The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: June 28, 2009 - July 4, 2009

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City's Mortality Rate

  July 3, 1889, Births and Deaths

July 3, 1889: Health Officer MacGowan says 63 people died in June. The leading cause was consumption.  

Found on EBay -- Shriners Convention

Shrine Convention License Plate
I'm always interested in items from the 1907 Shriners convention (right) in Los Angeles. Here's an interesting companion: A commemorative license plate from the 1959 convention. Bidding starts at $5

Matt Weinstock, July 2, 1959

Gambler's Aide

Matt Weinstock Crapshooters Local 352 and the Amalgamated Order of Blackjack Players held a joint meeting at the Statler Hilton the other day and got the word on a devastating intruder, a buzzing, three-ton robot named Univac 120.

Unie's sponsors, Remington Rand and the Hotel Showboat Casino in Las Vegas, were showing him off for the press. Unie came off looking like a million dollars, in terms of publicity. A similar computer has been installed in the Showboat and made available free to patrons who wish advice on all sorts of gambling matters,particularly when to quit.

As a demonstration the Showboat people had a blackjack dealer deal three hands to a pretty girl identified only -- you guessed it -- as Miss Univac. With the machine's advice she won all three.

July 2, 1959, George Reeves Funeral ONE TIME her two cards totaled 12 and the dealer had a 3 showing. She asked Unie what she should do. A card was inserted into his insatiable mouth and, after chawing it around, Unie said to draw. She did and got an ace. Again she asked what to do. Unie said stand. The dealer turned over his hole card and disclosed h had 12. He drew and broke.

Another time she had 15 and the dealer had a 4 showing. Unie said stand. The dealer's hole card was a 9, giving him 13. He drew and broke again. Of course, it was his deck of cards.

An interlocutor confided that in questions about craps Unie had stated that the house odds varied from 1.39% to 13% against the player. Also that the odds against rolling 12 straight passes with the dice were 4,096 to 1.

It may seem like a suicidal gesture for a casino to furnish information which could help customers beat the house but let us not lose sleep over it. In addition to the house percentage going against the player, there's his predilection for making foolish bets.

I predict Univac 120 will have no effect whatsoever on the irrepressible hunches, impulses, and and dreams of gamblers.


BIG ATTRACTION at the aforementioned clambake was a $500 prize -- 5 crisp $100 bills -- for some lucky person to be tapped by Unie. More than 200 punched cards containing the names of newspapermen were fed into the machine and, after an ominous rumble, it selected this paper's Carter Barber. All agreed that as long as they hadn't won it couldn't have happened to a nicer fellow.

Amid his jubilation, Carter decided to call his wife, only to discover all he had were 3 tokens and 2 pennies. Inasmuch as no one could change a century note, he borrowed 15 cents to tell her the good news.


IT IS A shattering thought that countless gems of information are given to the world only by the sheerest accidents of fate.

For instance, if the city desk gentlemen hadn't [illegible] into my pigenonhole a three-page, single-space press release, thousands would never know about Irene Wasserkort, 20, blond, blue-eyed, 5-5 1/2, 110, born in Frankfurt Germany.

"Fitting it is," the press release states, "that a real Frankfurter should come to the great meat packing center of Chicago to be crowned National Hot Dog Month Queen of 1959."

No mustard, please, just a grain of salt.


A shark! A shark!
the bathers cried, --
When all they'd really seen,
Was a simple little
old shadow
Of a Russian submarine.


July 2, 1959, Abby A SHABBY stranger accosted Mike Molony on Hill St. and said, "Chum, can you bounce me a cuter, I got a bad case of jug fever." Mike, a connoisseur of language enrichment, was charmed. But from experience he had learned never to settle for the first asking price, so he didn't bounce the cuter or quarter, he sponsored the fellow 15 cents worth.


BREAKDOWN OF the state's auto accidents in 1958 shows that at least one person was killed every day in the year and there was only one day, Feb. 28, when only one person was killed. Highest fatality score occurred twice, on Oct. 19 and Dec. 13-24 killed each day. So be careful.

Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, July 2, 1959

July 2, 1959, Peanuts

July 2, 1959: Another panel that will never appear in the legacy version of "Peanuts."

Confidential File

One New Chapter in Adventures of John

Paul Coates(From the files of The Mirror News)

May 15, 1959 -- A man of 27 who, though sane, spent 12 years in Pennsylvania mental institutions, is getting his first taste of freedom without fear.

John Lee Winwood, who hitchhiked to Los Angeles after making good his 30th escape attempt from the institutions, was released from General Hospital here as mentally competent.

Pennsylvania authorities, informed of his release after brief observation, stated that they had no intention of sending police after the fugitive, adding that he had been kept in mental hospitals there since the age of 15 because "of his instability and because he had no one to make plans for him."

Seven weeks ago tomorrow, Johnny Lee Winwood's new life began.

It started with interviews by reporters. I was one of them.

At 27 he was still more of a boy than a man, and I think there were a lot of us who wondered how he could make it -- what would happen to him.

July 2, 1959, Cover What did happen, right away, was that a family in La Crescenta took a special interest in his story. They said that, with their own kids grown up and married and moved away, they had plenty of room for Johnny in their house. They'd be glad to help him get on his feet.

That's where Johnny went. And, when I talked to him the day after he'd moved in, he already was calling the couple who befriended him "Mom" and "Pop."

Yesterday I found out what happened after that.

Immediately Johnny began catching up on the 12 lost years of his life. He wanted to do everything -- all at once, if possible.

He went horseback riding and roller skating. With help from his adopted parents, he practiced reading and writing -- luxuries denied him in his gruesome childhood. He worked, did odd jobs all over the neighborhood.

And every penny he earned he tried to spend as fast as he could.

July 2, 1959, Democratic National Convention He bought crepe paper and made bouquets of flowers, just like he used to do in the institutions. He'd take them to stores in the community and sell them.

Sometimes he would. Sometimes he'd just give them away. If he saw an old lady in a wheelchair, he'd go up to her and hand her a bouquet.

There was a waitress in a restaurant who was very nice to Johnny. He made her a cross and a bouquet.

At first Johnny was nervous -- very nervous. Once a police patrol car drove by the house when he was up on the roof fixing the television antenna. He ran inside, trembling.

"I thought they were coming after me," he said.

Gradually the nervousness left. It was replaced by a restlessness.

He wanted a full-time job. But his new mother (Johnny was orphaned as an infant) suggested it would be better to wait a little while, until he picked up some more education at night school.

Then, last week, there were a couple of phone calls from Pennsylvania. They seemed to scare Johnny a lot. He didn't talk much about them. He just said they were from relatives.

Two days later, he asked the question: Mom, would it hurt your feelings if I leave?"

She said no.

He said, "You've done an awful lot for me."

She said, "I haven't even started yet, John."

Hour of Dread Decision

He said, "Do I owe you anything?"

She said, "No, of course not."

And he left. His scissors and crepe paper are still in a box in his room.

The last thing he asked his adopted mom was: "If I get in trouble, can I come back?"

And the last thing she told him was: "No, John. If you feel you're ready to leave, then you're ready to take care of yourself."

A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept: Your Entertainment

  July 2, 1911, Theater

July 2, 1911: Ethel Barrymore at the Mason Opera House ... and look! It's Marjorie Rambeau!

Legislature Fails to Pass Budget; Mota Leads Dodgers

July 2, 1969, Cover

July 2, 1969: The Sacramento debating society recesses without passing a budget. Why is crime down? Police credit the Neighborhood Watch program.

Manny Mota, Feb. 13, 1992
Photograph by Steve Dykes / Los Angeles Times

Feb. 13, 1992: Dodgers batting instructor Matty Mota, left, and his son Jose discuss the finer points of hitting in a workout at Dodger Stadium.

July 2, 1969, Sports Manny Mota was the new kid on the block then, trying to stay in the lineup no matter how he felt.

It's hard to picture Mota as the Dodgers' new guy since this season marks his 30th as a Dodger coach, according to

Mota, who played for the Dodgers until 1980 with one at-bat in 1982, was acquired in the same trade with Montreal that brought Maury Wills back to Los Angeles.

Mota was still in the outfield then, not the premier pinch-hitter he would eventually become for the Dodgers. Despite playing with a painful elbow, Mota hit an inside-the-park home run that was a key blow in a 4-1 victory over the Astros.

"The man is remarkable," Wills told The Times' John Wiebusch. "In all those years in Pittsburgh, when he hit so well but played so little, he never said a word. ... It's too bad he couldn't have gotten here five years ago. He'd be an idol here now."

Mota, a career .305 hitter, finished with a .323 average for the Dodgers in 1969.

--Keith Thursby

Summer Wardrobe

July 2, 1899, Truss

July 2, 1899: It's too hot in the summertime to wear a heavy truss.


A Parade and Fireworks for the Fourth of July

  July 2, 1889, Plans for the Fourth of July

July 2, 1889: Los Angeles plans its Fourth of July parade. Grand display of fireworks at 8 o'clock!

Found on EBay -- 'Last Supper' Tattoo

Last Supper Tattoo

This postcard, showing an amazing tattoo of "The Last Supper" has been listed on EBay. According to the vendor, the woman used the stage name of Artoria and was the wife of tattoo artist C.W. "Red" Gibbons. The postcard reads "L.A. Cal.," but there's nothing about either of them in The Times.

Here's an item about the city's tattoo shops from 1943.

Bidding starts at $9.95.

Matt Weinstock, July 1, 1959

Bookie Review

Matt Weinstock A self-proclaimed expert on sin who goes by the name of Front End Freddie advises this corner that he is agog and aghast at recent disclosures about bookmaking. He refers to a report by Asst. Dist. Atty. Manley Bowler stating that of the 1,614 persons convicted of bookmaking in L.A. County in 1958 none went to San Quentin, although the crime can be a felony as well as a misdemeanor. Most were fined, the others did time in County Jail.

As a result, the grand jury plans to review the entire bookmaking panorama, perhaps with a view to recommending the felony aspect of taking bets we knocked out. After all, if judges are reluctant to send bookies to San Q., what's the point?

And so, Front End Freddie thinks this is an appropriate time to recall how bookmaking became a felony in the first place.

IT HAPPENED, he remembers, in the teens. Anti-sin groups, then politically powerful, managed to get horse racing outlawed on the grounds that it was virtually in the same category with murder, arson, armed robbery and grunion hunting out of season.

At this strategic moment, the buck grabbers, Americans who operated horse racing and gambling in Tijuana, saw a golden opportunity to sluice the loose money south of the border. The way Front End Freddie tells it, they procured the services of an accomplished team of lobbyists, who somehow prevailed upon the legislators in Sacramento to make the horrible crime of bookmaking a felony, punishable by confinement in San Q.

July 1, 1959, Abby Many people forget that it was not until 1935 that horse racing was again legalized by a vote of the people. Now, all these years later, the lawmen seem about to wipe out the hypocritical felony phase of bookmaking inasmuch as the courts disregard it anyway.

It's refreshing to see a little sanity shine through the obfuscation, a pretty good word for Wednesday.


TODAY IS the day the state starts taking 3 cents more our of each pack of cigarettes. There has been considerable growling among fag fiends as they loaded up with cartons before the deadline but the biggest snarl has come from patrons of the vending machines, which now silently demand 30 cents instead of 25. Defending the nickel raise, the vending machine people point out that converting them is expensive.

A final word on the subject comes from Mrs. E.F. Reed:

"If the cigarette vending machine owners can't make money at 30 cents a pack perhaps a machine can be devised where you put in a pack of smokes and get 30 cents."


THE SHARK SCARE is really something. James K. Hyde of Manhattan Beach says, "I know it's hard to believe but I see several beady-eyed sharks peering at me from my TV set every night, begging me in oily voices to let them pay all my debts. All they want is permission to fit a mortgage on my house that will last 30 years and will hardly be noticed except on pay days. Who can tell, maybe they have wrist watches in their stomachs, too."


MEANWHILE, back at the forecastle, it's Al Diaz's theory that the sharks are only getting even with the fishermen who keep swiping their food.


While you're out driving
Just keep in mind,
You're the dope that's ahead
To the driver behind.


AT RANDOM -- A man on Main St. patrol has encountered the word "stirk" several times lately and has run it down. When a guy's a little stirk he's kind of stir crazy. . . Harry Cimring overheard his 7-year-old ask his 12-year-old if she believed in Santa Claus. "No!" was the reply. Then she added, for insurance, "Not this time of year.". . . Dan Ingram nominates as the bravest man in town a fellow, mentioned here, who leads or rides a horse through the poorly lighted Sepulveda tunnel under the International airstrip. He heads south in the morning, north in the evening.

Voices -- Karl Malden, 1912 - 2009

Expressly, Karl Malden

His pet project, the film academy's Center for Motion Picture Study in Beverly Hills, opens Wednesday

January 20, 1991

By JUDITH MICHAELSON, Judith Michaelson is a Times staff writer.

At 76, his face is unlined, his cheeks are rosy and the familiar "don't leave home without it" voice booms off the walls of a conference room. He still lifts weights, though they're not nearly as heavy as in the years when he was in high school in Gary, Ind., or working--and playing basketball for the tournament team--at the local steel mill.

Now Karl Malden is into a second term as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences--a year that promises to be the busiest (and most expensive) in the Academy's 63-year history. It's just another notch on a career that counts more than 50 feature films, a dozen TV movies, a five-year series playing Lt. Mike Stone on "The Streets of San Francisco"--and all those TV commercials.

On Wednesday, the academy's Center for Motion Picture Study opens at its new home, the historic Waterworks Building in Beverly Hills. The nearly $6-million center will include the Margaret Herrick Library and Academy Film Archive and will be, according to the academy, the world's premier film research center. Its statistics are staggering: 5 million still photographs; clipping files on 60,000 films and 50,000 people; 18,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals; 5,000 scripts and over 12,000 films.

Meanwhile, Malden is helping to raise a $15-million endowment fund for the center over three years. With the first year completed, $6.8 million has been raised.

Last month the academy also reopened its refurbished movie theaters, and Malden jokes: "Isn't that the way to go down in the history of the academy? Karl Malden spent all the academy's money? I've been saying that since I took the presidency."

Also last month, Malden went into production on "Absolute Strangers," which will air on CBS this spring. Malden plays the father of Nancy Klein, the Long Island woman who underwent an abortion in February, 1989, to help her chances of recovery from a coma after an automobile accident. Klein's husband Martin, an accountant, fought abortion opponents all the way to the Supreme Court in order to have the operation performed.

Malden, who broke into acting as a student at the Goodman Theater drama school in Chicago, won a best-supporting actor Oscar as Mitch, the aging bachelor, in "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) and an Emmy as Freddy Kassab, the father on NBC's "Fatal Vision" (1984).

Question: You're an actor's actor. . . .

Answer: That's the kiss of death, an actor's actor. . . . (It) means the public doesn't know him or doesn't care about him. You're (supposed to play) for an audience and not for the other actors and yet I cherish and like it when the industry thinks I'm an actor's actor. But when you're going out looking for work, it's a little tough.

Q: With an Oscar, an Emmy and that reputation, why did you want to be academy president?

A: I never in my life dreamed that I would be president of anything, and finally when a group got ahold of me and said "We're going to make you president," I said "You're crazy. I don't know how to run a meeting or anything." (They) said that doesn't matter. And to be frank there were two of us nominated. I voted for the other person.

Q: You said in a recent newsletter you "wouldn't mind if the pace slowed down just a bit this year."

A: It's true; I've never made so many speeches in my life. I've never gone out and raised money for anything in my life. And now that I'm president I feel it's my duty.

Q: I take it you see your role as an activist president?

A: I'm afraid I'm an activist. I'll tell you why: When you commit yourself to something, you want to see something done, you want to leave something behind. . . . I didn't start all this. Another president, Bob Wise, really started it, and Richard Kahn picked it up and yet I saw that there was an endowment fund committee which had never done anything for three years. I said, "Let's activate it and get it started." Bob Rehme took it over, and we're quite proud of the fact that we've raised quite a bit of money. . . .

Q: Why was a new center needed?

A: Have you been down on the floor where the library was originally? We outgrew it. We have two warehouses filled with material we sometimes can't get to. Now with it all being under one roof, it's going to be much simpler, much easier to handle, and also we have enough room to go on for another 20, 25 years.

Q: The Beverly Hills Waterworks Building opened in 1927--the same year the academy was born. Does that have special meaning for you?

A: It certainly does. A member of the Beverly Hills board was Douglas Fairbanks, and he also started the academy. And if what we hear historically is true, it was he who said we have to build a plant to purify the water . . . and at the same time he was president of our board. So that's the connection. An actor did it all.

Q: How is the endowment campaign going?

A: (Smiling) Have you gotten a letter from us yet to give us a little money? . . . We need the endowment to keep that library going for the rest of its life. If we invest it properly the interest off of that money will keep that library open so that no one else will have to worry, and we'll never raise money again. This is a one-time deal.

Q: Who have been the major contributors so far?

A: Bob Hope--we're naming the lobby of the library after him. He gave us a million dollars. Bob Wise asked him when he first started and he got it. And (the) DeMille (Trust) the Reading Room is going to be named after (Cecil B.) DeMille . . . same amount.

We started the whole thing wanting to get the industry behind it. The industry is the studios. We went to the studios and without any hesitation they all gave the same amount, so they're all behind us. . . . I would rather not say (how much). Warners, 20th Century Fox, Columbia, Disney--help me name 'em--Paramount, (MCA) Universal, (MGM-Pathe Communications) all the studios were right behind us. And then we went to the smaller, what we call the second-(level) producers and they all contributed. Not as much. . . And if I may say so with pride, a company that I love very much, American Express, gave us a good amount. . . .

And then the next step, we had three wonderful people who under their stationery--Michael Douglas, (Steven) Spielberg and Meryl Streep--sent letters out to people we felt were making a good amount of money in what they're doing, and asking for $50,000. And you'd be surprised how many have come through. We felt (Douglas and Spielberg) represented producers and directors. And Michael is an actor, and Meryl an actress.

Q: What's your pitch? What do you say?

A: "Hello, how are you? What are you doing, where are you going, you got any money, we need it." No, I'm kidding . . . Being an actor, I deal in specifics. (Bob) Daly is now head of Warner Bros. and I walked into Daly's office with Bob Rehme, and Daly's office happens to be Jack Warner's old office and I was under contract with Warners for nine years. I was in that office many times, discussing things that I didn't want to do and that I wanted to do. . . . I started telling (Daly) things about Warner Bros. he never knew, and I can do that in every studio . . . it warms 'em up. I was here when Louis B. Mayer was head. I was here when Zanuck hired me for films on 20th Century Fox when I used to see Betty Grable walk up and down the lot or John Hodiak or Tyrone Power, all these people and I was nobody but I saw them.

Q: You had a Broadway career; you weren't nobody.

A: That's why they hired me. I had a Broadway career for 20 years. I started making pictures in '48, living in New York and coming out here for (a few) weeks and then go back. I was star-struck.

Q: Do acting offers keep coming, or are you turning things down or putting them on hold?

A: I've turned a lot of things down but I think I would have turned them down even if I hadn't been here. There are some things that I just don't fit into . . . I'm a square as you probably know; I am .

Q: You've been married for 52 years to the same woman, some people would say. . .

A: Yes (smiling) that's a square. Especially in this town. And I just find some things objectionable in films today. . . . Let's take nudity. Nudity has been in films since the time films began, except it wasn't as specific and so blatant as it is today. They made you feel if two people went into a room and closed the door a certain way that something was going to happen. And when that door opened the next morning, you knew something happened; that's what I call art. But to see two people in bed, supposedly, is that art?

Q: Last year we had the summer of blood and guns and guts; what do you think of that movie crop?

A: Well you said it, and the way you said it, that's the way I feel. Summer of blood and guts and stuff.

Q: You're president of the academy, do you ever discuss this with studio heads?

A: No, that's not my job, and even if I weren't president, I wouldn't do it. It's people's tastes. You like that color, I like this color. The only thing is, I just wish there were an equal balance--between what we're talking about, and what I call art and art form. See I feel the good writers, Maxwell Anderson, Clifford Odets, Elmer Rice, Robert Sherwood, Tennessee Williams, these people found a way to say what they wanted to say . . . in a very beautiful way. There were some terrible movies at that time too. I just feel that there were more of the kind of movies that I'm talking about than there are today.

Let's take the late '40s and the '50s. Listen, I was in a couple of (the best). I think they were beautiful movies. "Streetcar Named Desire," "On the Waterfront." There's a picture that deals with a sexy theme, Tennessee Williams' "Baby Doll." Remember "Baby Doll"? Today it would be nothing but then it was banned. We said a lot . . . but never once was it shown, never once, but you knew what they were talking about. That's art.

Q: Of all the movies you have done, what role was the closest to you?

A: I enjoy them all--the next one I'm going to do. . . . The ones I enjoyed are the ones that I got to meet, when I played a living person like Father John (Corridan; he struggles with the name) who I stayed with for 11 days, the priest in "On the Waterfront." Father John (Father Barry in the movie), who just died about three years ago, was born and raised in that (Brooklyn) area, a Jesuit priest.

Q: What was he like, this priest?

A: I'll give you an anecdote. The picture had started and three days later I was to start work, Father John was there, and I said, "Well tomorrow, Father John, I'm going to be you. " And he said, "I'm not worried." I said, "Got any advice?" He said, "Yes. Just don't make me holier than thou; make me a human being . . . I've seen some of those priest movies; don't make me that way."

He was a Jesuit priest who taught law to the longshoremen. And if you remember the picture, the scene in the hold of the ship, he wrote at least 80% of that speech. A man came to him and said, "Father John, I can't get a chit to go to work. Now I haven't gotten a chit in two months." He says, "You go in there and demand a chit even if you take it out of his hands. Legally you have that right, you do it." And the man did it, and two days later (he) was found (dead) in the East River.

Q: And that speech?

A: " 'God is with you no matter where you are.' " That's the essence of it.

Q: Are you concerned at all about Japanese corporations buying up some of the major studios-- Matsushita buying MCA, Sony and Columbia, JVC and Largo Entertainment?

A: The only way I can answer that is to say that I was here when Jack Warner was head of a studio, Louis B. Mayer, Zanuck, Cohn . . . and I never felt I'd see the day when I say I wished they were back. The studios today are even different than they were then. And if the Japanese buy what they're buying, so it'll change (some more). How they'll change, who knows? Another 10 years somebody will buy from Sony. It's just changing, and I don't worry about those things. And I honestly don't think the academy should worry about those things. (Film) is an art form. We just hope, I just hope that they hold on to a kind of integrity about filmmaking--keep it at a level where people will be proud to be a part of this industry.

Q: So who owns doesn't bother you; it's the kind of movies that are being made?

A: That's right. All over the world they're making films. Some foreign films are terrific films. It's the kind of films--not who owns the company. . . .

Q: In 1990, the announcement of "Driving Miss Daisy" as best picture was not made until 12:30 EST, which missed about 61% of the East Coast audience. . . .

A: Would you put (best film) at the beginning of the show . . . or where would you put it?

Q: At the end, but I'd tighten the show.

A: Well, now we're going to discuss tightening. Now I've got you (smiles). You know I always thought until I became president that the show was supposed to last two hours. No. ABC wants between three hours and 3 hours and 20 minutes. That's what they want. We're putting on that show for them . . . . Everybody thinks that it's a two-hour show that runs over an hour--it's a three-hour show.

Q: So why not start the show an hour earlier--at 5 p.m.?

A: What about the people here? The first hour we give out best supporting actor and the best supporting actress. Figure it out for me; help me. . . . Save what for the second hour? . . . Then everything before it they'll say is junk , we don't have to look at it (raising voice). It's a problem, a big problem. . . .

Q: Last year the Oscars had the smallest audience in three years--25.7 million homes, 48% of the audience. Why do you think that happened?

A: This is my personal opinion: The show (the year) before didn't help us much (and) I think this coming year will have a terrific audience because the show last year was terrific. We had a theme--films are worldwide. And we went worldwide for the first time.

Q: What was your own Oscar night like? Did you go in a big limo like they do now?

A: I was here making a film at Warner Bros, one of the contract films. It was with Cornel Wilde, a French underground picture, I don't know what it was.

The Oscar night was going to be held at the Pantages Theatre and I wasn't going to go (but) someone from the office came down and says, 'You're going to the Oscar show . . . you go to the wardrobe and get yourself a tuxedo. You're going .' I drove in a rented Chevy, and when I got (there) I saw those limousines piling up in front. . . . So I went about a block away and parked the car, and I walked. I had a coat because in New York you had a coat, a topcoat and I walked in, nobody knew me and I went down, sat in my seat. I put the coat down in (the adjacent) seat and the next two people who came in were Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. So I was in good company. I knew Bogart slightly because he was on the Warner lot also. . .

I thought I'll sit here and enjoy the show, never dreaming they'd call my name. When they (did), like everybody else for a moment you don't know what to do, and I got up, walked to the aisle and the only thing I could think of is my coat. What the hell am I going to do with my coat? Because I knew they took you backstage. So I leaned over to Bogart, I says, "Will you look after my coat, please?"

He said, "Get up there, kid, take your Oscar." So I got up. About a half-hour later, I see Bogart holding an Oscar, and the first thing I said to him is "What did you do with my coat?" He said in nice words, "Forget your coat, hold on to the goddamn Oscar ."


King Karl

How Malden conquered the worlds of stage and screen.

April 26, 1998

By Charles Champlin, Charles Champlin is the retired arts editor of The Times

Even now, when the commercials no longer run, strangers who run into Karl Malden invariably say, "I hope you didn't leave home without it" or some variation thereon. And a few years ago, going to lunch in Studio City, Malden found a parking space across Ventura Boulevard from the restaurant and, seeing no cars in either direction, crossed the street. A police car sped into view and ticketed him for jaywalking. Curiously the officer did not ask his name and when Malden examined the ticket, he discovered it was issued to Mike Stone--the detective he was then playing on the '70s ABC series "Streets of San Francisco." Malden cheerfully tore up the ticket.

It is an irony, pleasing but still ironic, that 21 years of an American Express commercial and five seasons of the series made Malden more recognizable to more people than 60 years of superior acting in theater and film, with an Academy Award for "A Streetcar Named Desire" among many other honors, and a reputation as one of the strongest and most versatile supporting actors in Hollywood.

His performance as Marlon Brando's beer-drinking, poker-playing crony in the original stage company of "Streetcar" and then in the film; his sympathetic priest, again with Brando, in "On the Waterfront"; his cuckolded husband of Carroll Baker in "Baby Doll"; the warden in "Birdman of Alcatraz"; Gen. Omar Bradley in "Patton"; and his work in dozens of other films established him as an Everyman, but one whose range moved easily up and down the levels of society and the IQ scale, from heroes to heavies and ordinary, decent guys just trying to get along.

"I figured I was never going to be a leading man," Malden says, "and it's probably spared me a lot of heartbreak."

With all the honors he has earned and the treasury of fine work he has put on film, Malden feels that his monument will be the superb library of the motion picture academy on La Cienega Boulevard in Beverly Hills. During his two terms as president of the academy, Malden and Bob Rehme, head of the Academy Foundation, raised a $12-million endowment to complete and sustain the library, which was originally built in the '20s, in the style of an Italian church, bell tower and all, to disguise the city's water works. The refurbishing was completed in January 1991.

The largest single gift from outside the industry was from American Express, and the top-floor conference room at the library is named for Malden.

No two Hollywood success stories are alike, and Malden's seems as improbable as any. The Serbs have a word for it--sudbina, or fate--Malden says in his highly readable new autobiography, "When Do I Start?" (Simon and Schuster), which he wrote with his screenwriter daughter, Carla.

Malden's father, Petar Sekulovich, a Serbian immigrant, arrived at Ellis Island on April 18, 1906, bound for San Francisco. But it was the day of the great San Francisco earthquake and fire, and his father landed in the Serbian community in Chicago instead. Malden was born there in 1913 and named Mladen Sekulovich. He spoke almost no English until the family moved to Gary, Ind., when he was 5. Starting school was hard, Malden says, because he not only couldn't spell many of the words, he didn't know what they meant.

His father drove a milk wagon for 38 years. When he graduated from horse-drawn wagon to a truck, Sekulovich was asked which he preferred. "Horse knows route. Truck don't," he said.

But his father was also a lover of theater and knowledgeable about it. He staged productions at Serbian patriotic organizations in Gary. Karl and other teenage boys were usually cast as Turkish brigands with false mustaches and beards. The elders would play the pashas. It was Malden's earliest taste of performance.

In high school, Malden began to be noticed as both an actor and an athlete, and was once briefly bounced from the basketball team for refusing to miss a performance. He was let back on the team in time to help win a championship game. He also played the lead in the high school's senior play, Shaw's "Arms and the Man."

He was promised an athletic scholarship at Arkansas College in Batesville, Ark., After hitchhiking to the campus, he lost the scholarship because he wouldn't play football as well as basketball and the school couldn't afford one-sport scholarships. (He had broken his nose twice in sports, and as he says, it was heroic to begin with.)

So he hitchhiked back to Gary and went to work in a steel mill, where he spent three years, finally at the open hearth furnaces, which paid $5 a day, the top pay.

"The furnaces are as near to hell as you can get," Malden said at lunch recently. "The doors open up and the flames shoot out. And it looks so glamorous in the movies, with the molten metal pouring into the molds. Forget it," he said, laughing scornfully, "it's hell."

He realized at last that acting was his only possible hope of escaping from hell. He'd saved a little more than $300 in his three years, and, with no introductions or references, went to the Goodman Theater in Chicago and he said he wanted to be there and to act.

Doctor Gnesin, a Russian emigre who then ran the school, evidently knew madness or true grit when he saw it. He told Malden that if he was willing to gamble on himself and spend his $300 on the first-term tuition--and if he did well--Gnesin would put him on a full scholarship for the rest of the two-year program.

Malden, remembering the furnaces, swallowed hard but took the gamble. He had enough left to commute to Gary for a while (60 cents each way). When he missed the last train he slept in the station, then, broke in the school's basement. Then he was able to share cost-free a hotel room with a better-heeled fellow actor, Jimmy Russo. At one point, to keep eating, he stole sandwiches from lunch bags, favoring the excellent fare carried by Ralph Alswang, later a highly regarded Broadway designer. When Alswang's mother found out what Malden had been forced to do, she said, "If I'd known, I'd have packed an extra sandwich."

At the Goodman, he still had traces of a Slavic accent and underwent strenuous training to get rid of it. "After a while," he has said, "there were these clipped British tones coming out of an open hearth face."

When he finished at the Goodman in 1936, the commercial theater did not open its arms to welcome him. He was so broke he couldn't afford $5 for his diploma--and never got it. He went back to Gary and drove a milk wagon, as his father had. Then an acquaintance from the Goodman, Robert Ardrey, author of "The Territorial Imperative," called him to New York where a play of his, "Casey Jones," was going to be produced. (Ardrey's sister had studied at the Goodman and he had seen Malden act.)

In New York Malden bunked in with Jimmy Russo again, who was seeking his own fortune and making endless rounds of casting offices. From his milk delivery wages, Malden had a stash this time of $175, but even at 1936 prices, that would not fund a long stay in Manhattan. The plans to produce Ardrey's play fell through; Malden's first call at a casting office produced a "Nothing for you" in tones of smug indifference.

But Ardrey introduced Malden to Harold Clurman and Elia Kazan at the then and later famous Group Theater. There Malden was taken on at a small stipend, studied with Clurman and was cast in "Golden Boy," which became his Broadway debut in 1937.

It was Kazan who urged him to change his name. "It sounds Jewish," Kazan said, "and some of us are Jews, but the Group isn't a Jewish theater." So Karl rearranged Mladen into Malden and took his mother's father's first name.

Malden was well reviewed in his small part in "Golden Boy," but found himself having to head back to Gary to earn some money that summer. He was back in New York in the fall. But, as he says in the autobiography, the next years "were a mess . . . a period of chaos and confusion." He was cast in eight plays, none of which lasted a month. He married Mona Graham, an actress he met at the Goodman and they moved so often he has trouble remembering when they lived where. (They celebrated their 59th anniversary in December.) For their wedding dinner they found they had 80 cents between them and went to a Chock Full O' Nuts coffee shop.

His life, he says, was an endless round of fruitless calls at casting offices. It seemed possible that he and Mona could go back to the Goodman and teach, and the idea of a 9-to-5 job, any 9-to-5 job, began to feel seductively attractive. But in the end the dry period at its most dispiriting simply confirmed how soul-deep his commitment to acting is. He knew he couldn't be happy doing anything else.

"Just like the writer facing the blank page," Malden says, "the actor starts fresh every single time. It is an arduous, painful and often demoralizing process. We suffer through those feelings to get to the moment where it all clicks. But in the meantime we feed on the hope that that moment exists out there, somewhere."

The early years gave him his enduring philosophy as an actor: that it was never the money that mattered, it was the part. "I've always believed there isn't a part I couldn't learn something from." Malden never played coy or hard to hire. His customary response is "When do I start?," which, the more Malden and Carla thought about it, seemed the perfect, apt title.

Three years after the Broadway debut, he went to Hollywood to make his film debut in "They Knew What They Wanted." Following his Air Force service (he appeared in "Winged Victory"), Kazan in 1947 cast Malden in "Streetcar," which gave his stage and screen career a momentum it has never lost, although the arc of any actor's career has its share of blips.

After years of commuting to Hollywood, the Maldens finally moved west to stay in 1960, and he began the string of performances that secured his reputation in a range of films as different as "Gypsy" and John Ford's "Cheyenne Autumn."

Daughter Carla says: "As I learned more about my father's struggles, I began to realize that his is an American dream story."

And even as Hollywood success stories go, it does seem a long, unlikely road from an ethnic enclave on the Chicago West Side, where English was rarely heard, to the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, facing the cameras and introducing the Oscar show to a billion watchers, as Malden did in 1990 as president of the motion picture academy.

That night, waiting in the wings, Malden said he felt as nervous as he had before his debut in "Golden Boy." He still worried about flubbing a line in a speech he'd rehearsed a thousand times. But this time, he said, "I was no longer afraid I didn't belong there."

Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, July 1, 1959

July 1, 1959, Comics

Confidential File

Your Court Chances Are Under Scrutiny

Paul CoatesIn case you've ever wondered about a poor man's chances in our courts of justice, read on.

I'm going to quote you a conversation which took place a few weeks ago in Division 69 of Municipal Court between Atty. Louis Romero and Municipal Judge George B. Ross.

Romero, who felt that the fine -- $250 or 50 days -- imposed on his client (found guilty by a jury of misdemeanor drunk driving) was excessive, asked and was denied suspension of part of the sentence.

Now, I quote, in part, from the transcript:

"THE COURT: . . . We have taken the attitude, all of the judges here now, and I have finally won them over to my viewpoint that wherever there is a trial, we are adding on something for the cost of the jury.

"MR. ROMERO: Would that not be in the way of penalizing the attorney?

July 1, 1959, Williams "THE COURT: No. Most of the judges are doing it and they are doing it in the Superior Court. We only do it in cases where we think the defendant did not have a legitimate defense, where he was obviously guilty. The jury found him guilty here and I think he was guilty. If he has a real legitimate defense, I wouldn't do it.

"MR. ROMERO: Your Honor, I know that the court must feel that way about it and, of course, I am aware of the verdict of the jury. I for one was surprised because I have never tried on a 502 where I had more witnesses to testify to the fact that the man was not under the influence of intoxicating beverages. I certainly feel it was a matter of opinion. I even thought perhaps I should make a motion for a new trial...

"THE COURT: I won't back down from that sentence. That is what I am going to do in all these cases. There is another one coming up next week and I am going to do the same thing.

"MR. ROMERO: May I say this, Your Honor, in the interests of any future cases there may be -- I don't know when I will be coming back to Van Nuys again -- but if I should be faced with this task again, telling the defendant, 'Well, if we have a jury trial and if you are found guilty, it is going to cost you more' --

"THE COURT: That is right.

"MR. ROMERO: Then that would be a deterrent, Your Honor, to justice.

"THE COURT: Maybe so, but that is what I am doing. That is what the other judges are doing, and you are going to have to persuade a lot of judges to change their minds...We are going to do it here and they are going to do it uptown...

"MR. ROMERO: That is what I suspected all along, but this is the first time in my five years of practice --

"THE COURT: The first time a judge ever told you that?

"MR. ROMERO: To say it.

"THE COURT: I believe in saying what we do. I am not trying to hide behind the bushes at all...

"MR. ROMERO: But I thought our courts were open to anyone, to the poor as well as the rich. If I should represent a poor client, I should tell him, 'You can't have a jury trial because if you are found guilty it is going to cost you more, and you are too poor.' If I run across a client that is affluent: 'You can afford a trial and perhaps the jury will believe your defense, where the court may not,' and it is only a question of belief, Your Honor, and I would tell my poor client that as to him, he is entitled to a jury trial, 'But you, you are poor, and you can't have a jury trial.'

'It Is a Common Practice'

"THE COURT: They have been doing that in the federal court for the last 20 years. It is a common practice...

"MR. ROMERO:...Just because some people may do it, Your Honor, does not necessarily make it just or right, and it affronts my sense of justice.

"THE COURT: I don't care to argue it any more..."

Personally, I question the justice of soaking an individual with extra heavy fines because he exercised his right to trial by jury. But I also question Judge Ross' statement that it's a common practice of our courts.

I know too many judges, and know of their dedication to the cause of equal justice, to believe that.

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