The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: November 2, 2008 - November 8, 2008

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Polish Jew shoots Nazi envoy, November 8, 1938


In Paris, Herschel Grynszpan, identified as a 17-year-old Polish Jew, shoots the third secretary of the German Embassy, Ernst von Rath


Nora Ford and Joe Yule, Mickey Rooney's father, are at the Follies.
The day after Von Rath was shot, Adolf Hitler delivered a speech marking the 15th anniversary of the Munich beer hall putsch in which he blamed Jews for the collapse of Germany at the end of World War I. The 1938 news accounts say the Nazis staged Kristallnacht in reprisal for the killing, although some scholars say the campaign against the Jews was already planned.

A scientist says that the earth will melt because the sun is getting warmer ... Mayor Fletcher Bowron appoints new members to the Police Commission. 

Andy Devine joins Claire Trevor
in the cast of "Stagecoach."

Coliseum crowd wasn't a record
after all, Braven Dyer says.

Vintage fashions on EBay -- Bullock's Wynshire

Speaking of Bullock's Wilshire, here's a jacket from the Wynshire department on EBay. Bidding starts at $6.99.

L.A. kidnappings, June 17, 1934

The Times publishes a stern warning to racketeers that kidnapping doesn't pay, but about the only gangland figure it mentions is Les Bruneman. The story touches on the Gordon Northcott (notice that we call him Gordon Northrop) and William Edward Hickman cases as well as some that are more obscure.  Spelling out the headline in pictures is something you don't see much these days.

Black Dahlia


Steve Hodel's "Black Dahlia Avenger," inscribed to James Ellroy,
as listed on EBay for $19.99, in 2006.
Steve Hodel is bringing his "Black Dahlia Avenger" presentation to the South Pasadena Public Library at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7, 2008, with a theory that is more battered and dismissed than ever.

Since the hardback came out in 2003, it has taken some well-deserved lumps: James Ellroy, who wrote a laudatory introduction, abandoned the idea that George Hodel was the killer and his inscribed copies were sold on EBay; a character actress from the 1940s and '50s named Marya Marco has surfaced as one of the women whose photos (found in George Hodel's belongings after his death) were presented as being Elizabeth Short; and Short's family has announced that Hodel's photographs aren't of Elizabeth Short.   

The latest blow comes from Gary Ingemunson, an attorney who works with the Los Angeles Police Protective League and represents LAPD officers. Ingemunson has taken on the complicated task of defending 1940s police officers, most of them dead, against "Dahlia Avenger's" accusations of a cover-up, just as if they had been charged with misconduct today. His presentation, or Skelly Response,  is thorough, elaborate and even exhaustive. I would recommend it to anyone who is deeply interested in the case or thinks there is any validity whatsoever to "Dahlia Avenger."

Ingemunson also takes on some of the accusations in Charles Stoker's alleged LAPD expose "Thicker 'n' Thieves," the basis for "Avenger's" claims. Although it was rightly dismissed as a crackpot book when it came out, "Thieves" has gained some acceptance in the last few years and sells for far too much money if you can find a copy. Debunking it would be a life's work and I would invite anyone with several idle years to fact-check it.

Here's Ingemunson's lengthy rebuttal to "Dahlia Avenger's" charges that the Gangster Squad tried to protect abortion rings in Los Angeles, based on "Thieves."

Movie mystery photo


Our Oscar-winning mystery guest has more than 150 credits on IMDb.

Yes, as nearly everyone guessed, this is Michael Curtiz.
Los Angeles Times file photo
Several people have guessed correctly: Rance Ryan, Rotter, Richard Heft, Dewey Webb, Paul Cardinal and Alexa Foreman.

Any guesses about the mystery woman in this picture? A few people (Zapgun, LC) figured out that this is Curtiz's estranged wife Bess Meredyth. According to the caption information on this April 1937 photo, there were rumors that they were reconciling. Meredyth had gotten a leave of absence from 20th Century Fox to do research in Mexico.
Los Angeles Times file photo
And another picture of our mystery guest. Herb Nichols has also correctly identified him.
Los Angeles Times file photo
And another picture of our mystery guest, having a busy day at the office. Notice the size of the three-strip Technicolor camera in a soundproof blimp. Say, is the Earl of Essex holding a cigarette?

Los Angeles Times file photo

James Cagney and Michael Curtiz on the set of "Angels With Dirty Faces." Cagney was a pipe smoker? That's a new one on me.

Nuestro Pueblo -- Little Tokyo, November 7, 1938


Above, 314 E. 1st St. in 1938 and, below, via Google maps' street view. Pharmacist Shiro Nakamura graduated from USC in 1909. According to California death records, he was born in Japan in Sept. 1, 1892, and died in Orange County, Aug. 25, 1973.

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Famous Monsters of Filmland

Photograph by Jack Carrick /
Los Angeles Times

Forrest J. Ackerman, 1969

Geoff Boucher writes:

This is the 50th anniversary of the founding of "Famous Monsters of Filmland" by Forrest J. Ackerman, a man who almost single-handedly shaped the very essence of horror and science-fiction fandom. Uncle Forry, as he was affectionately known, was not only a fan, he has been an inspiring figure and friend to several generations of creators (he was Ed Wood's literary agent, which is just wonderful to consider).

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Vintage fashions on EBay -- Bullock's Collegienne

Here's another little vintage number on EBay from the Collegienne department at Bullock's, this time the San Fernando Valley shop. Bidding starts at $145.

Yma Sumac, April 24, 1957


Former Los Angeles Police Detective Fred Otash gets some rough treatment during a brawl at Yma Sumac's home in 1957.
By Jack Smith

Singer Yma Sumac's home yesterday was the scene of the champion brawl in Hollywood's history--featuring the Peruvian beauty herself, her estranged husband, two hot-blooded Inca dancers, three private detectives, a male Peruvian harpist and a collie dog named Prince.

The head-thumping, hair-pulling Donnybrook took place in the entry hall of the Cheviot Hills home as the tension in the Sumac household finally snapped into a shrieking extravaganza with sound effects in two languages, not to mention the barking of the dog.

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Voices -- Rahm Emanuel, March 29, 2001

Photograph by Charles Rex Arbogast /  Associated Press

Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama, June 2008

Oddly, Bush Has a Lot to Learn From Clinton

March 29, 2001

By RAHM EMANUEL, Rahm Emanuel was senior advisor to President Clinton for policy and strategy

It's often said of generals that they fight the last war. Increasingly, I think the same can be said of presidents. It is certainly true of George W. Bush, who seems determined to win the battle that made a casualty of his father's presidency: the battle for loyalty from the Republican right wing.

As a veteran of a few political fights myself, I think there are always lessons to be drawn from the last one. I understand that the memories of 1992--especially the grudge match with Pat Buchanan in the snows of New Hampshire--are still fresh for the Bush family. But the political world has changed since then, and the new president's political challenges are not his father's.

If President Bush is looking for an analogy that fits, he should do two things that will not come naturally or painlessly. He should look past his father's presidency and look to the man who defeated him in 1992: Bill Clinton. One lesson that Bush should take from his immediate predecessor is that first impressions count, and they take a lot of work to correct.

The Clinton administration's early missteps--gays in the military, health care--gave the impression that we were more liberal than we had said we were. These were big mistakes, ones we and our party paid for dearly in 1994.

It took another two years for Clinton to move back to the political center and to prove he had meant what he said about reforming the Democratic Party. On issues such as free trade, welfare reform and criminal justice, Clinton opposed key constituencies in his own party. His willingness to challenge and overrule narrow party interests in favor of the national interest was essential to turning around his political fortunes. It was the price of modernizing our party and taking back the middle ground we had long ceded to our opponents.

First impressions of Bush are setting in. The image left with much of the public is of an administration held hostage by the extreme right and a president willing to mortgage his political future to the likes of conservative strategist Grover G. Norquist and Free Congress Foundation leader Paul Weyrich.

Intent on avoiding his father's mistakes, Bush is mirroring Clinton's, abandoning the mainstream for the margins--in Bush's case, the far right. The new president has shown himself to be utterly beholden to special interests in addition to hard-line cultural and economic conservatives. Last week, the head of the Heritage Foundation approvingly called the new administration "more Reaganite than the Reagan administration."

More to the point, it is more Reaganite than the previous Bush administration. From the appointment of John Ashcroft as attorney general to abortion policy to the abandonment of American Bar Assn. ratings for judicial nominees, Bush has allowed legal policy to be made by the right. He has let special-interest contributors shape our nation's environmental policy, as evidenced by his dramatic reversal on CO2 emissions and his surprising taste for arsenic in our drinking water.

Despite his early promise to change the GOP, Bush has yet to challenge core Republican constituencies, overturn orthodoxies or stand up to special interests in his party.

There's a second lesson Bush should learn from Clinton: If you haven't won a popular majority (Clinton won a plurality), don't govern as if you had.

However badly the Clinton White House stumbled at first, it always had a strategy to win over moderate voters who cast their ballots for Ross Perot. We knew we weren't going to win a second term without them.

I haven't been out of Washington so long that I'd suggest Bush seek the third-party Nader vote. But as the president rushes rightward, he should pause long enough to consider the Gore vote, which, after all, was larger than his own. Vice President Al Gore captured a surprising percentage of the suburban vote in battleground states, which ought to have been Bush country.

The differences between Gore and Bush on legal and environmental policy played a significant role in eroding the once-safe Republican stronghold of suburban America. President Bush, by bowing to special-interest pressure in both areas, risks alienating the very voters who control his future, who could lift his non-mandate above the 47% of the vote he received.

Bush lost the popular vote. The country he leads is evenly divided. And the longer he huddles at the right end of the playing field, especially on issues like the environment and civil liberties, the more running room he gives his opponents in the great, wide center.

I'm not in the business of doling out political advice to Republicans. Nor do I think Bush will take counsel from a Clinton advisor. But I believe he should learn from Clinton's experience and embrace our example. If not, he risks that history will repeat itself in the way he must fear most: another one-term Bush presidency.


Changeling -- Part X

Los Angeles Times file photo

Gordon Northcott ignores his attorneys and argues with the judge, Dec. 5, 1928.

Oct. 17, 1928: The Police Commission decides not to punish Capt. J.J. Jones for putting Christine Collins in a mental ward.

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The most enduring question from "Changeling" is what became of Christine Collins. Unfortunately, the answer is fairly murky. We know from The Times that she lived at 217 N. Avenue 23, above, when Walter was killed by Gordon Northcott in 1928.

Los Angeles Times file photo

Prosecutors asked for an all-male jury, saying that the evidence would be too gruesome for any woman.

Oct. 17, 1928: Neighbors say Christine Collins was delusional.
Sept. 13, 1930: Collins wins $10,800 in damages against Capt J.J. Jones.

"Attorney Hahn pictured Mrs. Collins
as an anguished mother thrown in among deranged persons to emerge disgraced, unnerved and branded as
of unsound mind."


Sept. 14, 1930, left: Christine Collins plans to use the damages assessed against Capt. J.J. Jones to find out what happened to her son Walter.

Oct. 1, 1930, above: Shortly before Gordon Northcott was executed, Collins met with him one more time. She spoke with him for an hour, never asking directly if he killed her son. He finished the interview by saying:

"I only have two days to live, Mrs. Collins, and I am telling you the truth. I know nothing about your boy."

Oct. 1, 1930: Northcott makes obscene goodbyes to death row inmates on his way to the execution cell.

Jan. 29, 1941: The last time we hear of Christine Collins. The Times did not publish her address.

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According to the 1936 city directory, a woman named Christine Collins lived at 584 E. Avenue 28, but no one by that name appears in the later online directories. I was also unable to find her in my 1941 city directory and 1946 Los Angeles phone book. The 1940-1997 California death records list 16 women named Christine Collins. A search in the Social Security Death Index produces 60 women by that name.

Found on EBay -- Batchelder tile

This piece of Batchelder tile caught my eye. It's listed on EBay with bidding at $12. It's stamped "Batchelder Los Angeles" on the back.

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