The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: June 14, 2009 - June 20, 2009

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A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept: Your Transportation

June 19, 1956, Pontiac

June 16, 1956: Pontiacs retain their value when you trade them in after a year or two.

Movie Mystery Photo


June 15, 2009, Mystery Photo
Los Angeles Times file photo

A solid majority wants to know the name of our mystery woman. She is Toni Gerry. Above, a 1958 publicity photo from "Broken Arrow."

Just a reminder on how this works: I post the mystery photo on Monday and reveal the answer on Friday ... or on Saturday if I have a hard time picking only five pictures -- sometimes it's difficult to choose. To keep the mystery photo from getting lost in the other entries, I move it from Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday, etc., adding a photo every day.

I have to approve all comments, so if your guess is posted immediately, that means you're wrong. (And if a wrong guess has already been submitted by someone else, there's no point in submitting it again.) If you're right, you will have to wait until Friday. There's no need to submit your guess five times. Once is enough. The only prize is bragging rights. 

The answer to last week's mystery star: Ana Bertha Lepe!

June 16, 1959, Mystery Photo
Los Angeles Times file photo

Update: Gerry in a publicity photo for "Boots Malone" with William Holden.

Here's another picture of our mystery guest!

June 17, 2009, Mystery Photo
Los Angeles Times file photo

Update: Gerry in a 1956 publicity photo for "Day of Triumph."

Here's another photo of our mystery woman. Please congratulate Lee Ann Bailey for correctly identifying her!

June 18, 2009, Mystery Photo
Los Angeles Times file photo

Update: Dorothy Ames, Gerry and Liberace in 1955. Gerry is wearing $1 million worth of jewelry as a publicity stunt for the premiere of the famous 1950s  TV show "The Millionaire." Here's to John Beresford Tipton!

Here's our mystery guest with some mystery companions.

June 19, 2009, Mystery Photo
Los Angeles Times file photo

Update: Gerry in a 1956 episode of George Sanders Mystery Theatre titled "The Call."


Memory Play

One-Woman Drama Tells of Love, the Holocaust and Survival in Biographical 'Hanna Speaks'

May 6, 1988

By MIKE WYMA, Mike Wyma is a frequent contributor to Valley View.

Toni Gerry; Veteran Actress Appeared in 150 TV Shows

August 1, 1991

Toni Gerry, an actress who once said "my credits read like a TV Guide for the 1950s," has died after a long struggle with bone cancer.

Her husband, Hal Stiller, said this week that Miss Gerry was 65 when she died July 25 in a Los Angeles hospital.

Born in Utah where she became stage-struck after playing "Snow White" in a high school play, she began her professional career when agent Paul Kohner discovered her in 1949 at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Her first credits came in the infancy of TV in such landmark series as "Hallmark Hall of Fame" and "Lux Video Theatre." In all she played leads or supporting parts in more than 150 shows, among them "The Millionaire," "The Loretta Young Show," "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars," "Wanted Dead or Alive," "National Velvet," "Mr. and Mrs. North," "Sea Hunt" and more.

Her dozen feature films include "Lust for Life" (as Johanna), "Boots Malone" and "Bullet for Joey."

Most recently she had been on stage locally in "Hanna Speaks," a one-woman show she also wrote based on the true story of two Jewish lovers separated by World War II.

Besides her husband, she is survived by her daughter, Lisa, and a sister.

When it comes to stories of love and heartbreak--and, miraculously, love once more--it's hard to match Hanna Kohner's. "I have been very lucky," she marvels. And yet, few people have endured so much misfortune.

Her story--separated from her first love by the rumblings of World War II, widowed from the second by the Holocaust, and nearly dying herself, only to be reunited with her first love--is told in "Hanna Speaks," a play running Sunday afternoons through May 29 at the Chamber Theatre in Studio City.

It is a one-woman show starring actress Toni Gerry, who also wrote the script. The director is Mike Road, who said the play's structure is unusual yet simple.

Gerry talks to the audience, Road explained, "but it's not an audience she's talking to, it's relatives and friends. Someone says, 'What happened to you in Europe 40 or 50 years ago?' so she tells them."

Hanna Bloch was 15 and Walter Kohner 20 when they met while ice skating in their native Czechoslovakia. The year was 1935, and the two gradually fell in love. By 1938 they were engaged, but as Jews they saw trouble ahead. Anti-Semitism was spreading throughout Europe.

Tried to Follow

Walter had a brother in the United States who would sponsor his immigration, and he left to start a new life. Hanna tried to follow, but she was stopped by Hitler's invasion of her homeland and, later, his invasion of Holland, where she had fled.

Separated from her family, sinking into poverty, Hanna kept up a correspondence with Walter. But by 1942, their letters grew less frequent. Occupied Amsterdam was rife with talk of deportation of Jews to concentration camps. In this climate of desperation Hanna fell in love with Carl Benjamin, a young German Jew, and married him.

They were together two years, much of it in detention camps, before being sent separately to Auschwitz, where Benjamin was killed. Hanna survived, in part because friends performed an abortion on her. They knew that as part of the "final solution," the Nazis gave the extermination of pregnant Jews a high priority.

Walter, meanwhile, was a U.S. soldier stationed in Luxembourg. He still yearned for Hanna and, through a combination of persistence and luck, found her in 1945. They married, moved to Los Angeles and had a daughter. Today the couple lives in Bel-Air. Hanna is 68, Walter is 73. They attended a recent performance of "Hanna Speaks."

Feelings Return

Hanna said that watching the play brought back all the feelings of the war years.

"The time that's passed doesn't make any difference," she said. "It's always been my life and it always will be. I remember it very well."

Director Road said the play differs from other one-person shows, such as Hal Holbrook's portrayal of Mark Twain, James Whitmore's Harry Truman or Henry Fonda's Clarence Darrow.

"This is a narrative," Road said. "This is a memory piece. To take something that's memory and present it as drama is a very different kind of form."

Both Road and Gerry acted on television in the 1950s and early '60s. After appearing in "77 Sunset Strip," "The Roaring '20s," and other shows, Road branched into voice-over work in cartoons and commercials.

"I was directing all the time in theater," he said, adding that the stage is his first love.

Gerry, who said her credits "read like a TV Guide for the '50s," appeared in "Schlitz Playhouse of Stars," "Wanted Dead or Alive," "Perry Mason" and others.

"When my daughter was born in 1962, I decided to become a full-time mother," Gerry said. "Then when she was old enough, I wanted to act again. But at my age good parts are hard to come by. I was looking for a project, and I thought of Hanna's story."

The common thread in the lives of Toni Gerry and Hanna Kohner was Hanna's brother-in-law, Paul Kohner, one of Hollywood's most successful agents. Over the years his Kohner Agency represented Ingmar Bergman, Max Von Sydow, Charles Bronson, Debra Winger, Liv Ullmann and others.

Paul Kohner came to Los Angeles from Czechoslovakia in 1921 to work for Carl Laemmle, then president of Universal Pictures. The two had met at a Czech health spa, where Laemmle was a guest and Kohner a cub reporter for a Czech entertainment newspaper.

Kohner provided the sponsorship affidavit needed by his brother Walter in 1938 to immigrate to the United States. He also was Gerry's first agent, signing her after seeing her perform at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1949. Paul Kohner died this year at 85.

'Hanna and Walter'

A third Kohner brother, Frederick, author of the books that led to the "Gidget" movies, also figures in the story. Before his death in 1986, Frederick helped Hanna and Walter write an account of their turbulent war years. It was that book, "Hanna and Walter," published by 1984 and translated into a half-dozen European languages, that Gerry thought of when she needed an acting project.

"I adapted it to the stage," she said. "A lot of it is sections of Hanna talking that I took straight from the book."

"Hanna Speaks" runs 53 minutes, not including the intermission. A production of the Meridian Theatre and Academy, the play opened in the 37-seat Chamber Theatre on April 3. Audience response, said Gerry, has been emotionally charged.

"We emphasize the love story, but it's still a Holocaust story. Some of it--like when Hanna is sitting alone in an attic in Holland, wearing the sealskin coat her mother gave her and wondering how all this separation came to pass--it's really quite powerful."

Labor Camps

Hanna said that in addition to her first husband, family members killed at Auschwitz included her mother, father and several aunts and uncles. Hanna spent only one month in the infamous death camp but was imprisoned at other sites, called transit or labor camps, for much of the war.

She said she might have avoided the ordeal if she and Walter had married in 1938, when he had the papers necessary to leave Czechoslovakia and she did not.

"We talked about it, of course, but for him to go to America with a new wife and no job and not a penny to his name, it seemed too much. At that time he was an actor. What prospects does an actor have? We thought I could get out later. We all were blind to a certain extent. By the time we realized it, it was too late."

Jews desperate to leave Europe before and during World War II faced two obstacles--immigration quotas imposed by nations such as the United States, and the frequent refusal of German occupying forces to grant exit permits. There was a randomness, a "craziness," said Hanna, to the fate of people like herself.

A stroke forced Walter Kohner to retire last year from his job as an agent at his brother's business. Although the stroke did not impair him physically, it affected his ability to put thoughts into words. He said he does speech therapy exercises daily and is improving.

While the play is about Hanna, and much of the suffering was hers, Walter is responsible for the storybook ending. Although Hanna had given up any thought that they would be together, Walter had not. When he found her in Amsterdam in April, 1945, after the Germans had withdrawn, seven years had passed.

Asked why he hadn't married someone else in the meantime, Walter shrugged.

"I dated other girls," he said, "but it just wasn't the same."

Body of Missing Executive Found; Nolan Ryan's Close Call With History


June 18, 1959, Peanuts

June 18, 1959, the introduction of Charlie Brown's sister Sally begins a story line  about the the births of children that quickly turns dark.

June 19, 1979, Peanuts

June 19, 1979: In 20 years, "Peanuts" has become a sitcom, mildly amusing in a nonthreatening way.

June 19, 1979, Metro

June 19, 1979: The body of Victor J. Weiss is found in the trunk of his Rolls-Royce in a North Hollywood parking structure. Note the bylines: Bob Rawitch, Bill Boyarsky, Steve Harvey, Tom Paegel, Kris Lindgren, Paul Jacobs, Bruce Keppel ...  and Kevin Roderick!

Notice that we referred to Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke as "Mrs. Burke" on second reference and in headlines. Wow.

June 19, 1979, Sports Nolan Ryan flirted with history again.

He came within five outs of pitching his fifth career no-hitter, which would have broken his tie with the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax for the most in a career. Oscar Gamble singled with one out in the eighth inning to break up the gem. Ryan settled for a two-hitter and a 5-0 victory over Texas at Anaheim Stadium.

It was not Ryan's first close call trying for his fifth no-hitter. He was 9-3, with two two-hitters and another two three-hitters.

"Any time to get that close to it you think about it," he told The Times' Mark Heisler. "I'd be lying to you if I told you that wasn't true."

Ryan's catcher, Tom Donohue, called the game his greatest thrill in baseball, which made him quite a bit more excited than Ryan. "He's been through it," Donohue said. "I never caught a no-hitter."

--Keith Thursby

LAPD Detective Killed in Raid

June 19, 1921, LAPD Detective Dies in Raid

The Times, June 19, 1921: Detective John Fitzgerald is shot in the stomach at 2392 W. 30th St., where police had returned for evidence after arresting six men on burglary charges.

Despite his wounds (the bullet went through him and out his back), Fitzgerald chased the killer, shooting until he collapsed. Fitzgerald, 39, left a wife and two children.
June 19, 1921, LAPD Detective Dies in Raid  

Nuestro Pueblo: Benedict Canyon

June 19, 1939, Nuestro Pueblo  

5 Die of Diphtheria on Eastside

June 19, 1889, Diptheria

June 19, 1889: Isaac Hall, a "cheeky Negro" is arrested.

Found on EBay -- Bullock's Wilshire

Bullock's Wilshire Dress EBay  
This period piece from Bullock's Wilshire has been listed on EBay. The Buy It Now price is $49.95.

Matt Weinstock, June 18, 1959

June 18, 1959, Peanuts

Yet another panel that will never been seen in the legacy version of "Peanuts." It doesn't go well on greeting cards and coffee mugs.

New Togetherness

Matt Weinstock Maurice Ogden of Garden Grove has a fearful short story titled "Freeway to Wherever" in the Southwest Review, depicting the tension and apprehension that strikes a family trapped in the flow of traffic on an unfamiliar freeway. It is painfully true to life.

Yet there was the thing that happened a few days ago on Santa Ana Freeway. Two trucks collided on the outbound lane during the eventing rush hour and traffic was stopped bumper to bumper for almost an hour.

Jerry Smith, executive of the Montebello YMCA, describes the scene: "Instead of popping their stoppers, people dismounted and chatted amiably with neighbors. Some found books and magazines in their cars and read. Considerate drivers on the inbound lanes slowed to give us progress reports on what was happening ahead. Those with radios turned the ball game up loud and repeated information from helicopter reports. There was the feeling that we were all trapped together and there was no use fighting it. Somehow I felt restored."


June 18, 1959, Church THE LANGUAGE of smog becomes increasingly complicated. For a while all we had to worry about were unsaturated hydrocarbons. Now it's the elusive olefin that worries the smog chasers. And what is an olefin? As near as can be determined, it's an unsaturated hydrocarbon.

Tune in next week for another chapter in the smog drama -- a real tear jerker.



The fashion's trend toward pointed shoes
May cause most girls to sing the blues,
I've found at last my tootsies' treat
For I was born with pointed feet.



APPARENTLY it's true that once an ad writer, always an ad writer. While reading a magazine, Dick Irving Hyland, L.A. public relations executive, came upon a Hathaway shirt ad, the one showing a snobbish looking fellow wearing a black eye patch, and the old fever gripped him.

He outlined this idea: An Indian pointing to a row of Madison Avenue types, all wearing eye patches, saying, "They went Hathaway." He sent it off with a note stating he didn't expect payment but his shirt size happened to be 17, his sleeve length 34.

In a few days he received a letter stating they loved his idea but the present campaign was so successful they wouldn't dream of changing it. In an enclosure, in appreciation, was a black eye patch.


NO QUESTION about it, the Mafia is a bad bunch. But there's one thing to keep in mind whenever the subject is warmed over. Writer Courtney Riley Cooper said it, J. Edgar Hoover said it and the other day Acting Dist. Atty, Manley Bowler said it: "Organized crime cannot exist without corrupt public officials."

Bowler added, "We are aware of the presence in our community of certain individuals who have been closely associated with organized crime in other parts of the nation. We have no evidence these individuals are presently engaged in criminal activities in this county."

ONLY IN L.A. -- U.S. Atty. Laughlin Waters will wear a Roosevelt ribbon at the clambake honoring Paul Ziffren to make sure he is not mistaken for a Democrat. Theodore Roosevelt ... Fascinating non sequitur overheard by R. Smith at the Rainbow bar: "So her old man gets sprung from Quentin and she dyes her hair."


AT RANDOM -- A man I know is pretty sure he has figured out what happened to the $113,000 missing from an armored bank truck. But he isn't telling. He hopes to sell the idea to Alfred Hitchcock ... LeeShippey's autobiography, "Luckiest Man Alive," will soon be off the presses. Lee, 76, retired after 50 years of column writing, now lives in Del Mar ... An egg ranch in Van Nuys, Gerald M. Bronson reports, has two signs in the driveway -- "Entrance" and "Eggsit."

Police Commissioner Quits in Battle With Police Chief!

June 18, 1959, Resignation Letter

June 18, 1959, Mirror Cover, Police Commissioner Quits
June 18, 1959: Ethel Barrymore dies.

June 18, 1959, Police Commissioner Resigns

The only African American member of the Police Commission resigns, accusing Chief William H. Parker of leading a department that "whitewashes policemen accused of brutality, and practices discrimination in arrests."

Greenwood further charges that instead of reporting to the Police Commission, Parker controls the oversight board and ignores their orders. "We don't tell him. He tells us," Greenwood says.

"The policy is that if it's a case of a citizen against an officer, the officer is always believed," Greenwood says.

Parker replies: "Los Angeles has the highest reputation in the country for lack of discrimination."

Six years later, Watts will explode in flames -- and white Los Angeles will wonder why.

Stealing Home -- Against the Angels

June 18, 1969, Sports The Angels were fuming because Rod Carew was too quick.

Carew, in only his third season with the Twins, stole home for the sixth time in the season during the first inning of an 8-2 victory over the Angels.

"Minnesota better get some insurance with that showboat in there," Angels Manager Lefty Phillips said. "Carew was successful but stunts like that might cost this club the pennant."

Phillips apparently was mad because Carew stole on his young pitcher, Tom Murphy, and did so with the Twins' top run producer, Harmon Killebrew at the plate.

What made this a war of words was the man sitting in the Twins' dugout, Billy Martin.

"Mr. Phillips seems to forget the last time the Angels were here Carew stole home on Hoyt Wilhelm," Martin told The Times' Ross Newhan. "You don't get any older than Wilhelm. You do and they bury you

"Apparently, they didn't do that sort of thing when Mr. Phillips was playing his five games in the Arizona-Texas League."


Carew was philosophical: "I'm not going to pop off but I am going to work extra hard against the Angels. Anytime I get a chance to beat the Angels, I'm going to do it."

Carew became an Angel in 1979 and played there through the 1985 season.

--Keith Thursby

Governor Urged to Revive Crime Commission; A Dodger Retires

June 18, 1959, Hey Come Back Here

"Hey! Come Back Here!"

June 18, 1959, Crime Report

County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn calls on Gov. Pat Brown to reactivate the state crime commission after reports of organized crime in California, while Mickey Cohen calls the whole matter a joke.

"It's ridiculous. These false statements that I have killed a whole lot of people is bad. I have to go to trial again in federal court Friday. How can I get a fair, unbiased trial when such reports are prejudicing the public against me?" Cohen says.
June 18, 1959, Editorial Cartoon

A typical Times editorial cartoon of the 1950s, before the advent of Paul Conrad.

June 18, 1959, Crime Report

Cohen also disputes allegations that Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno is a Mafia executioner. "He doesn't have the ability nor is he the type of person to carry out what the committee says he did," Cohen says. 

June 18, 1959, Woman Has 27th Baby!

Mrs. Heliodor Cyr shows off her 27th child.

June 18, 1959, Fraternity Prank

June 18, 1959, China Editorial

I rarely run The Times' old editorials because they are embarrassing (The U.S. doesn't need a federal anti-lynching law ... We shouldn't accept Jewish refugees, etc.). This one is especially noteworthy: Diplomatic recognition of Red China would be morally wrong.  

At left,a little fraternity prank at San Diego State involving George Roach.

 June 18, 1959, Liberace Wins Libel Suit
Liberace wins his libel suit against the London Daily Mirror.
June 18, 1959, Moon Shots

Right now, the U.S. is putting mice in space, but in 10 years, we may send men to the moon -- maybe.
June 18, 1959, Capone
Rod Steiger in "Al Capone."

June 18, 1959, SOS Pads

Hey Jalopniks! Check it out!

June 18, 1959, Brew 102 June 18, 1959, Commercials

Brew 102 is made with the finest ingredients but only costs $1.09 per six-pack. That's $7.96 is 2008 dollars.

Above, a TV show consisting entirely of commercials. Obviously KTTV Channel 11 was ahead of its time.


June 17, 1959, Erskine One of the Boys of Summer retired and The Times reacted as if the paper published in Brooklyn.

Pitcher Carl Erskine called it a career after 122 victories. He started with the Dodgers in 1948 and his best season was 1953 when he went 20-6. But Los Angeles sportswriters clearly would miss his character more than his arm.

Sports editor Paul Zimmerman credited Erskine for his "work with youth, his Sunday school teaching, his exemplary conduct on and off the field."

Frank Finch said he was "the finest gentleman it has been our good fortune to meet in 30 years of sports writing. To say that Oisk is a credit to the game is damning him with faint praise. He is more than that; he is a credit to the human race."

That might say a lot about Erskine or something about the other people Finch ran into all those years.

The Times--OK, Finch--seemed to get rather nostalgic about an end of an era.

"First it was Preacher Roe who hung up his glove, then Billy Cox, then Jackie Robinson, then Roy Campanella, then Pee Wee Reese and now Carl Erskine has called it quits. Who's next?" Finch wrote.

No doubt, the Brooklyn Dodgers had a great run but only the final two players listed spent any time in Los Angeles. And wasn't the Dodgers' first season disappointing in large part because many of the old regulars were still around?


The Dodgers swept the Braves, 10-2 and 4-0, to move closer to the top of the National League standings. Sandy Koufax and Danny McDevitt, described as the Dodgers' "youngish southpaws," pitched back-to-back gems. And Jim Gilliam started the first game with a home run over the short screen in left field against Milwaukee's ace Warren Spahn.

--Keith Thursby

Cannibalism on the Frontier

June 18, 1899, Colorado's Cannibal

The Colorado Supreme Court weighs the case of Alfred Packer in the deaths of five men ...

June 18, 1899, Colorado Cannibals  
... Packer admitted killing one man but said it was in self-defense. He also admits eating their bodies.


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