The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: April 12, 2009 - April 18, 2009

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Second Takes -- Billy Wilder


July 22, 1948, Billy Wilder "Foreign Affair"


July 22, 1948, Billy Wilder, "Foreign Affair"

Of all the words I could use to describe "A Foreign Affair, "zany" is not one of them. 

July 23, 1948, Billy Wilder, "Foreign Affair" Review

July 23, 1948: "The bitterness of 'A Foreign Affair' is thus likely to linger after its laughs have passed," Edwin Schallert says.


Jan. 3, 1972. Charles Lang, Cinematographer

Jan. 3, 1972, Cinematographer

Jan. 3, 1972: Kevin Thomas interviews Charles Lang, cinematographer on Billy Wilder's "A Foreign Affair," "Ace in the Hole,"  "Some Like It Hot" and "Sabrina."

GOP Neglects Blacks, White House Aide Says; Dodgers Lose, April 15, 1959


April 15, 1959, Scott Carpenter, Astronaut

April 15, 1959 Taxes

Above, Navy Lt. M. Scott Carpenter, one of seven men chosen for the Mercury space program, leaves Garden Grove with his family to undergo training. In 1962, Carpenter became the fourth American in space and the second to orbit the Earth.

At left, an editorial cartoon at The Times before the arrival of Paul Conrad. Even in 1959, people complained about their federal taxes. 
April 15, 1959, USC Bicyclists

USC students use bikes to get around campus. Note the coat and tie, guys.

April 15, 1959, Truman and Nixon

A glimmer of the upcoming presidential race.
April 15, 1959, Republican Party and Blacks
E. Frederic Morrow, a White House administrative officer, says black voters don't support the Republican Party because it doesn't recognize them as first-class citizens.


April 15, 1959, Gas Mileage
April 15, 1959, Pontiac
Ever wonder how that old Detroit iron was on gas mileage? Here's your answer. Above, the 1959 Pontiac Catalinas (18.31 mpg) and Bonnevilles (16.94 mpg) were real road boats.

April 15, 1959, Sinatra Plays the Sands

Frank Sinatra at the Sands -- with Buddy Lester!

April 15, 1959, Miss Realtor

April 15, 1959, Theater

Pier Angeli leaves the country with her son--against the wishes of ex-husband Vic Damone.

April 15, 1959, Comics

April 15, 1959, Dodgers The Dodgers opened their home schedule with a big Coliseum crowd expecting big things. More than 61,000 watched as the Dodgers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-2.

Wally Moon, who would become part of Dodger lore with his Moon shots over the short left-field screen, had three hits but no homers in his home debut. Gil Hodges hit one in the ninth but it judged by The Times' Frank Finch to be just a "cheap homer that barely cleared the screen."

Before the game, Roy Campanella was wheeled to the field by his longtime teammate, Pee Wee Reese and flipped the ball to starting pitcher Johnny Podres. Campanella also addressed the crowd: "It's an honor and pleasure to be here, especially behind the plate. That left-field fence looks great. I just wish I could swing and put a few over it."

It was only one game, but the paper's sports editor, Paul Zimmerman, saw enough to write a blistering column the following day. "Let's see now. Last year the explanation of the Dodgers' early season plight included such talk as the uncertainty of the Chavez Ravine situation, the transfer to Los Angeles, etc. etc," Zimmerman wrote. "Chavez Ravine now seems to be as good as in the bag and our lads are pretty well housebroken here but their opening game was hardly an artistic success."

That might not sound tough, but most Times sportswriters in 1959 didn't go negative very often.

Zimmerman said the Dodgers' hitting and fielding troubles seemed "designed to do nothing but discourage a host of willing fans." He might have been right about that--the second game's attendance dipped to 14,491, which in the Coliseum must have felt like just 491.

--Keith Thursby

Found on EBay -- Early Views of Los Angeles



1908 Postcard on EBay
This postcard, c. 1908, showing views of Los Angeles, including the courthouse, oil wells, the Plaza, and Echo Park, has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $6.

Matt Weinstock -- April 14, 1959



Clever, These Hollywooders


Matt_weinstockdNot long ago a producer, director and writer drove to Santa Barbara for a preview of their new movie. On the return trip, around 2 a.m., on a lonely stretch of Highway 101, they ran out of gas. It can be stipulated that it was a dark moment.

They started hiking and came to a motel, roused the landlady, and asked if they could use the phone. She was furious at being disturbed and said no, the phone was only for the use of tenants.

Could they rent a room and then, as tenants, use the phone? No, she said emphatically. They weren't going to get around her by any such sneaky procedure.

::


THEY WALKED BACK to the car and finally flagged down a passing motorist who drove them to a gas station. Along toward dawn they got home.
   
April 14, 1959, Datsun Now, when they're out around 2 a.m, usually at a party, they phone the motel and when the landlady answers sleepily they say "Sorry, wrong number" or even naughtier things.

One of them recently scored a climactic triumph. He phoned her from Washington, D.C., and claims that for a moment he had her convinced the White House was calling.
::

PAY NO attention to Bill Graydon, the ad man. He claims he took a wrong turn at the open house of IBM's new western headquarters on Wilshire Blvd. and came upon a technician working on the open back panel of a huge computer. Was it a maze of coils, wires, transistors, fuses and whatnot? Nope, just ants, millions of them, adding, subtracting and eating holes in the punch cards.

"It's tough on the ants," Bill says, "but I guess you can't stop progress."
::

FOR NON-VOTERS
He who will not speak will find he's spoken for
By spokesmen who may make decisions he'll deplore.
-William Baffa

::

DEATH OF Frank Lloyd Wright recalled to publicist Lee Pitt the time the iconoclastic architect came to Houston and met the press in the much ballyhooed Shamrock Hotel.

First question asked was, "Mr. Wright, I'd like to ask what you think of the design of this hotel?"

Wright glared at him and snapped, "Why?" and walked away. Shortest press conference Lee Pitt, then a reporter, ever covered.

::

April 14, 1959, Comics TRAVELERS WHO cross the international dateline in the Pacific are inducted, in a gag ceremony, into the Ancient and Honorable Order of Shellbacks.

 Well, the men who go under the polar regions in atomic submarines also have an organization -- the Ancient and Honorable Order of Blue Noses. Robert E.Waddell, electronics mechanic at Autonetics here, who was aboard the Skate when it was in the Arctic Circle for 35 days and under the ice for 12 days, reports their noses are painted blue, theirmouths and throats sprayed with blue liquid and they are required to eat a blue meal. Vegetable coloring, let us hope.

Furthermore, those who go under the pole become members of the Polecats in an even more gruesome ceremony.

::

April 14, 1959, Abby FROM GOV. Brown's Library Week proclamation: "We need to read in order to toughen and make resilient the intellectual vigor with which we face our problems; expand our mastery of the scientific revolution in which we live; enlarge our understanding of the other peoples of the world; renew our spiritual and cultural heritage; rededicate ourselves to the ideals of a free society." And to escape television.

::

AT RANDOM -- People who weren't afraid of lung cancer say they'll quit cigarettes if the 3-cent tax on them goes into effect ... Russ Morgan, just returned from a tour with his orchestra, reports a coffee shop in a small Texas town had an item on its breakfast menu, "Three-minute eggs at your own risk." He didn't order them ... The Dodgers were rained out at Vero Beach, snowed out in their opener. Next spring, Les Wagner thinks, maybe they should stay home. We need the rain.

Paul Coates -- Confidential File, April 14, 1959




CONFIDENTIAL FILE

Butch Harris Feels Better About Things


Paul_coates It would be nice if I could believe that all stories have happy endings.

That Sleeping Beauty always gets bussed by her handsome prince, or that Cinderella's post midnight dreams always wind up with her dainty foot encased in glass.

But I suffer from a chronic skepticism, only rarely relieved by the fairy-tale finale.

Somehow Scrooges "Bah humbug!" overpowers Tiny Tim's "God bless us, every one" when I'm tuned in.

Then a bunch of people suddenly get together and pour sugar all over my sour outlook on life.

So here I sit, on one of those rare occasions, with a sweet taste in my mouth.

Some months ago, I told you a story. I labeled it "A Story I'd Rather Not Print."

I told you about a 9-year-old youngster. A kid like almost every other kid.
   
April 14, 1959, Mirror 9 Star Handsome, in the way a healthy 9-year-old is handsome. Well-dressed, well-mannered and smart.

Get the idea? Just a kid. Except for one important detail.

Butch Harris is a Negro.

And because his skin is black, a group of mothers, parents of other 8, 9, and 10-year-olds at the 87th Street School, denied Butch the right to wear a Cub Scout uniform.

Butch, with the innocence of kids his age, had accepted an invitation from Cub Pack 289 addressed to ALL boys at the school to join the Cub group.

It never occurred to him that in some limited circles around town "ALL" is spelled "WHITE."

And it wasn't entirely innocence. He'd read a Scout pamphlet which said:

"It makes no difference whether he's a fat boy, a skinny bot, a tall boy or a short boy - no difference where his mom and dad were born, what their family bank account might be, or what church they attend.

"Nor does it make any difference what color skin a boy may have - Scouting's hand of fellowship is extended to him."
   
But when Butch reached out to grasp the hand, he got slapped.

April 14, 1959, Chavez Ravine Scout officials in Los Angeles took immediate action. Accept Butch or disband the pack, they ordered. Those adults who directed the pack's activities elected to take the latter course of action.

Yesterday, I got a letter from Butch's mother.

"I have been meaning to write to you," she said, "but I wanted to wait until I could give you some good news on our situation."

The good news was that some of California's citizens read about Butch and decided that a 9-year-old deserves a better opinion of the adults in this world than he'd been carrying around.

Lt. Gov. Glenn Anderson invited Butch to Sacramento as his personal guest. Assemblyman Charles Wilson was Butch's guide through the Assembly chamber. Butch even served as an official page in both the Assembly and Senate for part of the day he was in the state capital.

Sen. Richard Richards showed him around the upper house. Gov. Brown asked Butch to drop by his office for a private chat.

The overjoyed youngster capped the day with dinner at the lieutenant governor's home.

    The Way Things Should Be

"I know it was a trip he'll never forget," his mother wrote.

And I'm sure she's right.

But even more important, Butch is now a member of a newly formed Cub Scout pack.

The Kiwanis Club and the Boy Scout Council helped get it rolling.

"We have five boys in the pack," Mrs. Harris told me, "and we will continue to try and get other boys and parents interested. At any rate, the boys we have are very happy to be wearing the Cub Scout blue."

Which isn't strange. Blue's a nice color.

It goes well with red and white. 

In the Theaters -- April 14, 1942



April 14, 1942, In the Theaters

Edwin Schallert reports that Adolphe Menjou has been cast in the critical role of the innkeeper in "Casablanca." "Menjou's part is to be the most important of the character type and he will have much to do with motivating the plot," Schallert says.

Second Takes -- Billy Wilder


May 24, 1948, Billy Wilder, Emperor Waltz

Coming soon: "The Emperor Waltz," May 24, 1948.


Later appraisals of Billy Wilder's career dismiss "The Emperor Waltz" as a footnote, blaming bad chemistry between Wilder and Bing Crosby. Years before making "Waltz," Wilder said he wanted to do a musical to avoid being typecast. It was billed as a frothy romantic comedy and that's how Edwin Schallert described it in his review.

May 27, 1948, Billy Wilder, Emperor Waltz

May 27, 1948: " 'The Emperor Waltz' has the rather pleasing quality of seeming to kid itself along, and I can't imagine that either Mr. Brackett or Mr. Wilder ever took what they did too seriously."


Dec. 26, 1948, Realism in Films

Realism in Films, Dec. 26, 1948


Dec. 26, 1948, Realism in Films

Realism in Films, Dec. 26, 1948
Dec. 26, 1948: Philip K. Scheuer takes a look at the year's films, what we consider today the prime of film noir: "The Naked City," "Street With No Name," "He Walks by Night" and "Kiss the Blood Off My Hands." He dismisses "The Emperor Waltz" and "A Foreign Affair": "The impeccable Brackett taste had likewise evaporated from his (and Billy Wilder's) "The Emperor Waltz" (love me, love my dog) and "A Foreign Affair" (fun among the Nazis), despite certain scattered merits in each."

City Hall Protest Over Chavez Ravine Evictions, April 14, 1959


  April 14, 1959, City Hall Protest Over Evictions at Chavez Ravine

Chavez Ravine residents threatened with eviction survived another day in their homes.

The Times published a short story with a terrible lead on the planned evictions to allow construction of Dodger Stadium: "It was the last of the ninth inning for a lot of people in Chavez Ravine yesterday and the bases were loaded with police and sheriff's deputies waiting to put them out of their homes."

Except the 9 a.m. deadline came and went without any action by police. Guess the dispute went into extra innings. 

I've been consistently disappointed by how little I find in the old issues about Chavez Ravine's residents. There are plenty of stories about building Dodger Stadium and the political battles but very little about the people who were trying to stay.

This story did mention how the $10,050 given one resident for two lots was less than the property's value. The paper used more space to describe how one Chavez Ravine resident "hurled two placards" at Mayor Norris Poulson during a City Hall ceremony for the Dodgers.

There will be a lot more on this story in the coming weeks.

--Keith Thursby




SLA Pipe Bombs Revisited



Aug. 23, 1975, Bomb Planted Under LAPD Car

Aug. 23, 1975: Bombs are found under two LAPD cars.

Feb. 27, 1976, Kathleen Soliah Indicted in SLA Bomb Plot In the last 33 years, The Times has published varying accounts of the August 1975 incident in which the Symbionese Liberation Army planted pipe bombs under two LAPD cars -- a case that resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of Sara Jane Olson/Kathleen Soliah.

To settle the differences, the Daily Mirror turned to Sandi Gibbons of the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, who provided a transcript of testimony on the incident given to the grand jury in 1976. The following account is based on that testimony.

On the night of Aug. 21, 1975, Officers James J. Bryan and John David Hall were working the mid-watch patrol in Hollywood. About 11:15 p.m., the officers stopped to eat at the International House of Pancakes, 7006 Sunset Blvd. Bryan, who was driving that night, said they left about midnight and responded to a radio call.

As the police car was backing out of its parking space, it was seen by a group of friends pulling into the lot, according to Mervin William Morales. Morales testified that he and his friends parked in the spot next to the one vacated by the police and went into the restaurant. Morales said that when they left the restaurant 10 or 15 minutes later, they noticed what might have been a bomb in the vacant space where the police car had been parked. (To clear up one common misconception, the bombs were placed on the ground. Only a part of the trigger mechanism was attached to the police cars.)



View Larger Map

Morales said he ran about two blocks to contact officers he had seen earlier that evening, Paul McMillen and his partner, Larry Riviera. In the meantime, one of Morales' friends went into the restaurant to notify the manager.

Officer McMillen said he and his partner talked to Morales about 12:10 a.m. on Aug. 22, 1975, and arrived at the restaurant five or 10 minutes later.

"I saw what appeared to be the end of a pipe, a plumbing fixture, wrapped in some black plastic or a black covering," McMillen said. He went into the restaurant and made a telephone call to the watch commander to report what happened.

Officers responded to the restaurant, including Bryan and Hall, who were called to handle traffic control at Sunset and Highland as police blocked off Sunset Boulevard and several side streets and evacuated some areas.

About 1:30 a.m., Officer Lawrence L. Baggett arrived at the restaurant. Baggett, of the firearms and explosives unit of the LAPD Scientific Investigation Division, said he was met by a sergeant and investigators who told him about what might be a bomb in a parking space.

Baggett said: "I approached it; performed what we call an initial render-safe. And then called out the rest of my unit to assist me in the transportation of it."

In the meantime, Bryan and Hall had responded to a robbery call at Sunset and La Brea. Bryan said that officers had been informed about the bomb and he decided to look under their car.

"I saw a red U-shaped magnet attached to the frame of the car and attached to the magnet was a piece of fishing line," Bryan said. Shortly thereafter, Baggett went to Sunset and La Brea to examine Bryan and Hall's police car.

About 2 a.m., as part of a general inspection of LAPD vehicles ordered as a safety precaution after the restaurant incident, Officer Martin Joseph Feinmark and his partner, Officer Hohan, checked the black-and-white patrol cars at the Hollenbeck Division. After finding nothing under the marked cars, the officers checked three unmarked vehicles parked on St. Louis Street.

Feinmark said that he found a bomb in a trash bag placed beneath the oil pan of one of the unmarked cars. Baggett and an unidentified officer arrived and as Baggett watched, the other officer disarmed the second pipe bomb.


The Bombs

SLA Pipe Bomb  The only way to resolve some questions about the SLA pipe bombs was to re-create one (without the explosives, of course). It's an interesting process, one that I won't fully describe for obvious reasons.

Although the bomb wasn't as large as described in initial news reports (The Times said it was about 18 inches long) it was still sizable. The bomb was housed in a foot-long piece of 3-inch galvanized pipe. The volume of the cylinder is 85 cubic inches, a little more than a quart, dry measure. When fully assembled as described in the transcript, including battery, nails and sand in lieu of powder, the bomb weighs about 20 pounds.

These days, the SLA pipe bomb is not something that can be made after a quick trip to Home Depot or even the average plumbing supply store. Tracking down the components was a scavenger hunt and some of them were so hard to find they had to be ordered.

Without revealing all the components, I have to say I was struck by how few nails were used. News accounts say the bomb was "tightly packed" with nails, and although that statement is true, it's misleading. The bombers used about 120 small nails, according to the transcript, a fairly modest amount considering the capacity of the pipe. Clearly, most of the space was used for explosives.

SLA Pipe Bomb I was also curious about why the bombers used one particular component because it seems to be needlessly complicated, but I don't think I'll be asking them anytime soon.

We do know with some certainty what would have happened if the bomb had exploded. In 1976, according to the transcript, the LAPD reproduced the SLA pipe bomb and blew up an old patrol car with two mannequins inside at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. The blast was photographed and videotaped, according to police testimony.

Baggett said: "It ripped a big hole in the floor of the vehicle, a number of them. It sent fragmentation through the floor of the vehicle; through the seats and through the roof of the vehicle, all out through the hood of the vehicle. It caused extensive damage to the interior of the vehicle.

"The mannequins, the passenger mannequin was shoved practically up into the ceiling. The driver mannequin was also moved around; distorted."

Baggett said: "had the device been placed under, say, the passenger side of the vehicle, putting the passenger officer directly above it or in extremely close proximity to it, I would say the odds of him being extremely or gravely injured, if not killed outright, would be very good.



SLA Pipe Bomb
Photographs by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times

When filled with sand and attached to a battery, this re-created bomb weighs 20 pounds.



"And the driver, the other officer, would be sitting to his left; would also stand a very good chance of being severely injured if not killed."

In some of the most chilling testimony, Baggett was asked what would have happened if the bomb had gone off while he was disarming it. He said: "Had I been in the position of trying to render it safe, then -- that is, in direct proximity to it, I am sure I would have been seriously injured and I, just from the overall power and the amount of fragmentation and shrapnel, I honestly believe I probably would have been dead."

The big question, of course, is why the pipe bomb didn't explode. Its failure wasn't due to SLA incompetence. The answer is simple mechanical failure of one improvised component of the bomb. The trigger mechanism used two metal contacts placed in the jaws of a wooden clothespin. The contacts were held apart by a small wooden wedge connected by fishing line to a magnet attached to the police car. When Bryan and Hall pulled out of the parking space, the wedge was pulled out of the clothespin, but the jaws closed off-center instead of coming together squarely, so the contacts missed each other.

Footnote: According to Clinton Erickson, an LAPD retiree who tracks the deaths of former LAPD officers, Baggett died in 2006. 

Disney Plans 'Vacation Land,' April 14, 1959


April 14, 1959 Vacation Land
The planners at Disneyland apparently toyed with adding a "Vaction Land" adjacent to the park, according to The Times' Jeane Hoffman. "Walt has an entirely different concept of what a show for sportsmen should be," Disney official Jack Sayers said. "He visualizes it in a real-life, natural setting as though the tourist were on an actual camping trip in the High Sierra."

Hoffman said Disney officials were visiting boat shows and talking to manufacturers about possible displays. "There would be actual demonstrations of speedboats, trailers, station wagons as well as the usual flyfishing, etc.," Sayers said.

Nothing was mentioned in the story about singing bears--perhaps they were envisioned for Phase 2.

--Keith Thursby

Nuestro Pueblo, April 14, 1939



April 14, 1939, Nuestro Pueblo

Voices -- Mark Fidrych, 1954 - 2009



1976_0630_fidrych
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