The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: July 22, 2007 - July 28, 2007

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Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockd July 25, 1957

You know how some newspapermen are--gay and carefree.

Well, a reporter--let's call him Mac--was driving home the other day after suitably observing the decline of common sense with a few literate friends.

Two blocks from his home, he was nudged to the side by a policeman who inquired, "What's the idea of driving in second gear?"

Mac, unaware that he was in second gear and figuring he'd had it, replied, "Oh, I do that all the time. Frequently I drive home in reverse just so I won't get in a rut."

The officer told him to get out and stand up. Mac said it would be silly for him to try, he couldn't.

The officer told him to park his car at the curb and take a cab home. Mac told him he would be glad to but he was broke. However, if the officer would lend him $1--.

"All right," said the officer, "I'm going to let you drive the two blocks to your home. I'll be right behind you. One wrong move and I'm taking you in."

Mac said that was mighty nice of him and asked how come. "I figure anyone with your gall isn't as drunk as he thinks he is," replied the officer.

Mac made it home fine and no one better say nasty things to him about L.A. policemen.

AT RANDOM--The enigmatic sign in Pershing Square Garage stating the escalators are for pedestrians only is no longer the most observed in town. No. 1 seems to be the one on Magic Cleaners on 3rd Street near Western Avenue--"Ladies who drive up and drop off their clothes will be given prompt and courteous attention...."

The Reseda Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a David Keith Gibbs Memorial Fund for the 11-year-old son of pilot James Keith Gibbs, 32, who was killed July 1 when he guided his bomber out of heavily populated San Fernando Valley and crashed into unoccupied territory.



Police shakeup

 

1957_0725_shakeup_2

July 25, 1957
Los Angeles

As surprising as it seems now, there was a time when the Los Angeles newspapers actively covered top-ranking personnel at the LAPD. Most readers would be hard-pressed to name the current head of Robbery-Homicide (Capt. Kyle B. Jackson), but in the 1940s and '50s, the papers routinely tracked retirements, transfers and promotions.

In the summer of 1957, Capt. Robert A. Lohrman, who had headed the Homicide Division since 1951, was transferred to the business office because he was planning to retire. The new head of Homicide was Capt. Arthur G. Hertel.

Lohrman's term as head of Homicide included the L. Ewing Scott case, the alleged abduction of Marie "The Body" McDonald and the Barbara Graham case, which was made into the movie "I Want to Live." He also handled Busby Berkeley's 1946 suicide attempt.

Hertel died of an infected pancreas in 1961, while he was still head of Homicide, at the age of 46. Lohrman died in 1999.

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Brawl at Gilmore Field

July 25, 1957

The Angels vs. the Hollywood Stars

Page 1

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Page 2

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Countdown to Watts

 

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July 25, 1957
Los Angeles

To The Times, a class-action suit accusing the Los Angeles Police Department of brutality simply wasn't newsworthy. The Mirror did a bit better: a few paragraphs on Page 12.

1957_0725_brutal_mirror And these were juicy stories:

  • A Baptist minister who was arrested after reporting an assault.
  • A disabled veteran in a wheelchair who was dropped in the street as officers were carrying him into a police station.
  • A teenager who was shot in the stomach and the back as he stood on a street corner after complying with officers' orders to take his hands out of his pockets.

It gets worse. Lew Irwin of KPOL-AM was the only white newsman to profile the lawsuits in depth, but the station's management killed his story as a personal favor to Police Chief William H. Parker.

Instead of quietly preserving the status quo, the white news media's conspiracy of silence only fueled the anger and distrust that would erupt in the Watts riots.

Because for the California Eagle, a weekly serving the African American community, the brutality suits were Page 1 news.

None of the individuals had police records, "not even a traffic ticket," the Eagle said. The NAACP chose the cases from many others because they were the most flagrant.

According to the Eagle, eight of the cases occurred between June 3 and July 4, 1957. The ninth occurred earlier in the year.

The most recent incident was reported by Roberta Pryor, 637 E. Vernon, and her children, Roger, 19, Wanda, 17 and Herbert, 16.

Pryor told the NAACP that on July 4, she noticed a youth in the back of a police car as she was walking through a parking lot near her home. Pryor said she asked police why they were holding the youth. Her son Roger joined them and police began questioning him.

The officers "apparently didn't like the answers he gave and reportedly knocked him to the ground, addressing him with obscene words," the Eagle said. "When he protested the language in the presence of his mother, one of the officers reportedly threw his arm around the youth's neck, choking him.

"When the younger son came up, the police reportedly roughed him up also, then took the two boys, the sister and the mother down to the police station. Roger was booked on suspicion of grand theft auto, held for two days and then released, the NAACP attorneys claimed."

Disabled veteran Jeff Kimble, 6339 Estrella Ave., and his brother, E.C. Kimble, were arrested after bank authorities became suspicious when E.C. Kimble tried to deposit some cash and government checks. "The two of them were taken to the station. Since there was no wheelchair lift available, two men lifted Jeff Kimble from the car and started carrying him. Partway to the entrance, they apparently lost their grip and let the crippled man drop," the Eagle said.

 

1957_0725_brutal_kimble

The brothers were eventually released when the Treasury Department confirmed that the checks were indeed Jeff Kimble's.

Another case involved the Rev. Simon Washington, 7027 S. Denver St., a Baptist minister who worked as a salesman for Supreme Liberty Life Insurance.

Washington said he had an appointment to meet a client at 2nd and San Pedro streets when another man "came up to him and began molesting him," the Eagle said. Washington called officers, who arrested him on charges of being drunk. Washington said they beat him en route to the station and that the charges were eventually dropped.

Raymond Korengay, 3668 S. Normandie Ave., said he was arrested after police came to his home in search of his brother, who was wanted on a traffic warrant. Kornegay said that although his brother wasn't home, police brushed past him without a warrant, beat him and although he was bleeding profusely, drove around for two hours before taking him to the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital. He was charged with interfering with an officer.

Herman Johnson, 17, 669 E. 40th Place, said he was standing on a sidewalk when police approached and told him to take his hands out of his pockets. He was hospitalized after being shot twice, the Eagle said, and was recuperating on a farm in Arkansas.

To be continued....

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Champagne flight

 

1957_0725_hed

July 25, 1957
Las Vegas

There was no room for retired jeweler Saul F. Binstock, 62, on the chartered flight to Las Vegas, so he boarded a Western Air Lines plane at Burbank. As always, he bought insurance naming his wife, Eva, as the beneficiary.

In addition to the round-trip flight, his getaway package included limousine service from the airport to the Hacienda Hotel, dinner, champagne and $5 in gambling chips. Although Binstock called Eva to tell her he was looking at some watch shops, he remained at McCarran Field and gave his coupon booklet to one of the agents, saying: "Maybe you can use this."

At 2:50 a.m., Binstock got on Western Air Lines Flight 39 after turning down a seat on a plane chartered by the Hacienda. Witnesses said he tore up a few pieces of paper just before boarding. As soon as the Convair CV-240 took off, Binstock went to the lavatory in the rear of the aircraft.

1957_0725_plane 

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Maybe he thought of his wife over the next 47 minutes. Perhaps it was his son, Sydney, a dentist; or his daughters Muriel and Joyce (or Joyann). Maybe he thought of the Canoga Park jewelry store he recently sold or the family home at 5739 Rhodes Ave. Mostly, I imagine, he thought about the explosives in his left hand--blasting caps according to the Civil Aeronautics Board and dynamite according to other sources--and how he planned to set them off.

Several passengers became worried about Binstock's extended absence and asked the flight attendant to check on him. As she walked to the back of the aircraft, there was what one passenger called: "A hell of a blast." At 3:33 a.m., Saul F. Binstock, who had spent his life repairing small, precious  mechanisms, blew a car-sized hole in the airplane, which was flying at 10,000 feet. He was the only victim.

Capt. Milton L. Shirk, 37, and co-pilot Seth Oberg, 25,  landed the plane safely at George Air Force Base after radioing that they had an emergency.

Binstock's body was found in the Ord Mountains after an intense search. Three fingers of his left hand were blown away. One of the two $62,500 insurance policies he purchased in Burbank had a suicide clause that voided any payments and the insurance company said it would not pay a benefit on any claim submitted for his death. A private investigator for the family said Binstock "was in good health and financially OK."

Rabbi Aaron Wise of the Valley Jewish Community Center conducted the funeral at Groman Mortuary Chapel. Binstock was buried in Pittsburgh.

Convair N8406H was repaired and continued flying.

Here's a photo from 1959.  And here's one from 1961.

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Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Paul_coates July 22, 1957

SUBJECT'S NAME--Dr. George Ripley Fuller.

SUBJECT'S DESCRIPTION--Age, 28. Height 5 feet, 10 inches. Weight, 150 pounds. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Slight horizontal scar upper lip on right.

Any person with information as to subject's whereabouts is requested to contact Missing Persons Section, Los Angeles Police Department.

Much has been written concerning the strange disappearance of Dr. George Fuller, brilliant young UCLA physiologist.

But there's been a lot, too, that hasn't.

And that's what I'm just about to tell today.

Maybe the new facts can start the year-old mystery unraveling. And maybe--hope the doctor's parents--once the unraveling process has started it won't end until the case is solved.

Dr. Fuller disappeared from his home at 470 Midvale Ave., near UCLA on May 31 of last year.

He left the house at 7 p.m. He told his wife, Renee, that he was going to attend a seminar on campus.

The seminar was called off. And Dr. Fuller never returned home.

Because of Fuller's position and brilliance, both the police and press considered the case a "hot" one. They investigated it thoroughly and publicized it widely.

But they found no substantial clues.

And no solid, logical explanation.

1956_fuller_missing Fuller's wife told police that her husband had driven off with a few dollars, at most, and few extra clothes, if any. She added that he had always been considerate in telling her where he was going.

Seven weeks after Fuller's disappearance, police found his car. It was parked on North Sunset Plaza Drive, not too distant from his home. In it were his ice skates and camera and a book entitled "Adventures in Good Eating."

But any immediate clues possibly contained more negative value than positive. Because it's more than feasible that the real explanation of Dr. Fuller's disappearance began years before he was bodily missing.

The young doctor was the last of three sons born to Mr. and Mrs. Walter Fuller. His two older brothers were college graduates and successful in their professions when he was still a teenager.

He admired them greatly. Maybe, the parents admitted when I talked to them last week, he placed his brothers on too high a pedestal--before embarking on a personal campaign to emulate them.

Because from the time that young George graduated from high school in New York he permitted his desire to be the best in whatever he undertook to become an almost compulsive force.

Definitely, he was brilliant. After three years of college he applied for and was accepted by three medical schools. He won one of New York State's highest scholarships.

He graduated from Cornell Medical College in 1953 and was asked to remain as a fellow in physiology there. He did, for two years.

Then he and his wife, whom he married in his first year of med school, drove west.

"George," his mother told me, "was attracted to UCLA by Dr. Magoun. He knew him by reputation only, but wanted very much to work under him."

Dr. Horace W. Magoun, then chairman of the department of anatomy, is recognized as one of the world's top neurophysiologists.

On the trip to California in June of 1955, Fuller grew the beard which later became his trademark. It was a jutting  bright red, in contrast to his blond hair.

"But," his mother told me, "I suppose he's shaved it now."

Friends say that, once here, Fuller permitted his work to swallow him more completely than ever. His conversations, his friends, his life--all revolved around his research.

But possibly it began getting to him.

Because half a year before he vanished the young doctor phoned his mother in New York to say he was visiting a psychiatrist here.

The psychiatrist later told Mrs. Fuller that George had expressed the wish to visit his parents in New York.

Then, just a few months before he vanished, he wrote a few most unusual letters to his parents.

"They were extremely critical of us," his mother told me, "but it's hard to say exactly how. Or why.

"Like his disappearance, it just didn't make sense."

[Was Fuller ever found? Stay tuned for more--lrh]

CSI--2007

Bullet_path02 I had the good fortune to attend the first day of the International Assn. for Identification convention in San Diego yesterday and although most of the sessions are focused on new technologies, I was there to talk about the past, the 1947 Black Dahlia case.

One of the conference's features is a crime scene contest set up in a room at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center. (The contests always have a local theme. The convention in Dallas, for example, featured a "Who Shot J.R.?" crime scene).

About half a dozen four-member teams are competing against one another to see what they can learn during their allotted 45 minutes at the crime scene. The contestants, a combination of investigators and students from across the country, take the competition quite seriously. To win the contest, a team must collect nine pieces of a Black Dahlia jigsaw puzzle over the course of the convention and score points for noticing bits of evidence in the room. They must also present a report and diagram of the scene.

Since the contest doesn't end until later this week, I won't say anything more about it except that the crime scene is wickedly devious and the teams are extremely competitive.

I attended two sessions that would have fascinated the men who investigated the Black Dahlia crime scene: Ray Pinker, head of the LAPD crime lab; Leland "Lee" Jones, the other half of the crime lab; and Gilbert Laursen, an LAPD photographer.

Bullet_path_laser The first session was on using gun bluing to reveal fingerprints on bullet casings and other metallic objects. It's a simple, low-tech process that can develop a print. Gun bluing is old technology. The new part is being able to make a digital photograph of the print and run it through AFIS. (The Automated Fingerprint Identification System, for those of you who've never heard of it). Jack Webb would have loved it.

The other session involved using lasers and plastic rods to trace bullet trajectories. The session presenters, King C. Brown, M. Dawn Watkins and Rus Ruslander, put on a great light show with relatively inexpensive lasers sold as torpedo levels in stores like Home Depot, Lowe's and Harbor Freight. It is impressive to see lasers or plastic rods retracing the bullet paths in a car that's been shot up with an AK-47.

One other thing that struck me was the wide range of people attending the conference. I met a high school teacher who gives CSI classes and there was half a dozen investigators from Colombia who brought a translator and participated in a session by using wireless headphones. Federal, state and local agencies were heavily represented.

The convention is going on all week in San Diego. Here's the information.

Back to 1957....

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Photographs courtesy King C. Brown.

KFWB--980

July 24, 1957
Los Angeles

You mean there was a time when KFWB didn't have an all-news format? Yes, indeed. Read about Larry Finley here. More (much, much more) about Boss radio here.  Vintage air checks from KFWB (and many, many other radio stations) here (a subscription site).

A smiley face in 1957? That's a new one on me.

1957_kfwb
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Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockd July 22, 1957

This is to report that a distressing situation has arisen in MacWestlake Park.

Certain pigeons--just a few of the hundreds in the park, mind you--have adopted a decidedly unmilitary attitude toward the recently dedicated statue of the General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Apparently they believe he's just another Beethoven. (Note: This is a reference to the statue of Beethoven in Pershing Square across from what used to be Philharmonic Auditorium and is now a vacant lot at Olive and 5th thanks to a hurried developer with big plans--lrh).

There stands the general, erect, imperious, fastidious, hands to sides, as was intended.

But these uncouth, subversive pigeons have taken to bathing themselves in the stagnant water in the enclosed forecourt surrounding the statue and one of them sits by the hour on the peak of the general's cap, preening itself. Others flutter about him with careless disregard of his welfare. They're smart, they realize he can't fight back or censor their criticism.

Clearly this is a moment for a command decision. Fortunately there's a man in our midst with the know-how to cope with this crisis--Fred Beck.

Beck has proposed that funds be raised or appropriated for a statue of a pigeon 15 feet high. The idea is that any generals passing through L.A. would be given carte blanche to perch on the statue of the pigeon--in reprisal.

I know just the place for this overgrown pigeon. Alongside.

AS BACKYARD barbecue addicts know, the big switch lately has been to the small, compact hibachi.

Paul Drus went looking for one but the stores in his neighborhood in South Los Angeles were sold out. So he went to Little Tokyo and found one in a store near 1st and San Pedro streets.

As the store owner wrapped it, he said: "Used to sell three, four hibachis in one year. Now all buy and hard to keep in stock. Japanese cook on hibachi three thousand years. Whatsamatter? Los Angeles just learning to cook?"

Pepe Arciga

1957_arcigaJuly 22, 1957

Usually, advance press releases dealing with anyone's mammoth or secretly puny celluloid projects begin this way:

So-and-so Productions take pleasure in announcing the filming of another 12-reeler to star so-and-so.... It might be pointed out that our producer, So-plus-So, has had much affinity with the people where the picture is being filmed..."

That is how run-of-mill press releases go. Sometimes they wind up forgotten in wastebaskets. Now let's look in on still another fanfare which struck closer to home. Me.

Here's what it says:

"Dave Crown's Coronado Productions is preparing a telefilm, late this summer, based on the dramatic and colorful career of Kenneth Beldin. An innovation will be the usage of Spanish and English language."

After several checking attempts I'm unable to tell whether "Dave Crown's Coronado Productions" is or ain't.

On the matter of Kenneth Beldin, I don't have to check. Years ago I met this man. To the end of my days I will never forget him.

1957_0722_beldin He is tall, very gaunt and not unlike movie character Mischa Auer. His face always had the look of a man tortured or consumed by inner powers telling him to go out into the wilds and look for something.

I first met him around 1939. At the time I was employed by the National Railways of Mexico in Mexico City. Desk and field job interpreting for visiting Americans.

He had been hired by the railway to cook up suitable travel brochures which would help attract more turistas from the Eastern Seaboard, then considered lush territory.

So he was hired. Overnight he disappeared from sight. For days none of his acquaintances or bosses heard anything about Beldin. Police were alerted. The American Consulate as well.

Nearly two weeks later he popped up sporting a beard about the same size as that which now hangs from Ernest Hemingway.

His complexion, originally a pale tan, had turned yellowish. His cheekbones seemed to have increased in bulk and the man's light brown eyes were crisscrossed with countless little red veins.

Kenneth Beldin, the writer-researcher, had done what few brochure writers ever do when amassing material for their travel pitches. He had actually thrown caution to the winds and set up shop in the gosh-darndest villages in the state of Guerrero, where civilization was something the dwellers wanted no part of.

And to complete the job of going native, not only had he picked up Spanish but also a good smattering of Zapotec dialects.

Indians, to Beldin, were the most fascinating thing in life. For hours he would sit on his veranda talking to them, trying to solve their inscrutability and making every effort to be liked by them.

His obsession was to prove, beyond a single scientific doubt, that Mexican Indians had settled in Mexico after centuries of migration from the Orient.

Now married to an Indian maiden named Xochitl, Kenneth Beldin has earned for himself a niche that weighs--and then some. Recently the official organ of the medical profession in Mexico told this:

"Scientists from the U.S. and other countries travel to exchange ideas with him (Beldin). He has the undying gratitude of generations of children in our nation. He will go down in history as "The Apostle of Sesame Meal.' "



Lil' Pedro update

While cruising Beverly Boulevard the other day, I saw this mural on the side of Cactus Mexican Food No. 2 at Beverly and Harvard Boulevard. (For an explanation, see my earlier post on the "Gordo" and "Lil' Pedro" comic strips). I should note that after my original post, I received an e-mail from a fellow ostensibly living in Mexico who said this figure is based on a famous sculpture by Ignacio AsĂșnsolo in the National Art Museum in Mexico City and that it's very popular in Mexico.

All of which may be true, but the little lawn statues certainly infuriated some of my Latino friends in Tucson.

Cactus_taqueria
Photograph by Larry Harnisch Los Angeles Times

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El Segundo revisited

Over lunch today, King C. Brown and I discussed the El Segundo case and I worked out this scenario for what might have happened that night. I apologize for the extremely low-tech simulation but this is all I could find around the hacienda.


El_segundo01
1. Curtis and Phillips remove the driver from the car.


El_segundo02
2. Curtis and Phillips shine a flashlight in the driver's face (possibly a field sobriety test).


El_segundo03
3. Curtis gets in the car to radio the dispatcher.


El_segundo04
4. The killer shoots Phillips in the back. Then shoots Curtis from the passenger's side.


El_segundo05
5. As the killer flees, Phillips fires four rounds into his car.


Here's another picture of the crime scene:

1957_0722_police_car02

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