Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Nov. 17, 1957
Monty was 19 and had just gotten out of the Deuel Vocational Institution for Men at Tracy, Calif., after serving 14 months for stealing a car. Homer was 61, a distinguished bridge player who was the attending physician at Olive View Sanitarium, a facility for tuberculosis patients. He lived on the sanitarium grounds with his ailing wife, Adele. They apparently had no children.
Homer saw Monty hitchhiking in San Fernando and picked him up. After that, Monty said, Homer helped him out financially. It's unclear how well they were acquainted, but Monty knew for certain where Homer lived and when he got paid.
Monty was living in a hotel at 118 N. Maclay Ave., San Fernando, with his 16-year-old girlfriend, Diana Kay Maupin. He figured they'd drive to Las Vegas and get married. But he needed money and a car.
So he thought of Homer. Thursday was payday at the sanitarium, but a day passed before Monty acted on his plan.
A friend named Frederick G. Rhoads, 18, stopped by the hotel and as they were speaking, Rhoads was sharpening his 3-inch, pearl-handled knife. Monty asked if he could borrow it.
Once he had the knife, Monty went to Homer's house. Monty said he needed Homer's money and his car so he could drive to Las Vegas and marry Diana. Homer gave Monty $4. He wouldn't let Monty have the car, but offered to drive him back to the hotel.
Monty said fine, but he insisted on driving and Homer let him.
He knew Homer had kept back a dollar and Monty wanted that last dollar bill. So instead of driving back to the hotel, where Diana was making dinner, Monty drove up Lopez Canyon Road and parked with Homer a mile north of Kagel Canyon Road, about half a mile from Glen Haven Cemetery.
Monty told police that as they sat in the car on that lonely stretch of road, Homer made "improper advances," according to The Times. As Homer struggled, Monty stabbed him once in the heart, once through the neck and three times in the abdomen.
Then Monty took the remaining dollar from Homer's wallet, shoved him out of the car and down a culvert, and drove back to San Fernando.
Although he was bleeding terribly, Homer crawled up the roadway, where he was found by a passing motorist. He died before anyone could save him.
But instead of going to Las Vegas, Monty, Frederick and their girlfriends went to a drive-in. When the young women excused themselves from the car, Monty returned the bloody knife, saying: "I killed a guy this afternoon. Let's go up and bury him."
Frederick thought it was a joke. "He's always blowing steam. So I went along for kicks. I didn't believe him," Frederick said.
The young men dropped off the girls and went to the home of Monty's parents, 10092 Vena Ave., Pacoima, to borrow a shovel with the excuse that a friend's car was stuck in some sand up in the hills.
They dug a shallow grave at the end Maclay Street, but Frederick still thought it was a joke. "I went along with the gag, but still thought he was only kidding," Frederick said.
Monty drove back to the murder scene on Lopez Canyon Road, where he and Frederick were arrested by sheriff's deputies. Delmont F. "Monty" Johann told investigators that Dr. Homer Van Horne had made "improper advances" but police said "they had uncovered no evidence to substantiate his story," The Times said.
Johann pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. Frederick G. Rhoads, 2026 1/2 Glenoaks Blvd., pleaded guilty to being an accessory. The Times said he was to be sentenced April 22, 1958, but never reported the outcome.
The Times never said anything further about Johann or Rhoads. According to California death records, Adele Van Horne died in 1963 at the age of 78.
So what are we to make of this? Was Homer really gay and the police and The Times covered it up because of the stigma? Was Monty merely lying to justify the killing and save himself?
We may suspect, but we may never know for sure. What's certain is that Monty expressed absolutely no remorse for the killing but said that in hindsight he wished he had only hit Homer. He would have still taken the money and the car.
I have to think that there is more to this story about an older man and a troubled 19-year-old than what was in The Times. I suspect Monty had something else in mind besides eloping to Las Vegas when he told police: "I decided last Monday that I would have to do away with Dr. Van Horne."
Nov. 7, 1957
Edwin G. Leadford, 19, 10181 Katella Ave., was driving east "over the Katella overpass at the Santa Ana Freeway, a mile east of Disneyland"* at 12:10 a.m. when he saw a mysterious object in the sky to the northwest, the Mirror said.
According to news accounts, he stopped and took this picture, then the object vanished. He said that members of the "Garden Grove Ground Observer Post" also saw the object but did not report it to "the Air Defense Filter center in Pasadena."
Leadford seems to have had a difficult time getting anyone to take his photograph seriously. The Times never even bothered to report this incident, but the Mirror used the photo on a picture page.
*I didn't grow up in Los Angeles, so I don't know if there was a time when Katella went over the Santa Ana Freeway or if the original story is wrong.
Nov. 15, 1957
Your name is Leonard Jackola. You're 43 and here on a visit from Chicago, staying with your younger sister, Mary, 30, and her family at 3634 E. 177th St., Torrance. Her husband, Arthur E. England, 37, is an engineer at Northrop and they have two children, Melissa, 6, and Timothy, 3.
You are going out with a neighbor and plan to return about midnight. Arthur has just bought a house trailer for $325 ($2,328.72 USD 2006) and hitched it to the family's car. He put some of his clothing in the vehicle and packed a suitcase that he put in the trailer.
When you get home about midnight, you don't run into anyone, so you go to bed and wake up at 8 a.m. There's no sign of your sister or brother-in-law, so you make breakfast for the children and send Melissa off to school while Timothy plays in the neighborhood.
Hours pass and there's no sign of Arthur or Mary. At first you thought they were sleeping late, but you eventually discover that their bedroom door is locked. Finally, about 2 p.m., you get a stepladder and when you peer in the bedroom window you see both of them are dead.
Torrance police open the door and find that Arthur apparently shot Mary with a Mauser rifle, then tried to slash his throat. When that failed, he put the barrel of the Mauser in his mouth and--well, you can imagine what happened.
There was no suicide note, but police found $825 in cash stacked on the dresser, along with $650 in Savings Bonds. We can infer that Arthur planned to leave home but the news story doesn't shed any light on the question.
And no, you didn't hear an argument or the two rifle shots. It's a miracle that a bullet didn't go through a wall and hit someone. (I'm assuming Arthur had some variation of a 7.65 millimeter Argentine Mauser, ammo shown above).
The Times never followed up on this story, so we don't know what became of Leonard or who raised the children. They would be 56 and 53 now. How unimaginably tragic for these youngsters to lose their parents. We can only hope for the best.
Someone has been searching the Daily Mirror for information about an unsolved killing in Los Angeles County on May 22, 1963. Send me a little more information and I'll see what I can turn up....
Here's another little nugget of information I found going through the archives.
Guess what kind of car Mickey Cohen had after he gave up bulletproof Cadillacs?
Go ahead, guess.
That's why i was more than slightly disturbed at the recent rumbles that Ciro's might close forever.
Such a thing, if it happened, would be a catastrophe on the Sunset Strip. It would end a damned colorful era of Hollywood life.
Ciro's is a landmark.
It's pudgy boniface, Herman Hover, nursed it into one of the most famous cabarets in the world.
Within its plush, velvet walls, every top star has either performed, got tight or had a fistfight.
(Hover had a standing rule that any male movie star was entitled to two fights at Ciro's. But he was barred after the third time.).
The cafe was the proving ground for Kay Thompson, Nat Cole, Mitzi Gaynor, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liberace.
Its star attractions have included Peggy Lee, Martin and Lewis, Danny Thomas, Xavier Cugat, Carmen Cavallaro, Veloz and Yolanda, Joe E. Lewis and the indestructible Sophie Tucker.
It's been the scene of lavish parties. The setting for Darryl Zanuck's historic trip on a flying trapeze.
Ciro's cigarette girls have included a future Mrs. Tommy Manville, a future Mrs. Huntington Hartford Jr. and the present wife of Sir Cedric Hardwicke.
Hover himself has been a curiously colorful addition to his own room. A graduate of Columbia Law School, he took his degree, passed the bar and promptly got a job as a chorus boy in Broadway musicals.
But he's a buck-and-wing dancer at heart.
No act can be sure of having their option picked up unless they invite him on stage to dance at least once during their appearance.
"I can dance as well as Fred Astaire for a couple of minutes," he assured me yesterday.
So it's been rather sad to see Ciro's get clobbered in recent months. But fortunately, Hover is a showman who bounces back.
Instead of closing, as the rumors have had it, he's going strong the other way. Next month he'll bring in the entire Katherine Dunham troupe, which is maybe two short of a battalion of dancers.
On Nov. 22 he's presenting the complete Minsky revue with a company of 24.
And with that I can relax. It sounds like the good old days are returning to that beloved scene of my childhood--the Sunset Strip.
[Note: Ciro's closed in early 1958. The exact date is a little unclear--lrh].