Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
||This dress from the Collegienne department at Bullock's Wilshire has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $19.
Ex-Teamsters Boss Dave Beck Dead at 99JOHN BALZAR
TIMES STAFF WRITER
28 December 1993
A family friend announced Monday that the stout, steely-eyed retired labor leader died Sunday at Northwest Hospital "of old age."
Another friend said Beck had been up and alert on Christmas Day with his family.
In the hard-bitten, bare-knuckles battleground of the American labor movement of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, Beck was among its foremost figures-along with the AFL-CIO's George Meany and the United Auto Workers Walter Reuther.
A colorful man, despised, feared, admired and courted, often by the same people at the same time, Beck's success emerged directly from the turbulent political currents of the day: He opposed left-leaning labor rivals and championed the free enterprise system-just as long as Teamsters got their share.
That earned him the trust, if not the love, of businessmen. In turn, he secured many advances for workers, including a vast expansion of health and pension benefits for union employees.
He was president of the Teamsters from 1952 to 1957, and before that founded the Western Conference of Teamsters.
At age 94, he summed up his philosophy this way: "Labor is strictly a business. All I ever did in the labor union movement was sell labor for the best price I could get."
He also would admit to interviewers in a loud, raspy voice another of his tools of success: "Busting skulls and bruising knuckles."
He became a confidant of presidents, and told his biographer that three times he was asked to be U.S. labor secretary-by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Under Beck's leadership, the Teamsters expanded into many industries besides truck drivers and was the largest and wealthiest union in the U.S., with a membership of 1.5 million.
But at the zenith of his career, Beck seemed to confuse the union's power and money with his own and ultimately ran aground before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1957. In the hearing, committee counsel Robert F. Kennedy accused Beck of illegally using $300,000 in union funds. A fuming Beck invoked the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination 142 times.
A Washington state court later convicted him of embezzling $1,900 from the sale of a used Cadillac owned by the union. In 1958, he was convicted of federal income tax evasion, but the verdict was overturned on appeal. In 1959, he was convicted of filing a fraudulent tax return.
Edwin Guthman, a USC journalism professor and former Los Angeles Times National Editor, charted Beck's downfall in the book "We Band of Brothers." After the Senate hearing and his embezzlement indictment, Jimmy Hoffa "pushed him aside unceremoniously and took over as president of the Teamsters. Certainly the testimony did not do him any good, yet it was important . . . because it enabled the people to see more clearly, through the details of Beck's snug associations with businessmen, what happens when power unchecked becomes the power of self indulgence and power without a purpose . . . . "
Beck served 2 1/2 years at McNeil Island Penitentiary, near Tacoma, for state, federal convictions. He was released in December, 1964. Then-Gov. Albert Rosellini of Washington pardoned him for the state conviction in 1965 and President Gerald R. Ford pardoned him on the federal conviction in 1975.
Beck never said he was sorry, telling an interviewer a decade ago: "Beck gave his best to the American labor movement. If I had it to do all over again, I'd do it exactly the same way."
As the years went on, the outspoken Beck lived an active and public life, speaking to students, serving as a historical resource on the labor movement. Best of all, he lived to enjoy the rehabilitation of his reputation. In 1984, Seattle honored him as its "Maritime Man of the Year."
Born in Stockton, Calif., on June 16, 1894, Beck moved to Seattle with his parents when he was 4. He was a news delivery boy, dabbled with prizefighting and left school at 15 to drive a laundry truck.
He joined the Teamsters in 1914. Five years later, he helped break Seattle's famous general strike of 1919 by convincing other laundry-truck drivers to vote against the radical Industrial Workers of the World, the so-called Wobblies.
His anti-communism, which some call red-baiting, severed him well with business later. In the meantime, he worked his way up the ranks of the Teamsters, becoming a full-time organizer in 1925. When he negotiated for the Teamsters he was known as a man of his word, and there were surprisingly few strikes for a city that was 95% unionized.
In 1952, he was elected to succeed Dan Tobin as national president of the union. Although the organization was headquartered in Washington, D.C., Beck continued to make Seattle his home.
In his Seattle history, "Skid Road," Murray Morgan describes what happened next:
His "observance of the rituals of being rich became more conspicuous . . . . His clothes grew richer and better tailored, his office larger and more deep-toned, his cars longer, his phone conversations curter, his invitations to the annual Round Up Party at the Washington Athletic Club-a must for business and political leaders-more peremptory.
"It was during this period that Dave Beck moved from the modest frame house which had pinned him to the middle class, into a new Sheridan Beach estate with private pool, private cinema, even sumptuous private quarters for his private bodyguards."
Beck dismissed such carping. He asked whether a labor leader should not dress and live as well as the business leaders he dealt with. And he had the same answer throughout his life for the charges of wrongdoing. "I never stole one damn dollar from the Teamsters."
Times researcher Tracy Shryer in Chicago contributed to this story.
Capt. Emil Praeger, designer of the Chavez Ravine ballpark, told reporters at Vero Beach, Fla., about plans to add a dome after the stadium was finished.
"I realize that we didn't have any rainouts in Los Angeles last season and we're not worried about that," owner Walter O'Malley said. "But perhaps there would be sufficient demand for a covered stadium in which to present such events as industrial exhibits, conventions and the like.
"If we find, say, in five or 10 years that there is a demand for such a facility as we propose, the dome will be built."
The Dodgers had discussed the concept of a dome stadium in Brooklyn when the team was searching for ways to replace Ebbets Field.
The Florentine Gardens, "on Hollywood Boulevard just east of Vine Street in the city of films, Hollywood, Calif." Until I found that "Maurice the Voice Teacher" in the Black Dahlia case was Maurice Clemens, I wondered if he was Maurice Kosloff, who ran an acting school in Hollywood and was connected to the Florentine Gardens.
|This pair of shoes from Robinson's has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $9.99.|
Not Dead, but ReelingReports of the death of the movie industry at the hands of television are premature, Jerry Wald, Fox producer, told a Press Club audience.
He conceded, however, under the expert needling of Joe Hyams of the N.Y. Herald Tribune, that the business has developed a suicide complex.
One big trouble, he said, has been the prevalent thought that a big star, which means a big guarantee, can save a bad story. Not true. The story, producers have learned, must come first.
"Just write a masterpiece, or even a best seller." Jerry advised newsmen, and we'll take care of the rest.
NOT LONG ago 9,000 inquires were sent out, asking what themes people preferred. Of the 7,800 replies, the majority looked for the theme of survival, the will to live. Next came security, sex third. Wald wasn't knocking it. After all, he made "Peyton Place." Incidentally, he had a rebuke for lurid movie advertising, which is out of his control.
Wald also blamed myopic movie moguls for some of the trouble, recalling the time a studio chief was asked why he didn't make "Johnny Belinda," the story of a girl who couldn't talk. The movie exec replied, "Because we have talking pictures."
His parting shot. "Television is where you see all the pictures you've been trying to avoid for years."
And so goes the war.
ART CRITICISM is an exclusive realm, in which the eye of the beholder is everything.
At an exhibit, Harry Essex, writer and artist, was asked what he thought of a group of paintings. After a moment's thought he said, "They make me feel like going over and putting titles on them -- January, February, March, April . . ."
Hear the pettifoggers' pronunciamento,'
I fear the smog's hit Sacramento.
ALL'S WELL at last among the feuding claimants to the title, mayor of 7th and Alvarado. Korny Kenny, self-proclaimed alcalde, has graciously slipped the halo to his friendly opponent, Joe Hart.
In a formal statement Kenny wrote, "The people have spoke, my heart is broke, I wish the new mayor the best. But I would of won if it wasn't for the gosh-darned vest." He was referring to his sportingweskit, object of derision. Another factor in his abdication was that he ships out on freighters and is gone for months, leaving 7th and Alvarado without a firm hand.
Joe Hart, who backed into WW 2 in time to get wounded in the South Pacific, has had cards printed with a big red heart on them through which his name and new title stab prettily. His slogan: Equal rights for pigeons and men.
THE CONCENTRATED LAPD raids on narcotics peddlers and addicts which netted about 200 suspects a few days ago turned up a fearsome non sequitur.
An officer knocked on a door but got no answer. He knew people were inside and shouted for them to open the door. No answer. He asked, "What's going on in there?" No answer.
Taking a more jovial approach he called out, "What's happening, man?" Came the frightened response, "I don't know anybody by that name."
AROUND TOWN -- Tom Devlin, L.A. newsman, has brought out a 350-page documented report on the strange case of the Finn twins, charging their conviction was a miscarriage of justice. It represents five years of investigation. In a forward Devlin explains his purpose, "A man must do what he must do" . . . You know those bus loaders on the Broadway islands who have their cash boxes on a long stick? Between cars, one of them was solemnly waltzing his stick . . . No truth to the rumor, Roy Walters whispers, that one of the new edifices planned for Bunker Hill will be called the Bunker Hilton.
American Cleared in Tijuana Slaying
TIJUANA, Feb. 27 -- Mexican officials have cleared Richard N. Thomas, 34, of La Puente, of any connection with the slaying of an unidentified woman whose torso was found 19 miles south of here last week.
Thomas, a television repairman who owns a string of thoroughbreds stabled at Caliente race track, was picked up and held by police here seven days ago.
The slaying victim's body had been bound with a television lead-in wire.
Richard Thomas was at home in bed, sleeping off a nightmare, when I called his wife yesterday.
"He got in at 5:30 this morning," she said. "Completely exhausted.
"I'm just so relieved that it's all over, that he's back."
Until Thomas' arrest last week, he, his wife and their three children were just another nice family in a nice house in a nice neighborhood.
"When it happened, I told my older girl what it was about," Mrs. Thomas explained to me. "I warned her that until her dad was cleared and released, some people might say some mean things.
"It broke her up. At first, it did. She loves her father -- maybe even more than she loves me. He's just a wonderful man.
Friends Are Wonderful
"But after I had explained everything, she smiled and said, 'Mother, I can hold my head up anywhere when they talk about daddy.' "
"Did they talk?" I asked.
"Here on the street, a few children said some terrible things. A couple of kids came over and told my children that their father had cut up a woman.
"But the adults -- they were wonderful. The ones who knew Dick, of course, felt as bad as I did. But even the others -- they did everything they could to make it easier."
"Were there any crank letters, crank phone calls?" I said.
"No," Mrs. Thomas answered. "Only once, when I was walking down my side of the street, there was a group on the other side. One of them shouted, 'Don't go across the street. The butcher's wife is here.'
"I ran back into my house. It was just a kid, I guess, but when you're under a strain, it can upset you."
School Officials Kindly
Mrs. Thomas added that she had avoided telling her younger children about her husband's being jailed.
"I kept them in school," she said. "The officials at school said they'd watch and make sure that none of the other children made remarks. They were very helpful.
"The kids did learn, of course. But it was from others in the neighborhood, and news broadcasts."
Richard Thomas owns a modest television repair business.
"We're not rich people," his wife told me. "I have to admit that that's what we're worried about now -- that this terrible thing doesn't hurt our business.
"The only reason they picked Dick up was because of the television wire at the scene of the crime, and the fact that he was driving a television repair truck in Tijuana.
"It could have happened to anyone in the same business. To a plumber, if they'd found a pipe.
"I only hope," she concluded, "people will realize that what happened to us could happen to just about anyone."
Photograph by Frank O. Brown / Los Angeles Times
Just a reminder on how this works: I post the mystery photo on Monday and reveal the answer on Friday. 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 you're wrong your guess will be posted. If you're right, you'll have to wait until Friday. There's no need to submit your guess five times. Once is enough. The only prize is bragging rights.
Update: This is Pier Angeli at the age of 18 after receiving court approval for a movie contract in a photo published July 20, 1951.
Many people have recognized our mystery woman, above. Alexa Foreman was first, followed by William, Zabadu, Claire Lockhart, Jany, Gregory Moore, Nathan Marsak, Allison Berntsen, Dru Duniway, Eve Golden and John Marshall. Congrats!
Update: This is Pier Angeli with Kirk Douglas at Hostaria dell'Orso in Rome in a picture stamped June 23, 1953. Caption information says he grew a beard for the film "Ulysses."
Check back next week for another mystery photo!