The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: October 19, 2008 - October 25, 2008

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Mystery song


OK, I found this recording while looking for something else and it's too weird and wonderful (and weird) not to share.

Listen to the mystery recording>>>

L.A. firefighter buys job for $600, October 21, 1938


A 2,000-acre brush fire burns from Stone Canyon Dam to Beverly Glen and north to Mulholland Drive.

A political bombshell explodes in the Los Angeles City Fire Department: The sale of jobs for $600 ($8,745.89 USD 2007). Fire Chief Ralph J. Scott tells investigators that Fire Commission Secretary John R. Spring and Joe Shaw, brother of ex-Mayor Frank Shaw, conspired to sell civic positions.

"Many of these men wept as they told their stories," one fire official said. "Originally they were just citizens out of a job. They wanted a job on the Fire Department and were told point-blank that the only way they could get it was to pay for it and after investigating they were brought to that inescapable conclusion." 
Ex-Mayor Shaw denies misconduct.
Boxer dies in ring.

Marilyn Monroe may be pregnant; spying on Rams, October 20, 1958


Above, trouble with Marilyn Monroe on the set of "Some Like It Hot," which has been in production at the Del Coronado in San Diego.

1958_october_20_sports By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

The Rams were clobbered by the Chicago Bears, 31-10, and suggested that the Bears might not have been playing fair.

Rams assistant Bill Swiacki was quoted in The Times claiming that someone from the Bears listened in on phone calls from the press box to the Rams' bench. He said he couldn't reach another Rams official on one call but "I heard foreign voices on the line. And they weren't Ram voices."

According to the story, the Bears installed the phones used by the offensive coaches. The Rams provided their own communications for the defense.

Pete Rozelle, Rams general manager and future NFL commissioner, had an interesting quote in The Times' story: "If the wires were tapped, I feel that they were without the knowledge of [Coach] George Halas." Sounds like he was already running for the NFL job.

Halas was quoted in the same story suggesting that a Rams assistant coach was telling players to put out of the Bears "out of commission."

Just in case you weren't sure where The Times stood on the matter, here's a paragraph deep in the story: "It's the feeling in certain quarters that Halas purposely brought up the ... incident as a smoke screen following the excessive number of penalties levied against the Rams." 

The Rams and Bears will meet again on November at the Coliseum.

Morse code vs. text messaging

Which is faster, Morse code or text messaging? Jay Leno has the answer. (Score one for the brass pounders!)

This is what 40 words per minute sounds like.

Movie star kisses 1-millionth visitor to park, October 20, 1958


Pacific Ocean Park, 1958 - 1975



Stolen statue -- Nuestro Pueblo, October 19, 1938


Photograph by the Los Angeles Police Department

The miner statue after being cut apart and sold for scrap.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Police strike pay dirt in hunt for stolen statue of miner

Sold as scrap, it will be fixed. Two suspected in similar thefts are held.

By Joe Mozingo
and Andrew Blankstein
Times Staff Writers

The bronze miner who stood for 80 years in a Mid-City park suffered the height of indignities.

He was ripped from his pedestal in the park two blocks from Beverly Hills, cut in half above the knees and trucked to a scrap yard on Alameda Street south of downtown. There he was thrown amid the lumpen metal masses -- common copper plumbing, old radiators, transmissions and beer kegs.

Fortunately, police found the miner before he was crushed in the bailer, sent to China and melted in a foundry forge. And they may have ended a peculiar crime spree as well.

Two men were arrested Thursday in connection with the theft and are suspected of stealing other bronze sculptures in the Mid-City area and Beverly Hills between Jan. 29 and Tuesday. Sebastian Espana, 22, and Jessie Hernandez, 23, are likely to face grand theft charges, said Det. Stephanie Lazarus of the Los Angeles Police Department's Art Theft Detail.

The thefts are part of a vexing trend: As the price of metals has soared worldwide, people have taken to stealing streetlight wiring, plumbing valves, catalytic converters and fire hydrants. But the pilfering of sculptures for a quick buck has brought the crime to a new level of audacity and waste.

As art, the 7-foot miner panning for gold, sculpted by Henry Lion in 1924 and 1925, was valued at $125,000. As 512 pounds of bronze, police said, it was sold to Central Metals Inc. on Alameda on Feb. 3 for a mere $900.

Supervisors at the facility were suspicious when the statue arrived and held it for an LAPD detective, who routinely scopes the metal yards for stolen items.

"When something like this comes in, we keep it to the side," said Louis Castro, a manager at the six-acre facility. They also take names. Scrap yards, by law, must record the identifications of anyone dropping off metal.

Police placed a hold on the statue and launched an investigation, setting up surveillance on the two suspects, Lazarus said.

The pair allegedly returned this week with other works of art: modern sculpture resembling two people entwined, stolen from a business on Wilshire Boulevard, and two bronze giraffes and a depiction of children on a swing from a home in Beverly Hills.

The men were arrested about 10:30 p.m. Thursday on suspicion of grand theft. Detectives are trying to locate a bronze bust and another sculpture the two men are suspected of stealing.

Los Angeles officials retrieved the miner Friday morning. They said they intend to have it repaired and restored to its historic perch in the Carthay Circle community. The miner was bolted to a boulder, in the shade of a magnificent pine tree, in a pocket park at San Vicente and Crescent Heights boulevards. The sculpture was once the centerpiece of a grand display of ponds and fountains, with the illustrious Carthay Circle Theater as a backdrop. Officials do not yet know how much it will cost to fix and secure the statue, or whether insurance will pay for it.

Residents of Carthay Circle were delighted to learn the old miner survived, albeit with amputated legs.

"I'm glad he's only cut in half and not melted down," said Judy Moore, president of the Carthay Circle Neighborhood Assn. "At least he didn't go into the witch's brew to become God knows what."

Moore said the neighborhood association is willing to help pay to fix the miner.

Sculptures nationwide have been vanishing as the price of metal continues to rise. Scrap yards routinely shell out more than $3 a pound for copper and more than $2 a pound for bronze and brass, both of which are alloys containing copper. Most of the metal is shipped to Asia to be melted down and refabricated.

Last month, at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park near Astoria, Ore., a thief heisted a 5 1/2 -foot bronze statue of Sacagawea and her baby. Police arrested a man and tracked down parts of the $20,000 statue -- sold for scrap for $250.

Several weeks ago, in Brea, thieves used a cutting torch to remove a 6-foot-tall, 4-foot-wide bronze sculpture from its concrete stand in front of a business -- the third theft of a statue in the city in nine months.

On Friday at Central Metals, pickup trucks filled with all type of metal detritus lined up waiting to get in. Most of the bronze, brass and copper the company buys comes from plumbing and wiring brought in by demolition crews and construction workers. "This is our brass pile," Castro said, pointing to a heap of tangled pipe.

At the giant bailer -- which compresses the mishmash of metal into desk-size cubes -- workers prepared to load a massive spew of copper wiring.

"That's the big thing people are stealing right now, copper wiring, all the drug addicts," Castro said.

In December, Los Angeles police announced that 370,000 feet of copper wire had been stolen in four months, disabling 700 streetlights. The thieves open boxes at the bases of adjacent poles, snip the wire that runs between them and pull it out one end.

Wire is much harder to identify as stolen than, say, statues, and Castro said the bulk of it is legitimate scrap brought in by electricians.

However, he says the company turns people away all the time, mostly because they don't have identification or refuse to present it.

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge said Friday that the stolen statues point to the need to strengthen laws that would punish thieves who peddle in metals.

"It's insulting and violates the public trust," LaBonge said. He said the thieves deserved to be prosecuted and "bopped on the top of the head," with the cane carried by the statue of Griffith J. Griffith in front of Griffith Park.

Voices -- Ted Thackrey Jr.

Photographs courtesy of Morrie Mazur

Times reporter Ted Thackrey Jr. in the early 1980s.

Thackrey in The Times newsroom in the early 1980s. Note the old brown Coyote terminals we used to use. Note also that this is more or less the newsroom appears in the upcoming movie "The Soloist." With some Hollywood embellishments, of course. 

Sean Thackrey writes:

Ted was my cousin, much beloved in a sort of irritable way by myself and by my beloved and sort of irritable newspapering family (my father, Eugene, also worked for the Times).

I have no reason to doubt that he was indeed a Korean war veteran, and indeed that the experience had traumatized him apparently beyond cure, or at least beyond any cure available to him; in other words, it simply marked him in some way he never got over. He talked about it to me at some length, but I'm not going to talk about it.

About the other stories, well...

But I only knew him as he was a bit later, mostly in the early 60's. One of my favorite memories of him was a visit, unannounced & when I was perhaps 20, to his then apartment in Venice or Manhattan Beach, or wherever it was (he tended to move around).

When I knocked, I could see through the window that he was intent on a strange ritual involving paper cards with notes written on them; just as I'd come to the door he'd thrown a handful of these cards up into the air, and they'd settled on the carpet. He was delighted to see me, so forth and so on; we talked for a bit about the obvious family trivia; then I gestured at the cards on the floor, & asked what in the name of hell he was up to.

He explained that he had so many alimony and child support payments past due, while his salary at the Times hardly paid for the rent, that he'd taken to writing for men's magazines. He said there was nothing to it: they each followed a formula, and that you could dial in the formula by taking the last few issues, writing down on a piece of paper the kicker phrase ("Nazi", "Sex-crazed", "wolf pack", "doomed mission", and so on) from each article header, throwing the ensuing stack of cards into the air (as I'd just witnessed him do), and then simply picking up the top four or five, and writing the article accordingly.

Thackery's interview with busboy Juan Romero about the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy, June 6, 1968.

Thus, as above, we'd maybe have an article entitled, "Sex-crazed Nazi wolf-pack's doomed mission".

The details were the beauty of the thing, since everything was supposed to be pure documentary historical truth, and yet not one single word was true:

Thus, "As Oberst├╝rmbanf├╝hrer von Horst surveyed the bleak predawn light of December 2, 1943, he no longer cared why he'd known nothing of this dismal Luftwaffe base at Heiligenstein. He knew he'd never see it again anyway; so why should he care. His mission was doomed: yet, for what truly obsessed him, that thought wasn't enough at all. He know he'd never see her again either: but he could think of nothing but Angelika..." and so on.

I suppose it's a little weird for anyone outside the world of journalism  to be asked to understand that this could be so much fun for two of us who were such genuine believers in the mission of journalism to find the truth and tell it whatever the consequences; I suppose the justification was no more than the thought that idiots are their own reward; and perhaps as a result of Korea, Ted hated mil spec macho meatheads more than almost anything.

Anyway, for absolutely no defensible reason, I hadn't seen or heard from Ted for years; so of course I hadn't known he'd died. Ave atque vale, frater...


Mystic vision, October 19, 1938


    This appears to be just another photo of water spouting from a fire hydrant that was hit by a car. And indeed it is.


But wait! What's that weird building in the background?

Looks like it's a temple. Why, it is!

1938_may_11_greener A little research shows that this is the Agabeg Temple at 751 S. Crenshaw Blvd., run by the Rev. Violet Greener, who turns out to be a rather colorful but mysterious character.

I'm always curious about the quirky religions that flourish in Southern California, so I did a little digging.

Unfortunately, The Times didn't devote much space to the temple. Although Greener appears in a fair number of stories, they mostly involve her very minor role in a famous dispute over a 1938 poker game in which British visitor Harry Clifton lost $150,000 to Lew Brice, brother of comedian Fanny Brice.

The most I can determine is that Greener was the granddaughter of Mary Agabeg, a mystic from Calcutta. Greener was born in Minnesota and moved to Los Angeles about 1926.

According to a 1939 Hedda Hopper column, Greener was nicknamed "the Ghost of Hollywood" and was consulted by many people in the studios.

Greener "has some of our importants practically taking orders from her--and paying for the priviliege!" Hopper wrote. "Janet Gaynor gave her $25 to answer three questions. And 'Slapsie" Maxie is a steady customer for both private and public advice. Lots of directors are on her list; they try to keep it a secret so use numbers and when calling Madame say: 'No. 13 would like an appointment for midnight.' "

Interestingly enough, Greener and the Agabeg Temple turn up in Ray Bradbury's 1990 novel "A Graveyard for Lunatics," which I had never encountered until now. I guess I'll have to add it to my Zombie reading list.

Greener, who was briefly the honorary mayor of Woodland Hills, died in 1961 at the age of 79 and is buried what is now Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Although the Agabeg Temple building is evidently gone, a Google search shows that several churches use the address.

Times ProQuest citation note: 567 hits for Fannie Brice; 1,040 hits for Fanny Brice.


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