Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Photograph by John Malmin / Los Angeles Times
Defendants Augustine Baldonado, left, and Luis Moya stand during the arraignment of Elizabeth Ann Duncan, with attorney S. Ward Sullivan, in Ventura County.
By Catriona Lavery
Elizabeth Ann Duncan hired two men to kill her pregnant daughter-in-law, jealous that the young mother-to-be threatened her incestuous relationship with her son Frank, 30. Duncan is one of four women executed in California's gas chamber.
Olga Kupczyk Duncan disappeared in November 1958. She was seven months' pregnant, 30 years old and newspapermen didn't hesitate to call her attractive.
Elizabeth Duncan first drew suspicion when police discovered she had illegally obtained an annulment for her son and his wife. Elizabeth Duncan and Ralph Winterstein, 25, hired by Duncan, secured the separation by posing as the young couple in court.
Nearly a month after the woman's disappearance, investigators found her body in the Casitas Pass of Carpinteria, Calif., after Augustine Baldonado, 25, confessed that he and Luis Moya, 22, had been offered $6,000 by the victim's mother-in-law. The two men beat the young woman with a pistol, strangled her and buried her body in a shallow grave. Coroners investigations found that she was still alive when buried.
Elizabeth Duncan's bizarre past and penchant for dramatics made the trial a sensation.
She had been married at least 11 times.
When cross-examined, she admitted to 10 marriages and said, "there might have been an 11th.... I'm afraid to count the others: they didn't mean that much to me." At one point, prosecutors alleged she married 16 times. Duncan conned young men into marrying by telling them she needed a husband in order to inherit a great fortune, promising them a cut.
At first, Duncan maintained she had two children -- Frank and a daughter, Patricia, who died at 15. However, Duncan later admitted she had four other children -- three daughters and a son. When Prosecutor Roy Gustafson asked if she loved Frank more than the others, she said yes.
An unnatural love
Despite being married, he still slept at his mother's home. In his testimony, Frank Duncan proudly admitted he had lived with his mother almost his whole life. Their incestuous relationship and his mother's subsequent jealousy became the basis of motive in the case.
Newspapers at the time approached the relationship cautiously. The Times only mentions the mother's "overwhelming love" for her son. The Mirror News refers to an "unnatural love" between the two, but stopped short of calling it incest.
Elizabeth Duncan also admitted to planning to kidnap her son. "Frankie had just lost his mind over Olga," she testified. "So I called my sister in Los Angeles and told her to rent an apartment for me. I was going to tie him up and take him down there to try to talk some sense into him. I didn't want to lose Frankie. I couldn't stand life alone and I knew it."
The jury took just four hours and 51 minutes to find her guilty.
Frank Duncan and his mother, Elizabeth Ann.
Her execution was delayed twice. Both times Duncan's lawyers argued "sensational publicity" and other circumstances prevented their client from receiving a fair trial. In 1962, the court refused to hear another appeal.
Frank Duncan, also a lawyer, fought for his mother until the end. At the time of her execution, he was in San Francisco, pleading her case before the U.S. Court of Appeals. The court refused to take action, and she was executed on August 8, 1962.
Elizabeth Ann Duncan was the last of four women executed by gas chamber in California. The others were "the Dutchess" Ethel Juanita Spinelli (1941), Louise Peete (1947) and Barbara Graham (1955). Almost 200 men have died in the same way.
Peete offered one reason for the unrepresentative number. Just before her execution, Peete was convinced she would not die. She said, "The governor is a gentlemen -- and no gentleman could sentence a lady to her death."
Look through the recent columns of Paul Coates and Matt Weinstock for more articles about Elizabeth Ann Duncan.
[Did we misspell Barnabas all the way through this story? Yes.--lrh]
Frid, Minus Fangs, to Read in O.C.
Performance: The actor has less than fond memories for his years as vampire Barnabus Collins on TV's 'Dark Shadows.'October 26, 1991
By JESS BRAVIN, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES
In 1967, the Yale-trained Frid, a sometime Shakespearean who had toured public schools performing the Lincoln-Douglas debates, won the part of Barnabus Collins, a courtly vampire on the ABC-TV daytime serial "Dark Shadows." The soap opera with gothic overtones would run through 1971, spawn two feature-length movies and a small marketing phenomenon and also earn Frid a footnote in the annals of popular culture.
Frid, who never cared for horror movies as a child (he recalls sneaking off to see matinees of musicals) would forevermore share Barnabus' curse: Like the vampire who spent 175 self-hating years sucking blood, Frid would find his career kept alive by a predicament he hates.
"Everywhere I go," sighs Frid, now 66, "I get a few morons who expect to see the vampire."
And, Halloween notwithstanding, he warns that those who expect to see the vampire tonight will be sorely disappointed when Frid, sans fangs, appears at Yorba Linda's Forum Theatre to read a set of short stories under the somewhat cumbersome title of "Jonathan Frid's Fridiculousness."
The program, which Frid describes as "readers theater," leans heavily on wits from the first half of the 20th Century, including Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker and Groucho Marx. He adds a few items by writers known for somewhat heavier work--Somerset Maugham and Robert Frost--as well as a couple of modern pieces, including one by illustrator and humorist Gahan Wilson. "Jonathan Frid's Fridiculousness" also contains a few items by its eponymous performer: a humorous genealogy of his name titled "Freaks, Frights and Fridians," and a set examining the frustrations of modern telephone usage.
As a seasonal courtesy, Frid does plan to end each half of the program with a story drawn from what might be called genre fiction. "Here There Be Tygers" by Stephen King concludes the first act, and "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe wraps up the show.
"It is," Frid allows, "what's expected of me."
Frid, a native of Canada, insists that recent years spent on tour with his one-man act "have been the happiest time of my life in show business" but that, inevitably, he finds himself recalling the "Dark Shadows" that defined his career.
And recalling the program's hallmarks--turgid dialogue, shoddy production values and metaphysical mumbo jumbo--Frid is less than charitable.
"It was just garbage, just preposterous; even for its day, it was awful," he says. "All of us, and especially the vampire, would be given these long, convoluted sentences that go on forever. It was a show that tried to be different, but most of the time it fell flat on its face.
"Some people try to apologize for it, saying that's how television was done in the '60s. Well, there was a lot of brilliant television in those days, and we weren't a part of it, I'm afraid."
The program's success--and the continuing fascination that Barnabus holds for thousands of fans--befuddles Frid.
"I guess there was something vulnerable about the character, if you accept the idiotic premise of coming out of a coffin after 175 years. It must have been the vulnerability--I was so humiliated all the time, maybe there was a bit of humility in my work."
But roles for ex-vampires were few after the series was canceled in 1971, so Frid began the odyssey that eventually would lead him to Yorba Linda.
Through the 1970s, Frid won an occasional small film role, but he largely remained out of public sight. Unable to shake his "Dark Shadows" lineage, he finally consented--in exchange for room, board and air fare to Los Angeles--to attend one of the innumerable conventions staged for fans of the program.
"They're a strange lot," he said of the fans. "I feel like a Martian when I'm among them. Let's face it: Most of the people who work in this world, the haves and the achievers, don't watch soap operas."
Nevertheless, Frid said he enjoyed the free travel and so continued to attend "Dark Shadows" conventions through the 1980s. Tired of answering the same questions over and again at these events, Frid proposed instead to present readings. First, his programs consisted entirely of poetry written by "Dark Shadows" fans.
"Most of it's not very good," he said, "but some of it, at least, wasn't bad. They were mostly romantic things based on Barnabus the lovable vampire, the romantic antihero, you know, the longing and yearning of this man who was condemned by this curse, the longing and yearning, the longing and the yearning," Frid says. "Please don't ask me to repeat any of it."
After Frid was cast in a 1986 New York revival of "Arsenic and Old Lace," he regained enough stature to book himself outside of "Dark Shadows" conventions. Juggling several programs, he now offers different versions of his readers theater, based on humor, horror or Shakespeare, playing mainly at schools, colleges and corporate functions.
Frid finds himself in particular demand this time of year. A New York foundation engaged him to read a horror story at one of its public events, and MCI, the long-distance company, hired him to read a three-minute condensation of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" as part of a Halloween promotion.
Still, Frid recalls a 1963 tour of Pittsburgh's inner-city schools as the highlight of his career. "We put on the Lincoln-Douglas debates in every classroom," he says. "The kids were poor, and they were tough, but by God they were sharp. It was the most thrilling thing I've ever done."
So then, has Frid given any thought to picking up his long-delayed ambition to be a teacher?
"Well, I'm almost 70," he says. The former vampire adds without a hint of irony: "I'm getting a little long in the tooth for that."
* The gothic soap opera is long gone from network TV but not forgotten. As the series finds new fans in reruns, a festival to celebrate it opens Friday.July 6, 2000
By SUSAN KING, TIMES STAFF WRITER
"Dark Shadows" has seemingly endured about as long as its most beloved character, the 175-year-old vampire Barnabas Collins.
Well, maybe not that long. But the daytime gothic soap opera, which premiered on ABC on June 27, 1966, and continued until 1971, simply won't die. In fact, the show has found new blood in reruns--first in syndication, then on PBS and now on the Sci-Fi Channel.
This weekend, an estimated 5,000 fans are expected to attend the annual "Dark Shadows" Festival, to be held Friday through Sunday at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel.
Among the original series actors scheduled to appear are David Selby, Lara Parker, Kathryn Leigh Scott, John Karlen, Nancy Barrett and Mitchell Ryan.
The festivals attract all age groups, says Parker, who played Angelique. "We have lots and lots of new fans," she says. "There are people who show up who name their children Angelique. There are people who have been coming back for 20 years, and they all know each other. For them it's a real pastime. It's based on 'Dark Shadows,' but they all know each other and enjoy being together."
New generations have access to the 30-year-old program, with all 1,225 episodes available on MPI home video. The series' creator, Dan Curtis of "The Winds of War" fame, is even preparing a stage musical based on the series, and the second "Dark Shadows" feature film, 1971's "Night of Dark Shadows," is slated to be restored.
"Sometimes fans wait for an hour and half just to say hello," Parker says of the autograph-signing sessions. "They give us presents. They talk about their experiences and what it meant to them to be watching the show as teenagers and how much the characters meant to them. Sometimes it's quite touching."
"We take it pretty serious," says Scott, who played Josette. "'We raise tons of money for charity."
Though they played enemies on the series, Scott and Parker are the best of friends. In fact, the cast is closer now than when they did the series. "We were young and we were very career-oriented," Scott says. "One of the reasons why we love going is because there are all of these new fans who keep coming to the show because of cable. What they are really interested in is what we are doing now. It would be stultifying if we went to one of these things and we were lost in some retro world. It would be horrible."
Scott formed her own publishing company, Pomegranate Press Ltd., 15 years ago when she wrote her first book, "My Scrapbook Memories of Dark Shadows." She's published 43 books, including five "Dark Shadows" tomes. Her latest, "Dark Shadows Almanac: The Millennium Edition," which she co-wrote with Jim Pierson, is currently in stores. And Parker is writing her third "Dark Shadows" novel for HarperCollins.
"We have all had careers and, actually, acting careers that have gone on gratifyingly long," Scott says.
About 20 cast members, says Scott, normally show up at the festivals. Jonathan Frid, who played Barnabas and once complained about his identification with the character, is noticeably absent. "Jonathan hasn't come in the last couple of years," Scott says. "He's been touring with his one-man show and he lives in Canada. He'll return. Others come in from wherever--we get them all."
Scott and Parker say their feelings toward the "Dark Shadows" cult following have changed over the years.
"It was my first job, and so my feeling was onward and upward" after the show was canceled, Parker says. "I came to Hollywood feeling extremely confident that I had done five years on a very successful series. Of course, I said, 'I'm putting this all behind me. I am never even going to think about this show again. I'm going to get on with my life and become a famous movie star.' "
Though she never achieved that stardom, Parker says "Dark Shadows" never "stood in my way at all. I got to play an awful lot of roles on TV, but I never got another big series. It just turned out that the thing that gave me the greatest number of opportunities was 'Dark Shadows.' I have come to appreciate it."
Scott believes she's put her finger on the enduring appeal of "Dark Shadows," which premiered the same year as another cult sensation, "Star Trek."
"It's always my feeling that ["Star Trek" creator] Gene Roddenberry was a genius like Dan Curtis," she says.
"Gene Roddenberry went ahead in time, and we went back in time. Both of the series borrowed liberally from the great classics--from Melville to Henry James to the Bible. They told universal morality tales. They are the kind of stories told around the campfire, the kind of stories children adore and the stories that adults gravitate to."
Two true loves
* The Long Embrace Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved Judith Freeman Pantheon: 354 pp., $25.95
November 04, 2007
By Richard Rayner, Richard Rayner's new book, "The Associates: Four Capitalists Who Created California," is due out in January. His column Paperback Writers appears monthly at latimes.com/books.
"I used to like this town. A long time ago. There were trees along Wilshire Boulevard. Beverly Hills was a country town. Westwood was bare hills and lots offering at eleven hundred dollars and no takers. Hollywood was a bunch of frame houses on the inter-urban line," Raymond Chandler wrote, in the voice of his detective hero, Philip Marlowe, in 1949. "Los Angeles was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good-hearted and peaceful. It had the climate they yap about now. People used to sleep out on porches. Little groups who thought they were intellectual used to call it the Athens of America."
Chandler first came to Los Angeles in 1912, a time so distant in the city's history as to seem almost unreal. The population had only just climbed above 300,000. L.A. was still shaking from the dynamiting of The Times by the McNamara brothers, and Clarence Darrow was on trial for alleged bribery. William Mulholland's titanic aqueduct was incomplete and no water had as yet come from the Owens River Valley. Speedy, efficient streetcars connected downtown with the recently incorporated city of Hollywood and the distant beach towns. Chandler himself belonged to a little intellectual group, the Optimists, formed by his friend Warren Lloyd and meeting weekly at Lloyd's house on South Bonnie Brae Street. Music was played, poetry declaimed, literature and philosophy discussed.
At one of these soirees, Chandler first met Julian Pascal, a concert pianist and music professor, and Pascal's wife, Cissy. "Sexy and experienced, witty and confident, she was everything a young man could want in an older woman," writes Judith Freeman in "The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved." "He was sexually repressed and shy, inexperienced with women. Little wonder he found her irresistible."
And irresistible she was. "Cissy was a raging beauty, a strawberry blonde with skin I used to love to touch," Chandler would say later. "I don't know how I ever managed to get her." It took awhile: Cissy, twice-married, a former New York model who liked to do housework in the nude, kept him at arm's length at first.
Chandler enlisted in a Canadian regiment and went off to fight in World War I, in no small part, Freeman argues, "because he found himself in the untenable position of being in love with another man's wife." He came back, or was drawn back, to Los Angeles in 1919. After much argument and discussion, Julian Pascal agreed to bow out of the picture, but Cissy and Chandler didn't marry until 1924, when Chandler's mother -- with whom he'd been living -- died at last from an agonizing cancer. Only then, or a little later, did Chandler learn that Cissy was not eight years older than him, as he'd thought, but eighteen. He was 35, and he'd married a woman of 53.
"All this is the stuff of passion and novels," noted Patricia Highsmith, whose first book, "Strangers on a Train," Chandler would help adapt for the 1951 Hitchcock movie of the same name. "But little of the formidable emotional material that Chandler had at his disposal actually found its way into his writing."
That's not quite true. All his life, Chandler was a divided soul. He was an American, born in Chicago in 1888, yet he grew up mostly in England and received an education at snooty Dulwich College. He longed to live freely yet had a strict moral code. He was too troubled ever to be truly happy, and too inhibited and mannerly to be a freely autobiographical writer.
And yet, this worked for him, in its own way. His heightened sense of his own pleasures and dismays passed into how he caught the atmosphere and moods of L.A. His marriage to Cissy endured, and Los Angeles became a metaphor for the torture and disappointment he sometimes felt.
"The Long Embrace" is an exploration of these two relationships -- Ray and Cissy, Chandler and L.A. It is a beautiful and original book, in which Freeman becomes a double detective, telling the story of this strange yet loving marriage while also tracking down and visiting everywhere that the Chandlers lived in Southern California. That's no small task because Chandler needed movement like he needed air to breathe. "I kept the long list of Chandler addresses taped to the wall next to my desk where I could see it every day: Bonnie Brae Angels Flight Bunker Hill Loma Drive Vendome Catalina Stewart Leeward Longwood Gramercy Meadowbrook . . ." writes Freeman. "The list read like a plainsong of wandering, the liturgy of a long search for a home."
Freeman sits in bars and drinks gimlets, because Chandler claimed a gimlet "beat a martini hollow." She waits outside apartment buildings in the rain and sun. She spends months visiting UCLA's Special Collections and the Bodleian in Oxford, going through the Chandler archives. "I felt I was becoming a bit strange to myself," she tells us. Her quest turns into an obsession, and "The Long Embrace" starts to ache with emotion and loneliness -- her loneliness and Chandler's, the loneliness of following a trail, of a marriage, of writing itself.
Chandler is so much a part of the furniture that we tend to forget how great he is. The plots of "The Big Sleep," "Farewell, My Lovely" and "The High Window" are swift and workably complex, but they didn't bring much that was new to the crime story, even in their own time. He despised the lazy arrogance of wealth and power but lacked the rigor with which Dashiell Hammett viewed social and political corruption.
No, Chandler was a romantic, more like F. Scott Fitzgerald than the worldly Hammett, and through the character of Marlowe he became a haunting poet of place, this place, Los Angeles, whose split personality of light and dark mirrored Chandler's own. He caught the glaring sun, the glittering swimming pools, the cigar-stinking lobbies of seedy hotels, the improbable mansions, the dismal apartment buildings, the sound of tires on asphalt and gravel, the sparkling air of the city after rain and how the fog smells at the beach at night.
Frank MacShane published the standard Chandler biography more than 30 years ago, and until now, no other book has made us view this great American writer afresh. "The Long Embrace" does. "To take care of Cissy. That was his driving life force," Freeman writes. Chandler worked in the oil business for Cissy, and he turned himself into a crime writer for his wife, while feeling he never "wrote a book worthy of dedicating to her." Through booze, he rebelled against this bondage but never really wanted to break free. Freeman speculates, plausibly, that Chandler might have longed for men. "In 'The Big Sleep,' " she writes (she means "The Long Goodbye"), "there's simply no question Marlowe had loved Terry Lennox -- he moons after him."
Freeman traces the ups and downs of the marriage and career with utmost delicacy. We spend time with Billy Wilder and John Houseman, although "The Long Embrace" offers much more than a mere retelling. Spurred by Chandler's restlessness, Freeman writes about L.A. with a tender precision and yearning that borders on the religious. "I headed out Sunset Boulevard, past Hollywood High School and the cheap divey hotels with the leggy hookers out front, past the Chateau Marmont, where Belushi died of an overdose and the gargantuan billboards loom over the strip, the Marlboro man and his horse like gods high in the sky," she notes, describing a drive oceanward. "The farther you travel the more the air begins to change and become infused with a marine freshness. A mist develops. A faint fog appears, shot through with sunshine. A hazy light that says you're almost to the beach. You smell the coast long before you see it. You sense you're coming to the end of the land."
That's lovely, a haunting homage to a man whose own end was bleak. After Cissy died, Chandler burned her letters, perhaps wishing to keep her to himself forever. He was lost, and age dumped its garbage on him. He made an unsuccessful suicide attempt and embarrassed himself with younger women.
"[H]e became unmoored -- some might say unhinged," writes Freeman, who finds herself repeating again and again variants of the sad phrase: "He began drinking again." In "The Long Embrace," though, magic has occurred. Freeman's identification with her subject is so complete we feel we're there with Chandler too. We even believe her when she enters his dying mind, saying: "I always was a man without a home. . . . Still am."
Note: To mark the 50th anniversary of Raymond Chandler's death, the Daily Mirror is revisiting some of The Times' stories about his life and influence. We invite the Daily Mirror's readers to share their thoughts.
The Times ran a wire story from Florida that polled writers covering the Yankees about Gehrig's status and how it might affect the team's chances. A few days earlier, the paper had published the news that Gehrig was benched in a spring training game, out of the Yankees' lineup for the first time since 1925.
"Gehrig has looked pitifully rusty" in spring training, the Associated Press story said.
The story about the writers was tacky, even considering that no one knew the severity of Gehrig's condition. "I don't think Gehrig has much to do with the Yankees winning. I don't think he helped them an awful lot last year," said Rud Rennie of the New York Herald Tribune.
Gehrig's consecutive games streak would finally end in May when he pulled himself out of the lineup. "The consecutive game record always was meaningless to me and now that I have ended it you newspaper guys will believe me," he said. Asked about his return, Gehrig said he hoped "the arrival of warm weather will enable me to hit my stride."
-- Keith Thursby
Listed on EBay: An usher's ribbon from the 1905 performances of "Parsifal" in Los Angeles. Bidding starts at $9.99.
The 1905 performance of "Parsifal" was such a significant event that The Times published the names of what appears to be everyone who attended. The performance by Conreid's Metropolitan Grand Opera had most of the Met's opening night cast, including conductor Alfred Hertz and Alois Burgstaller (Parsifal).
Mash Notes and Comments(Press Release) "Americans are too modest!
"Branded as braggarts by the rest of the world, we nevertheless suffer from a highly sensitized cultural inferiority complex.
"We consider ourselves peerless in science, technology and industrial know-how, but when it comes to art forms and culture, we meekly take a back seat to the Old World.
"Let's stop underselling ourselves. Let's realize that we, too, have names to be proud of--names like Gilbert Stuart, John Singleton Copley, Thomas Sully, JamesMcNeill Whistler, Winslow Homer, Charles M. Russell and Frederic Remington. They prove that American art is second to none, and that we can be as elated about our pictorial representations as the Europeans are about theirs."
"Our committee was formed to bring these facts home to Americans everywhere. We emphasize Western Americana because too many pseudo-intellectuals tend to frown upon this great art form as mere 'cowboys and Indians.' " (signed Committee for the Restoration of American Western Art, New York City.
--If you haven't played it, don't knock it.
"The other night on the 'Bob Hope Show' Julie London did a sketch with Hope during which she kept calling him 'Adam.' Unfortunately this has had serious repercussions for a member of one of our client's family.
"How can this be? you are probably asking yourself. Well, Paul, actress Jewell Lain has a giant (135 pounds) French poodle named Adam. He was dozing peacefully in the bedroom that fatal evening of the Hope show when, suddenly, his ears perked up at the melodic call of Miss London calling "Oh, Adam' (which was really to Hope on the TV screen).
"The dog thought it was his owner calling him so he trotted into the living room only to find her engrossed in the program and paying no attention to him at all. So he went back to the bedroom.
"Again came the plaintive call of Julie London, 'Oh, Adam.' so the animal trotted happily into the living room expecting to find his mistress anxious to see him. But, alas, he was sadly disappointed.
"Two more times it happened and on each occasion the disillusioned poodle sulkily returned to the bedroom. When the program was finally over and Jewell did call him he wouldn't come. To this very day he won't respond to her call." (signed) Dodge, Heigh & Associates, Beverly Hills.
--Neither will I. but one call from Julie London and I'd bark
"Dear Mr. Coates,
"Welcome to the Low Cholesterol Club! Oh, I'm not going to rub it in, the fat, I mean. I just want to say it isn't as bad as all that.
"It may take a while to get used to no butter on the bread and you'll die when you smell the restaurant odors. But you'll get over it and feel better. Oh, well,Pollyanna, get it over with.
"I just wanted you to take this to your wife and tell her that veal is low in fat and when it or chicken are cooked down in a little wine it is pretty darned good.
"Anyway, Paul, if you can stand it, yogurt makes a wonderful dressing on salad (spiked up for variations) and we have learned to prefer a piece of toast slathered with yogurt over a thin film of jelly. You see, we voluntarily cut out cholesterol foods because I adore my husband and I wish to keep him for as long as possible.
"I'm sure your wife feels the same way." (signed) Lenore Nicholson, Hollywood.
--About your husband?
Tour Casts New Light on Raymond Chandler's Old L.A.
* A Minnesota couple trace the steps of the novelist's best-known character.April 4, 2004
By Erika Hayasaki, Times Staff Writer
Bonnie Olson stood in the lobby of the Oviatt Building on Olive Street downtown on Saturday, beneath the ceilings adorned with triangular glass, and read a passage from the Raymond Chandler novel "The Lady in the Lake," in which he described this very setting.
"The sidewalk in front of it had been built of black and white rubber blocks. They were taking them up now to give to the government, and a hatless pale man with a face like a building superintendent was watching the work and looking as if it were breaking his heart," she read, explaining that the structure was called the Treloar Building in the book.
"The images he's able to evoke of Los Angeles and the past are powerful, maybe more powerful than actually seeing it in reality," said Olson, who led eight people on a walking tour of settings for Chandler's books.
Olson and her husband, Brian, were in town -- from Minnesota of all places -- to lead tours based on their new guide, "Tailing Philip Marlowe."
The self-published guide, available at Caravan Books on Grand Avenue, points out sites mentioned in Chandler's books, whose best-known character was private detective Philip Marlowe.
Olson said she admires Chandler's work because of his poignant storytelling, language and dialogue. He is studied along with great poets, writers and essayists, she said. Many consider him to be one of Los Angeles' quintessential writers, who weaved real places, people and events into his fiction, a strength that inspired fellow mystery writer Ross MacDonald to write: "Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence."
For several decades, Olson, an English teacher, and her husband, who works for the city of Minneapolis, have been enchanted by Chandler's descriptions of Los Angeles, like the steps of City Hall, where Marlowe lighted a cigarette as the cold wind blew in "Trouble Is My Business." Then there was the Bradbury Building on South Broadway about which Chandler wrote: "The dark narrow lobby was as dirty as a chicken yard" in "The High Window," in which the structure was called the Belfont Building.
The 2 1/2-hour tour began at the Oviatt Building and continued toward the Los Angeles Public Library, which Chandler mentioned in "The Long Goodbye."
The group headed to Bunker Hill, stopping at the top of the mothballed Angels Flight cable trolley, which Chandler described in "The High Window."
The group hiked to the 2nd Street tunnel, which Chandler compared to the barrel of a gun in "The Big Sleep": "The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel."
When the couple visited Los Angeles three years ago, they wanted to explore places mentioned in the novels, which captured the city in the 1930s and '40s. But they said they could not find a guide. So they returned home and combed through all of Chandler's stories, flagging descriptions of settings with Post-it notes.
Then the Olsons visited Los Angeles again, searching for the sites, and spent hours in the library researching the city's architectural history.
The couple put together the 112-page guidebook with the help of family members and a printer in Fargo, N.D., thinking they could use the books as Christmas gifts.
"We did it to have fun together," Bonnie Olson said. "We had no idea it was going to be such a niche."
Australian native Heath Ryan, 32, a fan of Chandler's book "Playback," moved to Los Angeles three years ago. He said he already had an idea of what the city was like from Chandler's descriptions.
"You get here and feel almost familiar with this place, even though you have never been here," Ryan said.
Ray Chin, 32, a downtown resident, said Chandler's work has helped him understand how the city has evolved.
"It isn't so much the images of the city," Chin said. "It's the historical knowledge he gives about the city. It's fascinating to see all of the changes."
On Saturday, those on the tour hiked up to Bunker Hill, where they rested on rows of marble benches in a courtyard overlooking a pond, surrounded by towering skyscrapers. The outdoor cafe tables were mostly empty, and a hair salon was closed. Beneath the courtyard, homeless men and women slept on the grass, and the stairs smelled like urine.
Many years ago, Chandler described the setting, in "The High Window," like this: "Bunker is old town, lost town, shabby town, crook town.... Out of the apartment houses come women who should be young but have faces like stale beer; men with pulled-down hats and quick eyes that look the street over behind the cupped hand that shield the match flame; worn intellectuals with cigarette coughs and no money in the bank; fly cops with granite faces and unwavering eyes; cokies and coke peddlers."
Olson read that passage and her husband explained that this was the neighborhood where Marlowe found a dead body in an apartment.
"It was a romantic time, a different time," Ryan said. "There were no freeways. It was the center of the city. Now it feels a bit dead."
Note: To mark the 50th anniversary of Raymond Chandler's death, the Daily Mirror is revisiting some of The Times' stories about his life and influence. We invite the Daily Mirror's readers to share their thoughts.
The Dodgers and Angels were playing each other again and at least the Angels were doing their best to rebuild the rivalry.
"Peter O'Malley has instructed all his personnel not to say anything about the Angels. That's the word I get. They're apparently afraid of something." The Times' Ross Newhan attributed the quote to a former Dodger now working for the Angels. There were four possibilities: general manager Dick Walsh, director of player personnel Lefty Phillips, scout Kenny Myers and minor league manager Norm Sherry.
The teams last played each other in 1964, when the Angels were still tenants of Dodger Stadium. The Angels had won the last five games in a row.
On the record, Walsh said the Angels could talk about their opponents: "This organization believes in free speech." It's hard to believe that The Times couldn't find a Dodger willing to say something, anything, to balance the Angel camp. Where was Tom Lasorda?
-- Keith Thursby