The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: March 2, 2008 - March 8, 2008

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Matt Weinstock

March 4, 1958

Matt_weinstockd A midtown resident was awakened at 2 a.m. recently by a woman screaming outside his apartment. He rushed to the phone and called police.

Before he could fully give the circumstances he was asked his name and phone number. For reasons of his own he refused to give them.

The request was politely repeated. "What's that got to do with it?" he demanded. "I gave you the address, didn't I? She's out there now, in distress of some kind. Isn't that enough?"

He was reminded that he wasn't being cooperative. "Forget it!" he snapped, and hung  up.

"From here on," he told me over the phone, "I don't care what happens. I'm never going to call them again."

He was reminded that the people on the police complaint board were merely following procedure and that they receive many calls from mischief-makers, practical jokers, cranks and crackpots.

"I don't care," he said, "I've had it."

That's today's stalemate. By the way, I wonder what happened to the lady who was screaming.


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THE POLITICAL season is upon us and this is to report that a 234-foot electric dredge two miles offshore is creating a breakwater at L.A. Harbor to be used as dock space. The huge, dragonlike monster with its two-mile "tail"--pipe, that is--will remove "approximately 1,440,000 cubic yards of muck from the bottom of the ocean to form the new land area," according to the newsletter Expediter. That's a lot of muck. Anybody want to try for 2,880,000?

ONLY IN Santa Monica--Someone recently painted "Jesus Saves" on a retaining wall on the Pacific Coast Highway just north of Sunset Boulevard. A short time later it was changed to read, "Jesus Saves at Bank of America." As Neil McDonald passed a few days ago men in business suits were painting out the last four words. Next week, Security?

THE WAY
Frank Goldberg tells it, a retired businessman bought his own bleak little island and a broken-down, three-master vessel and was showing the surrounding bay to some friends. It was rocky, forbidding and almost inaccessible, prompting one friend to whisper to another, "How can he possibly sail in this bight?" Cracked the other, "If you think this is bad, wait'll you see the boat. Believe me--his barque is worse than his bight."

QUOTE & UNQUOTE -- Everyone has heard someone referred to as a "musician's musician" or an "actor's actor" or a "ballplayer's ballplayer." Well, Rudy Cleye heard a patron in the Blarney Castle remark loftily, "I like to think of myself as a beer drinker's beer drinker" ... Freddie Shaw: "When juveniles start calling them Boy Scout shivs instead of knives that's when I take to the hills" ... Scotty Rosenberg: "I must be getting old. I can remember when people used to count up, not down."

AT RANDOM -- A returned traveler reports a dress shop in Arizona has a sign, "The Bustle--Deceitful Little Seat Full." And a restaurant, "If you don't like the way this place is run, pay the owner $100,000 and run it to suit yourself" ... Alan Ferber claims he listened to TV for three hours the other night without once hearing the phrase, "And now a message from our alternate sponsor." Hard to believe ... In step with the trend toward horror movies, a one-shot magazine, "Famous Monsters of Filmland," is on the stands. Sample title: "Every monster has a ghoul friend." My, my ... If a Redondo Beach lady hadn't seen it she wouldn't have believed it, but she did--a youngster putting soy sauce on ice cream.




       

Paul Coates

March 4, 1958

Paul_coates Oct. 3, 1957--A former Santa Monica councilman was announced as winner of the $140,000 capital prize in the Irish Sweepstakes today.

Jack Guercio, 49, had a ticket on Stephanotis, which brought home his $140,000 by winning the Cambridgeshire Handicap.

Guercio resides at 1703 Maple St. with his wife, Pauline, and two youngest sons, Vincent, 17, and Jackie Jr., 13. His oldest son, Ronald, 23, is married.

Mrs. Guercio, overwhelmed by her husband's fortune, told reporters:

"I'd like a trip to Honolulu for the whole family, and maybe a new car."

Her husband's plans were more conservative. "It'll send the boys to college, help us redecorate our home and probably pay off the mortgage."

At the time of Jack Guercio's windfall, I figured he was too damn blase about the whole affair. And if there's anything that annoys me, it's a man who can keep his wits about him after winning $140,000.

So, for the last few months I've been waiting. I've been waiting for Guercio to get his hands on that green--and to go stark raving out of his mind, like any respectable amateur gambler would do.

1958_0304_smith_2 Then, I figured, I'd call him up. And let him pour our his soul to me--about how he frittered all those beautiful green dollars.

So yesterday I phoned him.

"Paul Coates," I said. "How's everything going, Jack?"

"Fine," he said. "Just fine."

"The wife?"

"Fine."

"The $140,000?"

"The what?" he demanded.

"The $140,000," I repeated.

"Oh," he said. "That! That's fine too--what there's left of it."

Now I was getting somewhere. "Been having a ball, eh?" I pressed.

Guercio laughed, casually. "I mean what's left of it after the income tax men took theirs."

"I see," I said. "But how about your share?"

"Like I told you," he repeated, "it's fine."

"Bought a lot of nice luxuries with it, I'll bet?"

"No," he said.

"New house?"

"No."

"But you DID redecorate the old one," I insisted. "After all, it's been over four months."

Guercio chuckled evenly. "Not yet. But we're thinking about it."

"The mortgage, then. You've paid that off."

"No," was the reply. "Not yet."

The man was being difficult. "So," I finally ventured, "you took the wife and kids on that luxury cruise to Hawaii, like she wanted. Like she'd always dreamed of."

There was a pause. Finally, Guercio answered: "As a matter of fact, no."

"Come on, Jack," I pleaded. "You've been swamped with all kinds of offers. Trips. yachts. Expensive cars. You must have bitten on some of them."

"Paul, it's surprising. But hardly anybody's pestered us at all."

"The money!" I demanded. "The money? Where is it?"

Guercio laughed, harshly. "It may be gathering dust but it's gathering interest too. Something for the boys' education."

"You mean to say," I asked, "You didn't even make a trip?"

Guercio told me that he didn't mean to say anything of the kind. "Didn't you hear? My wife and I took the two youngest boys over to Ireland."

"Then you did squander some of it?"

"What happened," Guercio explained, "is that I went to my local bank and they refused to collect our winnings for us. They didn't want to get involved. So I figured--"

"So you blew a big chunk of it on a fancy trip to Europe," I interrupted.

"Well," Guercio admitted. "The four of us did go. It was a very pleasant vacation."

"Wastrel," I hissed half-heartedly, hanging up. 

Ewing Scott

March 4, 1958
Los Angeles



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Late one night in his cell at the County Jail, in fitful sleep, convicted killer L. Ewing Scott had a dream: An arm ... his missing wife's arm ... bloody ... wrapped in newspapers ... her wedding ring still on her finger ... Where? ... beach.... Corona ... Corona del Mar. Yes! Near the beach home of William H. Brawner, one of his wife's friends. That's where the arm was. Go there, find the arm and get me out of this murder rap.

And like a half-remembered dream that evaporates upon awakening, the details in this footnote to the Scott case are foggy and indistinct, grisly and contradictory. Impossible, but somehow true.

Some characters in our absurd, macabre drama tell the truth. Some of them lie. Some of them lie and change their stories to other lies--or maybe the truth. Dreams are like that.

In addition to Scott, there are two private investigators named Richard Mowery and Frank Massad, defense attorney P. Basil Lambros, two chiropractors named Victor L. Hite and Rudy Salomons, several police officers and, hot off the Confidential Magazine trial, private investigator Fred Otash. Then there's guest star Leo Carrillo, who played Pancho in "The Cisco Kid" TV show.

Oh, I almost forgot Lambros' $5,000 reward for proof that Evelyn Scott was still alive.


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The plot, based on The Times' stories, went something like this: Lambros apparently told homicide detectives that they should search Brawner's home for "evidence."  In the meantime, Massad, who worked for Lambros as a private detective, was promised half of everything Scott owned in return for coming up with a woman's arm. Scott also told Massad where he had hidden his missing wife's wedding ring to support the claim that these were his wife's remains. The fingerprints would be taken care of ... somehow.

To complicate things, Mowery, a freelance private investigator who said he had worked on the Sam Sheppard case, approached Lambros with the idea of helping exonerate Scott by showing that his wife was living in Mexico. Mowery was given permission to proceed on his own, which he did.

According to testimony, finding a woman's arm was more difficult than expected. Mowery mentioned to Salomons, his chiropractor, that he was about to cash in on a big deal and wanted Salomons to help him find an arm and some blood. Salomons and his partner, Hite, pretended to go along with the scheme but didn't believe it for a minute.

1958_0306_scott_2 When that fell through, Mowery thought of approaching a TV actor he knew from Cincinnati, Duncan Renaldo of "The Cisco Kid," in hopes of persuading him to testify that he had seen Evelyn Scott in Mexico. When he couldn't get in touch with Renaldo, he decided to approach Renaldo's TV sidekick, Leo Carrillo.

Mowery and Frank Stuckel, a probationary police officer from Santa Monica, called on Carrillo. They showed him Evelyn Scott's wedding ring and tried to persuade him to testify that he had seen her in Rio de Janeiro. The only problem was that Carrillo had never been to Rio.

The actor said: "Do you realize what you are doing? Do you want me to perjure myself?"

They said: "That's about it."

Instead of gaining Carrillo as a conspirator, he reported them to the district attorney's office, which took the case to the grand jury.

Somewhere along the line, two Newport Beach police officers caught Massad and Mowery prowling around Brawner's home at 3:30 a.m. in Ewing Scott's car. The private investigators were released after claiming that they were working for Lambros on the Scott case, the officers said. 

The bizarre drama ended up before the grand jury, which indicted Massad and Mowery on charges of preparing false evidence and obstructing justice. Massad was found not guilty. Mowery pleaded guilty and sentenced to 166 days in jail, the exact amount of time he had been held because he couldn't make bail.

He promised to leave town, The Times said.

You're wondering how Otash figured into this crazy mess. Here's the answer: Mowery and Massad borrowed a small wire recorder from Otash to interview jurors after Scott's conviction. But instead, Otash said, Massad recorded an enraged Scott complaining that Mowery and Lambros had gone to Carrillo. No, Otash didn't have the recording any longer. He said he erased when the private detectives said they didn't need it. 

And if L. Ewing Scott had any more dreams, he apparently kept them to himself.

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Dear Abby


March 4, 1968


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Let's get this straight: You have two kids, you're pregnant, and you "can't imagine how this happened." All right, I won't make fun of your predicament. This guy is a heel and you sure don't want to be married to any man who would take advantage of a woman in your circumstances. He is not primo husband bait. He is loser-rama (why do you think he's single in the first place, eh?) As for the child, I will pray that he or she found a loving home whether it was with you or someone else ... Dear Perplexed, sit the 5-year-old "holy terror" in front of the TV set for a day of cartoons (Bugs Bunny! Speedy Gonzales! The Roadrunner!) and he'll be your friend forever. Problem solved! ... Dear Long Beach, I would imagine your married friends are worried about having a single woman around their husbands. I could introduce you to a man named Percy who loves to dance! And the Confidential to Chris ... Sounds more to me like some secret message to Soviet agents.

March 4, 1958


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Above, a Jack Smith piece on religious figure Daddy Grace. Click at the bottom of the post to read the entire column. Below, a very dull news day in The Times. So dull, in fact, that I'm adding the Mirror just to contrast the story play.


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March 4, 1938


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Above, when housework really meant work. Below, Southern California tallies the destruction from the great storm of 1938. Please look at the pictures of what the L.A. and Santa Ana Rivers can do.  The inundation of Orange County is particularly amazing.  I especially recommend these photos if you think that our grandparents simply got up one morning and decided, "Hey, just for fun, let's put the L.A. River in an ugly concrete channel." I sometimes amuse myself by wondering what would happen today if the L.A. River cut itself a new channel as it did in the 1850s, when it stopped flowing into Santa Monica Bay and switched to Long Beach.

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March 4, 1908


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Above, I am always a sucker for stories about religious cults ... Below, in fraternal lodge news, two chapters of the Knights of Pythias merge--perhaps the last time the organization appeared in a Times cover story ... The Times describes a mother, grieving over the loss of her child in a custody suit, as "a tall, heavy-boned woman who looks like a Swede. She is of the tragic type--intense, repressed, introspective and melancholy"  ... And the soup kitchens are closing up because men are finding jobs putting in streetcar tracks ...



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Dear Abby


March 3, 1968

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Let's get this straight: Your son rummages through your purse and takes money, he shoplifts and there are items in his room that he didn't buy. And you ask, "Am I raising a criminal?" The short answer is, "Yes!" Consider a field trip to your nearest state industrial school for boys ... or visiting your Marine recruiter for a travelogue on exotic getaways to MCRD San Diego. Then again, he might have a bright future in the Nixon White House ...  Dear Loves to Dance, I suppose that depends on whether you two are doing the Freddie or the Watusi  ...  Dear Mother, have you considered borrowing one of those giant fake checks your local golf tournament uses in its publicity photos? Just a thought ...  Dear Odd Couple, I think it would be best for all concerned if the bride didn't try to feed the groom some of the plaster wedding cake.

March 3, 1958

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Above, this is hard to believe, isn't it? Below, things get nasty in the DUI case of Marjorie Durant Waller, wife of  Rams star Ron Waller, who accuses two LAPD officers of making "improper advances" after a traffic stop ... And a runaway bride goes home.

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March 3, 1938

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The great storm of 1938 roars through Los Angeles, isolating the city from the outside world by taking out bridges and utility lines, touching off mudslides and leaving the city in darkness. Ten spectators are killed when a pedestrian bridge over the Los Angeles River at Long Beach washes away. By the next day, the Southern California death toll was reported at 62, with dozens of people missing and thousands driven from their homes. Anyone who has an opinion about the L.A. River should look at The Times' photos of the destruction.

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March 3, 1908


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Above, Judge Smith tries to sort out a drunken brawl between neighbors ... Police arrest John Herr, a local red agitator, during a speech at 7th and Grand as the nation fears the spread of anarchy ...   Three reds are headed for police court after allegedly leading a mob of socialists, trailed by a pack of "hobos and crooks," through the streets, yelling slogans and shaking their fists at police officers. The crowd sang "The Marseillaise" and shouted "Revolution!" and "Down with the enemies of free speech!" The Times says.


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March 2, 1958


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Above, "Fort Dobbs," with Clint Walker, Virginia Mayo and Brian Keith. Below, our own Chuck Hillinger and photographer Bruce Cox try to go rafting in the L.A. River after the Army Corps of Engineers finished its project to cover the sides and bottom of the channel with concrete. More on the jump.


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