The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: August 5, 2007 - August 11, 2007

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Literary diversions

Aldous Huxley, July 20, 1952
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King/Drew--1975

"Horror stories implying neglect and incompetence, especially by nursing personnel, are heard regularly."

"We all came with such high hopes. Can we provide high-quality healthcare in the ghetto? I'm not sure. It's very spotty so far."

"I have never seen so many sick people. We never catch up."

"We've got difficulties, but nothing we can't handle. We've come a long way."

Times staff writer Harry Nelson did a terrific job with this story. He captures the challenges, the hopes and the incredible frustrations of King/Drew. And this was 32 years before it lost federal funding. Take the time to read this story. It's worth the effort.

The Times, March 23, 1975.

Part 1

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Part 2

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Inklings of Camelot

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1957_kennedy_lawford Aug. 11, 1957
Princeton, N.J.

I've intentionally avoided politics so far, but hindsight is a wonderful way to judge 50-year-old attempts to forecast the future, in this case, the 1960 presidential election.

Let's see how George Gallup did with the Democrats.

The front-runner for most of 1957 was Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, followed by Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the eventual winner. Although Kennedy had a slight lead in June, Kefauver began and ended the year as the top Democratic candidate, according to Gallup.

In February, Kefauver led Kennedy among all Democratic voters 49% to 38%, Gallup said. (Among Republicans, Vice President Richard Nixon outpolled Sen. William F. Knowland of California 63% to 23%). The problem with Kennedy, Gallup found, was that he did not have national prominence--26% of Democrats said they didn't know who he was.

In June, the two men traded places, with Kennedy over Kefauver 50% to 39%. Gallup again found that Kennedy lacked national recognition--among Democrats, 28% didn't know who Kennedy was.

By August, however, Kefauver was back on top, although by a closer margin (Kefauver 29% to Kennedy's 23%). The remaining six candidates were:

More important, Kennedy and Kefauver were almost evenly matched among independent voters (25% vs. 24%), Gallup found.

Although Kefauver led Kennedy 26% to 19% in November, the ultimate tests, at least for our purposes, came in August 1957.

Kennedy easily defeated Knowland in a hypothetical presidential race, 51% to 37%, Gallup found.

As for a hypothetical race against Nixon, Kennedy was the winner 48% to 43%, Gallup found. And as Gallup noted, Nixon prevailed slightly in every part of the country except the South, which handed Kennedy a huge margin of 64% to 25%.

The popular vote, as reported by The Times on Nov. 11, 1960: 50.2% for Kennedy, 49.8% for Nixon. It was the closest election since 1888, The Times said.

To be continued...

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The Nielsens--add 1

What was "Gunsmoke?"

Oh don't do this to me.

OK, kids. "Gunsmoke" was an incredibly popular TV show that went off the air in . . . 1975. (What? Could this be right?  Surely it wasn't that long ago). It was something called a "Western," which was the staple of TV programming in the 1950s and what we had before "Star Trek" was invented. In fact "Star Trek" was originally conceived as a knockoff of another Western and was pitched as (Lord help me) " 'Wagon Train' to the stars."

No, I'm serious.

"Gunsmoke" was set in Dodge City and based on a radio show (Don't ask. We're not going there.)  and starred James Arness. He was "the giant carrot" in "The Thing."  No, the original in glorious black and white, not John Carpenter's "The Thing." (Who is John Carpenter? Oh we're never going to get through this. You know, John "Halloween" and "Escape From L.A." Carpenter?). Arness is also in "Them!" That's the movie about giant ants attacking L.A. Make that giant flying ants.
 
The main characters were Marshal Matt Dillon (Arness), Doc (Milburn Stone) and Miss Kitty (Amanda Blake), who ran the Long Branch Saloon. For a while, Dillon had a deputy named Chester, played by Dennis Weaver, who limped and for many years anybody who limped was nicknamed Chester.
 
True confession, kids. I never liked "Gunsmoke" and quit watching when Weaver left the show because he was replaced by Festus (Ken Curtis), an incredibly annoying, obnoxious hillbilly who was apparently intended to provide comic relief. By that time I'd already switched to "Maverick." 

What was "Maverick?"
 
Oh you kids these days.

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Confidential: Tells the Facts and Names the Names

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1957_0810_rushmore Aug. 10-15, 1957
Los Angeles


In testimony that was at times as colorful as its red and yellow covers, the Confidential magazine trial continued with an appearance by its former editor in proceedings that were all the more interesting because of celebrities who were trying to avoid appearing.

One of the more prominent reluctant witnesses was Tab Hunter, who ultimately did not testify but earned his way into the headlines by trying to escape publicity.

Hunter was the subject of a September 1955 article implying that he was gay. His plea was that because the article was not part of the prosecution's case against Confidential his testimony was unnecessary. Defense attorney Arthur J. Crowley's strategy was to subpoena as many stars as possible to prove that Confidential's stories were accurate and said he needed Hunter because he wouldn't know until the trial got underway whose testimony might be required.

Although Errol Flynn, below right, came to Los Angeles in hopes of testifying against the magazine, many celebrities left town to avoid being called.  "We've been covering certain nightclubs and premieres," in hopes of serving subpoenas, said former LAPD Officer Fred Otash, a private detective often employed by Confidential. "Some of these people are lying pretty low."

The main witness for the prosecution was Howard Rushmore, a former staffer of the Communist Daily Worker and onetime member of the Communist Party who became editor of Confidential in October 1954.

Rushmore testified that Confidential publisher Robert Harrison hired him out of frustration because the magazine's stories weren't racy enough.

"Mr. Harrison told me our stories were too tame," Rushmore testified. "He said we needed stories that would make our readers whistle and say: 'I never knew that before.' "

1957_08_15_confidential_flynn The first task was to get scandalous material. Rushmore said Harrison didn't like the stories submitted by Los Angeles newspaper reporters because they were too tame. Instead, Rushmore was to develop a stable of informants who could provide a higher caliber of dirt. I've already looked at Ronnie Quillan's checkered career as a Confidential informant, but the main source of information was Francesca de Scaffa, an actress who was briefly the third wife of actor Bruce Cabot. Rushmore described De Scaffa as "our chief Hollywood source."   

"She said she had access to almost every home in Hollywood and she could get a lot of stories," Rushmore testified. "She said she would get material even if it involved affairs for her with male subjects."

However, De Scaffa proved unreliable, Rushmore said. "When an article based on her information resulted in a lawsuit, she changed her original story and admitted that she had not been present," he testified. "This gave me concern as to her reliability."

(To complicate matters, De Scaffa attempted suicide in May 1957 while hiding in Mexico City to avoid the Confidential trial. She was eventually deported to Cuba as "an undesirable visitor," The Times said).

In many cases, the details were unimportant, Rushmore said. "Harrison often overruled his attorneys on the matter of whether articles were too dangerous to print and expressed the opinion that in the case of film people articles could be printed without documentary proof," The Times said.

To be continued.

Note: According to Who's Who in France, De Scaffa married French envoy and politician Raymond Offroy, who died in 2003.

(I suppose you are wondering why The Times used Marilyn Monroe in a Page 1 headline on a story that barely mentioned her. So am I. Like many articles in Proquest, this story is incomplete because it changed between editions. Sometimes the jump from Page 1 is lost or in other cases all that remains is the jump of a story. In this case, Monroe is mentioned in the lede and nowhere else. Such are the mixed rewards of research. Bonus fact: On Aug. 1, 1957, Monroe, who was married to playwright Arthur Miller, was rushed to Doctors Hospital in New York, where she suffered a miscarriage.)

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The Nielsens

1957_gunsmoke Aug. 9, 1957
Los Angeles

Top shows for the first two weeks of July 1957:

  1. "Gunsmoke"
  2. "The Ed Sullivan Show"
  3. "The $64,000 Question"
  4. "I've Got a Secret"
  5. "Playhouse 90"
  6. "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (reruns)
  7. "The Lineup" (reruns)
  8. "20th Century-Fox Hour"
  9. "What's My Line"
  10. "Twenty-One"

The All-Star baseball game (American League 6, National League 5 ) was the top-rated show for the period, with 12,896,000 TV sets tuned in, The Times said.

TV writer Cecil Smith noted that only one NBC program--the game show "Twenty-One"--was in the top 10. He attributed the poor showing to the fact that the network had recently announced 55% of its fall shows would be new, including programs starring Eddie Fisher, George Gobel, Dinah Shore, Rosemary Clooney, Jane Wyman and Gisele MacKenzie, plus "The Court of Last Resort" based on a series by Erle Stanley Gardner, a sitcom starring Joan Caulfield titled "Sally" and three unidentified westerns.

I have to admit, even I don't recognize all of these shows. "The Lineup," for example, is nothing I recall, nor do I remember the "20th Century-Fox Hour."

About "Twenty-One." In early 1957, the shows featured a bright fellow named Charles Van Doren. Maybe you've heard of him.

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Immigration and labor notes

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1957_bracerosAug. 9, 1957
Los Angeles

The Times ran a series of brief stories in 1957 on the braceros, workers brought from Mexico to the U.S.

In January, it noted that 460,000 to 470,000 braceros would be working in the U.S. in 1957, up from 432,618 in 1956.

Later that month, The Times said that in 1956, a record of 161,603 laborers were processed in the U.S. Foreign Labor Reception Center in the Imperial Valley. The center picked up the braceros in Mexico and allocated them to farms in  California, Oregon, Washington,  Arizona, Utah,  Nevada and Idaho. The previous record, set in 1955, was 119,659.

In fact, the U.S. was importing so much labor that Mexico began a public works program and an irrigation project to keep at least some of the men home, The Times said.

Of course there were problems, The Times noted. Atty. Gen. Pat Brown (the future governor) was fighting with the federal government to allow the braceros to bring their families, noting that the camps of single men were prone to prostitution and drugs. The U.S., however, said the families would add too much demand for housing, hospitalization and relief (i.e. welfare).

1957_bracero_recipes And there were other complications. The Imperial Valley farmers disliked the Labor Department's bureaucracy in handling the braceros and wanted the program transferred to the Department of Agriculture, which supervised it until World War II. One reason: The Labor Department had too much paperwork and moved slowly, threatening crops that had to be processed quickly. And, the farmers said, the Labor Department was too "industry minded."

Still, the braceros were working their way into American culture. In fact, The Times ran a page of "bracero recipes" made popular in the camps of Fullerton and urged Orange County housewives to try some of the spicy bracero dishes. (Yes, one calls for "Jap chiles.")

The Times said:

"The men in the Fullerton housing unit ... are mainly fed their native diet because they cannot be expected to adjust to American foods and customs during their short-term contracts in this country. American foods are added, however, to improve the nutritional balance of each meal."

A year-end report noted that the number of braceros processed in El Centro declined slightly in 1957 to 159,000. U.S. officials said a crackdown on illegal immigration had spurred an increase in the bracero program, but that it had leveled off in 1957.

I do not intend to delve further into the topic of immigration and foreign labor (in fact, searching The Times for "braceros" reveals far too many stories about Gov. Ronald Reagan, Cesar Chavez and the UFW, with well-known bylines, for yours truly to go wading).

But I have to note that although The Times reports the nuts and bolts of the braceros, it deals only slightly with the need for the program:

"The braceros are brought into this country as temporary farm workers to fill labor needs that cannot be met with domestic workers."

Translation: Americans won't do these jobs.

What became of the bracero program? The law establishing the program expired in 1964.

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Fashion notes

Aug. 8, 1957
Los Angeles

Los Angeles men: You're slobs, surpassed only by your male counterparts in Houston and Fort Worth. You should let your wives pick out your clothes, or so says Francis DeWitt Pratt of the American Institute of Men's and Boys' Wear.

And this is in the day when the average corporate president in America owned 14.3 suits, 29 shirts, 30 pairs of socks, 10 pairs of shoes, four hats, 65 neckties, two overcoats, two topcoats, 1.5 raincoats, 3.9 sports coats, seven sets of cuff links and 5.8 pairs of pajamas.

Long before a battered baseball cap and a fanny pack were the height of men's fashions.

 

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Confidential: Tells the Facts and Names the Names

 

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1957_0808_ritzi Aug. 8, 1957
Los Angeles

Prosecutors opened the case against Confidential and Whisper by charging that the magazines used prostitutes to lure movies stars into compromising situations and published the incidents in scandalous articles. The magazines, Publishers Distributing Corp. and Hollywood Research Inc. were charged with printing lewd, obscene materials and advertising abortions and male rejuvenation.

The first order of business for Assistant Atty. Gen. Clarence Linn and Deputy Dist. Atty. William L. Ritzi (who will be the judge in the Patty Hearst case) is to show the close financial ties between the magazines and Hollywood Research Inc., run by Fred and Marjorie Meade.

Noting that Marjorie Meade was the niece of Robert Harrison, the publisher of Confidential and Whisper, Linn said: "Records will show that they [the Meades] bought stories from people of the night life, questionable characters, private detectives."

Linn added: "We will show that the printed material was lewd and obscene, that it had a substantial tendency to corrupt and that an attempt was made to impeach the honesty and integrity of living persons. We will not attempt to turn this court into an animated Confidential."

Defense attorney Arthur J. Crowley replied: "The evidence will show that these stories are not innuendo but that the real stories behind the articles are far worse than the stories that are printed." Insisting that articles such as "Don't Take Those Abortion Pills" were a public service, Crowley said: "There was no intent here to crucify any individual for one slip off the straight and narrow. There was never any desire by Harrison or anyone else to injure anybody."

The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, submitted a brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking to keep Atty. Gen. Pat Brown from barring distribution of the scandal magazines during the trial.

Attorney A.L. Wirin said that although the ACLU had no sympathy with Confidential or Whisper, "it does support the right of any publication to be free of censorship" until the prosecution of the magazines was finished, The Times said.

To be continued

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Hal Fishman--1970

Nov. 8, 1970, Los Angeles Times

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Oliver Hardy dies

The world mourns one of film's greatest comedians, Oliver Hardy, who died in North Hollywood on Aug. 7, 1957. He was 65.

Part 1

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Part 2

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The Mirror, Page 1 (Note the price of gas, 23.9 cents a gallon, is $1.71 USD 2006)

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Page 2


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Countdown to Watts

 

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Aug. 5, 1957
Los Angeles

In eight years (the headline above is from The Times, Aug. 12, 1965), Los Angeles will explode in the Watts riots and many people will wonder how it happened. Here's part of the answer. This article from the Mirror is so appalling that I'm running it in its entirety. (And no, The Times didn't even cover the problem).

Here are the highlights:

  • Of the 80 elementary school districts whose prospective teachers are referred by Los Angeles County, only six have black teachers: Willowbrook, Enterprise, Compton, Monrovia, Keppel Union and Soldedad. Some districts refuse to hire African Americans, others have defacto segregation because they are in white communities and hire local residents.
  • Of the 10 chartered cities in Los Angeles County that screen their own teachers, only four will hire blacks: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica and Pasadena.

The reason, according to county school Supt. C.C. Trillingham: Timid school officials and an apathetic public.

Did I mention that there was a teacher shortage as schools prepared to open for the fall? The Mirror said there were 300 unfilled positions and roughly 150 black teachers who couldn't get jobs (assuming that the figures were largely unchanged from 1956).

And L.A. couldn't do the math.

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