intoxication administered by Specht.
You poor thing. Look at you lying there, probably for a couple days now, sealed off from the world in a little home on the Westside. No husband, no children and no career. Just an empty vodka bottle on the floor and you sprawled next to it in a blouse and the pants from your pajamas. Dead at 35. Your mother wanted you to have the career she never had. I'm sure she didn't realize you weren't cut out to be a movie star; so tightly wound and such a painfully shy, insecure bundle of nerves.
Let's go back 20 years to 1941, when you were studying to be an artist and someone started calling you "the Hedy Lamarr of Santa Monica High." How you hated that nickname and kept apologizing for it, so embarrassed that when you finally ran into Lamarr volunteering one night at the Hollywood Canteen you looked the other way.
"When I was discovered for the movies I was sleeping on the living room floor on newspapers. I went for my first interview with paint all over my face--I'd been helping paint a room at the technical school. Paramount offered me a minimum salary--$50 a week--and Mom said, 'Take it, we need the money.' "
(Below right, Russell with Richard Lyon and Nona Griffith in 1944 after their juvenile movie contracts were approved).
"Mother practically dragged me in to see William Meiklejohn, supervisor of talent and casting at Paramount, who had tracked me down at University [Santa Monica] High School. I was petrified. Mr. Meiklejohn, a kindly man, kept trying to get me to talk, but nothing would come out.
"For my first test they put me into an evening gown. I had never even worn high heels before--or makeup of any kind. To say I was self-conscious is understatement plus. A week later they cast me in a Henry Aldrich picture, wearing a bathing suit and a transparent raincoat. It had been raining and there was a large puddle across from the studio commissary where the scene was to be shot. Of course they had to do it just as the sets broke for lunch and such stars as Alan Ladd, Bing Crosby and others were passing by.
"There I was trying to speak my lines while holding an umbrella which kept slipping from my nervous fingers. To this day I refuse all bathing suit scenes in public or private."
For one audition at Paramount, they put you in the fishbowl, a glass booth lit so that the actor couldn't see who was outside watching.
Below right, a studio publicity shot, 1949.
"I started out weighing 125 pounds," you said of making "The Uninvited," then I was rushed to New York for the opening. When I got back I weighed 106--all in two months. Everything was that way, rush... rush... rush... So many pictures one after another. I tried to be a nice guy and took on too many things and didn't take care of my health."
You nerves got so bad that you spoiled one take after another.
Then there was "The Angel and the Badman," the first of the movies you made with John Wayne. A few years later when his wife, Esperanza, sued for divorce, she testified that she nearly shot him when he broke into their home the next morning after spending the night with you. She also said he gave you a car, although he claimed it was only the down payment.
Russell and defense lawyer Harvey Silbert in 1953, when she pleaded not guilty to drunk driving.
You and Wayne testified that there was no relationship between you. But your first arrest for drunk driving was only a few weeks later, Nov. 24, 1953, about the time your marriage to Guy Madison was unraveling. By the next year, you were in such bad shape that your lawyer wanted the trial held in your hospital room.
In 1955, you drove off after rear-ending a car in North Hollywood. And then you plowed into Jan's Restaurant, 8424 Beverly Blvd., at 4 a.m. on the Fourth of July, 1957 and pinned the janitor under your new convertible.
Russell, age 31, in 1956.
In August 1957, you ended up in General Hospital's prison ward when two officers found you passed out after you failed to appear for a hearing in the drunk driving case.
You tried so hard to beat the bottle. You joined A.A. and spent a year in a clinic. "It was so lonely in the hospital in that oxygen tent for three months with no one to talk to except the Man Upstairs," you said. "I had long talks with Him--that's the reason I'm here today."
Russell and an unidentified man, presumably attorney Rexford Eagan, for another court hearing in 1958. She is 32 in this photograph. Note her dilated pupils.
And then for the last eight months of your life, you sealed yourself up in your home at 1436 Bentley Ave., and sketched and painted and drank until the place was full of art and empty liquor bottles. You wouldn't even open the door for the neighbors, just talked to them through the window. Your sister-in-law phoned every day in the week before you died. You told her you were painting and sketching and planning to get back into acting.
Your sister-in-law will say: "She was really, really and truly trying to stop drinking. It was tragic because she was so talented and suffering so much. If she had enjoyed drinking it would have been something else--but she didn't. No matter what they say about Hollywood, the people there were always wonderful to her through the long years she had her problems. She always got through when she made a call and anybody who ever worked with her always believed in her."
You once told Hedda Hopper: "I've learned you can't satisfy everyone. You start and then, all of a sudden, it stops and you can't even please yourself."
You'll get a private service at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood and be buried next to your father. Some of your old co-stars will be there: Alan Ladd, Jimmy "Henry Aldrich" Lydon, Diana Lynn and Mona Freeman. No sign of John Wayne, though. Or Guy Madison.
Rest in peace, Gail Russell Moseley, 1925-1961
Here's "The Angel and the Badman" on Google video.
Bonus fact: Jan's is still in business.
Lilly Cooper is an average, mature woman.
But she has one quality which separates her from the rest of us older, wiser inhabitants of the world.
She is neither amused nor annoyed by teenage melodramatics.
Instead, she has a true sympatico for them. Because Lilly Cooper probably knows more about our kids than we ourselves do.
One of her jobs is that of "problem" columnist for the teenager magazine Dig.
The magazine has a readership of close to a million and every month Miss Cooper prints answers to subscribers' letters dealing with personal difficulties.
The printed problems involve dating, troubles at home or in school, employment and similar subjects.
But they're not the ones which bother Miss Cooper.
The ones which disturb her are those she can't print--without the risk of stimulating the wrath of hundreds of adults. (And, from letters received by the magazine, it's obvious that many parents browse through it too.)
Her mailbox is full every day.
There is correspondence from girls, 12 and 13 years old, who are pregnant. From married girls who want to know where babies come from. From others who want explanations of the invisible, often arbitrary barriers of religion or race.
Miss Cooper asked me to run a few of the letters she couldn't print. "To let adults know that teenager melodramatics have a base.
"And to let them decide the cause for themselves."
I will, today and tomorrow.
The letters are quite basic. I'm sorry if they offend you--Unless, of course, they offend you into positive, constructive thought.
"I'm 15 and I'm going to have a baby in two months.
"My boyfriend and I were engaged, and one night we just went too far. We were going to be married and he got drafted.
"I just wrote him about the baby last month.
"What can I do, he's overseas and can't come back to marry me for four more months. By then the baby will be born and without a father.
"Oh, I'm so worried, please, I love him so much, and he wants the baby as much as I do."
"I am a sophomore at high school and a girl of 16.
"I come from an average family with wonderful parents. I am dating a boy 20 years old. But because he's a Mexican I have to lie to Mother and Dad to be with him.
"I hate to do things behind their backs. What would you suggest?
"Do you think it's proper for a white girl to date a Mexican?
"Three other girlfriends of mine are in the same boots. And we could use all the information possible."
"I am 19 years old and have been married six weeks. Now I am pregnant.
"I was wondering if you would tell me how a baby is born and how they start us nursing.
"My mother would never tell me and my doctor just died.
"So you see it is important for me to know this."
"I do have a problem.
"Kenny and I are very much in love. I am just turned 17 and he is 18. My family don't like him and have forbidden me to see him because he has been in jail and had a lot of trouble.
"He is trying to stay out of trouble and has for over a year and a half.
"But a month ago I found out I'm pregnant and Tony's
[cq--lrh] the father.
"He told me to tell my parents but someone said they could charge him with rape.
"He has a job and is setting aside for the baby and our future. He can't afford any more trouble.
"Please tell us what to do for the future of ourselves and our baby.
"They won't give consent to our marriage. So we can't get married till we're of age."
It's melodrama, possibly, but it's more gnawing than annoying.
Certainly, it's not amusing.
I wouldn't ask anyone to do something I wouldn't try myself, so here's Route 5 of the Auto Club's commuting survey from 1957. It's not an entirely fair test since I made the trip on a Saturday morning, but it was an interesting experience all the same.
Photographs by Larry Harnisch The Los Angeles Times
Washington and Lincoln boulevards, Venice. 10:51 a.m.
Washington and Grand View Boulevard, 10:53 a.m.
Washington and Sepulveda Boulevard, 10:56 a.m.
Random shot--King Fahd Mosque
Washington and Elenda Street, 10:58 a.m.
Washington and Overland Avenue, 10:59 a.m.
Washington and Ince Boulevard, 11:02 a.m.
Washington and National Boulevard, 11:03 a.m.
Washington and La Cienega Boulevard, 11:05 a.m.
Washington and Adams Boulevard, 11:05 a.m.
Adams and Redondo Boulevard, 11:07 a.m.
Adams and 8th Avenue, 11:10 a.m.
Adams and Arlington Avenue, 11:12 a.m.
Adams and Western Avenue, 11:13 a.m.
Adams and Normandie Avenue, 11:15 a.m.
Adams and Hoover Street, 11:17 a.m.
Auto Club of Southern California, Adams and Figueroa, 11:19 a.m.
I wish I'd gotten a shot of the Helms Bakery, but it went by too fast.
Total time, 1957: 30 minutes (rush hour)
Total time, 2007: 28 minutes (weekend)
What we have is a dead woman and a man who says he strangled her--except he doesn't remember it. Or he did remember it and then he forgot.
No, it doesn't make any sense.
Her name was Ruth Lucero de la O. She was 35 and lived with her three children at 12812 Waltham Ave., Baldwin Park. The husband, Albert, 42, a foundry worker, moved out a year ago because "she had too many men friends." He lives at 1020 W. 91st St.
This is what supposedly happened early Wednesday, July 3, 1957.
Ruth is sitting in the living room reading a magazine. Her 15-year-old son Jerry comes home about 11 p.m., July 2, 1957, talks to his mother and goes to bed. His younger sister, Amelia, 13, is spending the night with a friend. The youngest girl, Marguerite, 5, is asleep in her bedroom.
Sometime after 2 a.m., the Sheriff's Department gets a call from Jerry, who is hysterical. "There's something wrong," he says. "It looks like Mom is all mangled." Later, Jerry says the sound of a door closing woke him up, and he thought his mother had gone out so he got up to turn off the radio.
"I looked out the window and I saw a car. I think it was a 1950 Chevy. The lights were out and a few minutes later it drove away," he says.
Jerry goes into the living room and finds his mother strangled. The Times says she was on the floor near the kitchen and was wearing a light skirt, white blouse and moccasins. The Mirror says she was fully dressed, bent backward over an overstuffed chair. The volume on the radio was turned up high.
"Her hands were behind her and she was all bent over," Jerry says.
According to the medical examiner, Dr. Frederick Newbarr, she may have been struck on the head and then strangled by someone who approached her from behind.
"Marks on the woman's neck indicated that the assailant's thumbs had been placed on the back of her neck and the fingers at the front," the Mirror says. There are scratches on her neck and detectives speculate that the killer might have been a woman, The Times says.
On July 18, 1957, a mural painter named Wilber A. White, 12721 Salisbury St., Baldwin Park, told investigators that he killed Ruth. White says he had been loaning Ruth money since she was separated from her husband and went to her home to discuss finances. White says she "infuriated him by talking about his wife," so he "grabbed her by the throat and then threw her aside," The Times says.
Of course, the medical examiner says she was attacked from behind and struck on the head before being strangled, so White's story doesn't make much sense.
The next day, sheriff's detectives took White and his wife, Allie, to the home. White says: "I can't believe it. I know I've done something terrible but I just can't believe it's possible." Then he told detectives he couldn't remember the killing. "I can't think," he said. "I just can't think."
After that, the entire case vanishes from the paper.
What else can we find out? Ruth was born June 15, 1922, in New Mexico. Her mother's maiden name was Enriquez and her maiden name was Lucero. No recorded Social Security number. [Update: The Albert de la O, born in 1910 is completely unrelated to this incident]. A man named Albert de la O, born Jan. 6, 1910, in Mexico, died in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 1979, so I assume that's the husband.
A man named Wilbur A. White, born May 24, 1917, so he was the same age as the suspect, died in Monterey County in 1964.
Here's a map. Note that the crime scene is only a little more than three miles from where the body of Geneva Ellroy was found less than a year later. Probably a coincidence.
Through most of World War II, Tom Treanor provided Times readers with firsthand accounts of the battle against the Axis as his travels took him to such places as China, South America and Europe.
This is the last story he wrote before being killed Aug. 18, 1944, when a tank made a turn and struck his jeep on a dusty road outside a French village that had just been liberated from the Nazis. He lived long enough to learn that the doctor attending his wounds was from Los Angeles: Capt. William Werner, 1402 Crenshaw Blvd. Treanor told Werner that he was sorry he wouldn't be able to cover the liberation of Paris.
The Times established a journalism fellowship at UCLA in his honor, but it apparently hasn't been awarded since 1961. He also wrote a book titled "One Damn Thing After Another," published in 1944. Treanor was buried in an Army cemetery near Le Mans.
Other Times writers killed while covering violence include: Dial Torgerson, Honduras, 1983; Joe Alex Morris Jr., Tehran, 1979; and Ruben Salazar, East L.A., 1970.
Note: The Times identified the village where Treanor was fatally injured as "Eront," which cannot be located on any map of France. Possibly it was Ermont.