The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: August 24, 2008 - August 30, 2008

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Jealous husband rams movie star's car, Reds win over Dodgers, August 25, 1958

Bad traffic on the Hollywood Freeway, 1958
Some folks may find this hard to believe, but drivers were complaining about bad traffic in Los Angeles 50 years ago. I can't say it often enough: History shows that congested streets have been a problem in Los Angeles for at least a century.

Tony Curtis in car accident, 1958Donald Robert Seddon of 824 17th St., Santa Monica, was apparently a rather jealous individual. While cruising the streets of Los Angeles one night, he thought he saw his wife riding in a car with another man. At Warner Drive and Wilshire, he rammed his car into the other vehicle, then spun into a third car.

Seddon, in fact, rammed the car of total strangers, David R. North and his wife, Patricia, both 22, of 1541 S. St. Andrews Place.

As it turned out, the third car was carrying some prominent people: Tony Curtis and his wife, Janet Leigh; Dean Martin and his wife, Jean; and songwriter Sammy Cahn and his wife, Gloria Delson. They were headed home after a party at Peter Lawford's house. Fortunately, Frank Sinatra was right behind them and contacted police with the radiotelephone in his car.

No one was seriously injured in the accident, The Times said, but Dean Martin brought a $90,000 lawsuit against Seddon.

The Times never reported on the outcome of the lawsuit and Seddon's name never again appears in the paper. Because Janet Leigh was pregnant at the time of the accident, she was taken to UCLA for an exam to make sure neither she nor the baby was injured. In November, she gave birth to Jamie Lee Curtis.

Reds beat Dodgers in Coliseum, 1958 At left, Frank Robinson hits his first home run over the Coliseum screen,  scoring Johnny Temple and giving Cincinnati a 6-5 victory over the Dodgers. "The win went to 22-year-old  Orlando Pena, a skinny Cuban right-hander who throws bullets," The Times' Frank Finch wrote.

Tonight's game will be a battle of the lefties: Johnny Podres and Harvey Haddix. Here's a shout-out to Keith "Throwback Jersey" Thursby: "The L.A. lefty virtually is unbeatable in the Coliseum," Finch says of Podres. 

And Mr. Henry Aaron of the Braves hits his 28th home run of the season against the Giants' Al Worthington.

Los Angeles history--Chavez Ravine

Chavez Ravine, 1938

Los Angeles Coliseum is dangerous, Rams coach says, August 24, 1958

1958_august_24_sports By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

The Rams blamed baseball for an injury to one of their players.

Ron Waller separated his shoulder when he was tackled on the baseball infield during the second half kickoff of the Rams' 38-10 exhibition victory over the New York Giants.

The Times' Cal Whorton wrote: "Coach Sid Gillman of the Rams was outspoken yesterday about the dangers of having his expensive cargo of moleskinners out there exposing themselves to the perils of the concrete hard infield."

There wasn't much detail in the story, other than Whorton reporting that the team's general manager, future NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, blamed the injury on where Waller was tackled.

Waller had suffered a similar injury the previous season and missed several games. Waller, a halfback, played in 10 games for the Rams in 1958 but was out of football the following season. He ended his career in Los Angeles in 1960 playing for the Chargers.

LAPD officers accused of beating, August 24, 1938



Above, another editorial in The Times' well-worn tradition of asking: "What's all the fuss I hear about ... recalling the corrupt mayor ... a federal anti-lynching law ... opening up America to the refugees of Europe? We don't need to recall the corrupt mayor ... we don't need a federal anti-lynching law ... we don't need to take in European refugees (they would just go on welfare). Things are fine just the way they are."

The key point, which is buried in the editorial, is mayoral candidate Fletcher Bowron's promise not to use the LAPD as strikebreakers.

At left, business as usual with the LAPD of the 1930s. And yes, they got off. 
At left, Mary Astor is thrown from a horse en route to filming scenes for an MGM movie at the Uplifters' Ranch. According to The Times, the horse was spooked by a passing car. Astor was taken to Santa Monica Hospital to be treated for back injuries.

Max Reinhardt stages a production of "Faust" starring Conrad Nagel at the outdoor Pilgrimage Theater in the Hollywood Hills. The Pilgrimage Theater was renamed the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in 1976 as a tribute to the longtime county supervisor.

In sports, the Hollywood Stars beat the Los Angeles Angels 10-1 in the Civil War series ... The Giants beat the Cubs 6-2 ... The Pirates and the Boston Bees  split a double-header. Boston takes the first game, 6-0, and Pittsburgh takes the second game, 4-3, after 14 innings.

"Pin smashing" is becoming increasingly popular in Los Angeles, says The Times, noting that "bowling is mighty easy on the eyes when Bette Morris goes into action..." Oh, you sports guys.

And Bob Ray, who has been covering the Pacific Coast League for The Times since 1924, is saluted with "Bob Ray Day" at Wrigley Field.

Ladies in Black visit tomb of Valentino

Lady in Black mourns Rudolph Valentino
Los Angeles Times file photo

Here's the earliest photograph I could find of a Lady in Black mourning Rudolph Valentino, Aug. 23, 1937, 11 years after the movie star's death. In the first few years, memorial services were held on the anniversary, although the services eventually ceased and the large crowds dwindled to about 50 mourners.

In 1934, The Times referred to a "mysterious veiled woman" who visited the tomb every year at what was then Hollywood Cemetery. One story notes that a Lady in Black also appeared on Christmas and Easter. Someone wrote on the back of this photo: "Not Ditra Flame." Are those white shoes?!

Lady in Black mourns Rudolph Valentino
Los Angeles Times file photo

Here's a Lady in Black at a revival showing of "The Sheik,"  at the Four Star Theater in Hollywood, June 3, 1938. She is also not Ditra Flame.

Lady in Black mourns Rudolph Valentino, 1940
Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

This is what the well-dressed Lady in Black was wearing in 1940. Those are awesome sunglasses, ma'am. She too is not Ditra Flame.

Lady in Black mourns Rudolph Valentino, 1953
Photograph by Frank Q. Brown / Los Angeles Times

At last, Ditra Flame (two syllables, apparently pronounced Fla-may), Aug. 23, 1953. She identified herself as the president of the Hollywood Valentino Memorial Guild.

Lady in Black mourns Rudolph Valentino, 1976
Photograph by William S. Murphy / Los Angeles Times

On Aug. 23, 1976, the 50th anniversary of Valetino's death, a Lady in Black and her companion arrived in a black limousine. "She knelt in silent homage and appeared to weep," photographer William S. Murphy wrote.

Lady in Black mourns Rudolph Valentino, 1989
Photograph by Douglas R. Burrows / Los Angeles Times

Estrellita de Rejil does a turn as a Lady in Black, Aug. 23, 1989.

Owl dresses up like Valentino
Photograph by William S. Murphy / Los Angeles Times

This guy showed up in 1976 on the 50th anniversary of Valentino's death. He called himself "The Owl."
Boo! It's the ghost of Valentino!
Los Angeles Times file photo

Yes, it's a little Rudolph Valentino sheik ghostie. Or is this a haint? Isn't he cute? Boo! I wish I could say we never actually published this picture, but we did, on May 1, 1952. It was in the Mirror, though, so maybe that's not quite so bad.

Note: This is Alpheus Corby's "Castle," built in Conklin, NY, in 1900. A medium said that Valentino's ghost appeared to her here in 1926. Boo!

Postscript: Ditra Flame died in 1978 in a home in Ontario cluttered with Valentino memorabilia. She was 78.


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