The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: December 21, 2008 - December 27, 2008

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Voices -- Christine Collins, November 6, 1930

The Christine Collins letters

The woman whose tragedy inspired the Clint Eastwood movie "Changeling" tells her story in her own words.

Many people wonder if the religious leaders in "Changeling" are actual people. Here's evidence that the Rev. Gustav A. Briegleb helped Christine Collins. A similar letter in Walter Collins' file is from the Rev. R.P. "Fighting Bob" Shuler. 

Republican senator calls for smaller government; Rams fire coach, December 27, 1968

Here's an impressive lineup of writers: Art Seidenbaum, Sen. Everett M. Dirksen (R-Ill), William F. Buckley, and Evans and Novak.

1968_1227_sports By any measure, George Allen was a highly successful football coach. But after a holiday phone call from Rams owner Dan Reeves, Allen was unemployed.

"George is a great coach and a fine family man," Reeves said. "It is a case of a personality conflict, perhaps, more my fault than George's."

Allen was 29-10-3 in three seasons with the Rams and seemed shocked. Several players threatened open revolt and attended a news conference with Allen to show their support.

"Reeves will have a young team next year," said one of the veterans, offensive tackle Charlie Cowan. "I think that all the players with five or more years' experience will want to leave Los Angeles."

Columnists Jim Murray and John Hall weighed in and neither sounded too surprised by the firing.

"Some people thought he acted too hastily," Murray wrote of Reeves. "I have the feeling that when he saw one-third of his team marching on TV behind the coach the other day, he thought he hadn't acted hastily enough."

Hall said the Rams' public relations staff should be credited for protecting Allen's image. "One truth you can write the book on is that Reeves strongly feels football -- even play-for-pay pro football -- demands a certain dignity. ... There have been many times when Allen's grimly all-out, no smiles, 24 hours a day, death march approach to football has distressed Reeves."

At the news conference, Allen tried to describe the phone call from Reeves.

"I said, 'Merry Christmas, Dan.' Then I can't quite remember, I think he said, 'This is the end -- you're fired. I didn't want to do it before Christmas.' "

--Keith Thursby

Voices -- Michael Connelly

Photograph by Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Michael Connelly's press pass from his days at The Times.

Most of Warner's Missing Animation Cels Are Recovered

Cartoons: The studio uses private investigators and lawsuits to retrieve the drawings. The artist accused of stealing them says they were in the trash.

December 27, 1991


Using private investigators and federal lawsuits, Warner Bros. has recovered more than 3,000 cartoon cels and background drawings, worth as much as $500,000, that were taken from its Sherman Oaks cartoon studio, the company said Thursday.

Police were not called to investigate the alleged theft of the hand-painted works that were used in the filming of the "Tiny Toon Adventures" TV cartoons, and a criminal investigation may never take place.

Instead, Warner Bros. launched an extensive private investigation after the cels--the raw material for making cartoons--were discovered being sold without the company's authorization at an October swap meet.

Warner Bros. has settled a civil suit with three people found in possession of some of the material after they agreed to cooperate with the studio's investigators. A similar case against two others is pending.

"Warner Bros.' No. 1 priority was to recover the stolen artwork and they did recover it," said David L. Burg, an attorney for the studio.

He said Warner Bros. has not decided whether to seek a criminal complaint against the two remaining defendants.

One of those defendants, a former part-time Warner Bros. artist, acknowledged Thursday that he took the cartoon cels but said he thought that he was saving them from being thrown away.

"It literally broke my heart because I didn't want to see them destroyed," said Travis Cowsill, 20, of North Hollywood. "I wasn't trying to steal anything."

According to records filed in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles, the studio's inquiry was similar to a clandestine police investigation. But in this case it was private investigators who identified suspects, went undercover, secretly filmed meetings and made a "buy" of allegedly stolen merchandise--in this case, cels from such Tiny Toon episodes as "Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow."

The studio then filed lawsuits against the five suspects, in which it alleged that they were infringing on copyright laws by selling the cartoon materials and sought court orders allowing Warner Bros. to seize the property.

Burg said the studio acted so quickly and successfully that only three cels are still believed to be missing--apparently sold to collectors who have not been traced.

The studio's private inquiry began Oct. 28 after a Warner Bros. employee saw Tiny Toon cels being sold at a booth at a swap meet in Orange County, Burg said. Knowing that the only authorized sales outlet for the cels of characters and background drawings from the show was through Warner Bros., the employee notified his supervisors.

Warner Bros. spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti said the studio has released only 250 of the show's cels for sale, framed, through a studio shop. One of the popular cartoon characters--who include Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck--placed against a drawn background sells for $500, she said, meaning that the recovered materials conceivably could be worth $500,000 or more.

With the information provided by the employee, private detectives hired by Warner Bros. identified three people who were selling the material at swap meets and home shows in Orange County, San Diego County and Las Vegas, Burg said.

Court records in the suits against those three, including their names, have been sealed by Judge William Matthew Byrne Jr.

According to other court records, however, the three agreed to cooperate with Warner Bros. and named Cowsill and his girlfriend, Nicolette Harley, 24, of North Hollywood as the suppliers of the cels.

Private investigator Kevin Berman met separately with the pair and bought Tiny Toon cels from Cowsill, court records said, with both meetings secretly videotaped.

During a Dec. 12 meeting with Cowsill at a Brentwood restaurant, Berman posed as a collector and paid $1,000 for 10 cels that were passed across the table to him in a briefcase, according to the records. In an affidavit filed with the court, Berman said that he met with Harley on Dec. 17 at the apartment she shares with Cowsill and that she told him that the cels were stolen.

Harley could not be reached for comment. But Cowsill said they did not consider the material stolen because he found it in trash cans or boxes that were marked as trash. He took the material while working as a free-lance animator at the Sherman Oaks studio in October, he said.

"I found some in boxes marked 'Outtakes for Disposal,' " he said. "Curiosity had compelled me to open the boxes and there were the cels."

He called taking the artwork "a labor of love," although he admitted that he stood to profit after he gave several dozen to the three other defendants for sale on consignment.

Burg, the Warner Bros. attorney, said the recovered materials were not outtakes and were not headed for the trash.

"Warner Bros. denies that any of this artwork was marked for or intended for disposal," he said. "This is very valuable artwork and Warner Bros. does not dispose of any of it. It is kept indefinitely."

Both sides agree that Cowsill and Harley have been cooperating with Warner Bros. since the court-authorized raid on their apartment last week to seize the cels. Noting that he has even retrieved cels he had given to friends and family members as gifts, Cowsill said he hopes the studio will not seek a criminal complaint against him.

"I am hoping they are gracious," he said. "I realize I made a big mistake."


Found on EBay -- Florentine Gardens

Florentine_gardens_ebay I I always enjoy looking at the souvenir photos from the Florentine Gardens, a huge nightclub on Hollywood Boulevard. Here's one from 1944 listed on EBay

Voices -- Christine Collins, November 1, 1930


The Christine Collins letters

The woman whose tragedy inspired the Clint Eastwood movie "Changeling" tells her story in her own words.

Los Angeles, Calif.
Nov. 1, 1930
Dear Mr. Clark

1930_1101_chrstine_collins022_2 I am writing you a few lines to let you know that I appreciate your kindness toward my husband, Walter J. Collins. In his letter, he tells me how lovely you are to him and I want to thank you for this consideration.

I understand that Walter is eligible for parole very soon and I sincerely do hope he will be given his freedom this time. That poor soul has suffered about as much as I have in the last few years. I am doing all I can to help him. He always was a good man as his behavior at the prison proves.

I have been trying to secure a position for him in the event the members of the prison board see fit to grant Walter a parole, so as he may have employment upon his release. I have been doing my utmost to help poor Walter and I hope my efforts will not be in vain.

I attended an entertainment last Wednesday evening given by the Knights of Pythias in honor of their annual roll call. I met several people knights of course and when I informed them that my father had been a brother knight for 35 years they became very much interested. You know it is their duty to help one another and the families of brother members, even the deceased.

The committee chairman said he would do what he could to help me so I have to appear before their members at their next meeting.

If Walter is permitted to that order I want him to join and be someone. Everyone things it so strange that I remain so loyal to him after all these years. It will have been seven years since Walter was taken away on the 16th of this month.

I believe in constancy, especially where there is doubt as to guilt. I always did believe Walter were a victim of circumstance and "framed" upon.

I hope I may have Walter home by Xmas. I have seen so many sad holidays that my joy would know no bounds if he were home by then.

I hope this finds you well, Mr. Clark, and again thanking you for your kindness toward Walter, I remain

Your sincere friend,

Mrs. Walter J. Collins
2614 N. Griffin Ave.
Los Angeles, Calif.

Top stories of the year, 1938


Czechoslovakia, the Holocaust, gains by the Republican Party and "Wrong Way" Corrigan's flight to Ireland were the four most important stories of the year, according to the Gallup poll.

One 1938 story we neglected at the Daily Mirror was Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast. Listen to it here.
Errol Flynn, pacifist: "I'm strongly opposed to war," he says of making "Dawn Patrol."
The unbeaten Duke team gets ready
to meet USC in the Rose Bowl.
(USC won, 7-3).

Voices -- Harold Pinter, 1930 -- 2008

1983_0312_pinter_02 "Nearly all my work starts with an image, in the case of 'Betrayal' an image of a man and a woman sitting in a pub (the opening shot in the film). One merges this image with one's own observations and with one's own experience; one becomes curious about their past and what brought them to this place.

"I've had American studio executives say that their lives were saved during World War II by reading Proust, yet they won't try to get this film [Pinter's adaptation of "Remembrance of Things Past"] made -- it's too intellectual!"

-- Harold Pinter,
March 12, 1983

Voices -- Christine Collins, May 16, 1929

The Christine Collins letters

The woman whose tragedy inspired the Clint Eastwood movie "Changeling" tells her story in her own words.


Christmas 1968

The Pueblo crew arrives in San Diego.
Note the bylines: Chuck Hillinger and Bob Rawitch!

My good friend Eric Malnic, retired reporter who's now recovering from surgery, often talks about the other distinguished rewrite folks at The Times and their techniques. One of the people he respects the most is the late Dial Torgerson, who was killed covering the war in Nicaragua.

Eric often talks about using a "Dial Torgerson graph" that appears high in a long roundup (usually a fire story or a weather story) as a capsule of what's ahead. At left, here's a perfect example from Torgerson's 1968 Christmas story. --lrh

1968_1225_sports The Times' Bob Oates thought he found the perfect man to become the next commissioner of baseball: Vin Scully.

Oates, a longtime football writer, seemed a surprising choice to write what basically was an opinion piece. The story should have been labeled as a commentary, but the reader was left a bit confused. Why was this a story? Maybe he had some inside info? Despite all that, it's hard to argue with the endorsement. Scully certainly would have been a wonderful spokesman for the game.

"He would bring to the commissioner's office a first-class mind as well as the self-confidence to act when necessary and the self-control to abstain from action in other circumstances," Oates wrote.

--Keith Thursby

Christmas 1938

The Times' front page features a poem by James "Sunrise Jim" Warnack, the paper's religion writer for many years.



Christmas 1908

Crowds of shoppers watch a downtown building go up in flames and bandits rob a holiday party. Volunteers give presents to the needy children of Los Angeles and there's dinners for the hungry and homeless. Mayor Harper is hurt in a car accident at Union and 24th Street. Merry Christmas, 1908.

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Holiday greetings


Los Angeles Times file photo

Merry Christmas from the Daily Mirror!


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